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Pronunciation?

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Pronunciation?

Postby AVRAHAM » Thu Jan 31, 2008 4:10 pm

I know this is an old, and irrelavant topic for a language that is dead, unspoken, and strictly liturgical. But it is important for me. I learned a way to pronounce Hebrew, and for years I was doing it wrong. It turns out that Modern Hebrew now utilizes European pronunciation, and when people learn "Biblical Hebrew", they do the same. Only about a year ago did I learn Classical Hebrew pronunciation. And not only is it richer and more beautiful, but it lends to a great deal of etymological understanding.

So I am now presented with the same situation with Koine Greek. I've learned a very simple, European-ish way of pronounciation. However, I recently saw a chart that was quite different than what I learned. They seem to be fairly authoritive. So now I wonder. which way is right?

It lists some things, such as:
Beta is V not B
Gamma is GH not G (like the Ghayin)
Delta is TH not T
Omicron and Omega are both the long O
Chi is CH not K (like the Chaf)

It says there are several different systems that were established for Koine pronunciation. Most of them post-Koine. But that this one is the only system that was actually used by the Koine speakers of the time. There's a whole different system for dipthongs too (that seem to resemble that of the French). So which is more accurate? Thanks for your time.
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Re: Pronunciation?

Postby modus.irrealis » Thu Jan 31, 2008 5:18 pm

The chart you saw seems to describe the Modern Greek pronunciation which roughly speaking gives letters the values they have in Modern Greek. It's the pronunciation you would here, for example, if you went to a Greek Orthodox Church.

As for accuracy, it's tough to tell. Obviously we know how Modern Greek was pronounced, and there's also a great deal of evidence for Classical Greek, but with Koine Greek in the middle, it's hard to tell when the changes from the Classical to the Modern pronunciation occured. Some scholars date them very early, others very late, and so it's difficult to reconstruct the pronunciation of Koine Greek (which almost certainly varied with time, place, class, education, and so on). There doesn't seem to be enough evidence to determine the pronunciation accurately, so you'll probably have to choose a pronunciation based on other factors.
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Postby Chris Weimer » Sat Feb 02, 2008 6:17 am

Do realize that Koine Greek isn't consistent from region to region.
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Postby IreneY » Sat Feb 02, 2008 4:33 pm

Well the same goes for Greek of all times but that's a different issue perhaps?
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Postby quendidil » Sun Feb 03, 2008 7:20 am

IreneY wrote:Well the same goes for Greek of all times but that's a different issue perhaps?


Doesn't the same go for ANY language at ANY time? :D
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Postby Chris Weimer » Sun Feb 03, 2008 9:05 am

quendidil wrote:
IreneY wrote:Well the same goes for Greek of all times but that's a different issue perhaps?


Doesn't the same go for ANY language at ANY time? :D


Depends on how you define languages.
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Postby vir litterarum » Sun Feb 03, 2008 9:10 am

The best idea is to start with Allen's Vox Graeca, the most definitive book on ancient Greek pronunciation, then research in what ways Koine is distinct from Classical Attic pronunciation.
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Postby Bombichka » Sun Feb 03, 2008 11:09 am

I'm curious if thre are any attempts at reconsctructing koine Greek as pronounced by the time the Gospels were written.

I've heard recitations of Homer and Plato with reconstructed pronunciation, but I've never come across a reconstructed reading of, say, Matthew or Luke.
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Postby Bert » Sun Feb 03, 2008 5:16 pm

Bombichka wrote:I'm curious if thre are any attempts at reconsctructing koine Greek as pronounced by the time the Gospels were written.

I've heard recitations of Homer and Plato with reconstructed pronunciation, but I've never come across a reconstructed reading of, say, Matthew or Luke.

http://www.biblicalgreek.org/links/audio.php

There is a link here where you can listen to some reconstructed koine.
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Postby Bombichka » Sun Feb 03, 2008 6:50 pm

Thanks a lot for the link, Bert! It is really curious to see what people have been doing in that respect. Restoring koine pronunciation is a demanding task. we have a (relatively) complete picture only for the input, i.e. Ancient Greek phonetical system, and for the output, i.e. Modern Greek, but we don't know the intermediate stages, or at least not fully. we only know which sound changed into which, but we cannot be sure at what pace this happened.

the reconstructed reading of John is pretty close to what I myself would have expected for the pronunciation of Greek at about 1.-3. c. AD, except for some minor details:

- I think ther must have been some difference between the [e] with diphthongic provenance (developped from ai) and the [e] which was a continuation of the original epsilon. the former was probably more open

- the second element of au and eu was probably not labiodental, as in Modern Greek (i.e. pronounced with the teeth touching the lower lip) but was probably more like the bilabial Spanish v in vino.

