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Proto-Greek emerged from the diversification of the Proto-Indo-European language (PIE), the last phase of which gave rise to the later language families occurred ca. 2500 BCE. Pre-Proto-Greek, the Indo-European dialect from which Proto-Greek originated, emerged ca. 2400 BCE - 2200 BCE in an area which bordered pre-Proto-Indo-Iranian to the east and pre-Proto-Armenian and pre-Proto-Phrygian to the west, at the eastern borders of southeastern Europe. Speakers of what would become Proto-Greek, migrated from their homeland (which could have been northeast of the Black Sea) throughout Europe and reached Greece in a date set around the beginning of the Middle Bronze Age. The evolution of Proto-Greek could be considered within the context of an early Paleo-Balkansprachbund that makes it difficult to delineate exact boundaries between individual languages. The characteristically Greek representation of word-initial laryngeals by prothetic vowels is shared, for one, by the Armenian language, which also seems to share some other phonological and morphological peculiarities of Greek; this has led some linguists to propose a hypothetically closer relationship between Greek and Armenian, although evidence remains scant.
In modern bibliography, models about the settlement and development of proto-Greek speakers in the Greek peninsula place it in the region in the period at the earliest around 2200-2000 BCE during the Early Helladic III. Asko Parpola and Christian Carpelan (2005) date the arrival of Proto-Greek speakers into the Greek peninsula to 2200 BCE,:131 while Robert Drews (1994) dates it to c. 1900 BCE. Older theories like those of Vladimir I. Georgiev placed Proto-Greek in northwestern Greece during the Late Neolithic period. However, the dating of proto-Greek in Bronze Age Greece is compatible with the inherited lexicon from the common Proto-Indo-European language which excludes any possibility of it being present in Neolithic Greece. Ivo Hajnal dates the beginning of the differentiation of Proto-Greek into the Greek dialects to a point not significantly earlier than 1700 BC.
Merging of sequences of velar + *w into the labiovelars, with compensatory lengthening of the consonant in some cases. For example, PIE *h?é?wos > PG *híkk?os > Mycenaean i-qo/híkk?os/, Attic híppos, Aeolic íkkos.
Debuccalization of /s/ to /h/ in intervocalic and prevocalic positions (between two vowels, or if word-initial and followed by a vowel).
Palatalization of consonants followed by -y-, producing various affricate consonants (still represented as a separate sound in Mycenaean) and geminated palatal consonants. These later simplified, mostly losing their palatal character.
Law of limitation, which limits the position of the accent to the last three syllables, with further restrictions.
Wheeler's law: Retraction of final-syllable accent if the word ends in a heavy-light-light syllable sequence.
Loss of prevocalic *s was not completed entirely, evidenced by ss ~ hs "pig" (from PIE *suh?-), dasýs "dense" and dásos "dense growth, forest"; *som "with" is another example, contaminated with PIE *?om (Latin cum; preserved in Greek kaí, katá, koinós) to Mycenaean ku-su /ksun/, Homeric and Old Attic ksýn, later sýn. Furthermore, sélas "light in the sky, as in the aurora" and sel?n?/seln? "moon" may be more examples of the same if it derived from PIE *swel- "to burn" (possibly related to h?lios "sun", Ionic h?élios < *s?wélios).
Dissimilation of aspirates (so-called Grassmann's law) caused an initial aspirated sound to lose its aspiration when a following aspirated consonant occurred in the same word. It was a relatively late change in Proto-Greek history and must have occurred independently of the similar dissimilation of aspirates (also known as Grassmann's law) in Indo-Iranian, although it may represent a common areal feature:
It postdates the Greek-specific de-voicing of voiced aspirates.
It also postdates the change of /s/ > /h/, as it affects /h/ as well: ékh? "I have" < *hekh- < PIE *se-oh?, but future heks? "I will have" < *heks- < Post-PIE *se-s-oh?.
It postdates even the loss of aspiration before /j/ that accompanied second-stage palatalization (see below), which postdates both of the previous changes (as well as first-stage palatalization).
On the other hand, it predates the development of the first aorist passive marker -th?- since the aspirate in that marker has no effect on preceding aspirates.
Greek is unique in reflecting the three different laryngeals with distinct vowels. Most Indo-European languages can be traced back to a dialectal variety of late Proto-Indo-European (PIE) in which all three laryngeals had merged (after colouring adjacent short /e/ vowels), but Greek clearly cannot. For that reason, Greek is extremely important in reconstructing PIE forms.
