Dialogue

Vocabulary

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Lesson Transcript

INTRODUCTION
Michael: How do you spell the /i/ sound in Greek?
Chrissi: And are there any tips to help remember the spelling?
Language in context
Michael: At GreekPod101.com, we hear these questions often.
In the following dialogue, SASHA LEE, a high-school exchange student, is making a poster with her classmate, ARGIRO GIANNITSANOU. She starts out writing the word for “silver,” but is unsure how to finish it. She asks, “‘Silver’… Is that with yota, eeta, or ipsilon?"
SASHA LEE: «Ασημί»... Είναι με γιώτα, ήτα ή ύψιλον;
DIALOGUE - GREEK ONLY
SASHA LEE: «Ασημί»... Είναι με γιώτα, ήτα ή ύψιλον;
("Asimí..." íne me yóta, íta í ípsilon?)
ARGIRO GIANNITSANOU: Με ήτα γιώτα.
(Me íta yóta.)
Michael: Once more with the English translation.
DIALOGUE - WITH TRANSLATION
SASHA LEE: «Ασημί»... Είναι με γιώτα, ήτα ή ύψιλον;
("Asimí..." íne me yóta, íta í ípsilon?)
Michael: “‘Silver’… Is that with yota, eeta, or ipsilon?"
ARGIRO GIANNITSANOU: Με ήτα γιώτα.
(Me íta yóta.)
Michael: "With eeta and yota."

