Prosody and Learning a Language

Re: Prosody and Learning a Language

Postby Stephen Carlson » January 16th, 2014, 1:54 am

MAubrey wrote:I said nothing about Horrocks. Devine and Stephens make no claims about the Koine period. The dates of the evidence vs. the date of the system are two distinct things. You of all people should know that.

This response is really quite poor and in fact causes me to doubt your unnuanced claim that "Koine wasn't tonal" even more. Because if you had something, you'd point that out instead of publicly insulting my intelligence.
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Re: Prosody and Learning a Language

Postby RandallButh » January 16th, 2014, 5:54 am

Now now, let's all remember that keyboards don't smile, twinkle the eye, and nuance speech, in the way that face-to-face communication does.

As for Koine being tonal or accentual, I think that the linguistics is pretty clear. One needs a mechanism in order to drive the "Great Greek Vowel Shift" that followed Aristotle and the rise of Greek all over the world, roughly 3rd-1st centuries BCE. That vowel shift involves a collapse of phonemic length in the system. The collapse of length, on a simple analysis, results in a system where accent is phonemic, but not tonal. Thus phonologically τον οίκον (acc) is distinctive from τόν οίκον (gen pl).

The 'fly in the ointment' and the problem about dating descriptions by ancient Greeks is that the old tonal accentual system was taught and passed on in the schools until the end of the first millenium CE, when it was mechanically and artificially transferred over to the miniscule manuscript tradition, and remained until the 1970's. In other words, the old system was understood and taught, even though the people were talking in a language with a leveled, non-tonal, vowel system. Our manuscripts, Egyptian and DeadSea papyri and inscriptions and graffiti from all over the Mediterrean are ample testimony to the watershed development of the Greek language by the beginning of the common era.

PS: I've wondered how Devine and Stephens would analyze the Seikilos song? 1st century, short ride from Ephesus?
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Re: Prosody and Learning a Language

Postby MAubrey » January 16th, 2014, 10:27 am

Stephen Carlson wrote:
MAubrey wrote:I said nothing about Horrocks. Devine and Stephens make no claims about the Koine period. The dates of the evidence vs. the date of the system are two distinct things. You of all people should know that.

This response is really quite poor and in fact causes me to doubt your unnuanced claim that "Koine wasn't tonal" even more. Because if you had something, you'd point that out instead of publicly insulting my intelligence.

Stephen, I'm sorry. I wasn't trying insulting your intelligence. I wrongly responded in irritation from the implicit suggestion that all I was doing was relying on a introductory survey of language history rather than substantive research. That was wrong and inappropriate of me and I apologize most sincerely. You have a singular mind--one of the brightest and intelligent that I have ever met.
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Re: Prosody and Learning a Language

Postby Paul-Nitz » January 16th, 2014, 11:38 am

Eeli Kaikkonen wrote:
Paul-Nitz wrote:(As far as the tonal aspect of Greek, I think it's ludicrous to think we can reproduce it.)

Why?


Eeli, my answer isn't based on any text, scholarly articles or research. I’m answering based on my experiences and musings.

Maybe "ludicrous" was a bit strong. I think it's unnecessary and not feasible to learn and use Ancient Greek tones.

On the one hand, how would we know or agree upon an ancient Greek tonal system? I find it unbelievable that we could use the diacritics and reproduce the sound of the actual language.

    Some clever European came to Malawi a few decades ago and took the time to carefully study the tone of Chichewa. He created his own diacritics and wrote a book, marking up the language. It's useful for anyone who already knows the tones and prosody of the language. But it would be utterly impossible for anyone to take this symbolic representation of the language and pronounce it anything close to what Chichewa actually sounds like. It's like giving written directions for producing a replica of the Mona Lisa.
But, let's say we could come up with a tonal system that was agreed upon and at least sounded like a real language. Even then, I can't see that it would be feasible for most learners to pick up this tonal system, unless perhaps their mother tongue is tonal (so, Finns excepted).
Even if a learner would place high value on learning the tones and be determined, he might well fail. It is very difficult for 2nd language learners to do this if their mother tongue is not tonal. If a person has grown up with the American English understanding of tone, he or she won’t even recognize that there is a tonal quality to the language!

