Learning ancient-greek with modern-greek pronunciation?

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dominics
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Learning ancient-greek with modern-greek pronunciation?

Post by dominics » Tue Feb 23, 2016 6:50 pm

I have just started learning ancient-greek and had a few lessons so far using the Erasmian pronunciation.

However, I just had a lesson with an ancient-greek teacher who is from Greece. She advised me to learn ancient-greek with a new-greek pronunciation, although she didn't give many arguments.

What do people think? Are there any advantages? Disadvantages?

I do not speak modern greek and also have no real ambitions to learn it, -although I wouldn't mind not sounding like a complete fool when visiting Greece one day and ordering some food. Any advice?

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Re: Learning ancient-greek with modern-greek pronunciation?

Post by bedwere » Tue Feb 23, 2016 7:28 pm

The problem with the Modern Greek pronunciation is, as you will soon find out, that so many phonemes sound like in tree. For example,

ι ει υ οι η ῃ

That means that it will be difficult to understand the meaning of many Ancient Greek words (not to speak of moods and tenses of verbs) by hearing their sounds as pronounced by a Modern Greek speaker. Of course, if you don't intend to communicate in Ancient Greek ever, this will be of little or no concern to you.

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Re: Learning ancient-greek with modern-greek pronunciation?

Post by jeidsath » Tue Feb 23, 2016 8:42 pm

I wonder if it doesn't affect your silent reading as well. I had a lot of trouble distinguishing words with φ and π for about a year because I wasn't very good at pronouncing them differently (I try to use the aspirated). I'd actually recommend the modern fricative pronunciation for θφχ for that reason (although I believe that even in modern times there have been regions of Greece that had an aspirated pronunciation for some of them).

So even if you read silently, and your brain is doing something related to aural processing behind the scenes, the modern Greek confusion could affect comprehension (and probably does). You can sort of live with it in the Koine because of the prepositions everywhere, but it strikes me as something that would make Attic much harder.

Also, what precisely is the list of conflated sounds? Starting with bedwere's: ι ει υ οι η ῃ αι. I think that we need to add the non-graphically distinct doubtful vowels α/ι/υ, which were either long or short. Also α, ᾳ, ῳ, ω. ο and ω and ε and η. I have listened to a number of hours of modern Greek, but I'm not sure if I'm 100% correct on the above list.
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Re: Learning ancient-greek with modern-greek pronunciation?

Post by bedwere » Tue Feb 23, 2016 9:51 pm

Small correction: αι sounds actually [e]. See table

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Re: Learning ancient-greek with modern-greek pronunciation?

Post by Markos » Tue Feb 23, 2016 10:05 pm

dominics wrote:Are there any advantages?
You will be able to easily understand the magnificent videos of Paul Nitz, who uses a slightly modified Modern Greek pronunciation.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mw89SOC8yjk

When I first started learning Greek, nothing like this was available. If you do decide to go with MG, use Paul early and often.
dominics wrote:Disadvantages?
You won't understand quite as well the magnificent audios of Bedwere, who uses a slightly modified Erasmian pronunciation.

https://archive.org/details/Esafx

When I first started learning Greek, nothing like this was available. If you decide to go with Erasmian, use Bedwere early and often.

I guess what I am saying is, you can't go wrong either way.

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Re: Learning ancient-greek with modern-greek pronunciation?

Post by jeidsath » Tue Feb 23, 2016 10:12 pm

Short: ε ο
Long/Short: α ι υ
Long: η ω

Dipthongs: αι ει οι υι ευ ου αυ ηυ
Special Dipthongs: ᾳ ῃ ῳ

Going by the bedwere's table, modern Greek pronounces them:

a -- ᾰ, ᾱ, ᾳ
(av) -- αυ
e -- ε, αι
(ev) -- ευ
i -- ῐ, ῑ, ῠ, ῡ, η, ει, οι, υι, ῃ
(iv) -- ηυ
o -- ο, ω, ῳ
u -- ου

So modern Greek is trying replace 21 sounds with just 8.
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Re: Learning ancient-greek with modern-greek pronunciation?

Post by Timothée » Tue Feb 23, 2016 10:28 pm

I cannot at all recommend pronouncing Ancient Greek the modern way. Knowing Modern Greek adds to the understanding of Ancient Greek a little, so if you have the strength, do teach yourself both. But keep them separated. The academe of Greece is somewhat foreign to me, but I know that many non-academic Greeks have primaevally and primitively fanciful ideas of language. They will say poetic things such as foreign people cannot understand Ancient Greek (let alone modern) because they have not been nurtured by the Greek soil and climate, even though they may only have superficial understanding of the ancient variety. They might be very reluctant to admit that pronunciation could have changed over the centuries and millennia.

I really do not wish to speak ill of Greeks, and my words above shall be read only in the context of linguistics amongst non-linguist Greeks. I find it immensely hard to believe that an Englishman who has no linguistic education would argue with a foreign scholar of Old English about how Bēowulf reads and what it actually means.

With modern pronunciation you will lose all the grasp of poetic metre. All poetry will cease to work (in the meter). [fenetemikinosisosθeʲsin / emenonirotisenantʲosti / izðanikeplasʲonaðifoni / sasipakui] (Something like that.)

Disadvantages? If you try to pronounce Modern Greek in the Ancient Greek way in Greece, you may be taken as a supporter of the junta. This is due to how katharevusa was used and what kind of connotations using it has.

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Re: Learning ancient-greek with modern-greek pronunciation?

Post by mwh » Tue Feb 23, 2016 11:02 pm

You can learn modern Greek or you can learn ancient Greek (or best of all, both, as Timothée says). I wouldn’t mix the two. To learn ancient Greek with a modern Greek pronunciation is perverse and will only confuse you, as bedwere indicated. Only Greeks do that; it’s not so very perverse for them since they’re only applying their native phonology to an earlier stage of their language.

It’s ill-advised for a non-Greek learning ancient Greek to erase so many functional phonetic and phonemic vowel distinctions. For one thing, as Timothée stresses, you lose the binary quantitative differentiation characteristic of ancient Greek, e.g. short vs. long α, ι, ο/ω, υ.

With the consonants, it doesn’t matter so much, since modern Greek preserves their distinctions even while slightly changing their sounds, but you might as well approximate the ancient sounds rather than the modern, except perhaps in the case of φ, which English-speakers hear as π unless pronounced as /f/ as in English. I have nothing nothing against using English phonology, analogously with modern Greek practice. It’s virtually inevitable. Anything other than modern Greek pronunciation will sound barbaric to a Greek, however, and it's useless to argue.

As to ordering food in Greece, most of the words are different from ancient Greek anyway (some of them Turkish, though it’s best not to say so), so it’s best to learn the modern Greek. It won’t do you much good to use the ancient words with modern pronunciation.

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Re: Learning ancient-greek with modern-greek pronunciation?

Post by jeidsath » Tue Feb 23, 2016 11:07 pm

In my experience, less educated Greeks have much more common sense about it. I have conversations every now and then with an older gentleman from Cyprus (living in the US) who is a pleasure to talk to about Greece, Greek, and Greek pronunciations. The Cyprus part helps, I am sure. I have another correspondent who lives in Greece, who communicates with me in modern Greek (I use Google Translate to understand him), and I write back my best attempt at Koine. We sort of understand each other. His parents taught the ancient language in University, but he never studied it. But he really enjoys the idea of a foreigner studying Greek. The only hard experience I had was with an older woman who stopped by our reading group (she was of Greek extraction, but spoke only English), and she couldn't understand why we would use a different pronunciation than the people at her Orthodox Church (or that there might in fact be any language differences between classical and modern Greek).

On the other hand, I have found that I need to use a lot of patience speaking with anyone who took the classical track in school and shows up at the reading group. Generally I try to emphasize how much I enjoy the sound of Modern Greek (I do), and patiently repeat myself that I use "Allen's pronunciation" whenever I'm corrected by them (which is often), and eventually try to turn the conversation to scripture (to demonstrate that I can understand the language), and to poetry (to demonstrate why I might consider a different pronunciation than the modern). With some patience, you will eventually get them onto the topic of how most modern Greeks don't know how to scan poetry, and then you can just nod your head.

