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Greek accentuation (phonetics)

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Greek accentuation (phonetics)

Postby David Beckham » Mon Jul 02, 2018 12:53 pm

I am sharing this problem not because I expect anyone will necessarily have a well-grounded opinion about how the ancient Greeks themselves spoke - though obviously it will be excellent if they do - but because knowing if anyone else has an aesthetically satisfying way (satisfying at least to themselves) of reproducing the Greek pitch accents will be almost as good. If nothing else, sharing a problem can make one feel better.

I understand an acute over a long vowel means pitch rises in the course of pronouncing that vowel and reaches a peak towards the end. Fine. I can do that. I also have no problems about the grave accent because Avery Andrews' statement that 'the grave also turns out to have been a rise though less of one than the acute' was enough to satisfy my curiosity.

My problems centre around circumflex accents and acute accents over short vowels. Such vowels presumably start on a high pitch. But is this high pitch preceded by an abrupt jump or by rising pitch on the preceding syllable? Everything I have read seems to indicate that there would be rising pitch on the preceding syllable. But what do you do if the preceding syllable is itself preceded by a high pitch? Given that a high pitch is supposed to have been followed by falling pitch.

To put it another way, how do you pronounce three consecutive syllables accented as follows: acute--unaccented syllable--circumflex?

I do not have the time, and probably not the expertise, to read D&S. I find Allen's "Accent and Rhythm" and Avery Andrews' website to be very readable but I do not recall that they discuss this particular problem. Maybe they do; I just do not recall it.
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Re: Greek accentuation (phonetics)

Postby RandyGibbons » Mon Jul 02, 2018 4:15 pm

how do you pronounce three consecutive syllables accented as follows: acute--unaccented syllable--circumflex?

Hi David. I'm not sure I understand your scenario. Is there a particular word you could give us to make it concrete?

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Re: Greek accentuation (phonetics)

Postby David Beckham » Tue Jul 03, 2018 11:20 am

I was thinking of a phenomenon that arises within strings of words rather than single words. I went to the first few pages of Euripides “Medea” for examples and found the following:

Line 46: ὁίδε πᾶ͂ιδες. Admittedly, in this particular case, having an abrupt jump in pitch up to the high pitch at the start of πᾶ͂ιδες sounds not bad. I still have a slight residual difficulty in feeling that this is always the correct solution, though maybe I just need to get over this.

Line 49: ο̕ίκων κτῆμα.

Line 52: πῶς σοῦ. Admittedly this is a case of two consecutive circumflexes rather than acute—no accent—circumflex, but it raises (for me at least) the same sort of problem.
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Re: Greek accentuation (phonetics)

Postby RandyGibbons » Tue Jul 03, 2018 12:25 pm

The (as best as we can reconstruct) 'rules' for stress or pitch accent in ancient Greek tell us how to accent individual words. The accent of each word is independent of its preceding or following words. Unless I'm missing something. (I'm sure there must have been 'styles' in oratorical and dramatic delivery that, if we knew what they were, which we don't, and if we analyzed them with the tools of modern linguistics, would be seen to overlap with or nuance the 'rules' of accentuation.)

My humble advice is to start simple. Forget the professional linguists for now and consult textbooks like Athenaze, Reading Greek, and French Assimil - La méthode intuitive - Le Grec ancien that present the 'rules' simply and illustrate them (stress and pitch) with well-produced audio cd's. (My personal favorite in this regard is the French Assimil.)

an aesthetically satisfying way (satisfying at least to themselves)

What I've concluded from experience: There's only two people who will like the way you pronounce ancient Greek, yourself and maybe your mother. Verify with experts (people who really know their ancient Greek, like the many we have on Textkit) that your pronunciation follows accepted rules. Experiment with pitch and decide whether you want to bother with it or not (many, including myself, ultimately conclude that it is of academic interest but too difficult or just plain impossible at least for an English speaker to achieve or that it is just too distracting to try). With whatever you decide, practice and be consistent and please yourself.
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Re: Greek accentuation (phonetics)

Postby Aetos » Tue Jul 03, 2018 2:31 pm

Hi David,
I'm just a beginner myself but I think this link may help you:
http://atticgreek.org/index.html
It's an accent tutorial based on Mastronarde's textbook. In it he addresses the principle of contonation which in a nutshell says that you can only have one mora after a contonation (/ \) at the end of a word or phrase. Once you wrap your head around that concept, it explains a lot about the system of accentuation for ancient Greek. The tutorial also gives you a ton of examples and exercises illustrating why the accents fall as they do.
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