    Non-tonal language people (e.g. English speaking Americans) think that tonal language people speak with a sort of mono-tone (e.g. Finns). Americans are used to such wild variations in tone, inserted to express themselves more fully, that when they hear the modest rises and falls of a tonal language, it's sounds dull to them. A friend of mine who was steeped in Chichewa for forty years, ended up taking some of the qualities of the language into his English speech. When I first met him, I thought he had an awfully monotone voice. I wondered if he was unhappy with me!

I bet what really killed the tonal aspect of Greek was that it became an international language. Too many Barbarians learned it and changed the tone from a genuine Greek tone, to an easy stress based
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All languages are tonal not all are marked for it.

Postby Stephen Hughes » January 16th, 2014, 2:52 pm

MAubrey wrote:
Paul-Nitz wrote:As far as the tonal aspect of Greek, I think it's ludicrous to think we can reproduce it.

No worries. Koine wasn't tonal anyway.

All language is tonal. Intonation is not marked in all languages.

The patterns of intonation, stress, the relative lengths of syllables, and pausation are all things that are necessary for the production of speech. Saying that "Koine wan't tonal at all" is something that you probably genuinely meant to be a positive statement, but actually being so simple, it is probably an example of "confirmation bias". Let's look for a moment at the way that tonality has been handled in other borrowings.

Korean uses a number of Chinese words which it has borrowed without their intonation. French words borrowed into English become English sounding except when someone retains the French musicality - which seems affected when incorporated when we use it in an English context, but seems perfectly natural and at home being spoken like French when using French as French.

The Chinese language is highly tonal, but the tones are not marked at all in the writing. Because I live in an out of the way place, my intonation of Chinese is "non-standard" but understandable. Variations in intonational patterns and for individual words can allow people to place a speaker's place of origin. In agreement with Paul, I would say that I have had very little success working to get tones from pinyin to speech. The more I try to get the tones right, the less my Chinese becomes intelligible. Even when travelling through Southeast Asia, using the non-standard Chinese that I usually use was more successful than trying to use a halting affected type of pronunciation.

For "the relative lengths of syllables, and pausation" (that I just mentioned), if you have ever heard some who has just arrived from Ireland speaking English you will have difficulty understanding them because their English is dancing to the drum of a (different) Celtic dialect (so to speak). If that same person goes back to Ireland after some time, it is obvious to those that they meet that they have been living abroad for a spell.
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Finer points of language + τὸν (τὸ) v. τῶν

Postby Stephen Hughes » January 16th, 2014, 2:59 pm

RandallButh wrote:In other words, the old system was understood and taught, even though the people were talking in a language with a leveled, non-tonal, vowel system.

Sentence intonation, the relative length of stressed syllables to unstressed syllables to pauses between words and / or phrases are things that have to be actively taught to Students learning Modern Greek - even to ethnic Greeks living in the diaspora.

RandallButh wrote:phonologically τον οίκον (acc) is distinctive from τόν οίκον (gen pl)
So far as I noticed from learning and using Modern Greek, there is currently no distinction at all between the pronunciation of these two now. But there is evidence in the Modern Greek spelling for that having been the case at an earlier period. The example of a noun that begins with a vowel won't show the difference but before a consonant the τὸν could become τὸ but not so with the τῶν.
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Beyond consistency

Postby Stephen Hughes » January 16th, 2014, 3:03 pm

Paul-Nitz wrote:In learning, consistency is king. I'd say Ancient Greek speakers should use their native prosody. They can do that with no effort whatsoever and with perfect consistency.

For want of a model, yes, for the learning period / process, but later, you will find that reading the texts has an effect on the way you speak it. As a learner tries to catch all that seems like it should be in one breath into one breath, and tries to pronounce enclitics as part of the word they are joint with.

I get paid to help people who are usually very consistent improve their language.

Paul-Nitz wrote:Non-tonal language people (e.g. English speaking Americans)

This is not true. The English speaking Americans that I've meant use a lot of sentence intonation and they express their feelings in tones.
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Hellenes and hellenists.

Postby Stephen Hughes » January 16th, 2014, 3:05 pm

Stephen Carlson wrote:The main evidence for the tonal system used by Devine and Stephens, the Delphic Hymns and Dionysius of Halicarnassus, dates to the Koine period.

I haven't read these works. Is it possible that Greeks (persons of Greek lineage and background) would still have preserved intonation, while the other nations hellenised by Alexander and post would have used a different way of speaking Greek.

