Metonymy and Metaphor in Language Change

When language changes, the innovation rarely comes out of nowhere. The typical pattern is that an existing expression is interpreted in a novel way (reanalysis); and that novelty spreads through the language (extension).

For example, within my lifetime, fun switched from being just a noun to also being an adjective. That reanalysis happened in people's heads, and you can't detect it in people's heads, because that was fun makes sense whether fun is a noun or an adjective. You only realise, as an outside observer, that fun is now an adjective, because people have started using fun in contexts where a noun makes no sense: that was so fun, that was the funnest thing ever.

If you're trying to date linguistic change, you have a problem. Because the initial reanalysis happens in people's heads, you can't see it in textual evidence. The only thing you can see in textual evidence is how the reanalysis has spread to novel contexts. In fact, the only thing any other speaker of the language will notice is when the first speaker starts using the construction in novel contexts.

So the actual change to language as one person's internalised system happens with reanalysis. But language as spoken by a community only changes when everyone is in on the reanalysis; and for everyone to be in on it, the expression has to be used in unambiguously novel ways.

Reanalysis itself can happen in two ways. One is the way I've just described: the interpretation of the expression happens imperceptibly, because the expression has a structural ambiguity. Anything in English following that is can be either a mass noun or an adjective. The phrase anorange can be chopped up as either a norange or an orange. (And norange was the original form—as in Arabic nāranj, and Greek νεράντζι.) I will originally meant that you want to do something; but (if you have anything to do with it), it also contains the expectation that the something is going to happen in the future.

On the other hand, reanalysis can happen when someone takes an expression that is established in one domain, and starts using it in a similar way, in a completely different domain. For example, a rocket in Italian was originally a spindle, and a well established term in the domain of weaving—until someone got the idea of using rocket to refer to spindle-shaped projectiles, in the unrelated domain of ballistics. A head has a well established meaning in anatomy, which gradually built up connotations as the most important part of the body. (That's why κάρα in Ancient Greek came to be used in phrases like "the divine head of Jocasta is dead.") That notion of importance led "head" to be used in domains unrelated to either anatomy or containing a brain and an oral cavity: head waiter, head of the beach.

The second kind of reanalysis uses a concept in a new domain, with some but not all of the same meaning. That is of course exactly what a metaphor is, and this is metaphoric change. The first kind exploits ambiguity within the same domain, rather than making a conceptual leap. Because it's not metaphor, but an "adjacent" meaning, linguists have come up with the cleverness of calling this metonymic change, extending the original notion of metonymy. (The thinking is outlined in Hopper & Traugott's Grammaticalization textbook.) I can see why they did so: the White House and the US government are both on 1600 Pennsylvania Ave; wanting to do something and having something happen in the future are inherent in the same phrase I will. It's still overclever to call it that, but I don't get to write the textbooks.

Both metaphoric and metonymic change lead to reanalysis; but they work in different ways. A metaphor is an act of conceptual creativity; it only takes one clever speaker to come up with a new way of seeing things, and others will be impressed enough to follow suit. Metonymy, on the other hand, doesn't need cleverness; it can be positively hampered by cleverness. Metonymy relies on a different interpretation of an expression in the same domain; it relies on people misunderstanding what what meant. Metonymy builds on the ambiguities available from the context; the context is what speakers are scrambling for, because they usually didn't understand the original expression. The point of metaphor, on the other hand, is ignore the context: metaphor invents a new context for the expression.

I'm going through all this, because it comes up in my next post, which is reporting on a couple of blog posts and associated discussion, trying to explain how the Modern Greek expression αμέτι μουχαμέτι has developed. The expression, we can be reasonably sure, originates in the Ottoman Turkish ­ümmet-i Muhammed. The Turkish phrase means "nation of Muhammad", from the Arabic Ummah. The Modern Greek expression is close to "come hell or high water": it points to unreasonable insistence, pigheadedness: το έβαλε αμέτι μουχαμέτι να κάνει τον γιο του δικηγόρο, "he set out, ameti mouhameti, to make his son a lawyer".

If you're trying to work out how "Nation of Muhammad" ended up meaning "Come hell or high water", you can take it as a metaphorical change. My godfather, Tasos Kaplanis, is going to be annoyed with this sequence of posts, because I'm going to take his postings in vain twice. When the phrase first came up on the Magnificent Nikos Sarantakos' Blog, Tasos posted a comment that allows a metaphorical explanation for what happened. (I'm simplifying in saying so, but I'm arguing a point here.)
My hypothesis is that the phrase reflects the power relations in the ottoman domain, when the dominant and privileged ümmet-i Muhammed could impose its will arbitrarily on the subject rayahs [tax-paying class, particularly non-Muslims]. I presume that many decisions were taken only because that's what the ümmet-i Muhammed wanted, and many people were privileged only because they belonged to the ümmet-i Muhammed; that might explain Koutsonikas' [early] rendering, in which (α)μέτι μουχαμέτι meant "through the force of Muhammad". (By the way, that rendering supports my hypothesis on power relations, I believe.)

Tasos' explanation has a Greek-speaker take an expression from one domain and context (Muslim war cries, Ottoman ruling class perspective), and apply it to a different domain, with a different connotation (Imposition of arbitrary rule > arbitrariness, Christian subject class perspective). That's metaphorical extension.

The fact that the phrase originated with the Ottoman ruling class is certainly part of why the phrase has the colouring it has. But it's a fairly abstract application of the phrase, and I don't think it's enough to explain what has happened. It's not that metaphorical change doesn't happen: the best of slang is founded in metaphor, and it's the alteration in words' context that makes slang vivid. But for a bilingual Greek to take a war cry and start using it to mean "because I said so" seems a stretch.

Particularly because there is another instance when a foreign phrase is used to mean "because I said so", and there's nothing metaphorical about it: με το άστα ντούε, "[he did it] with an asta due", which is merely the Arvanitika for "that's how I want it" (ashtu dua). (The expression is more common now in fully Greek guise, με το έτσι θέλω.)

What seems more plausible to me is a metonymic change: instead of one ingenious bilingual speaker, suddenly flipping the meaning of ümmet-i Muhammed out of context to mean "hell or high water", I think it likelier that Greeks heard ümmet-i Muhammed in its original use, in contexts that would allow them to reinterpret it (or misconstrue it) as "hell or high water". And for that to happen, you want not ingenuity, but dullness—and felicitous ambiguities. In fact, it helps metonymic change if the speakers who changed the meaning of the expression did not understand Turkish at all. The fact that ümmet-i was changed to ameti indicates that they didn't; ameti sounds more like Amhed (as Fauriel already misunderstood in his 1824 translation), or αμέτε "go on".

More on αμέτι μουχαμέτι later. αμέτι μουχαμέτι is why I'm going through all this; but I'm worked up about all this, because it was a motivating question behind my thesis. My thesis was on the Modern Greek connective που, whose primary meaning is as a relativiser, but which also has various uses as a connective and a complementiser. In Standard Modern Greek, the various senses of που are hard to gather together—the shades of meaning are particularly subtle for the complementiser; but they can be gathered under a general notion of the clause being taken as a given, or presupposed.

I don't want to get too deeply into this, but: που can mean "when, because, since, given that", but not "if, until"; you can be happy που Χ, but not hope που X; you remember που events, but remember πως facts ("I remember going; I remember that I went").

Iris Papadopoulou wrote her 1994 PhD thesis giving a metaphorical account of how που came to have this range of meanings. που is derived from Ancient Greek ὅπου "where" (which survives as Modern όπου); present-day που introduces clauses that are given. The metaphorical account is that που came to have its present range of meanings, as a metaphor from Located-In-Space to Given-In-Discourse: that "because X" or "when X" or "who did X", which provide background to understanding an event, can be expressed as a literal background for the event ("where X").

It's possible; after all, I've just used "background" in that metaphorical sense. But it struck me, again as a rather abstract metaphor to explain the spread of που. It made more sense to me that the givenness of που came along for the ride through metonymic change: since relative clauses contain given information, any reanalysis of a relative clause as a causal, or a complement, would carry the givenness along with it. The immediate cause of που having the range it does is that it was a relativiser; if the immediate cause can explain the semantic range, the ultimate etymology need not be brought in.

There is some circumstantial evidence in that the Pontic relativiser ντο, which has nothing to do with ὅπου, has a similar range of meanings. For that matter, so does Middle French que.

It turns out that Greek does have a clear metaphorical use of "where", extended from Location-In-Space to Location-In-Discourse; it is used in storytelling, to link together chunks of the story. This use is fairly restricted; the only evidence I have found is from Zante (which is where Tzartzanos' Syntax had found it from.) And that metaphor was a modern metaphor, so it involved the modern word for "where", which still has its initial vowel: όπου, οπού.
  • Την αυγή πάει ο ταβερνιάρης και βλέπει την καταστροφή. Οπού αρχίνησε να θυμώνη. "At dawn, the innkeeper went and saw the damage. So he started getting angry."
  • Να γένουμε, λέει, αδέρφια· πέντε εμείς και ένας εσύ έξι. Όπου λοιπόν τα συμφωνήσανε. "'Let's become brothers', he said. 'There's five of us and one of you; that makes six.' So they agreed."

In fact English has the same metaphor: whereupon. But that metaphor is rather more restricted in scope than can be claimed for που overall; and (I think) more intuitive than applying it to "I remember when".

The metonymic take on language change relies on going through several instances of the ambiguous phrase through time, and pinpointing when the change in meaning would have happened: it is not immediately obvious, because the reanalysis happens in peoples' heads, and does not alter the context. Metaphor, on the other hand, can be detected in just a single sentence, applying the notion in a novel context for the first time. When I do come to writing up the story of αμέτι μουχαμέτι, it will be from a metonymic point of view.
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κατσούλι "kitten": where did the cutesy /ts/ come from?

Tom Recht had a simple question in comments the other day, which admits of an almost simple answer. There is a catch, in that there is no clear phonological reason for what has happened, and I offer an unconvincing guess at it.

Tom Recht's question:
I'm curious about the word κατσούλι, which is intriguingly similar to the Hebrew for 'cat', [xatul]. Of course they're both presumably related to cat, Byzantine κάττα/κάττος, Latin catta/cattus, etc. (ultimate origin unknown), but none of those has the -ul- part that you see in κατσούλι and xatul. Any idea where the Greek word comes from?

Anonymous delivered, in his response:
The "oul" in greek is part of the suffix -ouli.

The part that needs explanation, I think, is rather how kati gave katsi. Did a tsitakistic(sic) dialect give it to the standard?

This all makes sense, but let me unpack it a bit more slowly.

Ancient Greece was not familiar with cats; Greeks kept weasels (γαλῆ) as pets, and you'll occasionally see pedants calling cats γαλῆ, but the real exposure to cats was in the Roman era. There was a Classical word for cat, αἴλουρος, which Puristic has preserved: felines are αιλουροειδή, "aeluroids". But that's the name for an exotic animal from Egypt; once people routinely interacted with cats, they used the Roman name for cats, cattus.

