Does pronunciation matter? If so, why?

Does pronunciation matter? If so, why?

Postby Jonathan Robie » May 11th, 2011, 2:17 pm

Does it really matter which pronunciation someone uses, as long as they have some intelligible way to pronounce Greek? If so, why?

Would it be wrong to simply adopt modern Greek pronunciation, since that's the community most likely to actually speak Greek these days? And the one you are most likely to encounter in a Greek Orthodox church?

Or to adopt Erasmian pronunciation (which version!), on the grounds that this is what scholars are most likely to understand when you're reading a paper?

Or to adopt a reconstructed pronunciation, on the grounds that people like Randall Buth have great instructional materials based on them?

Are all of these choices equally valid, or is there really a reason to prefer one over the other?
ἐξίσταντο δὲ πάντες καὶ διηποροῦντο, ἄλλος πρὸς ἄλλον λέγοντες, τί θέλει τοῦτο εἶναι;
Jonathan Robie
 
Posts: 1543
Joined: May 5th, 2011, 5:34 pm

Re: Does pronunciation matter? If so, why?

Postby Louis L Sorenson » May 11th, 2011, 10:58 pm

I think the first thing that those who listen to Greek audio of the New Testament is that they pronounce the accents correctly and consistently, and that they produce the vowels, diphthongs and consonants consistently. (I keep a resource page on audio recordings of the Greek New Testament at http://www.letsreadgreek.com/resources/greekntaudio.htm. Each audio is rated according to its consistency of pronunciation, correct use of accents, pronunciation scheme, pathos, smoothness of reading, speed, etc. If the accents are not correct, then people cannot talk in a group about the same word, as sometimes the connection between the word and the sound of the word cannot be made.

A very good summary of the different pronunciation schemes can be found on John Schwandt's site, Institute of Biblical Greek, under the page titled Guide to Greek Pronunciation Conventions: How we pronounce ancient Greek, biblical (Koine) Greek, and modern Greek http://www.biblicalgreek.org/links/pronunciation.php

Those that use the Restored versus the traditional western academic Erasmian system (I'm included in that crowd) are doing so for several reasons:

1) They want to be as close to the New Testament mileau as possible.
2) They are sensitive that historical language pronunciation is the natural outcome of tendencies in any language. The phonetic changes that happened in a language happened for a reason. At any given point in time, there are certain sounds which would be heard or not heard. Those sounds often go hand in hand with other sounds. The system happened for a reason.
3) There are homonyms which in one dialect/pronunciation scheme are not homonyms in another.
4) Many consider that the books of the Greek New Testament were meant to be heard, not read. Hearing is important, and you need a consistent system for that.
5) Modern Greek considers Erasmian to be 'painful' to the Greeks' sense of prosody, harmony, euphony.
6) Erasmian is a contrived (mixed system) of pronunciation not representing the language as it appeared at any given historical period.

But these reasons hint at, do not really answer the question, "Why does it matter?"

It especially matters if you want to speak the language to others. Those who are able to speak and hear Greek at a conversational speed have strong internalization of the language that others who cannot do that. Latinists have an avid community of restored language speakers (I don't think they run against the tide of academia where in Greek circles, 90% of western academics use a non-historical pronunciation. Once you start speaking Greek and hearing it spoken, you want to get on board with others who are speaking it, and like human nature, you become what you surround yourself with.

On the other hand, if you only read it silently, you can do that anyway you want. I constantly remember reading classical English literature in high school. When we started talking in class about the book, I often found that I verbalized the names incorrectly. This happened many times, at times, I would omit whole syllables, at other times transpose characters, at other times, pronounce a name phonetically OK but not representative of the correct way that name was pronounced by everyone who knew except me.
Louis L Sorenson
 
Posts: 588
Joined: May 5th, 2011, 9:21 pm
Location: Burnsville, MN, USA

Re: Does pronunciation matter? If so, why?

Postby Jonathan Robie » May 12th, 2011, 10:16 am

llsorenson wrote:Once you start speaking Greek and hearing it spoken, you want to get on board with others who are speaking it, and like human nature, you become what you surround yourself with.


I often do read texts to myself out loud, I find that very helpful. I have occasionally listened to texts, not nearly enough.

I'd guess either restored pronunciation or modern Greek would work fine for listening to texts, no? Actually, the two pronunciations are not light years apart ...
ἐξίσταντο δὲ πάντες καὶ διηποροῦντο, ἄλλος πρὸς ἄλλον λέγοντες, τί θέλει τοῦτο εἶναι;
Jonathan Robie
 
Posts: 1543
Joined: May 5th, 2011, 5:34 pm

Re: Does pronunciation matter? If so, why?

Postby Mark Lightman » May 12th, 2011, 8:37 pm

Does it really matter which pronunciation someone uses, as long as they have some intelligible way to pronounce Greek?


ου διαφερει, κατα με. ει εγω καταλαμβανω τινα λεγοντα Ελληνιστι εμοι, ἡ προφορὰ τουτου καλη εστιν. ὁ Sean Connery και ὁ Mel Gibson και ὁ Bill Clinton λαλοῦσι Βρεττανικῃ ου μεν ὁμοιως, αλλα παντες καλως. ὁ μεν λεγει tomayto, ὁ δε tomaaato. εν τῃ συναγωγῃ, ὁ μεν λεγει shabBAT shalom, ὁ δε gut SHABbas. ὁ Αθηναιος μεν ελαλησεν "φιλῶ την γην," ὁ δε Δωρικος ελαλησεν "φιλῶ ταν γαν." αμφοτεροι εφιλησαν και τε ελαλησαν καλως. το κυριωτερον εστιν το λαλεῖν Ελληνιστι.
Mark Lightman
 
Posts: 259
Joined: May 6th, 2011, 6:30 pm

Re: Does pronunciation matter? If so, why?