Greek shows distinct reflexes of the laryngeals in various positions:
Most famously, between consonants, where original vocalic *h?, *h?, *h? are reflected as /e/, /a/, /o/ respectively (the so-called triple reflex). All other Indo-European languages reflect the same vowel from all three laryngeals (usually /a/, but /i/ or other vowels in Indo-Iranian):
*d?hs- "sacred, religious"
(thésphatos) "decreed by God"
? (dhíya-) "devout"
f?num "temple" < *fasnom < *d?hs-no-
*sth-to- "standing, being made to stand"
An initial laryngeal before a consonant (a *HC- sequence) leads to the same triple reflex, but most IE languages lost such laryngeals and a few reflect them initially before consonants. Greek vocalized them (leading to what are misleadingly termed prothetic vowels): Greek érebos "darkness" < PIE *h?reg?os vs. Gothicriqiz- "darkness"; Greek áent- "wind" < *awent- < PIE *h?wéh?n?t- vs. English wind, Latinventum "wind", Bretongwent "wind".
The sequence *CRHC (C = consonant, R = resonant, H = laryngeal) becomes CR?C, CR?C, CR?C from H = *h?, *h?, *h? respectively. (Other Indo-European languages again have the same reflex for all three laryngeals: *CuRC in Proto-Germanic, *CiR?C/CuR?C with acute register in Proto-Balto-Slavic, *C?RC/C?RC in Proto-Indo-Iranian, *CR?C in Proto-Italic and Proto-Celtic.) Sometimes, CeReC, CaRaC, CoRoC are found instead: Greek thánatos "death" vs. Doric Greekthn?tós "mortal", both apparently reflecting *d?n?h?-tos. It is sometimes suggested that the position of the accent was a factor in determining the outcome.
The sequence *CiHC tends to become *Cy?C, *Cy?C, *Cy?C from H = *h?, *h?, *h? respectively, with later palatalization (see below). Sometimes, the outcome C?C is found, as in most other Indo-European languages, or the outcome CiaC in the case of *Cih?C.
All of the cases may stem from an early insertion of /e/ next to a laryngeal not adjacent to a vowel in the Indo-European dialect ancestral to Greek (subsequently coloured to /e/, /a/, /o/ by the particular laryngeal in question) prior to the general merger of laryngeals:
A laryngeal adjacent to a vowel develops along the same lines as other Indo-European languages:
The sequence *CRHV (C = consonant, R = resonant, H = laryngeal, V = vowel) passes through *CR?HV, becoming CaRV.
The sequence *CeHC becomes C?C/C?C/C?C.
The sequence *CoHC becomes C?C.
In the sequence *CHV (including CHR?C, with a vocalized resonant), the laryngeal colors a following short /e/, as expected, but it otherwise disappears entirely (as in most other Indo-European languages but not Indo-Iranian whose laryngeal aspirates a previous stop and prevents the operation of Brugmann's law).
In a *VHV sequence (a laryngeal between vowels, including a vocalic resonant R?), the laryngeal again colours any adjacent short /e/ but otherwise vanishes early on. That change appears to be uniform across the Indo-European languages and was probably the first environment in which laryngeals were lost. If the first V was *i, *u or a vocalic resonant, a consonantal copy was apparently inserted in place of the laryngeal: *CiHV > *CiyV, *CuHV > *CuwV, *CR?HV possibly > *CR?RV, with R? always remaining as vocalic until the dissolution of vocalic resonants in the various daughter languages. Otherwise, a hiatus resulted, which was resolved in various ways in the daughter languages, typically by converting i, u and vocalic resonants, when it directly followed a vowel, back into a consonant and merging adjacent non-high vowels into a single long vowel.
Proto-Greek underwent palatalization of consonants before *y. That occurred in two separate stages. The first stage affected only dental consonants, and the second stage affected all consonants.
The first palatalization turned dentals + *y into alveolar affricates:
Alongside these changes, the inherited clusters *ts, *ds and *t?s all merged into *ts.
In the second palatalization, all consonants were affected. It took place following the resolution of syllabic laryngeals and sonorants. The following table, based on American linguist Andrew Sihler, shows the developments.
*sy > *hy
* > *yy
In post-Proto-Greek times, the resulting palatal consonants and clusters were resolved in varying ways. Most notably, *? and *? were resolved into plain sonorants plus a palatal on-glide, which eventually turned the preceding vowel into a diphthong.
in (but *u > ?n)
ir (but *u > ?r)
Between the first and the second palatalizations, new clusters *tsy and *dzy were formed by restoring a lost *y after the newly formed *ts and *dz. That occurred only in morphologically transparent formations by analogy with similar formations in which *y was preceded by other consonants. In formations that were morphologically opaque and not understood as such by speakers of the time, the restoration did not take place and so *ts and *dz remained. Hence, depending on the type of formation, the pre-Proto-Greek sequences *ty, *t?y and *dy have different outcomes in the later languages. In particular, medial *ty becomes Attic s in opaque formations but tt in transparent formations.