(I could be completely wrong about this, but I'll keep going.)

In LSJ, cattus is reported as κάττα and κάττος, both from Scholia. This is a fairly common occurrence in LSJ: the scholia on Ancient text explain the old words using contemporary, mediaeval words. LSJ is strip-mining the scholia for snippets of antiquity, and adds these glosses to its coverage artificially, although properly they're out of its scope.

In Standard Modern Greek, the word was reborrowed from Italian gatto, as γάτα. In Greek, unlike Italian, cats are by default feminine, and the masculine γάτος is explicitly a tomcat. That's Standard Greek; but Greek dialect preserved the earlier, Latin form: the Cretan for "cat" is κάτης. Hence the Renaissance poem Ο Kάτης και ο Μποντικός, "The cat and the mouse", which has just come out in a new edition. (You can get an earlier edition online via Tassos Kaplanis' Cretan Lit class wiki.)

Now, once Greek has borrowed a foreign stem, it can play around with its inflections and derivational morphology. From γάτα "cat" (Standard Greek), you get:
  • γάτος "male cat"
  • γατί "neuter cat; (implicit) diminutive of cat"
  • γατάκι "neuter diminutive of cat, kitten"
  • γατούλα "different, feminine diminutive of cat, she-kitten"
  • γατίλα "cat smell"

A "kitten" in the sex-kitten sense is thus going to be γατούλα, as memorably and annoying chanteused about by the Greek, infantilised equivalent of Brigitte Bardot (God help me), Aliki Vouyouklaki (0:29):

Νιάου νιάου βρε γατούλα / με τη ροζ μυτούλα / γατούλα μου μικρή—τσα τσα τσα
Νιάου. Σ' έχουνε μη στάξει / κι είναι από μετάξι / η γούνα σου η γκρι
"Meow meow, kitten, with your little pink nose, my little kitten. Cha cha cha.
Meow. They treat you with kid gloves, and your grey coat is made of silk."

Um, yeah. A younger, more innocent Greece. Glad that's over.

Modern Greek doesn't happen to have the normal neuter diminutive γατ-ούλι, just its feminine counterpart γατ-ούλα. As it turns out Cretan does has the equivalent neuter equivalent, and has had it at least since the Renaissance. The hyperlinks are the online abridged Kriaras dictionary; the citations are from the dead tree full version:

So κατσούλι is derived from κατσί, and κατσί in turn is derived from κάτης.

The problem here is that the neuter κατσί has changed /kat-is/ to /kats-i/, for no obvious linguistic reason. Anonymous, in delivering, wondered whether this was Tsitacism (τσιτακισμός). Tsitacism is the onomatopoeic word for the process in a large number of Greek dialects, of affricating what was the palatal stop [c], to [tʃ] or [ts]. This affrication is pretty common across languages, since [c] is a very unstable sound to pronounce: lots of contact area between the roof of the tongue and the palate, easy to let some air through when trying to pronounce a plosive.

We see that kind of affrication all the time with renderings of Latin /ki, ke/ and /ti/, which must at once time have ended up pronounced as [ce, ci]:
  • citatio [kitatio] > [citacjo] > Italian [tʃitatsione], German [tsitat], French [sitasjɔ̃], Spanish [θitaθjon], English [saɪtɛɪʃən]

The way to account for all these vaguely palatal modern pronunciations of what used to be /k/ and /t/ is that they were palatal stops as [c] (because of the following front vowel), and the two [c]'s then broke down, at different times in different languages, into various permutations of [tʃ, ts, s, ʃ, θ].

And Tsitacism would explain the τσ in κατσούλι as being from κατσί, because κατσί has a front vowel and κατσούλι doesn't. (Kriaras' etymology accordingly reads: "From the noun κατσί and the ending -ούλι, or less likely from Latin catulus".)

But Tsitacism doesn't explain κατσί, because in almost all dialects of Greece, the only phoneme to undergo that affrication is /k/: Κυριακή "Sunday" /kirjaki/ [cirjaci] ends up in dialect as [tʃirjatʃi] or [tsirjatsi], but Τρίτη [triti] does not end up as *[tritʃi] or *[tritsi].

There are three exceptions where /t/ does palatalise, and they don't account for κατσί in Crete. The two Hellenic exceptions are Lesbos and Tsakonia. Tsakonian is spectacular with its palatalisations: it palatalises not only /k/ and /t/ before front vowels, but also /p/. In fact, historical /k/ ends up pronounced further front than /p, t/: πίνω /pino/ > κίνου [cinu] "to drink", τιμώ [timo] > κιμού [cimu] "to honour", κήπος [cipos] > τχήπο [tɕipo] "garden". (Or, using a Tsakonian transcription other than the one I've invented, τζήπο [tsʰipo].)

The non-Hellenic exception is Aromanian, which is still a language of Greece: it likewise palatalises /t/ to [c]. The Aromanian specialist Nikos Katsanis has in fact claimed Tsakonian and Aromanian palatalise /t/ for the same reason.
  • Katsanis, N. [Κατσάνης, Ν.] 1989. Κουτσοβλάχικα και Τσακώνικα (Arumanian and Tsakonian). Ελληνική Διαλεκτολογία 1: 41-54

No, not because there is a Romance substrate to Tsakonian; but because Tsakonian and Aromanian are both far enough removed from written Greek, that they would not have been subject to its conservative influence, making them pronounce <τ> as written.

But κατσί is unlikely to have wandered to the Morea from Lesbos, Tsakonian, or the mountain pastures of Thessaly. So affrication can't be the explanation.

Kriaras' dictionary has these references for κατσί:
  • Triantaphyllides, Manolis. Collected Works I 358.
  • Pernot, Humbert. Études linguistiques III 423.

Both are foundational works. Pernot's work is supposed to be his grammar of the dialect of Chios; it ended up being his historical grammar of Modern Greek.
  • Pernot, H. 1907. Études de Linguistique Néo-Hellénique I: Phonétique des parlers de Chio. Fontenay-sous-Bois.
  • Pernot, H. 1946. Études de Linguistique Néo-Hellénique II: Morphologie des parlers de Chio. Paris: Les Belles Lettres.
  • Pernot, H. 1946. Études de Linguistique Néo-Hellénique III: Textes et Lexicologie des parlers de Chio. Paris: Les Belles Lettres.

Triantaphyllides vol. I, pp. 305–490 is his PhD thesis Die Lehnwörter der mittelgriechischen Vulgärliteratur, 1909, Trübner: Strassburg.

The Collected Works of Triantaphyllides are easy to find in University libraries—but I'm at home, and have not photocopied that text; Google Books is giving me one snippet for cattus, but not the right one. Pernot's Études are less easy to find in my garage, but I did find them; he does not however explain the [ts], and I suspect Triantaphyllides didn't either.

My suspicion is that the expected diminutive *κατίν—which we do see in Standard γατί—was modified to κατσί(ν) under the influence of the diminutive -ίτσιν, which was particularly widespread in Early Modern Greek. The accent is wrong for an analogy (*kaˈtin "cat" ~ piðimat-ˈitsin "little leap" < kaˈtsin). A haplology from *kat-ˈitsin "little cat" to kaˈtsin also is awkward, because the syllable being eliminated isn't precisely repeated. But that's my guess.

The Anastasiadis–Symeonidis reverse dictionary gives 10 words in Standard Modern Greek ending in stressed /ˈtsi/; there is a parallel to κατσί in βουτσί "barrel" < βουτίον (attested in the Hippiatrica) < Hellenistic βοῦτις "vessel in the shape of the frustum of a cone" (Hero of Alexandria) < Late Latin buttis. There's less of a cause to pronounce "barrel" in a cutesy way than there is for "kitten"; so my guess is probably wrong; but there's a large number of Ancient diminutives in -τίον that have stayed as -τί: αφτί, γατί, κουτί, πορτί, σκουτί, χαρτί. Whatever happened with βουτίον > βουτσί did not happen with κυτίον > κουτί "box".

So this is a dread irregular phonetic change, and linguists appeal to analogy when they don't have a better answer invoking phonological rules.

If someone has already solved this, I'll be happy to hear it.
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Accent on compounds with inflection switched to -as

In the survey of compound accentuation on slang.gr that I'm about to start on, I've left out compounds switching inflection. These inflections, I had reasoned, bring along their own accentuation; and since the whole word was being reaccented from scratch, that new accentuation is recessive. Which is clearly the case when the switch in inflection is to -o or -i: παιδί > παλιό-παιδ-ο, εκκλησιά > ξω-κλήσ-ι.

But slang.gr captures slang coinages; and slang is not restricted to -o and -i for its inflection switching on compounds. There are several other inflections that can be used as derivational morphology—to indicate a person associated with the preceding stem or stems.

(The language advisory, as always, should be taken with any post relying on source material from slang.gr, and Yr Obt Svt should not be taken as condoning the stereotypes or attitudes borne in the invective.)

Three such inflections that get a lot of use on slang.gr are the feminines -α and -ω, and the masculine -ας. For examples of the -ω, see τρελοκαμπέρω "madwoman" (ultimately from τρελο-Καμπέρος "Mad Kamberos", an aviator: details at Sarantakos'), αεραγκίστρω "air hook" (Kaliarda for "magnet"), αρπαχτοτσιμπούκω "grab-and-fellater, slut", καμαρωπαπούτσω "woman who (looks down, like she) is admiring her own shoes: shy woman".

For examples of -α, see for example κοντοκλώτσα "short-kicker, woman with short legs", νεροφίδα "watersnake, one who drinks lots of water", or any of the dozens of compounds ending in -μούνα, -πουστα, or -πουτσα "cunt, faggot, dick" (μουνί, πούστης, πούτσος). There's a difference of accentuation right there, between non-recessive -μούνα and recessive -πουστα/-πουτσα, which could be because of the referent being feminine or masculine, or with the original stress of μουνί not being recessive, and πούστης, πούτσος being recessive. That's not the affix I'm going to consider though.

I'm instead looking at -ας. We've already established that -a(s) is where all confusion breaks loose as to where to accent compounds recessively. There is such seeming confusion about -ας compounds as well: though the switch in inflection is meant to cause recessive accentuation in -ας compounds—as it does in -ος compounds—there is a lot of -ας compounds stressed on the penult.

