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Tones in Greek and Chinese

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Tones in Greek and Chinese

Postby Yhevhe » Tue Mar 15, 2005 10:15 pm

Some days ago I found out this game for practicing chinese tones and I'm wondering if the way they are pronounced may be the same as greek tones should be pronounced. In the intro page there are four ma's, if you put the cursor over every of them you will hear the pronunciation. There is a flat tone, an "oxytone", a low tone, and something that may be contrary to a circumflex. I'd apreciate someone's suggestions about the relation between the tones in the two languages.

-Manú
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Re: Tones in Greek and Chinese

Postby Astraea » Tue Mar 15, 2005 10:46 pm

Yhevhe wrote:Some days ago I found out this game for practicing chinese tones and I'm wondering if the way they are pronounced may be the same as greek tones should be pronounced. In the intro page there are four ma's, if you put the cursor over every of them you will hear the pronunciation. There is a flat tone, an "oxytone", a low tone, and something that may be contrary to a circumflex. I'd apreciate someone's suggestions about the relation between the tones in the two languages.

-Manú


That's cool. I'm no expert on the subject, but I would guess that a rising tonal accent would have to be pretty much like the one on the site. The falling accent was harder for me to hear, but that might be what would occur on the syllable after an acute accent in Greek. I agree that the other one sounds like an inverted circumflex. Of course there is no relationship between Greek and Chinese, but that doesn't mean these things couldn't be similar.

I am wondering, how do scholars know the accents were tonal in ancient Greek, since this has been lost in modern Greek? Does it say so somewhere in the ancient literature? Also, I wonder what it sounded like spoken. When I try to say short phrases with the rising and falling pitches, it does give a kind of Chinese effect (Its also really hard). I wonder, though, if the actual sound was more like an Indo-European language with a lilt to it, like Welsh or Swedish or even Hindi. Does anybody actually try to read Greek out loud with these tonal accents? Are there any recordings, for example, of someone reading ancient Greek poetry and trying to recreate the way it was actually spoken? Or does everyone just use stress accents because its so much easier?
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Postby swiftnicholas » Tue Mar 15, 2005 11:37 pm

There are some people on this forum who are very knowledgable about reading Greek poetry, and I hope they'll respond to this, because I'm interested in what they have to say (especially William, who knows some Chinese, I think--?).

Here are two websites dealing with Homeric recitation that were suggested in another discussion:

http://www.oeaw.ac.at/kal/sh/index.htm

http://arts.anu.edu.au/linguistics/Peop ... ews/Homer/
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Re: Tones in Greek and Chinese

Postby annis » Tue Mar 15, 2005 11:40 pm

Yhevhe wrote:Some days ago I found out this game for practicing chinese tones and


That's fun! I went around reciting those very four syllables when I first studied Chinese. Of course, the third tone is rarely actually realized in the dip and swoop-up given in the application.

I'm wondering if the way they are pronounced may be the same as greek tones should be pronounced.


The second tone - the rising tone - is probably okay for an acute, though I've always doubted the reports that the pitch rise in Ancient Greek was a (musical) 5th! I suspect that was for oratorical performance only.

Some interpret the circumflex as indicating not a rise-and-fall, but simply a fall over a long vowel. If you follow that, the 4th tone might work, but I'm used to the Mandarin 4th tone being fairly abrupt.
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Postby chad » Wed Mar 16, 2005 12:02 am

hi, i definitely use the pitch accents. i've only ever heard the stress accents used in greek twice and it was horrible. i'm guessing many people ask this question after reading Professor Harris' articles about it here:

http://community.middlebury.edu/~harris ... s.gen.html

i can only say that i follow this (imperfect) pitch system, i see no problem at all with the accents ranging over a 5th or even more: from what i remember reading dionysus of hal he said that it was a 5th in either direction: the span of an octave or more is not that much for normal to animated speaking (unless you speak greek in that really sombre deep-voiced un-greek church/university recitation style), and that the accents might have worked like mandarin tones for normal speaking: bending between the intervals: but in poetry there was no "bending", you just hit your notes (says aristoxenus). :)
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Postby Yhevhe » Wed Mar 16, 2005 1:14 am

Thank you all for your replies!

