History of The Greek Alphabet - Additional Letters

Additional Letters

In some but not all Greek dialects, additional letters were created, to represent aspirated versions of Κ and Π (an aspirated version of Τ already existed as described above) and combinations of Κ and Π with Σ. There was some variation between dialects as to the symbols used:

  • could be Κ, ΚΗ, Ψ, or Χ
  • could be Π, ΠΗ, or Φ
  • could be ΚΣ, ΧΣ, Χ, or Ξ
  • could be ΠΣ, ΦΣ, or Ψ

The unusual use of special letters for the consonant clusters and can be explained by the fact that these were the only combinations allowed at the end of a syllable. With this convention, all Greek syllables could be written with at most one final consonant letter.

Greek, like Phoenician, made a distinction for vowel length; indeed, Greek had five short vowels and seven long vowels, but only five vowel letters. As in Phoenician, the difference in length was not originally made in writing. However, by the 6th century BC the letter eta (not needed for a consonant in eastern dialects of Greek, which lacked ) came to stand for the long vowel, and a new letter, omega, was developed for long . The provenance of omega is not known, but it is generally assumed to derive from omicron with a line drawn under it. Long and were written with the digraphs ει and ου, respectively, whereas long and short, never were distinguished in writing.

Read more about this topic:  History Of The Greek Alphabet

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