This list of inflection-switching compounds ending in -ας, I swear on the bones of Psichari, was objectively pulled out of slang.gr without ulterior selection. I have to say that, because it results in some quite nice distinctions. Here's the list of -ας compounds stressed on the penult, and on the antepenult:

Antepenultαγριόπουσταςπούστηςangry faggot
ανθυποτίποταςτίποταdeputy vice nobody (bottom of the food chain)
γαμαωδέρνουλαςδέρνωfuck-and-basher (someone in command of situation; a subject of an extensive post previously on this blog)
δε(ν)παλεύουραςπαλεύωan "I can't deal with you" kind of guy
διαβολόπουσταςπούστηςdevil's own faggot
θρασόπουσταςπούστηςimpudent faggot
καβατζόπουσταςπούστηςselfish faggot
καραφλοχαίτουλαςχαίτηbaldie with a mane (going bald up top, but leaving their hair long)
λαδοπόντικαςποντικόςoil rat (someone greasy; someone who seeks bribes—"greasing")
μαλακοπέρδουλαςπέρδομαιshlemiel farter
μαλακοπίτουραςπίτουραbran shlemiel (probably, meddling shlemiel, from the proverb: "if you mess with bran, the hens will eat you")
ντόμψωλαςψωλήshlemiel ("thump-dick"? English "dumb dick"?)
ντουμανόψειραςψείραsmoke-flea'er (getting high on someone else's marijuana smoke, from ψειρίζω "to flea" = "to steal"
damned gypsy
παλιόγυφταςγύφτοςdamned gypsy
τρικάτσουλαςκατσούλι (?)idler ("thrice cat?")
Penultβαβουροπατάταςπατάταnoisy potato guy: fat spoiled person who pretends to be active
γιαταμπάζαςμπάζαa "fit for the landfill" guy, ugly, inexcusable
γλειψαρχίδαςαρχίδιball-licker, flatterer
δροσοπεζούλαςπεζούλιa "cool bench" guy, idler (who hangs around cool windowsills in summer instead of working)
εξωφυλαρούχαςρούχαa "watch over the clothes outside" guy (benchwarmer)
καλοχαιρέτας χαιρετώa "greet it fondly" guy, gladhander
καψοκαλύβαςκαλύβαhut-burner, self-sabotaging
λαμπογέλας γελώshining-smiler, baldie
μαμκακανανύστας νάνι/νύσταa "nom-nom, poo, beddie-byes" guy, idler
μουνοτρέχας τρέχωa "run after cunts" guy, pussy-whipped
μπορόλαςόλαa can-do guy
μπρατσορακέταςρακέταan arm racket guy, someone showing off his biceps
οτινάναςό,τι να 'ναιa "whatever" guy (someone random, inexplicable incoherent)
πανταόλαςόλαan "anything, any time" guy, overcommitting oneself
παράκμαςακμή (this is incorrect, but I'll explain why later)decadent
παρταόλαςόλαa "take-it-all" guy, pimp, moneysucker
πορδορούφαςρουφώsaliva-face, dribbling idiot
σαλιαμούτραςμούτροfart-sucker, flatterer
φυσαρούφαςρουφώa blow-and-suck: bong; someone who goes back on their word
Ultimaβαψομαλλιάςμαλλιάhair-dyer, older man concealing his age
καικαλάςκαλάa "yeah right" guy
καραφλομαλλιάςμαλλιάbald-hair guy (going bald up top, but leaving their hair long)
καραφωτιάςφωτιάa "real fire" guy, spitfire, sexually active man
καφρομεταλλάςμέταλλοboor-metal guy (death metal fan)
κρυφοσκυλάςσκύλοςhidden dog-guy (secret fan of "dogpound" music—skyladiko, disreputable pop)
μαστακουνάςκουνώYou'reShakingThemForUs (mock surname of someone who has said something stupid, Captain Obvious; the "them" are testicles)
μπακαυτιάςαυτίa Bakatsias-ears guy, Big Ears
πατσοκοιλιάςκοιλιάtripe-belly guy, fatso (with a belly full of tripe)
σαπιοκοιλιάςκοιλιάrotten-belly guy, fatso (has let himself go)
τραχανοπλαγιάςπλαγιάfrumenty mountainside-guy, hillbilly, useless football player
χοντρομπαλάςμπάλαfat ball guy, fatso
χωριατλαμάςTurkish atlamavillage leaper (?), uncouth

See the patterns? Yes? No? To my surprise, the patterns actually fall out quite nicely, in all but a couple of cases. Let's go through slowly.

First, you will have noticed a disproportionate number of compounds which are actually just phrases with a masculine inflection tacked on. γιαταμπάζας for example is merely the phrase για τα μπάζα "for the landfill", with the -ας ending appended. In a normal compound, there is no conceivable place for definite articles: compounds link bare noun or verb stems. But this is not a normal compound.

We could argue that slang.gr is exaggerating the trend to such phrase-based compounds; but slang.gr did not invent them. ξερόλας "know-it-all" < (τα) ξέρω όλα certainly predates the site, and φαταούλας "eat-it-all, avaricious" < φα τα ούλα predates it yet further. As "know-it-all" shows, this is a known pattern of English; it's just innovative in Greek.

So these are compounds which quote a phrase in Greek. Like the quotative compounds we saw last post, ξεμπράβο and τι άμμος και ξε-άμμος, if a compounds quotes a word rather than treat it as a normal element, the stress is left alone. This is particularly needed when what is quoted is an entire phrase; it would make no sense to reaccent this like a normal noun–noun compound.

That rule takes care of a lot of our non-recessive compounds.
  • γιαταμπάζας < για τα μπάζα
  • εξωφυλαρούχας < έξω φύλα ρούχα
  • καικαλάς < και καλά
  • καλοχαιρέτας < καλοχαιρέτα
  • μπορόλας < μπορώ όλα
  • ξερόλας < ξέρω όλα
  • οτινάνας < ότι να 'ναι
  • πανταόλας <πάντα όλα
  • παρταόλας <πάρ' τα όλα
  • φυσαρούφας < φύσα ρούφα
  • μαστακουνάς < μας τα κουνάς

In fact, it also takes care of a lot of inflection-switching compounds which are accented on the ultima, but don't end with -ας:
ελαμωρέςέλα μωρέan "oh come on" guy
ξερωγώςξέρω γω;a "dunno" guy
πουθενάςπουθενάa "nowhere" guy, someone nowhere to be found

Note that where the phrase ends in a vowel, the -a- of -as is elided: Modern Greek has no interest in the hiatus that would result from */e.la.mo.ˈre.as/ or */kse.ro.ˈɣo.as/.

Our rule does *not* take care of μαμκακανανύστας < μαμ, κακά, νάνι: the baby talk words have clear accents, and should have been μαμ, κακά, νάνι-ας /ˈmam kaˈka ˈnani as/ > μαμκακανάνης /mamkakaˈnani-s/. I'll explain what's happened here at the end.

That leaves us with:


Hold on to φυσαρούφας "blow-and-suck = bong, equivocator", btw. We'll come back to it because it explains some seeming exceptions.

For our next cull of forms, recall that some -as words (those inherited from Ancient Greek) are recessively accented on the antepenult, while other -as words (those new to Modern Greek) are recessively accented on the penult. That means that there will be uncertainty about where to recessively accent -as accents in general. But:
  • If the right-hand word in the compound is stressed on the antepenult, the stress stays on the antepenult in the compound.
  • If the right-hand word is stressed on the penult, and is three syllables long (–´–), then the word is clearly not going to be accented on the antepenult no matter how it gets compounded: it will count like one of those Ancient Greek nouns with the long ultima. So Ancient Attic καλύβη "hut" has survived in Modern Greek in its Doric variant, καλύβα. In Ancient Greek, both καλύβη and καλύβα have long ultimas; so they can only be accented on the penult. Modern Greek gets that καλύβα is one of those penult-no-matter-what words, and doesn't try to accent it any further back. That accentuation extends by analogy to -ας endings on the same stem.
  • If on the other hand the right-hand word is stressed on the penult, but is two syllables long (´–), then the word is treated as recessive. And compounding the word has the word still treated as recessive; now there's more syllables to the word, the accent can go three syllables back. Recall πάπια > αγριόπαπια "wild duck".
  • If finally the original word is accented on the ultima, its accent is preserved.

So: accent is preserved in switching inflections to -as; but two-syllable–long ´– words are treated as recessive, so they end up accented three syllables back in compounds.

Let's put that to the test:
  • τίποτα (´––) > ανθυπο-τίποτα-ς (´––)
  • πίτουρ-α (´––) > μαλακο-πίτουρ-ας (´––)
  • πούστης (´–) > αγριό-πουστ-ας (´––): two-syllables, recessive
  • ψείρα (´–) > ντουμανό-ψειρ-ας (´––): two-syllables, recessive
  • αρχίδι (–´–) > γλειψ-αρχίδ-ας (–´–): three-syllables, non-recessive
  • πατάτα (–´–) > βαβουρο-πατά-τας (–´–): three-syllables, non-recessive
  • μαλλιά (–´) > καραφλο-μαλλι-άς (–´)
  • κοιλιά (–´) > σαπιο-κοιλι-άς (–´)

This pattern extends to non-compound use of the inflection switch as well: σαχλαμάρα "balderash" > σαχλαμάρας "self-promoting fool".

That deals with a lot of forms, though not all. Let's do the cull:

We're down to the exceptions now. For the first class of exceptions, recall φυσαρούφας, "blow-suck". This is not a normal, noun–noun compound, because there is no such noun as *ρούφα. But *ρούφα clearly is not a fluke, since it shows up again in πορδορούφας.

These are an innovative class of compound—like a lot of slang compounds are; the right-hand of the compound is the bare verb root, without the affixes that would turn the verb into a noun. In fact, the simplest thing to call this in Modern Greek is an imperative, ρούφα "suck!"; and φυσαρούφας is indeed a compound of two imperatives, φύσα! ρούφα! (Modern Greek doesn't have an infinitive, so the imperative is as good a place as any to get a bare verb form from.) So πορδορούφας is formed from πορδ-ή "fart" and the imperative ρούφα "suck".

Now, there are two major conjugations in Modern Greek. The old non-contracted verbs still have their present imperative end in -ε: Ancient λύ-ε, Modern λύν-ε. The old contracted verbs have merged into the αω-conjugation for the imperative, which ends in -ᾱ: ἀγάπα. Imperatives are recessively accented: δέν-ε "tie up", κάλλιο γαϊδουρό-δενε παρά γαϊδουρογύρευε, "better to tie up a donkey than to go looking for a donkey". But the -ᾱ ending was long, so it has stayed accented on the penult: αγάπα. This carries across to verbs which now have an -α imperative, even if historically they shouldn't: Ancient τρέχε, Modern τρέχα "run".

The long imperative endings in γέλα "laugh!", τρέχα "run!", ρούφα "suck!" explain the penult accents of λαμπογέλας, μουνοτρέχας, πορδορούφας. Precedent also counts for words ending up in this class: I'm reasonably sure that μουνοτρέχας "cunt-runner, pussywhipped" is modelled after the much older παπατρέχας "Priest Runaround, someone acting in haste".

