How do you teach accents ?

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Shirley Rollinson
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Joined: June 4th, 2011, 6:19 pm
Location: New Mexico

How do you teach accents ?

Post by Shirley Rollinson » May 1st, 2014, 8:04 pm

As I prepare for the next semester's "Baby Greek" class, (Beginning Greek - koine) I'm re-thinking how to present accents. Up till now I've used a "raise pitch by about a fifth" for the acute and circumflex, and "drop pitch" for a grave accent, as seems to be suggested by Smyth (149 et seq.) and assorted modern "Beginning Greek" textbooks.
However, what makes more sense to me is a comment I found in James Turney Allen's "First Year of Greek": (published 1917) that the grave
"is merely a sign to indicate that a syllable which would normally be pronounced with the rising inflection (acute) is not so pronounced, but that the voice remains at the monotone level."
Following this reasoning, for those who use the accents as now indicating "stress" rather than "pitch", we should probably not put stress on a grave, nor drop the pitch below the normal level.
I'd be interested to hear how others present accents to their students.
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Stephen Hughes
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Re: How do you teach accents ?

Post by Stephen Hughes » May 1st, 2014, 9:13 pm

I have usually used Modern Greek pronunciation, and use stress in the way Modern Greek does.

Stressed syllables are about 20% longer and the pitch is naturally set a little higher (that is to say that it raises and falls on a word level, not a syllable level).

I'm trying to use the Imperial Koine vowel set for the first time now. I'm finding that the effort to make the the οι / υ sound and the concious attention I pay to the η sound means that they are always too long.

That has thrown my relative timing of syllables within words, and even my pronunciation of consonants.
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Γελᾷ δ' ὁ μωρός, κἄν τι μὴ γέλοιον ᾖ
(Menander, Γνῶμαι μονόστιχοι 108)

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Re: How do you teach accents ?

Post by RandallButh » May 2nd, 2014, 1:46 am

Shirley, I agree with your quoted statement--the barytonos (grave) accent is merely an orthographic placeholder to show where the accent would be placed if conditions allowed the tonos-accent to appear.

Conditions that allow the tonos to "appear"/sound are basically the slowing down at the end of a phrase. When a beginning student reads a word as an individual phrase, then its accent would be sounded. When long phrases are strung together in fluent speech, then the barytonos words would be pronounced without an accent while the perispomenos words would retain their accent. The circumflex may be treated as a permanent/stable accent. Thus, κατὰ tὸν ἄνθρωπον would have one sounded accent ( - - - / - - ) when read fluently, while κατὰ τῶν ἀνθρώπων ( - - / - / - ) would have two sounded accents.

I add one principled exception to this rule. When an orthographic grave occurs before a verb I read it with a tonos if I treat it as "marked salient information" (aka Focus).

As for the physical nature of the tonos, I believe that Stephen is correct about both length and pitch. Slightly more length and a higher pitch are fairly universal realizations of "stress"/'high tone" in 'non-tonal' languages.
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