Aeolic Greek
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Aeolic Greek
Aeolic Greek
Aeolian dialect
Lesbian dialect
Lesbic dialect
RegionBoeotia, Thessaly, Aeolis
Erac. 800-300 BC
Early form
Greek alphabet (uncial and cursive forms)
Eastern Archaic Greek alphabet (up to 4th century BC)
Language codes
AncientGreekDialects (Woodard) en.svg
Distribution of Greek dialects in Greece in the classical period.[1]

In linguistics, Aeolic Greek , also known as Aeolian , Lesbian or Lesbic dialect, is the set of dialects of Ancient Greek spoken mainly in Boeotia; in Thessaly; in the Aegean island of Lesbos; and in the Greek colonies of Aeolis in Anatolia and adjoining islands.

The Aeolic dialect shows many archaisms in comparison to the other Ancient Greek dialects (Arcadocypriot, Attic, Ionic, and Doric varieties), as well as many innovations.

Aeolic Greek is widely known as the language of Sappho and of Alcaeus of Mytilene. Aeolic poetry, which is exemplified in the works of Sappho, mostly uses four classical meters known as the Aeolics: Glyconic (the most basic form of Aeolic line), hendecasyllabic verse, Sapphic stanza, and Alcaic stanza (the latter two are respectively named for Sappho and Alcaeus).

In Plato's Protagoras, Prodicus labelled the Aeolic dialect of Pittacus of Mytilene as "barbarian" (barbaros),[2] because of its difference from the Attic literary style:[3] "He didn't know to distinguish the words correctly, being from Lesbos, and having been raised with a barbarian dialect".




Proto-Indo-European and Proto-Greek *k? changed to Aeolic p everywhere. By contrast, PIE *k? changed to Attic/Ionic, Arcadocypriot, and Doric t before e and i.

  • PIE *k?etwores -> Lesbian písures, Boeotian péttares ~ Attic téttares, Ionic tésseres, Doric tétores "four"

Similarly PIE/PGk *g? always became b and PIE *g > PGk *k always became ph (whereas in other dialects they became alternating b/d and ph/th before back/front vowels).

Labiovelars were treated the same way in the P-Celtic languages and the Sabellic languages.

Sonorant clusters

A Proto-Greek consonant cluster with h (from Indo-European *s) and a sonorant (r, l, n, m, w, y) changed to a double sonorant (rr, ll, nn, mm, ww, yy) in Lesbian and Thessalian (sub-dialects of Aeolic) by assimilation. In Attic/Ionic, Doric, and Boetian Aeolic, the h assimilated to the vowel before the consonant cluster, causing the vowel to lengthen by compensatory lengthening.

PIE VsR or VRs -> Attic/Ionic-Doric-Boetian VVR.
VsR or VRs -> Lesbian-Thessalian VRR.[4]
  • PIE *h?ésmi -> Proto-Greek *ehmi -> Lesbian-Thessalian emmi ~ Attic/Ionic ?mi (= ) "I am"

Loss of h

Lesbian Aeolic lost in initial h- (psilosis "stripping") from Proto-Indo-European s- or y-. By contrast, Ionic sometimes retains it, and Attic always retains it.

  • PIE *seh?u?elios -> Proto-Greek *h?welios -> Lesbian ?élios, Ionic ?élios ~ Attic h?lios "sun"

Retention of w

In Thessalian and Boeotian (sub-dialects of Aeolic) and Doric, the Proto-Indo-European and Proto-Greek semi-vowel w (digamma) was retained at the beginning of a word.

  • PIE wek?-es- -> Boeotian, Doric wépos ~ Attic-Ionic épos "word", "epic" (compare Latin v?x "voice")


Long a

In Aeolic and Doric, Proto-Greek long ? remains. By contrast, in Attic, long ? changes to long ? in most cases; in Ionic, it changes everywhere.[5]

  • PIE *meh?ter- -> Aeolic, Doric m?t?r ~ Attic/Ionic m?t?r "mother"


In Boeotian, the vowel-system was, in many cases, changed in a way reminiscent of the modern Greek pronunciation.

  • Attic/Ionic /ai/ ~ Boeotian ? /e:/ ~ Modern Greek /e/
  • Attic/Ionic /e:/ ~ Boeotian /i:/ ~ Modern Greek /i/
  • Attic/Ionic /oi/ ~ Boeotian ? /y:/ ~ Mediaeval Greek and Old Athenaean /y:/ ~ Modern Greek /i/


In Lesbian Aeolic, the accent of all words is recessive (barytonesis), as is typical only in the verbs of other dialects.[6]

  • Attic/Ionic potamós ~ Lesbian pótamos "river"


Contracted or vowel-stem verbs that are thematic in Attic/Ionic are often athematic (-mi) in Aeolic.[7]

  • Ionic philé?, Attic philô ~ Aeolic phíl?mi "I love"

Aeolic athematic infinitive active ends in -men or (Lesbian) -menai. ~ Attic/Ionic has -enai.

  • Lesbian émmen, émmenai; Thessalian, Boeotian eîmen ~ Attic/Ionic eînai (spurious diphthong) "to be"

In the Lesbian dialect this ending also extends to the thematic conjugation, where Attic/Ionic has -ein. All three of these Aeolic endings occur in Homer.

Proto-Greek -ans and -ons -> -ais and -ois (first- and second declension accusative plural) ~ Attic/Ionic -?s and -?s (-).[8][9]

Dative plural -aisi and -oisi ~ Attic/Ionic -ais and -ois.

The participle has -ois and -ais for Attic -?s (-), -?s.[10]


Below it is a list of several words in the Aeolian dialect, written in the Greek alphabet and next to a transcription in the Latin alphabet. Each word is followed by its meaning and compared to similar words in other ancient Greek dialects.




