Does pronunciation matter? If so, why?

Re: Does pronunciation matter? If so, why?

Postby Vasile Stancu » August 27th, 2011, 6:32 pm

RandallButh wrote:the answers/expanations are widely inconsistent with the characterizations.


Just one more time - one more question: suppose I wish to be able to read the NT, LXX, Plato, Herodotus, Homer, and others perhaps; what is the best approach regarding pronounciation? Should I look for a reconstructed pronounciation system for each period/area and apply it case by case, or is there one particular system which could be fairly appropriate for all?
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Re: Does pronunciation matter? If so, why?

Postby RandallButh » August 28th, 2011, 12:34 am

Hmm, Homer/Attic and/or NT/LXX
To what may this be compared?

You want to read Shakespeare and you want to read Chaucer.
They have radically different pronounciation systems.
Which one should you use?
Should you read Shakespeare with Chaucer,
should you read Chaucer with Shakespeare?
or should you concentrate on the one and use the other on occasion, for authenticity's sake?
Historically, people have only read older literature with the new system. No one ever read
Shakespeare (newer) with Chaucer (older). Reading Chaucer with Shakespeare was presumably done
in Shakespeare's day, and something similar is typically done today in English.
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Re: Does pronunciation matter? If so, why?

Postby Mark Lightman » August 28th, 2011, 10:02 am

Hi, Randall and Vasile,

Randall wrote: You want to read Shakespeare and you want to read Chaucer.
They have radically different pronounciation systems.
Which one should you use?
Should you read Shakespeare with Chaucer,
should you read Chaucer with Shakespeare?
or should you concentrate on the one and use the other on occasion, for authenticity's sake?


It seems to me the best solution to this would be to use a mixed compromise προφορα which combines elements of both Chaucer and Shakespeare. This is what Vasile would call a majority, as opposed to a particular, solution. The two best majority solutions to the Ancient Greek pronunciation problem are the systems of Erasmus and of Vasile Stancu.

http://www.vasile-stancu.ro/greaca_audio-en.htm

My own προφορα is sort of a mix between the two.

A similar majority solution to the problem of ice-cream selection is something called "neopolitan." Purists can't stand the stuff, but it works in our house to avoid conflicts.
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Re: Does pronunciation matter? If so, why?

Postby RandallButh » August 28th, 2011, 11:59 am

Hi, Randall and Vasile,

Randall wrote: You want to read Shakespeare and you want to read Chaucer.
They have radically different pronounciation systems.
Which one should you use?
Should you read Shakespeare with Chaucer,
should you read Chaucer with Shakespeare?
or should you concentrate on the one and use the other on occasion, for authenticity's sake?



It seems to me the best solution to this would be to use a mixed compromise προφορα which combines elements of both Chaucer and Shakespeare. This is what Vasile would call a majority, as opposed to a particular, solution. The two best majority solutions to the Ancient Greek pronunciation problem are the systems of Erasmus and of Vasile Stancu.

http://www.vasile-stancu.ro/greaca_audio-en.htm

My own προφορα is sort of a mix between the two.

A similar majority solution to the problem of ice-cream selection is something called "neopolitan." Purists can't stand the stuff, but it works in our house to avoid conflicts.



Analogies are not always helpful. Neopolitan may not help when deciding between RockyRoad and GermanChocolatecake.

My point was that creating a new mongrel cannot be called a 'majority' system. It would be a minority system. Anything other than modern Greek with its millions of speakers would be a minority system. I myself use a minority system, though it is quite close to modern, basically adding sounds for HTA and Y-psilon. In the analogy that would correspond to adapting modern English for Shakespeare, should one wish to do that.

As for mixing 'Shakespeare' and 'Chaucer' and probably some third non-English system, that conceptually limits options, creates a non-entity that may not fit anything, and its unnaturalness and lack of appeal for English users speaks against proposing such for Greek. Think about it, would any English user today accept something that was 'nothing', not Shakespeare, not Chaucer, and possibly not anything ever?

Your quote of my piece did include a different kind of compromise: Learn Shakespeare but occasionally use Chaucer when reading Chaucer for authenticity's sake. That is a natural English solution and it would preserve the knowledge and appreciation of the older system.

