Reading and Pronouncing Biblical Greek Authentically

Reading and Pronouncing Biblical Greek Authentically

Postby Philemon Zachariou » June 10th, 2011, 6:37 pm

How should I read and pronounce New Testament Greek? Which pronunciation method taught in Bible colleges and seminaries is the right one? And why are there different ways of pronouncing Greek? Isn’t today’s Greek pronunciation compatible with New Testament Greek?

New Testament Greek textbooks and grammar books typically devote a page or two to some pronunciation key. While different authors often share some of the same examples in their keys, their description of the sounds Greek letters represent often varies. In fact, at times pronunciation keys differ from author to author to the extent that one’s description of a given vowel actually fits the description of a different vowel in another author’s key. This degree of variance in the description of Greek sounds speaks of the need for some uniform approach to reading and pronouncing biblical Greek.

If this sort of questions ever flashed in your mind, you might want to check out this link: http://www.JesusspokeGreek.com.
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Re: Reading and Pronouncing Biblical Greek Authentically

Postby MAubrey » June 11th, 2011, 2:45 am

Philemon Zachariou wrote:How should I read and pronounce New Testament Greek? Which pronunciation method taught in Bible colleges and seminaries is the right one? And why are there different ways of pronouncing Greek? Isn’t today’s Greek pronunciation compatible with New Testament Greek?

New Testament Greek textbooks and grammar books typically devote a page or two to some pronunciation key. While different authors often share some of the same examples in their keys, their description of the sounds Greek letters represent often varies. In fact, at times pronunciation keys differ from author to author to the extent that one’s description of a given vowel actually fits the description of a different vowel in another author’s key. This degree of variance in the description of Greek sounds speaks of the need for some uniform approach to reading and pronouncing biblical Greek.

If this sort of questions ever flashed in your mind, you might want to check out this link: http://www.JesusspokeGreek.com.


Listening to your audio and looking at your pdfs of the history of the language, it almost appears as if you are wanting to suggest that there has been no change in the pronunciation of the language since the Classical period. If that's correct, I find that to be a rather outrageous claim without any grounding in the actual historical evidence. The papyri most certainly do *not* demonstrate that the sounds of the language have remained the same from the time of Alexander up until Byzantine times, much less Medieval and Modern Greek!

Also, considering the average lifespan during the Classical period, its also quite unlikely that any of the LXX translators would have been educated while Aristotle was alive--perhaps born, but not being educated.
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Re: Reading and Pronouncing Biblical Greek Authentically

Postby Barry Hofstetter » June 11th, 2011, 8:35 am

MAubrey wrote:Listening to your audio and looking at your pdfs of the history of the language, it almost appears as if you are wanting to suggest that there has been no change in the pronunciation of the language since the Classical period. If that's correct, I find that to be a rather outrageous claim without any grounding in the actual historical evidence. The papyri most certainly do *not* demonstrate that the sounds of the language have remained the same from the time of Alexander up until Byzantine times, much less Medieval and Modern Greek!

Also, considering the average lifespan during the Classical period, its also quite unlikely that any of the LXX translators would have been educated while Aristotle was alive--perhaps born, but not being educated.


Good observations. Comparative historical linguistics also comes into play here. If ἀδελφοί was pronounced as ἀαδελφί during the Classical period, why would it be transliterated into Latin as adelphoe during that same period? One tiny example, but the evidence against Dr. Zachariou's thesis is overwhelming, and supported by the majority of scholars, including native Greek speakers. Perhaps we could email my old classmate Maria Pantelia, now at UC-Irvine? :shock:
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Re: Reading and Pronouncing Biblical Greek Authentically

Postby Philemon Zachariou » June 11th, 2011, 3:34 pm

Dear MAubrey,

Your questions and remarks are welcome. I commend you for taking time to listen to my audio and look at my pdfs, as you put it. I will preface my responses by saying that it is partly for this reason that I recently requested of B-Greek a link to my website. It seems, right from the stat, that it would be necessary to post three or four chapters of my book, Reading and Pronouncing Biblical Greek, in their entirety so that readers like you would have a clearer picture of the historical evidence upon which I base all findings. Doing so, however, would be too burdensome for the majority of those who might otherwise be unprepared to read and digest several vital sections of the book, yet would like instant answers. The sections I have extracted and posted are mainly to draw the reader’s attention to topics the book addresses, not to satisfy a host of questions. It would not surprise me, therefore, if well-meant questions and comments, like yours, were based on the incomplete information posted, on incomplete reading, or both.