I don't know much about music, so when you talk about 5ths and octaves...

So... if the rising one can be like the mandarin rising tone, and the circumflex a longer falling tone, then what about the greek falling tone? Is it supposed to mark just a flat tone?

Another thing... whenever I try to pronounce anyone of those tones, I can't get them in the right lenght. For example, the rising and falling I can only get them on a duplicated lenght, and the circumflex, if made like a rising-falling, only in 3, or even four.

annis wrote:That's fun! I went around reciting those very four syllables when I first studied Chinese.


It's a very fun example indeed. But that's only the main page :)

annis wrote:I'm used to the Mandarin 4th tone being fairly abrupt.


Me too!

Regards

-Manú
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Postby chad » Wed Mar 16, 2005 2:43 am

hi yhevhe, i think getting the lengths right is more important than the pitches, and also it can be determined with much greater accuracy since, apart from a few strange results like scanning the diphthong ei short, dionysus of hal's scansion of prose, e.g. of the start of demosthenes' de corona, simply uses the quantities of poetry. i.e. if you can scan poetry (which doesn't take long to learn) you can scan prose and read it with the right lengths.

i recommend that you learn to pronounce poetry first, using the pitch and lengths together. the repetitive nature of greek poetry means that you automatically concentrate on the length of verbs. then later, experiment with reading prose, i.e. doing the same thing as poetry but bending your pitch between the syllables like normal speech. you can use my tentative attempts at blending pitch and length in some documents here: :)

http://iliad.envy.nu

Eureka is currently studying these and thankfully noting errors and judgment calls I've had to make. he will be able to answer your questions on reconstructed pitch as well :)
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Postby 1%homeless » Wed Mar 16, 2005 3:01 am

....then what about the greek falling tone? Is it supposed to mark just a flat tone?


Supposedly, you can ignore the grave accent. However, the latest research says it's like a lower acute --in isolation (It gets very messy when pitches interact in sentences.). Meaning, it's just slightly higher than your vocal baseline.

I found studying Italian intonation helps as well.
Last edited by 1%homeless on Thu Mar 17, 2005 3:30 am, edited 3 times in total.
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Postby Astraea » Wed Mar 16, 2005 4:17 pm

Thanks for the links swiftnicholas and chad. Excuse my newbie enthusiasm, but I think its very exciting that people can reconstruct ancient music and the sound of the language. And thank you Yehveh for starting this topic. Everybody's replies have been very helpful, and I'm definitely interested now in learning to pronounce the accents properly. :)
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Postby adz000 » Wed Mar 16, 2005 9:11 pm

Where can I look to find arguments about the grave being pronounced like a lower acute?

Thanks,
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Postby 1%homeless » Thu Mar 17, 2005 2:42 am

Where can I look to find arguments about the grave being pronounced like a lower acute?


http://arts.anu.edu.au/linguistics/Peop ... /pitch.htm

It's derived from this book:

A. M. Devine / L. D. Stephens, The Prosody of Greek Speech

Hagel use that book as well. His rendition is still my favorite so far:

http://www.oeaw.ac.at/kal/agp/
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Postby annis » Thu Mar 17, 2005 3:02 am



Grr. I don't believe there is any justification for sticking a glottal stop between non-diphthong vowel sequences.
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Postby 1%homeless » Thu Mar 17, 2005 3:31 am

Grr. I don't believe there is any justification for sticking a glottal stop between non-diphthong vowel sequences.


He didn't mention anything about a glottal stop in that page. You probably are refering to his performances. I haven't listened to them for a while. Is it that all unjustified? Although, I don't prefer them myself, I remember latin might have some glottal stops...? It is tempting to insert glottal stops because of some chunky vowel clusters in Greek, but for some reason I unconciously chose not to use them.
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Postby annis » Thu Mar 17, 2005 3:43 am

1%homeless wrote:He didn't mention anything about a glottal stop in that page. You probably are refering to his performances.