There's a further nastiness to this class that I won't try to resolve: there is variation for inflection in these imperatives-turned-nouns, between -ας and -ης (where -ης is always penult-accented).
  • Non-contracted verbs end up as nouns in -ης: φά(γ)ε "eat!" > χαραμο-φά-ης "someone eating in vain, a waste of space".
  • Contracted verbs can have either -ης or -ας: κέντα "poke!" > πισω-κέντ-ης "back-poker, gay top" (possibly by analogy with πισω-γλέντ-ης "back-feaster, gay bottom"); γάμα "fuck!" > γιδο-γάμ-ης "goat-fucker". (You won't be surprised that -γάμης was the majority of such compounds in slang.gr .)

In fact, the choice between -ας, -ης, and -ος is generally a free choice in forming such compounds in Greek, and the accent rules for -ας, -ης, and -ος are all different. I don't think the choice is particularly predictable. In fact, I was surprised to see πούστης and γύφτος compound as -πουστας and -γυφτας, ignoring their original masculine inflections, and I think that's slang deliberately being innovative. But this article presupposes that -ας has been chosen as the inflection.

Culling those imperatives turned nouns, we have:

For most of the rest, the accent is caused by completely different -as suffixes, which have distinct functions, and happen to have different accent rules. Admittedly, that sounds like cheating; but those distinct functions of -as do exist, and the accent of a derivational affix takes priority over the accent of a compound.
  • So -ουλας/ουρας is a distinct suffix for "person characterised by X", and its accent is consistently antepenult: γαμάω (και) δέρνω > γαμαωδέρν-ουλας, δεν παλεύω > δε(ν)παλεύουρας, καραφλός + χαίτη > καραφλοχαίτουλας, μαλάκας + πέρδομαι > μαλακοπέρδουλας. Cf. νυσταλέος "sleepy" > νυσταλέουρας "sleepyhead"
  • παρά + ακμή > παρακμή "decline" should have switched inflection as *παρακμάς. But the -ας of παράκμας is not just a switch of inflection, and παράκμας is not in fact derived from παρακμή "decline". This instance of -ας is used to form truncated forms, and παράκμ-ας is a truncation of παρακμ-ιακός "decadent". That truncating -ας suffix is accented on the penult; cf. Παναθηναϊκός "Athens United Football Club" > Πανάθας, ανθυπ-ολογαχός "deputy vice captain = second lieutenant" > ανθύπ-ας.
  • There is a longstanding accented -άς suffix for a professional of X, or more generally someone characterised by X: ψωμ-ί "bread" > ψωμ-άς "baker", ροκ "rock music" > ροκ-άς "rocker", φουστανέλ-α "fustanella, kilt" > φουστανελ-άς "kilt-wearer". Which means that a compound with *any* accent can end in -άς; but if the compound ends in unaccented -ας, then the original right-hand word probably wasn't accented on the ultima.
    That explains καφρομεταλλάς κρυφοσκυλάς μπακαυτιάς χοντρομπαλάς. This explanation is less arbitrary than it sounds, because the -άς suffix has already been added to the right-hand nouns: μεταλλ-άς "metal fan", σκυλ-άς "skyladiko fan", αυτιάς "big ears" already exist (the first two on slang.gr, the last on standard dictionaries). I don't think μπαλάς exists independently as ball-player; it does exist as the Blackspot seabream (Pagellus bogaraveo), but I'm happy for one out four to be a formation with -άς from scratch.

We're now down to:

Of these,
  • λαδοπόντικας does look inconsistent in its accent with ποντίκι, ποντικός "mouse"; but this recessive accent is an established pattern with "rat"-compounds (τυφλοπόντικας "blind rat = mole"). My surmise is that τυφλοπόντικας is far far earlier than the current slew of -ας inflection-switching compounds, and its inflection was by analogy with recessive -os compounds: τυφλός + ποντικός > τυφλο-πόντικ-ος > τυφλοπόντικας.
  • The etymology of τρικάτσουλας is obscure; I'm guessing τρία + κατσούλι "three-cats", where κατσούλι is an old dialectal word; if so, it may well predate the current pattern for -ας. But this is obscure enough for me to ignore.
  • For ντόμψωλας, the meaning of ντομ is likewise obscure, but the right-hand word is clearly ψωλή "dick". The other compounds ending in stressed -άς were derived from nouns ending in /-a/ not /-i/; maybe accent retention only happens if they share inflection class (/ma.ˈlja/ > /va.pso.ma.ˈljas/), and the switch in inflection class throws it back to being recessive. (The new ending doesn't look like the old ending, so we're back to "accent the word from scratch, as a new word".) I'd need another few examples to confirm, but we have a more interesting word to look at.

Our more interesting word is μαμκακανανύστας. The word is derived from the babytalk words μαμ, κακά, νάνι. The coiner decided to put an -as ending on it. He couldn't.

He couldn't, because vernacular phonology would not accept the hiatus between νάνι and -ας (*/mamkakaˈnani.as/). Normally, there would be no hiatus, because the final /-i/ would be stripped off from the word as an inflection: for example, αρχίδ-ι > γλειψ-αρχίδ-ας. But the /-i/ is not an inflection; νάνι is babytalk, and is therefore treated as indeclinable and undecomposable.

The approach the coiner *should* have taken was instead to elide the vowel of /-as/, and produce *μαμκακανάνης /mamkakanani-s/, just like έλα μωρέ /elamoˈre/ > ελαμωρές /elamoˈre-s/. But the coiner did not do that.

Instead, the coiner switched to another masculine suffix that happens to end in /-as/: /-ˈistas/. This corresponds to English -ist. In fact, there are two -ist suffixes in Greek: the indigenous -ιστής /-iˈstis/, inherited from Ancient Greek, and -ίστας /-ˈistas/, which came back into Modern Greek via Latin and then Italian -ista. There's a clear register difference between the two, and the Italianised form is what you'd use with foreign stems (cf. ποδοσφαιρ-ιστής /poðosferiˈstis/ "football player", straight from Puristic, with μπασκετμπολίστας /basketboˈlistas/ "basketball player".)

Our coiner has decided to tack /-ˈistas/ onto /mam kaka nani/; the deletion of the second /i/ in a row (*mamkakananiˈistas) was easier to defend, and is established behaviour for the suffix. (γκαλερί > γκαλερίστας "gallery owner", χόμπι > χομπίστας "hobbyist", not *χομπιίστας.)

The suffix had an added advantage, which the coiner took advantage of—and may have intended all along. /mamkakaˈnistas/ ends in /-nista/, which is the word for sleepiness. (We already saw the related νυσταλέουρας.) "Sleepiness" is spelled with an upsilon, and that's how the coiner has spelled /mamkakaˈnistas/: μαμκακανύστας.

The avoidance of hiatus is a driving force for compounding in Greek in general: compounds have to avoid a vowel next to another vowel. The need is less frantic if it's /i/ before any other vowel; but the undecomposability of /nani/ meant that the colloquial pronunciation *[mamkakaˈnanjas] of */mamkakaˈnani.as/ would have been unacceptable: /nani/ would have become unrecognisable.

Switching to /istas/ is not the most extreme way to make sure there's a buffer consonant or two between the stem and the inflection. I dangled παπα-δ-οπαίδι and μακλαουντόσο-γ-ο before you in a previous post. In παπαδ-οπαίδι "priest boy = altarboy", "priest" is παπά-ς, παπά; the extra -δ- comes from the plural παπά-δ-ες.

For compounds of σόι /soj/ "extended family", the extra -γ- of μακλαουντόσο-γ-ο "Macleod clan" takes a little more explaining. The Turkish soy was easily analysed as an -ι neuter, with a -ιού genitive and a -ια plural. That means genitive [soˈju], plural [ˈsoja]; but [j] between vowels in Greek is normally the result of underlying /ɣi/, which means that the genitive and plural were analysed as /soɣiˈu/, /soˈɣia/. That would mean that the singular nominative would underlyingly have to be /ˈsoɣi/. It isn't actually pronounced as /ˈsoɣi/ [ˈsoʝi]; but when a compound like */maklauˈdoso.o/ called for an extra stem consonant, the /ɣ/ was available to be stuck on.

It's rare that a stem-final consonant has had to be invented from scratch; but that has been argued to have happened with κυριλέ "snobbish". The word is formed with the faux-French suffix ; to talk about something being fancy, it made sense to add it to the word for "gentleman".
  • That would have resulted in the hiatus */kiri.ˈe/, which would violate the rules of vernacular phonology; that would be fine for Puristic (/ˈki.rios/ itself has hiatus), but people were nervous about coining a new slang word with a Puristic hiatus.
  • Reducing */kiri.ˈe/ to the vernacular */kirˈje/ would have been even less of a sociolinguistic plausibility.
  • Everything would be so much simpler if /kiri-os/ had a consonant at the end of its stem; and a consonant was grudgingly invented: */kiri.ˈe/ > */kiri.-l-ˈe/.

Maybe because κυριλέ would sound like Κύριλος "Cyril", which happens to be etymologically related to κύριος (and thereby shares an upsilon with it). If the coiners of κυριλέ had not noticed the parallel with Cyril, the slang.gr folk certainly did; and inveitably, slang.grist "Jesus" paired κυριλέ /kiriˈle/ with μεθοδέ /meθoˈðe/, just as St Cyril was paired with St Methodius. (Making this, as slang.gr's in-jokey definition puts it, a "Jesuitism", and pas du tout slangue.)

That's /meθoˈðe/, not /meθoðiˈe/. It's an analogy that coined /meθoˈðe/ to match /kiriˈle/; and having the same number of syllables is pretty important in analogies. But I have ranged far from accentuation of compounds by now.

The story is not really as complicated as it may have sounded in leisurely exposition. If you're switching inflection to /-as/ in a compound ending in a noun, you keep the accent of the right-hand word—with ´– words considered recessive, rather than penult. But the accent is preserved if the compound does not end in a noun: if the compound ends in an imperative-turned-noun, or it involves a nominalised phrase. And if /-as/ has a distinct function as derivational morphology, with an associated intrinsic accent, then that accent takes over.

Even more briefly: there's an accent-preserving default for /-as/ compounds—with recessive taking priority over penult accent in the ambiguous ´– case. But that default only applies to default-type compounds, ending in a noun. Any disturbance to that pattern, and the compound becomes strictly accent-preserving. Any derivational meaning in the suffix takes priority in accentuation—as it always does; again, the compound is no longer the default ending in a noun.

This all means I have something extra to look for with my survey of slang.gr compounds that *don't* switch accent—of which there are well over 1300. That will take a little while to go through: I'm behind in other commitments. I'm hoping for surprises, though.
...Read more


ξε- in compounds and phrases

This post has been anticipated in comments already anyway; it's the reason why I got the accent of ξέμαγκας wrong.

