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Stressing out on accents

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Stressing out on accents

Postby nathanj5 » Wed Oct 29, 2003 4:16 pm

Hi all,

Firstly just to say that i think this site is magnificent and an excellent example of things which can be done with the web. :P

Now down to the sticky part. Ive just started to have a look at greek - something ive alsways wanted to do - with White's first Greek book. This will be a self-study jobby on the side as I have no courses available to me.

Apart from the nightmare verb moods :lol: and the three persons and the same old disastrous declensions as latin, im extremely puzzled by the accents in Greek. Let me explain, my only real understanding of diacritic marks comes from Spanish, French and a bit of latin. I couldnt grasp the use of the accents in the first greek book. For example in French the accent only tells us the sound of the vowel for as I assume in Greek if it is a long or a short sound. In Spanish however the sound of the letter is always pure and the accent only serves to indicate the stressed syllable if it doesn't fall on the standard penultimate. The impression I got was that Greek accents were a combination of the two, but im really not sure. I would be extremely grateful if anyone could clear this up for me. :!: When I get a combination foa ccents in the word i really don't know how to pronounce it and Im really just guessing. I can see that later this is going to cause me real problems with the pasts etc.

Also, do we have much of an idea about how this greek actually sounded? Is there any way in which I as a self-study learner could orientate myself?

If anybody could throw some light on this I would be extremely grateful.

Thanks in advance

Nathan
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Postby annis » Thu Oct 30, 2003 3:22 pm

I'm at a conference right now, and the network from here is too full for me to verify the links I want to give you right now. I'll do that when I return.

But I will say that the accents indicate accent and do not change vowel length or pronunciation. Now, these days most people pronounce the accents as stress accent (louder), like modern Greek. However in classical Greek the accents were pitch accents, like modern Czech or Japanese. The accute was a high pitch (possibly a rising pitch), the grave only marks where an accute used to be (some now say maybe a half- or quarter-high pitch), and the circumflex indicates a sing-song rise and fall, or perhaps a high falling.

A web search on "greek pitch accent" should bring up a lot of interesting information, but I'll post some verified web links over the weekend after my return.
William S. Annis — http://www.aoidoi.org/http://www.scholiastae.org/
τίς πατέρ' αἰνήσει εἰ μὴ κακοδαίμονες υἱοί;
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thanks!

Postby nathanj5 » Thu Oct 30, 2003 5:13 pm

thanks for the prompt and useful reply, annis.
:)

The links would be really appreciated. I think I have more of an idea of what you mean but Im going to ask for a little clarification on one point. Would I be right in assuming that the half or quarter rising pitches can be largely ignored and that I could get by with a vague rising intonation? Also, I still have a Spanish-based obsession (its the only other language apart from English that I speak half-decently) for knowing where the 'tonic' of a word is. In Spanish this is normally the penult. and in all other cases is indicated by an accent, for example intonación has the stres on the last, teutónico on the antepenult. Is there any way of reading this in Greek , especially given that i have no oral references?

I will definitely do the searches that you suggested, but would still appreciate those links.

Thanks again,

Nathan
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oh right!

Postby nathanj5 » Thu Oct 30, 2003 5:15 pm

Annis

Having just reread your post I take it that your rising pitch is the equivalent of what I was calling a tonic or principal stress. Am I right?
In which case problem solved

Cheers

Nathan
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curiouser and curiouser...

Postby nathanj5 » Thu Oct 30, 2003 5:39 pm

Ok so pitch isn't stress. A whole new world is opening up... :)

This fifth and third thing sounds interesting. Obviously ancient greek was (is?) a very musical accent. Off to grapple with it

Thanks again for your suggestions.

nathan
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Re: oh right!

Postby annis » Sun Nov 02, 2003 7:57 pm

nathanj5 wrote:Having just reread your post I take it that your rising pitch is the equivalent of what I was calling a tonic or principal stress. Am I right?


Well, good enough for now. Most people still read the accent (whether acute, grave or circumflex) as a tonic stress accent, like Spanish. But the Greek accent isn't predictable like the penult rule of Spanish, so is always marked, as you noticed earlier.

Most languages don't have pure stress or pitch accent. English is usually described as having a stress accent, but if you listen carefully you'll notice a clear pitch component as well. Greek switched from pitch to stress accent readily, so I think it's a good guess that there may have been a volume component to the pitch accent (don't quote me on that... I know there's recent work on Greek prosody, and that might contradict what I just said).

On Reciting Ancient Greek has a good overview of these issues in the context of reciting poetry. See especially the Notes for classicists for more details.

A lot of this is necessarily a bit speculative - we have no Ancient Greeks on hand to pester with a tape recorder - so there really isn't a quick and easy answer to the accent question in Classical Greek. People can still write dissertations on the subject.
William S. Annis — http://www.aoidoi.org/http://www.scholiastae.org/
τίς πατέρ' αἰνήσει εἰ μὴ κακοδαίμονες υἱοί;
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very interesting

Postby nathanj5 » Tue Nov 04, 2003 9:52 am

Yes, I suppose it would be a bit much to expect a precise understanding of the sound - you only have to think of the varieties of English dialects and accents and the huge changes over the last 100-200 years to understand that dealing with a nation of city states and a period of 800 years you're going to get immense variations. I suppose its simply a question of not bastardizing it too much and knowing that when you say a word another student will understand. I did read the links you posted which were very informative thanks. The recordings were unlike anything I had expected but after a couple of times I managed to follow the rhythms if not the text. I myself will have to be content with a slight emphasis (stress/pitch combination as in English) I reckon.

Thanks again,

Nathan
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