EDIT:
mwh wrote: As to ordering food in Greece, most of the words are different from ancient Greek anyway (some of them Turkish, though it’s best not to say so), so it’s best to learn the modern Greek. It won’t do you much good to use the ancient words with modern pronunciation.
My archeologist friend tells me that in areas with lots of German tourists (at least a couple of decades ago), the waiters can take orders in Ancient Greek if you use a German accent.
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Re: Learning ancient-greek with modern-greek pronunciation?

Post by thornsbreak » Wed Feb 24, 2016 5:58 am

Just to throw my hat in the ring...

people get way too excited about the pronunciation debate. Whatever you do, my top advice is to try to speak the language and listen to the language as much as possible, so that your brain gets to use oral/aural parts of memory in addition to visual. The more of the brain engaged, the better! It's especially helpful to listen to recordings, as Markos says, "early and often!"

The other most important advice I'd give you, is find a way to make learning Greek FUN so you stay motivated. Greek is difficult, and the number one reason most people fail is simply because they stop working at it. For me, a book called Thrasymachus has made all the difference, because it is fun short little stories that are easy to read once you get a little Greek under your belt. Anything that is fun and keeps you motivated is priceless for learning Greek, regardless of the pronunciation.

Those two points are far more important than any pronunciation choices.

That said, people here really are unfairly biased against a modern pronunciation. I learned with a modern pronunciation, and it has not caused me any trouble. In fact, as Markos mentions, it makes a variety of helpful resources more accessible, such as Randall Buth's Greek as a Living Language course, most communicative Greek videos on youtube, the entire New Testament as read by Spiros Zodhiates, and a host of ecclesiastical materials and chants from the Greek Orthodox Church. I am an Orthodox Christian, so if I am ever at a Greek church or monastery, I am able to actually listen to the services and understand - which is basically the last context where ancient Greek continues to be used almost as a living language. The other big benefit here is that you can actually listen to materials pronounced with a fluid, natural intonation by people who basically understand what they are saying (though there are certainly some Erasmian/reconstructed type recordings which also accomplish this, most notably, Christopher Rico's Polis course, Bedwere's excellent recordings, and some others).

I also want to point out an often overlooked point in these sorts of discussions, which is that it really isn't that hard to learn how to understand people who are using an alternate pronunciation scheme. It is helpful to be familiar with all the schemes, and I think it is very good practice to listen to examples from all of them. It only takes a little effort and a brief immersion to begin to recognize the differences, which are mainly vowels - and we are actually quite adept at deciphering different vowel values in different English accents, for example. So don't be scared, as though learning one pronunciation will mean that you absolutely can't understand the others.

DO, however, pick ONE scheme and stick to it when you are SPEAKING, or you will probably end up confusing yourself. It is far easier to navigate between the different ones you are hearing than to try to learn to SPEAK 2 or 3 different pronunciation schemes.

Best of luck, and happy learning!
μέγας ὁ θεός· καλὸς ὁ ζῦθος· μαίνεται ὁ δῆμος.

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Re: Learning ancient-greek with modern-greek pronunciation?

Post by demetri » Wed Feb 24, 2016 4:55 pm

For nearly forty years I have used BOTH. 8)

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Re: Learning ancient-greek with modern-greek pronunciation?

Post by Paul Derouda » Wed Feb 24, 2016 5:23 pm

When I first visited Athens in 2008, a local gentleman gave me a lecture about the error of the Erasmian pronunciation. All I did (honestly!) was asking "Excuse me please, is that the temple of Hephaistus?" I don't know how I pronounced it, but apparently at least not Ífestos!

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Re: Learning ancient-greek with modern-greek pronunciation?

Post by demetri » Wed Feb 24, 2016 5:43 pm

Do not feel badly. I would have made the same "error" myself. :lol:

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Re: Learning ancient-greek with modern-greek pronunciation?

Post by ἑκηβόλος » Tue Mar 08, 2016 9:15 am

Let me tell you a few things from my experience.

I started in Bible College with Erasmian (Greek limited to English phonemes + χ chi) for 3 years. Then I went to University (part-time) and started with Modern Greek. In the second or third year, I started Classical Greek with an Attic pronunciation. After two years of maintaining 3 pronunciation systems, I simplified to Modern only for every period. My reason for adopting just one pronunciation was for ideological reasons rather than out of any practical difficulty in maintaining different pronunciations concurrently. During the same period, I studied Polish, Arabic, Coptic, Sanskrit, Dutch, Old Church Slavonic, Latvian, comparative Baltic and Slavonic linguistics, and Old English. Aside from a couple of adverbs that felt they could poke their heads up in a number of languages, there was no problem with learning different languages concurrently or - in the case of English and Greek - with learning the same "language" with different pronunciation systems (if we are to understand that a language can be called by the same name when so many changes in vocabulary, structure and the speech community have taken place).

Currently, I am trying to use the Restored Koine pronunciation for all Koine and earlier periods of Greek, and of course using Modern Pronunciation for the Modern Greek. What I have been finding in doing that is that I can speak okay and automatically with people in Modern Greek, but when I listen to talk-back radio or the news or something, that I "hear" things in Restored Koine where it is different to the Modern - that is to say that when someone says ikogenia, I process that as ükogenia, and so too with the eta. That is similar to the way that I process American English - an American pronunciation of "fast" sounds like "fest" to my ears, but the little interpreter in my head sparks up with "fast", or even the same way for variant words like "Cilantro", which invoke an equivalent "coriander" in processing. I think that in learning the same word in different pronunciations for different periods, it is a little like processing dialects of the same language.

Moving on to a different point now...

People who talk about Modern Greek pronunciation and how using it might affect comprehension, but have not grappled with the difficulties themselves seem to always talk about the simplification of the vowel system as the biggest disadvantage. It's not. There are no vowels in Modern Greek that are not more or less in English. The problem in pronunciation is in the consonants. The rough-sounding consonants, the voicing of consonants in the right combinations within words and across word boundaries, and the timing of syllables is where it gets difficult to pronounce with a Modern Greek pronunciation.

It is the usual thing for language learners to simplify their target language to not go beyond their mother tongue (mother dialect actually), and even in L3, 4, etc. learning, the phonetic structure of the target language or dialect has to be built again from the mother tongue, even if the phonemes were learnt for an earlier additional language - of course more readily. In the case of the difference between Modern Greek and English that means consonants and the rules of consonantal assimilation (going the other way from Greek to English, the main problem would be the reduced quality of vowels in some unstressed situations - which conversely for some English speakers using a Modern Greek pronunciation means that some vowels are reduced unnecessarily. Those are features of cross-linguistic interference.

Back to the original point now ...

I met an older gentleman Mr Zhao from Shanghai in Sydney some years ago, who had been taught English by a teacher who had a mentality like Erasmus. On the assumption that his students were basically learning English to read it, not speak it, he had taught them to say every letter as a sound. He pronounced "knife" as "ke(r)-'knee-fe(r)", and "come" as "co(r)-me(r)" [the "r" not prononced, but marking that the character of the preceding vowel is short]. Once I realised what was happening, as a speaker of Modern English, I had minimal difficulty following what he was trying to say. Which leads to the final point that I want to say here.

If you learn Greek with the Modern Greek pronunciation, you will need to learn spelling as something additional. That can be both good practice and it can be a right pain. It is what hundreds of millions of people who learn English have to do. It will give you time to dwell longer on what you are learning, it wil be a skill that you will have acquired and closer affinity to the written form of the language, but it will take some extra time in your study.

Those then are the two drawbacks in learning Modern pronunciation, the production of consonants and the need to master spelling.
τί δὲ ἀγαθὸν τῇ πομφόλυγι συνεστώσῃ ἢ κακὸν διαλυθείσῃ;

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Re: Learning ancient-greek with modern-greek pronunciation?

Post by Manuel » Tue Mar 08, 2016 2:53 pm

I don't feel strongly about pronunciation, since so much of it is uncertain with both Ancient Greek and Classical Latin, but there is a reason why some words have changed spelling in Modern Greek - for example pronouncing Akhilleus in Modern would give Ahilefs, which sounds pretty bad - hence why it's been shifted to Ahileas.