One reason was given last post: it is much harder to predict where recessive accent goes for the -a(s) inflection than for the other inflections of Modern Greek.
  • For masculine and neuter -o(s), feminine -si, and neuter -ma, recessive accent goes to the antepenult: παλιόκοσμος, κουτόχορτο, κεφαλόβρυση, παλιόπραμα
  • for -us, feminine -o, neuter -i and other feminine -i, it goes on the penult: προπάππους, τρελοκαμπέρω, παπαδοπαίδι, γκαντεμοτύχη
  • for -u and -e(s) it only ever goes on the ultima: ρεβυθοκαφές, ζουζουνοσκατού. (Kaliarda again: "shit-bug = fly")
  • But because of mergers in both Ancient and Mediaeval Greek, -a(s) has some recessives go to the antepenult, and some go to the penult. That makes confusion possible.

The second reason, given two posts ago, involves the variability of prepositions. The default in Modern Greek is for accent to be recessive in a preposition–noun compound: παρά + παιδί > παράπαίδι "stepchild". Some prepositions leave the accent alone, in a distinct pattern: παρά + στρατός > παραστρατός "paramilitary".

The real reason why I got the accent of ξέμαγκας wrong is that I'd learned one pattern in my Greek, but not the other.

The recessive accent pattern shown in ξέμαγκας follows the rules inherited from Ancient Greek. (Ancient Greek would still produce *ἐκμάγκας because its -ας was long; but the accent would still be recessive.) And colloquial Modern Greek does have a productive pattern of adding ξε- to nouns, to indicate someone who has stopped being characterised by the noun. If that sounds like an ex-mangas, there's a simple reason for that: ex- and ξέ- are exactly the same prefix historically (kse- < ekse- < ἐκ, ἐξ ek, eks, as I explained a few posts ago.)

There's also a simple reason that I haven't drawn the analogy between ex- and ξέ- before: they are from different registers, and the usage of ξέ- before a noun is unusual: it is typically a verbal prefix, where it has the verbal meaning of "un-" as in "undo". That's why I was glossing ξέμαγκας as "un-mangas"; but un- for nominals in English means "not" more than "formerly" (as in unwell), so the gloss is misleading.

The pattern appears to be productive in colloquial Greek: Nikos Sarantakos brought up ξέπαπας "ex-priest", which is also recessive. But I could find no examples with that meaning in either the Triantaphyllidis Institute dictionary (no surprise there), or slang.gr. ξεμπούρδελο < μπουρδέλο for instance means not "a former brothel", but "a woman who looks like she has come out of a brothel".

I got the accent wrong because the recessive use of ξέ- before nouns, to mean "ex-", is not part of the Greek I've learned. I mean, I recognise it when I see it; but it's not part of my active vocabulary, it would not have occurred to me to coin a new ξέ- compound with a noun. Just a hole I happen to have in my Greek.

But there's a different pattern using ξέ- which I have learned, and that pattern is accent-retaining. slang.gr does have ξεμπράβο "un-bravo!", which is not accented recessively, for different reasons: μπράβο is an interjection, which is being quoted in the compound. I will talk about the different accent in quotative compounds later. That's not the pattern I had learned; but it is related, in that it also quotes what it prefixes.

The pattern is the phrase τι Χ και ξε-Χ;, "what X and un-X?", meaning "what do you mean, 'X?'" or "what's this 'X' crap you're on about?" The point of the expression is to dismiss the noun X that the addressee has used as appropriate or relevant. A similar expression is δεν έχει Χ και ξε-Χ "there's no X and un-X", which has the same point. (Cf. "there's no ifs or buts about it" in English.) And Χ και ξε-Χ can show up on their own as a dismissal in general:
  • Καθήστε να διαβάσετε και άστε τα sos και ξε-sos "Sit yourselves down and study, and stop going on about crib notes [never mind the S.O.S. and un-S.O.S]" ("ncs_one", responding to a request for crib notes—which are called in Greek "S.O.S.")
  • μήτε γνωρίζω τι θα πει Kollo και ξε-Kollo "I don't even know what Kollo and suchlike [Kollo and un-Kollo] means (poem by Napoleon Lapathiotis, 1922)
  • Nikolas81: Οπα, εχω και'γω το ιδιο w/c kit της Τt ενα χρονο τωρα αλλα δεν μου εχει παρουσιασει κανενα προβλημα, αν οφειλεται σε αστοχια υλικου αφτο μπορει να συμβει και στις καλυτερες οικογενειες..... "Woah: I've had the same w/c kit from Tt for a year, but it hasn't shown any problems. If it's because of a fault in the maerial, well, that can happen even in the best of families."
    ThReSh: αστοχία και ξε αστοχία nikola αλλά αν καεί κάποιος στο χυλό φυσάει και τι γιαούρτι... (Literally) "Fault and Un-Fault, Nikolas, but if someone burns themselves on porridge, they'll blow on yoghurt." (Idiomatically) "It's all very well to talk about 'faults', Nikolas; but once bitten, twice shy" ("ThReSh" responding to "nikolas81")

The construction works by quoting a word the addressee has used; the speaker wants nothing to do with the word, after all. If the speaker is quoting X, and dismissing X and un-X, she can't reaccent un-X as a new word (recessively): she would be assuming linguistic responsibility for that new word. In the construction, "un-X" is still quoting the addressee's use of X. So the accent of X is preserved in the construction.

The most frequent example of the construction is τι μα και ξε-μά, "what do you mean, 'but'"—used to cut off someone raising an objection by saying "but…". At the best of times, you couldn't reaccent "un-but" as *ξέ-μα anyway: prefixing interjections is unheard of, and reaccenting prefixed conjunctions will just make them unrecognisable. (Same goes for ξεμπράβο.) You could argue the same for the following examples, quoting a conjunction and a proper name:
  • ο πελάτης έχει πάντα δίκιο όταν - Α, δεν έχει "όταν" και "ξε-όταν". Ο πελάτης έχει πάντα δίκιο. Τελεία! "'The customer is always right, so long as…' Oh, there's no 'so long as' about it! [There is no 'when' and 'un-when'] The customer is always right, full stop!" ("peslac")
  • Εμ Ίστωρ με αυτά που λες τι απάντηση περίμενες; Αυτά είναι κοτσάνες. Τι Τίτο και ξε-Τίτο μου λες. "Istor, with the stuff you say, what sort of answer were you expecting? That's nonsense. What is this 'Tito' crap you keep talking about? [What 'Tito' and 'un-Tito' are you telling me?]" (Nick the Greek, July 4 2006, 12:26 AM)

And these examples would likely not be accented recessively:
  • Τι κομμουνιστές και ξε-κομμουνιστές; Επειδή δηλαδή θα πάω σε μια πορεία που οργανώνουν κομμουνιστές, έγινα κι εγώ κομμουνιστής, άμα δεν το θέλω; "What are you talking about, 'communists'? Because I'm going to protest organised by communists, am I supposed to have become a communist if I choose not to?" ("Thracian Without Jurisdiction")
  • urba-nick: Τσαμπουκάς ο καιρός σήμερα.Μας έβαλε γκολ απο τα αποδυτήρια. "The weather was aggro today. It kicked a goal against us right from the changing rooms"
    Mikelangelo: Πιο γκολ και ξε-γκολ. Δε μασάμε μια. "What are you talking about, 'goal'? We're of sterner stuff than that now." ("Mikelangelo" responding to "urba-nick")
  • Στους δρόμους, μερικές μέρες τώρα, γίνεται το έλα να δεις και πολλοί επίσης ασκούν κριτική στην Κυβέρνηση κύριε Μαγκριώτη. Ότι ποια επίταξη και ξε-επίταξη κάνει ο καθένας ό,τι θέλει στην χώρα. "For the past few days, it's been chaos in the streets; and many are criticising the government Mr Mangriotis, saying 'What requisition are you talking about? Everybody in this country does whatever they feel like.'" (Interview, Skai Radio, 2010-09-21)

But in these examples, a prime candidate for reaccenting is left with its accent preserved:
  • lumoELENA: ελα ρε παιδια ο ηχος είναι αθλιος. Μου πήρε τα αυτιά το βίντεο. Κατεβασε το.......... "Come on guys, the sound is awful. The video has deafened me. Take it off."
    nikiforos1000: τι ηχος και ξε ηχος... ειναι φοβερος εδω ο μαλαμας "What do you mean, 'sound'? Malamas is tremendous in this." ("nikiforos1000" responding to "lumoELENA"; unaccented, but the space in ξε ηχος shows this can't be a recessively accented *ξέηχος: ξε and ήχος are treated as two separate phonetic words)
  • τί άμμο και ξε-άμμο μου λες τώρα / εδώ το θέμα είναι αν θα πάμε διακοπές, που και πότε "What 'sand' are you talking about? The question is, are we going on holidays, where, and when?" (LIA KALEMIDOU, commenting on a photo of "Ti amo" written on sand)
  • Τι κρίση και ξε-κρίση; Κρίση μπορείς να έχεις όταν τα πράγματα βαδίζουν με μία στοιχειώδη τάξη και αρχίζει και χάνεται αυτή (η τάξη). "What do you mean, 'crisis'? You have a crisis when things proceed according to a rudimentary sense of order, and that order starts to be lost." (Periklis Vanikiotis, "There will be blood", Marketing Week Online, 2010–10–29)

Compare the made-up Modern, accent-preserving ξε-κρίση "un-crisis" with Ancient recessive ἔκκρισις "separation, secretion", which is the same word etymologically. (κρίσις is etymologically first a separation, then a distinguishing, then a judgement, then a trial, then a deciding point.)

So, I knew the Χ και ξε-Χ pattern, which is accent-preserving; I did not know the use of ξε-Χ to mean "ex-X"; and I accented ξεμαγκας according to the former pattern. They are semantically related, after all. But thanks to Nikos Sarantakos for exposing the gap in my command of accentuation, and launching me down this path. Which is not done yet: there will be at least two more posts of slang.gr data.

As an added bonus,

How does the Χ και ξε-Χ expression work?

Well, if the addressee's use of X is being ridiculed, and the speaker denigrates both X and un-X, maybe the speaker's saying that both X and the opposite of X are irrelevant—in other words, the entire scale of comparison of X, the entire mental framework, is inapplicable.

Nice try, though overintellectualised, but wrong; but remember, ξε- is a verbal prefix above all, and it means not un- as in unwell, but un- as in undo.

