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How to pronounce "K" in Ancient Greek?

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How to pronounce "K" in Ancient Greek?

Postby TonyLoco23 » Fri Jan 06, 2012 2:15 pm

In modern Greek, K is pronounced like a hard C just as it is in English,

i.e. the Cyclades (Κυκλάδες) are pronounced as Kiklades.

Was this also the same for Ancient Greek? Therefore the following place names were also pronounced with hard "C"s:

Cilicia (Κιλικία)

Cyrenaica (Κυρηναϊκή)

If this is the case then why do we pronounce these place names with soft Cs in English? I.e. for Cyclades in English we say "Siclades" not "Kiklades" and for Cyrenaica we say "Sirenaica" not Kirenaica".
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Re: How to pronounce "K" in Ancient Greek?

Postby jaihare » Fri Jan 06, 2012 2:25 pm

Yes, just like C is always hard in Latin. ;)
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Re: How to pronounce "K" in Ancient Greek?

Postby Sceptra Tenens » Fri Jan 06, 2012 5:24 pm

TonyLoco23 wrote:If this is the case then why do we pronounce these place names with soft Cs in English? I.e. for Cyclades in English we say "Siclades" not "Kiklades" and for Cyrenaica we say "Sirenaica" not Kirenaica".


Mostly because we're barbarians :)
mihi iussa capessere fas est
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Re: How to pronounce "K" in Ancient Greek?

Postby Grochojad » Sat Jan 07, 2012 12:39 am

TonyLoco23 wrote:In modern Greek, K is pronounced like a hard C just as it is in English

Unfortunately it is not.

TonyLoco23 wrote:If this is the case then why do we pronounce these place names with soft Cs in English? I.e. for Cyclades in English we say "Siclades" not "Kiklades" and for Cyrenaica we say "Sirenaica" not Kirenaica".


1. These words weren't borrowed directly, and so could change on their way to English lexicon.
2. Their approximate spelling had been kept but the English pronunciation rules were applied.
3. They used to be pronounced more like in Greek, but it is not so because of the sound change(s).

One/some of these is/are probably right.
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Re: How to pronounce "K" in Ancient Greek?

Postby jaihare » Sat Jan 07, 2012 1:20 am

I don't understand the last post at all. Is it just my reading comprehension?
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Re: How to pronounce "K" in Ancient Greek?

Postby Paul Derouda » Sat Jan 07, 2012 11:48 am

In Ancient Greek, kappa is always a hard sound and never an s sound.

But from an Ancient Greek point of view, English hard k can represent two different sounds: κ (kappa) and χ (khi), i.e. in different contexts English k can either be aspirated or unaspirated, pronounced with or without an 'h' sound. K in English is typically aspirated, when in the beginning of a word or a stressed syllable, and otherwise unaspirated. English speaking people don't necessarily even notice a difference between these two sounds, but for an Ancient Greek they were two different sounds and represented by two different letters.

To an Ancient Greek, these English would have been written with a khi, not a kappa: kill, cool, chaos, cap, cop, Ken.

But an Ancient Greek would have written these English k sounds with a kappa: skip, school, scar, taken, Christ.

So if you (I assume you're a native English speaker) don't pay attention when pronouncing Κιλικία, you actually pronounce it Χιλικία!

It the same way, Ancient Greeks made a difference between aspirated and unaspirated p and t sounds.

π: spit, spoon, spade, cap, pride
φ: pit, put, pen
τ: stop, get, trip
θ: top, taken, tap

Imagine a French guy speaking English - that's how you should pronounce pi, kappa and tau!
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