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39.1.Gunkel

The regular lengthening of the vowel that precedes the suffixal sequence °o(ν)- in "primary" comparatives is an innovative feature of Attic Greek, reflected e.g. in the /eː/ (spelled <ει>) of μειζο(ν)- 'greater' and the /iː/ of ἡδá¿‘ο(ν)- 'sweeter'. The diachronic development of the lengthening process is thought to have proceeded more or less as follows:

  1. There was a regular phonological lengthening of /a/ before the sounds represented by <ττ> and <ζ>, resulting in μᾶζα 'barley cake', θá¾±ττο(ν)- 'quicker', etc.
  2. Speakers came to associate the vowel length in forms such as θá¾±ττο(ν)- with comparative morphemes containing °o(ν)-, resulting in the morphophonological lengthening of stem-internal vowels other than /a/, as in μειζο(ν)-, and — possibly as a third and separate step in the development — the lengthening of suffix-initial /i/, as in ἡδá¿‘ο(ν)-.

The transition from (1) to (2) presents an intriguing case of "sound law and analogy," because the sound change in (1) affected so few forms and nevertheless led to (2). I propose that the analogy took place because the sound change in (1) led to a kind of phonological merger between θá¾±ττο(ν)- and comparatives in °ωτερος. This has escaped notice so far because the merger is prosodic as opposed to segmental in nature.

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