5

There seems to be solid evidence that Latin letter names were indeclinable.

But in Greek, several letters' names do fit into standard declension patterns: sigma, for instance, might actually be a -ma noun from sizō "to hiss". And gamma and digamma look like -ma nouns, even if they historically aren't.

So: do we ever find sigmata or gammata? Or, less obviously, alphai and betai? Or are all letter names indeclinable in Greek?

EDIT: I'd also be interested in cases of omicra and epsila, even though those names are later. But first and foremost I'm curious about usage in the classical period.

  • Perhaps more obvious than alphai and betai would be omicra and epsila. Different letters suggest different kinds of plurals, and I would be interested in seeing whether they all behave the same. – Joonas Ilmavirta Jul 10 at 19:12
  • 1
    @JoonasIlmavirta True! I left off omega, omicron, epsilon, and ypsilon because those are later names, and I'm not sure they were actually treated as names or just as modifiers on the names (that is, if the plural of o micron would be o micra, with the o still being indeclinable). – Draconis Jul 10 at 19:22
4

LSJ on Σ:

B the name σίγμα ( σῖγμα) was usu. indeclinable, τοῦ σῖγμα Pl. l.c., Cra.402e, 427a, Ath.10.455c, Lyd.Mens.1.21 (v.l. σίγματος) ; τῷ σῖγμα Gal.UP2.14, al.; τῶν σῖγμα Pl.Com.30; τὰ σίγμα τὰ ἐπὶ τῶν ἀσπίδων X.HG4.4.10, cf. Hellad. ap. Phot.Bibl.p.532 B.; later declined, τοῦ σίγματος Eust.1389.15; σίγμασιν Id.905.7.

  • Perfect, this is just what I was looking for! What does the "v.l." mean before sigmatos? And what time period are Eust. and Id. from? – Draconis Jul 10 at 22:47
  • v(aria) l(ectio). id(em). But who is Eust? – fdb Jul 11 at 14:21
  • 1
    Eustathius of Thessalonike, a 12C Byzantine scholar. – TKR Jul 11 at 16:57

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.