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Learning accents in Ancient Greek

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Learning accents in Ancient Greek

Postby Koehnsen » Sun Aug 10, 2008 9:15 pm

Hi,

How much effort should one put toward learning accents in Attic Greek as a beginner? (The last time I studied Greek I bypassed them.) I have a book called A New Short Guide to the Accentuation of Ancient Greek, but it seems a bit advanced despite its promise of brevity!

Thanks for any responses.
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Re: Learning accents in Ancient Greek

Postby annis » Mon Aug 11, 2008 12:56 am

Koehnsen wrote:How much effort should one put toward learning accents in Attic Greek as a beginner? (The last time I studied Greek I bypassed them.) I have a book called A New Short Guide to the Accentuation of Ancient Greek, but it seems a bit advanced despite its promise of brevity!


Bypass the accents book but do memorize the vocabulary accents in your upcoming Greek class I recall from a different thread. The basic rules aren't too odd, and you can spend time learning exotica as you encounter them. Some vocabulary does depend entirely on the accent, and it sometimes offers useful grammar help.
William S. Annis — http://www.aoidoi.org/http://www.scholiastae.org/
τίς πατέρ' αἰνήσει εἰ μὴ κακοδαίμονες υἱοί;
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Postby Koehnsen » Mon Aug 11, 2008 2:08 am

Yes, good memory William – I do have a class coming in September. Thanks so much for your advice...I plan to follow it exactly.
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Postby GreekGeek2 » Mon Aug 11, 2008 7:09 am

I agree with what William says. If you learn words, try to memorize where the accent is. There are some logical rules, which can be found on the internet. This is a great site:

http://socrates.berkeley.edu/~ancgreek/ ... tionU.html

Try to skip the most difficult parts like the accentuation on enclitics and ειμι and stuff. LOater on you can learn those things.
Good luck!
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Postby Koehnsen » Mon Aug 11, 2008 10:25 am

GG2 - thanks! I've bookmarked your link for future use.
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Postby GreekGeek2 » Mon Aug 11, 2008 11:38 am

Glad to be a help. For further questions, you can check the Greek Grammar written by Smyth, online at:

http://www.perseus.tufts.edu/cgi-bin/pt ... ad%3D%2339
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Postby jadebono » Thu Aug 21, 2008 6:56 pm

When I started learning Greek (composition style), I developed an obsession with the accents although my tutors ignore accentuation for the first year of the course. I begged for help here and there, bought books by Philomen Proberts, Koster and Carson, drove my tutors insane with questions and spent hours drawing up massive flowcharts and weeping into my beer when things did not gel. Well, all that effort did pay off and I did become the course expert on accentuation. However... I realised that had I waited until I had gained a good grasp of grammar, I would have learnt the principles of accentuation with less effort than I had otherwise spent.

Since then, I had the misfortune of teaching Greek to an Italian student. To my horror, the very first lesson in her textbook, after the alphabet was on accentuation. I realised that without that grasp of Greek grammar, any principles that I could impart would fall on ears unable to grasp them.

My recommendation is that you acquire as solid a grasp of Greek grammar as possible - my favourite method is by twinning the Hillard and Botting book with the Abbot and Mansfield grammar. Then, pick up a copy of Koster or Carson and swot up for a fornight or two. You'll find that you'll pick them quite easily.
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Postby Koehnsen » Thu Aug 21, 2008 11:33 pm

jadebono, thanks! I read of your experiences with great interest. I don't intend to bypass them completely but wait a bit, as I was advised.

Thanks also for the link to Smyth, GG2. I went ahead and bought the hardbound edition. Pricey but a beautiful book, and one I plan to spend a ton of time with.
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Postby jeff.mcl » Thu Aug 28, 2008 1:20 am

Koehnsen wrote:jadebono, thanks! I read of your experiences with great interest. I don't intend to bypass them completely but wait a bit, as I was advised.

Thanks also for the link to Smyth, GG2. I went ahead and bought the hardbound edition. Pricey but a beautiful book, and one I plan to spend a ton of time with.


It's interesting that with all the emphasis on accents in beginner Greek courses, accents did not appear in the original texts. So, the authors did not write accents. They were probably added later to help students and foreigners pronounce Greek.

Still, I favor Mastronarde's belief--it's best to learn them at the beginning rather than trying to repair the damage later. Most of the time accents don't matter, but there are not infrequent occasions where accents are critical. I like Mastronarde's approach to teaching accents in particular. Accents are not nearly as hard to learn as people say they are. They are usually taught as a complex set of rules, which the student has to memorize. Well, the human brain does not remember random pieces of seemingly unconnected information. Mastronarde presents the reasoning behind the rules, and so makes accents much easier to understand.

Also see this explanation of the rules for enclitics, which are not some advanced piece of knowledge reserved for Ph.D.'s, but are really quite easy:

http://www.classicalmyth.com/greek/enclitics.html

As you get into noun and verb forms there will unfortunately be a lot of rules of accentuation to memorize. (E.g., nouns of the third declension with a one-syllable stem are accented on the last syllable in the genitive and dative of all numbers.) I would say you should try to learn these, but I wouldn't spend as much time on them as the basic rules.

Anyway, there is no right answer to your question. Some teachers ignore accents entirely, others are sticklers, and each can make a case for their way.
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Postby annis » Thu Aug 28, 2008 12:55 pm

jeff.mcl wrote:Anyway, there is no right answer to your question.


Yes, there is. :) Learn the accents.
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Postby Amadeus » Thu Aug 28, 2008 8:53 pm

Lisa: Relax?! I can't relax! Nor can I yield, relent, or... Only two synonyms? Oh my God! I'm losing my perspicacity! Aaaaa!