Now, back to your observations and comments. I am glad you are raising these points. First, I see that your comment regarding my wanting to suggest that there has been no change in the pronunciation of Greek from the classical period is safeguarded by a conditional “if,” which indicates you did not actually see such a claim stated in my excerpts. Indeed, that is not a claim stated anywhere in my book, nor would I expect cautious readers to conclude that that is what I claim.

As I mentioned earlier, there are sections in my book not included in the excerpts posted on my website. Thus, I will quote here two parts—I will refer to them as A and B respectively—from sections not posted and which should have helped answer at least parts of your questions before posting them:
------
Part A.
Definition “c” (one out of 10 definitions in par. 1.12)
1.12 Phonological definitions
Orthophonic - correct sounding. The isolated pronunciation of a single sound segment, syllable, or word.

Part B.
A paragraph:
1.13 On pronunciation
Pronunciation in a narrow sense can be understood as the orthophonic (correct-sounding) utterance of single speech sounds, syllables, or words. In a broader sense it may be viewed as part of intonation, which entails additional features that fall within the acoustic properties of regular speech—stress, pitch-accent, juncture, rhythm, length, and voice quality. Specifically with regard to a diachronic view of the historical sounds of Greek, we will adhere to the narrow definition of pronunciation.
-------

These two parts are stated in my book early on, i.e., before the discussion of the historical evidence for the development of the phonology of Κοινή and its similarities to Neohellenic Greek. I am sure that these preparatory statements and definitions would have guided the thinking of an observing reader. Obviously you had no access to these, as they are not included in my excerpts.

Even so, it appears that you missed a vital point I make at the very end of the main excerpt, which reads: “In the light of evidence, no pronunciation method can get closer to the pronunciation of New Testament and classical Greek than the pronunciation of Neohellenic, the Greek of today.” That is what is clearly stated within a blue frame. One reading through the excerpt can’t miss it.

Now, your second comment: “The papyri most certainly do *not* demonstrate that the sounds of the language have remained the same from the time of Alexander up until Byzantine times, much less Medieval and Modern Greek!”

I have extended the main excerpt on my website—though it is still about fifty percent abridged, mind you—to include sections that are vital to an understanding of the papyrical evidence, how it dovetails with the inscriptional record of pre-Hellenistic times, and how it continues through Byzantine times down to the very present. I suggest you read those pages carefully. That should relate as well to the rest of your emphatic claim—i.e., “The papyri most certainly do not …”

Your final comment regarding the lifespan of the LXX translators. In your own words, “… considering the average lifespan during the Classical period, its also quite unlikely that any of the LXX translators would have been educated while Aristotle was alive--perhaps born, but not being educated.”

Consider this: Sophocles died at age 90+, Plato at 80, and Aristotle at 62. The average lifespan of these men, including Socrates’ premature death at 70, is 75.5 years. These men were no exception to any lifespan rule. It would be hard to argue that none of the LXX translators was over 40. But even so, their Greek teachers were contemporaries of Aristotle.

Cheers,

Philemon Zachariou
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Re: Reading and Pronouncing Biblical Greek Authentically

Postby Jonathan Robie » June 11th, 2011, 5:43 pm

Philemon Zachariou wrote: It seems, right from the stat, that it would be necessary to post three or four chapters of my book, Reading and Pronouncing Biblical Greek, in their entirety so that readers like you would have a clearer picture of the historical evidence upon which I base all findings. Doing so, however, would be too burdensome for the majority of those who might otherwise be unprepared to read and digest several vital sections of the book, yet would like instant answers.


It would also get you put on moderation, so good call.