But in some cases I find myself using Modern pronunciation just for the sake of euphony, particularly with words that have an upsilon (eg. mythos rather than muthos). There's of course a "reconstructed" way to pronounce the upsilon, but we just don't have that sound in English.

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Re: Learning ancient-greek with modern-greek pronunciation?

Post by ἑκηβόλος » Wed Mar 09, 2016 2:52 am

Manuel wrote:pronouncing Akhilleus in Modern would give Ahilefs, which sounds pretty bad
In the South-Italian dialect of Modern Greek (Κατωιταλιωτικά) ψυχή is pronounced φσυχή. That is hard for me to get the tongue around.
τί δὲ ἀγαθὸν τῇ πομφόλυγι συνεστώσῃ ἢ κακὸν διαλυθείσῃ;

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Re: Learning ancient-greek with modern-greek pronunciation?

Post by daivid » Tue Mar 22, 2016 1:03 am

ἑκηβόλος wrote: I met an older gentleman Mr Zhao from Shanghai in Sydney some years ago, who had been taught English by a teacher who had a mentality like Erasmus. On the assumption that his students were basically learning English to read it, not speak it, he had taught them to say every letter as a sound. He pronounced "knife" as "ke(r)-'knee-fe(r)", and "come" as "co(r)-me(r)" [the "r" not prononced, but marking that the character of the preceding vowel is short]. Once I realised what was happening, as a speaker of Modern English, I had minimal difficulty following what he was trying to say. Which leads to the final point that I want to say here.
It is not the same at all. Erasmus is unlikely to be the exact sounds of early Attic Greek but almost certainly does represent the phonemes of that era. English spelling does not however represent an early archaic form of the language. It is such a mess because it is a mix of spelling systems with various groups imposing different phoneme grapheme mapping from the Normans onward. Hence attempting to speak English as it is spelt results in a spoken form that not merely never has been spoken by native speakers but could never be a spoken form.
ἑκηβόλος wrote: If you learn Greek with the Modern Greek pronunciation, you will need to learn spelling as something additional. That can be both good practice and it can be a right pain. It is what hundreds of millions of people who learn English have to do. It will give you time to dwell longer on what you are learning, it wil be a skill that you will have acquired and closer affinity to the written form of the language, but it will take some extra time in your study.
Many native speakers of English, myself included, never master the spelling system of their own language. Using modern pronunciation forces one to learn spelling as something additional as you say. Why would one make learning Greek harder by doing such a thing when it can be avoided by using either Erasmus or restored pronuciation? What hope have I got in managing that when I can't do it even for English?
λονδον

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Re: Learning ancient-greek with modern-greek pronunciation?

Post by Evangelos96 » Mon Mar 02, 2020 1:06 am

Χαῖρε!

First of all, let me clarify: what we call "modern" pronunciation is not modern at all. It's traditional. When the Greek scholars from Constantinople like Chrysoloras, Chalcocondyles, Argyropoulos, and Gazes (who all spoke ancient Greek conversationally might I add) fled the Turk to Western Europe in the 15th century, they used the only pronunciation that they knew, the one which had been handed down to them generation after generation. And that's the one that was universally used in Europe during the Renaissance.

However, it didn't take long for the Europeans to start suspecting that the Greek of their masters had been "corrupted." First Aldus Manuntius, then Erasmus pointed out that Greek spelling was not phonetic, and they suggested that the true pronunciation should be "restored". At that time, the estimate was that the "corruption" was relatively recent, and due to Turkish influence. The scholars elaborated many different arguments to prove their thesis, mostly by comparisons to Latin and by collecting anecdotes from ancient authors. By todays' standards, most of these "proofs" would be laughed out of the room. For instance, diphthongs were considered to be more "manly," whereas iotacism was "feeble" and "feminine." The ancient sounds were "delicate" and "noble", the modern ones "vicious".

The most infamous example, of course, is Cratinus' βῆ βῆ imitating the sound of bleating sheep, which is commonly taken to be "proof" that β = [ b] and η = [e] in Antiquity. But in English, don't sheep say "bah, bah"? So by that logic, η = [a]. In Hebrew, by contrast, sheep say "ma, ma" and in Modern Greek they also say "me, me." That would prove that β = [m]! The most that can be surmised from these transliterations is that sheep bleats sound roughly like a labial followed by a front vowel. But whether that labial is a plosive, a nasal, or a fricative or what the value of that vowel is we cannot deduce categorically. Different languages have different conventions. It is also interesting to note that the only reason this particular quote from Cratinus was preserved was because it was a linguistic curiosity. The usual transliteration of sheep sounds for the Greeks was βαὶ βαὶ. Cratinus' quote was used as an illustration of a peculiarly Attic form.

In any case, for better or for worse the debate had begun, and partisans gathered on either side. In England, Chancellor Stephen Gardiner of Cambridge called the arguments in favour of the new pronunciation "an ape robed in purple" (simiam purpura indutam). He fully acknowledged that language may change over time. However, he held that a scholar ought to use the pronunciation consecrated by long tradition and the universal usage of the educated men of his age. In 1542, Gardiner passed an edict banning the new pronunciation in Cambridge, threatening any professor who used it with fines and expulsion from the university.

On the other side, the Erasmians continued developing new and ever stranger theories. For instance, in 1684, a certain German classicist called Heinrich Henning (Latinized as Henninius) wrote a treatise arguing that the ancients did not use accents, and that Greek should be pronounced according to the stress-rules of Latin (!).

Thankfully, however, since that time, linguistics, epigraphy, and papyrology have undoubtedly proved that the pronunciation we call "modern" is extremely ancient. Take a look at these Imperial-era mosaics (1st to 3rd centuries AD). The first is from Sparta:

https://pbs.twimg.com/media/C-fO4PxW0AAXwMR.jpg

The second is a mosaic from Zeugma in Asia Minor:

https://i.pinimg.com/originals/29/5e/5b ... f5677f.jpg

You will notice that Ἀλκιβιάδης is spelled Ἀλκηβειάδης, Ἴκαρος is spelled Εἴκαρος, and Δαίδαλος is spelled Δέδαλος. So clearly, η = ι = ει and αι = ε.

This is how Greek was pronounced at the time of the Caesars. But how was it pronounced at the time of Pericles?

Sven-Tage Teodorsson, a Greek scholar for the University of Gothenberg, has done much research into the epigraphical corpora of ancient Attica. What he has found is that H alternates with I from the 6th century BC onwards, and EI frequently alternates with I from as early the 7th century BC. In fact, the latter should come as no surprise, given that the Romans always transliterated EI as I, e.g. Ἀτρείδης -> Αtrides.

In the 1st c. BC, we have Dionysius of Halicarnassus transliterating the Latin names Titus Herminius and Aricini as Τῖτος Ἑρμήνιος and Ἀρικηνοί respectively, and Strabo transliterating Scipio as Σκηπίων.

What about the diphthong OI? According to Thucydides, when plague befell Athens during the Peloponnesian War, the people remembered an old oracle. However, they were unsure if the oracle had in fact predicted a λοιμός (plague) or a λιμός (famine):

http://www.perseus.tufts.edu/hopper/tex ... apter%3D54

If οι was sounded as two distinct vowels, then there never would have been any confusion. The great antiquity of this monophthongal pronunciation of οι is further proved by Homer, who uses the Ionic word ξυνός, meaning κοινός (common). The fact that this variant existed means that οι was homophonous to υ.

What about the consonants? Well, in the Doric dialect, one often finds words with a B standing in place of the digamma F, thought to represent the sound [w]. For example ἀFέλιος (the sun) becomes ἀβέλιος . This is very strong evidence that B was a fricative, not a stop. The fact that Greek B was transliterated in Latin by B does not prove how the sound was pronounced in Greek. In Spanish, the most common realization of B is [β] but when non-Spanish speakers try to speak Spanish, they often resort to [ b]. German W is pronounced [v] but when German words containing W are borrowed into English (e.g. Volkswagen), they're frequently pronounced with a [w] following the phonology of English.

