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Pronunciation issues

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Pronunciation issues

Postby Nooj » Sat Feb 18, 2012 11:55 am

1) I've always pronounced ου as [u], as Mastronarde says, but now I hear that in classical Attic, it was actually pronounced as [o:] or as 'A Companion to the Ancient Greek Language' puts it, [ọ̄]. I'm not sure what they mean by the dot underneath though.

So δηλοῦν would be [dɛ:lo:n], not [dɛ:lu:n].

This changes quite a lot for me. I've already stopped pronouncing ει as the diphthong [ei] and made the transition into [e:], but now I've got to revise my pronunciation for this as well!

2) Do you pronounce υ as [y] or [u]? I've always pronounced it as [y], but apparently the change from [u] into [y] was a relatively late phenomenon.

3) I'm fine with the aspirated stops because I purposely exaggerate them (and it's fun to do). But I have much more trouble stopping myself from aspirating the unaspirated stops. I suspect an Attic speaker would find that instead of τιμάω, I am saying θιμάω more often than I'm aware of. Damn my engrained English phonology!

Here's a tip though. We don't aspirate our stops in English if there's another consonant before it, like [s]. For example, strain vs train. I say στιμάω a couple of times, and then phase the sigma out. Voila, an unaspirated stop.
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Re: Pronunciation issues

Postby Sceptra Tenens » Sat Feb 18, 2012 3:05 pm

I will not propose to teach Minerva here, but will simply comment on one thing:

Here's a tip though. We don't aspirate our stops in English if there's another consonant before it, like [s]. For example, strain vs train. I say στιμάω a couple of times, and then phase the sigma out. Voila, an unaspirated stop.


Here in America, -tr- become [tʃr].
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Re: Pronunciation issues

Postby Damoetas » Sat Feb 18, 2012 10:57 pm

Personally, I don't think fine distinctions like [u] vs. [ou] (or whatever the phonetic symbol should be - it doesn't show up on my screen) are worth the effort. Because 1) we can never be sure enough about exactly what it sounded like, 2) other features from our own accent are going to carry over and obscure it anyway, and 3) Greek pronunciation was constantly in flux anyway, so it's kind of arbitrary which exact point you strive for.

I mean, seriously: pronunciation across the Greek world was as different as Scottish and Irish and English (RP) and Australian and American (New York) and American (Texas) and American (Ohio) English, etc. Does anyone think that someone who had never even hear English spoken before could accurately reproduce the difference between Scottish and Texan, just by reading a verbal description of it?

On the issue of aspiration, you should listen to some sound files of Hindi/Urdu to know what aspirated vs. unaspirated are supposed to sound like.
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Re: Pronunciation issues

Postby Nooj » Sun Feb 19, 2012 2:47 am

Quite right Damoetas. However, as I've already tried to be accurate as possible already on other matters of pronunciation, I'd feel like I have unfinished business if I don't try to be thorough.

I personally don't think it matters if phi is pronounced as a fricative as it became later in Koine. Koine is plenty ancient enough. But somewhat perversely, I want to make it harder on myself.
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Re: Pronunciation issues

Postby Sinister Petrus » Sun Feb 19, 2012 5:34 pm

Nooj wrote:3) I'm fine with the aspirated stops because I purposely exaggerate them (and it's fun to do). But I have much more trouble stopping myself from aspirating the unaspirated stops. I suspect an Attic speaker would find that instead of τιμάω, I am saying θιμάω more often than I'm aware of. Damn my engrained English phonology!


If you're not aspirating your voiceless stops, they'll almost sound voiced. So τιμάω is almost going to sound like [di'mao:] to your English speaking ears if you've managed to get the aspiration out.

Though of course I see ω can be pronounced as [ɔ:] according to some reconstructions. Too tricky.

(I'm 90% convinced that we should just pronounce Ancient Greek like Modern Greek, so long as we keep in mind that they are not the same.)
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Re: Pronunciation issues

Postby Cheiromancer » Sun Feb 19, 2012 5:44 pm

Does anyone try to use tone instead of accentuation? I've read (I forget exactly where- maybe Vox Graeca?) that Classic Greek might have sounded like Vedic- or maybe Norwegian (!). I have read of a textbook by Günther Zuntz ("Greek: a course in classical and post-classical Greek grammar from ancient texts") which insists on a tonal accent- has anyone used it?
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Re: Pronunciation issues

Postby annis » Sun Feb 19, 2012 6:55 pm

Sinister Petrus wrote:(I'm 90% convinced that we should just pronounce Ancient Greek like Modern Greek, so long as we keep in mind that they are not the same.)


For people who read a lot of Greek poetry, aiming at a workable reconstruction can be valuable.

I take W.S. Allen's fifth century Attic as a good middle ground to work from, and so pronounce ου as /u:/ and υ as /y/. And I do use [ɔ:] for ω, but I can hear that sound fine, so it doesn't seem very tricky to me.
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Re: Pronunciation issues

Postby Grochojad » Sun Feb 19, 2012 7:03 pm

Nooj wrote:1) I've always pronounced ου as [u], as Mastronarde says, but now I hear that in classical Attic, it was actually pronounced as [o:] or as 'A Companion to the Ancient Greek Language' puts it, [ọ̄]. I'm not sure what they mean by the dot underneath though.

So δηλοῦν would be [dɛ:lo:n], not [dɛ:lu:n].


This is one of the more uncertain cases, but what matters, I think, is that "ou" was higher than "ω" and "o", and also longer than the latter. And the switch to "u" pronunciation certainly wasn't late, so you can safely use it.

Nooj wrote:This changes quite a lot for me. I've already stopped pronouncing ει as the diphthong [ei] and made the transition into [e:], but now I've got to revise my pronunciation for this as well!


What to change here?

Nooj wrote:2) Do you pronounce υ as [y] or [u]? I've always pronounced it as [y], but apparently the change from [u] into [y] was a relatively late phenomenon.


By the 5th century it was most probably closer to [y], though still somewhere between [y] and [u]. [y] is certainly better, unless you want to try something like [ʉ].

Nooj wrote:3) I'm fine with the aspirated stops because I purposely exaggerate them (and it's fun to do). But I have much more trouble stopping myself from aspirating the unaspirated stops. I suspect an Attic speaker would find that instead of τιμάω, I am saying θιμάω more often than I'm aware of. Damn my engrained English phonology!


Practice, practice, practice utter these consonants all the time, and they'll start to sound. The Greek aspirates were almost certainly more aspirated than those considered aspirated in English, so a little exaggeration compared to English can be good.

Sinister Petrus wrote:Though of course I see ω can be pronounced as [ɔ:] according to some reconstructions. Too tricky.


I think it is the only reconstruction for Classical Greek and why would it be tricky?

Sinister Petrus wrote:(I'm 90% convinced that we should just pronounce Ancient Greek like Modern Greek, so long as we keep in mind that they are not the same.)


Unfortunately it makes the language lose so many of the important distinctions and sound like squeaking of mice, as someone wise once said :wink:
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