Yes. And he's not the only one who does it.

I haven't listened to them for a while. Is it that all unjustified?


For the middle of a word, I believe so.

Although, I don't prefer them myself, I remember latin might have some glottal stops...?


As may have Greek in various contexts, probably like most languages - at the beginning of phrases starting with a vowel, after a pausel.

It is tempting to insert glottal stops because of some chunky vowel clusters in Greek,


It is, but I believe the temptation should be resisted. :)
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Postby 1%homeless » Sat Mar 19, 2005 3:53 pm

As may have Greek in various contexts, probably like most languages - at the beginning of phrases starting with a vowel, after a pausel.


Actually, that's not what I had in mind. I was thinking about awkward vowels, epescially close ones. Example: ii, iimus, etc --asuming that the first i isn't a Y semi-vowel.

http://www.textkit.com/greek-latin-foru ... php?t=2151

Oh yes, I did not contradict myself whatsoever when I said I prefered to use glottal stops in that thread. :wink: I will use the hormonal imbalance excuse for my linguistic mood swings.

I suppose vowel situations like that are probably too rare in Latin and renditions of Latin with glottal stops might warrant another Grr. :wink:
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Postby Bert » Sat Mar 19, 2005 10:02 pm

If I understand right, a glottal stop is a definite break between two vowels rather than let the one glide into the other, is that right?
I have been doing it that way but I'll stop if it is considered wrong.
I'll blame my Dutch background.
In Dutch the name Aaron for instance is pronounced A-aron.
So when I pronounce [face=SPIonic]e)a/n [/face]I pronounce it E-AN.
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Postby Yhevhe » Sat Mar 19, 2005 11:53 pm

Wouldn't that be a problem if you stress one of the two vowels?
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Postby Bert » Sun Mar 20, 2005 2:31 am

The second 'A' has the emphasis. A-a/ron
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Postby oistos » Sun Mar 20, 2005 5:08 am

I am pondering what is being said about length and pitch in order to aproximate the pronunciation. I'm one of those losers that uses a stress accent when reading out loud to myself.
I guess it's hard for me as an English speaker where pitch functions very differently. An accute is a 5th you say? That's the first 2 notes of "My Bonnie Lies over the Ocean", which does seem like a lot? But you (chad) mention an octave wouldn't be too much? Wow. What would the intervals be for circonflex and grave accents?

Another question to chad: When you say the length is more important than the pitch, how do you do that? Are you counting in your head, or saying that a long vowel is worth 2 short vowels? Do you figure that syllables that are long because of a vowel + consonant combination take care of themselves in pronunciation?
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Postby chad » Tue Mar 22, 2005 12:21 am

hi oistos, i don't know "my bonnie...", but since dionysus of hal says a fifth i don't see how we can re-read this as a smaller interval without other conflicting evidence. my point about the octave is that the "pitch peak" moves around, so while each accent on a lexical word might drop a fifth or so afterwards (but it's more complicated than this, different types of words drop differently... e.g. non-lexical words drop less) you might have a range of an octave or more over a whole clause.

i don't know if this helps others but i think of the ancient greeks as fiery southern mediterranean sailor-type people speaking a passionate language, you know with their brightly-painted temples in red and green and blue, rather than as a sage community of scholars pontificating in slow and deep shakespeare-soliloquy clauses in church-quiet pure-white-marble temples. the idea of 5th intervals in their speaking, and a range of over an octave, doesn't seem strange to me

re "how do you read lengths", you learn it for each word as you go (i.e. whether doubtful vowels are long or short). you don't count in your head, it's just how the word is. the best way is to read poetry before you read prose. if you get draper's iliad 1, it has notes on each page for each doubtful vowel scanned long. lsj also has good notes at the bottom of its entries for certain words, talking about how it scans in different types of poetry, e.g. for kalo/j:

http://www.perseus.tufts.edu/cgi-bin/pt ... 3D%2352841
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Postby ThomasGR » Tue Mar 22, 2005 8:01 pm

