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18 Part 1.1 - Difference between Ancient Greek pronunciationsand modern Greek pronunciations?




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This article is from the Greece FAQ, by Nikolaos (Nick) C. Fotis, nfotis@theseas.ntua.gr with numerous contributions by others.

18 Part 1.1 - Difference between Ancient Greek pronunciationsand modern Greek pronunciations?

[ This question spawned a HUGE thread!! I'm quoting from the various
correspodents who participated in this thread . Basically, there are
two subtopics here:

a. How does one express pronounciation of Greek text in English-like
languages?
b. How did ancient Greeks pronounce their written works?

There's no end to this debate. I'm just quoting the various opinions
and (mis)information ;-) presented in USENET -- nfotis . I hope no one
asks again about that subject :-/ ]

From: adjg@sour.sw.oz.au (Andrew Gollan)
----

drg@candidus.ma30.bull.com (Daniel R. Guilderson) writes:

|I have an English translation of Homer's Odyssey. There is a
|pronunciation key in an appendix but the author states that ALL 'c's
|are pronounced as 'k' and all 'ch's as 'kh'. Well I know that modern
|Greeks pronounce Chios as hee'os. So how would you pronounce Circe^
|(circumflex over the e) and Cynthera? I can't imagine pronouncing
|Circe^ as kir'kee, although anything is possible I suppose.

|Maybe someone from s.c.g can comment on some of the differences
|between Ancient Greek pronunciations and modern Greek pronunciations?

You are pushing shit uphill trying to reconstruct the Classical Greek
pronunciation from the "English" equivalents. All but a very few English
works adopt the Latinized spellings of the Greek names, which were themselves
at best an approximation. We then apply modern English pronunciation to
the Latin spellings resulting in completely warped pronunciation.

        Latinized       Greek letter    Sound
        ---------       ------------    -----
        a (short)       alpha           u as in 'cup'
        a (long)        alpha           a as in 'father'
        b               beta            b as in 'bed'
        c               kappa           as french hard c: 'comment'
        d               delta           d as in 'dog'
        e (short)       epsilon         e as in 'pet'
        e (long)        eta             as all of 'air'
        f               -               -
        g               gamma           g as in 'god'
        h (initial)     rough breathing h as in 'hot'
        i               iota            i as in 'pit'
        j               -               -
        k               kappa           as french hard c: 'comment'
        l               la(m)bda        l as in 'lid'
        m               mu              m as in 'mud'
        n               nu              n as in 'net'
        o (short)       omicron         o as in 'pot'
        o (long)        omega           aw as in 'awful'
        p               pi              as french p: 'Paris'
        q               -               -
        r               rho             rolled r as in french: 'rue'
        s               sigma           s as in 'sad' (mostly)
        t               tau             as french t: 'tu'
        u               omicron+upsilon oo as in 'tool'
        v               -               -
        w               -               -
        x               xi              x as in 'fax' (even first in a word)
        y (short)       upsilon         as french u: 'tu'
        y (long)        upsilon         as french u: 'sur'
        z               zeta            zd
 
        ch              khi             c as in 'cot' (emphatically)
        ph              phi             p as in 'pot' (emphatically)
        th              theta           t as in 'top' (emphatically)
 
        ae              alpha+iota      as all of 'eye'
        au              alpha+upsilon   as ow in 'cow'
        ei              epsilon+iota    a as in 'take'
        eu              epsilon+upsilon as all of 'yew' (sort of)
        oi              omicron+iota    oy as in 'boy'

The latinization is not quite regular in its treatment of upsilon. Words
which start with upsilon in Greek always have a rough breathing (i.e. an
initial 'h') but this is not always transcribed into latin. Also some
upsilons are transcribed as 'u' not 'y', which adds to the confusion.
Note the major differences between the long and short versions of the vowels,
this, combined with the total absense of any marking for the length, gives
you a lot of leeway for mispronouncing these names. Without looking them
up in the Greek you just can't know the length.

The Greek accent of the time was a melodic rather than the modern stress
accent. There were three marks an acute ('), a grave (`) and a circumflex (~)
which indicated the type of pitch change to apply to a word. Almost all
words have exactly one stress mark somewhere in the last three syllables.
This is not recorded in the Latinization.

 

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