Polytonic Greek pneuma letters (spirits) and half-eta glyphs

From: Philippe Verdy (verdy_p@wanadoo.fr)
Date: Thu Oct 07 2004 - 08:23:38 CST

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    This page on the French version of wikipedia notes that Polytonic Greek used
    in the 3rd century B.C. alternate letters to denote the initial spirits
    ("pneuma dasú" for the "hard" spirit, and "pneuma psílon" for the "soft"
    spirit), rather than the modern 9-shaped combining accents.


    (Note: to see all letters in Internet Explorer, you have to configure it to
    use the "Arial Unicode MS" font from Office or the free "Code2000" font, and
    to indicate to Internet Explorer, in the Accessibility options, to ignore
    the fonts styles selected on web pages: the default font selected in the
    Wikipedia CSS stylesheet for Internet Explorer forces the "Arial" font which
    does not contain glyphs for all these characters; apparently Wikipedia has
    problems to find a reliable way to configure their stylesheets to work with
    various versions of Windows or IE).

    These letters were noted initially by Aristophane with a variant of the
    historic "H" letter that noted the /h/ sound (but was later borrowed when it
    became unused to note the sound /è/ with eta), by cutting the "H" (eta)
    glyph in two half-parts (and sometimes found with L-shaped glyphs without
    the lower part of the vertical). These historic phonemes subsist today only
    as diacritics for modern polytonic greek, but this is not the case of
    historic texts where they may still be pronounced /h/ on initial vowels or
    diphtongues or rho.

    The same page gives an encoding for the latest non-combining form where
    these spirits are represented by upper tacks (before they became
    diacritics). My question is: can these historic half-eta letters be unified
    with these tacks, or are they distinct letters?

    Are there variants encoded for these historic half-eta letters, to mean that
    they should not be shown with the upper tack glyphs but with the historic
    half-eta glyphs?

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