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Ancient Greek phonology is the reconstructed phonology or pronunciation of Ancient Greek. This article mostly deals with the pronunciation of the standard Attic dialect of the fifth century BC, used by Plato and other Classical Greek writers, and touches on other dialects spoken at the same time or earlier. The pronunciation of Ancient Greek is not known from direct observation, but determined from other types of evidence. Some details regarding the pronunciation of Attic Greek and other Ancient Greek dialects are unknown, but it is generally agreed that Attic Greek had certain features not present in English or Modern Greek, such as a three-way distinction between voiced, voiceless, and aspirated stops (such as /b p pʰ/, as in English "bot, spot, pot"); a distinction between single and double consonants and short and long vowels in most positions in a word; and a word accent that involved pitch.

Koine Greek, the variety of Greek used after the conquests of Alexander the Great in the fourth century BC, is sometimes included in Ancient Greek, but its pronunciation is described in Koine Greek phonology. For disagreements with the reconstruction given here, see below.

Ancient Greek had a pitch accent, unlike the stress accent of Modern Greek and English. One mora of a word was accented with high pitch. A mora is a unit of vowel length; in Ancient Greek, short vowels have one mora and long vowels and diphthongs have two morae. Thus, a one-mora vowel could have accent on its one mora, and a two-mora vowel could have accent on either of its two morae. The position of accent was free, with certain limitations. In a given word, it could appear in several different positions, depending on the lengths of the vowels in the word.

In the examples below, long vowels and diphthongs are represented with two vowel symbols, one for each mora. This does not mean that the long vowel has two separate vowels in different syllables. Syllables are separated by periods ⟨.⟩; anything between two periods is pronounced in one syllable.

The accented mora is marked with acute accent ⟨´⟩. A vowel with rising pitch contour is marked with a caron ⟨ˇ⟩, and a vowel with a falling pitch contour is marked with a circumflex ⟨ˆ⟩.

The position of the accent in Ancient Greek was phonemic and distinctive: certain words are distinguished by which mora in them is accented. The position of the accent was also distinctive on long vowels and diphthongs: either the first or the second mora could be accented. Phonetically, a two-mora vowel had a rising or falling pitch contour, depending on which of its two morae was accented:[26][51]

Examples of pitch accent
Greek τόμος τομός εἶμι εἴτε εἰμί ἦτε ἤτε οἶκοι οἴκοι
translation 'a slice' 'sharp' 'I go' 'either' 'I am' 'you were' 'or' 'houses' 'at home'
IPA phonemic /tó.mos/ /to.mós/ /éi.mi/ mora of a word was accented with high pitch. A mora is a unit of vowel length; in Ancient Greek, short vowels have one mora and long vowels and diphthongs have two morae. Thus, a one-mora vowel could have accent on its one mora, and a two-mora vowel could have accent on either of its two morae. The position of accent was free, with certain limitations. In a given word, it could appear in several different positions, depending on the lengths of the vowels in the word.

In the examples below, long vowels and diphthongs are represented with two vowel symbols, one for each mora. This does not mean that the long vowel has two separate vowels in different syllables. Syllables are separated by periods ⟨.⟩; anything between two periods is pronounced in one syllable.

  • η (long vowel with two morae): phonemic transcription pitch contour, depending on which of its two morae was accented:[26][51]

    The position of the accent in Ancient Greek was phonemic and distinctive: certain words are distinguished by which mora in them is accented. The position of the accent was also distinctive on long vowels and diphthongs: either the first or the second mora could be accented. Phonetically, a two-mora vowel had a rising or falling pitch contour, depending on which of its two morae was accented:[26][51]

    Accent marks were never used until around 200 BC. They were first used in Alexandria, and Aristophanes of Byzantium is said to have invented them.[52] There are three: the acute, circumflex, and grave´ ῀ `⟩. The shape of the circumflex is a merging of the acute and grave.[53][54]

    The acute represented high or rising pitch, the circumflex represented falling pitch, but what the grave represented is uncertain.[55] Early on, the grave was used on every syllable without an acute or circumflex. Here the grave marked all unaccented syllables, which had lower pitch than the accented syllable.

    • Θὲόδὼρὸς /tʰe.ó.dɔː.ros/

    Later on, a grave was only used to replace a final acute before another full word; the acute was kept before an enclitic or at the end of a phrase. This usage was standardized in the Byzantine era, and is used in modern editions of Ancient Greek texts. Here it might mark a lowered version of a high-pitched syllable.

    • ἔστι τι καλόν. /és.ti.ti.ka.lón/ ('there is something beautiful') (καλόν is at the end of the sentence)
    καλόν ἐστι. /ka.ló.nes.ti/ ('it is beautiful') (ἐστι here is an enclitic)
    καλὸν καὶ ἀγαθόν /ka.lón.kai.a.ɡa.tʰón/ ('good and beautiful')

    Sound changes

    Greek underwent many sound changes. Some occurred between Proto-Indo-European (PIE) and Proto-Greek (PGr), some between the Mycenaean Greek and Ancient Greek periods, which are separated by about 300 years (the Greek Dark Ages), and some during the Koine Greek period. Some sound changes occurred only in particular Ancient Greek dialects, not in others, and certain dialects, such as Boeotian and Laconian, underwent sound changes similar t

    The acute represented high or rising pitch, the circumflex represented falling pitch, but what the grave represented is uncertain.[55] Early on, the grave was used on every syllable without an acute or circumflex. Here the grave marked all unaccented syllables, which had lower pitch than the accented syllable.

    Later on, a grave was only used to replace a final acute before another full word; the acute was kept before an enclitic or at the end of a phrase. This usage was standardized in the Byzantine era, and is used in modern editions of Ancient Greek texts. Here it might mark a lowered version of a high-pitched syllable.