MGSA Presentation on carryovers

Τί πἰνετε;

This form is equally comprehensible to students of Modern and Ancient Greek.

“carry-overs”: “words in Modern Greek that by virtue of the accidents of history are virtually identical to their corresponding Ancient Greek forms and thus unchanged over millennia in both meaning and form (except for the realization of the accent), e.g: ánemos ‘wind’, énatos ‘ninth’, kalós ‘good’, kósmos ‘world’, metá ‘after’, mónos ‘alone’, nómisma ‘coin’, nómos ‘law’, ónoma ‘name’ among others.” (Joseph 2006)

phonological, semantic

  1. True carryovers

There are no true carryovers if it is taken into account that the accent has changed from pitch to stress. No Modern Greek word is pronounced exactly the same as in Modern Greek. The Alexandrian grammarians knew that pitch accent–tonos–was being lost in Greek. The Hellenistic Period was a watershed period of significant change in pronunciation, syntax, morphology, and vocabulary.

  1. Carryovers in broader sense

These are Modern Greek words that differ from their Ancient counterparts only in terms of the accent. They include only sounds represented with the letters κ, λ, μ, ν, ξ, π, σ, τ, ψ, short vowels  α and ι (including short ἀ, ἰ (word-initial with the smooth breathing)).


2a) words with the same meaning in AG and MG:

  • τι, κατά, μία, τα, κακά, ἄξια, πιστά, ἀνά, μαλακά, ίσα

2b) words with different meaning in AG and MG:

  • μάλιστα, καλά

φιλὠ different from MG φιλώ


2c) Practical consequences:

These words are learnt by students of Ancient Greek in (roughly) their Modern Greek pronunciation, provided that they use the dynamic rather than tonemic accent and that the accent is pronounced on the syllable that carries the accentuation mark (which is usually the case).

An exception, however, is the so-called Henninian system, which follows Latin pronunciation rules and is used (mostly) in Great Britain, the Netherlands and in South Africa (Allen, Vox Graeca,  135–136). In this case only some words are pronounced in (roughly) their Modern Greek pronunciation (namely, τι, τα, ἄξια, ἴσα but not καλά, μάλιστα, κακά).

Interference errors may occur as well: students of Ancient Greek may not be able to use / understand correctly the word μάλιστα in Modern Greek.


  1. Carryovers according to Allen, Vox Graeca

all agree that α is the same Allen, Vox Graeca, 59, claims that the pronunciation of ο, ε was roughly the same in Ancient Greek as is today. (However, they were close vowels according to Sturtevant, The pronunciation of Greek and Latin, 128; 138.). If Allen’s view is adopted, the list above can be extended with many additional words, examples including:

3a) words with (roughly) the same meaning in AG and in MG:

Nouns: στόμα, στόματος, στόματα; μέλι, μέλιτος;  πόλεμος; νόμος; ἄνεμος, ἄνεμε; ὄνομα, ονοματος, ὀνόματα; κόσμος, κόσμε (world); τέλος; τόπος.

Adjectives/numerals: κακός, κακέ; ἄξιος, ἄξιε; μαλακός, μαλακέ; πιστός, πιστέ; νέος, νέε, νέα; μόνος, μόνα, ἔνατος; ίσος, ίσε; όλος, όλα; καλός,

Verbs: ἔχετε; μένετε; πίνετε; ἔπεσε, ἔπεσες, ἔμενες, ἔμενε, ἔπινες, ἔπινε

Others:  τίνος  short i qualitatively for Allen


3b) words with different meanings in AG/MG:

ἄγγελος, ἄγγελε, ἀγγέλους (AG messenger, MG angel)

κόσμος, κόσμε (MG people)


3c) Practical consequences:

It is likely that these words are learnt by students of Ancient Greek in (roughly) their Modern Greek pronunciation as well (unless the Henninian system is applied, which reduces their number considerably). In addition, these words can be used in plausible Modern Greek sentences. Examples of sentences containing words from sections 2 and 3 include:

Τι πίνετε;

Τι έπεσε; / Τι έπινε;

Τι νέα;

However, students may not understand correctly Modern Greek phrases such as:

καλός κόσμος (in the meaning »noble people«)

(perhaps) Όλα καλά;


