Ancient misspellings tell us something about their pronunciation

Ever wondered how linguists can track some of the pronunciation changes of ancient languages which flourished thousands of years before the advent of voice recording devices?

One way to track some of these pronunciation changes is by analysing spelling errors. One papyrus from the 2nd century AD spelled the Greek word ὑμεις (humeis, or “you plural”) as ὑμις (humis).

Another papyrus from the same century did the opposite, and spelled a word which was normally ὑμιν (humin, “to you plural”) as ὑμειν (humein).

It seems that the ei sound had become indistinguishable from the i sound, a phenomenon known as iotacism.

For more examples and discussion of these spelling errors, see this great article from the Ancient Lives blog: