In most ancient city-states
style of alphabets
Eta had the form
, which developed into H
This shape also produced (by being diminished to its upper corner, only) the two breathing marks
The history of 'H' is quite adventurous!
pronunciation of this letter was /h/. This sound started disappearing very soon: HEΛΛAΣ [hel`las] = Greece became EΛΛAΣ (today pronounced [e`las]
During classical times
the symbol H was pronounced as a long [ε:] especially in the ionic
Asia Minor dialect. But others, dropped the /h/ very soon. They had no use for it anymore.
times it was uttered as today's [i], but has always played the role of a 'long' vowel
in grammatical rules. The reminiscence of the /h/ sound was represented by alexandrian
scholars of hellenistic times as the
daseia < breathing mark
It is interesting that erasmic
pronunciation of ancient greek preserves this old /h/ sound, as well as all the greek-deriving words of latin and the european languages, while in greek it is not heard at all. Erasmic
pronunciation uses the classic [ε:] for Eta, hence it is also called an 'etacistic' pronunciation, while we pronounce it as [i] ('iotacistic' pronunciation see Iota
). The term 'Etacistic' (ger.
Etazismus) implies not only the 'tendency to preserve [ε:
] and the variety of similar sounds, but also, any scientific attempt to reconstruct the classical pronunciation.
Both greek letters E and H are transferred in latin and european languages as 'E'. e.g. λλην
from northsemitic (phoenician): hêt' = door (also check Epsilon
The polytonic hellenistic accents for eta's first letter are psile
rare HY [if] or [iv] erasmic [eu]
Rare archaic long diphthong HI ηι also written: subscript or adscript (for capital H) Hι.
MORE GREEK WORDS STARTING WITH ETA
•ήλεκτρoν=amber/electrum - ηλεκτρόνιo=electron, Hλέκτρα= Electra
H with daseia < breathing mark:
•ήλιoς=sun - ήλιoν=helium
•ημι...=semi...half - hemisphere