Is learning accents really important?

Mitch Tulloch
Posts: 15
Joined: November 4th, 2017, 2:52 pm

Is learning accents really important?

Post by Mitch Tulloch » November 29th, 2017, 9:31 am

I recently read http://www.roger-pearse.com/weblog/2009 ... ent-greek/ and it made me wonder about accents in text of the GNT. Is it *really* important to learn the rules for accents? It seems like such a huge waste of little grey cells. Isn't context enough in most cases for distinguishing εισ (one) from εισ (into) for example? Aren't there no accents in most Biblical papyrii and the uncial manuscripts?

Also a general question: When were accents first introduced into the writing of ancient Greek?

Thanks!
--Mitch
0 x



Stephen Carlson
Posts: 2734
Joined: May 11th, 2011, 10:51 am
Location: Melbourne
Contact:

Re: Is learning accents really important?

Post by Stephen Carlson » November 29th, 2017, 6:16 pm

Mitch Tulloch wrote:
November 29th, 2017, 9:31 am
I recently read http://www.roger-pearse.com/weblog/2009 ... ent-greek/ and it made me wonder about accents in text of the GNT. Is it *really* important to learn the rules for accents? It seems like such a huge waste of little grey cells.
When I taught Greek, I decided that it was best to teach to the basics of the accent rules, so my students are aware of them. Students these days are too often looking for excuses not to learn something, but I think it's important to demystify the accents in that they are not completely arbitrary but follow a set of patterns, such that if you can remember how to spell a word and which syllable to put the (stress) in your internalized pronunciation, you can generally guess which accept to write. (There are difficult areas of course, mostly involving monosyllabic words and unmarked length of α, ι, and υ.) Accents were not, however, a priority of mine. (Vocabulary was.)
Mitch Tulloch wrote:
November 29th, 2017, 9:31 am
Isn't context enough in most cases for distinguishing εισ (one) from εισ (into) for example?
Yikes, the accents (and other editorial aids) are provided in the text to make reading Greek easier. Why make it harder?
Mitch Tulloch wrote:
November 29th, 2017, 9:31 am
Aren't there no accents in most Biblical papyrii and the uncial manuscripts?
There are also no spacings in most Biblical papyri and uncials, nor lower case. Omitting them degrades the reading experience. Now, just because they weren't written, it does not mean that they did not exist in the language. The scribes knew the accents even if they didn't write them. Accentuation was a part of the Greek language that all Greek speakers knew.
Mitch Tulloch wrote:
November 29th, 2017, 9:31 am
Also a general question: When were accents first introduced into the writing of ancient Greek?
The invention of accentuation is usually credited to Aristophanes of Byzantium around 200 BC.
0 x
Stephen C. Carlson, Ph.D.
Melbourne, Australia

timothy_p_mcmahon
Posts: 237
Joined: June 3rd, 2011, 10:47 pm

Re: Is learning accents really important?

Post by timothy_p_mcmahon » November 30th, 2017, 2:05 am

Just to throw in my own 2¢...

When I began studying Greek, the textbook I used introduced accents right away (lesson 2 or 3, I think). It went completely over my head. I just didn't have enough Greek for the accentuation rules to make sense. When I finished the first year grammar I went back and re-read the lesson on accents – it made perfect sense and was very helpful. I've long been glad I covered the material.
0 x

Alan Bunning
Posts: 258
Joined: June 5th, 2011, 7:31 am
Contact:

Re: Is learning accents really important?

Post by Alan Bunning » November 30th, 2017, 10:31 am

Mitch Tulloch wrote:
November 29th, 2017, 9:31 am
Is it *really* important to learn the rules for accents? It seems like such a huge waste of little grey cells. Isn't context enough in most cases for distinguishing εισ (one) from εισ (into) for example? Aren't there no accents in most Biblical papyrii and the uncial manuscripts?
When I learned Greek, I too was taught the rules for accents. They had no purpose for me then other than to put a stress on the right syllable when speaking the Erasmian pronunciation I was taught in class. The rules were too complex that I would ever trust myself as putting one in the right position when trying to write my own Greek.

Years later, when I started working with the early New Testament manuscripts (see http://greekcntr.org), I noticed that they did not contain any such diacritical marks and I have not missed them at all! I am able to figure out quite easily the meaning of a word that can be accented two different ways by context. It is really no different knowing which of several different meanings apply to a word based on context. And now I am irritated when and editor has placed an accent on a word like τισ and I think they have chosen the wrong one. In such cases, the understanding of the text is biased (one way or another) by an editor’s decision to use diacritical marks that did not exist. Ι have written something about this in my project description (see http://greekcntr.org/downloads/project.pdf section 3.1.2). So yes, you probably would not have a problem if you are only worried about understanding the meaning.

That said, you should probably not listen to me if you plan on speaking the language with others in a consistent fashion. I now speak a form of goofed-up Erasmian, tainted by some reconstructed Koine sounds (see Randall Buth’s work and I recommend you use his work if possible). For me, if there is an accent on the text I am reading, I know what syllable to stress, otherwise I just make up what ever sounds good in my head. Strangely, this has not really impeded my ability to communicate Greek with anyone as they sort of understand me anyway (much like an American can understand an Australian’s accent). But I cannot understand good recordings of reconstructed Koine Greek in real time because they go too fast for me, and the accent used is part of that.
0 x

Jonathan Robie
Posts: 3483
Joined: May 5th, 2011, 5:34 pm
Location: Durham, NC
Contact:

Re: Is learning accents really important?

