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Greek Accents
 Adapted from Greek Accent Rules by Dr. Timothy Johnson
 and from First Greek Book by John Williams White,
 and from Greek Grammar by William Goodwin.
Page last updated :

1-Sep-06   8:37 PM

Introduction

  • Greek accent rules can be reduced to a few simple guides.
  • Most is based on whether the last syllable is long or short.

Syllabification

  • the number of syllables = the number of vowels or dipthongs
  • ultima = the last syllable :                  ἄν-θρω-πος
  • penult = the next to the last syllable : ἄν-θρω-πος
  • antepenult = the third from the end : ἄν-θρω-πος

When is a syllable long?

  • When it contains a long vowel
  • When it contains a dipthong. Exceptions: οι, αι as the last letters of a word.

General Accent Rules

    Acute
    1. On any of the last three syllables
    2. On either long or short syllable
    3. Moves from the antepenult to the penult when the ultima is long:
      ἄν-θρω-πος   ->   ἀν-θρω-που   ->   ἀν-θρώ-που
      θά-λατ-τα   ->   θα-λατ-τας   ->   θα-λάτ-τας
    4. An accute accent on a long penult changes to a circumflex when the ultima is short:
      κώ-μη   ->   κω-μαι   ->   κῶ-μαι
      δώ-ρου   ->   δω-ρον   ->   δῶ-ρον

    Circumflex ~
    1. On either of the last two syllables
    2. Only on a long syllable
    3. Circumflex stands on a long penult before a short ultima
    4. A circumflex on the penult changes to an acute when the ultima is long:
      κῶ-μαι   ->   κω-μη   ->   κώ-μη
      δῶ-ρον   ->   δω-ρου   ->   δώ-ρου

    Grave `
    1. Only on the ultima
    2. An acute accent on the ultima changes to a grave when it is followed by another word with no intervening punctuation.
      τήν + κώμην =   τὴν κώμην
      καλή + κώμη = καλὴ κώμη

 

Verb Accents

The verb accent is recessive, id est, it wants to be close to the front of the word. It will stand on the antepenult (or the penult in a two syllable word) unless a rule forces it to change.

Check to see if the ultima is long.

πιστεύω πιστεύομαι ἐπίστευον ἐπιστευόμην
πιστεύεις πιστεύῃ ἐπίστευες ἐπιστεύου
πιστεύει πιστεύεται ἐπίστευε ἐπιστεύετο
πιστεύομεν πιστευόμεθα ἐπιστεύομεν ἐπιστευόμεθα
πιστεύετε πιστεύεσθα ἐπιστεύετε ἐπιστεύεσθε
πιστεύουσιν πιστεύονται ἐπίστευον ἐπιστεύοντο

 

Noun Accents

Noun accents are persistent. They stay where they are on the nominative unless the general rules force a change.

An acute on the ultima changes to a circumflex in the genitive and the dative, in both the singular and the plural
 
2nd Declension

Follow the general and noun accent rules (note καρπός).

ἄγγελος λόγος δοῦλος καρπός
ἀγγέλου λόγου δούλου καρποῦ
ἀγγέλῳ λόγῳ δούλῳ καρπῷ
ἄγγελον λόγον δοῦλον καρπόν
ἄγγελοι λόγοι δοῦλοι καρποί
ἀγγέλων λόγων δούλων καρπῶν
ἀγγέλοις λόγοις δούλοις καρποῖς
ἀγγέλους λόγους δούλους καρπούς

 
1st Declension

The only exception to the general and nouns rules is that the genitive plural always has a circumflex on the ultima.

    δίκη δίκαι     ἀρετή ἀρεταί
    δίκης δικῶν     ἀρετῆς ἀρετῶν
    δίκῃ δίκαις     ἀρετῇ ἀρεταῖς
    δίκην δίκας     ἀρετήν ἀρετάς

 

Enclitics

An enclitic is a (usually) short, umemphatic word which loses its own accent and is pronounced as if it were part of the preceding word. Examples of enclitics are most of the present indicative forms of to be (εἰμί) and the indefinite pronoun someone (τις).   More enclitics, including exceptions to these rules, can be found at paragraph 168 (page 41) of John Williams White's First Greek Book and at paragraph 140 (page 31) of William Goodwin's Greek Grammar.
 

Enclitic Accent Rules

  1. The enclitic will throw its accent onto the preceding word if there is room for the extra accent on the preceding word. There is room if the preceding word has an acute on the antepenult or a circumflex on the penult.

    ἄνθρωπος + εἰμί = ἄνθρωπός εἰμι
    οὗτος + ἐστίν = οὗτός ἐστιν
    παῖδες + τινές = παῖδές τινες
     

  2. If there is not room for the accent on the preceding word, a two syllable enclitic keeps its accent if dropping it would leave three successive syllables unaccented. A one syllable enclitic is not accented at all.

    ὥρα + ἐστίν = ὥρα ἐστίν
    σοφοί + τινές = σοφοί τινες
    τιμῶν + γέ = τιμῶν γε
    δίκη + τις = δίκη τις
     

  3. A word with the accent on its ultima does not change to a grave before an enclitic.

    ὁδόν + τις = ὁδόν τις
    ἄξιόν + ἐστί = ἄξιόν + ἐστι
    τῶν + στρατιωτῶν + τινές = τῶν στρατιωτῶν τινες
     

  4. If there are a number of enclitics in a row, the last one is not accented.

    εἴ τίς τί σοί φησιν


 One Final Thought ...
    There are, of course, exceptions to these rules (this is Greek, after all!) but this is the best summary I've seen for easily and correctly placing accents on most words. My thanks to Dr. Timothy Johnson for his summary.
     
Note: This page uses the Greek unicode character set, with the Palatino Linotype font face. It should be readable in most browsers.

Related Links




Most of these Greek accent rules were written by Dr. Timothy Johnson. The original web page is here.
 

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