Re: ei=i

From: yochanan bitan (
Date: Tue Mar 14 2000 - 05:15:18 EST

<x-charset ISO-8859-1>> Although it seems to be true that most of the EI diphthongs were
>pronounced like an Iota (Horrocks [1997] claims that EI followed by a
>consonant was not always pronounced like EI followed by a vowel),

I'm very glad to see Horrocks being quoted on the list. It's an excellent

The position above, that 'ei' was pronounced 'i' most of the time (both
word finally and before a consonant), i.e. everywhere except the relatively
few cases where 'ei' preceded a vowel (e.g. alhqeia ) would seem to have
been true at the earlier stages of Koine during the 3rd and 2nd centuries
BCE. By the first century the earlier 95% 'ei' ='i' had approached 100%.
[[As an example for this remaining 5%, tonight I just returned from hearing
a lecture on the Hebrew, Aramaic and Greek legal documents from 1-2c CE.
Looking at IES, 1989, Greek #15, line 27 (p. 60) we find hgemwneia instead
of hgemonia, with 'ei' prevocalic ='i' ]]

Horrocks stated (p. 110) "many of the EARLIER [emphasis mine-RB] examples
involve the substitution of 'h' for 'ei' in a prevocalic context, and so
provide evidence that the older value of 'ei', namely [e], was retained
there for a time: i.e. original 'ae' written 'h' , raised to /e:/ when
original /e:/ written 'ei', merged with /i/ other than prevocalically
during the THIRD century BC [empahsis mine-RB], thus making both 'h' and
'ei' available to render /e/ before vowels."

The Roman period seems to have left that prevocalic option for 'ei/h'
behind. However, 'h' seems to have remained as the symbol for the /e/ vowel
up to the beginning of the byzantine period, i.e. up to Constantine and
Eusebius. Horrocks says as much, (p. 110) "But given the absence in even
the most uneducated productions of even routine interchanges of 'h' with
'ei/i' on the scale of those between 'ei' and 'i' or 'ai' and 'e' it would
probably be premature to assume the full merger of /e/ and /i/ before the
early Byzantine period."

I would agree,
and would point out the inconsistency of Horrock when transcribing a letter
from 100 AD where he already uses phonetic 'i' for Greek 'h' (pp 114, 116).
I would say that that is too early for also switching 'h' to the phonetic
but those texts do testify that 'ei'='i' even prevocalically, notice that
"to the son" is spelled 'twi oieiwi' where 'ei' is before a vowel.

The question of the importance of the above will be addressed in another
email. It is not the details themselves but the 'waking up' that is

Randall Buth

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