Eta

Eta (uppercase Η, lowercase η; Ancient Greek: ἦτα ē̂ta [êːtaː] or Greek: ήτα ita [ˈita]) is the seventh letter of the Greek alphabet. Originally denoting a consonant /h/, its sound value in the classical Attic dialect of Ancient Greek was a long vowel [ɛː], raised to [i] in hellenistic Greek, a process known as iotacism.

In the ancient Attic number system (Harodianic or acrophonic numbers), the number 100 was represented by "Η", because it was the initial of ΗΕΚΑΤΟΝ, the ancient spelling of ἑκατόν = "one hundred". In the latter system of (Classical) Greek numerals it has a value of 8.

Eta was derived from the Phoenician letter heth . Letters that arose from eta include the Latin H and the Cyrillic letter И.

History

Consonant h

The letter shape 'H' was originally used in most Greek dialects to represent the sound /h/, a voiceless glottal fricative. In this function, it was borrowed in the 8th century BC by the Etruscan and other Old Italic alphabets, which were based on the Euboean form of the Greek alphabet. This also gave rise to the Latin alphabet with its letter H.

Other regional variants of the Greek alphabet (epichoric alphabets), in dialects that still preserved the sound /h/, employed various glyph shapes for consonantal heta side by side with the new vocalic eta for some time. In the southern Italian colonies of Heracleia and Tarentum, the letter shape was reduced to a "half-heta" lacking the right vertical stem (Ͱ). From this sign later developed the sign for rough breathing or spiritus asper, which brought back the marking of the /h/ sound into the standardized post-classical (polytonic) orthography.[1] Dionysius Thrax in the second century BC records that the letter name was still pronounced heta (ἥτα), correctly explaining this irregularity by stating "in the old days the letter Η served to stand for the rough breathing, as it still does with the Romans."[2]

Long e

In the East Ionic dialect, however, the sound /h/ disappeared by the sixth century BC, and the letter was re-used initially to represent a development of a long vowel /aː/, which later merged in East Ionic with /ɛː/ instead.[3] In 403 BC, Athens took over the Ionian spelling system and with it the vocalic use of H (even though it still also had the /h/ sound itself at that time). This later became the standard orthography in all of Greece.

Itacism

During the time of post-classical Koiné Greek, the /ɛː/ sound represented by eta was raised and merged with several other formerly distinct vowels, a phenomenon called iotacism or itacism, after the new pronunciation of the letter name as ita instead of eta.

Itacism is continued into Modern Greek, where the letter name is pronounced [ˈita] and represents the sound /i/ (a close front unrounded vowel). It shares this function with several other letters (ι, υ) and digraphs (ει, οι), which are all pronounced alike. This phenomenon at large is called iotacism.

Cyrillic script

Eta was also borrowed with the sound value of [i] into the Cyrillic script, where it gave rise to the Cyrillic letter И.

Uses

Letter

In Modern Greek, due to iotacism, the letter (pronounced [ˈita]) represents a close front unrounded vowel, /i/. In Classical Greek, it represented a long open-mid front unrounded vowel, /ɛː/.

Symbol

Upper case

The uppercase letter Η is used as a symbol in textual criticism for the Alexandrian text-type (from Hesychius, its once-supposed editor).

In chemistry, the letter H as symbol of enthalpy sometimes is said to be a Greek eta, but since enthalpy comes from ἐνθάλπος, which begins in a smooth breathing and epsilon, it is more likely a Latin H for 'heat'.

In information theory the uppercase Greek letter H is used to represent the concept of entropy of a discrete random variable.

Lower case

The lowercase letter η is used as a symbol in:

Character encodings

  • Greek Eta, Coptic Hate
CharacterΗηͰͱ
Unicode nameGREEK CAPITAL LETTER ETAGREEK SMALL LETTER ETAGREEK CAPITAL LETTER HETAGREEK SMALL LETTER HETACOPTIC CAPITAL LETTER HATECOPTIC SMALL LETTER HATE
Encodingsdecimalhexdecimalhexdecimalhexdecimalhexdecimalhexdecimalhex
Unicode919U+0397951U+03B7880U+0370881U+037111406U+2C8E11407U+2C8F
UTF-8206 151CE 97206 183CE B7205 176CD B0205 177CD B1226 178 142E2 B2 8E226 178 143E2 B2 8F
Numeric character referenceΗΗηηͰͰͱͱⲎⲎⲏⲏ
Named character referenceΗη
DOS Greek134861589E
DOS Greek-2170AA225E1
Windows 1253199C7231E7
TeX\eta
  • Mathematical Eta
Character𝚮𝛈𝛨𝜂𝜢𝜼
Unicode nameMATHEMATICAL BOLD
CAPITAL ETA
MATHEMATICAL BOLD
SMALL ETA
MATHEMATICAL ITALIC
CAPITAL ETA
MATHEMATICAL ITALIC
SMALL ETA
MATHEMATICAL BOLD ITALIC
CAPITAL ETA
MATHEMATICAL BOLD ITALIC
SMALL ETA
Encodingsdecimalhexdecimalhexdecimalhexdecimalhexdecimalhexdecimalhex
Unicode120494U+1D6AE120520U+1D6C8120552U+1D6E8120578U+1D702120610U+1D722120636U+1D73C
UTF-8240 157 154 174F0 9D 9A AE240 157 155 136F0 9D 9B 88240 157 155 168F0 9D 9B A8240 157 156 130F0 9D 9C 82240 157 156 162F0 9D 9C A2240 157 156 188F0 9D 9C BC
UTF-1655349 57006D835 DEAE55349 57032D835 DEC855349 57064D835 DEE855349 57090D835 DF0255349 57122D835 DF2255349 57148D835 DF3C
Numeric character reference𝚮𝚮𝛈𝛈𝛨𝛨𝜂𝜂𝜢𝜢𝜼𝜼
Character𝝜𝝶𝞖𝞰
Unicode nameMATHEMATICAL SANS-SERIF
BOLD CAPITAL ETA
MATHEMATICAL SANS-SERIF
BOLD SMALL ETA
MATHEMATICAL SANS-SERIF
BOLD ITALIC CAPITAL ETA
MATHEMATICAL SANS-SERIF
BOLD ITALIC SMALL ETA
Encodingsdecimalhexdecimalhexdecimalhexdecimalhex
Unicode120668U+1D75C120694U+1D776120726U+1D796120752U+1D7B0
UTF-8240 157 157 156F0 9D 9D 9C240 157 157 182F0 9D 9D B6240 157 158 150F0 9D 9E 96240 157 158 176F0 9D 9E B0
UTF-1655349 57180D835 DF5C55349 57206D835 DF7655349 57238D835 DF9655349 57264D835 DFB0
Numeric character reference𝝜𝝜𝝶𝝶𝞖𝞖𝞰𝞰

These characters are used only as mathematical symbols. Stylized Greek text should be encoded using the normal Greek letters, with markup and formatting to indicate text style.

References

  1. Nick Nicholas (2003), "Greek /h/" Archived 2013-09-01 at Archive.today
  2. παρὰ τοῖς ἀρχαίοις ὁ τύπος τοῦ Η ἐν τύπῳ δασείας ἔκειτο, ὥσπερ καὶ νῦν <παρὰ> τοῖς Ῥωμαίοις Alfredus Hilgard (ed), "In artis Dionysianae §6" in Grammatici Graeci. Scholia in Dionysii Thracis Artem Grammaticam (1901), p. 486.
  3. Sihler, Andrew L. (1995). New Comparative Grammar of Greek and Latin (illustrated ed.). New York: Oxford University Press. pp. 10–20. ISBN 0-19-508345-8.
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