  1. Carryovers in the variety of Erasmian pronunciation used in some European countries (e.g. Slovenia)

In this variety, Modern Greek pronunciation is applied also in the following cases:

  • ω (as well as long ι, α) (Ιt is not distinguished between long and short vowels)
  • ου , which is pronounced as short [u]
  • φ, χ, which are pronounced as [f], [x]
  • ρ – which is [r], roughly the same as in Modern Greek
  • double consonants (which are pronounced as single consonants)

As a result, additional Ancient Greek words are learnt (roughly) in their Modern Greek pronunciation, examples including:

4a) words with the same meaning in AG and in MG:

Nouns: φίλος, φίλου, φίλους; νόμου, νόμους; ουρανός, ουρανού, ουρανέ, ουρανών, ουρανούς; στομάτων; ἀνέμου, ἀνέμων, ἀνέμους; κρέας; σκιά, σκιάς; Τέρας; σοφία, σοφίας, σοφιών; τάφος, τάφους, τάφων, τάφους φιλόσοφος, φιλοσόφου, φιλοσόφους; φόρος, φόρου, φόρων, φόρους μαχών; φιλία, φιλίας; φρόνιμος, φρόνιμα; σπέρμα, σπέρματος, σπέρματα, σπερμάτων


Adjectives/numerals: πλούσιος, πλούσιε, πλούσια; σοφός, σοφού, σοφέ, σοφά, σοφών, σοφούς; τρίτος, τρίτα, τρίτου, τρίτους; τέταρτος, τέταρτε, τέταρτα; μικρός, μικρού, μικρέ, μικρά, μικρών, μικρούς; λιτός, λιτού, λιτέ, λιτά, λιτών, λιτούς; πρῶτος, πρώτου, πρώτα, πρώτων, πρώτους; χώρα, χώρας, χωρών; χορός, χορού, χορέ, χορών, χορούς; χρόνος, χρόνου, χρόνε, χρόνων, χρόνους; σῶμα, σώματος, σώματα, σωμάτων; φῶς, φωτός, φώτα; Τέλους; νικῶν; πλοῦτος, πλούτου, πλούτε; Μοῦσα, Μουσῶν; μαχῶν; νους

Verbs: ἔχω, μένω, πίνω, ἀκούω; τολμάω, τολμάς, τρέχω, τρέχετε; νικάω, νικάς, νικάτε, νίκα; κινώ; ὠφελῶ

Others: ἀλλά; περί; παρά; οὔτε; πῶς; προς

4b) words with different meaning in AG and in MG, e.g. κράτος (ΑG power, MG state).

4c) Practical consequences:

As a result, the number of Modern Greek sentences that can be formed from these words is increased considerably. Examples of sentences containing words from sections 2–4 include:

Πού μένετε; / Μένω μόνος. / Μισώ τους πολιτικούς.

Άλλα νέα; / Έχετε νέα; / Έχω πολλά νέα.

Τι έχετε; / Έχω πολλούς φίλους.

Το ονομά σου;

Ακούω πολλά.

Με έσωσε./ Σε έσωσε./ Έσωσε πολλούς. / Τι σε έσωσε;  / Με έσωσε ο φίλος μου.

Άναψε το φως!

Πίνω τα φάρμακά μου.


Sentences containing words with different meanings (in Ancient and Modern Greek):

(perhaphs) Έχω καλά νέα.


  1. American variety of the Erasmian pronunciation

In this variety Modern Greek pronunciation is applied in the following cases:

– θ, which can be pronounced [θ], but also as [th]

– ζ, which can be pronounced as [z], but also as [dz] or [zd]

– φ, which is usually [f], but can also be pronounced as [ph]

– χ , [kh ]   or [x]

-ου, which is pronounced as short [u]

– double consonants, which as pronounces as simple consonants

– long α, long ι, which are pronounces as short vowels (on the other hand, ω, η are pronounced as long consonants)


If this is correct, students using this variety of the Erasmian pronunciation, learn the following words in roughly their Modern Greek pronunciation:

ἀλλά, οὐρανός, Μοῦσα, μένετε, πίνετε (sometimes also) θεός, θάνατος, φίλος

But not:

… ἔχω, μένω… (these words are learnt in roughly their Modern Greek pronunciation in the European variety used in Slovenia because we do not pronounce ω as a long vowel).

Statistics on carryovers

Some statistical data on carryovers