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The pronunciation of omicron

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The pronunciation of omicron

Postby 1%homeless » Sun Jan 04, 2004 2:59 am

Vox Graeca uses the german "Gott" for omicron and Received Pronunciation "saw" for omega. From my Harper's German-English dictionary, that implies that they only differed in quantity. But it explained that omicron isn’t pronounced as a close mid o like French beau. Yet then again, the chart clearly indicates a difference in quality in pronunciation with his use of two different characters to represent the pronunciation of omicron and omega. ...???

Sturtevant: “That o was a close o in Hellenistic times is shown by its correspondence with Latin u in such words as amurca, purpurca, amupra.”

Also, omicron (little o) and omega (big o) is named in a later date. From what I remember, the names were used to distinuish them from the same quality that omicron and omega had. So I assume they didn’t have the same quality in Attic Greek.

I don’t know, is anyone going to think lowly of me if I use the French beau pronunciation of omicron? :lol:
Last edited by 1%homeless on Sun Jan 04, 2004 5:02 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Postby Moerus » Sun Jan 04, 2004 3:34 am

First of all: there is really a difference in quantity as you can see e. g. in dactylic hexameters (Homer etc.). The o mega must be long and the o mikron must be short metri causa.

The Greeks did make a difference in sound too. But most Grammars now follow the Erasmian pronuntiation. In this Erasmian pronuntiation the o mega sounds like the eau in the French beau.
But the ancient Greeks didn't speak like Erasmus prsumed! So they spoke otherwise and made a difference between these two o's. They pronounced o mega like the o in the dutch 'roze'. It's difficult to give a word in English, cause there are dialectical variations. But the o mega sounded like (but not identicly like) the o in how [ò]. The best example of this o is that in the French - dutch word 'rose - roze'.

The o mikron sounded like we always pronounce it, so that can't be the problem.

You all know Allen and Sturtevant. These are great books. But there is an older book: W. B. Stanford, The Sound of Greek (Berkeley - Los Angeles, 1967). This study is also a good one, but the greatest thing about it is that it has a disc with all the pronuntiations! So if you have a chance to get this, you will have correct examples to pronounce Greek.

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Postby whiteoctave » Sun Jan 04, 2004 12:53 pm

Very well said, Moere.

~dave

P.S. A few weeks ago I bought some second-hand copies of some Loebs and OCTs and about seven of them used to belong to W.S.Allen (as he was a fellow of Trinity, Cambridge), so his annotations and comments pop up throughout the books!
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Postby Dionysius » Sun Jan 04, 2004 2:55 pm

Both are open-mid : back : rounded and distinguished only by quantity.

If you've got a good Unicode font and know the IPA:

omicron - /ɔ/
omega - /ɔ:/

This would be something like the vowel in "call" or "paw," but it's troublesome to give equivalences in Modern languages because of regional variants.

Regardless of any arguments to the contrary, no one has ever heard an Ancient Greek speaker, and actual pronunciation would vary from Athenian to Athenian, from Boeotian to Lakedaimonian, just as Modern English varies from Philadelphian to Philadelphian, Glaswegian to Aucklander. The best we can do is talk about an artifical standard Greek that serves us 1) in distinguishing sounds, 2) in preserving the peculiarities of Greek prosody, and 3) by a reasonable defense through linguistic analysis.

But even restored classical pronunciation is elusive. It's virtually impossible for a native English speaker to fully adopt it since we make no distinction in our own language between (for example) aspirated and unaspirated stops. Think of the difference between T in "top" and "stop." It's for this reason that most of us continue to use English fricatives for Greek aspirates, because we need to hear the distinction.

I think it's important to know restored (standardized) Classical pronunciation, but in practice it's okay to adopt what works for you.
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Postby Moerus » Sun Jan 04, 2004 3:47 pm

@whiteoctave, thank you. I'm jealous about your Allen books! :P Really interesting. I would like to know the unwritten ideas of some geniusses like Allen. I'm a big fan of Allen and Sturtevant too. But no, I'm not really jealous, I'm rather happy for you and remember we are friends! :D

@Dionysius: I agree with most of it. It's correct as you say it. But I think and I think you think so too that it's verry important in a language to have a standard pronunciation.

I know a Latin anecdote about that. Some time ago the world spoke Latin as we know. And as it is now, when we try to speak Latin, every person who tries to speak Latin has his own tongue, his own accent in it. Lipsius tells us that it happend that poolish people spoke Latin to Frensh people, and that these Frensh people asked to speak Latin, cause they didn't know poolish. The poolish people spoke Latin but as their own language and the consequence was that the Frensh didn't understant it, they thought it was poolish.
With Greek and Latin this is less important, cause mostly we write them. Although sometimes the languages are spoken, and then it's important to understand each other. Therefore I think we have to do our best to have a standard pronunciation. But THE standard pronunciation does not exist. We will never be able to make dissapear our accents totally.
But there are a few things we know! When Herodotos describes the sound of a goat with beta-eta, it's very unlikely that the goats in Herodotos' time made a sound as 'phi' (as it is pronounced in modern Greek). With these onomatopies we can restitute the sound of the ancient Greek letters. There are a few other aids too. But I know you know them, they are in Allen, Sturtevant, ...
It's true that we don't know native speakers, but that's not a reason that we wouldn't be able to restitute their 'standard' Greek.

