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Accentuation Rules

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On this page we mention the rules of accentuation of two important Linguists, Manolis Triantafyllidis and Agapitos Tsopanakis. In the first case summary statements instead of quotations from the school-book grammar of the ΟΕΔΒ of 1977 are presented. In the second case we give quotations from the 1998 Publication in Thessalonica. In the first Triantafyllidis gives general rules for use by all students, Tsopanakis goes into a significant amount of detail and into the historical side of the subject. However, the big difference between the two Grammarians is that Tsopanakis makes use of the grave, while Triantafyllidis never reports the existence of the neglected third accent.

This page is intended for someone who may know accentuation and wishes to review his knowledge of these rules and become certified for such. However, if you by no means know accentuation or have forgotten the rules we recommend you look first at our page «Learn accentuation in ten easy lessons».

From the Modern Greek Grammar of Manolis Triantafyllidis (ΟΕΔΒ 1977)

There are two accents: acute (ὀξεία ʹ) and circumflex (περισπωμένη ῀).

Accents are placed according to the following rules:

General Accentuation Rules

  • The antepenult takes only the acute accent: ἥσυχος, εἴπαμε, ἀνήφορος, πήγαμε.
  • A short syllable takes only the acute accent: ἔλα, ὅλα, βουνό, μέρος.
  • The penult takes an acute accent when the ultima is long: καρφώνω, κλείνει, πήχη.
  • The long penult takes a circumflex accent when the ultima is short: μῆλο, ξυπνῆστε, δῶσε, ἀγαποῦμε, ναῦτες, θυμοῦνται, ὦμοι, τοῖχοι.
    Exceptions to this rule are: ὥστε, οὔτε, μήτε, εἴτε, εἴθε.
  • The semi-vowel iota is treated as an ordinary vowel so that the following words are considered to be accented on the antepenult: καινούριος, κούφιος, κούνιες, ποτήρια.

Accents on Nouns and Personal Pronouns

Accent on ultima

  • Nouns and personal pronouns take an acute accent on the ultima except for the genitive case: ὁ μαθητής, τὸ μαθητή, μαθητή· οἱ οὐρανοί, τοὺς οὐρανούς, οὐρανοί· ὁ βαθύς, τὸ βαθύ, ἡ βαθιά, τὴ βαθιά· ὁ σταχτής, οἱ σταχτιοί, τοὺς σταχτιούς· ἐγώ, ἐσύ.
  • The exceptions to this rule are:
    • Nouns γῆ, φῶς, πᾶν, νοῦς.
    • Personal pronouns ἐμεῖς, ἐμᾶς, μᾶς — ἐσεῖς, ἐσᾶς, σᾶς.
    • Numeral τρεῖς and plurals ending by -εῖς (συγγραφεῖς, συγγενεῖς, συνεχεῖς).
    • Person names ending in -ᾶς: Λουκᾶς, Παλαμᾶς, Σκουφᾶς and some other names: Ἰησοῦς, Ἀθηνᾶ, Ναυσικᾶ, Ἀπελλῆς, Ἑρμῆς, Ἡρακλῆς, Θαλῆς, Θεμιστοκλῆς, Μωυσῆς, Περικλῆς.
  • The genitive case with no short vowel takes a circumflex accent: τοῦ καλοῦ πραματευτῆ, τοῦ ψωμᾶ, τῆς γλυκιᾶς φωνῆς, τῆς Ἀργυρῶς, τῆς ἀλεποῦς, τῶν μικρῶν παιδιῶν, σοῦ δίνω.

Accent on penult

  • The α of the ultima of masculine and feminine nouns is long; this is why we put an acute on the penult: ὁ χειμώνας, τοῦ χειμώνα, τὸ χειμώνα, χειμώνα, ἡ πείνα, τῆς πείνας, τὴν πείνα, πείνα, ἡ γυναίκα — ἡ ἀσπρούλα.
  • The α of the ultima of neutral nouns is short; this is why we put a circumflex on the penult: χρῶμα, ὡραῖα δῶρα, ἐκεῖνα τὰ σχολεῖα.
  • The ι of the ultima of neutral nouns is long; this is why we put an acute on the penult: μαχαίρι, λουλούδι, ἀλεύρι, χείλι, ποτήρι.
  • Vowels α, ι, υ on the penult are short and therefore take an acute accent: διάκος, σκίνος, σκύλος, παπάδες, χωριάτες, πιάτο, κινίνο, σύκο, λάθος, κλάμα, κλίμα, χύμα.

