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General / Prosody





Prosody deals with the pronunciation of vowels. A vowel with an adjacent consonant make a syllable. When speaking we vary the loudness (soft and loud) and the length of a vowel.

In Ancient Greek vowels were divided into long and short, for example omicron is a short o while omega is a long o. The same word can have a different meaning if a vowel is short or long. In Modern Greek although the old spelling is retained vowels are pronounced with equal length and a word can change meaning according to which syllable is stressed.

In some languages the stressing of syllables is important, in others less so. In French the stressed syllable of a word is invariably the last one while in Italian it is the one before the last. In Modern Greek the stress can fall on one of the last three syllables of a word while very long words can have two stressed syllables. Ancient Greeks gave more importance to the length of vowels than to their loudness.

Our voice goes up and down when passing from a stressed to an unstressed vowel. We can align words in such a way that a regularity of tone is produced, thus creating a pleasant effect. This is done in poetry. Ancient Greek poetry is based on the rhythmic patterns produced by the succession of long and short vowels. These patterns are called metrical feet.








Metrical feet


Words are divided to syllables. Lines of verse are divided to metrical feet, each containing 2 to 5 syllables. Below are the various kinds of metrical feet.


Two syllables

Short Short                       Dibrach (δίβραχυς)

Short Long                        Iamb (ίαμβος)

Long Short                         Trochee (τροχαίος)

Long Long                         Spondee (σπονδείος)


Three syllables

Short Short Short             Tribrach (τρίβραχυς)

Long Short Short              Dactyl (δάκτυλος)

Short Long Short             Amphibrach (αμφίβραχυς)

Short Short Long             Anapest (ανάπαιστος)

Short Long Long             Bacchius (βάκχειος)

Long Long Short             Antibacchius (αντιβάκχειος)

Long Short Long             Αmphimacer (αμφίμακρυς)

Long Long Long              Molossus (μολοσσός)


Four syllables

Short Short Short Short        Tetrabrach (τετράβραχυς), or proceleusmatic

Long Short Short Short          First paeon (παίωνπρώτος)

Short Long Short Short          Second paeon (παίωνδεύτερος)

Short Short Long Short          Third paeon (παίωντρίτος)

Short Short Short Long           Fourth paeon (παίωντέταρτος)

Long Long Short Short            Major ionic or double trochee

Short Short Longt Long           Minor ionic or double iamb

Long Short Long Short            Ditrochee (διτροχαίος)

Short Long Short Long             Diiamb (διίαμβος)

Long Short Short Long             Choriamb (χορίαμβος)

Short Long Long Short              Antispast (αντίσπαστος)

Short Long Long Long               First epitrite (επίτριτοςπρώτος)

Long Short Long Short              Second epitrite (επίτριτοςδεύτερος)

Long Long Short Long               Third epitrite (επίτριτοςτρίτος)

Long Long Long Short               Fourth epitrite (επίτριτοςτέταρτος)

Long Long Long Long                Dispondee (δισπονδείος)





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