What it is referring to is a Greek convention of juxtaposing verbs with their opposites, to indicate repeated, futile activity. The notion is that if you do X, then do the opposite, undoing X, you're going to have to redo X, over and over—and that this is a waste of time. ράβω–ξηλώνω "I sew and unravel" is the canonical example; and it is applied very far from knitting:
  • Ένα τραγούδι έγραψα για σένα. / Μια μελωδία, ετοιματζίδικο κλισέ. / Ράβω και ξηλώνω μέχρι να μου βγει. / Μια απλή μελωδία από Μι. "I wrote a song for you: a tune, a tossed off cliché. I sew and unravel until I can get it out, a simple tune in E." (Song lyric, Kostas Lemonidis)
  • Γι'αυτό ρώτησα για να μην ράβω-ξηλώνω αν πχ οι τελευταίοι catalyst υποστηρίζουν 1680Χ1050..., "So that's why I asked, so I don't keep sewing and unravelling, whether the latest Catalyst models support 1680×1050 resolution." ("Fonzi", querying on setting up a PC monitor)
  • Από αντιπροσωπία πόσο περίπου θα πάει μαζί με τοποθέτηση, ξέρει κανείς?? (δεν είμαι για να ράβω και να ξηλώνω αυτόν τον καιρό) "Does anyone know how much it will cost approximately from a dealership, including installation? (I'm not prepared to go sewing and unravelling at this time.)" ("Alestros", on installing a ceiling light in a VW)

The expression is generalised by turning it into the template "Χ και ξε-Χ", where X is a verb, and ξε-X, undoing X, is the opposite action; for example,
  • φίλε, κάνεις τόσο κόπο, γράφεις ξεγράφεις απλά και μόνο για να πείσεις εμένα και τον εαυτό σου πως φταίει το ΕΔΑΔ;.. Στο λέω ξανά, ειλικρινά δεν με ενδιαφέρει ποιος φταίει! "Friend, you're expending so much effort, you write and unwrite, just so you can convince me and yourself that it's the European Human Rights Tribunal's fault? I'm telling you again, I honestly don't care whose fault it is!" ("Kyriacos")
  • Της ΦΑΚ που λέει και ξελέει μόνη της πως ζει στην γυάλα της και πιστεύει πως σε τέτοιους ζοφερούς καιρούς με την επίθεση που δέχετε ο λαός από ΕΕ-ΔΝΤ-Κεφάλαιο το πανεπιστήμιο μπορεί να έχει ένα πιο ανθρώπινο μέλλον. "The Independent Student Movement, which says and unsays [keeps saying] of its own accord that it lives in a bubble, and which believes in such miserable times, with the people being attacked by the EU, the IMF and Capital, that the University can have a more humane future." ("Liakos13"; but the more usual meaning of λέω και ξελέω is "I say and then unsay, I contradict myself")
  • Από αυτό που είπε, άρχισε ο παπάς να διαβάζει και να “ξεδιαβάζει” σ’ένα βιβλίο, και όπως διάβαζε, ο βράχος ανοιγόταν σιγά σιγά μέχρι που ανοίχτηκε εντελώς και εμφανίστηκε ένας βωμός με χρυσές εικόνες αγίων. "Saying that, the priest started reading and unreading in a book, and as he was reading, the rock slowly opened until it opened up completely, and an altar appeared with golden icons of saints." (Translation of short story by Xosé Filgueira Valverde)

There are many instances of "X and un-X" where the activity of X really is undone; that's what tends to be the meaning of φτιάχνω και ξεφτιάχνω "I make and unmake" or most instances of λέω και ξελέω "I say and unsay". But the examples given here have eliminated the "undo" component of the meaning, and are left with the sense of futile repetition. This is common in semantic change ("bleaching"): an expression which has the meaning or connotation of both A and B ends up meaning just B. In the example with "read and unread", even the notion of futility is bleached (because the spell works), and we're left with just repetition.

From "say and unsay" = "keep saying in vain, keep saying without convincing me", it is a short step to "say-and-unsay X, which does not convince me". From there, it's a neat linguistic trick of Greek to drop the verb, and transfer the template to the noun being said. τι Χ και ξε-Χ, after all, has no verb, unlike its English counterpart what do you mean, X?.
  • τι Χ; is shorthand for τι εννοείς, Χ; "what do you mean, X?" or τι λες, Χ; "why do you say X?"
  • τι Χ και ξε-Χ is similarly an economical way of saying τι λες Χ και ξε-λές Χ; "why you do say-X and unsay-X", i.e. "why do you keep saying X in vain, without convincing me?"
  • And ξε- here is still undoing a verb, rather than referring to an ex-noun. The verb just happens to be left out.

If you've read papers I wrote while I was still writing papers (which is highly unlikely), you may recognise this as illocutionary negation, which is a topic I've worked on before in Greek: "I don't deny X, but I deny that you should say X."
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Accent in Modern Compounds: Further Speculations

I'm doing a quantitative survey of accent location in Modern Greek compounds, because the foregoing speculations have been rather irresponsible, absent hard data. Having thought about the issues some more—and being irresponsible, I'm making some more speculations about factors which influence accent location. We can put them to the test later.

  • If the second half of a compound is a single syllable, stress never recedes back further than the last syllable of the first half: γριά /ɣrja/ "old woman" > παλιόγρια /pa.ˈljo.ɣrja/ "damned old woman", not *πάλιογρια /ˈpa.ljo.ɣrja/. We saw the same rule in Ancient Greek, and there it presumably has phonological reasons behind οἰκοφύλαξ rather than *οἰκόφυλαξ. For Modern Greek, there are no such phonological reasons: compare *πάλιογρια /ˈpa.ljo.ɣrja/ with πάπια /papja/ "duck" > αγριόπαπια /a.ˈɣrjo.pa.pja/ "wild duck".
    Rather, this is a matter of analogy. Ancient Greek has not bequeathed any compounds to Modern Greek in which the first half was accented two syllables back—like *οἰκόφυλαξ. Modern Greek kept the restriction on how far back the accent could go back on the first half.
  • Notice the accent on αγριόπαπια, btw. It's impossible in Ancient Greek—*/a.ɡri.ó.pa.pi.a/. For this accentuation to be possible, you need /ia/ to be reduced to /ja/ in vernacular Greek. Greek speakers do manage to keep vernacular and learnèd phonologies distinct. In particular, Ancient nouns in -ía went to -ˈja in the vernacular: παραγελλία "order, bid" in learnèd Greek, παραγγελιά in vernacular Greek. But that means that how recessive accent is realised differs by register.
  • As we saw with υπολοχαγός and παραστρατός, modern learnèd compounds will leave accent alone, out of a timidity that gives rise to artificiality. Vernacular preposition + noun compounds, like ancient compounds, are recessive, even if vernacular compounds tend more towards being endocentric (which I guessed might encourage accent-retention). So cf. learnèd στρατός > παραστρατός "paramilitary" with colloquial παιδί "child" > παραπαίδι "stepchild, apprentice".
  • Proper names retain their accent—as you might expect from the general principle I guessed, that if the second half of the compound is unchanged in meaning, it is likelier not to change in accent. (Proper names are *supposed* to have a fairly strict denotation.) So "mad Nick" is τρελο-Νίκος, not τρελό-Νικος. (Athens U Math forum: Επίσης σκέφτομαι ότι γράφω αυτό το ποστ για να δω αν δουλέυει το αβαταρ που με τόσο κόπο έβαλε ο τρελονίκος, "I'm also thinking that I'm writing this post to see whether the avatar Mad Nick set up with so much effort is working.")
    The slang.gr site, that jewel of informal lexicography, has what looks like a counterexample in ντελήσαββας, "Mad Sabbas, a silly person". But the contributor notes that he heard this from a Pontian in Central Macedonia, and Pontic has different accentuation rules to Standard Greek: it's quite comfortable with stresses more than three syllables back. So this lemma doesn't count; indeed, the contributor notes the (non-Pontic?) Central Macedonian variant ντελημπάσχος, from Πάσχος "Pascal", with the stress unchanged. The only way to change the stress in Standard Greek for names in compounds is to switch inflection; and indeed, the slang.gr editors note Γιάννης > Στραβό-γιανν-ος "Blind John (novice sailor)", Αστραπό-γιανν-ος "Lightning John (dullard)".
  • We know that Ancient nouns ending in -η /ɛː/ could only have their accent go up to the penult, because of the mora rule. Ancient nouns ending in -ις /is/ could have their accent go up to the antepenult, because /is/ was short. But in Modern Greek, these have fallen together as /i/. Modern Greek respects the Ancient restriction on -η: θήκη "case" > vernacular αβγοθήκη "egg-holder"—recapitulating learnèd ᾠοθήκη "ovary". But when it comes to nouns that formerly ended in -ις, Modern Greek seems to have remembered that they are recessive, even when the nouns are only two syllables long: Ancient βράσις, Modern βράση "boiling" > κουφόβραση "muggy weather", Ancient βρύσις "bubbling up", Modern βρύση "fountain" > κεφαλόβρυση "main fountain".
    Did the coiners of κουφόβραση and κεφαλόβρυση know Ancient Greek grammar? Highly unlikely. Did they work out that βράσις and βρύσις are verbal nominals, and associate that kind of recessive accent? True, Ancient βράσσω survives as βράζω—in use already in Koine; and the noun κουφόβραση can in fact be plausibly derived from the compound verb κουφο-βράζω "to boil in a deaf (= silent) manner, to simmer". But the verb βρύω did not survive into Modern Greek—and even if it did, the modern water tap of βρύση does not call "bubbling up" to mind.
    Greek speakers aren't born knowing Ancient morphology, but they don't need to: whereas the -σις suffix was a highly productive verbal nominal suffix in Greek, there are exactly 7 nouns in LSJ ending in -ση: two are nominalised feminine adjectives, and don't count (μέση, ὑπερμέση), and the others did not survive into Demotic (ἀποφράση, ἄση, ἕρση, κόρση, Τεμέση).
    So Greek speakers would have been able to work out that most nouns ending in /i/ could not be accented on the antepenult, but nouns ending in /si/ could. They could work that out without any recourse to derivational morphology. And they could carry that insight across to compounds.
    We can then speculate that, if another Ancient noun ending in -ῐς survived into Greek, and didn't look like a verbal nominal, its Modern Greek compounds will not be recessive—unless there are surviving compounds from Ancient Greek, which also have recessive accent, and serve as a precedent. So μύτις "snout", ῥάχις "back", μάντις "augur" and κόνις "dust" have survived into Modern Greek as μύτη, ράχη, σκόνη, μάντης; in compounds, they should accent like any another noun ending in -η, on the penult. And that is demonstrated by αετοράχη "eagle-back = sheer mountain peak", χειρομάντης "palm reader". (Yes, there's nothing vernacular about χειρομάντης—except for its ending, which was remodelled from the actual Ancient χειρόμαντις. In its μάντης guise, it's still a productive pattern, as in slang.gr's predictably scatological κοπρομάντης, "practitioner of copromancy". You may not want to google that...)
    I'm *not* vindicated by ασημόσκονη, καρβουνόσκονη, χρυσόσκονη, "silver dust, coal dust, gold dust", which are accented as if someone knew about Ancient recessive κόνις after all. But χρυσόκονις does turn up in Timothy of Gaza (§32). It's entirely possible that this word survived into the vernacular, and set up an analogy for other "dust" compounds. At least, I hope that's what's happened.
  • Compounds based on nouns ending with consonants, as modern loans, are outside the bounds of Greek morphology; so they will leave the accent alone. βλαχομπαρόκ "hillbilly baroque, kitsch" is literally "Vlach Baroque", with the timehonoured Greek denigration of the Vlachs as mountain folk. There was no way μπαρόκ would be reaccented as *βλαχόμπαροκ. (The Vlachs translated their transhumant pastoralism into transnational financial acumen, and Vlachs financed many of the major cultural institutions of Athens. But stereotypes don't pay attention to such niceties.)
    Ditto the delightful coinage of Kaliarda (the Greek gay cant), ζουζουνοσάιλοκ, "Shylock bug = ant", because ants hoard food. OK, it's not delightful because of the easy antisemitic trope; but Kaliarda is full of such far-fetched (and overeducated) cleverness.