I have my objections using this (so-called) pitch pronunciation. If not done propperly, it will sound ridiculously. How it is done propperly? We don't know, except some vague descriptions here and there. And it will sound even more strange if one uses it in prosa. Only rhetors and poets were using pitch, never normal people. Like one cannot learn to pronounce propperly Chinese just reading books and never hearing a Chinese word spoken, likewise one cannot learn ancient Greek pronunciation just reading these vague (ancient) descriptions.
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Postby chad » Tue Mar 22, 2005 10:17 pm

hi thomas, could you please give examples of the vague descriptions which you're referring to? and the stuff about normal people not using pitch as well, i've never read that before, thanks :)
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Postby ThomasGR » Wed Mar 23, 2005 11:11 am

At this moment I cannot post any link other than
http://www.bsw.org/?l=72081&a=Art06.html
Which I think you already know. What I can tell is about Greek tradition, and how people will change ways of speaking the moment they step a podium. :) He becomes an orator, will use poetical expressions and his ways of articulation and stressing changes to the point one does not give anymore attention to the words and meanings of phrases (anyway one does not understands them anymore (due to the unusual sounds and intonation) or it takes great effort of concentration to do this), but becomes entranced by the melody. (This was the orator’s goal by the way from beginning, It’s an old trick…)
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Postby Astraea » Fri Mar 25, 2005 4:28 pm

(I deleted this post because I misunderstood the article in the link posted by ThomasGR when I first skimmed through it this morning. The issue is too complicated for me at the moment. )
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Postby adz000 » Sat Mar 26, 2005 2:31 am

Funny that story about Erasmus being "taken in" by a French scholar. I am left wondering who is more likely to be gullible: Erasmus, who wrote a closely-argued treatise on Greek pronunciation at any rate, or Vossius, for recording some philological gossip at third hand, fifty years after the relevant event. To say nothing of the author of the article...
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Postby Astraea » Sun Mar 27, 2005 3:08 pm

The author of the article wants to continue using modern Greek pronunciation when reading the Bible. If Greeks have been reading it that way for a long time - then its traditional and there is no reason why they should be told by foreign scholars to pronounce it differently - after all its their language. It is also possible that a tradition like that could make a language less prone to change, especially if those who are keeping the tradition alive are also influencing the population as a whole. Maybe its possible then that Modern Greek could retain much of the same pronunciation as Koine Greek.

I am not sure, though, why the author felt it necessary to try to discredit all attempts at reconstructing earlier pronunciation by linking them all to a hoax supposedly perpetuated on Erasmus. And I wonder if modern linguists really base their opinions only on the writings of Erasmus.

When I first looked at the article I thought the author was claiming Greek pronunciation had never changed since Homeric times, but on a more careful reading I saw that he is not going that far. He is mainly saying we can never be sure about ancient pronunciations. That, unfortuneately, is true since we can't go back in time and listen to people talking (I wish we could!). However, that doesn't mean its not worth trying to figure out how the language sounded. Though I'm definitely not an expert, it seems to me very logical that if a sound in modern Greek has four or five different spellings in different words, then those different spellings must have, at the time the spelling was formulated, been different sounds. Otherwise they would have all been written the same from the beginning. The author is NOT denying this, but saying that changes such as the loss of diphthongs occured prior to classical times.

On the subject of stress accent in Greek he says:

"In English and German the stress of the accented syllable is stronger than that of the corresponding Greek syllable. In English, for example, the stressed syllable tends to overshadow the unstressed syllables, and some unaccented syllables are actually swallowed up in fast speech. (The same is the case with French). Hence also the great gradation in vowel-length. Greek, on the other hand, pronounces all syllables distinctly and isochronously with one of the syllables having a somewhat more dominant stress and hence being slightly longer than the others because of the percussion, but it is never so stressed as to eclipse any of the other syllables."

