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Author Topic: Greek grammar and the Theotokos  (Read 3837 times)
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ytterbiumanalyst
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« on: May 04, 2008, 05:06:21 PM »

I have a question concerning gender in the Greek language. It seems to me, having picked up on a few phrases in Greek, that the ending -os refers to masculine words and -a to feminine; e.g. axios/axia. Why, then, is the Theotokos, who is obviously feminine, given a masculine title? Please forgive me if this is a stupid question, but I have a very limited understanding of Greek.
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« Reply #1 on: May 04, 2008, 05:31:17 PM »

Theotokos is title - comes from Theos (God) and Tokos (carrier) and Theotokos means "carrier of God".
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« Reply #2 on: May 04, 2008, 07:02:13 PM »

Thetokos is a second declension noun and a declension is nothing more than a group of nouns that share similar endings.  Although most second declension nouns are masculine there are several that are feminine.  The article determines gender not the declension to which the word belongs.  Consider for next week, the Greek word myrrh-bearers which in Greek is rendered Αι μυρροφοροι, the oi ending, though indicating this is a second declension noun does not make it masculine, but the presence of ai makes it a feminine word.  There are also several masculine words in the first declension, the majority of which are feminie.  The best example of that is Ό δεσποτης.  HOpe that helps.
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« Reply #3 on: May 04, 2008, 09:16:33 PM »

^ It does. So, I'm guessing, "the Theotokos" would be rendered "η Θηωτοκος," to show that it's feminine despite the -os ending?
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« Reply #4 on: May 04, 2008, 10:40:53 PM »

^Yes. Wink
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« Reply #5 on: May 05, 2008, 01:15:23 AM »

^ It does. So, I'm guessing, "the Theotokos" would be rendered "η Θηωτοκος," to show that it's feminine despite the -os ending?

The problem here is that η and ε are both transliterated as "e" into the Latin script when the classical transliteration system is used.  If a transliteration system based on modern pronunciation is used the problem is multiple letters / letter combinations make a single sound.  What you wrote would be pronounced as "Thiotokos".   The proper spelling is η Θεοτοκος (note the third letter is omicron, not omega). 
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« Reply #6 on: May 05, 2008, 08:00:13 AM »

Thetokos is a second declension noun and a declension is nothing more than a group of nouns that share similar endings.  Although most second declension nouns are masculine there are several that are feminine.  The article determines gender not the declension to which the word belongs.  Consider for next week, the Greek word myrrh-bearers which in Greek is rendered Αι μυρροφοροι, the oi ending, though indicating this is a second declension noun does not make it masculine, but the presence of ai makes it a feminine word.  There are also several masculine words in the first declension, the majority of which are feminie.  The best example of that is Ό δεσποτης.  HOpe that helps.
Exactly. Almost all feminine nouns of the 2nd declension end in -ος just like the masculine ones. The only way to distinguish between the two, is the feminine form of the definite article. Please bear in mind also, that the 2nd declension nouns, retain the masculine ending in -ος in modern Greek also. Examples:
classical Greek: ἡ Θεοτόκ-ος. Modern Greek: η Θεοτόκ-ος
classical Greek: ἡ ἔρημ-ος (the desert). Modern Greek: η έρημ-ος.
classical Greek: ἡ ψῆφ-ος (the vote). Modern Greek: η ψήφ-ος.
classical Greek: ἡ ἄβυσσ-ος (the abyss). Modern Greek: η άβυσσ-ος.
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« Reply #7 on: May 05, 2008, 04:35:41 PM »

The problem here is that η and ε are both transliterated as "e" into the Latin script when the classical transliteration system is used.  If a transliteration system based on modern pronunciation is used the problem is multiple letters / letter combinations make a single sound.  What you wrote would be pronounced as "Thiotokos".   The proper spelling is η Θεοτοκος (note the third letter is omicron, not omega). 
Hmm. I see. I've never really understood the two e's and two o's. I was told that η is pronounced like the e in weigh and ε like the e is see, and that ω is pronounced like the English o, whereas οmicron is more like the Spanish o.
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« Reply #8 on: May 05, 2008, 04:38:22 PM »