Homer: Well it's always in the last place you look.
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Postby cb » Thu Aug 28, 2008 10:01 pm

hi, i think the best authority on pronouncing the accents is devine and stephens 1994.

i have given a 1-para summary here, on page 2, section 7 A (remove spaces):

www . freewebs . com / mhninaeide / IliadBScannedWestText2006 . pdf

a few years ago i tried to turn devine and stephens' data into a pitch model to use, and put my doc online on a temporary site which, searching for it now, i am surprised still exists:

iliad.envy.nu/GreekPitchModel.pdf

i then tried to show how this pitch model would apply to greek text, e.g. the start of the iliad (back then i didn't know about IPA so please ignore the phonetics: the only bit of relevance is the pitch height of the syllables and the annotations in grey under each line, which correspond to the letters at the top of the pitch model doc linked above):

iliad.envy.nu/iliad1-1-44.pdf

there are errors in this old doc... once i got the hang of using the technique i stopped updating those docs and using that old site. nevertheless at the time i was in email contact with the person who did the demodokos sample online at http://www.oeaw.ac.at/kal/sh/ who sent me a copy of his software-generated pitch modelling of certain greek text (using the same rules in devine and stephens) and it pretty closely resembled mine.

cheers :)
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Postby Amadeus » Fri Aug 29, 2008 12:01 am

Lisa: Relax?! I can't relax! Nor can I yield, relent, or... Only two synonyms? Oh my God! I'm losing my perspicacity! Aaaaa!

Homer: Well it's always in the last place you look.
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Postby Koehnsen » Fri Aug 29, 2008 3:12 am

Jeff, thanks...I have Mastronarde's book. I'll give it a read and see what I can glean from it before my classes start.

Best to all.

PS -- I think this is turning into the accents thread. I love it.
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Postby cb » Sat Aug 30, 2008 12:25 pm

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Postby annis » Sat Aug 30, 2008 2:15 pm

I believe it's typologically* normal, too, for the accent in a pitch accent language to be set off primarily by a lower pitch in the following syllable. That's been my normal practice for Greek for quite a while now.

*typologically - in linguistics, typology is the study of shared linguistic features; for example, if a language has the word order Subject-Verb-Object then we know it's statistically very likely that relative clauses will come after the noun they modify, and adjectives after their nouns.
William S. Annis — http://www.aoidoi.org/http://www.scholiastae.org/
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Postby Amadeus » Sun Aug 31, 2008 2:51 am

*whistles* I need to parse all of this information before I can continue with the thread. :P
Lisa: Relax?! I can't relax! Nor can I yield, relent, or... Only two synonyms? Oh my God! I'm losing my perspicacity! Aaaaa!

Homer: Well it's always in the last place you look.
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Postby Amadeus » Fri Sep 05, 2008 12:12 am

Lisa: Relax?! I can't relax! Nor can I yield, relent, or... Only two synonyms? Oh my God! I'm losing my perspicacity! Aaaaa!

Homer: Well it's always in the last place you look.
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Postby cb » Fri Sep 05, 2008 1:16 pm

hi, yes i agree that we need to be practical: choose a way to pronounce (whether devine and stephens, modern grk style, etc), work out how to do it (if you need to: i needed to; for a modern grk using the modern grk way, this would be unnecessary), and tell people which system you use when you talk about/use grk pronunciation.

the devine and stephens book is not adapted for "using" though (and reading it is like trying to push your forehead through a brick without a run-up), so i tried to turn it into a useable technique, which is definitely not perfect but it is how i do it.

following my pitch model doc, your e.g. would have a drop to the second syll as you noted, then would rise steadily to the end. if that continuous rise sounds strange, there are at least four possible reasons:

(a) devine and stephens' book doesn't get grk pronunciation right,

(b) i didn't get devine and stephens' book right when making my model,

(c) the author of your e.g. did not write natural-sounding grk in stacking so many grave-accented words together; in fact from my reading of Attic prose I am not used to hearing so many graves together except in e.g. definitions given by Aristotle in his logical texts, e.g. the definition of ὄνομα here:

http://www.tlg.uci.edu/demo/browser?uid ... nicode_All

or (d) the continuous rise is normal in grk but it sounds strange if you are not used to this in your native language (incidentally i have had to study french phonetics books on intonation, as well as absorbing what i hear around me, to start to change my anglo-saxon intonation patterns when speaking french).

cheers :)
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Postby annis » Fri Sep 05, 2008 2:00 pm

William S. Annis — http://www.aoidoi.org/http://www.scholiastae.org/
τίς πατέρ' αἰνήσει εἰ μὴ κακοδαίμονες υἱοί;
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Postby cb » Fri Sep 05, 2008 2:36 pm

hey will, good idea, although the question is how do we work out what might have been a normal grk intonation unit for this type of genre (i.e. on what basis could we modify the punctuation of the text as presented by the modern editor).

i can think of three possibilities right now which could serve as a basis for this (none particularly convincing though):

(a) if an ancient grk style critic has described the relative lengths (or given syllable counts) of several connected cola, you could extrapolate from this an intonation unit to adopt if your e.g. text comes from the same genre (i am thinking in particular of the first few chapters of demetrius on style, where he does give syllable counts and general rules for cola length),

(b) a study of any punctuation in papyrus and inscriptions in a text from the same genre as your e.g. text could help, and

(c) if typology of languages shows that intonation units tend to have about X syllables in the context and genre of your e.g. text. by the way will, your typology e.g. above concerning pitch was v interesting: has someone studied this further in the context of latin pitch accent i wonder?

cheers :)
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Postby Amadeus » Tue Sep 09, 2008 12:41 am

Lisa: Relax?! I can't relax! Nor can I yield, relent, or... Only two synonyms? Oh my God! I'm losing my perspicacity! Aaaaa!

Homer: Well it's always in the last place you look.
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