Greek accents

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Paul Rittman
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Greek accents

Post by Paul Rittman » July 29th, 2011, 6:45 pm

I’m looking for some direction on Greek accents, specifically in a NT/koine Greek context.

(1) are they an accurate representation of how koine Greek was pronounced?

(2) I read that they were only written down from 900 AD onward, although the grammarian Herodian (early 200s AD) is supposed to have described the same accents. Is the current Byzantine system of accents likely to be what Herodian wrote? Or is this just speculation?

(3) I heard that mis-spellings (and the ways Romans spelled Greek words) can help provide clues to pronunciation of letters. What clues are there that can tell us the accents and pitch of Greek words from these eras (i.e., post-classical Greece)?

Ken M. Penner
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Re: Greek accents

Post by Ken M. Penner » July 30th, 2011, 4:47 am

You may find D.A. Carson's book on Greek Accents helpful. http://www.amazon.com/Greek-Accents-Stu ... 0801024943
Ken
Ken M. Penner
St. Francis Xavier University

Paul Rittman
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Re: Greek accents

Post by Paul Rittman » July 30th, 2011, 8:19 am

Thanks. Carson's work (at least from what I could glean from Google Books and amazon) mentioned differing views but didn't really come down and provide evidence for one view or the other.

I did see a more comprehensive grammar by Dan Wallace (Greek Grammar Beyond the Basics), which looked pretty interesting for other reasons, but I didn't see anything on accents there.

Has anyone worked with Wallace's book? or at least, can highly recommend it? My own Greek training is entirely in classical Greek (and that was oh so long ago), so I'm a bit of a fish out of water here....

EDIT: Particularly, I'm curious about how various tenses (aorist, imperfect) can mean different things. Perhaps I'll start a thread on that question by itself, unless someone can recommend Wallace as the expert on that issue...

Ken M. Penner
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Re: Greek accents

Post by Ken M. Penner » July 30th, 2011, 9:07 am

It sounds like Greek: A History of the Language and Its Speakers by Geoffrey C. Horrocks may be more what you're looking for.
Misspellings can help us determine when accent shifted from pitch to loudness: when omicron and omega started to become interchangeable, vowel length distinctions must not have been important. Horrocks says there is evidence this happened by 150 BCE (p. 122n5). See http://books.google.com/books?id=f__JVG ... nt&f=false
Regarding your other question, Wallace is generally well-regarded and is probably even the main authority for many on this forum, but you will find criticism of his proliferation of categories (e.g., type of genitives) and perhaps his tendency to think in terms of translation rather than comprehension (e.g., how a Greek construction should be rendered in English).
Ken
Ken M. Penner
St. Francis Xavier University

Paul Rittman
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Re: Greek accents

Post by Paul Rittman » July 30th, 2011, 10:11 am

OK, I see that pronunciation is being tethered to the argument about accents here. The argument being, that a confusion (among inscriptions even, as well as papyri) between the omicron and omega, demonstrate that both o-sounds were the same. Other homophones developed, such as epsilon and the ai diphthong.
From my perusal of that book (the book did look good, but it is $140 used, or else it would have already been ordered), I gathered that these vowel changes were generally in the direction of long vowels becoming short vowels, which removed the ability to place an up-and-down pitch (the circumflex) on a single vowel, forcing the accents to become stress only. Horrockss said that this was “widespread” by the 150s BC, although it started earlier.

Well that certainly answers one part of the question. How about the other part, that asks about connection the written accents from 900 AD back to Herodian and the Koine of the Hellenistic era. Are we sure that these accents are in fact do replicate what was spoken back then? Were the accents a reconstruction of what the Byzantines thought classic/koine Greek sounded like? Or what their contemporaneous Greek sounded like?

Man... I'd check the book out via interlibrary loan, but that really does look like a keeper, and not something I'd want to read for only 2-3 weeks.

MAubrey
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Re: Greek accents

Post by MAubrey » August 1st, 2011, 4:44 pm

Paul, if you're looking for the historical evidence for accentuation, you should go straight to the research of Philomen Probert. He's written a smaller guide to accentuation that is similar to (but more comprehensive than) Carson as well as a larger monograph on the historical evidence for accentuation.

A New Short Guide to the Accentuation of Ancient Greek by Philomen Probert

Ancient Greek Accentuation: Synchronic Patterns, Frequency Effects, and Prehistory by Philomen Probert
Mike Aubrey, Linguist
Koine-Greek.com

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