Note 1: I am not a historical linguist. I will occasionally say false or misleading things about Greek historical linguistics to make life easier for beginners. I will try to say when I'm doing this when I'm passing out egregiously false information.

Note 2: When you see an asterisk (*) before a word, that means it is a hypothetical form, a reconstruction which is probably close to what an earlier version of a word or word stem must have looked like. For example, *husme-. These reconstructions can be very useful when trying to understand the differences between the Greek dialects.

When grammarians talk about the Aeolic dialect they almost always mean the Aeolic of Sappho and Alcaeus. It is often also called Lesbian Aeolic, from the island of Lesbos where both poets were born, but the dialect was apparently more widespread than that. The Aeolic dialects are east-greek dialects, in the same family with Attic and Ionic. Doric is the only west-greek dialect with any literary representation.

For people with a lot of exposure to Homer many features of Aeolic will be familiar since the Epic dialect borrows a number of Aeolisms, such as ἄμμες and ὔμμες for ἡμεῖς and ὑμεῖς, as well as κε(ν) for ἄν.

Older Greek textbooks often describe a dialect by simply listing some phonetic equivalences. This can be a little misleading. At the other extreme is a book like Buck's "Greek Dialects" which is best suited to philologists. I'm going to try to walk a middle path between these two approaches. I will refer to historical forms from time to time since I find this often helps me to remember some of the stranger equivalences (assuming I know the Ionic/Attic form, too). For example, the combination -sm- of proto-Greek (a hypothetical creature I will invoke from time to time) in Ionic dropped the -s- and lengthened the preceding vowel. In Aeolic the -s- assimilates, leaving -mm-. So, the equivalence ὔμμες = ὑμεῖς makes a little more sense if you assume an original *husme- (also knowing that Aeolic drops the "rough breathing").

The Big Picture

Psilosis is a fancy term for the loss of aspiration, or the so-called rough breathing. So, Aeolic ἄβραι for ἁβραί.

Psilosis acts at compound boundaries, too. For Attic-Ionic καθ‐εύδω, Aeolic has κατ‐εύδω.

Recessive Accent. Not only verbs, but nouns and adjectives follow recessive accent rules in Aeolic. There are of course exceptions: prepositions (παρά, etc.) and ἀλλά, οὐδέ, μηδέ and ἐπεί.

Retention of original long alpha where Ionic has η.

Combine this with psilosis, and the feminine singular definite article is ἀ, where Ionic has ἡ.

Keep in mind that ‐η‐ in Attic-Ionic has two sources: an original long e and the original long a. So, where Homer would say μήτηρ, all the non-Ionic dialects have μάτηρ.

Compensatory Lengthening

Most Greek dialects early developed an aversion to the combination -ns-. Typically the -n- was dropped and a preceding short vowel was lengthened to compensate. We see this in things like the 3rd person plural active ending *-nsi, where *luonsi became luousi in Attic-Ionic.

Original Lengthened Ionic Lengthened Aeolic
α α (long) αι
ε ει ει
ι ι (long) ι (long)
ο ου οι
υ υ (long) υ (long)

Note especially what happens to ‐α‐ and ‐ο‐. In Attic-Ionic, *pansi (masc/ becomes πᾶσι and in Aeolic παῖσι. This also accounts for Aeolic Μοῖσα for Ionic Μοῦσα. It was originally *monsa, from the root for "memory, remember," making the Muse a personification of the poet's memory more than of inspiration.

Grammatical Details

Compensatory lengthening accounts for some of the differences in noun and verb endings in Aeolic:

Form Aeolic Ionic Original
Present active ‐οισι ‐ουσι *-onsi
Present participle fem. ‐οισα ‐ουσα *-onsa
1st decl. accusative pl ‐αις ‐ας (long alpha) *-ans The dative plural is ‐αισι.
2nd decl. accusative pl ‐οις ‐ους *-ons The dative plural is ‐οισι.

Enclitic κε(ν) for ἄν.

Infinitive in ‐ην where Ionic has ‐ειν. This includes aorist passive and perfect stems: μεθύσθην aorist passive infinitive of μεθύσκω (v. Alc. 335).

What are contract verbs in Attic-Ionic fall into the athematic (‐μι, or ‐μμι in some editors' hands). Note the comepnensatory lengthening in the singular (Smyth. 656):

τίμαιμι τίμαμεν
τίμαις τίματε
τίμαι τίμαισι

So expect φίλημι for φιλέω.

Some equivalences:

Aeolic Ionic Notes
ο α usually after ρ
υ ο usually before π, β, μ, φ
η ει
αι η
ο and ω ου
σδ ζ except at the beginning of a word
ὐπά ὑπό
ἀπύ ἀπό
κάτ κατά
πάρ παρά
πεδά μετά
ὄν ἀνά sometimes ὀνν before vowels
Before consonants, ἐν and ἐς and before vowels ἐνν and εἰς
ὑπέρ is not found, περί, πέρ instead

Other differences will be noted in poem commentaries as necessary.