The outcome of PG medial *ts in Homeric Greek is s after a long vowel, and vacillation between s and ss after a short vowel: tát?si dat. pl. "rug" < tát?t-, possí(n)/posí(n) dat. pl. "foot" < pod-. This was useful for the composer of the Iliad and Odyssey, since possí with double s scans as long-short, while posí with single s scans as short-short. Thus the writer could use each form in different positions in a line.
Examples of initial *ts:
PIE *tyeg?- "avoid" > PG *tseg?- > Greek sébomai "worship, be respectful" (Ved. tyaj- "flee")
Sound changes between Proto-Greek and all early dialects, including Mycenaean Greek, include:
Remaining syllabic resonants *m?*n?*l? and *r? are resolved to vowels or combinations of a vowel and consonantal resonant. It appears that the process still occurred within Proto-Greek, and resulted in an epenthetic vowel of undetermined quality (denoted here as *?). This vowel then usually developed into a but also o in some cases. Thus:
*m?, *n? > *?, but > *?m, *?n before a sonorant. *? appears as o in Mycenaean after a labial: pe-mo (spérmo) "seed" vs. usual spérma < *spérmn?. Similarly, o often appears in Arcadian after a velar, e.g. déko "ten", hekotón "one hundred" vs. usual déka, hekatón < *dé?m?, *sem-?m?tóm.
*l?, *r? > *l?, *r?, but *?l, *?r before sonorants and analogously. *? appears as o in Mycenaean Greek, Aeolic Greek and Cypro-Arcadian. Example: PIE *str?-tos > usual stratós, Aeolic strótos "army"; post-PIE *?r?di-eh? "heart" > Attic kardí?, Homeric kradí?, Pamphylian korzdia.
Creation of secondary s from clusters, *nty > ns (it was, in turn, followed by a change similar to the one described above, loss of the n with compensatory lengthening: *apónt-ya > apónsa > apoûsa, "absent", feminine).
Conversion of labiovelars to velars next to /u/, the "boukólos rule".
In southern dialects (including Mycenaean, but not Doric), -ti- > -si- (assibilation).
The following changes are apparently post-Mycenaean:[why?]
Loss of /h/ (from original /s/), except initially, e.g. Doric níkaas "having conquered" < *níkahas < *níkasas.
Loss of /j/, e.g. treîs "three" < *tréyes.
Loss of /w/ in many dialects (later than loss of /h/ and /j/). Example: étos "year" from *wétos.
Loss of labiovelars, which were converted (mostly) into labials, sometimes into dentals (or velars next to /u/, as a result of an earlier sound change). See below for details. It had not yet happened in Mycenaean, as is shown by the fact that a separate letter ⟨q⟩ is used for such sounds.
Contraction of adjacent vowels resulting from loss of /h/ and /j/ (and, to a lesser extent, from loss of /w/); more in Attic Greek than elsewhere.
Rise of a distinctive circumflex accent, resulting from contraction and certain other changes.
Limitation of the accent to the last three syllables, with various further restrictions.
Raising of ? to ?/?:/ in Attic and Ionic dialects (but not Doric). In Ionic, the change was general, but in Attic it did not occur after /i/, /e/ or /r/. (Note Attic kór? "girl" < *kórw?; loss of /w/ after /r/ had not occurred at that point in Attic.)
Note that /w/ and /j/, when following a vowel and not preceding a vowel, combined early on with the vowel to form a diphthong and so were not lost.
The development of labiovelars varies from dialect to dialect:
Due to the PIE boukólos rule, labiovelars next to /u/ had already been converted to plain velars: boukólos "herdsman" < *g?ou-k?ólos (cf. boûs "cow" < *g?ou-) vs. aipólos "goatherd" < *ai(g)-k?ólos (cf. aíks, gen. aigós "goat"); elakhús "small" < *h?ln?g-ús vs. elaphrós "light" < *h?ln?g-rós.
In Attic and some other dialects (but not, for example, Lesbian), labiovelars before some front vowels became dentals. In Attic, k? and k became t and th, respectively, before /e/ and /i/, while g? became d before /e/ (but not /i/). Cf. theín? "I strike, kill" < *gen-y? vs. phónos "slaughter" < *gón-os; delphús "womb" < *g?elb?- (Sanskritgarbha-) vs. bíos "life" < *g?ih?wos (Gothicqius "alive"), tís "who?" < *k?is (Latinquis).
