World Library  
Flag as Inappropriate
Email this Article


Article Id: WHEBN0015283024
Reproduction Date:

Title: Heta  
Author: World Heritage Encyclopedia
Language: English
Subject: Romanization of Greek, Epsilon, Greek letters, Eta, Alpha
Collection: Greek Letters
Publisher: World Heritage Encyclopedia


Heta is a conventional name for the historical Greek alphabet letter Eta (Η) and several of its variants, when used in their original function of denoting the consonant /h/. The letter Η had been adopted by Greek from the Phoenician letter Heth (inline) originally with this consonantal sound value, and Hēta was its original name. The Italic alphabets, and ultimately Latin, adopted the letter H from this Greek usage. However, Greek dialects progressively lost the sound /h/ from their phonological systems. In the Ionic dialects, where this loss of /h/ happened early, the name of the letter naturally changed to Ēta, and the letter was subsequently turned to a new use denoting the long half-open /ɛː/ sound. In this function it later entered the classical orthography adopted across the whole of Greece.

An archaic inscription from Thera, displaying H () both in consonantal function (line 2: "ΚΗ" = χ in "Ἀρχαγέτας") and as a vowel (line 3: "Πρόκλης")

In dialects that still had the /h/ sound as part of their phonological systems, including early Athens, the same letter continued to be used in its consonantal function. Just like vocalic Eta, it could occur in a number of glyph variants in different local varieties of the alphabet, including one shaped like a square "8" similar to the original Phoenician (inline), but also a plain square (inline), a crossed square (inline), shapes with two horizontal (inlineinline) or with diagonal bars ().[1][2]

Various spellings of the name "Hera" in ancient Greek. Left: original spelling, right: modern transcription. Red: consonantal "Heta", blue: vocalic "Eta".
1.) archaic non-Ionic
2.) classical Ionic
3.) intermediate (e.g. Delphi)
4.) intermediate (e.g. Tarentum)
5.) late antiquity.
The name Hippolytos inscribed on a Corinthian black-figure column-krater, ca. 575–550 BC, showing square-8-shaped consonantal Heta (inline), zigzag-shaped Iota (inline), archaic Pi (inline), and M-shaped San instead of Sigma.

During the classical era, more dialects adopted the new Ionian vocalic Eta (as Athens did around c.400 BC) As many of these dialects nevertheless still also pronounced /h/, they faced the problem of distinguishing between their own old consonantal symbol and the new vocalic symbol. Some dialects, including classical Attic, simply omitted the marking of the /h/-sound. In others (for instance Rhodes), the same symbol was used in both functions.[3] Others distinguished between glyph variants, for instance in Delphi by using the closed square sign (inline) for /h/, and the open H for the vowel. In the southern Italian colonies of Heracleia and Tarentum, a new innovative shape for /h/ was invented, consisting of a single vertical stem and a rightward-pointing horizontal bar, like a half H (inline). From this sign, later scholars developed the rough breathing or spiritus asper, which brought back the marking of the old /h/ sound into the standardized post-classical (polytonic) orthography of Greek in the form of a diacritic.

From scholia to the grammar of Dionysius Thrax, it appears that the memory of the former consonantal value of the letter Η was still alive in the era of the Alexandrine Koiné insofar as the name of the vocalic η was still pronounced "heta" and accordingly written with a rough breathing. The later standard spelling of the name eta, however, has the smooth breathing.

Under the Roman emperor Claudius in the mid-1st century AD, Latin briefly re-borrowed the letter in the shape of the half-H tack glyph, as one of the so-called Claudian letters. It denoted the sonus medius, a short close vowel sound of a quality between i and u.

In modern transcriptions and editions of ancient Greek epigraphic text that use consonantal Heta, in any of its shapes, the letter is most often rendered simply with a Latin h, both in Latin transliteration and in Greek scholarly transcriptions (using lowercase in Greek, so that Latin h and Greek η are distinct). Some authors have also adopted the Heracleian "tack" Heta (inline) for use in modern transcription.[6] Jeffery (1961) uses the tack symbol also as a modern label for the abstract grapheme, i.e. as a cover label for any letter shape denoting /h/ in any given local alphabet.

Computer Encoding

Unicode "Greek letter Heta" in an uppercase and lowercase version

The Unicode standard of computer encoding introduced code points for a tack-shaped "Greek letter Heta" designed for this usage in its version 5.1 of April 2008. Like other archaic letters, Unicode Heta comes in an uppercase and lowercase variant to cater for the needs of modern typography.[7] Type designers have created several designs for this new typographic lowercase form, one of them resembling a lowercase Latin h with a straight rightward horizontal bar. The Greek Heta codepoints are distinct from another set designed to represent the tack-shaped Claudian "Latin letter half H".

Character Ͱ ͱ
Encodings decimal hex decimal hex decimal hex decimal hex
Unicode 880 U+0370 881 U+0371 11381 U+2C75 11382 U+2C76
UTF-8 205 176 CD B0 205 177 CD B1 226 177 181 E2 B1 B5 226 177 182 E2 B1 B6
Numeric character reference Ͱ Ͱ ͱ ͱ


  1. ^
  2. ^ Epigraphic ArchivePoinikastas
  3. ^ Jeffery (1961); pg 345.
  4. ^ At the Internet Archive.
  5. ^ Hilgard. p.494.
  6. ^ Nick Nicholas, "Greek h"
  7. ^ Summary of repertoire for FDAM 3 of ISO/IEC 10646
This article was sourced from Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License; additional terms may apply. World Heritage Encyclopedia content is assembled from numerous content providers, Open Access Publishing, and in compliance with The Fair Access to Science and Technology Research Act (FASTR), Wikimedia Foundation, Inc., Public Library of Science, The Encyclopedia of Life, Open Book Publishers (OBP), PubMed, U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Center for Biotechnology Information, U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health (NIH), U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, and, which sources content from all federal, state, local, tribal, and territorial government publication portals (.gov, .mil, .edu). Funding for and content contributors is made possible from the U.S. Congress, E-Government Act of 2002.
Crowd sourced content that is contributed to World Heritage Encyclopedia is peer reviewed and edited by our editorial staff to ensure quality scholarly research articles.
By using this site, you agree to the Terms of Use and Privacy Policy. World Heritage Encyclopedia™ is a registered trademark of the World Public Library Association, a non-profit organization.

Copyright © World Library Foundation. All rights reserved. eBooks from World eBook Library are sponsored by the World Library Foundation,
a 501c(4) Member's Support Non-Profit Organization, and is NOT affiliated with any governmental agency or department.