The smooth breathing ( grc|ψιλὸν πνεῦμα|psilòn pneûma; ell|ψιλή ''psilí''; la|spīritus lēnis) is a diacritical mark
used in polytonic orthography
. In ancient Greek
, it marks the absence of the voiceless glottal fricative
from the beginning of a word.
Some authorities have interpreted it as representing a glottal stop
, but a final vowel at the end of a word is regularly elided (removed) when the following word starts with a vowel and elision
would not happen if the second word began with a glottal stop (or any other form of stop consonant). In his ''Vox Graeca'', W. Sidney Allen
accordingly regards the glottal stop interpretation as "highly improbable".
The smooth breathing ( ) is written as on top of one initial vowel
, on top of the second vowel of a diphthong
or to the left of a capital and also, in certain editions, on the first of a pair
s. It did not occur on an initial upsilon
, which always has rough breathing
(thus the early name ''hy'', rather than ''y'').
The smooth breathing was kept in the traditional polytonic orthography even after the sound had disappeared from the language in Hellenistic
times. It has been dropped in the modern monotonic orthography.
The origin of the sign is thought to be the right-hand half ( ┤ ) of the letter H, which was used in some archaic Greek alphabets
as while in others it was used for the vowel eta
. It was developed by Aristophanes of Byzantium
to help readers discern between similar words. For example, "ὅρος" (rough breathing) and "ὄρος" (smooth breathing).
In medieval and modern script, it takes the form of a closing half moon (reverse C) or a closing single quotation mark:
Smooth breathings were also used in the early Cyrillic
and Glagolitic alphabet
s when writing the Old Church Slavonic
language. Today it is used in Church Slavonic
according to a simple rule: if a word starts with a vowel, the vowel has a psili over it. From the Russian writing system
, it was eliminated by Peter the Great
during his alphabet and font-style reform (1707). All other Cyrillic-based modern writing systems are based on the Petrine script, so they have never had the smooth breathing.
The coronis (, ''korōnís'', "crow
's beak" or "bent mark"), the symbol written over a vowel contracted by crasis
, was originally an apostrophe
after the letter: . In present use, its appearances in Ancient Greek
are written over the medial vowel with the smooth breathing mark——and appearances of crasis in modern Greek
are not marked.
, the code point
s assigned to the smooth breathing are for Greek and for Cyrillic. The pair of space + spiritus lenis is . The coronis is assigned two distinct code points, and .
* Greek diacritics
** Rough breathing
* Modifier letter right half ring (ʾ)
Category:Ancient Greek language