On the subject of pitch accent he questions it somewhat, but says he doesn't have time to treat it in detail. (Then goes into a long discussion too long to reproduce here!). He does point out that the accenting could have involved both stress and pitch. I think that is an important point. I find that when I raise the pitch of a syllable it also ends up being more strongly stressed. Its almost impossible for me not to do that, in fact. But I'm a native speaker of English. I'd be interested to know if native speakers of other languages find this to be the case for them too.
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Postby annis » Sun Mar 27, 2005 6:11 pm

We had a long debate about the pronunciation of Greek a few months ago, where I made a brief list of complaints about the article linked to (forum thread). The scholarship is abysmal.

Astraea wrote:When I first looked at the article I thought the author was claiming Greek pronunciation had never changed since Homeric times, but on a more careful reading I saw that he is not going that far. He is mainly saying we can never be sure about ancient pronunciations. That, unfortuneately, is true since we can't go back in time and listen to people talking (I wish we could!).


The problem with this "we can't know for sure" argument for me is that the author himself doesn't believe it. This is an all too common sophistic dodge in arguments - for your opponent's views adopt an evidential requirement which is impossible to meet, take on a radical epistemological skepticism. Then, when you make your arguments, state that of course the evidence is crystal clear. In this case his own arguments arre full of blunders of the most basic sort, for example I just noticed this additional one by chance:

Section 11 wrote:AU, EU and HU. The diphtongs AY, EY and HY retain the pronunciation of both letters, but already by the VIth c. B.C. the U is sounded as a consonant: v or f: av or af, ev or ef, and iv, or if. This is proved beyond possible doubt by the mistake of the stone-cutters in substituting F (digamma, which corresponded to the Phoenician letter waw, and had the sound of v) in place of [face=spionic]u[/face].


The waw had the sound of /w/, as did digamma have the sound /w/. The evidence shows the exact opposite of the point he's claiming to make.

On the subject of pitch accent he questions it somewhat, but says he doesn't have time to treat it in detail. (Then goes into a long discussion too long to reproduce here!). He does point out that the accenting could have involved both stress and pitch. I think that is an important point.


I'm not sure anyone studying ancient pronunciation denies this.

I find that when I raise the pitch of a syllable it also ends up being more strongly stressed. Its almost impossible for me not to do that, in fact. But I'm a native speaker of English. I'd be interested to know if native speakers of other languages find this to be the case for them too.


We usually speak of English having a stress accent. It does, but there is a pitch component as well.
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Postby Astraea » Sun Mar 27, 2005 10:06 pm

Thanks for the comments and the link to the previous discussion, William. It answered a lot of my questions. Sorry for going on at such length - It looks like this has already been discussed to death. I guess I'm not so good at taking apart tricky arguments. :wink: .... It was and is my intention to use reconstructed pronunciation. Its just that I can understand why people who already speak Greek as their native language might prefer to use the pronunciation they already know, especially for later writings, and especially in situations when content is more important to them than poetry. I myself am most interested in more ancient things, so I am seeking out a more ancient pronunciation too ... I would like to learn modern Greek someday too, but one can not do everything at once.
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Postby Bardo de Saldo » Mon Mar 28, 2005 5:41 pm

"I find that when I raise the pitch of a syllable it also ends up being more strongly stressed." (Astraea)

The same thing happens to me, Astraea. In English, as I hear it, stress and length of syllables go hand in hand. You stress a syllable by making it longer, and lengthen a syllable by speaking it louder. English is pretty pitchy also; you raise your pitch on long-stressed syllables, but you use pitch to intone phrases, not words.

In Spanish, stressed syllables are also longer, and pitch runs also along sentences. You can tell where a Spanish speaker is from by the length of their vowels and the way they pitch their sentences, so for me, when I think of an omega I think of a Catalan 'o', becoming Galician if it's got a circumflex and Mexican if it's got an acute. (Omicron is my normal 'o'.)

My main problem lies with the length of the short acute Greek vowels. I can regress to pubescense on any given syllable you throw at me, but not without making it much longer (let alone stressful) in the process.

