Skip to content
Skip to main content

About this free course

Share this free course

Getting started on ancient Greek
Getting started on ancient Greek

Start this free course now. Just create an account and sign in. Enrol and complete the course for a free statement of participation or digital badge if available.

6 Diphthongs

Greek vowels can be combined to form a new sound. The same phenomenon can be observed in English words like ‘pair’ or ‘shout’, where two vowels work together to create a sound distinct from that of the individual vowels.

This combination is called a diphthong, ‘double sound’, from the Greek prefix di- (δίς, dis = twice) and (φθογγή, phthongē = sound; recall that double gamma makes an ng sound). The Greek diphthongs are shown below, and spoken out loud, along with an example of a word using each diphthong.

αι  καί, kai = and

Download this audio clip.Audio player: gcg_1_audio12_1.mp3
Interactive feature not available in single page view (see it in standard view).

αu  αὐτός, autos = self

Download this audio clip.Audio player: gcg_1_audio12_2.mp3
Interactive feature not available in single page view (see it in standard view).

ει  λείπω, leipо̄ = I leave

Download this audio clip.Audio player: gcg_1_audio12_3.mp3
Interactive feature not available in single page view (see it in standard view).

ευ  εὑρίσκω, heuriskо̄ = I find

Download this audio clip.Audio player: gcg_1_audio12_4.mp3
Interactive feature not available in single page view (see it in standard view).

οι  οἴμοι, oimoi = alas!

Download this audio clip.Audio player: gcg_1_audio12_5.mp3
Interactive feature not available in single page view (see it in standard view).

ου  ἀκούω, akouо̄ = I hear

Download this audio clip.Audio player: gcg_1_audio12_6.mp3
Interactive feature not available in single page view (see it in standard view).

Other combinations of vowels should be pronounced separately. For example, the iota and epsilon in:

ἱερόν  hieron = temple

Download this audio clip.Audio player: gcg_1_audio12_7.mp3
Interactive feature not available in single page view (see it in standard view).

Breathings appear above the second letter of a diphthong: this explains why the breathing sits above the second letter of αὐτός and εὑρίσκω, but the first letter of ἱερόν.

Activity 4 Speaking aloud (4)

Timing: Allow about 5 minutes

Say the following words, then listen to the pronunciation.

Ἀθηναῖος (= Athenian)

Download this audio clip.Audio player: gcg_1_audio13_1.mp3
Interactive feature not available in single page view (see it in standard view).

δεῖπνον (= meal)

Download this audio clip.Audio player: gcg_1_audio13_2.mp3
Interactive feature not available in single page view (see it in standard view).

oὐ (= not)

Download this audio clip.Audio player: gcg_1_audio13_3.mp3
Interactive feature not available in single page view (see it in standard view).

φεύγω (= I run away)

Download this audio clip.Audio player: gcg_1_audio13_4.mp3
Interactive feature not available in single page view (see it in standard view).

πλοῖον (= vessel)

Download this audio clip.Audio player: gcg_1_audio13_5.mp3
Interactive feature not available in single page view (see it in standard view).

Ἰούλιος Καῖσαρ (= Julius Caesar)

Download this audio clip.Audio player: gcg_1_audio13_6.mp3
Interactive feature not available in single page view (see it in standard view).

Discussion

The words are as follows:

  • Ἀθηναῖος (Athēnaios)
  • δεῖπνον (deipnon)
  • oὐ (ou)
  • φεύγω (pheugо̄)
  • πλοῖον (ploion)
  • Ἰούλιος Καῖσαρ (Ioulios Kaisar)

Now, identify the number of syllables in the following words, then pronounce them out loud. You will be able to listen to audios in the discussion afterwards.

1. βίος

a. 

one


b. 

two


c. 

three


The correct answer is b.

2. οἰκία

a. 

one


b. 

two


c. 

three


The correct answer is c.

3. ποιέω

a. 

one


b. 

two


c. 

three


The correct answer is c.

4. Οἰδίπους

a. 

one


b. 

two


c. 

three


The correct answer is c.

5. ποιεῖ

a. 

one


b. 

two


c. 

three


The correct answer is b.

Discussion

βίος, bios = life

Download this audio clip.Audio player: gcg_1_audio14_1.mp3
Interactive feature not available in single page view (see it in standard view).

οἰκία, oikia = house

Download this audio clip.Audio player: gcg_1_audio14_2.mp3
Interactive feature not available in single page view (see it in standard view).

ποιέω, poieо̄ = I make

Download this audio clip.Audio player: gcg_1_audio14_3.mp3
Interactive feature not available in single page view (see it in standard view).

Οἰδίπους, Oidipous = the Theban king Oedipus

Download this audio clip.Audio player: gcg_1_audio14_4.mp3
Interactive feature not available in single page view (see it in standard view).

ποιεῖ, poiei = he, she or it makes

Download this audio clip.Audio player: gcg_1_audio14_5.mp3
Interactive feature not available in single page view (see it in standard view).