Textkit Logo

Homeric Greek pronunciation

Are you reading Homeric Greek or studying Homeric Greek with Pharr's Homeric Greek - A Book For Beginners? Here's where you can meet other Homeric Greek learners. Use this board for all things Homeric Greek.

Homeric Greek pronunciation

Postby justaprogrammer » Tue Jul 09, 2013 12:18 pm

I'm new to Homeric Greek, in fact I'm new to all Ancient Greek, and had a question with some pronunciation.

When I learned a little about Classical Greek, I was told that φ was pronounced like an English 'f', and θ like an English 'th', but my Homeric Greek textbook says that they're pronounced 'p-h' and 't-h' respectively. I'm having some trouble understanding how ἴφθιμος would have been pronounced. Would it still be pronounced with the hard "p" and hard "t"? It seems impossible to say. Is there a rule that I missed for this type of case?

Also, is η just pronounced like a longer version of ε?
justaprogrammer
Textkit Neophyte
 
Posts: 2
Joined: Tue Jul 09, 2013 12:06 pm

Re: Homeric Greek pronunciation

Postby Qimmik » Tue Jul 09, 2013 10:56 pm

In the archaic (e.g., Homer) and Classical eras, as best we can tell, theta, phi and chi were pronounced as aspirated consonants, i.e., as occlusives t, p and k with a slight aspiration (but enough to distinguish them from tau, pi and chi, which would have been pronounced without aspiration--this is difficult for English speakers because t, p and k are pronounced with an aspiration in most environments). The pronunciation as of theta, phi and chi as fricatives, i.e., like English f and unvoiced th, and German ch, respectively, became prevalent by the Roman period (and beta began to be pronounced like English v).

In the archaic and classical periods, eta was pronounced like a long epsilon, and the vowel represented by epsilon iota seems to have been pronounced as a vowel with the tongue higher than eta, like a in English ate, but without the y glide at the end of the sound.

However, we really don't know precisely how ancient Greek sounded, especially the vowel sounds, and the sounds no doubt changed over time (just as various modern English pronunciations are in a continuous state of flux), and there were probably sharp differences among--and within--dialects, from city to city and among different social classes within cities.

So absolute precision in pronouncing ancient Greek is unattainable. Don't feel obliged to pronounce Homeric Greek in a way that doesn't feel comfortable. Pronounce theta and phi like English th and f if it's more comfortable.
Qimmik
Textkit Zealot
 
Posts: 1468
Joined: Mon Mar 18, 2013 10:15 pm

Re: Homeric Greek pronunciation

Postby Zetes » Wed Jul 10, 2013 8:48 pm

I've only just posted in the general Greek section on this question, where I ask if anyone can tell me how to pronounce the unaspirateds pi, tau and kappa properly. As a native English speaker my makeshift version is to pronounce pi, tau and kappa like the p,t and k of my ordinary English(ie with a fair bit of aspiration built in) and then for phi, theta and chi to lay on the aspiration with a trowel; the trouble is I find that puts stress on the syllable with the aspirate, and that might usually be quite wrong. I don't have that much Greek yet so I hope my mistakes aren't too ingrained to be corrected by some helpful hints.
Zetes
Textkit Neophyte
 
Posts: 7
Joined: Tue May 21, 2013 7:12 pm

Re: Homeric Greek pronunciation

Postby Qimmik » Thu Jul 11, 2013 2:02 pm

my makeshift version is to pronounce pi, tau and kappa like the p,t and k of my ordinary English(ie with a fair bit of aspiration built in) and then for phi, theta and chi to lay on the aspiration with a trowel; the trouble is I find that puts stress on the syllable with the aspirate,


Phi, theta and chi were probably originally pronounced like English p, t and k when followed immediately by a vowel and not preceded by s; and pi, tau and kappa like French p, t and c or qu, respectively (i.e., as pure occlusives with no aspiration). Eventually phi, theta and chi came to be pronounced as fricatives, probably something like f, English th and German ch, respectively, but the evidence is not clear when these changes came about, and they probably occurred at different times in different dialects. We have some idea of the pronunciation of Attic Greek in the classical period (5th-4th centuries), but we have no idea how Ionic Greek was pronounced in the archaic period, when the Homeric poems originated.