Ancient Athenian inscriptions show alternations between the letters Φ and Θ, very understandable if they were fricatives, but quite unusual if they were stops:

https://www.jstor.org/stable/40265986?seq=1

In the Cratylus, Plato classifies the letters Φ, Ψ, Σ, and Z together as "breathy" (πνευματώδη), another indication that Φ was a fricative:

http://www.perseus.tufts.edu/hopper/tex ... page%3D427

One of the most popular arguments touted by the Erasmians in favour of the plosive value of Φ and the aspirates is an anecdote recounted by Quintilian about a Greek at the time of Cicero who was unable to pronounce the name Fundanius:

http://www.perseus.tufts.edu/hopper/tex ... ction%3D14

Quintilian uses this anecdote to comment on how Latin F is pronounced differently from Greek Φ. But all this proves is that the letters did not have their modern values, not what those values were. As it turns out, the usual reconstruction for Latin F at this time is not a labio-dental fricative [f] but a bilabial fricative [φ](pronounced as if you're blowing the candles on a birthday cake). Now one of the features of voiceless bilabial fricatives when followed by a rounded vowel like o or the u in Fundanius is that they often become h. This is even attested in Old Latin, which has the form horctis besides the usual forctis (strong). Given this, it is very likely that Fundanius actually sounded like Hundanius, which is why the Greek could not pronounce it. If anything, this anecdote only proves that by Cicero's time, Greek had already lost the rough breathing. Which brings me to my next point.

One main feature of the ancient pronunciation which undoubtedly has changed is the rough breathing [h], which has become silent. However, there are indications that its disappearance is quite ancient. In his Rhetoric to Alexander, Aristotle says the following:

"First, name everything by its proper name whatever you say, avoiding ambiguity...The following is an instance of avoiding ambiguities: some words for many things are the same, such as the ὀδός (smooth breathing) of doors and the ὁδός (rough breathing) on which one walks. In such instances you must always include the particular context. Our wording will be clear if we do these things, and we shall express two things through the earlier method."

Rhetorica ad Alexandrum, Loeb 317 (Aristotle Problems, Volume II), pp. 563-564

When one abandons the traditional pronunciation, one actually misses out on a lot of puns and wordplay. Here are four examples:

1- Diogenes criticized the philosopher Aristippus for spending a lot of money on a prostitute, telling him: "Aristippus, you live with a common (κοινή) whore; either follow the Cynic way like me (κύνιζε) or stop." If you say koiné and kunize, you miss the whole joke, but if you say kini and kinize, it's crystal clear.

http://www.perseus.tufts.edu/hopper/tex ... apter%3D55

2- In his 28th epigram, Callimachus rhymes ἔχει with ναίχι:

Λυσανίη, σὺ δὲ ναίχι καλός, καλός, ἀλλὰ πρὶν εἰπεῖν
τοῦτο σαφῶς, Ἠχώ φησί τις « ἄλλος ἔχει ».

"Lysanias, you are fair, yes fair, but before
this is said clearly, some Echo says, "he is another's."

http://www.perseus.tufts.edu/hopper/tex ... Apoem%3D28

3- In the Life of Aesop, there’s an episode where Aesop’s master Xanthus tells Aesop that he has invited guests over for a banquet, and that he wants him to stand behind the entrance and only let in the wise. Aesop does as he’s told, and every time someone knocks on the door, he asks, τί σείει ὁ κύων (what does the dog move?), which all the guests except one misunderstand for τίς σὺ εἶ ὧ κύων (who are you, you dog?) and, insulted, leave. The one wise guest who understands the question answers correctly, “the tail and the ears,” and is let in. The only way this episode could have taken place is if υ and ει were close in pronunciation:

https://archive.org/details/fabulaeroma ... 2/mode/2up

4- In his Peace (ll.922ff), Aristophanes employs a series of rhymes for comedic effect. Among them, he rhymes βοΐ (bull) with βοηθεῖν (to help), and ὑΐ (pig) with ὑηνία (swinishness):

Oἰκέτης
ἄγε δὴ τί νῷν ἐντευθενὶ ποιητέον;

Τρυγαῖος
τί δ' ἄλλο γ' ἢ ταύτην χύτραις ἱδρυτέον;

Xορός
χύτραισιν, ὥσπερ μεμφόμενον Ἑρμῄδιον;

Τρυγαῖος
τί δαὶ δοκεῖ; βούλεσθε λαρινῷ βοΐ;

Χορός
βοΐ; μηδαμῶς, ἵνα μὴ βοηθεῖν ποι δέῃ

Τρυγαῖος
ἀλλ' ὑῒ παχείᾳ καὶ μεγάλῃ;

Χορός
μὴ μή.

Τρυγαῖος
τιή;

Χορός
ἵνα μὴ γένηται Θεογένους ὑηνία.

http://www.perseus.tufts.edu/hopper/tex ... card%3D922

The whole idea that the "modern" pronunciation is unfit to use because it creates homophony is simply ridiculous. Every living language has homophones. So Greek pronounces ἡμεῖς and ὑμεῖς the same. So what? Doesn't modern English have there, their, and they're, here and hear, where and wear, meet and meat, right and write, son and sun? Isn't "you" both second person singular, and second person plural? I would add that the Hellenistic grammarians were fully aware of homophonous sounds (which they called ἀντίστοιχα) and used these to rhetorical effect to embellish their compositions.

As for being unsuitable because of the lack of long vowels, that is just a disingenuous claim. Those following the Erasmian method do not pronounce the long vowels consistently. There is nothing preventing someone who uses the modern pronunciation from pronouncing the long vowels when reciting poetry. That's what the Byzantines did and their Greek poetry is eons ahead of what anyone is capable of composing now.

Another point worth stressing is simply the fact that if one is to follow the principles of the "restored" pronunciation consistently, one should employ a different pronunciation when reading works from different periods, e.g. Homer, Plato, Callimachus, Polybius, the New Testament, Cassius Dio, etc. which is extremely impractical to say the least.

Given all of this, I find the choice of modern pronunciation a no-brainer. It's not only extremely close to the ancient pronunciation, but it can also serve as a standard for scholars to pronounce Greek in a consistent manner, as opposed to an idiosyncratic hodgepodge coloured by one's native accent. And on that note, I end with a quote:

“Actual pronunciation...is not a matter of theory, but of praxis: real sound, not a description of sound. Often confusing the two, most classicists, I suspect, would claim that we know fairly accurately what sounds the Greek alphabet represented, yet no two of us would sound alike in reading a given passage of prose or poetry. Our students, if they are interested, have no consistent models to follow. As a result, the pronunciation of Ancient Greek today generally bears no relation to any language, living or dead; it is an embarrassment. The less said aloud, the better. After all, the printed text provides enough challenges as it is: grammar, substance, theme (all much easier to write about); who has class time to spend on pronunciation? Where's the benefit?... Reading silently is not so much the problem; it is unavoidable. Rather, it is reading aloud badly. But who can teach us to do it well? By themselves, books cannot. We need living models...”

Matthew Dillon, “The Erasmian Pronunciation of Ancient Greek: A New Perspective.” Classical World 94, no. 4 (2001), p.323

Ἔρρωσο
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Re: Learning ancient-greek with modern-greek pronunciation?

Post by jeidsath » Tue Mar 03, 2020 3:23 pm

Can a modern Greek (who has studied the ancient language) understand Plato when read aloud by another modern Greek speaker? Without a text in front of him, or having read the particular dialogue before?
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Re: Learning ancient-greek with modern-greek pronunciation?

