NABOKV-L post 0014222, Wed, 29 Nov 2006 17:30:17 -0500

Greek C/ Sigma
The estimable Stephen Blackwell wrote:

>at least in Medieval Greek writing, the "C" is indeed used to
represent "sigma". This occurs mid-word as well as in word-final
position. I can't think of any word-initial examples. More commonly,
ordinary sigma, in word-final, looks like a blend of an "s" and a "c"--a
"c" with a little tail<

The confusion is due to the difference betwen written and printed Greek
(ancient and medieval). Briefly, the lunate sigma, as it's called (the
C-shaped one), is the more authentic form of the letter, although, for
reasons that would be tedious to relate, 'authenticity' is not easy to
define here. At any rate, it has nothing to do with the letter C. Texts
that are "authentically" transcribed from inscriptions, papyri, and the
like tend to use the lunate sigma in all positions; conventional printed
Greek usually uses the c-with-tail-sigma in the final position and the
closed sigma in others. But you will sometimes see the lunate sigma
there too, as a nod to 'authenticity' and a move away from the
conventional Greek typefaces, the most familiar of which, called
'Porsonian' faces, were based on the handwriting of the great
eighteenth-century classicist Richard Porson-- a character Nabokov would
have loved, by the way.

Mary Bellino

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