Why not just pronounce pi, tau and kappa like English p, t and k, and pronounce phi, theta and chi like English f, English th and German ch, respectively? There are several different ways ancient Greek is pronounced, and this is one that is common in the US, at least. There are many more important things to worry about in tackling Homeric Greek than pronunciation.

No matter how hard we try, we will never know whether we're pronouncing ancient Greek properly, since there are no more ancient Greeks to correct our pronunciation. In any case, unless you're able to engage in time-travel, you'll never have a problem communicating orally with ancient Greeks. And just as almost no one can master the pronunciation of a foreign language after childhood to the point where they would be mistaken for a native speaker (even though they may master grammar and syntax thoroughly), if we had a chance to speak to an ancient Greek, we would all sound like the barbarians we are.
Qimmik
Textkit Zealot
 
Posts: 1468
Joined: Mon Mar 18, 2013 10:15 pm

Re: Homeric Greek pronunciation

Postby Markos » Thu Jul 11, 2013 5:19 pm

Zetes: As a native English speaker my makeshift version is to pronounce pi, tau and kappa like the p,t and k of my ordinary English(ie with a fair bit of aspiration built in) and then for phi, theta and chi to lay on the aspiration with a trowel; the trouble is I find that puts stress on the syllable with the aspirate, and that might usually be quite wrong.


That's very true. ἔγραφεν comes out like egrApuhEn with essentially an extra syllable, a schwa, added. The syllable after the shwa almost has to get an (additional) stress. You hear this a lot on the JCAT c.d., where it comes out sounding like likes θεός is accented on the first syllable, which would really confuse beginners.

Greek accents jump around enough as it is without adding this further complication, so it seems to me another reason to pronounce φ as either simple p or f.
Markos
Textkit Zealot
 
Posts: 1422
Joined: Sun Jun 21, 2009 8:07 pm
Location: Colorado

Re: Homeric Greek pronunciation

Postby Zetes » Sun Jul 14, 2013 10:32 am

Thanks for taking the time to post some advice. Although absolute accuracy isn't of course achievable and wouldn't be terribly important for an ancient language anyway, I like to try the best I can. When I set to memorise new words I say them over as well as writing them to help to fix them. At least Hellenists don't have anything like the problems Egyptologists have.
Zetes
Textkit Neophyte
 
Posts: 7
Joined: Tue May 21, 2013 7:12 pm

Re: Homeric Greek pronunciation

Postby Qimmik » Sun Jul 14, 2013 3:05 pm

Another interesting aspect of Homeric pronunciation is the aspirate (the rough breathing--the "h" sound). The rough breathing disappeared in Greek over the course of its history, but not at the same time throughout the Greek world. The rough breathing was maintained in Attic through the classical period (5th-4th cc. BCE) and probably later, but it's generally believed that Ionic Greek, as well as Aeolic, had lost the rough breathing by the time the Homeric poems were composed.

Our texts of Homer, like those of other ancient authors, are marked with the diacritical marks indicating rough and smooth breathings, to be sure, but of course, these were not added to manuscripts until much later, in an era when the rough breathing was in the course of disappearance and many Greek speakers were unsure about whether vowel-initial words began with a rough or a smooth breathing. In the texts of the Homeric poems, the rough breathing mark has been added only to words that existed in Attic Greek. Those which originally--before the Homeric poems--are thought to have begun with rough breathing on etymological grounds but did not exist in Attic Greek have been marked with the smooth breathing. Compare ἡμέρα with ἦμαρ. (Our texts have been Atticized in other ways, too.)

