In linguistics, Aeolic Greek (/iːˈɒlɪk/), also known as Aeolian (/iːˈoʊliən/), 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.
|Region||Boeotia, Thessaly, Aeolis|
|Era||c. 800–300 BC|
|Greek alphabet (uncial and cursive forms)|
Eastern Archaic Greek alphabet (up to 4th century BC)
Distribution of Greek dialects in Greece in the classical period.
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), because of its difference from the Attic literary style: "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 *kʷ changed to Aeolic p everywhere. By contrast, PIE *kʷ changed to Attic/Ionic, Arcadocypriot, and Doric t before e and i.
Similarly PIE/PGk *gʷ always became b and PIE *gʷʰ > PGk *kʰʷ 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.
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 Boeotian Aeolic, the h assimilated to the vowel before the consonant cluster, causing the vowel to lengthen by compensatory lengthening.
Lesbian Aeolic lost initial h- (psilosis "stripping") from Proto-Indo-European s- or y-. By contrast, Ionic sometimes retains it, and Attic always retains it.
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.
In Aeolic and Doric, Proto-Greek long ā remains. By contrast, in Attic, long ā changes to long ē in most cases; in Ionic, it changes everywhere.
Compensatory lengthening of a,e,o in Lesbian gives ai,ei,oi (in Attic, it would be ā,ei,ou) for example in the accusative plural of a and o stem nouns, or in many 3 Pl verb conjugations.
In Boeotian, the vowel-system was, in many cases, changed in a way reminiscent of the modern Greek pronunciation.
In Lesbian Aeolic, the accent of all words is recessive (barytonesis), as is typical only in the verbs of other dialects.
Contracted or vowel-stem verbs that are thematic in Attic/Ionic are often athematic (-mi) in Aeolic.
Aeolic athematic infinitive active ends in -men or (Lesbian) -menai. ~ Attic/Ionic has -enai.
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 -ās and -ōs (-ους).
Dative plural -aisi and -oisi ~ Attic/Ionic -ais and -ois.
The participle has -ois and -ais for Attic -ōs (-ους), -ās.
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.