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New Greek student finding trouble....

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New Greek student finding trouble....

Postby Ramza » Sat Jul 16, 2005 3:59 am

Hello, everyone. I just joined this wonderful community today, and I've been taking advantage of the incredible useful resources posted on the site. Kudos for this; it's exactly what I've been looking for. Anyway, I consider myself a student of language, but other than a terrible first-year Latin class, a year of French and two years of Spanish, I don't have much formal training. So I find myself needing clarification on some of the stuff here that seems to be understood.

Why are there iota subscripts? I just don't understand this. If alpha-iota exist as a dipthong, what is the difference between alpha-iota and alpha-iota-subscript? I thought at first perhaps it distinguished long and short dipthongs (which are hard enough for me to imagine), but isn't that done by placing a macron over the iota which follows the alpha in alpha-iota? I couldn't find much information in the FGB about it... it barely mentions it.

Also, I don't think I'm brave enough to take on accents yet. I'm contemplating whether or not to get into that in this post, because I have no idea whatsoever what they even mean. It's like they took all my least favorite diacritical marks- the Latin macron and the French circumflex and grave, none of which I understand the meaning, and threw em in there. In fact, I don't even know for sure if the acute means the same thing in Greek as I'm thinking- i.e., the Spanish use, to denote stress. Is it going to kill me to forget about accents altogether until I have some further understanding? I was terrible with macrons in Latin; this stuff just terrifies me.

Thanks.

Edit: Oh, one other thing. I'm having trouble discriminating between the pronunciation of omicron and sigma, and the same with epsilon and eta. :oops: Any help?
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Re: New Greek student finding trouble....

Postby annis » Sun Jul 17, 2005 6:06 pm

Ramza wrote:Hello, everyone. I just joined this wonderful community today, and I've been taking advantage of the incredible useful resources posted on the site. Kudos for this; it's exactly what I've been looking for.


Welcome to Textkit!

Why are there iota subscripts? I just don't understand this. If alpha-iota exist as a dipthong, what is the difference between alpha-iota and alpha-iota-subscript? I thought at first perhaps it distinguished long and short dipthongs (which are hard enough for me to imagine), but isn't that done by placing a macron over the iota which follows the alpha in alpha-iota?


You did have it nearly correct. In the long diphthongs the long vowel isn't the iota, but the first element, long alpha, eta or omega. The long diphthongs lost the final iota fairly early. Homer certainly pronounced them, but I think by the time Aristotle died it was on its way out. So the subscript was a way to say "we don't say this any longer, but the ancients did." It certainly disambiguates certain grammatical forms (1st decl. nom.pl. from dat.sg. in some cases, say).

Also, I don't think I'm brave enough to take on accents yet. I'm contemplating whether or not to get into that in this post, because I have no idea whatsoever what they even mean.


English has what is called a stress accent - accented syllables are pronounced more loudly (there often a slight pitch change, too). Greek accent was based on pitch. The acute accent indicates a high pitch. The grave is debated, but is most simply understood simply to indicate where an acute accent is suppressed by having a following word (you'll only ever see grave at the end of a word). The circumflex indicates a high-falling pitch. This only ever occurs on long vowels or diphthongs, with a higher pitch at the beginning and a lower at the end.

Ancient Greek before the Koine period would often have seemed rather sing-songy to a native speaker of English.


Edit: Oh, one other thing. I'm having trouble discriminating between the pronunciation of omicron and sigma, and the same with epsilon and eta.


eta - the 'e' in 'felt' but pronounced with a longer duration
epsilon - like the 'a' in 'fate' but without the faint 'y' sound most speakers of English end the sound with

omega - might not exist in your dialect of English, like the 'o' in 'cot', pronounced with a longer duration
omicron - like the 'o' in 'note', again without the faint 'w' sound most speakers of English insert

I plan to have voice recordings of myself pontificating about the reconstructed pronunciation of Greek in a few weeks, with lots of examples.
William S. Annis — http://www.aoidoi.org/http://www.scholiastae.org/
τίς πατέρ' αἰνήσει εἰ μὴ κακοδαίμονες υἱοί;
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Postby GlottalGreekGeek » Sun Jul 17, 2005 6:12 pm

First of all, lacking access to native speakers of the ancient dialects of Greek, nobody is sure how to pronounce what they wrote down. Hence all the debate. I am not the wisest as to Ancient Greek pronounciation at this forum, but I can start answering your questions.