Accent in verbs

Accent on ultima

  • The long ultima of verbs takes a circumflex accent: ἀγαπῶ, ἀργεῖ, ἀργοῦν, ἀκοῦς, νὰ δεῖς, κλαῖς, τρῶς.
    In verbs, the accented α of the ultima is the long and therefore takes a circumflex accent: ἀγαπᾶς, πᾶς, ἀγαπᾶ.

Accent on penult

  • The non-accented α of the ultima of the indicative mood is short. Therefore we put a circumflex accent on the long penult: τραγουδοῦσα, τραγουδοῦσαν· εἶδα, εἶδαν.
  • The non-accented α of the ultima of the imperative mood is long. Therefore we put an acute accent on the penult: πήδα, ρώτα, φεύγα, τραγούδα, κοίτα.
  • The endings of verbs in singular number -ᾶμαι, -ᾶσαι, -ᾶται and the ones in plural number -ᾶμε, -ᾶτε, -ᾶνε take a circumflex accent: θυμᾶμαι, θυμᾶσαι, θυμᾶται· γελᾶμε, γελᾶτε, γελᾶνε· πᾶμε, πᾶτε, πᾶνε· μὴ γελᾶτε, ἐλᾶτε νὰ φᾶμε.
    In all other cases the α of the penult is short: βάλε, σπάσε, κάψε, πάρε· κλάψτε, πάρτε, θυμάστε.
  • Vowels ι, υ on the penult are short and take an acute accent as in the rule pertaning to α, ι, υ above: λύνε, λύναν, λύσε, λύσαν· δακρύσαν· πλύνε, πλύναν· πίνε, πίναν· ρίξε, ρίξαν.

Non-accented words

Some words with a single syllable do not take an accent. Examples are articles ὁ, ἡ, οἱ which are proclitic and the adverb ὡς (= like, not to confuse with ὣς = until).

Enclitics

Τὸ βιβλίο μου. Τὸ τετράδιό σου. In these examples, the words μοῦ, σοῦ are pronounced so tightly to the previous word that their accent either is not heard (τὸ βιβλίο μου) or becomes a second accent on the ultima of the previous word (τὸ τετράδιό σου).

Words with one syllable which lose their accent or have it occur on the ultima of the previous word are called enclitics.

The most frequent enclitics are the monosyllabic types of the personal pronoun μοῦ μὲ μᾶς, σοῦ σὲ σᾶς, τος τὸν τοι τὴ τες κτλ.

The accent of the enclitic:

  • is moved as an acute accent:
    • on the ultima of the previous word if the word is accented on the antepenult: ὁ πρόεδρός μας (σας, τους).
    • on the previous word if it is also an enclitic and if the word before it is accented on the penult: φέρε μού το, δῶσε μάς το.
  • the accent disappears when the previous word is accented on the ultima or the penult: τὸ φῶς μας, ἡ χαρά μου, νά τους, τὰ δῶρα του, οἱ φίλοι σας.

Breathings

Every word starting with a vowel takes on it a mark called breathing: ἀνθίζω, Ἑλλάδα, ἅγιος, ἔχω. There are two breathings: smooth (ψιλὴ ᾿) and rough (δασεία ῾)

Most words take a smooth breathing except some.

Take a rough breathing:

  • All words starting with υ: ὑγεία, ὕπνος.
  • Non-accented words ὁ, ἡ, οἱ, ὡς.
  • Numerals ἕνας, ἕξι, ἑπτά, ἑκατό.
  • All relative pronouns ὅποιος, ὅσος, κτλ.
  • Some more words like ἅγιος, ἕλικας, ἡλικία, ἱκανός, ὁδηγός, κτλ.

Accentuation rules taken from the Modern Greek Grammar of Agapitos Tsopanakis (publ.: Kyriakidis Brothers 1998)

I. SYLLABLE LENGTH - ACCENTS

§ 149. According to the vowels contained in a syllable, the latter is long or short. Accentuation rules depend on syllable length.

A syllable is short when it contains a short vowel ε or ο: πό-λε-μος.

A syllable is long when it contains a long vowel or a diphthong: μη-τέ-ρα, -ρα, οὐ-ρα-νός, γυ-ναί-κα, κα-τοι-κί-α, σει-ρά, υἱ-ο-θε-τῶ.

A syllable is bitemporal when it contains one of the bitemporal vowels α, ι, υ; nevertheless these are mostly short in modern Greek grammar.