Is this information available on your Web site? I didn't see it there, the site seems to advertise your book without giving a lot of detail. Some things I would have liked to have seen on the site:


Is that available on the site? If so, links would be helpful; if not, I suggest you put that information on the site and link to it.
ἐξίσταντο δὲ πάντες καὶ διηποροῦντο, ἄλλος πρὸς ἄλλον λέγοντες, τί θέλει τοῦτο εἶναι;
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Re: Reading and Pronouncing Biblical Greek Authentically

Postby Jonathan Robie » June 11th, 2011, 5:44 pm

I was discussing this with Tim Finney, from Perth, and he said, "how is modern English pronounced?" He and I don't exactly have the same pronunciation. So why does there have to be One True Pronunciation for biblical Greek, anyway?
ἐξίσταντο δὲ πάντες καὶ διηποροῦντο, ἄλλος πρὸς ἄλλον λέγοντες, τί θέλει τοῦτο εἶναι;
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Re: Reading and Pronouncing Biblical Greek Authentically

Postby MAubrey » June 11th, 2011, 7:31 pm

Philemon Zachariou wrote:Even so, it appears that you missed a vital point I make at the very end of the main excerpt, which reads: “In the light of evidence, no pronunciation method can get closer to the pronunciation of New Testament and classical Greek than the pronunciation of Neohellenic, the Greek of today.” That is what is clearly stated within a blue frame. One reading through the excerpt can’t miss it.

Now, your second comment: “The papyri most certainly do *not* demonstrate that the sounds of the language have remained the same from the time of Alexander up until Byzantine times, much less Medieval and Modern Greek!”

I have extended the main excerpt on my website—though it is still about fifty percent abridged, mind you—to include sections that are vital to an understanding of the papyrical evidence, how it dovetails with the inscriptional record of pre-Hellenistic times, and how it continues through Byzantine times down to the very present. I suggest you read those pages carefully. That should relate as well to the rest of your emphatic claim—i.e., “The papyri most certainly do not …”


I'm yet to have seen any papyri cited by you in any of your writings. And it appears now that you are entirely reliant up on Caragounis and Jannaris--both of whom tend to grasp for the earliest (false) appearance of phonological change. I also see no reference in your work to Gignac 1979, Threatte (1980), Allen (1987), Teodorsson (1974; 1977; 1978), or Horrocks (1997; 2010). I cannot help but question of the pervasiveness of your research on Ancient Greek phonology if you have fail interact with the most important of sources (with the exception of Horrocks who functions essentially as a summation of their conclusions). Strikingly, a similar phenomenon appears in Caragounis. Gignac and Threatte (two of the most important resources for the papyri's phonology) appear in his bibliography but he never actually discusses their conclusions or challenges their own analysis--this at least appears to be the case according to his author index. Jannaris, I would say, is driven more by the language debate of the past couple centuries in Greece and is definitely less than objective in his own analysis.

Suffice to say, I have no good reason to believe that η merged with ι before the 2nd century AD. (Threatte states for Attica this change took place even later (1980:166), nor did υ merge with ι until at least the Byzantine period. θ, φ, and χ did not become fricatives until at least the 2nd century and the change wasn't complete for all regions until two centuries after that. Nor had γ becomes palatalized before front vowels yet.

Allen, W. S. 1987. Vox graeca. Cambridge.
F. Gignac. 1979. A grammar of the Greek papyri of the Roman and Byzantine periods. Vol. I: Phonology. Milan.
Horrocks. 1997 (1st ed.). 2010 (2nd ed.) Greek: A history of the language and its speakers. Oxford.
Teodorsson, S. T. 1974. The phonemic systemic of the Attic dialect 400-340 BC. Goteborg.
Teodorsson, S. T. 1977. The phonology of Ptolemaic Koine. Goteborg.
Teodorsson, S. T. 1978. The phonology of Attic in the Hellenistic period. Goteborg.
Threatte, L. 1980. The grammar of Attic inscriptions I: Phonology. Berlin.

EDITJonathan: I'm quite confident that there were multiple pronunciations at the time of the NT. Gignac and Threatte both make it clear that Greek in Egypt changed more quickly than it did in Attica. But even in Egypt we didn't have a pronunciation that looked like Modern Greek until well after the NT was completed. I should also emphasize that I'm quite happy with the use of a Modern Greek pronunciation for learning and speaking Koine Greek. It just didn't exist yet--but the fact that it eventually did exist does (in my mind) give it a great advantage over the so-called Erasmian pronunciation.
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Re: Reading and Pronouncing Biblical Greek Authentically

Postby RandallButh » June 18th, 2011, 1:16 pm

AUbrey:
Nor had γ becomes palatalized before front vowels yet.