Post by Barry Hofstetter » Tue Mar 03, 2020 6:05 pm

jeidsath wrote:
Tue Mar 03, 2020 3:23 pm
Can a modern Greek (who has studied the ancient language) understand Plato when read aloud by another modern Greek speaker? Without a text in front of him, or having read the particular dialogue before?
I think this would depend on the extent to which the modern Greek speaker is familiar with the ancient language. A similar question came up on a facebook group, can modern Greek speakers understand ancient Greek? I responded:
This comes up too often. The simple answer is "sometimes" but not as often as you might think. If the modern Greek is similar to the ancient, then yes, but often it's not. If the modern Greek speaker has studied ancient Greek, or is very familiar with certain texts such as liturgy of Chrysostom, then he or she can often recognize similar expressions in other contexts. Once out of that comfort zone, however, it becomes a bit more dicey. Anecdotes (which I may have shared before):

1) Once at a Greek church food festival they included a tour of the church, and the two young men leading the tour were quite enthusiastic for the icons. Someone asked about a particular one, which had a write up in Greek associated with it. He gave a translation of the text, which was actually a citation from what I think was an early Byzantine father. I said, "Actually that's not at all what it says. It says..." To which the response was "Oh no, we know Greek, and you're wrong." One of the priests happened to be nearby, and they called him over to settle the dispute. He looked at the text and said "Actually he (pointing at me) is right -- your modern Greek has led you astray here." We talked afterward and it turned out he had formally studied Classics before entering the priesthood.

2) At my undergraduate school, we had a large population of students from Greece doing various study and exchange programs. We would sometimes get them in our little Classics department for "easy" courses such as New Testament or Xenophon. Those who had some prior training in ancient Greek tended to do well, and those who didn't dropped the course.

I had some discussion about this with Maria Pantelia, now at the University of CT, when we were in grad school. Her conclusion was that modern Greek speakers have a distinct advantage out of the starting gate, but that after a time, it levels out. "The Greek reading his Greek New Testament" doesn't necessarily know it better than the scholars who have done all their work in an American setting.
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Re: Learning ancient-greek with modern-greek pronunciation?

Post by jeidsath » Tue Mar 03, 2020 6:11 pm

Barry Hofstetter wrote:
Tue Mar 03, 2020 6:05 pm
I think this would depend on the extent to which the modern Greek speaker is familiar with the ancient language.
No, no, I mean controlling for that. For me, it's hard for me to distinguish grammatical forms when listening to modern Greek speakers reading ancient texts. (Which I have done a fair amount of.) They are easy enough to understand when they speak modern Greek, but the modern Greek phoneme repertoire is just too low for the ancient language.
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Re: Learning ancient-greek with modern-greek pronunciation?

Post by Evangelos96 » Wed Mar 04, 2020 2:14 am

jeidsath wrote:
Tue Mar 03, 2020 6:11 pm
Barry Hofstetter wrote:
Tue Mar 03, 2020 6:05 pm
I think this would depend on the extent to which the modern Greek speaker is familiar with the ancient language.
No, no, I mean controlling for that. For me, it's hard for me to distinguish grammatical forms when listening to modern Greek speakers reading ancient texts. (Which I have done a fair amount of.) They are easy enough to understand when they speak modern Greek, but the modern Greek phoneme repertoire is just too low for the ancient language.

The homophony is greatly exaggerated. Ancient Greek has plenty of homophones, even more than Modern Greek:

ἡ = demonstrative particle, ἥ = relative article, ᾗ = whither, where, ᾗ = he let
ἦ = surely, ἦ = he said, ἤ = or
εἰ = if, εἶ = you are, εἶ = you go

It's just like English there, their, and they're and to, two, and too. If one knows the language fluently, the context allows you to decipher.

Take the pronouns ἡμεῖς and ὑμεῖς. We have papyrological evidence dating to the 2nd century BC that these words were homophones at that time. However, the modern analogical form of the second person plural, σεῖς (you), only appeared in the 6th century AD. That means that for 800 years, and probably more, native Greek speakers used the identical forms ἡμεῖς and ὑμεῖς dozens, perhaps hundreds of times in their daily conversation without hindrance to comprehension.

In modern Greek, the masculine nominative plural of nouns and the feminine nominative singular are often identical, e.g. οἱ καλοὶ sounds the same as ἡ καλή. Again, this might be a pain for new language learners but for those who already speak the language it poses no problem.

I would add that the scholars of Byzantium and the Renaissance not only read Ancient Greek, they conversed in it. It is said that John Argyropoulos once heard Johann Reuchlin lecturing on Thucydides so eloquently that he exclaimed, "Graecia transvolavit Alpes!" Needless to say, Reuchlin's lecture was delivered in Ancient Greek.

In 1707, a certain Greek scholar called Anastasios Michael gave a speech (part of which is extant) in pure Attic at the Brandemberg Academy of Berlin on the occasion of his honourary nomination. We know the speaker used modern pronunciation because that's partly what the subject of the speech was. And yet, we can only suppose that the majority of his audience were Germans.

If there is any difficulty in listening to Plato, it's stylistic and thematic. To give you a comparison, take a look at this excerpt I selected from a random philosophy book:

Contrasted with both is the attitude of mind which regards itself as selfhood trying to achieve orientation; the object of clarifying the situation being to comprehend as clearly and decisively as possible one's own development in the particular situation. Human existence cannot be wholly cognised either as past or as present. Contrasted with the real situation of the individual, every generally comprehended situation is an abstraction, and its description is no more than the description of a type. Measured by this standard there will be much that is lacking to the concrete situation, and much will be added which has no bearing upon definitive knowledge.

-Karl Jaspers, Man in the Modern Age (1933), p. 31

An average English speaker will certainly understand the words of the text, but what the passage actually means will be almost impenetrable.
Last edited by Evangelos96 on Wed Mar 04, 2020 4:54 am, edited 2 times in total.
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Re: Learning ancient-greek with modern-greek pronunciation?

Post by jeidsath » Wed Mar 04, 2020 2:43 am

Evangelos96 wrote:
Wed Mar 04, 2020 2:14 am
The homophony is greatly exaggerated. Ancient Greek has plenty of homophones, even more than Modern Greek:

ἡ = demonstrative particle, ἥ = relative article, ᾗ = whither, where, ᾗ = he let
ἦ = surely, ἦ = he said, ἤ = or
εἰ = if, εἶ = you are, εἶ = you go
Those (mostly) weren't homophones in ancient Greek, of course.

There is nothing very difficult about the Jaspers paragraph (though the first sentence is bad grammar, "this" should be "is the"), but Plato is far more accessible than Jaspers. There is a reason that Plato is such an enduring classic, after all.
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Re: Learning ancient-greek with modern-greek pronunciation?

Post by Evangelos96 » Wed Mar 04, 2020 3:30 am

jeidsath wrote:
Wed Mar 04, 2020 2:43 am
Those (mostly) weren't homophones in ancient Greek, of course.
Perhaps in Attic there was some subtle difference (as there still is in modern Greek between ἡ and ἤ), but that doesn't change the fact that for most people using the Erasmian pronunciation today, the differences are entirely obliterated. So if the charge against modern Greek is homophony, the Erasmian pronunciation is really not immune from it either.

Also, regarding the iota subscript in ᾳ, ῳ, and ῃ, we have good reason to believe it was silent. An early Greek loan to Latin was the word τραγῳδία, in which the iota shows up as an e: tragoedia. But by the time Latin borrowed ῥαψῳδία the ι was gone: rhapsodia (not rhapsoedia).

We also have written testimony:

"Περισπωμένων δὲ ῥημάτων συζυγίαι εἰσὶ τρεῖς, ὧν...ἡ δὲ δευτέρα διὰ τῆς αι διφθόγγου, προσγραφομένου τοῦ ι, μὴ συνεκφωνουμένου δέ, οἷον βοῶ βοᾶις βοᾶι."

-Dionysius Thrax, Τέχνη Γραμματική, II.14

"Many persons write the dative cases without the ι, and reject the usage, as not founded on any natural reason."

-Strabo, Book XIV:
http://www.perseus.tufts.edu/hopper/tex ... ction%3D41


EDIT

I forgot a few:

ᾖ = it be
οἱ = definite article, οἵ = relative pronoun, οἱ = to/for him
οἶ = a sheep, οἷ = where/whither
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Re: Learning ancient-greek with modern-greek pronunciation?

Post by jeidsath » Wed Mar 04, 2020 3:52 pm

Indeed, the iota subscript was pronounced at the time when Latin borrowed τραγῳδία (try to think when that must have been), and was not pronounced by the time of Thrax. (For the same, see also the Latin comoedus and melodus).

