This article is from the Greece FAQ, by Nikolaos (Nick) C. Fotis, email@example.com with numerous contributions by others.
From: firstname.lastname@example.org (Michael Polymenakos)
>By the way, Greek netters seem to have some ideological reason
>to believe that their native language is very similar to
>classical Greek. In practise I've had a lot of troubles when
I think that there is some confusion here between 'language' and
pronounciation. The language is extremely similar, especially if one
compares late hellenistic period Greek (circa 1 a.d.) with modern
Greek. It is much easier for me as a modern Greek to read the New
Testament (1950 years old), that it is for an english-speaking person to
read Chaucher (a modern piece of work, by comparison).
The pronounciation changed a lot. But, again, changes since the late
hellenistic period are minor compared to the changes to English since
half that long ago. In general, it is agreed that Greek pronounciation
has changed very little since 1000ad.
In fact, as recently as a few decades ago, a number of regional
dialects used syntactical and phonological features of corresponding
ancient Greek dialects (in mountainous northern Laconia, for example,
where the ancient Doric dialect survived practically intact).
Unfortunately, after WWII, control of education was taken away from the
local village/parish level, and all Greeks now sound like they are from
Athens. Only recently did Greeks realise what a terrible waste of
valuable cultural resources that was.
[ When challenged "why these valuable resources, in light of the need to
rebuild the country from zero?", in my words, he replied:
1. There was no effort to study and record these languages. Where
some research was made (with the Tsakones, for example), dialects were
found that were completely identical to the corresponding ancient Greek
dialects for those regions. Having records of these dialects would
provide us with valuable information about ancient and byzantine Greek.
2. Ditto for all the regional literature of these areas. Along with
these dialects, we also tossed away volumes of oral tradition. Again,
where ever research was made, the knowledge gained was tremendous. By
the time the Greek state woke up to what had happened, and started
funding research projects, many papoudes and giagiades had died, and
with them many stories that the younger generation did not learn because
anything said in a village dialect was considered 'unimportant' and
'uncultured'. The end result was the same as if though thousands of
books had been burned.
In all fairness, it is hard to blame anyone for what happened. With
Greece badly underdeveloped in the 1920s, the big restructuring of
education, which became totally centralised after WWII, was nescessary.
Back then development was the only priority, and the funds for research
were not available.
>pronouncing Greek names in the classical way, which is usual
>for Finns (even tourists without any classical education).
>I was unable to find my way to Herakleion before I learned
>to call it "Iraklio".
But what is the 'Classical Way'? This subject started with a question
on the pronunciation of 'Circee'. All english educated people know that
this is pronounced 'Sir-see'. Yet, everyone who expressed an opinion on
this group so far has agreed that the right pronounciation is 'Kir-kee'.
As for "Herakleion', most americans would pronounce it 'He-ra-KLEI-on',
because the anglisezed word does not carry the accent mark, which makes
the classical prounanciation 'He-RA-klei-on'.
According to J.T. Pring's comments which I posted a few days ago:
Both the Eta (H) and the Epsilon-iota (EI) had become I by early
byzantine times --> hi-RA-kli-on
The initial h dissapeared by the fourth century AD --> i-RA-kli-on
The final 'n' began dropping out of use in local dialects sinse
Byzantine times, and is now becoming rare, but many people still use it,
in fact pre-1980 road signs and maps usually read "HRAKLEION".
So, one's classical pronounciation of 'Herakleion' would have been as
much understood in 1992ad as it would have been understood in 400ad. Not
bad, I think.