So if you want to pronounce Homeric Greek like a 7th century rhapsode, you should drop the anachronistic rough breathings. (West's edition of the Iliad, which purports to restore Ionic forms where he (and others) believe the forms that appear in our manuscripts have been modified, doesn't go so far as to eliminate rough breathings . . . but don't get me started on that.) That's just one more reason why a quest for an absolutely correct pronunciation of ancient Greek is futile.

The main objective, in my view, is to maintain phonemic contrasts. If you pronounce phi, theta and chi as fricatives rather than as aspirates (as Greeks have done since the Roman period), you will maintain the contrasts with voiced (b, d, g) and voiceless (p, t, k) occlusives without spending too much time on mastering sounds that are foreign to your native speech (assuming you speak English or another language with out contrastive aspiration).
Qimmik
Textkit Zealot
 
Posts: 1468
Joined: Mon Mar 18, 2013 10:15 pm

Re: Homeric Greek pronunciation

Postby Gaius » Thu Aug 22, 2013 6:51 pm

Qimmik wrote:it's generally believed that Ionic Greek, as well as Aeolic, had lost the rough breathing by the time the Homeric poems were composed.


Qimmik, could you post references to scholarly literature on this subject? I hadn't come across this before and find it interesting.

Thanks!
Gaius
Textkit Neophyte
 
Posts: 26
Joined: Thu Jun 14, 2012 4:07 am

Re: Homeric Greek pronunciation

Postby Paul Derouda » Thu Aug 22, 2013 7:10 pm

Indeed, that's an interesting question. I'd definitely like to have look at it too! I think I've noticed that newer editions of Homer have dropped out the aspiration from words that had them in earlier editions. I can't quote any example from memory. I suppose it's related to this particular problem, though I've never given this proper attention. And Qimmik - if you want to get started on West, be my guest; I at least always enjoy that, your opinions are always so well founded... (Of course I have to disagree a bit now and then, just for argument's sake :))
Paul Derouda
Textkit Zealot
 
Posts: 937
Joined: Fri Nov 05, 2010 9:39 pm

Re: Homeric Greek pronunciation

Postby Qimmik » Thu Aug 22, 2013 10:11 pm

Here's an unreliable source, to start. I've seen this in several authoritative sources, and I'll try to find a citation when I get a chance.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Psilosis
Qimmik
Textkit Zealot
 
Posts: 1468
Joined: Mon Mar 18, 2013 10:15 pm

Re: Homeric Greek pronunciation

Postby Qimmik » Fri Aug 23, 2013 3:12 am

Chantraine has a chapter on psilosis (ch.XVI, pp. 184-188). He isn't as categorical as I was. He mentions that in Aeolian and Asian Ionic aspiration disappeared. Speaking of the facts evidenced in the manuscript tradition (which, after all, is the product of many centuries of scholarship and doesn't necessarily represent with complete accuracy how the poems would have been pronounced even in 5th century Athens), he writes that generally the aspirated form in the vulgate is found in words which have been preserved in Attic Ionian and the koine, while the smooth breathing is notated on uniquely Homeric words. But he goes on to show that the manuscript tradition is complex and not necessarily consistent. Chez Homère, le texte traditionel est plein de contradictions et d'inconséquences.
Qimmik
Textkit Zealot
 
Posts: 1468
Joined: Mon Mar 18, 2013 10:15 pm

Re: Homeric Greek pronunciation

Postby Qimmik » Fri Aug 23, 2013 3:31 am

West, Studies in the Text and Transmission of the Iliad, (Munich-Leipzig 2001), p. 32, writes that a small body of evidence "provides some basis for the generalization that Ionian texts were psilotic. Everythig seems to point towards this having been true of the original text too."