Lesson focus

Michael: Learners sometimes find spelling Greek words challenging — in part because the same sound can be represented by different letters. In this case, the word for “silver” has two /i/ sounds, but they’re spelled with two different letters. In fact, there are six ways to write this /i/ sound in Greek. First is...
Chrissi: γιώτα (ι).
Michael: This is perhaps the easiest to remember because it looks a lot like the English letter “i,” only without a dot over its lowercase variant. Next are...
Chrissi: ήτα (η)
Michael: and
Chrissi: ύψιλον (υ).
Michael: All three of these letters are pronounced /i/, but there are also three other ways to write the sound using two letters.
Chrissi: έψιλον γιώτα (ει), όμικρον γιώτα (οι),
Michael: and,
Chrissi: ύψιλον γιώτα (υι).
Michael: Even though there are two letters in each of these combinations, they’re pronounced with a single vowel sound, /i/.
How do we know which one to use when writing? A lot of exposure and practice is the key, but knowledge of declension and conjugation patterns also helps greatly.
Michael: Let’s take a closer look at Sasha’s question.
Do you remember how she says,
"Is it with yota, eeta, or ipsilon?"
SASHA LEE: Είναι με γιώτα, ήτα ή ύψιλον;
(Íne me yóta, íta í ípsilon?)
Michael: Here, Sasha is unsure about the spelling. In this particular case, grammar knowledge comes in handy. The word,
Chrissi: ασημί (asimí),
Michael: meaning "silver," is a neuter noun. Most neuter nouns that end with an /i/ sound in the singular are written with a yota (-ι). There are only a few exceptions to this — and they’re all neuter nouns that end in ipsilon (-υ) in the singular.
In particular, it’s worth noting that neuter nouns expressing a color and ending with an /i/ sound all end in yota (-ι). This is the case here with the word for “silver.” There are more shortcuts like this, especially when that /i/ sound comes at the end of a word.
Words that end in eeta (-η) are mainly feminine nouns, adjectives, and pronouns in the singular such as
Chrissi: πόλη (póli),
Michael: meaning "city."
The plural forms of neuter nouns ending in
Chrissi: -ος
Michael: also end in eeta (-η). For example,
Chrissi: δάση (dási)
Michael: meaning "forests." Here are some more tips: masculine and feminine words that end in
Chrissi: ος
Michael: end in the double-vowel combination omicron-yota (-οι) when put in the plural. For example,
Chrissi: ναοί (naí) and οδοί (odí),
Michael: meaning "temples" and "streets" respectively. The masculine adjectives and pronouns that end in
Chrissi: ος
Michael: also have the plural ending omicron-yota (-οι). For example,
Chrissi: κακοί (kakí),
Michael: which is the plural form of the masculine adjective for "bad."
Finally, if a verb form has an /i/ sound in its ending, it will be spelled with the epsilon-yota (-ει) double-vowel combination. For example,
Chrissi: γελάει (yelái),
Michael: meaning "he laughs," “she laughs,” or “it laughs.” This is a very common pattern in Greek. There is one exception to this rule, however. The verb,
Chrissi: πληρώ (pliró)
Michael: meaning "to fulfill,” “to meet,” or “to satisfy a requirement." When this verb ends with an /i/ sound, it’s spelled omicron-yota (-οι) rather than epsilon-yota (-ει).
SUMMARY
Michael: So far we have learned that while memorization is the key, grammar knowledge is of help when remembering a word’s spelling. When you hear an /i/ sound at the end of a word, first think of what part of speech it is. Is it a noun, a verb, or an adjective? Then consider its gender. Is it masculine, feminine or neuter? Consider the number too. Is the word singular or plural? Once you have analysed the word, you can apply the aforementioned hints to work out the correct word spelling.
Expansion/Contrast
Michael: Now let’s take a look at some more hints to help you spell words with the /i/ sound. Some adjectives ending with the sound
Chrissi: -ης
Michael: may be spelled with
Chrissi: ήτα σίγμα (-ης)
Michael: or
Chrissi: ύψιλον σίγμα (-ύς)
Michael: depending on the group they belong to.
Adjectives spelled with ipsilon sigma (-ύς) are few in number, so let's see the most common ones.
Chrissi: βαθύς (vathís)
Michael: "Deep."
Chrissi: βαρύς (varís).
Michael: "Heavy."
Chrissi: ελαφρύς (elafrís).
Michael: "Light."
Chrissi: ευθύς (efthís).
Michael: "Straight."
Chrissi: μακρύς (makrís).
Michael: "Long."
Chrissi: παχύς (pahís).
Michael: "Thick” or “fat," and
Chrissi: πολύς (polís),
Michael: "Much” or “many."
Previously we discussed neuter nouns that end in an /i/ sound, and we said that while most of them end in
Chrissi: γιώτα (-ι)
Michael: There are some exceptions that end in
Chrissi: ύψιλον (-υ)
Michael: Let’s look at some of these exceptions that end in ipsilon.
Chrissi: βράδυ (vrádi).
Michael: "Night."
Chrissi: δίχτυ (díhti).
Michael: "Net."
Chrissi: δάκρυ (dákri).
Michael: "Tear."
Chrissi: οξύ (oxí).
Michael: "Acid."
Chrissi: στάχυ (stáhi).
Michael: "Wheat."
Next, let's see some of the rare nouns that end in
Chrissi: ύψιλον σίγμα (-υς).
Michael: For example
Chrissi: μυς (mis),
Michael: meaning "muscle," and
Chrissi: ισχύς (ischís),
Michael: meaning "force."
Now, let’s move to adverbs that end in an
Chrissi: ύψιλον (υ)
Michael: Some of these are
Chrissi: Αντίκρυ and κατάντικρυ (andíkri/katándikri),
Michael: meaning "opposite,"
Chrissi: μεταξύ (metaxí),
Michael: "between,"
Chrissi: αναμεταξύ (anametaxí),
Michael: "among", and
Chrissi: πολύ (polí),
Michael: "very,” “too much,” “a lot." Also, keep in mind this very important word written with ipsilon. The pronoun "you."
Chrissi: εσύ (esí).
Michael: That’s a lot of information, but we’re getting to the end. We have only three more points left. First,
Chrissi: ύψιλον
Michael: may be used in foreign names, such as Freddy or Vicky, that are spelled with "y."
Chrissi: Φρέντυ. Bίκυ.
Michael: Second, the double-vowel combination,
Chrissi: ύψιλον-γιώτα (υι)
Michael: which is very rare, is only used in the scholarly word for "son,"
Chrissi: υιός (iós),
Michael: and its derivatives. For example,
Chrissi: υιικός (iikós),
Michael: meaning "of or related to a son,"
Chrissi: Υιοθεσία and υιοθέτηση (iothesía/iothétisi),
Michael: meaning "adoption,"
Chrissi: υιοθετώ (iothetó),
Michael: meaning "to adopt," and
Chrissi: υιοθετημένος, υιοθετημένη, and υιοθετημένο (iothetiménos/-i/-o) .
Michael: meaning "adopted" in the masculine, feminine, and neuter forms, respectively.
Practice Section
Michael: Let's review. Respond to the prompts by speaking aloud. Then repeat after the native speaker, focusing on pronunciation.
Do you remember how SASHA says, “Is that with yota, eeta, or ipsilon?"
CHRISSI THEODORAKAKOS AS SASHA LEE: Είναι με γιώτα, ήτα ή ύψιλον;
(Íne me yóta, íta í ípsilon?)
Michael: Listen again and repeat.
CHRISSI THEODORAKAKOS AS SASHA LEE: Είναι με γιώτα, ήτα ή ύψιλον;
(Íne me yóta, íta í ípsilon?)
Είναι με γιώτα, ήτα ή ύψιλον;
(Íne me yóta, íta í ípsilon?)
Michael: And how ARGIRO GIANNITSANOU says, "With eeta and yota."
CHRISSI THEODORAKAKOS AS ARGIRO GIANNITSANOU: Με ήτα γιώτα. (Me íta yóta.)
Michael: Listen again and repeat.
CHRISSI THEODORAKAKOS AS ARGIRO GIANNITSANOU: Με ήτα γιώτα. (Me íta yóta.)
Με ήτα γιώτα. (Me íta yóta.)
CULTURAL INSIGHT
Michael: Why are there so many ways to write the /i/ sound in Greek? Well, in ancient times, all these letters and letter combinations didn’t sound the same as they do today. Today they happen to sound the same due to a phonological phenomenon called 'iotacism' that started after the end of the Classical era. This refers to a shift of the /i/ sounds of these letters towards the sound of the letter yota (ι), hence the name iotacism. While the pronunciation today has changed to a single /i/ sound, the written language has resisted such changes — and, as a result, there are now six ways to write this sound in Greek.

Outro

Michael: Well done! Now you know some guidelines to help you spell the /i/ sound in Greek. That’s all there is to it! Be sure to download the lesson notes for this lesson at GreekPod101.com — and move onto the next lesson!

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