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Greek letters: reading without understanding

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Greek letters: reading without understanding

Postby Carolus Raeticus » Tue Aug 21, 2012 11:22 am

Hello!

My question may seem a bit weird at first. I want to learn to read ancient Greek. Not understand it, mind you, only read (and pronounce it more or less correctly in my head).

The reason I wish to do so, is that I am again and again encountering Greek words (in Greek letters), e.g. in the Illustrated Companion to the Latin Dictionary, and Greek Lexicon, Isidore of Seville's Etymologiarum Libri XX, etc. Every time I happen upon these Greek words, I am faltering in the reading process. These letters are merely images, and these images are hard to process for my mind when mixed with normal text. Additionally, I sometimes encounter Greek letters when transcribing a text. Right now, these are all Klingon to me.

My aim: be able to read (= pronounce in my head or even aloud without understanding what the word is supposed to mean) a word in ancient Greek (or even a phrase).

Can you give me any hints?

  • I had a look at Mr. Annis' site and its article about Greek Dialects. Does it matter for my special need whether I focus on Epic, Attic, Koine?
  • Does anyone know the web-site Ancient Greek Tutorials? What do you think about its pronunciation?
  • Any other resource recommendation concerning letter-comprehension and pronunciation?

Thank you,

Carolus Raeticus
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Re: Greek letters: reading without understanding

Postby daivid » Tue Aug 21, 2012 12:08 pm

From what you say you are only wanting to get a pronunciation that works for you.
There are a number of ways of pronouncing ancient Greek. I suspect
that the more modern pronunciations are closer to how the Greeks
actually spoke but as you don't want to appreciate the beauty of Greek
poetry etc - so what.

Choose a system any system and stick with it. Virtually any Greek textbook will
start with a guide - that's all you need.
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Re: Greek letters: reading without understanding

Postby ragnar_deerslayer » Wed Aug 22, 2012 2:27 am

For ancient Greek, the gold standard is Allen's Vox Graeca. Check it out on Amazon and see if that's what you're looking for.

For Koine Greek, I'd go with Randall Buth's Restored pronunciation.

Right now, since I'm working on Koine, I pronounce all classical Greek in the Restored Koine pronunciation (since that's probably how the first-century readers would have pronounced the classical writers). Someday I'll learn the correct Attic pronunciation, but I have too much else on my plate right now.
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Re: Greek letters: reading without understanding

Postby spiphany » Wed Aug 22, 2012 6:45 am

The tutorials on Mastronarde's site should be sufficient for your purposes, if your main goal is to be able to turn the symbols on the page into sounds. You might also look at the first chapter in any standard Greek textbook, these usually offer a good overview on pronunciation. What I found particularly helpful was texts where they presented familiar Greek names or words (Athena, Plato, agora, demagogue) to begin with, there's an aha (or perhaps I should say eureka/εὕρηκα) moment when the letters resolve themselves into a word you know.

I don't think it matters particularly whether you use an Attic/Homeric or Koine textbook, although they will use slightly different pronunciation schemes. You might consider the context--i.e., are the authors where you're encountering the Greek words more likely to be using classical sources or New Testament sources? I don't know what pronunciation scheme Isidore of Seville would have been familiar with (the traditional pronunciation of ancient Greek varies somewhat from country to country and over time), and I don't know whether it's particularly relevant.

Vox Graeca is really only to be recommended if you want to know in detail how ancient Greek was probably pronounced and how we have come to these conclusions (linguistic evidence etc). It assumes you already have some familiarity with Greek, I believe, so also perhaps not the best starting point for a raw beginner.
IPHIGENIE: Kann uns zum Vaterland die Fremde werden?
ARKAS: Und dir ist fremd das Vaterland geworden.
IPHIGENIE: Das ist's, warum mein blutend Herz nicht heilt.
(Goethe, Iphigenie auf Tauris)
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Re: Greek letters: reading without understanding

Postby Carolus Raeticus » Wed Aug 22, 2012 10:28 am

Hello!

Thank you all for your help. I will concentrate on Mr. Mastronarde's site, then. Based on the recommendations given in Mr. Annis' site I would have normally chosen an Epic Greek-textbook, but as Mr. Mastronarde's Ancient Greek Tutorials use Attic Greek I will use either William Smith's A First Greek Course or Mr. JW. White's The First Greek Book.

Bye,

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Re: Greek letters: reading without understanding

Postby spiphany » Wed Aug 22, 2012 12:57 pm

As far as pronunciation is concerned, Epic and Attic textbooks will probably give you very similar information. There are a few differences, mainly whether the digamma is pronounced or not, but the big differences are in grammar and vocabulary. If you're interested in eventually reading and understanding Greek, choice of dialect may be more important.

Koine traditionally uses a different pronunciation than Epic and Attic, I believe. This has to do with scholastic tradition, a gap between the kinds of texts studied in classical philology on the one hand and religious studies on the other, rather than historical differences in pronunciation depending on time period and region.
IPHIGENIE: Kann uns zum Vaterland die Fremde werden?
ARKAS: Und dir ist fremd das Vaterland geworden.
IPHIGENIE: Das ist's, warum mein blutend Herz nicht heilt.
(Goethe, Iphigenie auf Tauris)
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