This article is from the Greece FAQ, by Nikolaos (Nick) C. Fotis, firstname.lastname@example.org with numerous contributions by others.
From: email@example.com (Roger Squires)
[Mr. Fouliras notes that
1) noone really knows what the *real* pronunciation was like,
2) that accent marks were added later to help with the learning task,
3) that there were various dialects of ancient Greek.]
As my final contribution to this thread, I will note that the author
of the above tape set spends many minutes at the beginning
of the tapes making all of these points, and more, discussing
why we should bother learning how to pronounce ancient Greek
(not only for intellectual honesty, but for a complete aesthetic
experience); how we know the way the language was pronounced
(a specific greek Grammerian was mentioned, talking about
the circumflex ("bending the pitch"), the grave and acute accents,
as well as a specific example of how the borrowing of a Greek
word into Latin (pilosopia) gives a clue to the pronunciation
of 'p,'); and finally, that there were various dialects -- the
Aeolic, the Attic, the Ionic -- and that the only one of these
that we have much evidence for is the Attic of classical Athens,
that though we have few clues how Homeric Greek might have been
spoken, since the received texts of Homer are from the later period
anyway, this is what is will be covered.
The narrator fully acknowledges that although his reconstruction
is necessarily hypothetical, nevertheless it is based on solid
scholarship, and he references the _Vox Graeca_ that others in
this thread have mentioned, and another work I can't recall now,
also discussing why his reconstruction is superior to that of Erasmus.
Included in the tape are examples of the opening lines of
the Iliad, as spoken by a modern Greek, by a person speaking
the Erasmeian reconstruction, and his reconstruction, including
all of the pitch and metrical accents. The tapes, after
covering the pronunciation of individual letters, progresses
to that of the various accent marks, and then to how to
master the poetical meter of e.g. Homer, using a five step
learning process. The last examples given are passages
from major authors like Aeschylus, Euripides, Plato, and
lastly, that of the only complete extant poem of Sappho,
with a soooo exquisite dovely cooing quality to it that my
spine tingles now thinking of it.
From: firstname.lastname@example.org (M. Wiltink.a73A.telnr-015-138378)
It seems to me that most, if not all of the people here start with
English renderings of Latinised versions of Greek names and then
wonder where things went wrong.
The Greeks had no such letter as the c. They had sigma, which poses
no problems and becomes s, and kappa, k. This is where most of the
trouble starts. Most Greek words passed on to recent times came via
Latin. Latin, however, had no (well, almost no) k and used c, pronounced
....k. Then modern languages started pronouncing c as either s or k,
depending on what letter followed it. Believe it or not, ALL c's in
words derived from Greek should be pronounced k. The same, by the way,
goes for c's in Latin words, though this should not be taken to mean
that I want everybody to pronounce 'circus' 'kirkus'. There are words
that have become sufficiently English to pronounce them by the rules
for English, which say that ce, ci are pronounced se, si. But in most
Greek names, I myself do prefer to write and pronounce k - Alkibiades,
to name one example.
[ email@example.com ("Christina C. Christara") comments on the last
I agree, with a minor comment.
I think the (ancient) Greeks had 2 alphabets, which were very similar
to each other. One was called western or Chalkidean (by people from
Chalkis) and the other eastern or Ionian (by people from Asia Minor,
centered in Miletos).
I think (but I am not sure) that the western had a 'c'.
But Athens at some point around 400 BC decided to adopt the eastern-
Ionian alphabet and drove all Greeks in that way. The western-Chalkidean
alphabet was used as basis for the Latin alphabet (indirectly
through the Etruscan one?). Todays Greek alphabet is the eastern-Ionian
one, with the lower case letters developed later.
End of parenthesis -- nfotis ]
The same goes for ai, which became ae in Latin and is generally, though
not universally, pronounced ay as in 'hay'. Personally and subjectively,
I prefer the sound found in 'high'. The upsilon, u, is a bit different.
It was transcribed y in Latin but in German and in Scandinivian languages
y is still pronounced u. This is sometimes a major source of irritation for
me, as most ski-jumping commentators pronounced 'Nyk\"anen' 'Nikaanen'
instead of 'Nukaynen' during the time he was all over Sportnet.