A syllable is called long by position (θέσει μακρά) whenever it contains a short vowel followed by two or more consonants or a double consonant (ζ, ξ, ψ).

Cf. § 172 below for diphthongs αι, οι at the end of words.

§ 150. As we have noted briefly in the Introduction (§10, 11) the ancient Greek language was melodic and based on long and short vowels and diphthongs, and on heightening and lowering of tone as in a melody. The pronounciation of long vowels and diphthongs was obviously longer and the one of short vowels, shorter. From a musical point of view, tones were sometimes brief, sharp and acute, a property more appropriate for short vowels (the acute accent), and sometimes descendant, serious, grave, a kind more appropriate at the end of words and for short or long interruptions of speach. The latter were used on final syllables, which would take a grave accent in the speech ductus whether it was short or long.

§ 151. The third musical tone was probably more melodic, since it would both heighten and lower the voice, in other words it was both longer and simultaneously acute and grave on the same vowel; such a syllable had to be long, i.e. it had to have a longer phonetic breadth than a short one, so that tone could go up and down in a manner perceptible by the listener. This musical tone has been called ὀξύβαρυς *acutegrave or περισπωμένη (in English: circumflex). The term “acutegrave” is clear because it contains both the acute and the grave, while the term περισπωμένη calls for περί-σπαση, flexion, i.e. the fact that the accent is is broken, or better inflected downwards after having gone upwards.

§ 152. The circumflex accent was perceptible only on the ultima and penult, for reasons related to the law of trisyllaby, which we have already mentioned (§ 126 δ). This leads us to the probable conclusion that the circumflex could also be heard on the long vowel of the penult. But to be heard there, the ultima had to be short; otherwise,—that is if the ultima was long—, the tone would be acute. It follows that lengthening of vowels and difference between tones were used both for melodic difference and for respecting the trisyllaby law, which was probably an old melodic law of Greek language and not an invention of grammarians.

§153. As we have seen previously (§ 18), today some musical tones are still preserved in various modern Greek dialects, from which, if we proceed with caution, we can obtain a slight idea of how ancient Greek was pronounced. We can also get an idea of how the circumflex tone was pronounced by imitating the sound of sheeps, as antique comical poets Kratinos and Aristophanes have preserved it by writing βῆ-βῆ. This testimony is important because it is based on two certain facts: first that it is highly improbable that the sound of sheeps may have changed in the last 2,500 years, and second, from several indications (cf. § 7ss.) we can be sure that the pronounciation of vowels, consonants and diphthongs has been changed from Antiquity to modern times, but not the sound of sheeps (βέ-λασμα) as we hear it today, that is μπέὲ-μπέὲ, where we heighten our voice on the first ε and lower it immediately on the second, in a singing way, as we hear it from these sympathic quadrupeds, and not of course βὶ-βί (vi-vi as pronounced today)! Through this testimony we also deduce how consonants β, γ, δ were pronounced in those times, and their correspondence to the Latin consonants b, g, d (§ 19).

Note 1. Whenever we write words βαρεῖα, δασεῖα, etc. with a circumflex accent, it is because we consider them as archaic types.

Note 2. It is interesting to note that neither noun βέλασμα nor verb βελάζω are attested in ancient Greek (verb βελάζω is medieval, cf. Kriaras, Medieval Greek Dictionary).

II. BREATHINGS

§ 154. Accents musically characterized the syllable (§ 12 ss.) on which pronunciation attained a peak, but there were also breathings (cf. § 8), which were colorizing the initial vowel of words and the initial . If the word started by a vowel and also was accented, then in writing one would plase both the breathing and the accent: ἄνθρωπος, ἕλκος. This natural phenomenon was due to the fact that the initial vowels of words, to be pronounced, were accompanied by an output of air which, for the same vowels, was sometimes smooth, i.e. thin, and in other more rare cases rougher, i.e. dense. The rough breathing was used for the minority of Greek words, the smooth breathing for most of them: ἄνθρωπος but ἅγιος· ὅμοιος but ὀρφανός, Ἑλένη but ἐλιά, ἤρεμος but ἥμερος, ἴδιος - ἱδρώτας, ὥρα - ὠκεανός. Letters υ and ρ at word begin always took a rough breathing, the other vowels sometimes took a rough breathing and sometimes a smooth one. These accompanying sounds have vanished as time passed. The Latins wrote Rho-dus = Ρχόδος = Ῥόδος and Hy-mettus = Χυμηττὸς = Ὑμηττὸς (more precisely: Ρσό-δος, σΥμηττός), this gives us a rough understanding of how breathings were pronounced.