You might even get the idea that the Greek language had changed over the centuries between Pericles and Christ.
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Re: Learning ancient-greek with modern-greek pronunciation?

Post by Evangelos96 » Wed Mar 04, 2020 4:53 pm

jeidsath wrote:
Wed Mar 04, 2020 3:52 pm
You might even get the idea that the Greek language had changed over the centuries between Pericles and Christ.
Tell that to 90% of classicists who go on pronouncing texts written as late as Cassius Dio, Plotinus, and Laertius in the exact same way as they do Homer and Plato. They pronounce ει as a diphthong, when the Athenians were pronouncing it as a monophthong from at least 600 BC and the Romans always transliterated Greek EI as a long I. Or what about Thucydides' λοιμός and λιμός? The evidence has been in front of our noses for hundreds of years and yet people refuse to acknowledge it in the name of I don't know what historical bias.
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Re: Learning ancient-greek with modern-greek pronunciation?

Post by Evangelos96 » Wed Mar 04, 2020 5:31 pm

Also, the grammarians like Thrax simply codified the existing tradition. I see no evidence of a cataclysmic shift in pronunciation between Pericles and Augustus' age. If we are looking for a period of sound change, it is most likely to be found in the Archaic period, where the language was characterized by low literacy, high population mobility, and dialect fragmentation. So that's when I would date the form tragoedia.
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Re: Learning ancient-greek with modern-greek pronunciation?

Post by jeidsath » Wed Mar 04, 2020 7:14 pm

The shift from quantitative poetry to political verse would seem like very good evidence of something having happened to the language in the centuries between Babrius and Tzetzes. But you seem to be arguing contradictory points in your posts. You complain about Classicists attempting to use the same pronunciation of Demosthenes for both Homer and Cassius Dio -- introducing anachronisms of a few hundred years -- and then you suggest solving that by importing a pronunciation several millennia removed.

Most of all, I think it may be more helpful for you to argue with real classicists rather than imaginary versions of them. Read Allen, read Horrocks. You may find their arguments more persuasive than you think.
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Re: Learning ancient-greek with modern-greek pronunciation?

Post by Evangelos96 » Wed Mar 04, 2020 7:48 pm

jeidsath wrote:
Wed Mar 04, 2020 7:14 pm
The shift from quantitative poetry to political verse would seem like very good evidence of something having happened to the language in the centuries between Babrius and Tzetzes. But you seem to be arguing contradictory points in your posts. You complain about Classicists attempting to use the same pronunciation of Demosthenes for both Homer and Cassius Dio -- introducing anachronisms of a few hundred years -- and then you suggest solving that by importing a pronunciation several millennia removed.

Most of all, I think it may be more helpful for you to argue with real classicists rather than imaginary versions of them. Read Allen, read Horrocks. You may find their arguments more persuasive than you think.
You're equivocating. I never said anything about vowel quantity. I referred specifically to the quality of the vowels and the diphthongs and I provided a whole meticulously-documented post further up setting forth my argument. Specifically, I was addressing your argument about homophony and showed you that ancient Greek had tons of it.

In case you didn't know, λοιμός can be pronounced [lymos] with a long [y] leaving the meter unchanged. It doesn't need to be a diphthong.

I have read Allen and Horrocks. I've also read Erasmus, Cheke, Sturtevant, and Blass and have seen how unscientific, politicized ideas can be peddled for centuries. Have you read Teodorsson? Have you even seen what the actual inscriptions say? If we're looking to avoid anachronisms, the traditional pronunciation is what we should favour.

Here's an illustration of what I mean. Based on the evidence, λέγεις, λέγῃς, λέγοις was pronounced something like legis, legés, legys in Attic times. There was a slight difference in quality between the 3 vowels, similar to how in English several dialects have different "a" sounds as in the words father, bother, and caught. By the 1st century BC the 3-way distinction was reduced to two: legis and legys, with the y tending towards i. Finally, the current received Greek pronunciation merges them into legis. By contrast, the Erasmian turns them into legeis, legēis, legois. So if anything, its the Erasmian pronunciation that's the anachronism. Not to mention the consonants, which were never pronounced as the Erasmian pronunciation holds.

The pronunciation of the Alexandrian grammarians who edited the classical works and that of the educated Romans of the Imperial period who spoke Greek was almost identical to Modern Greek. If it was good enough for Claudius, it's good enough for me.

I offered my comment in the interest of scientific accuracy and practicality. If you want to ignore the truth and keep on sounding silly, be my guest. If it wasn't for the likes of Gazes and Chrysoloras who taught the Europeans with their "wrong" pronunciation you wouldn't even know Greek right now.
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Re: Learning ancient-greek with modern-greek pronunciation?

Post by jeidsath » Wed Mar 04, 2020 8:55 pm

I have not read Teodorsson. I would if I could, but I have no access to an academic library, I'm afraid, and I have never found PDFs of his books. I have, however, read what Allen, Ruijgh, and Horrocks have had to say about Teodorsson's evidence, and also Sommerstein's criticisms in his review of Teodorsson's Attic Phonemic System book. (I can forward you a copy of the PDF if you don't have access to it.)

https://doi.org/10.1017/S0009840X00222208

Sommerstein, especially, does not paint a pretty picture.
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Re: Learning ancient-greek with modern-greek pronunciation?

Post by hairetikon » Wed Mar 04, 2020 8:58 pm

I am not as knowledgable as you guys on these issues, but let me ask a question: isn't the Erasmian vs the modern pronunciation a false dichotomy? I thought that it was believed now that they are both unlike the classical pronunciation.

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Re: Learning ancient-greek with modern-greek pronunciation?

Post by Evangelos96 » Wed Mar 04, 2020 9:11 pm

jeidsath wrote:
Wed Mar 04, 2020 8:55 pm
I have not read Teodorsson. I would if I could, but I have no access to an academic library, I'm afraid, and I have never found PDFs of his books. I have, however, read what Allen, Ruijgh, and Horrocks have had to say about Teodorsson's evidence, and also Sommerstein's criticisms in his review of Teodorsson's Attic Phonemic System book. (I can forward you a copy of the PDF if you don't have access to it.)

https://doi.org/10.1017/S0009840X00222208

Sommerstein, especially, does not paint a pretty picture.
Thanks I'll take a look at the review. But a book that challenges the status quo is bound to get some push-back. As I pointed out in my first comment, back in the Renaissance the scholars thought iotacism was 100 years old. Then people pointed out to them that Eustathius of Thessalonica in the 12th century used a iotacistic pronunciation. Then they discovered that there were uncial manuscripts from the 5th century with iotacisms. In the 19th century they discovered the Herculaneum papyri, which dated iotacism to the 1st century. Then Oxyrhynchus turned up and we got access to papyri from the 3rd century BC showing iotacism. All Teodorsson has done is push the date even further back. And as far as I can tell, his findings are corroborated nicely by other evidence. E.g. If EI was a diphthong, why did the Romans always transliterated it as I?

Not that I agree with all of Teodorsson's conclusions, but what he's done is collect inscriptional variants from existing epigraphical corpora like the CIG and organize them by frequency. I can scan and send you the inscriptional section so you can draw your own conclusions (it's about 40 pages). Cheers
Last edited by Evangelos96 on Wed Mar 04, 2020 11:40 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Learning ancient-greek with modern-greek pronunciation?

Post by Evangelos96 » Wed Mar 04, 2020 9:17 pm

hairetikon wrote:
Wed Mar 04, 2020 8:58 pm
I am not as knowledgable as you guys on these issues, but let me ask a question: isn't the Erasmian vs the modern pronunciation a false dichotomy? I thought that it was believed now that they are both unlike the classical pronunciation.
Well the debate is considered to be a moot issue since the 1870s when Friedrich Blass published a book on Ancient Greek pronunciation which seemed to "settle" things in favour of the Erasmian. Since that time, however, fields like papyrology have advanced greatly and new evidence has come to light. The standard textbook on the subject, Allen's Vox Graeca basically summarizes the 19th century arguments with a few modifications like a value [e] for the diphthong EI. In other respects, however, it really does not differ much from what Erasmus proposed in the 16th century, even reprising many of the Renaissance arguments like Cratinus' βῆ βῆ.