Actually gamma was palatalized before front vowels by the first century.
You can view the summary in
http://www.biblicallanguagecenter.com/w ... n_2008.pdf
Imagine the 'iero-' root spelled with a gamma! This would only happen if the gamma was a fricative and palatalized: 'igero-'

That summary also includes general Koine examples from the Greek texts from the Judean Desert scrolls. Those put the "Koine" pronunciation in the province of Judea at approximately the correct time period.

For fun I recently added a Tiberian synagogue inscription, too. It has some interesting grammar and a one "good" spelling example.
You can leave a comment when you see it.

http://www.biblicallanguagecenter.com/l ... -tiberias/
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Re: Reading and Pronouncing Biblical Greek Authentically

Postby MAubrey » June 18th, 2011, 2:32 pm

RandallButh wrote:Actually gamma was palatalized before front vowels by the first century.


I confess that that γ was the only sound I didn't check my copy Gignac for. You are correct of course.

RandallButh wrote:You can view the summary in
http://www.biblicallanguagecenter.com/w ... n_2008.pdf


You may want to update footnote 3 there for the revised and expanded 2nd edition of Horrocks.

RandallButh wrote:For fun I recently added a Tiberian synagogue inscription, too. It has some interesting grammar and a one "good" spelling example.
You can leave a comment when you see it.

http://www.biblicallanguagecenter.com/l ... -tiberias/


I'll give it a look this afternoon. Thanks!
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Re: Reading and Pronouncing Biblical Greek Authentically

Postby Philemon Zachariou » June 20th, 2011, 10:24 pm

My comments below are not in response to any specific or direct question posed, but rather to some allusions to the nature of Κοινή γ that I see posted. The comments are thus limited to a couple of aspects of the status of γ specifically as regards (a) its becoming palatalized in certain environments, and (b) its use on a euphonic basis.

Let us first put γ in some phonological perspective by comparing it against a possible English counterpart. What sound in English is closest to Greek γ? There are two candidates: g as in go, and w as in woo.

γ and g.
Greek γ is a velar sound, and so is the English g in go. Both are formed with the hump of the back of the tongue against the velum (soft palate), therefore, velar. One main difference is that γ is a continuant, g is a stop. Additionally, as a continuant γ induces simultaneous friction of air in the airflow mechanism, which makes γ fricative.

γ and w.
The w in woo is a labiovelar approximant, thus a continuant. In other words, English w is in a way closer to γ than g is. We will use this w to explain the palatalization of γ.

Palatalization of velar γ.
When γ is before a central or a back vowel (γα, γο, γω, γου) it remains a clear velar fricative sound; but when it is before a front vowel (e.g., ι, ε) it becomes a palatalized fricative sound. What, then, is the difference between γου and γι?

If you repeat the words woo-ye, woo-ye, you will notice a change from w to y. The change is due to the shift in tongue position from the back vowel oo [u] in woo to the front vowel e [i] in ye. At woo, lips are rounded and tongue is humped high up in the back of the mouth. As you proceed to ye, lips spread and tongue moves slightly forward against the hard palate, with the tongue blade moving toward the front of the oral cavity and near the alveolar ridge. Clearly, that which causes the velar approximant w [w] to turn into the palatal approximant y [ j] is the front vowel [i].

In the palatalization of γ we have two considerations: (a) words with γ + a front vowel (γίνομαι, γένος, ἅγιος, ἐγένετο), and (b) words whose first two syllables consist of only a vowel sound each, the first being the high front vowel [i]:
ἰατρός [iatros], ἱερός [ieros].

(a) γ becomes “automatically” palatalized even though the conventional spelling does not reflect this type of palatalization. Thus in words like γέγονεν the first γ is palatalized due to ε, and the second γ is a clear velar fricative.

(b) During the articulation of ι [i] the tongue approximates the position of palatalized γ. Ηere is what happens: an uncultured speaker, or scribe, led primarily by his ear, might spell ἰατρός euphonically as γιατρός [jatros] (from [iatros] > [ijatros] > [jatros]), and ἱερός as ἱγερός [ijeros] (from [ieros] > [ijeros]). Such alternative ways of spelling and pronouncing words like ἰατρός and γιατρός do coexist in Κοινή (as they do in Neohellenic today).

To understand how γ becomes palatalized before front vowels or is added before or after ι for euphonic reasons, one cannot see γ as the stop g, only as a fricative.

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