Post by Jonathan Robie » November 30th, 2017, 10:37 am

In the beginning, I would probably focus on the accents that distinguish words that are easy to confuse. And always take accents into account when you pronounce the words, don't teach yourself to mispronounce words, that is hard to unlearn later.

When you start writing Greek, accents make it a lot more complicated, so in the beginning, it may make sense to let yourself off easy. Focus on the places other people have provided accents to make it easier for beginners to distinguish easily confused words and pronounce sentences correctly.
0 x
ἐξίσταντο δὲ πάντες καὶ διηποροῦντο, ἄλλος πρὸς ἄλλον λέγοντες, τί θέλει τοῦτο εἶναι;
http://jonathanrobie.biblicalhumanities.org/

Jason Hare
Posts: 498
Joined: June 2nd, 2011, 5:28 pm
Location: Rehovot, Israel
Contact:

Re: Is learning accents really important?

Post by Jason Hare » November 30th, 2017, 10:57 am

I was a senior in high school when I first read the accentuation rules in Mounce's grammar, and they made perfect sense to me very early on. I always considered it part of learning the language. :shrug:
0 x
Jason A. Hare
Tel Aviv, Israel

Robert Emil Berge
Posts: 46
Joined: August 24th, 2016, 1:34 pm

Re: Is learning accents really important?

Post by Robert Emil Berge » November 30th, 2017, 11:48 am

Mitch Tulloch wrote:
November 29th, 2017, 9:31 am
It seems like such a huge waste of little grey cells.
I think this is the most crucial point here. Compared to the rest of the effort of learning Greek, the effort of understanding how the accents work is almost non-existing. They didn't put them into writing in the beginning because the people who were writing knew the language, and therefore where the accents were. The system of writing the accents came when people didn't know anymore, just like us. So: They are a part of the language, make understaning easier and it's very easy to learn them. I would learn them.
0 x

Emma Ehrhardt
Posts: 57
Joined: December 23rd, 2014, 10:28 am
Location: IN
Contact:

Re: Is learning accents really important?

Post by Emma Ehrhardt » November 30th, 2017, 12:26 pm

As you can see, there's a whole range of opinions. I'm a fan of "learn what you need as you need it", and "the brain learns language better through exposure than through memorization".

So for a beginning student, you need awareness of which syllable is stressed when pronouncing a word. You need to be able to distinguish between common words that only vary by accents (and/or breath marks).

As you start reading aloud, you internalize better what is consistent, so paying some attention to accents as you read is important. Reading an overview of how Greek accentuation works is helpful for drawing your attention to patterns & will probably help things "click" a bit faster.

Do you need to memorize the accentuation rules and be able to recite them? That I don't see value in. Your brain will internalize accentuation over time as you keep reading Greek, even if you can't articulate a formal linguistic description of accentuation behavior.
0 x
Emma Ehrhardt
Computational Linguist

Mitch Tulloch
Posts: 15
Joined: November 4th, 2017, 2:52 pm

Re: Is learning accents really important?

Post by Mitch Tulloch » November 30th, 2017, 12:31 pm

Alan Bunning wrote:And now I am irritated when and editor has placed an accent on a word like τισ and I think they have chosen the wrong one. In such cases, the understanding of the text is biased (one way or another) by an editor’s decision to use diacritical marks that did not exist.
This is one of my big concerns as well i.e. if the early papyrii and most important uncial manuscripts of the NT didn't have accents and they were introduced later (when exactly?) then I'd prefer to ignore accents in case they cause misunderstanding of a NT passage. The same goes with punctuation which is why I plan on ordering a Tyndale House GNT since I understand it employs sparser punctuation than NA28 which I've been using.
Jonathan Robie wrote:In the beginning, I would probably focus on the accents that distinguish words that are easy to confuse. And always take accents into account when you pronounce the words, don't teach yourself to mispronounce words, that is hard to unlearn later.

When you start writing Greek, accents make it a lot more complicated, so in the beginning, it may make sense to let yourself off easy. Focus on the places other people have provided accents to make it easier for beginners to distinguish easily confused words and pronounce sentences correctly.
I'm only interested in reading Koine Greek, not in speaking or writing it :-)

Cheers,
Mitch Tulloch
0 x

Jonathan Robie
Posts: 3483
Joined: May 5th, 2011, 5:34 pm
Location: Durham, NC
Contact:

Re: Is learning accents really important?

Post by Jonathan Robie » November 30th, 2017, 12:34 pm

I'm curious.

How many passages can we think of that are ambiguous without accents (but not with accents)? Do they fall into a small number of set categories?
0 x
ἐξίσταντο δὲ πάντες καὶ διηποροῦντο, ἄλλος πρὸς ἄλλον λέγοντες, τί θέλει τοῦτο εἶναι;
http://jonathanrobie.biblicalhumanities.org/

Post Reply