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pronunciation of spurious diphthongs

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pronunciation of spurious diphthongs

Postby chad » Fri Nov 28, 2003 4:58 am

hi guys,

i read in smyth (section 6 and 25) that the "diphthongs" ei and ou formed by contraction or compensatory lengthening were not pronounced as a glide (i.e. "eh-ee" or "oh-oo") but as long vowels only (so "ay" and "oo").

i don't have vox graeca... does anyone have any more info on the pronunciation of spurious diphthongs?

i'm trying to get the pronunciation of the iliad approximately right in particular. could someone please pick out for me, as examples, some spurious diphthongs in the first few lines of the iliad? (so i know how to find them in homeric greek).

thanks heaps!!! chad. :)
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Postby Kasper » Fri Nov 28, 2003 5:50 am

According to "First Greek Book" by John Williams White,
the 'ei' is pronounced as in 'eight',
and the 'ou' as in 'group'.
However I'm a complete novice at greek, only been studying it for a week, and I don't know whether there are differences with the Homeric greek. I hope this helps though.
“Cum ego verbo utar,” Humpty Dumpty dixit voce contempta, “indicat illud quod optem – nec plus nec minus.”
“Est tamen rogatio” dixit Alice, “an efficere verba tot res indicare possis.”
“Rogatio est, “Humpty Dumpty responsit, “quae fiat magister – id cunctum est.”
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Postby chad » Fri Nov 28, 2003 6:42 am

hi kasper, thanks for that. from what i can get out of smyth though, not all occurences of "ei" and "ou" are pronounced alike. letters like eta have one "phthong" (pronounced "air")... diphthongs (two "phthongs") however aren't long vowels, they're glides from one vowel to another, so ei is a glide from "eh" (pronounced in about the middle-front of the mouth) to "ee" (pronounced almost between the teeth), and "ou" is a glide from the mid-back to back of the mouth.

but "spurious" diphthongs, also written "ei" and "ou", were pronounced (before 400bc apparently) as long vowels, not as 2 phthongs. so spurious "ei" was not a glide "eh-ee" but was just "ay" (as white and others conventionally tell you to say it), and "ou" was just "original" upsilon "oo".

my problem is that i don't know in homeric greek whether most of the diphthongs "ei" and "ou" in the text are real or spurious. e.g. is the "ei" in [face=SPIonic]e)telei/eto[/face] in iliad 1.5 spurious or true? i don't know... i'm guessing that "ou" in [face=SPIonic]au0tou\j[/face] of iliad 1.4 is spurious, (based on what i read in pharr about the lost nu), but i'm just guessing...

if someone could help me out with this i'd really appreciate it. thanks!! chad. :)
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Postby Emma_85 » Fri Nov 28, 2003 6:03 pm

all these diphthongs are read as uh... diphthongs, exept if you have these 2 dots over a word (I don't know what they're called).
Like Argeifontes is arge ifontes and atreidao is atre idao or odushi is odush i, they are pronounced as two different letters, but in like epeita they are pronouced together as in eight like Kasper said.
My text says when the two letter belong to gether or not, yours should too. Normally they are pronouced together, they are diphthongs, only sometimes they aren't.

Edit: ahh... think I didn't quite realise what you were talking about, so just ignore my post :wink:
Last edited by Emma_85 on Fri Nov 28, 2003 6:10 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: pronunciation of spurious diphthongs

Postby annis » Fri Nov 28, 2003 6:04 pm

chad wrote:i read in smyth (section 6 and 25) that the "diphthongs" ei and ou formed by contraction or compensatory lengthening were not pronounced as a glide (i.e. "eh-ee" or "oh-oo") but as long vowels only (so "ay" and "oo").

i don't have vox graeca... does anyone have any more info on the pronunciation of spurious diphthongs?


The so-called spurious diphthongs were simply long versions of epsilon and omicron, like the difference in length between a short and a long alpha.

i'm trying to get the pronunciation of the iliad approximately right in particular. could someone please pick out for me, as examples, some spurious diphthongs in the first few lines of the iliad? (so i know how to find them in homeric greek).


Finding these out takes an etymological dictionary. While I do try to get the vowels correct in both length and quality, I don't make the distinction between genuine and spurious diphthongs. They're spelled the same beceause the sounds became identical pretty early, though not of course in Homer.

Since I read Greek from different periods, I stick with a classical Attic pronuciation, just as I don't usually try to adopt a scientifically correct pronunciation of, say, John Donne.
William S. Annis — http://www.aoidoi.org/http://www.scholiastae.org/
τίς πατέρ' αἰνήσει εἰ μὴ κακοδαίμονες υἱοί;
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Postby mingshey » Sat Nov 29, 2003 12:34 am

Emma_85 wrote:these 2 dots over a word (I don't know what they're called).


They are called dieresis(diaeresis) or tréma, especially for the said usage. Somethimes the two dots accent is called umlaut when used to modify the vowels, as in German ä,ö, and ü.
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Postby 1%homeless » Sat Nov 29, 2003 5:50 am

I have Vox Graeca. My library resources rock. :) The book says to use the word Beet in German for ei. For "ou", it is pool in English or rouge in French.

Straight from Vox Graeca:

"As in the case of ei, the ou representating a vowel of non-diphthongal origin is somtimes referred to as a 'spurious diphthong'."

"....and it is virtually certain that by certain by the 5 c. B.C. all words which are now written ei had the same sound, i.e. a long close mid vowel."

So there is no dipthong pronunciation of ei around that time. He said somthing similar with ou, but I can't quote him because he makes references to many different things and it wouldn't make sense unless I type many paragraphs. :-)

I'd say it would be very difficult to find information about which words were pronounced with a diphthong and which words with suprious diphthongs in Homeric times. It would be difficult to find out which dipthongs merged as a monophthong and which didn't at that time. Also, when did they precisely started merging? The earliest mention is 600 or 700 B.C. Maybe you should pronounce them all as real diphthongs and ignore the spurious diphthongs? :lol:
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Postby chad » Sun Nov 30, 2003 6:46 am

thanks very much for your help guys :) if vox graeca says that by 5c bc real and spurious diphthongs were pronounced identically, then that's the way i'll do it too (as annis and 1%homeless also suggest)... cheers, chad. :)
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