Note. The smooth breathing was not written during the classical period. Only the rough breathing can be found on inscriptions before 403 AD, written as H (ΗΟΡΟΣ ὅρος, ὅριο, σύνορο). Regarding this evolution cf. § 17, 18.

III. ΒΑΣΙΚΗ ΜΟΡΦΗ ΤΩΝ ΛΕΞΕΩΝ - ΘΕΣΗ ΤΟΥ ΤΟΝΟΥ - ΚΙΝΗΣΗ ΤΟΥ ΤΟΝΟΥ - ΚΑΝΟΝΕΣ ΤΟΥ ΤΟΝΙΣΜΟΥ

Words with rough breathing

Α

ἁβρός, ἅγιος, ἁγνός, Ἅδης, ἁδρός, αἷμα, Αἷμος, αἵρεση, ἁλάτι, Ἁλιάκμονας, ἁλιεία, Ἁλικαρνασσός, ἁλίπαστο, ἅλμα, Ἁλόννησος, ἁλυκή, ἁλυσίδα, ἁλώνι, ἅλωση, ἅμα, ἁμάξι, ἁμαρτάνω, ἅμιλλα, ἁπαλός, ἁπλός, ἅρμα (= τὸ ὄχημα, but ἄρμα = τὸ ὅπλο), ἅρμη, ἁρμόζω, ἁρπάζω, ἁφή, ἁψίδα, ἁψίθυμος, ἁψίκορος, ἁψύς.

Ε

ἑαυτός, ἕβδομος, Ἑβραῖος, Ἕβρος, ἑδώλιο, ἕδρα, εἵλωτας, εἱρμός, Ἑκάβη, Ἕκτορας, Ἑλένη, ἕλικας, Ἑλικώνας, ἕλκος, ἑλκύω, Ἕλλη, Ἕλληνας, Ἑλλάδα, ἕλος, ἑνώνω, ἑξῆς, ἕρμαιο, ἑρμηνέυω, Ἑρμῆς, Ἑρμιόνη, ἑρπετό, ἕρπω, ἑσπερινός, ἑστία, ἑστιατόριο, ἑταιρεία, ἕτοιμος, εὑρετήριο.

Η

ἥβη, ἡγεμόνας, ἡγούμενος, ἡδονή, ἡλικία, ἥλιος, ἡμέρα, ἥμερος, ἥμισυ, ἡνίοχος, ἥπατα, Ἥρα, Ἡρακλῆς, Ἡρόδοτος, ἥρωας, Ἡσίοδος, ἥσυχος, ἥττα, Ἥφαιστος.

Ι

ἱδρύω, ἱδρώτας, ἱερός, Ἱερουσαλήμ, ἱκανός, ἱκετεύω, ἱλαρός, ἱμάτιο, ἵππος, Ἱπποκράτης, ἱστορία, ἱστός.

Ο

ὁδηγός, ὁδός, ὅλμος, ὁλόκληρος, ὅλος, ὁμάδα, ὁμαλός, ὅμηρος, Ὅμηρος, ὁμιλία, ὅμιλος, ὁμίχλη, ὁμοῦ, ὅμοιος, ὅμως, ὁπλή, ὅπλο, ὅποιος, ὁποῖος, ὅποτε, ὅπου, ὅπως, ὅραση, ὁρίζω, ὅριο, ὅρκος, ὅρμος, ὅρμῶ, ὅρος (ὁ), ὅσιος, ὅσος, ὅταν, ὅτι, ὅ,τι.

Υ

[all words starting with an υ with breathing], υἱός.

Ω

ὥρα, ὡραῖος, ὥριμος, ὡς, ὥς.

Take a rough breathing also all the derivatives of these words, for example ἁπλὸς → ἁπλούστερος, ἁπλούστατος, ἁπλώνω, ἁπλωσιά, ἁπλώστρα, ἁπλωτός, ἁπλοποίηση, ἁπλοποιῶ, ἁπλότης, ἅπλα, ἅπλωμα, ἁπλούστευση, ἁπλουστεύω, ἁπλοϊκός, ἁπλοϊκότης, ἁπλοχέρης, ἁπλόχωρος, etc. But not ἀπληστία (from the negation ἀ + πίμπλημι), ἄπλοια (from the negation ἀ + πλοῦς) or ἀπλυσιὰ (from the negation ἀ + πλένομαι).

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