One more speculation—although this is being vindicated from what I'm seeing of compounds. The inflection mattered in Ancient Greek for where the accent would end up in compounds—depending on whether the inflection was a long or short vowel. Modern Greek does not have long and short vowels, and it has boiled down the ancient declensions into what, for the nominative singular at least, is a simple pattern: masculines end in -Vs (where V can be any vowel), feminines and neuters end in -V. (Other cases and plurals are a lot messier, but that messiness is not added to with compounding.)

So how should the modern declensions behave with recessive accent?
  • Masculines and neuters ending in -os, -o are the simplest case, since this ending has changed the least from Ancient Greek second declension. -o nouns were recessive in Ancient Greek, and this has remained the case. There are lots of exceptions to recessiveness for -o, and they are all verbal nominals or psychopomp-compounds; that too has remained the case.
    Feminines in -o (-ω) are a fascinating grabbag of nouns: Ancient names in -ώ like Sappho and Calypso; Mediaeval names in -ω like Κρυστάλω "Crystal", modelled after the Slavonic feminine vocative; the Modern slang derivational suffix -ω (e.g. μαλάκω, σπασίκλω); and the erstwhile normalisation of Ancient feminines in -ος (η Κόρθο, η μέθοδο). It's a fascinating grabbag, but it's marginal; and outside the now abandoned forms like μέθοδο, it provides no reason for accentuation on the antepenult.
  • The -e(s) and -u(s) declensions are also quite infrequent: -e(s) nouns are Turkish and Romance loans, -us nouns are a couple of Ancient leftovers (παππούς "grandfather", Ιησούς "Jesus"), -u nouns are the convention for borrowing Turkish feminines in -ı/i, or deriving them locally from Turkish masculines (typically the feminine -τζού "professional of X, wife of professional of X", from Turkish -cı/ci, as in καφετζού "café owner's wife, tasseomancer", στριπτιζτζού "stripper"). Again, no reason to assume accent on the antepenult, and not a whole lot of nouns following the pattern to begin with.
  • The -i(s) nouns are mostly derived from Ancient -η(ς), and in Ancient Greek they were accented only as far back as the penult, because of the long syllable. This has been preserved in Modern Greek; as we saw in previous posts, it would take overwhelming analogy to dislodge the accent of -η(ς) to the antepenult; and that hasn't happened with compounds. The exception is with Ancient nouns that originally ended in -ῐς instead of -η; and again, as I've argued, it's analogy that has allowed those nouns to remain an exception.

That leaves the -a(s) nouns. There is good reason for there to be confusion about where to accent such compounds. That's convenient for me, because it justifies me getting the accent of ξέμαγκας wrong, and it explains the variability that was pointed out in comments last post, between παλιοπαπάς and παλιόπαπας.

At least some of the confusion is as old as Ancient Greek. Feminines could end in both -ᾰ -and -ᾱ; the former could be accented on the antepenult, the latter could not. As a result, there are compounds of the former, which are recessively accented on the antepenult (λιμνο-θάλασσα "lake–sea = lagoon"), and compounds of the latter (περι-τιάρα "round cap"), which are recessively accented on the penult. To a Modern Greek speaker, the latter would look accent-preserving, because there are no long syllables in Modern Greek to explain why the accent doesn't move.

There are a lot less penult -ᾱ(ς) nouns in the Modern Greek vernacular: -έᾱ(ς), -ίᾱ(ς) /-ˈea(s), -ˈia(s)/ in the vernacular went to -ιά(ς) /-ˈja(s)/, so if the vernacular were left on its own, few nouns would look like offering a counterexample to the recessive accent of θάλασσα. Except that -ία is a very productive verbal nominal suffix, and would not have been reaccented in the verbal nominals inherited from Ancient Greek. Like ανεμοβλογιά /a.ne.mo.vlo.ˈɣja/ "chickenpox" < *ανεμ-ευλογία /anem-eulogía/ "wind-blessing", which did not end up as *ανεμόβλογια /a.ne.ˈmo.vlo.ɣja/.

Masculines in Ancient Greek only ended in -ᾱς (or -ης, as a regular sound change); so they were never accented on the antepenult. But as we also saw a couple of posts ago, Modern Greek is awash with antepenult nouns ending in /as/, from the erstwhile third declension. So again, we have some compounds ending in -ας whose accent is antepenult; and some compounds which cannot possibly be antepenult—because they are preserving the Ancient Greek moras, as first declension nouns. Again, they will look to Modern Greek speakers as arbitrarily accent-preserving. Hence, the potential for confusion in general with -a(s) nouns, as to whether they are accent preserving or not.

There will be maybe a couple of thousand compounds out of slang.gr, that I will go through in a future post, to see if these claims are borne out by the numbers. Yes, the corpus is problematic; I'll talk about that too, and I'll make up some excuse or other for insisting on using such a fun word list.
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Accent in Modern Compounds: Speculations

Ancient Greek had mostly recessive accentuation in compounds, as we saw last post; there are exceptions, some nice, some messy, and a major group of exceptions with verbal nominals.

If an Ancient Greek compound survived into Modern Greek, it had no reason to change accent location; we saw that for simple words as well, two posts ago. The default in Modern Greek is also recessive; and again, recessive accent is defined by what was acceptable in Ancient Greek.

That's because Modern Greek speakers could work out which recessive accents were acceptable, from the compounds surviving in the language. Modern Greek speakers never saw any compound noun ending in -ης change from penult to antepenult stress—because in Ancient Greek, antepenult stress with -ης was impossible. So recessive stress for -ης still means stress on the penult.

For example, given "tailor" is ράφτης < ῥάπτης, a Western-style tailor is φραγκοράφτης, "Frankish tailor". There's nothing in Modern phonology to prevent *φραγκόραφτης; but with no precedent for an accent like ˈ$.$.ης from Ancient Greek, noone would stick their neck out to coin such a novel accent.

On the other hand, -ας was a novel inflection in Modern Greek, which allowed antepenult stress inherited from the third declension: γέρων > γέροντας. That means that if a noun ending in -ας entered into a compound, its recessive accent could go back to the antepenult.

Take μάγκας, which is what I started off with. Someone pretending to be a mangas, but too soft to live up to the needed machismo, is a "butter-mangas", a βουτυρο-μαγκας. The compound is recessively accented; and because γέροντας is accented three syllables back, so is butter-mangas: βουτυρό-μαγκας.

Here's another instance of Ancient Greek accentuation hanging over Modern Greek recessives. Ancient Greek diminutives ending in -ιον developed into Modern Greek -ι neuters. So Ancient παιδίον "boy" is Modern παιδί. "Altar-boy" in Modern Greek is "priest-boy", παπαδο-παιδι. The compound needs to be recessively accented. Again, recessive accent in Modern Greek should result in *παπαδόπαιδι. But it does not: it results in παπαδοπαίδι. παπαδοπαίδι obeys the mora restrictions of Ancient Greek, in which it would have been *παπαδοπαίδιον.

The -ον suffix has not been there for 1500 years; so it's not like any Modern Greek speaker is mentally adding the -ον suffix back in, and counting the missing mora. Instead, Modern Greek speakers are noticing the -ι(ον) compounds that have survived from Ancient Greek:
περι-βόλιον > περιβόλι "garden", εἰκονοστάσιον > κονοστάσι "iconostasis", ὀκταπόδιον > χταπόδι "octopus", ὡρολόγιον > ρολόι "clock", ἐλαιοτριβεῖον > λιοτρίβι "oil press". (The last one has moved up its accent—but -εῖον and -ιον often alternate as locative suffixes.)
None of them is accented any further back than a syllable before -ι-. So no new compound is accented further back than a syllable before -ι- either. And that includes novelties like αραποσίτι "Arab wheat = maize" and καφεκούτι "coffee box".

There's a second way of making sure accent is recessive: changing the inflection of the second noun. Instead of X-Y with the original inflection of Y, you strip the inflection of Y, and add a new inflection instead. The usual inflection to add is -ο; for instance, αστραπή "lightning" + βροντή "thunder" > αστραπό-βροντ-ο, with the final stress of βροντή wiped out into recessiveness. The possibility of switching inflection in compounds is ancient, e.g. ἄκρα "edge" + πρῷρα "prow of ship" > ἀκρό-πρῳρ-ον "edge of prow".

The reason why such compounds are recessive is, stripping the original inflection makes this a new word, which is accented from scratch. That's "recessive" as in "recessive by Ancient Greek norms", of course; when -ι rather than -ο is used as the new inflection, the accent is only one syllable back, like with παπαδοπαίδι: έξω "out" + εκκλησία "church" > ξω-κλήσ-ι "chapel" (εξωκκλήσιον).

Modern Greek particularly likes switching to -ο as a new inflection when compounding neuters ending in -ι. (Yes, I just said that -ι is also used as a new inflection. This is language, don't expect it to be economical.) The -ι suffix is stripped from the noun, and the old neuter inflection -ο brought back in. Then the whole compound is accented recessively. παπαδο-παιδι cannot be accented as *παπαδόπαιδι. But βούτυρο + παιδί "butter boy, weakling" can be compounded as βουτυρο-παιδ-ο, and accented as βουτυρόπαιδο.

The suffix -ι- was an Ancient diminutive, which is why historically it makes sense to strip it out. Of course, the full Ancient diminutive was -ι-ον, so the switch inflection is merely restoring the deleted -ον suffix. But because Greek speakers are not historians, -ι is also stripped when it has nothing to do with the Ancient diminutive: τροχό-σπιτ-ο "wheel house = caravan" < σπίτ-ι < ὁσπίτιον: Latin hospitium; Μακλαουντόσο-γ-ο "MacLeod clan" < σό-ι < Turkish soy.
I'm going to resist the temptation to get sidetracked into discussing the mechanics of how words are attached in Modern Greek, and work through where the linking consonants in παπα-δ-οπαίδι or Μακλαουντόσο-γ-ο come from. Maybe another post.

So when *do* Modern compounds preserve accent? I'm going to use some diagnostic prefixes. παλιο- "old; damned", as a generic derogatory term, can be applied to any noun—just as you could apply pseudo- to any Ancient noun (and, either as colloquial ψευτο- or learnèd ψευδο-, to any Modern noun as well). More vulgarly, σκατο- "shitty" is just as generic in its application.