I cannot be 100 % sure it was exactly like that, but I can present arguments why this is probable.
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Postby modus.irrealis » Tue Feb 05, 2008 7:34 am

If you haven't seen it, you might be interested in Randall Buth's notes on the Koine pronunciation.

Bombichka wrote:- I think ther must have been some difference between the [e] with diphthongic provenance (developped from ai) and the [e] which was a continuation of the original epsilon. the former was probably more open

In his system, he has η as a close [e] vowel and ε as an open [ε] vowel, so he basically has no room left for αι except to merge with ε.

- the second element of au and eu was probably not labiodental, as in Modern Greek (i.e. pronounced with the teeth touching the lower lip) but was probably more like the bilabial Spanish v in vino.

In the pdf file, he takes that position too, although in the reading it does sound labiodental to me as well.

I cannot be 100 % sure it was exactly like that, but I can present arguments why this is probable.

I'd be interested in seeing your arguments.
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Postby Bombichka » Tue Feb 05, 2008 10:30 am

thanks for the link! I'll read it carefully.

as for now, I can give my arguments (based on analogy and mere guesswork) why [e]<[ai] may have sounded more open.

if [e]<[ai] merged with another type of e-sound, it merged with the epsilon, forming an open e, and the eta was the closed e.

I think this was so because it is only natural that an a-sound moving towards e retains some of its former wider pronunciation. for example, the e-sound in French coming from an original Latin a (as in lat. amare - fr. aimer) is pronounced more open than the e-sound from Latin e or i, which, in many cases, has even turned to the so-called "e-muet", pronounces like the u in engl. but (cf. lat pensare - fr. peser).

Old Church Slavonic demonstrates a similar development: the former Indo-European ai turned in this language into a specific wider e-sound designated with a special character, while the e of monophthongic origin was like the sound in engl. pet.

Besides, I recall reading somewhere there are Modern Greek dialects in which there is a distinction between the e's of diphthongic and of monophthongic origin. I still have to confirm this information, but it sounds convincing to me.

As to the second element of the aw- and ew-diphthongs, it is also natural that it should have passed through a bilabial stage before turning into a labiodental consonant. the same semi-vowel has undergone the same development in Spanish. a proof that something like this also happened in Greek are forms such as the dialectal atos instead of autos, where probably a bilabial v before a silent plosive became itself silent and was later "swallowed" by the speakers of the dialect. Modern Greek emorfos < Ancient Greek eumorphos demonstrates a somewhat similar process.
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Postby modus.irrealis » Fri Feb 08, 2008 3:01 am

Bombichka wrote:if [e]<[ai] merged with another type of e-sound, it merged with the epsilon, forming an open e, and the eta was the closed e.

That's the situation that Randall Buth describes, and which the recording seems to be aiming for.

I think this was so because it is only natural that an a-sound moving towards e retains some of its former wider pronunciation. for example, the e-sound in French coming from an original Latin a (as in lat. amare - fr. aimer) is pronounced more open than the e-sound from Latin e or i, which, in many cases, has even turned to the so-called "e-muet", pronounces like the u in engl. but (cf. lat pensare - fr. peser).

That makes sense -- there's also Vulgar Latin, where ae merged with short e to an open sound and oe merged with long e (and short i I guess) to a close sound.

Besides, I recall reading somewhere there are Modern Greek dialects in which there is a distinction between the e's of diphthongic and of monophthongic origin. I still have to confirm this information, but it sounds convincing to me.

If you do confirm it, I'd be interested in that too. The only thing I can think of that's kind of similar is that Pontic Greek has generally preserved η as [e], but I don't think that has any bearing here.

As to the second element of the aw- and ew-diphthongs, it is also natural that it should have passed through a bilabial stage before turning into a labiodental consonant. the same semi-vowel has undergone the same development in Spanish. a proof that something like this also happened in Greek are forms such as the dialectal atos instead of autos, where probably a bilabial v before a silent plosive became itself silent and was later "swallowed" by the speakers of the dialect. Modern Greek emorfos < Ancient Greek eumorphos demonstrates a somewhat similar process.

That makes sense as well.
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