Learning accents in Ancient Greek

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Koehnsen
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Learning accents in Ancient Greek

Post by 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

Post by 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/
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Post by 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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Post by 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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Post by Koehnsen » Mon Aug 11, 2008 10:25 am

GG2 - thanks! I've bookmarked your link for future use.

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Post by 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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Post by 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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Post by 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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Post by 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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Post by 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.
William S. Annis — http://www.aoidoi.org/http://www.scholiastae.org/
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Post by Amadeus » Thu Aug 28, 2008 8:53 pm

I've been struggling with the Greek accents as well; only, it's not their orthography that causes me trouble, but how to voice them.

Today I was trying to read aloud this simple sentence from AGBAH:

ἔστι δὲ καὶ δημοτικὰ ἱεÏ￾á½° καὶ ἱεÏ￾οποιοί

but I couldn't! At least not in any satisfactory way.

This is how I go about it. I treat all the vowels with grave accents, and all the vowels that do not have any markings, as not having any stress or elevation at all, like the word "nót" in "wáste nòt, wánt nòt". Now, here we see that the word "nót" in isolation has a stress accent, but when it forms part of a phrase it loses it. Furthermore, it behaves like an enclitic ("wástenot, wántnot"). So, when I try to apply this to the Greek phrase I can easily manage saying ἔστιδὲκαὶ, but prolonging this to ἔστιδὲκαὶδημοτικὰἱεÏ￾ὰκαὶ it just doesn't sound right. There is no break! And every time I break the flow, I end up putting an acute accent where it shouldn't be: ἔστιδὲκαὶ δημοτικάἱεÏ￾á½° καὶ...

Where am I going wrong?! :cry: Or is this how it should be?

(I hope I don't come across as a complete idiot if the answer is simple. :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!

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Post by 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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Post by Amadeus » Fri Aug 29, 2008 12:01 am

χαῖÏ￾á¾½ ὦ κβ:

Thanks for replying so quickly and for all the links! :)

It's gonna take some time, though, to completely understand all the unfamiliar and complex concepts that are handled in those articles. I feel like a noob!

I do have a few observations, however:

1) From the looks of your model, it seems that there's more to Greek accentuation than just a "raised" or "lowered" tone of voice. There are 5 tones now!

2) The orthographical accents also now appear to be functioning differently. The acute accent, for example, would no longer apply only to the vowel it is written on, but it means that every vowel since the last drop in tonality rises gradually until it reaches that written (´) accent. Almost like waves.

3) What use does the grave accent have then? It seems superfluous now. I always thought it meant no elevation whatsoever, and yet in this recording of Plato (http://www.oeaw.ac.at/kal/agp/), some grave accents sound like an acute because they are rising not falling! (I haven't yet heard the Homeric renditions, mainly because I'm more interested in Greek prose and how Greek would've sound in everyday speech.)

4) Is there really evidence for this Greek pitch or tone accent outside the poetry world?


Oooh, what a world! :shock:
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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Post by 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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Post by cb » Sat Aug 30, 2008 12:25 pm

hi,

yes the basic pattern that devine and stephens found is that the pitch in a word group rises syllable by syllable to the pitch peak, then drops to the end of the word group. i gave given refs in my old pitch model doc (linked above) to the pages in devine and stephens which discuss this and show the evidence, however my copy of the book is back in aust unfortunately. perhaps you can access the relevant pages online in google books extracts (i can't from france), it's in the section around p188.

the grave accent (as used nowadays in grk texts) isn't really superfluous: if such a word (having a grave on the final syll) has a following enclitic the accent would instead be an acute and would therefore have a different pitch pattern. a grave means that the whole word rises in pitch and the pitch keeps rising in the next word (i.e. a grave-accented syll has the highest pitch in that word but a lower pitch than the accented and pre-accented sylls of the following word). refs for this are also in my old pitch model doc.

i say above the grave accent "as used nowadays in grk texts", because in ancient papyri a grave can be on any syll not otherwise having an accent, suggesting to the reader to maintain the normal pitch pattern of the word group (which, according to devine and stephens, as i said above, rises to the pitch peak then drops to the end of the group) rather than treat the grave-accented syllable as a pitch peak.

i have read in the ancient grk authorities about two key differences between prose and poetry pitch:

(a) aristoxenus says that in poetry the pitches move cleanly from note to note, whereas in prose you bend through all the intermediate notes as well without resting for more than an instant on any note (i.e. the first syll of the iliad would be sung with two notes only, whereas in normal speaking the pitch would slur through all the intermediate notes in between as well). here is a link to the relevant part of aristoxenus:

http://torzsasztal.hu/Article/viewArtic ... &t=9088651

(the key part is: "τὴν μὲν οὖν συνεχῆ λογικὴν εἶναί φαμεν, διαλεγομένων γὰÏ￾ ἡμῶν οὕτως ἡ φωνὴ κινεῖται κατὰ τόπον ὥστε μηδαμοῦ δοκεῖν ἵστασθαι. κατὰ δὲ τὴν ἑτέÏ￾αν ἣν ὀνομάζομεν διαστηματικὴν á¼￾ναντίως πέφυκε γίγνεσθαι· ἀλλὰ γὰÏ￾ ἵστασθαί τε δοκεῖ καὶ πάντες τὸν τοῦτο φαινόμενον ποιεῖν οá½￾κέτι λέγειν φασὶν ἀλλ' ᾄδειν").

(b) dionysius of halicarnassus says that some poetry (he gives an e.g. of a chorus line from tragedy) is not sung using the pitches of the words. i can't find the text online but here is an extract where he says that σίγα σίγα λευκὸν is sung in one pitch even though each of the words has high and low pitches:

"á¼￾ν γὰÏ￾ δὴ τούτοις τὸ σίγα σίγα λευκὸν á¼￾φ' ἑνὸς φθόγγου μελωιδεῖται, καίτοι τῶν Ï„Ï￾ιῶν λέξεων [i.e. σίγα, σίγα and λευκὸν] ἑκάστη βαÏ￾είας τε τάσεις ἔχει καὶ ὀξείας".

my understanding of this is that (in strophic music) either in the antistrophe you copy the pitches of the strophe, or that the poet wrote music for these parts changing the pitches of the words.

cheers :)

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Post by 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/
τίς πατέρ' αἰνήσει εἰ μὴ κακοδαίμονες υἱοί;

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Post by 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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Post by Amadeus » Fri Sep 05, 2008 12:12 am

χαῖÏ￾á¾½ ὦ κβ:

It's been a long week at work, and haven't had the time to really delve into this subject. Even though it looks fun and interesting, due to time constraints I tend to be more of a practical guy looking for solutions, rather than a theorist, at least when it comes to languages.

I went through a few pages in "The Prosody of Greek Speech" (via Google) and, to be very honest, got more confused than when I posted my initial query. Therefore, what I'm going to do is take your word for it, that the model presented by Devine and Stephens is the same you are expounding here. (I did manage, however, to find a few interesting principles: "The evidence of the musical documents indicates that the grave accent is a lowered High tone, not an unaccented syllable"; "It follows that syllables bearing the grave accent are neither unaccented nor fully accented")

Anyway, getting back to the problematic phrase ἔστι δὲ καὶ δημοτικὰ ἱεÏ￾á½° καὶ ἱεÏ￾οποιοί, how would the model apply to it?

We know that ἔστι begins with a High pitch because of the acute accent, and that the immediate syllable drops one full tone. The question is, when does it stop falling and where does it start rising again? I imagine it cannot go down all the way to the start of ἱεÏ￾οποιοί, that would sound just awful, much like pronouncing all non-acutes in a monotone voice as I did before. Would the fall stop at the first καὶ and begin to rise with δημοτικὰ to reach another climax in ἱεÏ￾á½° (which, if so, should have been accented with an accute, imo), then go back down again with καὶ, stop the fall there, and finally begin to rise yet again with ἱεÏ￾οποιοί?

Please excuse my ignorance, if none of this makes any sense. :oops:
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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Post by 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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Post by annis » Fri Sep 05, 2008 2:00 pm

Amadeus wrote:Anyway, getting back to the problematic phrase ἔστι δὲ καὶ δημοτικὰ ἱεÏ￾á½° καὶ ἱεÏ￾οποιοί, how would the model apply to it?


I would make a well-motivated cheat and treat this as two intonation units (what your old Greek rhetoric teacher would call two cola): ἔστι δὲ καὶ δημοτικά | ἱεÏ￾á½° καὶ ἱεÏ￾οποιοί.
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Post by 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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Post by Amadeus » Tue Sep 09, 2008 12:41 am

Thanks cb and annis for helping me out. I think I gained some knowledge in this thread, and that's always a plus. It is unfortunate, however, that no precise rules exist for the correct pronunciation (or intonation) of Greek prose, but I won't let that stop me from going forward in my studies.

χαίÏ￾ετ᾽ ὦ φίλοι :)
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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