Of course, a discussion of advocacy of pronuciation systems might imply a willingness to change. Otherwise one might argue to just keep whatever first crossed one's path. But if true fluency is developed, one will have to live with the results.
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Re: Does pronunciation matter? If so, why?

Postby Vasile Stancu » August 28th, 2011, 8:51 pm

RandallButh wrote:
...Anything other than modern Greek with its millions of speakers would be a minority system...


By a 'majority system' I never intended to imply a 'majority of people' who use a certain system at a certain moment of time; rather, a 'majority of phonetic solutions' employed over the whole period of time: a kind of a mathematical 'X or Y'. Applied, of course, to Ancient Greek; Modern Greek should not be subject to debate in this regard, except as a startig point in establishing the phonology of a 'comprehensive' Ancient Greek.
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Re: Does pronunciation matter? If so, why?

Postby RandallButh » August 29th, 2011, 12:02 am

I still find the term 'majority' opaque and hiding what the priniciples actually are.

EI has been pronounced like 'I' for 2300+ years. Is it a majority?
Before 403 the E was used for both [ε] and [ε:], is it a majority?
Around 403BCE and for a generation or two, before the Attic vulgar dialect started to spread,
EI was probably distinct from η and from ι. Is that the 'majority', making the 'majority' a
slice of fourth century Attic?

Again, I think that the Chaucer--Shakespeare--modern English analogy can
be helpful in keeping a person's perspective tied to something that may be appreciated or more easily perceived by many English speakers.
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Re: Does pronunciation matter? If so, why?

Postby Devenios Doulenios » August 30th, 2011, 1:25 am

Vasile Stancu wrote:
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.


The Greeks themselves disagree with you. They use Modern Greek pronunciation for reading works from all periods of ancient Greek. If that isn't a real Greek solution, I fail to see why.

Devenios Doulenios
Δεβένιος Δουλένιος
"τὴν ζωὴν καὶ τὸν θάνατον δέδωκα πρὸ προσώπου ὑμῶν τὴν εὐλογίαν καὶ τὴν κατάραν ἔκλεξαι τὴν ζωήν ἵνα ζῇς σὺ καὶ τὸ σπέρμα σου"-Dt. 30:19

"Ὁδοὶ δύο εἰσί, μία τῆς ζωῆς καὶ μία τοῦ θανάτου."--Διδαχή Α, α'
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Re: Does pronunciation matter? If so, why?

Postby Vasile Stancu » August 31st, 2011, 2:08 am

RandallButh wrote:I still find the term 'majority' opaque and hiding what the priniciples actually are.


I borrowed the term from the concept of 'majority text' related to NT manuscripts. It implies in that case the reading that occurs in a majority of the manuscripts, and I used it to suggest the idea of pronouncing letters/letter associations in such a way as to accomodate the majority of cases found along history.

Consider this collection of words (and there are, of course, countless such cases):

εἰς – εἷς - ἦς – ἧς
(in – one – was (being) – whose (fem))
εἰ – εἶ - ἡ - ἤ - ἦ
(if – you (sg.) are/go – art. fem. – otherwise – I was (being))
ἰδέα - ἡδέα
(form - pleasant)
εἶδεν - ἴδεν - ἦδεν
((s)he saw (attic) – (s)he saw (homeric ionic) – (s)he was devouring)
λέγει – λέγῃ - λέγοι
((s)he says – say (pres. subj. act. 3rd sg.) – (s)he would say)
αὐτοῖς – αὐτῆς
(to them (masc./neut.) – her)
ἡμεῖς - ὑμεῖς
(we – you (pl.))
οἶκον – εἶκον - ἧκον
(house – I was/they were resembling – I was/they were come)
τοῖς – τῆς – τίς
(art. dat. pl. masc./neut. – art. gen sg. fem. – who?)
εἰκῇ - οἰκεῖ - οἰκῇ
(at random – (s)he inhabits)
λιπών – λοιπόν – λοιπῶν
(having left – remaining over – of the remaining over (pl.))
λιπεῖν – λιπῆν – λυπεῖν
(to leave (pres.) – to leave (aor.) – to greave)
λείπω – λίπω
(I leave – I left (subj.))

