I originally submitted this question to the Linguistics beta site, and those users recommended that I ask anything related to Greek here.

Although I understand that it is impossible to assign a specific time to any sound change, I am curious about the spirantization of voiced stops in Greek, particularly of beta. I'll present the evidence that I am aware of here. It seems that for beta weakening from /b/ > /v/, most scholars rely on parallel indications that the /au, eu/ diphthongs acquired fricative consonantal status, e.g. Modern Greek /av, ev/; the graphic evidence for both were confusions of αυ/ευ with αβ/εβ, e.g. ῥάυδους for ῥάβδους (2nd c. BCE.) However, I wonder if anyone has a clue as to which sound change probably occurred first, if the evidence for both is the same. Based off of analyses of the Koine papyri, Gignac (1976) argues for /b/ > /v/ (or /β/) in the 1st c. CE and /au, eu/ > /aβ, eβ/ (through intermediate /aw, ew/) generally in the Early Byzantine period (when interchanges of -υ with -β become most common, but he does list earlier examples, including from the 1st century.) However, I am slightly unsure about the evidence posed suggesting that /b/ > /v/ occurred first––the β transcription of Latin consonantal 'v' (assuming /w/ > /β/ in Latin), e.g. Φλάβιος for flavius––as these could just be a close approximation of a foreign sound. Does anyone know of additional evidence for either sound change apart from the spelling confusions I mentioned? (I also understand that dialectal variation is a further complication, e.g. Boeotian already has -υ for β in the 3rd BCE.)

Thank you!

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    Here's a related question dealing with the transcription of Latin "v" to "β." – brianpck Jul 28 '17 at 19:34
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    Welcome to the site! – Joonas Ilmavirta Jul 28 '17 at 19:41
  • Well, the lenition of β is not complete, even today, whenever β is protected by μ, so in ἐμβαίνω, γαμβρός, κόμβος, ... today, in informal speech, they still retain the ancient mb sound. Similar phenomena are still at work in most Iberian languages and dialects. – Cosmas Zachos Aug 4 at 12:25

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