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Accents in Homer

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Accents in Homer

Postby Bert » Sat Jun 28, 2003 9:37 pm

I am about to start working my way through Pharr's -Homeric Greek-.<br />I read an article that strongly suggested to read Homer using the accents the way they were meant to be used, ie; pitch, not stress.<br />If this is the general opinion of the brains of this forum, is there a way (possibly a website) for me to know how much to rise and fall and how long to hold long and short vowels?<br />Without knowing these things I am afraid of butchering the language more using pitch than I would using stress.<br />Thank you.
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Re:Accents in Homer

Postby annis » Sat Jun 28, 2003 11:09 pm

The accute accent supposedly went up a musical 5th! That's an awful lot, and I suspect that refers to public speaking, which might have been quite exaggerated. So long as the pitch accent change is clear to you, that's probably enough. We'll never know for certain how much the pitch moved.<br /><br />As for vowel length, again the longs should be longer than however long you pronounce the shorts. Absolute numbers aren't meaningful, since the whole mass has to be adjusted for faster or slower speaking. I doubt a Greek long vowel was twice the length of a short one in normal speaking, but I wouldn't be surprised if it was in recitation or singing. Again, we don't have unambiguous evidence from what the Greeks themselves had to say about their language. In some languages the short:long ratio is 1:2. In many it's less, going as low as about 1:1.3 before the distinction goes away.<br /><br />
William S. Annis — http://www.aoidoi.org/http://www.scholiastae.org/
τίς πατέρ' αἰνήσει εἰ μὴ κακοδαίμονες υἱοί;
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Re:Accents in Homer

Postby Bert » Sun Jun 29, 2003 11:15 am

Thank you William. <br />From reading previous posts, I gather that you are a Homer-man. Do you read Homer (or greek in general) observing the accents as pitch?
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Re:Accents in Homer

Postby annis » Sun Jun 29, 2003 11:56 am

[quote author=Bert de Haan link=board=2;threadid=206;start=0#989 date=1056885321]<br />From reading previous posts, I gather that you are a Homer-man.<br />[/quote]<br /><br />That's a funny phrase, but Yes.<br /><br />
Do you read Homer (or greek in general) observing the accents as pitch?<br />
<br /><br />I try. I pronounce the acute as a raised tone, the circumflex as a falling tone (falling from the pitch to which I rise for the acute), and of course the grave is pronounced the same as the unaccented vowels.<br />
William S. Annis — http://www.aoidoi.org/http://www.scholiastae.org/
τίς πατέρ' αἰνήσει εἰ μὴ κακοδαίμονες υἱοί;
annis
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General discussion on accents & pronunciation

