You are here

Archaisms and Innovations in Homeric Accentuation

Jesse Lundquist

Archaisms and Innovations in Homeric Accentuation

Jesse Lundquist, UCLA

The Alexandrian grammarians provide us with surprising evidence for the retention of ar- chaic accentuation preserving patterns derived from the Proto-Greek and Proto-Indo-European past, indicative of a highly conservative Homeric tradition of pronouncing the words exactly as they had been handed down (see Probert 2003:166-8, West 1998:XVIII-XXII). In this paper I will offer a close philological analysis of two suffixes, the middle participle -μενος, as well as the bet- ter known archaic oxytones found in the feminine forms of a few u-stems adjectives (e.g. θαμειαί Α 52, see Wackernagel 1953:1175ff., Cassio 2002:113-4). In reassessing the evidence for and likely prehistory of these suffixes we will see that each offers evidence for a more complex prehistory of accentual changes than has been hitherto appreciated.

For the suffix -μενος, forming middle participles, I propose that we need to recognize the following stages in the evolution of its accentual properties. According to the evidence drawn from its cognate form in Old Indic -āná- (Macdonell 1910:§§491-3) and the known Greek tendency to develop leftward, but not rightward, shifts of accent, the prehistory of the Greek suffix is rightly reconstructed as oxytone *-menós. In the attested history of Greek, we have three distinct accentual properties of the suffix, corresponding to what I will argue to be three innovations in the prehistory of accent assignment to this suffix:

I.  Present and aorist participles are accented recessively without exception, e.g.  λυόμενος ‘loosing (for oneself)’, λυσάμενος ‘having loosed (for onself)’. I will argue that this accentuation likeliest owes to a prehistoric change to default accentuation (recessive), corresponding to the same change witnessed in finite verbs (Probert 2012).

II.  Perfect participles, and only participles formed to this tense-aspect stem, within attested Greek are lexically accented on the suffix -μένος. This accentuation results from a phonolog- ically conditioned rule whereby oxytone accentuation was retracted leftwards if the word ended in a dactylic sequence, e.g. to λείπω *le-leip-menós ‘has left’ > λελειμμένος (“Wheeler’s Law”, Probert 2006:87-96, Gunkel 2014). The scope of the phonological rule must have be- come restricted to certain morphological classes, changing the accentual property of the suffix into lexically accented -μένος.

III.  A few forms are irregularly accented (from the point of view of the participial accent) on the final syllable of the suffix, -μενός, including personal and place names derived from participles like Ὀρχομενός, Σωιζομενός, etc. Such irregular accents withstand philological scrutiny, e.g. in the case of Ἀκεσσαμενός (Φ 142) a scholiast gives the specific comment that the name is to be accented as oxytone (ὀξυτονητέον, Hdn.  ΣΑT ed.  Erbse ad loc.; see too Eust. vol.4, 474, l.27). We will treat these forms as archaisms, entered into the lexicon with oxytone accent (so underlyingly accented -μενός), thereby blocking the morphology from building the participle as a participle and hence resisting neutralization to the default pattern for the suffix -μενος (on this formulation see Bermúdez-Otero 2012:17-21).

Such an analysis may contribute to our philological assessment of the Homeric texts by help- ing to segregate archaisms from innovations, as well as inform ongoing debates about the recon- struction of accent assignment in the prehistory of Greek (Probert 2006). Finally, I will propose that the changes reconstructed for our forms may be illuminatingly explained with reference to recent work on regularity and irregularity in grammar, as advocated by Pinker and Ullman (2002), applied to the morphology-phonology interface by Bermúdez-Otero (2012).

Session/Panel Title:

Greek and Latin Linguistics

Session/Paper Number

54.4

Share This Page

© 2019, Society for Classical Studies Privacy Policy