  • ? abrem?s (Attic ? ablep?s ? unworthy seeing, despicable (Cypriotic also) (Hes. text ? ? ??
  • agora (Attic limen port, harbour) (Hes. text
  • ? alphinia white poplar (PIE *albho- 'white') (Attic leuk?, PIE *leuk- 'bright,light') (Macedonian aliza)
  • Aploun Apollo (Attic ? Apoll?n) (Doric, Pamphylian ? Apelon)
  • aspaleia safeness (Attic asphaleia)[14]
  • astralos (Attic - psar Starling)
  • ? bebukousthai to be swollen (Homeric ? buktaon blowing)
  • bousia (Attic gongylidi turnip)
  • dámossos public (Attic d?mósios) opp. iddioûstikos privative (Attic idi?tikós)[15][16]
  • ? daratos Thessalian bread (Macedonian dramis) (Athamanian dramix) (PIE *der- cut,split)
  • despoina woman (Attic gun?, Doric guna) (fem. of despotes)
  • ? enormos (agora, assembly, market and ch?ra) (Attic enorme? get in a harbour, hormos bay,anchorage
  • ereas children (Hsch.Attic tekna) (Homeric ernos young sprout,scion) (Neo-Phrygian eiroi children)
  • theanoustai (Attic xysters)
  • ithei? (Attic hamaxitos chariot-road) (Homeric ? ? 580) (Attic ithys,eytheia straight line)
  • impsas past participle of impto (Attic zeuxas zeugnymi join together)( Impsios ? Poseidon Zygius on horses)
  • ? kalaphos (Attic , Ascalaphus a bird (Magnesian)
  • kapan? chariot (Attic ap?n?) also, a helmet(kapanikos plenteous
  • kis who, anyone (Attic tis) (Laconian tir) (Arcadocypriot sis)
  • ? karpaia Thessalo-Macedonian mimic military dance (see also Carpaea) Homeric karpalimos swift (for foot) eager,ravenous.
  • kyrrhos or kyrros sir,master (Attic kyrios)
  • Maketoun[17] 'Macedonian man' (Attic ? Maked?n) (Thessalian --oun suffix for Attic ?n in both nominative and genitive of participles,pronouns and nouns.
  • mattu? a meat-dessert of Macedonian or Thessalian origin (Athenaeus)[18](Macedonian mattu?s a kind of bird)
  • ? nealeis new-comers, newly caught ones (Cf.nealeis,ne?ludes)
  • [19]nebeu? pray (Macedonian neu?) (Attic euchomai, neu? wink)
  • onala, onalouma (Attic anal?ma expense cost) ( on- in the place of Attic prefix ana-, ongrapsantas SEG 27:202
  • Pétthalos and ? (Boeotian Phéttalos) (Attic Thettalós) (Ionic, Koine Thessalós) 'Thesalian man' ( Petthalia Thessalia) (Petthaloi Thessalians) (Koine thessalisti the thessalian way) ( Attic ? entethettalizomai become a Thessalian, i.e. wear the large Thessalian cloak ( Thettalika ptera feathers' ), Eupolis.201. )
  • tageu? to be tagos archon in Thessaly ?

See also


  1. ^ Roger D. Woodard (2008), "Greek dialects", in: The Ancient Languages of Europe, ed. R. D. Woodard, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, p. 51.
  2. ^ Protagoras by Plato - Greek text
  3. ^ James A. Towle, Commentary on Plato: Protagoras 341c
  4. ^ V = vowel, R = sonorant, s is itself. VV = long vowel, RR = doubled or long sonorant.
  5. ^ Smyth, Greek Grammar, par. 30 and note, 31: Attic long e, long a
  6. ^ Smyth, par. 162 note: (Lesbian) Aeolic recessive accent
  7. ^ Smyth, Greek Grammar, par. 656: contract verbs in Aeolic
  8. ^ Smyth, par. 214 note 9: first declension in dialects
  9. ^ Smyth, par. 230 note: second declension in dialects
  10. ^ Smyth, par. 305 note
  11. ^ Athenaeus Deipnosophists -9.369
  12. ^ Boiotia --Anthedon
  13. ^ Boiotia -- Orchomenos -- early 1st century BC
  14. ^ Krannon -- c. 250 - 215 BC SEG 23:437, 7
  15. ^ Selected Papers in Greek and Near Eastern History [1] by David Malcolm Lewis, Peter John Rhodes
  16. ^ Skotoussa -- 197-185 BC SEG 43:311
  17. ^ Thessalia -- Larisa -- 220-210 BC - SEG 27:202
  18. ^ Deipnosophists 14.663-4(pp.1059-1062)
  19. ^ Magnesia -- Demetrias -- late 2nd century BC [2]

Further reading

  • Bakker, Egbert J., ed. 2010. A companion to the Ancient Greek language. Oxford: Wiley-Blackwell.
  • Bowie, Angus M. 1981. The poetic dialect of Sappho and Alcaeus. New York: Arno.
  • Christidis, Anastasios-Phoivos, ed. 2007. A history of Ancient Greek: From the beginnings to Late Antiquity. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.
  • Colvin, Stephen C. 2007. A historical Greek reader: Mycenaean to the koiné. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
  • Horrocks, Geoffrey. 2010. Greek: A history of the language and its speakers. 2nd ed. Oxford: Wiley-Blackwell.
  • Page, Denis L. 1953. Corinna. London: Society for the Promotion of Hellenic Studies.
  • Palmer, Leonard R. 1980. The Greek language. London: Faber & Faber.
  • West, Martin L. 1990. "Dating Corinna." Classical Quarterly 40 (2): 553-57.

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