Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Weird Alphabets

http://www.ibiblio.org/koine/greek/lessons/alphabet.html
Even those of us who have studied some classical Greek would be surprised when first running across a pattern/practice called antistoichia [Greek (roughly): "standing opposite in pairs"]. We drilled ourselves to learn the alphabet by memorizing lines of five letters each:
alpha, beta, gamma, delta, epsilon
zeta, eta, theta, iota, kappa 
But this was not always the standard order. In the antistoichia pattern, the order of words in a lexicon (such as Suidas') might follow the order of the spelling of sounds. Words that begin with alpha+iota as a diphthong, for instance, would be a separate entry to follow words that are spelled with alpha, even if they included alpha+iota, because they sounded like a different letter.

For instance, a modern English alphabetized encyclopedia or lexicon would order the following words thusly:
A
aardvark
absent
Aida (the opera, where the "a" and "i" are pronounced separately)
air
aisle
apple
B
bad
bed
bid 
The antistoichia ordering, since, "aisle" had two vowels making their own sound and "Aida" is two vowels that are pronounced separately, would order that list thusly:
A
aardvark
absent
Aida
apple 
AI
air
aisle
B
bad
bed
bid
This can throw off reading of partial manuscripts unless the researcher is familiar with the old practice and can adjust expectations accordingly.

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