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Hi, everybody! Stefania here. Welcome to Ask a Teacher, where I’ll answer some of your most common Greek questions.
The Question
The question for this lesson is “Why do some words get two accent marks?”
Greek has a golden rule - all words get accented in one of the three last syllables. Monosyllabic words are naturally stressed when pronounced so we don't accentuate them, although there are a few exceptions. But sometimes, before some specific monosyllabic words, other monosyllabic words do get accented while some polysyllabic words get a second accent mark. When this happens, we pronounce these words closely together, stressing all the accented syllables. This phenomenon of developing an extra stress is called "enclisis" and the monosyllabic words that cause this are called "enclitics."
Let's go into more detail. First, let's see which monosyllabic words are enclitic words.
In Modern Greek, those are the weak forms of the personal and possessive pronouns such as με (me, "me"), μου (mu, "me/my"), σε (se, "you"), σου (su, "you/your"), τον (ton, "him"), του (tu, "him/his, it"), τη(ν) (tin, "her"), της (tis, "her"), το (to, "it"), μας (mas, "us/our"), σας (sas, "you/your"), τους (tus, "them/their"), τις (tis, "them"), τες (tes, "them"), and τα (ta, "them").
Although these monosyllabic pronouns normally don't get an accent mark in written speech except for some special cases that we mentioned in our previous video, we do stress them in oral speech. When these words cause enclisis, their stress moves to the last syllable of the word before them.
Let's see some examples.
Η πρόοδός του είναι αξιοσημείωτη. (I próodós tu íne axiosimíoti.)
"His progress is remarkable."
Η γειτόνισσά μου είναι πολύ ενοχλητική. (I yitónisá mu íne polí enohlitikí.)
"My neighbor is so annoying."
So now let's see when enclisis happens.
The first case is when we have a proparoxytone noun or adjective, i.e. a noun or adjective accented in the third-to-last syllable, followed by a monosyllabic possessive pronoun, such as μου (mu), σου (su), του (tu), "my, yours, his" etc. Then the stress of these pronouns moves to the last syllable of the proparoxytone word, so we add a second accent mark over that syllable. The two words are then pronounced closely together stressing the two accented syllables. For example, το παράθυρό μου (to paráthiró mu, "my window").
Let's see a sample sentence.
Η Γη γυρίζει γύρω από τον άξονά της. (I Yi yirízi yíro apo ton áxoná tis.)
"Earth rotates on its axis."
Note that the personal pronouns in genitive can also cause enclisis after a proparoxytone adjective in the comparative and relative superlative degree. For example,
χειρότερός μου (hiróterós mu, "worse than me")
ο χειρότερός μας (o hiróterós mas, "the worst from us")
Here's a sample sentence.
Ο Λάκης είναι ο μεγαλύτερός μας. (O Lákis íne o megalíterós mas.)
"Lakis is the oldest of us."
The second case of enclisis is when we have a proparoxytone gerund or verb in the imperative, followed by a weak personal pronoun which works as an object in the phrase. For example, μοίρασέ τα (mírasé ta, "share them") and βλέποντάς την (vlépondás tin, "seeing her").
Here are some sample sentences.
Μάζεψέ το αυτό που πέταξες κάτω! (Mázepsé to aftó pu pétaxes káto!)
"Pick up what you dropped!"
Δεν καταλαβαίνω τι μου λες• γράψε μού το. (Den katalavéno ti mu les; grápse mú to.)
"I don't understand what you are saying; write it for me."
The third case is when we have a proparoxytone adverb followed by an enclitic word. For example, απέναντί σου (apénandí su, "opposite from you").
Finally, I should mention another case of enclisis which is when we have a paroxytone imperative, i.e. accented in the second-to-last syllable, followed by two personal pronouns that work as objects. For example, δώσε τούς το (dóse tús to, "give it to them").
Here, the stress of the last pronoun which is το (to), moves to the previous syllable, which is the pronoun τους (tus). The logic is that the basic stress of the word δώσε (dóse), is more than three syllables away from the end of this group that is closely pronounced as if it's one word breaking the golden rule I mentioned at the beginning, so we need to add an additional stress in order to make the speech sound natural. That extra stress is marked with an accent mark despite the fact that it falls on a monosyllabic word.


How was the lesson? Pretty interesting, right?
Do you have any more questions? Leave them in the comments below and I’ll try to answer them!
Γεια χαρά! (Ya hará!)

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