But apart from the inscriptional and papyrological evidence, there are a good many comments in ancient authors (Thucydides and Plato for example), that give us some really good hints about the pronunciation. So personally I still think it's very much an open question.
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Re: Learning ancient-greek with modern-greek pronunciation?

Post by jeidsath » Wed Mar 04, 2020 9:19 pm

hairetikon wrote:
Wed Mar 04, 2020 8:58 pm
I am not as knowledgable as you guys on these issues, but let me ask a question: isn't the Erasmian vs the modern pronunciation a false dichotomy? I thought that it was believed now that they are both unlike the classical pronunciation.
Mostly yes, although Erasmian wasn't that very wrong or terrible by any stretch, compared to what is known now. However, in England and America, the great vowel shift led to some very weird pronunciations of Greek between 1700-1900 or so, which were called "Erasmian", but had diverged.

But you are right. A serious critique would begin with Allen or Horrocks and there are a certain number of weak points to do it at.
Evangelos96 wrote:
Wed Mar 04, 2020 9:11 pm
Not that I agree with all of Teodorsson's conclusions, but what he's done is collect inscriptional variants from existing epigraphical corpora like the CIG and organize them by frequency. I can scan and send you the inscriptional section so you can draw your own conclusions (it's about 40 pages). Cheers
Yes, please do. You should have my email already.
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Re: Learning ancient-greek with modern-greek pronunciation?

Post by Evangelos96 » Thu Mar 05, 2020 1:06 am

Hey, for anyone interested, I strongly recommend the following website on the pronunciation question:

http://attic.kanlis.com
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Re: Learning ancient-greek with modern-greek pronunciation?

Post by Evangelos96 » Thu Mar 05, 2020 1:32 am

Having read Teodorsson, Sommerstein does not provide a strong critique.

He objects at first to Teodorsson's principle that "'The more reliable our knowledge is of the development of a phonemic system during periods later than the one investigated, the more positive phonemic conclusions may be drawn from orthographic data from that period" on the grounds that E alternates with I more than H alternates with I, and so on those grounds we should just disqualify the misspellings. But the whole point of Teodorsson's principle is to devise a way to rank the evidential value of misspellings. So if Teodorsson's principle is reasonable, then even a few cases of H alternating with I will be very revealing.

Sommerstein cursorily discounts the λιμός/λοιμός homophony by calling it "strained" and saying that it "[does] not lend [Teodorsson's analysis] positive support" but he does not justify his claim.

He ends by suggesting that some of the vowel features noted by Teodorsson may be due to the heavy influence of "Boiotians across the border." But this oft-repeated explanation is specious. To quote Angelos Kanlis:

While the gradual spread of sound change from one dialect to the other may work for decentralised languages, like pre-Lutheran German, the analogy does not apply in Greek. Attic (and to a lesser extend Ionic), being adopted as official by the Macedonians and spread to the end of the (then) known world, was the basis for the common language and the other dialects had a marginal role, if at all. Thus, the claim that a marginal dialect, like Boeotian for the monophthongisation of the diphthongs and Laconian for the fricativization of the aspiratae, set the trend for mainstream Greek is one that must be strongly substantiated; however, no [one has] felt the need to go beyond a mere assertion of the influence that the (heavily outnumbered, strongly marginalised and utterly insignificant) Boeotians and Laconians would never have on the Koine. The developments in these dialects can, therefore, have nothing to do with those in the Koine and, should the thesis hold true, it would mean that the same sound change occurred independently both in the dialects and in the common language, as if sound change...is a one-way street.

http://attic.kanlis.com/aspiratae.html
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Re: Learning ancient-greek with modern-greek pronunciation?

Post by seneca2008 » Thu Mar 26, 2020 11:54 am

Evangelos96 wrote:Given all of this, I find the choice of modern pronunciation a no-brainer. It's not only extremely close to the ancient pronunciation, but it can also serve as a standard for scholars to pronounce Greek in a consistent manner, as opposed to an idiosyncratic hodgepodge coloured by one's native accent. And on that note, I end with a quote:

“Actual pronunciation...is not a matter of theory, but of praxis: real sound, not a description of sound. Often confusing the two, most classicists, I suspect, would claim that we know fairly accurately what sounds the Greek alphabet represented, yet no two of us would sound alike in reading a given passage of prose or poetry. Our students, if they are interested, have no consistent models to follow. As a result, the pronunciation of Ancient Greek today generally bears no relation to any language, living or dead; it is an embarrassment. The less said aloud, the better. After all, the printed text provides enough challenges as it is: grammar, substance, theme (all much easier to write about); who has class time to spend on pronunciation? Where's the benefit?... Reading silently is not so much the problem; it is unavoidable. Rather, it is reading aloud badly. But who can teach us to do it well? By themselves, books cannot. We need living models...”

Matthew Dillon, “The Erasmian Pronunciation of Ancient Greek: A New Perspective.” Classical World 94, no. 4 (2001), p.323
Thanks you for drawing my attention to this article. Dillon doesn't actually suggest modern Greek as the way to pronounce Ancient Greek. He suggests a two tier approach.

Daitz wrote a reply to this article (Further Notes on the Pronunciation of Ancient Greek, Stephen G. Daitz, The Classical World, Vol. 95, No. 4 (Summer, 2002), pp. 411-412). I will quote his concluding remarks in which he points out the difficulties with Dillon's approach.

"As a means of making ancient Greek pronunciation easier for students, Dillon suggests that there be "two registers of pronunciation, a conservative, quantitative level for poetry, and a more demotic level for prose." I see two problems with this suggestion. First, it would require students to learn two different pronunciations (comparable to a foreigner having to learn both American and British pronunciations), which would probably end up making the learning process more difficult rather than easier. Secondly, it is historically improbable. When Demosthenes delivered an oration in the Assembly, he presumably did not use one pronunciation for his own words in prose, but another pronunciation when he quoted Homer. Likewise, in more recent times, it is most improbable that Churchill, in delivering a speech in Parliament, used one pronunciation for his own words in prose, but another pronunciation when quoting Shakespeare. There would, of course, in both cases be rhythmic differences, but that, as Gorgias said, is precisely the difference between prose and poetry: rhythm (but not pronunciation)."

It is also worth noting what Daitz says about Teodorsson in the same article:

"S. Teodorsson, on whom Dillon relies, has shown that some changes in Greek pronunciation occurred as early as during the sixth and fifth centuries B.C.E. But these changes, as Teodorsson makes clear, apply primarily to everyday, popular speech (demotic), and not necessarily to what he terms "High Greek," the pronunciation used for formal speech (oratory, historiography, philosophy) and presumably for the recitation of poetry. Teodorsson, in a personal conversation several years ago, agreed that this formal, literary pronunciation remained relatively unchanged for many centuries. (my underlining).

I hope this provides some balance to what can be a highly charged discussion.

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Re: Learning ancient-greek with modern-greek pronunciation?

Post by jeidsath » Thu Mar 26, 2020 1:11 pm

That was not only Teodorsson's private belief, but his published belief too. He explained conservative features in the language by a demotic/literary pronunciation divide that persisted for centuries. Daitz thought it unlikely.
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Re: Learning ancient-greek with modern-greek pronunciation?

Post by Evangelos96 » Thu Mar 26, 2020 5:23 pm

seneca2008 wrote:
Thu Mar 26, 2020 11:54 am
But these changes, as Teodorsson makes clear, apply primarily to everyday, popular speech (demotic), and not necessarily to what he terms "High Greek," the pronunciation used for formal speech (oratory, historiography, philosophy) and presumably for the recitation of poetry.
seneca2008 wrote:
Thu Mar 26, 2020 11:54 am
When Demosthenes delivered an oration in the Assembly, he presumably did not use one pronunciation for his own words in prose, but another pronunciation when he quoted Homer. Likewise, in more recent times, it is most improbable that Churchill, in delivering a speech in Parliament, used one pronunciation for his own words in prose, but another pronunciation when quoting Shakespeare.
Two remarks:

#1 Imagine several centuries in the future some linguists are trying to figure out what English in the 21st century sounded like. Looking at the formal writings of the period (newspaper articles, books, etc.) they notice that English speakers used a consistent spelling which goes back more or less to the 14th century.