Postby Elucubrator » Fri Jul 04, 2003 4:26 am

Such a beautiful topic, the latent music of Greek verse. Perhaps the arrangement of words in the lines of verse took into account (as well as the metre) the pitch accent of the words, so that by word choice and proper arrangement the poet could choose between one melody and another. I have often thought about that and have experimented much with it. <br /><br />The best place for information on the pronunciation of ancient Greek is the book Vox Graeca, by W. Sidney Allen, which as far as these matters go is insuperable. From it you will learn how much of the ancient pronunciation can be accurately reconstructed, and what areas remain in the shade for you to experiment with and decide for yourself what was most likely and then debate it with others.<br /><br />Beside the indications known to us all, viz. that the acute represented a rise in the musical pitch, the circumflex a rise followed by a drop in the musical pitch on the same syllable, and the grave a drop or no change at all in pitch. I can add the following elucidations and suggestions. <br /><br />(1) Not every accent is necessarily written on a Greek word. Every single acute accent implies a drop in pitch on the following syllable. If all the accents were to be written the word for man would then look like this:<br /><br />[face=SPIonic]<br />a1nqrw\poj[/face]<br /><br />but since this is unnecessary as it is obvious to everyone that once the pitch goes up it must come down, it is not in fact written. Knowing this will help one to understand the circumflex accent better.<br /><br />(2) the circumflex accent represents a rise in pitch, marked thus: / , followed by a drop back to the base pitch on the same syllable, marked like this: \ . When the two separate symbols representing the rise and fall were written on the same syllable, over the same vowel, they looked like this: /\ , and now you see where the circumflex gets its shape. Later it gets stylised into the perhaps more familiar squiggle ~ .<br /><br />(3) As for the grave accent, most books tell you that it indicates a drop in pitch or, a substitution of a steady for a raised pitch. I am inclined to agree with William that it indicates no change, for as a sign marking the drop of a musical pitch it is only traceable in writing as the second part of the stroke in the circumflex accent, and as we saw in number (1) the Greeks never saw a need to write the grave accent on a syllable following an acute where the drop was indicated. <br /><br />The rules tell us that the grave accent appears only on the ultima (final syllable of a word) and only appears when it replaces an acute accent when a word follows without pause. This indicates that the rise in pitch marked by the acute accent when it appears on the ultima is only pronounced when there is a pause which follows, as at the end of a sentence.<br /><br />That rise in the pitch on the ultima of a word would be one of the signs to a speaker of the language that a thought had come to its formal completion, though it could never have been the only sign, and the ancient Greek would not have had to depend on that to know this, since obviously a sentence may end with a paroxytone (fancy term that indicates a Greek word with an acute accent on the penultimate syllable). Such a sentence would end with the drop back to the base level indicated by that invisible grave accent. A sentence could also end with a perispomenon (this term indicates a word bearing a circumflex accent on its ultima), and as such will also close a thought on a drop in pitch. There are other possibilities as well, but still the fact that the grave accent has no other use than to keep one from raising the pitch at the end of a word when there is no pause suggests that it didn't sound right to a Greek to pronounce a word with a drop in pitch on its first syllable. (Note that enclitics do not count as they modified the sense or meaning of a preceding word and were treated as part of that same word).<br /><br />To say that the grave indicates a drop in musical pitch would be granting it a role that it does not exhibit elsewhere (ignoring its traces in the circumflex which we have seen in number (2) above), and which in no way affects the meaning of a word as the acute and circumflex elsewhere can. For these reasons I have chosen to represent it in speech as a steady pitch on the base level, where the rise in pitch apparently interrupts the rhythm and steady flow of the Greek sentence.<br /><br />Ok, so at this point we know that the acute marks a rise in pitch, and a circumflex a rise and a drop. Now comes the question of how high a rise in pitch. I have also heard (somewhere) that the acute indicated the interval of a musical fifth, but I don't remember where I heard this. At any rate, it's conceivable that the interval of a fifth may have expressed the maximum interval realised, which might have been employed as William suggested in formal situations. But the fact is that there are multiple things that will change the way the language is sounded. The mood of the speaker, for instance, will come into play. An angry or excited person will speak much faster and much louder. A person mocking another may in fact exaggerate the pitches and speak in a whiny tone. In relaxed conversation the pitches may have been less pronounced. In debate or for strong emphasis of a particular point the pitch may get sharpened, but probably never above a fifth as it is really hard to do for the voice to realise without either shifting from speech to song or sounding entirely contrived.<br /><br />I read in one of the Latin authors that there were people in Rome who affected a pitch accent when speaking Latin (which did not have these) in order to emulate the Greeks. Perhaps this is how the pitch accent in Italian and Argentine Spanish (through its italian influence) has its origin, and it may be that the pitches in modern italian speech still bear a trace of the ancient Greek pitch accent. It's worth noting that in these modern languages the pitches are used for emphasis but aren't necessary, and though they are somewhat variable in their range, there is a certain limit above which the voice cannot climb in pitch, without sounding unnatural in the language. I suspect that it may have been the same with the ancient Greek pitch accents.<br /><br />As for vowel quantities and rhythm of speech. In all the textbooks it is stated that a long vowel has two morae and a short has one. Given the fact that a foreign language always sounds much faster to non-native speakers who are trying to keep up with what someone is saying, I prefer to restate the rule for vowele quantity in the following fashion: a long vowel = one mora, and a short vowel = half a mora. It should sound fast to us if it is to sound accurate. Nobody ever said when listening to native speakers carrying on in a foreign language, "God, you speak so slow", and all the traveller's phrase books include the line for the helpful request "could you please speak more slowly?" But for the native speakers, they weren't speaking fast, and if they were to demonstrate what speaking fast was like to prove it to you, you wouldn't catch a single word. :)<br /><br />Of course, all the same elements which may have affected the pronunciation will also come into play here, as mood of the speaker and so forth. There can in fact never be an exact formula or one exact pronunciation.<br /><br />In how many meaningful yet different manners of pronunciation can you perform the following English sentence?<br /><br /> I don't know what happened.<br /><br />Is the person being defensive, perhaps answering an accusation? Is it one of the American kids in disbelief in the locker room after having defeated the Russian red army team in the gold medal olympic ice hockey match of the mid eighties? Is it someone coming to, being questioned by paramedics at the scene of an accident? Is it perhaps someone who has been announced as the winner of a a raffle for a new car, someone who had not purchased a ticket? <br /><br />Which of these ways or any of the other ways that you can come up with to read the sentence should we call the correct way of pronouncing it?<br /><br />Well, I am not sure if I have helped matters or muddled them. At any rate it is great to be talking about this and thinking about the possibilities, and realising that the rules given were probable not completely inflexible. <br /><br />By the way of an afterthought, Allen discusses how there was a stress accent as well in ancient Greek, and how, the stress also occurs on the syllable that carries the pitch.<br /><br />Sebastian
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Re:Accents in Homer

Postby Bert » Fri Jul 04, 2003 9:45 pm

That was interesting.<br />I only try to pronounce pitch accents when I know that no one can hear me. My wife doesn't mind if I mumble while studying Greek but she may question my mental state if I start singing Greek.
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