And if we are able, and I really think so, to be understood by an ancient Greek (what's not really possible, I know), hypothetically spoken off course, then I think we have to be proud of our pronunciation, even if it's not as good as that of a Plato.

Secondly, Greek is a language wherein the dialects are more important than in any other language. And as you say, there must have been differences between these dialects. So I think almost every polis had her own 'standard' language. Later we had the koine as a standard language of course, but that's not really classic Greek as we mostly see that.

So I think we agree?
Surely wause we are correct!

Greetz,

Moerus.
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Postby annis » Sun Jan 04, 2004 5:10 pm

Dionysius wrote:Both are open-mid : back : rounded and distinguished only by quantity.


That's the first time I've heard that suggested. Most sources I've seen make the epsilon and omicron both tenser than their long counterparts. However, I've always been a little irritated that between Attic and Dimotiki the qualities of these flipped. This might account for some of it.

The best we can do is talk about an artifical standard Greek that serves us 1) in distinguishing sounds, 2) in preserving the peculiarities of Greek prosody, and 3) by a reasonable defense through linguistic analysis.


[face=spionic]eu)= ei)po/menon[/face]

I've been working on a quick intro to vowel phonology to go with the consonants tutorial, but this is much harder. Even among English speakers I know and work with there is surprisingly wild variation in how certain vowels are pronounced. This makes examples hard.
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Postby 1%homeless » Mon Jan 05, 2004 7:36 pm

It's virtually impossible for a native English speaker to fully adopt it since we make no distinction in our own language between (for example) aspirated and unaspirated stops.
Heh-heh, I grew up with Khmer (Cambodian). It has both aspirated and unaspirated stops, labials and velars just almost exactly like greek! :-) It's not going to be completely easy, but I do have an easier time learning them.

I don't have unicode font yet, but I'm sure I don't have to install it to know what it looks like. :) Basically it just looks like a backwards C or a closing parenthesis= )

3) by a reasonable defense through linguistic analysis

Yeah, and this is what I'm focusing on at the moment, I just want to settle these issues so I can get to Greek already. I mean I don't want to be very nit picky, but when I get conflicting information, it just bothers me to the point where I do get nit picky. :) That is what is great about pronouncing these ancient languages, beccause you get to use a little bit of imagination -but while still considering linguistic evidence of course.

Soo... well, William never heard that suggested... then I assume the "traditional" view is that omicron was pronounced like the French beau. Represented by "o" in IPA. Also, I like Sturtevant's arguments better, so I'm going to settle with the close o (or close mid).
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Postby Moerus » Mon Jan 12, 2004 5:21 pm

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Postby 1%homeless » Mon Jan 12, 2004 7:51 pm

Thanks moerus, but I have his tapes and booklet right next to me. :-) My downtown library is so awesome. A whole floor dedicated to languages! *Gloat* *Gloat*
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Postby mingshey » Tue Jan 13, 2004 12:37 am

Lucky boy, 1%homeless! :wink:
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Postby 1%homeless » Tue Jan 13, 2004 2:42 am

:) heh heh. yup, yup. I didn't even mention their non-public stock room and the inter-loan library system where any library can send the books to any other library within Los Angeles. Then there is the Pasadena and Glendale library system. My college library is pretty cool too. It has Pharr, Goodwin's two grammar books, Seymour's Homeric grammar, etc. With all my resources, I can basically find a good amount of what this place has and not to mention the plethora of modern copyrighted books. *gloat* Today, I just checked out Smyth's grammar book. *more gloating* It has a 1984 copyright and a revision by Messing. Since I can renew books online, I can basically check books out for up to 9 weeks, unless someone puts a hold on it. However, I doubt that Episcopus would be impressed with the resources here because there are very few D'ooge books I've seen. They don't lend out record players either so I can play the record that came with "The Sound of Greek". Now I'm kicking myself for selling my record player a little while ago. Oh well, I'll find a way to play it. :)

The funny thing is that I have all these books to myself. With the exception of modern language materials, I'm not competing with anybody with these books. It's amazing because southern California is obviously a very populated place with many different people of all walks of life, but still, the books are usually available for me to check out. I would be shocked to find out a book like Gordon's Old Norse being checked out. Well, I'm not going to be depressed about nobody being interested in ancient languages in Southern California. I'm going to look at the bright side and be selfishly happy that these books are just for me and nobody else. :-)

You can search the LA database catalog here: http://catalog1.lapl.org/

Here is the LA county library system:
http://www.colapublib.org/

Pasadena and Glendale:
http://www.ci.pasadena.ca.us/library

If you find a book checked out, it's probably in my bookshelf. :-) If anybody drops by in Southern Cali, I am the nubmer one library tour guide for your linguistic needs. :-)
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