All remaining labiovelars became labials, original k? k g? becoming p ph b respectively. That happened to all labiovelars in some dialects like Lesbian; in other dialects, like Attic, it occurred to all labiovelars not converted into dentals. Many occurrences of dentals were later converted into labials by analogy with other forms: bélos "missile", bélemnon "spear, dart" (dialectal délemnon) by analogy with báll? "I throw (a missile, etc.)", bol? "a blow with a missile".
Original PIE labiovelars had still remained as such even before consonants and so became labials also there. In many other centum languages such as Latin and most Germanic languages, the labiovelars lost their labialisation before consonants. (Greek pémptos "fifth" < *pénk?tos; compare Old Latinquinctus.) This makes Greek of particular importance in reconstructing original labiovelars.
The results of vowel contraction were complex from dialect to dialect. Such contractions occur in the inflection of a number of different noun and verb classes and are among the most difficult aspects of Ancient Greek grammar. They were particularly important in the large class of contracted verbs, denominative verbs formed from nouns and adjectives ending in a vowel. (In fact, the reflex of contracted verbs in Modern Greek, the set of verbs derived from Ancient Greek contracted verbs, represents one of the two main classes of verbs in that language.)
As Mycenaean Greek shows, the PIE dative (suffix -i), instrumental (suffix -phi) and locative (suffix -si) cases are still distinct and are not yet syncretized into other cases.
Nominative plural -oi, -ai replaces late PIE -?s, -?s.
The superlative in -tatos becomes productive.
The peculiar oblique stem gunaik- "women", attested from the Thebes tablets is probably Proto-Greek. It appears, at least as gunai- in Armenian as well.
The pronouns hoûtos, ekeînos and autós are created. The use of ho, h?, to as articles is post-Mycenaean.
Proto-Greek inherited the augment, a prefix e-, to verbal forms expressing past tense. That feature is shared only with Indo-Iranian and Phrygian (and to some extent, Armenian), lending some support to a "Graeco-Aryan" or "Inner PIE" proto-dialect. However, the augment down to the time of Homer remained optional and was probably little more than a free sentence particle, meaning "previously" in the proto-language, which may easily have been lost by most other branches. Greek, Phrygian, and Indo-Iranian also concur in the absence of r-endings in the middle voice, in Greek apparently already lost in Proto-Greek.
The first person middle verbal desinences -mai, -m?n replace -ai, -a. The third singular phérei is an innovation by analogy, replacing the expected Doric *phéreti, Ionic *phéresi (from PIE *b?éreti).
The future tense is created, including a future passive as well as an aorist passive.
The suffix -ka- is attached to some perfects and aorists.
Infinitives in -ehen, -enai and -men are created.
Proto-Greek numerals were derived directly from Indo-European.
^Georgiev 1981, p. 156: "The Proto-Greek region included Epirus, approximately up to in the north including Paravaia, Tymphaia, Athamania, Dolopia, Amphilochia, and Acarnania), west and north Thessaly (Hestiaiotis, Perrhaibia, Tripolis, and Pieria), i. e. more or less the territory of contemporary northwestern Greece)."
^A comprehensive overview is in J. T. Hooker's Mycenaean Greece (Hooker 1976, Chapter 2: "Before the Mycenaean Age", pp. 11-33 and passim); for a different hypothesis excluding massive migrations and favoring an autochthonous scenario, see Colin Renfrew's "Problems in the General Correlation of Archaeological and Linguistic Strata in Prehistoric Greece: The Model of Autochthonous Origin" (Renfrew 1973, pp. 263-276, especially p. 267) in Bronze Age Migrations by R. A. Crossland and A. Birchall, eds. (1973).
^Renfrew 2003, p. 35: "Greek The fragmentation of the Balkan Proto-Indo-European Sprachbund of phase II around 3000 BC led gradually in the succeeding centuries to the much clearer definition of the languages of the constituent sub-regions."
^ abcdefghijFilos, Panagiotis "Proto-Greek and Common Greek". In G. K. Giannakis et al. (eds.), Brill Encyclopedia of Ancient Greek Language and Linguistics III, Leiden-Boston 2014: Brill: 175-189 section 4c
Renfrew, Colin (2003). "Time Depth, Convergence Theory, and Innovation in Proto-Indo-European: 'Old Europe' as a PIE Linguistic Area". In Bammesberger, Alfred; Vennemann, Theo (eds.). Languages in Prehistoric Europe. Heidelberg: Universitätsverlag Winter GmBH. pp. 17-48. ISBN978-3-82-531449-1.CS1 maint: ref=harv (link)