I would guess that people across the Mediterranean (and beyond) that used Koine Greek had differences in all four of "patterns of intonation, stress, the relative lengths of syllables, and pausation" when they were speaking.
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Re: Prosody and Learning a Language

Postby Louis L Sorenson » January 16th, 2014, 4:55 pm

The book The Prosody of Greek Speech is truly insightful. I briefly read through the whole book, and recommend it to those who are teaching Greek, especially using an aural/oral pedagogy - at least a brief review of it. I'm not a linguist, but have had some linguistic training and have tried to keep abreast of some topics the last few years - so I may get some terms wrong. (Note: the book is very technical, and filled with jargon).

I think the prosody of each language needs to be learned where possible, when possible, and when learning it does not conflict with communication. In English the phrase "What do you mean." has a number of ways it can be spoken. (a) "What↑ do you mean?" (b) "What do you mean↓?" (c) "What, do you mean...?" ask the same question, but incorporate different emotional content,the first surprise, the second frustration, the third an admission of surprise and self-correction. But there are constraints on word order, etc. that are intrinsic to the language. That's what The Prosody of Greek Speech is getting at.

How can we demonstrate that there actually were prosodic domains intermediate between the word or appositive group and the utterance? And if we can, how do we know which sequences of words can make up these phonological phrases and which cannot? Under what circumstances, if any, can a subject be phrased with its Verb? Can a direct object modified by an Adjective be phrased with its Verb? What happens if there is also an indirect object? Is a Prepositional Phrase always a phonological phrase by itself or can it be joined with an adjacent constituent? In addition to discovering its syntactic constituen-cy, we should also like to know what the Greek phonological phrase sounded like; specifically whether, in addition to the temporal demarcation (final lengthening) normally found at the end of phonological phrases, the Greek phonological phrase was also characterized by tonal properties such as the scaling of accentual peaks within the phonological phrase

[/quote]

Paul wrote

I bet what really killed the tonal aspect of Greek was that it became an international language. Too many Barbarians learned it and changed the tone from a genuine Greek tone, to an easy stress based


That may well be true. But don't confuse prosody with a tonal accent. Modern Greek has prosody, as all languages do. In written language, prosody is more hidden, we call it other names: fronting, emphasis, de-empahasis, pause, postponement, cadence, rhythm, etc. In poetry, prosody may be more prominent, but it is present in all types of literature: narrative, poetry, oration, proverbs, ktl. The prosody of Greek may have changed some when the phonemic length difference collapsed (ο = ω, ε = η, ᾱ = α; ῑ = ι; ῡ = υ). It would be interesting to see if this change in vowel length changed the Greek language structure - modern Greek is more word order oriented than ancient Greek, I've been told.

I remember that I was told that when Chinese speakers mock American English - they speak a bunch of gibberish in monotone; when English only speakers mock Chinese speakers, they speak in short syllables with repeated rising-falling pitches. What you are hearing is the difference in prosody between the two languages. But prosody goes beyond the word boundary, to the phrase, clause, sentence and even paragraph boundaries. Speed of delivery, pauses, etc. all figure into the mix. (I wonder is some languages take less time to process than others? Is there an optimal language?).

Then there is what I call the phonemic center of the mouth (I'm sure it has a more proper linguistic term): the place in the mouth where the tongue seems to hang out and colour all the speech. Greek more to the font of the palate; In German, near the back of the palate; Hebrew even further back. Some consonants take longer to pronounce than others; I'm sure that comes into play. Almost every language learner colors their second language with overtones of their first. They also color their second language with the syntax and thought patterns of their first language. But I think that since Modern Greek is so close to Koine, that it should be used for students modelling when they try to speak. There is plenty of NT audio to listen to from native Greek speakers.

Just my two cents, correct me where I'm wrong.
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Re: Prosody and Learning a Language

Postby Stephen Carlson » January 16th, 2014, 4:59 pm

MAubrey wrote:Stephen, I'm sorry. I trying to wasn't insulting your intelligence. I wrongly responded in irritation from the implicit suggestion that all I was doing was relying on a introductory survey of language history rather than substantive research. That was wrong and inappropriate of me and I apologize most sincerely. You have a singular mind--one of the brightest and intelligent that I have ever met.

Thanks for that. I didn't mean to suggest that you were only relying on some introductory text for your views. I have too much respect for you (and for Horrocks for that matter) for that to have crossed my mind.
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