(1) If I pronounce [ει, η, οι, ι, υ] or [ο, ω] the same way, applying for instance the Modern Greek phonology, I would be doing a disservice to all those words (and to the grammar that stands behind them) that are so much different from one another in meaning, which I would force to sound alike. To what purpose? To be historically in agreement with one particular ('minority') situation found at a certain point in time (?)

(2) If I do indeed pronounce them differently, which I believe could be demonstrated that was the practice at certain moments of time along the history of the Greek language (not for all at the same time though), then I would be in disagreement with those who have already adapted their pronounciation to Modern Greek (for instance) principles.

What to choose? I personally prefer the first case.

Devenios Doulenios wrote:The Greeks themselves disagree with you. They use Modern Greek pronunciation for reading works from all periods of ancient Greek. If that isn't a real Greek solution, I fail to see why.


I agree with you as far as the Greeks of today are concerned; but how about the Greeks of ‘yesterday’? Do you think Plato, for instance, woud endorse that?
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Re: Does pronunciation matter? If so, why?

Postby RandallButh » August 31st, 2011, 4:31 am

I borrowed the term from the concept of 'majority text' related to NT manuscripts. It implies in that case the reading that occurs in a majority of the manuscripts, and I used it to suggest the idea of pronouncing letters/letter associations in such a way as to accomodate the majority of cases found along history.


In effect what you mean is that you choose a system where you maximize distinctions based on orthography.
Such a system has been developed and is called 'Restored Attic' or "Allen-Daitz", to use two modern names associated with the system. It is a valid option and provides a good way for [occasionally] reading in the classical literature.

If applied to English, it would require one to read Shakespeare with the system of Chaucer, something that is counter-intuitive to anyone who works with older English literature. Such a reading of Shakespeare would be considered grotesque by English users and Shakespearean scholars: both unhistorical and undesirable. It would also block any intuitive feel for the Shakespearian audience, even approximately.

You should also consider another parameter: "the carrying capacity" of the system. Languages can tolerate a certain amount of ambiguity in the system because there is quite a bit of redundancy worked into communication in any language. As the phonology of the language changes, the language itself occasionally needs to change in order to accomodate. For example, ΥΜΕΙΣ and ΗΜΕΙΣ became ΕΣΕΙΣ and ΕΜΕΙΣ, because the words were considered necessary to be distinguishable outside of context.
Please note, though, that such necessity only came about in the last half of the first millenium CE, when the Y-psilon lost its distinction.

On the otherhand, the seven-vowel Koine system was relatively stable from 150 BCE to 250 CE. The Greek speakers themselves were able to live with the system in the same way that Shakespearian speakers could live with their system, despite using Chaucer's spelling (I speak in general, of course, because spelling was not fully regularized at that time.) While there is some ambiguity in Koine Greek, it is much less than the modern phonological system because of the extra [y] /Y,OI/ and [e] /H/ sounds. Most of your list was still distinguished. The system was able to "carry" the language, so I do not see any reason for outsiders to come in and change it into something else, especially if the changes would become "grotesque" in the eyes of millions of Greek users. The Koine can be considered the minimal/simplest system that could carry the ancient language.
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Re: Does pronunciation matter? If so, why?

Postby Vasile Stancu » September 1st, 2011, 3:35 am

RandallButh wrote:
In effect what you mean is that you choose a system where you maximize distinctions based on orthography.


Not only that, but a system which is also based on natural sounds; I mean, sounds that could be perceived as familiar by anyone who heard more than one language spoken. This is why I would expect that the process of building up a system for Ancient Greek should be started somewhat backwards: from the existing Greek phonology, which should be ammended so as to dissimplify it where necessary - not for the sake of complicating things, but in order to restore, not a specific system that was in use during a limited period of time (employing, however, elements of such specific systems), but the whole richness of the old language.

It is not (critically) important that the system should to be acurate historically, because it would be limited thus to less than a student of Greek is wishing to go, but it is desirable to be practical enough so as to resemble a real language that can be read and spoken and understood by all. And the number of those who design their own system would be by consequence, I guess, significantly less than it is today.
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