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How should a question be pronounced in ancient greek?

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How should a question be pronounced in ancient greek?

Postby potatohog » Sun Apr 12, 2009 10:57 am

In English, a rising pitch is used at the end of a question, so that we know it's a question instead of a general statement. An example:
You want to see it.
You want to see it?

The only difference is the pitch of "it".

So I wonder how it is in ancient Greek. Anyone here who has some idea?
Ik hou van aardappelen.
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Re: How should a question be pronounced in ancient greek?

Postby vir litterarum » Mon Apr 13, 2009 6:04 pm

Voice inflection is a dicey subject for any dead language, as Dik says in Word Order in Greek Tragic Dialogue: "While it is in the nature of studying Greek or any other dead language that prosodic contours cannot be directly identified..."
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Re: How should a question be pronounced in ancient greek?

Postby Lucus Eques » Thu Apr 16, 2009 2:16 pm

There are various dialects in many languages (Italian, English, Spanish, etc.) that do not use a rising inflection to indicate a question. In Pennsylvania we sometimes make fun of New Jersey folk and New Yorkers because they raise the pitch so much for questions (think a Brooklyn accent). And in turn they make fun of us because we don't often raise the pitch at the end of questions — direct questions, such as "He's a professor?" can sound exactly like "He's a professor."

Therefore, since the Greek accent system lays out the pronunciation and natural melody pretty precisely, I'd follow that even with questions — the difference in Greek is that there is actually a particle to indicate a direct question, and thus no intonation change is necessary. Nor for the other question sentences that have question words like "where," "what," etc.
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Re: How should a question be pronounced in ancient greek?

Postby jaihare » Thu Apr 16, 2009 7:08 pm

Lucus Eques wrote:There are various dialects in many languages (Italian, English, Spanish, etc.) that do not use a rising inflection to indicate a question. In Pennsylvania we sometimes make fun of New Jersey folk and New Yorkers because they raise the pitch so much for questions (think a Brooklyn accent). And in turn they make fun of us because we don't often raise the pitch at the end of questions — direct questions, such as "He's a professor?" can sound exactly like "He's a professor."

Therefore, since the Greek accent system lays out the pronunciation and natural melody pretty precisely, I'd follow that even with questions — the difference in Greek is that there is actually a particle to indicate a direct question, and thus no intonation change is necessary. Nor for the other question sentences that have question words like "where," "what," etc.

It depends on the question both in English and in Spanish, for example. If you ask someone "What are you doing?", you do not lift at the end. The same is true of "¿Qué quieres comer?" in Spanish. However, the issue (it seems) is with yes/no questions, in which both in Spanish and in English (and I assume also in Italian) the pitch at the end rises.

¿Quieres ir al cine?
Do you want to go to a movie?
?רוצה ללכת לסרט

All of them have rising pitch at the end to indicate a question. English is lucky to have the addition of "do" to make the question very obvious, just as in Hebrew we can add הֲ\האם (as in הֲיָדַעתָ - "did you know?") and in Latin we can add -ne to the end of the first word in the yes/no sentence. In Spanish, you add nothing at all and the question is determined COMPLETELY by the pitch.

The direction you've gone with question-words (who, what, when, where, why, how, which, etc.) is quite different from the issue of yes/no questions and pitch. I think it should be completely natural to insert pitch into yes/no questions, even in Greek.
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Re: How should a question be pronounced in ancient greek?

Postby Lex » Thu Apr 16, 2009 8:07 pm

I don't think that yes/no questions make a difference. As far as I can tell, the big thing is whether or not the syntax gives a clue as to whether the sentence is a question or not. "Do you want to go to the movies?" is obviously a question, whether there is a raise in pitch or not. With the sentence "He's a professor?", it is not obvious by syntax that it is a question, and so the raise in pitch is more necessary as a marker. At least, in my "idiolect", that is the case.
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