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Learning the Greek Alphabet

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Learning the Greek Alphabet

Postby Iacobus de Indianius » Wed Jul 10, 2013 4:32 pm

Hi all,

I can't help but feel that the following questions must have been discussed previously in this forum, but I could not find anything when searching. Apologies then, if I'm asking dull questions that have been discussed ad nauseam.

I'm going to attempt to learn Greek on my own, starting with Homer. I picked up the new, 2012, edition of Pharr and cracked it open last night. As you know, the first challenge is the alphabet. Memorizing alpha, beta, gamma, etc. is easy enough and I'm sure the script becomes like second nature in time. I'm concerned, however, that, since I'm doing this on my own, I will screw up the pronunciation. I certainly do not want to get in the habit of pronouncing things wrong and have to relearn down the road.

I recall when going through Wheelocks that there was a website with audio pronunciations for vowels, consonants, and diphthongs. Does anyone know of anything similar for Greek? Also any other advice on learning the alphabet -- or Greek in general -- would be most appreciated. I found an app for my iPhone that quizzes each letter, but, alas, it does not have pronunciations.

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Re: Learning the Greek Alphabet

Postby Paul Derouda » Wed Jul 10, 2013 5:54 pm


This sort of question starts heated discussions here all the time, so I wouldn't call it dull... You could check this:


It is awful, it is Anglophonic, but there's much good about it too. Here's a discussion we had about this page recently.
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Re: Learning the Greek Alphabet

Postby spiphany » Thu Jul 11, 2013 2:07 pm

Donald Mastronarde also has some pronunciation practice here: http://socrates.berkeley.edu/~ancgreek/
He outlines what pronunciation scheme he is using somewhere on his website, I believe.

You may be opening a can of worms if you start wondering about what is "correct" and "learning bad habits". The answer is there are certain conventions in certain scholarly groups about what pronunciation is used. Linguists also have a fairly good idea about what the individual phonemes of ancient Greek were (although there are some disagreements). Unfortunately, there's a huge gap between "the pronunciation that people usually use" and "what scholars think ancient Greek sounded like". In addition, "ancient Greek" literature spanned a more than a few centuries, and several different dialects, so it's not just a question of "what did it sound like", but "what did it sound like in a particular place at a particular time."

Also there's another thing you might want to be aware of: names of well-known Greek people or places often have a traditional form and pronunciation in modern languages which may include stress patterns or sounds that are dramatically different than the classically "correct" pronunciation, which can be a bit disorienting sometimes.

Not discouraging you in any way, just know that the answer can be as simple or as complicated as you want...
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: Learning the Greek Alphabet

Postby Iacobus de Indianius » Fri Jul 12, 2013 9:00 pm

Thanks guys. I'll use both of these and won't stress too much about accuracy. This Greek stuff is so exciting.
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