Questions on Greek characters

From: Nick NICHOLAS (
Date: Wed May 17 2000 - 14:42:34 EDT

Two questions to those in the know:

1. Has a capital equivalent to the lunate sigma U+03f2 ever been proposed?
Its omission prima facie makes sense historically, since its use predates
the introduction of case in Greek; but in its modern typographical use,
there is no shortage of capital lunates (as the TLG found when it used to
maintain a lunate/non-lunate distinction.)

I feel it only fair to warn people, btw, that the Antioch Unicode fonts
( are already placing a capital lunate
sigma (and capital yod!) in U+03f4 and U+03f5...

2. Re the precomposed capitals with acute and grave only (e.g. U+1fc8,


Nothing about these characters makes sense. In conventional orthography,
an initial capital vowel never has an accent without a breathing mark, and
a non-initial capital means the word is in all-caps; so a capital with an
accent alone should never happen. (Conventional orthography was no doubt
high on the list for those allocating the characters, which is why there
are no precomposed upsilons with smooth breathings --- though of course
they are to be had in non-Attic texts. If this forces some Classicists to
use combining diacritics, this is a Good Thing. :) )

Granted, there was widespread practice in manuscripts and early
printing (up to the 19th century, in fact --- and presumably to this
day, for diplomatic editions of such works; we have several instances in
the TLG corpus), of putting accents on
all-caps words. However, (a) the accent would then be on top of the letter
(as in Western European diacritics), not to the side (something font
designers might want to take note of; in such styles breathing
mark-accent combinations usually also appeared on top of the letter);
(b) if this is what was intended, then where are the precomposed

My suspicion is that the characters U+1fc8 and U+1fc9 are intended as
polytonic equivalents of U+0389; the acute corresponds to the the tonos,
and the grave is a positional variant of the acute. However, polytonic
conventions (accented capitals only word-initially, and obligatorily with
breathings) mean that U+0389 can only correspond to U+1f2a, U+1f2b ...
U+1f2f. U+1fc8 is a chimera; this is precisely one instance in our corpus
of a character looking anything like that --- and that is because the
scribe of Photius' dictionary had forgotten to put the breathing mark in,
and the 19th century editor chose not to emend the form.

So: anyone know where these characters came from? And any chance they can
become somehow deprecated?

Nick Nicholas; Thesaurus Linguae Graecae,                    University of California, Irvine
 "The Orthodox Church lead the Greek nationalist movement in the island
  until 1977. Since then it has been in decline, confining itself mainly
  to the real estate market and homophobia."  (Andrew Apostolou, MGSA-L) 

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