[b-greek] re: When you have a minute :o )

From: Carl W. Conrad (cwconrad@artsci.wustl.edu)
Date: Mon Sep 25 2000 - 12:11:10 EDT

At 4:38 PM +0100 10/25/00, Michael Haggett wrote:
>In reply to Mark Wilson
>Maurice A. O'Sullivan (Monday, September 25, 2000 11:40 AM)
>referred us to H W Smyth regarding the iota subscript.
>Never having read Smyth, I checked out for myself whether Smyth's statement
>about the iota subscript being written on the line is actually true, and
>must tell you that it ISN'T!
>I checked both Codex Siniaticus and Alexandrinus, and neither of them shows
>the iotas we now indicate as subscripts in any way - either on or below the
>Going back to earlier manuscripts, I then checked p46, and it doesn't
>To crown it all, not even the earliest definite NT manuscript, p52, shows
>such an iota either on or below the line. It's fourth line reads
>APOQNHSKEIN, not APOQNHiSKEIN in John 18:32. Check this out for yourselves
>by looking at the John Rylands Library website:
>So I think the correct answer to Mark's question is that iota subscripts
>were probably not written by the original NT authors, and certainly not
>considered important enough to copy in the older NT manuscripts we still

I don't doubt this is true; certainly they weren't written in the ordinary
non-literary papyri or pronounced; in fact, if they HAD been pronounced,
they would have continued to be spelled as post-script rather than
subscripts. The subscripts, like the accents were devices for showing how
Greek had been pronounced in Classical Attic.

>My conclusion is that if they weren't important then, they're not worth
>including now.

Importance is a somewhat relative matter; we get into this sort of question
periodically regarding iota subscripts and accents. Some people (myself
included) think that the subscript is useful for recognizing dative sg
first- and second-declension forms and reinforcing the cognizance that -I
is the original dative sg. case-marker. The subscripts along with the
circumflex accents are also useful for making discernible 3d person sg.
indicatives of contract verbs (otherwise AGAPA could be either 3d sg.
indicative active or 2nd sg. imperative active. There's a case to be made
for dropping subscripts and accents, but residual orthographic
conservativism is an extraordinarily powerful force.


Carl W. Conrad
Department of Classics/Washington University
One Brookings Drive/St. Louis, MO, USA 63130/(314) 935-4018
Home: 7222 Colgate Ave./St. Louis, MO 63130/(314) 726-5649

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