Re: accents

From: Carl W. Conrad (
Date: Mon Feb 10 1997 - 07:13:25 EST

At 11:52 PM -0600 2/9/97, Andrew Kulikovsky wrote:
>Fellow Greeks,
>Do Greek accents have any semantic meaning or modify the meaning of
>Greek words in any way?
>I remember someone telling me that accents on the last letter of certain
>pronouns indicate interrogation (or something like that anyway). Is this

I don't know whether a linguist would be inclined to say that accents have
semantic meanings by themselves, but I think it would have to be said that
they are markers often differentiating otherwise identical morphemes, as in
the instance of the indefinite TIS (unaccented enclitic) and interrogative
TI/S (accented and tending toward the early part of a clause if not even
the initial position). Similarly in personal pronouns, the forms EMOI\ and
SOI\ are marked and emphatic (and tend to precede the verb governing them)
as opposed to the unaccented enclitic forms MOI and SOI. E.g.:

        EIPE/ MOI "Tell me, ... "
        EMOI\ EIPE/ "Tell ME (not someone else), ... "

        ANH/R TIS "some fellow," "a certain fellow"
        TI/S ANH/R? "what fellow?"

At any rate there are some significant differences between words otherwise
alike in apparent "spelling"--but you must realize that spelling usually is
inexact. The accent indicates an essential aspect of the word's
pronunciation/sounding that makes it a different word from that pronounced
without it or with an accent of a different kind or on a different syllable.

Carl W. Conrad
Department of Classics, Washington University
One Brookings Drive, St. Louis, MO, USA 63130
(314) 935-4018 OR

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