The accents are not like in French or Spanish - they denote pitch, not stress (Spanish) or pronounciation (French). If it's too scary for you, you can skip worrying about accents and pitch for now and work on them when you are more comfortable with other parts of the language. I believe you can learn them just as well later as now.

I, personally, pronounce the iota subscript as if it were an iota in a dipthong. I have come to the conclusion that if this is not accurate, it is close (I won't overload you with my evidence). For all I know, the purpose of the iota subscript was just to save space on papyrus. Again, I'm no paleographist.

By sigma I suppose you mean omega [face=SPIonic]W[/face] and not sigma itself [face=SPIonic]S[/face]. There is debate over what the differences are. I personally simply pronounce omega longer than omicron (mega = big, micron = small). The same for epsilon and eta - I do eta longer. I am aware that there is good evidence that it is not this simple, but nobody has yet convinced me that they have a more accurate way of doing it, and at least I get the syllable lengths correct.

The most important thing in pronouncing Ancient Greek is getting the syllable lengths right.

Good luck!

Edit : Annis beat me. I had not read his post before posting.
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Postby Ramza » Mon Jul 18, 2005 2:40 am

Thanks for your input, both of you. Both of your posts were very helpful- and yes, I did mean omega, not sigma. Just slipped, I guess.

Thank you!
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Postby swiftnicholas » Tue Jul 19, 2005 10:49 pm

Welcome to Textkit Ramza! It is a wonderful place.


annis wrote:I plan to have voice recordings of myself pontificating about the reconstructed pronunciation of Greek in a few weeks, with lots of examples.


ooooooooohhh, that's neat :D I look forward to it. You mentioned once that you might record Sappho's "Insomnia"; did that ever come to fruition? I sometimes miss things becuase of long intervals between visits.

epsilon - like the 'a' in 'fate' but without the faint 'y' sound most speakers of English end the sound with

omicron - like the 'o' in 'note', again without the faint 'w' sound most speakers of English insert


That's interesting.


~Nicholas
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Postby annis » Tue Jul 19, 2005 11:38 pm

swiftnicholas wrote:
annis wrote:I plan to have voice recordings of myself pontificating about the reconstructed pronunciation of Greek in a few weeks, with lots of examples.


ooooooooohhh, that's neat :D I look forward to it. You mentioned once that you might record Sappho's "Insomnia"; did that ever come to fruition?


Not yet. The plan is to explain the history of the various academic pronunciations; then explain the reconstructed system; then examples, mostly via verse. I'll start with aeolics (fixed, easier to explain), then Homer.

I now have a mic I don't have to scream at, and a very high-tech spit guard made of cheesecloth. So I'll be recording over the next few weeks.

epsilon - like the 'a' in 'fate' but without the faint 'y' sound most speakers of English end the sound with

omicron - like the 'o' in 'note', again without the faint 'w' sound most speakers of English insert


That's interesting.


The Great Vowel Shift turned most of our long vowels into diphthongs.[/quote]
William S. Annis — http://www.aoidoi.org/http://www.scholiastae.org/
τίς πατέρ' αἰνήσει εἰ μὴ κακοδαίμονες υἱοί;
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Postby Carola » Wed Jul 20, 2005 12:29 am

annis wrote:
I now have a mic I don't have to scream at, and a very high-tech spit guard made of cheesecloth. So I'll be recording over the next few weeks.



William, if you have any problems with the recording please let me know as my partner does mixing for bands and recording etc. (You've probably read my complaints about our house being taken over with PA systems etc!) When I record myself I use a mic stand and a music stand to hold whatever I am reading, that way I stay in much the same position and the same distance from the mic. The biggest nuisance I encountered was ambient noise - you never notice those ticking clocks and humming refrigerators until you record!

I'm really looking forward to hearing the Greek pronunciation, you can't really get a good idea just reading about it.
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