Exactly. Almost all feminine nouns of the 2nd declension end in -ος just like the masculine ones. The only way to distinguish between the two, is the feminine form of the definite article. Please bear in mind also, that the 2nd declension nouns, retain the masculine ending in -ος in modern Greek also. Examples:
classical Greek: ἡ Θεοτόκ-ος. Modern Greek: η Θεοτόκ-ος
classical Greek: ἡ ἔρημ-ος (the desert). Modern Greek: η έρημ-ος.
classical Greek: ἡ ψῆφ-ος (the vote). Modern Greek: η ψήφ-ος.
classical Greek: ἡ ἄβυσσ-ος (the abyss). Modern Greek: η άβυσσ-ος.
Hmm. It seems that nothing has changed in the written Greek except the accent marks, but I'd guess the pronunciation has changed significantly.
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« Reply #9 on: May 05, 2008, 06:39:23 PM »

Hmm. I see. I've never really understood the two e's and two o's. I was told that η is pronounced like the e in weigh and ε like the e is see, and that ω is pronounced like the English o, whereas οmicron is more like the Spanish o.

From what I gather from listening to people chanting in Greek, η, ε, οι and ει all sound like the "ee" in "see" and ο and ω sound like "o" in "phone." It is possible that at one time they had different sounds but I believe they were lost centuries ago.
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« Reply #10 on: May 06, 2008, 12:14:45 AM »

I'd like to throw another question is. What is the Greek word that describes Mary as the "all holy"?
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« Reply #11 on: May 06, 2008, 12:33:19 AM »

I'd like to throw another question is. What is the Greek word that describes Mary as the "all holy"?

παναγια [panayia]

Hmm. I see. I've never really understood the two e's and two o's. I was told that η is pronounced like the e in weigh and ε like the e is see, and that ω is pronounced like the English o, whereas οmicron is more like the Spanish o.

In classical times the different letters represented different sounds.  Through the evolution of the language they have shifted to become the same, but Greek orthography has not always updated as rapidly to reflect the merging of two sounds. 

ε = the e in let

η, ι, υ, οι, ει = the ee in beet

None of the Greek vowels haves glides like English vowels do, so thinking from Spanish would be closer.  A = Spanish a, Spanish i etc.  The only caveat is the Greek ε = [ε] and not [e]
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« Reply #12 on: May 06, 2008, 05:47:37 AM »

Hmm. It seems that nothing has changed in the written Greek except the accent marks, but I'd guess the pronunciation has changed significantly.

Yes, the pronunciation (just like grammar and syntax) is simplified, but we retain what is called historical orthography, that is the Attic-Ionic variant of the written classical Greek of 5th-4th century BC. And yes, the pronunciation has altered (a long process, started in the 4th century BC-->η lost its long ε pronunciation and began pronounced as plain iota, ι (ee) and continued until the 14th-15th century AD-->ει, οι, υ pronounced as plain ι (ee) also).
However, if I might add, the Greek spoken today is closer to Ancient Greek than the Greek spoken two-three hundred years ago, because of the massive influence of the ancient language in all areas, from vocabulary, to inflection, to syntax (especially after the movement for the "purification" of the language from its Turkish-Venetian influence, the Katharevousa form of language, early 19th century).
Some Venetian or Turkish works are present though, in colloquial, informal language.
Example:
H Μπάκα (Baka, fem.)-->from the Venetian "Bacca", which although in Italian means "a fruit derived from a single ovary having one or many seeds within a fleshy wall or pericarp"-->grape, tomato, in colloquial Greek means the big belly, usually the beer-belly  Grin
 
« Last Edit: May 06, 2008, 05:49:23 AM by Apostolos » Logged

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