Music will redeem us.
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Postby annis » Tue Mar 29, 2005 2:21 am

Bardo de Saldo wrote:My main problem lies with the length of the short acute Greek vowels. I can regress to pubescense on any given syllable you throw at me, but not without making it much longer (let alone stressful) in the process.


That is one of the tougher parts.
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Postby Bardo de Saldo » Wed Mar 30, 2005 8:44 pm

The answer lies in the question, Astraea. Speak your Greek like you are asking and questioning everything, because in English pitch overrides stress during questions. That’s why the Ancients spoke about the Greeks’ inquisitive minds: everything they said sounded like a question.
Here’s my adaptation of the Iliad to modern Spanish:

¿Ménin áeide, zeá? ¿Peleiádeo Ajiléos uloménen? ¿Je murí Ajaioís álgue ézeque?

When I read it like this, I hit every high note naturally, without giving it much thought.

:D
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Postby Yhevhe » Thu Mar 31, 2005 9:10 pm

That's a strange way of speaking it... I'll have it in mind. Thank you. :)
Althrough I say "Akjilius" instead of "Ajileos", but I guess it's a very wrong way to pronounce it anyway...
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Postby Bardo de Saldo » Fri Apr 01, 2005 12:00 am

"Akjilius" (Yhevhe)

Yep. Maestro Leandro, 'La Voce', also does his virtuosities with Θ, Χ, Φ, Ρ and Υ. He once had a French girlfriend, I'll say no more.

We think that he sounds like someone is grabbing his metaphorical balls, but he's very touchy about this point.
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Postby Astraea » Fri Apr 01, 2005 9:51 pm

Thanks for your comments, Bardo. I have been busy for a few days, and didn't get a chance to answer earlier. That idea of saying everything like a question is interesting. I'll try it.
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Postby ThomasGR » Sun Apr 03, 2005 6:50 am

Bardo de Saldo wrote: ... Speak your Greek like you are asking and questioning everything, ... :D


Jesus....! :)
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Postby Eureka » Sun Apr 03, 2005 8:08 am

Bardo de Saldo wrote:The answer lies in the question, Astraea. Speak your Greek like you are asking and questioning everything, because in English pitch overrides stress during questions.

The problem is that in English questions, the pitch rise is sudden, but in Greek it appears that the pitch rise was slow coupled with a sharp fall.
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Postby Astraea » Mon Apr 04, 2005 7:45 pm

Eureka wrote:The problem is that in English questions, the pitch rise is sudden, but in Greek it appears that the pitch rise was slow coupled with a sharp fall.


Do you mean a slow rise throughout the sentence or within a word or within a syllable?
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Postby Bardo de Saldo » Mon Apr 04, 2005 8:26 pm

"Jesus....! :) " (ThomasGR)

I defend my proposed exercise. Its purpose is to practice the use of pitch rises in a way that comes out naturally, as opposed to speaking Greek with an English tone and occasional hiccups, which is what I've heard so far from the non-singing experts.

"That’s why the Ancients spoke about the Greeks’ inquisitive minds: everything they said sounded like a question." (Me)

Don't believe this part.
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Postby Eureka » Mon Apr 04, 2005 10:27 pm

Astraea wrote:
Eureka wrote:The problem is that in English questions, the pitch rise is sudden, but in Greek it appears that the pitch rise was slow coupled with a sharp fall.


Do you mean a slow rise throughout the sentence or within a word or within a syllable?

A slow rise from the trough to the next peak, so it will often include several words.

However there is a general fall throughout the sentence.

This diagram sums it up nicely:
Image
phpbb
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Postby Bardo de Saldo » Mon Apr 04, 2005 11:34 pm

"The problem is that in English questions, the pitch rise is sudden, but in Greek it appears that the pitch rise was slow coupled with a sharp fall." (ΩΖΕΦΑΤΕΥΡΗΚΑΣ)

That's exercise #2: "The inquisitive denial"!

:D
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