Janko, The Iliad: A Commentary, vol 4 (the Cambridge commentary) maintains that "Our texts of early epic all have a uniform veneer of Attic dialect . . . . Aspirated forms . . . have always ousted Ionic forms with psilosis . . ., unless the form was not recognized as Attic as in cases like ἦμαρ . . . ."

Over the weekend I'll see if I can find more sources on psilosis.
Qimmik
Textkit Zealot
 
Posts: 1468
Joined: Mon Mar 18, 2013 10:15 pm

Re: Homeric Greek pronunciation

Postby Qimmik » Fri Aug 23, 2013 3:58 am

Wackernagel, Sprachliche Untersuchungen zu Homer (p. 45 in the 1970 reprint), after discussing the inconsistencies in the paradosis, writes: "Derartige Schwierigkeiten werden vermieden, wenn wir die homerische Aspiration in Attika geregelt sein lassen, d. h. annehmen, dass in einem ostionischen Homertexte, worin Psilose voellig durchgefuehrt war, auf alle diejenigen Wortformen, die auch attisch waren, die attische Weise der Aspirierung uebertragen wurde, die uebrigen Wortformen einfach den Lenis behielten."

Loosely translated:

These difficulties are avoided if we allow that Homeric aspiration was established in Attic, that is, if we suppose that in an originally thoroughly psilotic East Ionic text of Homer, the Attic type of aspiration was imposed on all those word forms that also happened to be Attic, but otherwise word forms usually received the smooth breathing.
Qimmik
Textkit Zealot
 
Posts: 1468
Joined: Mon Mar 18, 2013 10:15 pm

Re: Homeric Greek pronunciation

Postby Paul Derouda » Fri Aug 23, 2013 7:42 am

Thanks, now there's something for us to digest! One specification: By Chantraine (ch.XVI, pp. 184-188), you must mean Grammaire Homérique vol 1.
Paul Derouda
Textkit Zealot
 
Posts: 937
Joined: Fri Nov 05, 2010 9:39 pm

Re: Homeric Greek pronunciation

Postby Scribo » Fri Aug 23, 2013 10:51 am

Aspirated forms may indeed be due to Attic, in part, but there are problems. E.g even with the language on Asia minor, some forms are psilotic and some are not. I think S West in her praefatio to her Odyssey commentary mentions this.

Essentially you have inscriptions like: hεκηβόλοι ἰοχεαίρηι (CEG I 403, ca 7th century) where aspiration is certain, this one is even an epic formula. So the language here could be borrowing from contemporary non psilotic dialects, could be (deliberately?) archaising or it could indeed be external influence from editing. Note the οι ending ought to have a long o but I can't do macra and the inscription does not use omega.

Off the top of my head I can think of: Meier-Brugger 2003 Die homerische Kuntsprache in Ulf 2003 Der neue Streit um Troia. Eine Bilanz. Munich and Watcher 2000 Grammatik der Homerischen Sprache in Latacz, J etc 2000 Homer Ilias Gesamtkommentar II. Rix's historic grammar might have something but I can't recall.

Essentially there needs to be more concerted use of the non literary evidence.
User avatar
Scribo
Textkit Zealot
 
Posts: 722
Joined: Fri Feb 22, 2008 2:28 pm
Location: Between Ilias and Odysseia.

Re: Homeric Greek pronunciation

Postby Qimmik » Fri Aug 23, 2013 2:28 pm

It's true that there must have been a great deal of local variability even in East Ionic (Ionic spoken in Asia Minor) as to aspiration. However, East Ionic seems to have been largely psilotic at a relatively early date, and Aeolic completely so. (Texts of Sappho and Alcaeus are entirely psilotic--but I suppose this could be due to the fact that the fragments that have come down to us have been worked over by Hellenistic scholars who assumed that they would have been psilotic based on contemporary Aeolic dialects.) West Ionic, spoken on Euboea, and Attic--at least in the prestige register--retained the rough breathing longer than other dialects.

