Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Life of Και

Here is a peculiar little symbol found in line 3 and line 5 of this version of the Lord's Prayer. From context, it is obviously και meaning 'and'.

This table, on the right, found in Lehmann's book* on Greek Shorthand shows the derivation of this symbol from an earlier 'S' shape shorthand kappa with an accent, called a varia, above it.

Thompson** shows the origin of the 'S' shape from an original zigzag symbol, κε.

Back to Lehmann. He shows these modifications for the shorthand zigzag kappa with the different vowels. This is Greek syllabic shorthand and it is one of the things that I have most wanted to explore in writing system history but have put off since there is so little information available.

So, this little symbol for και could be called "kai - shorthand kappa with varia."

These images can be enlarged by clicking on them.

*Lehmann, Oskar. Die Tachygraphischen Abkurzungen Der Griechischen Handschriften. 1965. Georg Holms. Hildesheim.

**Thomson E.M. A handbook of Greek and Latin Palaeography.

Boge, Herbert. Griechische Tachygraphie und Tironische Noten. 1973. Akademie-Verlag. Berlin.


If you have noticed that the shorthand kappa looks like 'koppa' - it does. If you know why it looks like koppa, or have any suggestions about this, please comment. I don't know why the two look identical. The zigzag shape is identified by Lehmann and Thomson as shorthand kappa, but elsewhere I see it called koppa. Hmm.

If you are not familiar with koppa, then don't worry about it - or read this paper On Greek Letter Koppa by Michael Everson, which shows the various forms and functions of koppa. Very interesting.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

I just wanted to say I liked the title of this entry. :)


11:49 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


I need to spend more time looking on the light side.

11:51 PM  

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