A Mind for Language

Dec 13, 2018

Greek vowel contraction rules (part 1)

Ancient and Koine Greek vowels contract in ways that are simply maddening. Sometimes you are looking at a word and wondering what on earth it means. Then it turns out that you know this word quite well, but couldn't tell what the root was because half of the letters were missing. They had contracted with various prefixes and suffixes leaving us scratching our heads.

Knowing the vowel contraction rules makes life much easier. This is the first post in a comic series to help make learning these rules easier and more fun.

When an ε gets added before an α they contract and form η. We can symbolize this as:

  • ε + a → η

But who wants to memorize boring rules! It's much better as a story! Since ε and η are considered each other's short and long variant, let's consider them to be brothers.

Once upon a time in Greekland

One day ε is playing on the playground and α comes up and starts teasing him. So ε calls his big brother.

Big brother η shows up and promptly pounds α while ε flees to safety leaving η to stand victoriously

The end.