The prefixes are recessive: παλιόκοσμος < κόσμος "damned world", παλιόκαιρος < καιρός "damned weather". The prefixes also force the -ι neuter suffix to be dropped—which again results in recessives: παλιόπαιδο "damned boy = scoundrel" < παιδί, like καμποχώραφο "valley field" < χωράφι. But feminine nouns are left with their accent intact when compounded with those suffixes, even if they're stressed on the ultima.

It's been too long since I've used a YouTube song to illustrate a linguistic point. Take Παλιοζωή, παλιόκοσμε, και παλιοκοινωνία, music by Iosif Ritsiardis, lyrics by Mimis Traiforos, ca. 1950:

The song lyrics would do service in another post, along with Έ ντε λα μαγκέ ντε Βοτανίκ and Εφτά νομά σ' ένα δωμά, on how truncating the final syllable of Greek words still leaves them intelligible. In this post, though, let's concentrate on the title words:
  • παλιόκοσμε < κόσμε "damned world", recessive
  • παλιοκοινωνία < κοινωνία "damned society", recessive in Ancient Greek, because the suffix was -ιᾱ, with a long final syllable
  • παλιοζωή < ζωή "damned life". In no way whatsoever recessive.

The feminine παλιοζωή avoids becoming the recessive *παλιοζώη, whereas the masculine καιρός does become the recessive παλιόκαιρος. This time, we can't blame it on Ancient Greek phonology: Ancient Greek wouldn't have a problem with *παλαιοζώη. In fact, Ancient Greek took ὀπή "hole", and created the recessively accented μετόπη "metope".

What I think has happened here is: Ancient Greek had relatively few instances of compounds ending in a simple feminine noun, like μετόπη—which would be recessively accented; but it had abundant instances of compounds ending in a feminine verbal noun—which kept its accent: μεταβολή "change", καταστροφή "disaster", ἐντροπή "shame", προκοπή "progress". The relation between -βολή, -στροφή, -τροπή, -κοπή and the verbs βάλλω, στρέφω, τρέπω, κόπτω was no longer apparent, and the verbs no longer looked like that anyway. So Modern Greek speakers had no clear notion that these were verbal nominals at all. Their conclusion was, instead, that feminine compounds keep their accent.

Except that "wild duck" is a feminine compound, and it does not keep its accent: άγρια + πάπια > αγριόπαπια. For that matter, κουφός + βράση > κουφόβραση "muggy weather". Yes, βράση is ancient βράσις "boiling", and -ις nouns as I explained are recessive. But how did people work that out in Modern Greek, with the -ις suffix long gone?

Some verbal nominal suffixes remained productive in Greek; some did not. Verbal nominals had different accentuation in compounds than simple nouns did; but Modern Greek speakers would not have a clear notion which was which; we saw them already conflated for with feminines. Modern Greek speakers shouldn't have had a clear notion of what nouns had long endings in Ancient Greek, to base their decision on how to accent their compounds.

What it does look like, is that Modern Greek inherited a lot of verbal nominal compounds, with non-recessive accent; and they also got a lot of compounds with default recessive accent. Modern Greek couldn't tell from the morphology which compounds were built on verbal nominals. But they could see that there was *some* sort of pattern, and they guessed what the pattern was, with the evidence they had before them: the endings they could see.

I pulled off the shelf Konstantinos Minas' commentary on Modern Greek grammar—
Μηνάς, Κωνσταντίνος. 2008. Παρατηρήσεις στη γραμματική στης νεοελληνικής. Athens: Νεφέλη.

—and Minas lets on what kind of guesswork is going on. Let me quote at some length: (pp. 39).
For nominals that are either compounds or derived from compounds (parasyntheta): if their endings are characteristically permanently oxytone (stressed on the ultima), then the stress does not move: e.g. υπαρχηγός, υπολοχαγός, προσανατολισμός, αλληλοθαυμασμός, παλιοσπιτάρα, διαβλητός, προσχολικός "deputy leader, under-captain (= lieutenant), orientation, mutual admiration, damned huge house, reproached, pre-school". But with alpha-privative, stress moves up in adjectives: e.g. αφύσικος, αδιάκριτος "unnatural, indiscrete". But: αρχιστράτηγος, αντιστράτηγος, υποστράτηγος "generalissimo, deputy general, major general".

  • If a modern derivational suffix, like the augmentative -άρα, is stressed, then sticking it onto a suffix will not affect its stress. That makes sense as a layering of rules: σπίτι, παλιό-σπιτ-ο (recessive accent), παλιοσπιτ-άρα (new suffix on the compound, and that suffix is now stressed). Same goes for -μός, which has survived from Ancient Greek.
  • If a suffix is an ancient derivational suffix (verbal nominal), which is stressed, then the accent does not move. This happens even when the suffixes are no longer productive. Because Modern Greek speakers don't know Ancient Greek derivational morphology, they guess what those suffixes are—they see suffixes like -τής and -ία keep their stress on existing compounds, so they maintain that pattern. That's the only meaning "characteristically permanently oxytone" can have for such ossified suffixes.
  • The alpha privative (α-, corresponding to un-) is always recessive in Ancient Greek (pace ἀϝεργός > ἀργός, the exception Tom Recht unearthed in comments.) So it stayed recessive in Modern Greek, whose speakers worked out the pattern easily.

But the patterns work by analogy: Modern Greek speakers trying to reverse engineer the Ancient Greek distinction between recessive normal compounds, and verbal nominals preserving their accent (and with obvious-looking suffixes).

There's an oddity in Minas' list: a deputy-captain (υπολοχαγός) is not recessive, but a deputy general (υποστράτηγος) is recessive. Now, the general-compounds are Ancient: ἀρχιστράτηγος is in the Septuagint and Josephus, ἀντιστράτηγος in Thucydides, ὑποστράτηγος in Xenophon. Back then, accentuation was consistently recessive.
Yes, -ηγός/-αγός is a active psychopomp-type compound (στρατ-ηγός "army leader", λοχ-αγός "company leader"), which is accent-preserving. But preposition + "army leader" is treated as a new compound, and is accented from scratch, ignoring the existing accent of the compound. So Minas has got the ancient rule wrong here.

On the other hand, ὑπαρχηγός is a Modern coinage—it's not in TLG. And "under-captain" *is* in Xenophon... as the recessive ὑπολόχαγος. So Modern learnèd Greek is getting the recessive accentuation wrong: it's reaccenting the word as accent-preserving.

I haven't researched the history of why υπολοχαγός is accented where it is; but I'm reminded of the ugliness of contemporary coinages like μετααποικιακός "post-colonial", which ignore hiatus—something both Ancient Greek and Vernacular Modern Greek respect. I think such learnèd modern coinages did not have the scholarship of Puristic to get the Ancient rules right, and aren't colloquial enough to get the Modern rules right. The result was not to apply the phonological rules that smooth compounds over—eliminating hiatus, reaccenting the word recessively. There is a fearfulness from the coiners of such words about getting them right, which leaves the compound components undigested and intact, violating the phonology of both languages.

So it's no surprise that when the modern fad of using para- as a productive prefix with nouns arrived in Greek (modelled after paramilitary), the word was applied without recessive accent: παρα-στρατός "para-army", παρα-κράτος "para-regime". Of course, these compounds are endocentric (a para-army is a kind of army), and have no precedent in older Greek: ἀπό-κρατος is an exocentric adjective, "without strength" ("de-strength-ed"), and ἀπόστρατος "de-armied" is a Modern but Classically-correct exocentric adjective, meaning "demobbed". When the novel usage arrived, word coiners just weren't as scrupulous about accent: the words were being coined in a linguistic Neutral Zone, beyond the reach of Ancient or Modern rules.

Puristic Greek has a lot to answer for.

I'm going to propose out of whole cloth the following as ways Greek speakers would guess what's going on with compound accent in the modern language. My guess is, if people have the choice between preserving the accent on Y, or accenting X–Y as a new word (recessively), there will be factors like these influencing them:
  • The more the X–Y compound is like Y in isolation, the likelier that Y will preserve its stress. That's other things being equal, and is assuming that stress is iconic—it reflects Y being somehow unchanged in the compound. In particular:
    • If X–Y is exocentric, it's not describing a Y, and it's likelier to be recessive. If X–Y is endocentric, it's likelier to preserve accent. (I think that's part of the reason behind παραστρατός.)
    • If X–Y switches inflection, e.g. replacing -ι with -ο, then the second half of the word no longer looks like Y. So it will be recessive.

  • If a derivational suffix is added to a compound, then its accent takes priority: it shouldn't matter whether it is added to a compound or a simple word, the derivational suffix is the last thing to affect the word.
  • If there is an obvious precedent of a verbal nominal suffix preserving its accent in compounds, and the word looks like ending in that suffix (even if it etymologically doesn't), the accept will stay put. By analogy.
  • If the accent would obviously violate the precedent of the Ancient three mora rule, because words with those inflections have not switched accent in Modern Greek, then the accent does not move. (So -η or -ης would not normally have an accent three syllables back.)
  • If the inflection is new to Modern Greek, there is no precedent from Ancient Greek about whether to have recessive or non-recessive accent—leave the accent in place. (E.g. loanwords from Romance or Turkish in -ες.) In that case, whether to move the accent back to the antepenult depends on whether there is precent in simple nouns for accent on the antepenult: again, analogy with precedent.
    As it happens, there are no nouns ending in -ες and accented on the antepenult. A compound of a such a noun isn't going to be the first such noun to be accented on the antepenult: compounds will not invent new accentuation in the paradigm, when Greek speakers are so desperately looking for precedent. Just as I'd argued for *φραγκοράφτης "Western tailor"; the accentuation *ψευτόκαφες "bogus coffee" should also be impossible, for the same reason. (Unsurprisingly, Google only finds 3 instances of ψευτοκαφές, and none of ψευτόκαφες.)
  • On the other hand, if a noun is two-syllables long and recessively accented, it's going to look like all the other two-syllable nouns which are recessive in compounds, and it will be under pressure to follow suit.

There will be contradictory outcomes because of the contrary pressures. The word "priest", παπάς, has an ending that's post-Classical (it's Koine, not Early Modern); but unlike -ες, you can point to -ας words accented in the antepenult; so recessive accent is possible for -παπάς compunds. "Damned priest" is the accent-preserving παλιοπαπάς; there would have been little precedent for compounds either way, and the outcome seems to have been to leave the accent alone. On the other hand, one of Kazantzakis' favourite invectives is τραγόπαπας, "goat-priest", with recessive accent.

I admit, I'm not sure how to explain this, except to speculate that παλιο- has less semantic weight than "goat", so was less likely to affect the accent of the compound—and that, because of recessive -ας nouns in Modern Greek, the accent of -άς compounds could go either way. The fact that there are such inconsistencies in accentuation shows that Modern Greek has not come up with a consistent rule, to deal with the twin system it inherited from Ancient Greek.

I'm not happy with where I've got to; so I'm going to do a quantitative survey of Greek compounding next post, and see what that tells me.
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