R littera

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R littera est eadem apud arabes et apud grecos ut apud nos: nisi quia apud grecos est aspiratum in principio dictionis unde semper in grecis dictionibus rite cum aspiratione scriberetur ut rhoda rhetorica et similia.


The letter 'R' has the same {phonetic} value with the Arabs, the Greeks and with us. Only with the Greeks the sound is aspirated at the beginning of the word, which is why in Greek words it is always commonly written with aspiration, like rhoda, rhetorica, and similar words.


Phonetically it can be assumed that they were all "rolled r's", as is still the case in modern Arabic, Greek and most Romance languages.

The Arabic alphabet has ﺭ,ﺭﺍﺀ /rāʔ/, Greek has Ρ,ρ ῥῶ /rhô/ and Latin has 'R,r'. All of these are most likely ultimately derived from the same source, a Sinaitic Semitic proto-alphabet that developed around the first half of the second millennium BC.

Greek word-initial aspiration of /r/, phonetically a devoicing of the sound, was already lost in the Koine period of Greek, i.e. 300 BC – 300 AD, so it had long ceased to be pronounced in Simon's time, but was kept on as a purely conservative spelling habit. Thus Simon did never hear an aspirated 'r', but his pronouncement must be judged as a purely orthographic statement, because until quite recently the distinction between spoken sound and written letter was blurred.

Aspiration of /r/ also occurred in pre-Koine Greek optionally in gemination as in μύῤῥα /mýrrha/ "myrrh", but was lost in the Koine period in spoken language too.

Wilf Gunther 20/01/14

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