Postby Ian Thomason » June 4th, 2011, 10:26 pm

I suppose it really comes down to what purpose one has for learning Greek to begin with (whether Attic, Koine, Demotic, or whatever). If the interest is strictly 'academic', for example the goal is in reading Homer, the LXX or the New Testament aloud comfortably, then I don't suppose it really matters if one vocalises with an Erasmian bent. However, if the aim is to be able to communicate with others in reconstructed Koine, or if one belongs to a community or religious tradition where pronunciation is critical for cultural or liturgical reasons, then something a little less contrived might be necessary.

ἀνάγκᾳ δ’ οὐδὲ θεοὶ μάχονται.
Ian Thomason
 
Posts: 1
Joined: June 4th, 2011, 9:34 pm

Re: Does pronunciation matter? If so, why?

Postby Eric S. Weiss » August 16th, 2011, 5:07 pm

If there is validity to this book's thesis:

Sound Mapping the New Testament [Paperback]
Margaret Ellen Lee (Author), Bernard Brandon Scott (Author)

http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1598150154

and a person I met at Randall Buth's 8-day Living Koinē Greek Fluency Workshop last week did his doctoral dissertation on the aurality of, and sound patterns in, the prologue to 1 John, and cited the above book, then pronunciation really might matter, which for the NT would mean Phonetic Koinē or at least Modern (Caragounis' "Historical") Greek Pronunciation.

I have not read or bought the book, but it's in my Amazon Buy list.

Re: the Fluency Workshop: Being in an interactive classroom environment with fluent Koinē speakers for teachers takes Buth's written and audio materials to a new level or into a new dimension.
Eric S. Weiss
Eric S. Weiss
 
Posts: 20
Joined: June 9th, 2011, 1:45 pm

Re: Does pronunciation matter? If so, why?

Postby Vasile Stancu » August 22nd, 2011, 5:55 pm

Ian Thomason wrote:what purpose one has for learning Greek to begin with


"To begin with" is in most cases, I suppose, followed by a 'to continue someway". One would start, as a primary interest, with the NT, or Homer, or Plato, etc.; however, I suspect that every such person would later develop the interest to go beyond his/her initial goal. Why then not go for a 'majority system' solution? There is no living person to claim that such system would be not in full agreement with the NT Koine, or Hellenistic Koine, or Classical Attic, etc., for 'full agreement' with any period cannot be attested in all details by anyone today. (Let alone the fact that any period would contain overlaps of different tendencies).

I have never been able to understand why Ancient Greek students should limit their pronounciation system to any particular situation of Greek phonology corresponding to a certain limited moment of time. Except if one wants to stay within one limited period of time, never wishing to go beyond it.
Vasile Stancu
 
Posts: 36
Joined: May 31st, 2011, 3:13 am
Location: Timisoara, Romania

Re: Does pronunciation matter? If so, why?

Postby RandallButh » August 23rd, 2011, 12:23 pm

Why then not go for a 'majority system' solution?


So you use modern Greek?

And if you don't, but follow a particular minority group, then why?
Conformity to friends? More accurate? Close to modern? Close to period of interest?

There is no living person to claim that such system would be not in full agreement with the NT Koine, or Hellenistic Koine,


Since you haven't defined 'such system', let me point one out.
Probably a majority of a specialized subgroup that I have met, academic users, use a system where ει is pronounced like η and as [e]. That equation has been shown to be false by every historical linguist who has looked at the development of Greek. After Alexander, and some places before, ει merged into ι. And ει was different from η before the merger of ει/ι, or else ει alone (without η) would not have merged during the following four-five centuries.
RandallButh
 
Posts: 611
Joined: May 13th, 2011, 4:01 am

Re: Does pronunciation matter? If so, why?

Postby Vasile Stancu » August 26th, 2011, 12:42 am

So you use modern Greek?


Modern Greek should not be considered, I believe, a 'majority solution'; it is, like every other system that was used during a certain period of time, a 'particular solution'.

...you haven't defined 'such system'...


Such a system should be defined most naturally starting from the phonology of Modern Greek: use it honestly to the maximum extent possible. The 'maximum extent possible' should honestly exclude those cases that create important confusions. The exclusion process may be applied by disbanding the applicable mergers that occured in time for whatever reasons. The result would be quite natural, since it is based on real Greek solutions - indeed, collected from different periods of time, but still Greek.

Why opt for such solutions? Simply because if one advocates for one 'particular solution' to be representative for a certain period of time hence a certain portion of literature, one cannot honestly use the same system for some other period of time, where a different system was in place.
Vasile Stancu
 
Posts: 36
Joined: May 31st, 2011, 3:13 am
Location: Timisoara, Romania

Re: Does pronunciation matter? If so, why?

Postby RandallButh » August 26th, 2011, 3:33 am

the answers/expanations are widely inconsistent with the characterizations.
RandallButh
 
Posts: 611
Joined: May 13th, 2011, 4:01 am

Next

Return to Pronunciation

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 1 guest