The breathing marks in our text derive from the medieval manuscripts. These, along with the accents, are believed to have been imposed on a text without diacritical marks by Hellenistic and later scholarship in antiquity, based on a traditional pronunciation. The consensus seems to be that the traditional pronunciation reflected an Attic, post-Ionic phase that the tradition passed through because the breathings generally appear on words that occur in Attic but not on words that would etymologically call for the rough breathing but do not appear in Attic.
Qimmik
Textkit Zealot
 
Posts: 1468
Joined: Mon Mar 18, 2013 10:15 pm

Re: Homeric Greek pronunciation

Postby Gaius » Fri Aug 23, 2013 7:07 pm

Qimmik, Scribo, and Paul,

Thanks for the references. I find this very interesting and look forward to reading the sources on psilosis. I knew that there were some Attic biases in the texts we have possibly because of Attic recension. Is it possible Herodotus would not have pronounced rough breathing either because he wrote in the Ionic dialect? Although he had lots of contact with Athens, and I imagine Attic Greek, with performance (if you side with Oswyn Murray and Gregory Nagy on that).
Gaius
Textkit Neophyte
 
Posts: 26
Joined: Thu Jun 14, 2012 4:07 am

Re: Homeric Greek pronunciation

Postby Qimmik » Fri Aug 23, 2013 9:03 pm

Herodotus was from Halicarnassus, a Doric-speaking area but one with Ionic links. His Histories are written in Ionic because he was following a tradition of Ionic prose-writing by such authors as Hecataeus.

Herodotus' Histories exhibit psilosis in compounds such as ἀπίκατο, ἐπορμῆσαι, ὑπίστημι (I found those in LSJ word-entries under the Attic forms). Word-initial vowels, however, are marked with rough breathings in the texts printed today, based on the medieval manuscript tradition.

Of course, the rough breathings were originally added to the text much later than the 5th century, based, I would think, on Attic practice. Herodotus' original manuscript would not have indicated breathings at all--it would have consisted of just a long string of capital letters without diacritical marks of any kind. The compound verb forms without aspiration, however, are evidence that the Histories were indeed thoroughly psilotic, as contemporary Ionic speech would be. Thus, it seems probable that in reading his works aloud, in Athens or elsewhere, he would have not have pronounced word-initial aspiration.

This is just one more reason why modern attempts to replicate ancient Greek pronunciation precisely are doomed to failure.

I would guess that Herodotus probably knew how to pronounce rough breathings when conversing with Athenians in Athens, but maybe not. There were many non-Athenians in Athens and they somehow made themselves understood. It's not difficult for English speakers who pronounce h to follow those who don't.
Last edited by Qimmik on Sat Aug 24, 2013 1:58 pm, edited 1 time in total.
Qimmik
Textkit Zealot
 
Posts: 1468
Joined: Mon Mar 18, 2013 10:15 pm

Re: Homeric Greek pronunciation

Postby Qimmik » Sat Aug 24, 2013 1:36 pm

Chantraine (ch.XVI, pp. 184-188), you must mean Grammaire Homérique vol 1.


Yes.
Qimmik
Textkit Zealot
 
Posts: 1468
Joined: Mon Mar 18, 2013 10:15 pm

Re: Homeric Greek pronunciation

Postby Qimmik » Sat Aug 24, 2013 2:14 pm

Another thought occurred to me. What about the dialogue in tragedy, written in a lightly Ionicized Attic? Generally, our texts have rough breathings and compounds in ἐφ-, ἀφ-, and ὑφ-. Could these forms be artifacts of the subsequent history of the texts that don't reflect the original pronunciation? I've never seen anything written about this (though there must be something somewhere). I suspect that changing all the compound verbs would have left some traces if that were the case, though.
Qimmik
Textkit Zealot
 
Posts: 1468
Joined: Mon Mar 18, 2013 10:15 pm


Return to Homeric Greek and Pharr's Homeric Greek - A Book For Beginners

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 9 guests