|Reconstruction of||Hellenic languages / Ancient Greek dialects|
|Region||Southern Balkan Peninsula|
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The Proto-Greek language (also known as Proto-Hellenic) is the Indo-European language which was the last common ancestor of all varieties of Greek, including Mycenaean Greek, the subsequent ancient Greek dialects (i.e., Attic, Ionic, Aeolic, Doric, Arcadocypriot, and ancient Macedonian—either a dialect or a closely related Hellenic language) and, ultimately, Koine, Byzantine and Modern Greek (along with its variants). Proto-Greek speakers entered Greece sometime between 2200 and 1900 BCE, with the diversification into a southern and a northern group beginning by approximately 1700 BCE.
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 transition of the Early Bronze Age to the Middle Bronze Age. The evolution of Proto-Greek could be considered within the context of an early Paleo-Balkan sprachbund 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.
A. L. Katona (2000) places the beginning of the migration of the Proto-Greek speakers from Ukraine towards the south ca. 2400-2300 BCE. Their proposed route of migration passed through Romania and the eastern Balkans to the Evros river valley from where their main body moved west. As such Katona as well as M.V Sakellariou agree that the main body of Greek speakers settled in a region that included southwestern Illyria, Epirus, northwestern Thessaly and western Macedonia. Older theories like those of Vladimir I. Georgiev placed Proto-Greek in northwestern Greece and adjacent areas (approximately up to Aulon river to the north including Paravaia, Tymphaia, Athamania, Dolopia, Amphilochia, and Acarnania as well as west and north Thessaly (Histiaeotis, Perrhaibia, Tripolis) and Pieria in Macedonia. 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 diversification of Proto-Greek into the subsequent Greek dialects to a point not significantly earlier than 1700 BCE. The conventional division of the Greek dialects prior of 1955 differentiated them between a West Greek (consisting of Doric and Northwest Greek) and an East Greek (consisting of Aeolic, Arcado-Cypriot, and Attic-Ionic) group. However, after the decipherment of the Linear B script, Walter Porzig and Ernst Risch argued for a division between a Northern (consisting of Doric, Northwest Greek, and Aeolic) and a Southern (consisting of Mycenaean, Arcado-Cypriot, and Attic-Ionic) group, which remains fundamental until today.
Proto-Greek is reconstructed with the following phonemes:
The primary sound changes separating Proto-Greek from the Proto-Indo-European language include the following.
Major changes included:
Grassmann's law was a process of dissimilation in words containing multiple aspirates. It 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. The change may have even been post-Mycenaean.[why?]
Greek is unique among Indo-European languages 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:
|*dʰh₁s- "sacred, religious"||θέσφατος (thésphatos) "decreed by God"||धिष्ण्य (dhíṣṇya-) "devout"||fānum "temple" < *fasnom < *dʰh̥₁s-no-|
|*sth₂-to- "standing, being made to stand"||στατός (statós)||स्थित (sthíta-)||status|
|*dh₃-ti- "gift"||δόσις (dósis)||दिति (díti-)||datiō|
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:
Consonants followed by consonantal *y were palatalized, producing various affricate consonants (still represented as a separate sound in Mycenaean) and geminated palatal consonants. Any aspiration was lost in the process. The palatalized consonants later simplified, mostly losing their palatal character. Palatalization occurred in two separate stages. The first stage affected only dental consonants, and the second stage affected all consonants.
The first palatalization caused dentals + *y to ultimately become alveolar affricates:
Alongside these changes, the inherited clusters *ts, *ds and *tʰs 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|
|*wy||*ɥɥ > *yy|
In post-Proto-Greek times, the resulting palatal consonants and clusters were resolved in varying ways. Most notably, *ň and *ř were resolved into plain sonorants plus a palatal on-glide, which eventually turned the preceding vowel into a diphthong.
|Proto-Greek||Attic||Homeric||West Ionic||Other Ionic||Boeotian||Arcado-
|*ňň||in (but *uňň > ūn)|
|*řř||ir (but *uřř > ūr)|
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, *tʰy 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: tátēsi dat. pl. "rug" < tátēt-, 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:
Examples of medial *ts (morphologically opaque forms, first palatalization only):
Examples of medial *ťť (morphologically transparent forms, first and second palatalization):
Sound changes that postdate Proto-Greek, but predate the attested dialects, including Mycenaean Greek, include:
The following changes are apparently post-Mycenaean because early stages are represented in Linear B:
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.
Loss of /h/ and /w/ after a consonant was often accompanied by compensatory lengthening of a preceding vowel.
The development of labiovelars varies from dialect to dialect:
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.)
Proto-Greek preserved the gender (masculine, feminine, neuter) and number (singular, dual, plural) distinctions of the nominal system of Proto-Indo-European. However, the evidence from Mycenaean Greek is inconclusive with regard to whether all eight cases continued to see complete usage, but this is more secure for the five standard cases of Classical Greek (nominative, genitive, dative, accusative and vocative) and probably also the instrumental in its usual plural suffix -pʰi and the variant /-ṓis/ for o-stem nouns. The ablative and locative are uncertain; at the time of Mycenaean texts they may have been undergoing a merger with the genitive and dative respectively. It is thought that the syncretism between cases proceeded faster for the plural, with dative and locative already merged as -si (the Proto-Indo-European locative plural having been *-su-). This merger may have been motivated by analogy to the locative singular -i-. Nevertheless, seven case distinctions are securely attested in Myceneaen in some domain, with the status of the ablative unclear.
Significant developments attributed to the Proto-Greek period include:
The Proto-Greek nominal system is thought to have included cases of gender change according to number, heteroclisy and stem alternation (ex. genitive form húdatos for húdōr "water").
The superlative in -tatos becomes productive.
The pronouns hoûtos, ekeînos and autós are created. The use of ho, hā, 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, -mān replace -ai, -a. The third singular phérei is an innovation by analogy, replacing the expected Doric *phéreti, Ionic *phéresi (from PIE *bʰéreti).
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.
"the arrival of the Proto-Greek -speakers took place at various sites in central and southern Greece at the beginning and end of the Early Helladic III period.
Thus in the region defined just above, roughly northern and north-western Greece, one finds only archaic Greek place-names. Consequently, this is the proto-Hellenic area, the early homeland of the Greeks where they lived before they invaded central and southern Greece.
Supports an interpretation of Marija Gimbutas' Kurgan theory involving the migration of a proto-Greek population which arrived in Greece during the Early Helladic period.