However, by studying illiterate graffiti scrawled on brick walls, the linguists notice that the spelling used here is often different. "Night" is spelled "nait", "because" is spelled "becuz" and "place" is spelled "pleis".

Based on this evidence, these diligent future linguists determine that in 2020 there were two forms of English spoken: "High English" which pronounced the words as they were spelled: [nɪxt], [bɪcauzə], [pla:s], and "Demotic" English which pronounced these same words as [naɪt], [bɪcʌz] and [pleɪs].

Of course, this would be a reasonable hypothesis were it not completely and laughably false.

If this reasoning fails for English, why should it apply to Greek?

According to our oldest sources, the Phoenician Alphabet was introduced into Greece in 1,400 BC. Do you not think it is possible that the language changed in the 1,000 years between then and the Classical period?? I thought that was the whole argument against Modern Greek. I find it hard to believe that at the same time that Attic was contracting two or three vowels into one (φάος -> φῶς, τιμάουσα -> τιμῶσα, ἀείδω -> ᾄδω, ἀργυρέοιο -> ἀργυροῦ), it left the diphthongs αι, οι, and ει untouched.

So if dozens upon dozens of inscriptions show us a divergent phonology ΑΝD this phonology is hinted at through puns in classical literature, I see no reason not to accept it at face value and assume that that's simply how people spoke. To cite my previous examples:

Thucydides states that λοιμός was homophonous to λιμός.

Aesop rhymes σὺ εἶ with σείει.

Callimachus rhymes ναίχι with ἔχει.

Aristotle says that ὁδός (rough breathing) was homophonous to ὀδός (smooth breathing).

Here are two new ones: when Diogenes the Cynic once caught a thief at the public bath, he asked him:

ἐπ' ἀλειμμάτιονἐπ' ἄλλ' ἱμάτιον;

Did you come for a greasing or a garment?

(quoted in Diogenes Laertius VI.52)

A proverb ascribed to the comic poet Callias:

Kέρδος αἰσχύνης ἄμεινον· ἔλκε μοιχόν εἰς μυχόν.

The profit of shame is better: drag an adulterer into a hidden place.

#2 As regards poetry and oratory, there was one major difference which separates ancient from modern poetry. Today, poetry is recited. In Antiquity, poetry was sung. And the ancient sources tell us that these two modes of pronunciation were quite different:

Aristotle (On Rhetoric):

The form of diction [in oratory] should be neither metrical nor without rhythm. If it is metrical, it lacks persuasiveness, for it appears artificial, and at the same time it distracts the hearer’s attention, since it sets him on the watch for the recurrence of such and such a cadence...Now all things are limited by number, and the number belonging to the form of diction is rhythm, of which the metres are divisions. Wherefore prose must be rhythmical, but not metrical, otherwise it will be a poem. (1408b)

Aristoxenus (On Harmony):

Continuous motion we call the motion of speech, as in speaking the voice moves without ever seeming to come to a standstill. The reverse is the case with the other motion, which we designate motion by intervals (διαστηματικήν): in that the voice does seem to become stationary, and when employing this motion one is always said not to speak but to sing. Hence in ordinary conversation we avoid bringing the voice to a standstill, unless occasionally forced by strong feeling to resort to such a motion; whereas in singing we act in precisely the opposite way. (1.9-10)

Starting from these definitions and classifications we must seek to indicate in outline the nature of melody. We have already observed that here the motion of the voice must be by intervals; herein, then, lies the distinction between the melody of music and of speech — for there is also a kind of melody in speech (λογῶδες τι μέλος) which depends upon the accents of words, as the voice in speaking rises and sinks by a natural law. (1.18)

Dionysius of Halicarnassus (On Composition):

Music, further, insists that the words should be subordinate to the tune, and not the tune to the words....Ordinary prose speech does not violate or interchange the quantities in any noun or verb... But the arts of rhythm and music alter them by shortening or lengthening... (XI)

Longinus (Prolegomena to Hephaestion's On Metre):

Many meters, being silenced, happen to go under cover in prose...At any rate, someone would be able to find in Demosthenes the orator hidden heroic verse, which is able to go unnoticed on account of the prosaic pronunciation (πεζὴν οὖσαν τὴν προφοράν).

Now, as Aristoxenus says above, the defining feature of prose rhythm, as opposed to poetry, is the placement of word accents. This is corroborated by Aristotle:

Now delivery is a matter of voice, as to the mode in which it should be used for each particular emotion; when it should be loud, when low, when intermediate; and how the accents, that is, acute, grave, and intermediate, should be used; and what rhythms are adapted to each subject. (Rhetoric, 1403b)

Some examples of prose rhythm:

Ιsocrates, To Demonicus:

Ἐὰν ᾖς φιλομαθής, ἔσει πολυμαθής.

Βουλεύου μὲν βραδέως, ἐπιτέλει δὲ ταχέως.


Gorgias, Encomium to Helen:

Kόσμος πόλει μὲν εὐανδρία, σώματι δὲ κάλλος, ψυχῇ δὲ σοφία.

Θεοῦ γὰρ προθυμίαν ἀνθρωπίνῃ προμηθίᾳ ἀδύνατον κωλύειν.

The rhythmical placement of accent in prose became a defining characteristic of the flashy "Asianic" style of oratory which developed in the 3rd century BC, reaching a peak in the Second Sophistic of the 2nd century AD. Some examples:

Onomarchus of Andros:
Ἀνέραστε καὶ βάσκανε, πρὸς πιστὸν ἐραστὴν ἄπιστε. (fragment, Norden 1898, 413)

Αelius Aristides:
Ὦ πάντα ὑπομείνας ἐγώ, ποῦ γῆς νυνὶ μονῳδῶ; (Monody to Smyrna)

Philostratus:
Xαῖρε, κἂν μὴ θέλῃς, χαῖρε κἂν μὴ γράφῃς. (Norden 1898: 415)

Apollonius of Athens:
Oὐ κατάγει νεκρούς, ἀλλ’ ἀνάγει θεούς. (quoted by Philostratus, Lives of the Sophists)

Maximus of Tyre:
Kαὶ γὰρ ποιητικὴ τί ἄλλο ἢ φιλοσοφία, τῷ μὲν χρόνῳ παλαιά, τῇ δὲ ἁρμονία ἔμμετρος, τῇ δὲ γνώμη μυθολογική; Καὶ φιλοσοφία τί ἄλλο ἢ ποιητική, τῷ μὲν χρόνῳ νεωτέρα, τῇ δὲ ἁρμονία εὐζωνοτέρα, τῇ δὲ γνώμη σαφεστέρα; (Oration 4)

Αchilles Tatius:
Eὐρώπης ἡ γραφή, Φοινίκων ἡ θάλασσα, Σιδῶνος ἡ γῆ. (Leucippe and Clitophon, 1.2-3)

Τhis prose rhythm was even occasionally used in verse by making the ictus fall on the same syllable as the natural accent:

ἄνδρα μοι ἔννεπε Μοῦσα πολύτροπον (Odyssey I.1)
μάντι κακῶν οὐ πώποτε μοὶ τὸ κρήγυον εἶπας (Iliad I.106)
ἵππους δὲ ξανθὰς ἑκατὸν καὶ πεντήκοντα (Iliad XI.680)

In Latin, this type of accentual verse was called versus quadratus. Suetonius cites the following examples as being sung by Roman soldiers after the conquest of Gaul:

Urbani servate uxores, moechum calvum adducimus
Aurum in Gallia effutuisti, hic sumpsisti mutuum.

Gallos Caesare in triumphum ducit, idem in curiam.
Galli bracas deposuerunt, latum clavum sumpserunt.


Which taking the elision into account would probably have been pronounced:

Úrbaní servát' uxóres, moéchum cálv' addúcimús
Aúr' in Gálli' effútuísti, híc sumpsísti mútuúm.

Gállos Caésar' ín triúmphum dúcit, íd' in cúriám.
Gálli brácas déposuérunt, látum clávum súmpserúnt.
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