Overview of various Greek Pronunciation systems

Is vocalizing the Greek words and sentences important? If so, how should Greek be pronounced (what arguments can be made for one pronunciation over another or others?) How can I write Greek characters clearly and legibly?

Overview of various Greek Pronunciation systems

Postby RandallButh » January 22nd, 2012, 5:45 am

The heading to this sub-forum says:
Is vocalizing the Greek words and sentences important? If so, how should Greek be pronounced (what arguments can be made for one pronunciation over another or others?) . . .


Since nothing corresponds to that second question directly. I've added this thread.

The discussion of various pronunciation systems was the topic for a panel discussion at SBL, Nov. 2011. However, that may only be available in print form in another year or two.

In the meantime, an overview of four basic pronunciation systems, coupled with a discussion of pros and cons for each, as well as representative first century data and an explanation of "phonemic" pronunciation, can be found in a 14-page PDF at
http://www.biblicallanguagecenter.com/w ... n_2008.pdf
it can also be read directly on line at:
http://www.biblicallanguagecenter.com/k ... unciation/
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Re: Overview of various Greek Pronunciation systems

Postby Alexey Gubanov » February 12th, 2016, 6:02 am

Thank you for the excellent link. I had no idea that there are as many as four pronunciation systems. In that document they are called Attic, Erasmus, Koiné and Modern.
In Russia they argue about two systems only: the Erasmian pronunciation and the Reuchlinian one. So I have a question - does the Reuchlinian pronunciation correspond to Modern here or is it some different system?
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Re: Overview of various Greek Pronunciation systems

Postby RandallButh » February 12th, 2016, 6:25 am

My understanding is that the Reuchlinian system is "modern".

The Koine is linguistically based on 1-2 CE Greek, basically congruent with modern, with the addition of two vowels: an Eta [IPA e] different from epsilon [IPA ε] and a rounded high front vowel (like German [ue].

Attic is basically an Erasmian-principled system cleaned up linguistically for the 5th century BCE.

The Great Greek Vowel Shift took place 300BCE to 100BCE, though the full modern five-vowel system was not in place until post 500CE.
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Re: Overview of various Greek Pronunciation systems

Postby Paul-Nitz » February 12th, 2016, 6:39 am

Alexey Gubanov wrote:does the Reuchlinian pronunciation correspond to Modern


Thank you for that question Alexey. It lead me to a very interesting little search. I found that Reuchlin was a great-uncle of Phillip Melanchthon (of Reformation fame). Reuchlin was taught Greek by Greeks and promoted a Modern Greek pronunciation in opposition to Erasmian.

    “Though Reuchlin had no public office as teacher, he was for much of his life the real centre of all Greek and Hebrew teaching in Germany. To carry out this work he provided a series of aids for beginners and others. He never published a Greek grammar, but he had one in manuscript for use with his pupils, and also published several little elementary Greek books. Reuchlin, it may be noted, pronounced Greek as his native teachers had taught him to do, i.e., in the modern Greek fashion. This pronunciation, which he defends in Dialogus de Recta Lat. Graecique Sem. Pron. (1519), came to be known, in contrast to that used by Erasmus, as the Reuchlinian.”

    THE ESOTERIC CODEX: CHRISTIAN KABBALAH
    Sarai Kasik
    Page 123
    https://books.google.mw/books?id=RLm7Cg ... n.&f=false
Paul D. Nitz - Lilongwe Malawi
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Re: Overview of various Greek Pronunciation systems

Postby Alexey Gubanov » February 12th, 2016, 8:11 am

Thanks to all. The same was my guess. I was confused only that Reuchlin had lived 500 years ago and the modern Greek for him could be some different that one for our modern greeks.
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Re: Overview of various Greek Pronunciation systems

Postby RandallButh » February 12th, 2016, 10:08 am

The five-vowel "modern" system was in place many centuries before Reuchlin.
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Re: Overview of various Greek Pronunciation systems

Postby Alexey Gubanov » February 12th, 2016, 10:48 am

Thank you Randall. There is another thing that has amazed me in your document. I was sure that we have no ways to know about pronunciation in NT times but the time machine. What a brilliant idea to study misspellings in ancient papyri! It is like the Sherlock Holmes investigation. And obviously it is almost 100% evidence of pronunciation has been used. I have some professional interest in that issue (I mean misspellings, not criminal investigations :) ). The greek version of my editor is about to correct misspelling when typing. To do that I reduce the greek words to some key form based on phonetic similarity. E.g. when you type αντροπος the editor suggests ἅνθρωπος. This idea I have successfully used in Church Slavonic version of my programm, but for Ancient Greek it seems to be ambiguous depending on pronunciation system. I do the following reducing for example:

ε-η
ω-ο
θ-τ

As I understand now it correlates more with Erasmian pronunciation. On the other hand there are very few ancient greek speakers now but a lot of writers and readers. Another interesting theme arises here: what is the source of misspelling for modern ancient greek writers - the pronunciation or somewhat else...
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Re: Overview of various Greek Pronunciation systems

Postby Stephen Hughes » February 12th, 2016, 10:57 am

Broadly speaking, the three major variations, if you'd like to call them that in Modern Greek pronunciation are the (i) the palatalisation of consonants when followed by some vowels, καί as /tʃi/, (ii) the non-pronunciation of some liquids μπ as /b/ rather than the standard /mb/ (as so for ντ) that pronunciation is typical of Athens (not the biggest city), and (iii) some speakers use a harsh sound for the χ in front of all vowels, like χιών with a strong sound, rather than a /h/ sound.

Does the pronunciation system you are familiar with have any of those features?
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Re: Overview of various Greek Pronunciation systems

Postby Alexey Gubanov » February 12th, 2016, 1:43 pm

Stephen Hughes wrote:Does the pronunciation system you are familiar with have any of those features?

Thank you, Stephen. I've read about it. But haven't coded it yet in editor.
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Re: Overview of various Greek Pronunciation systems

Postby Jonathan Robie » February 12th, 2016, 4:14 pm

Turns out Wikisource has Dialogus de recta latini graecique sermonis pronuntiatione, by Erasmus. Attached as PDF. I don't know Latin, so I can't read it.

Anyone know where to find Reuchlin? As far as I can tell, he didn't write anything systematic on pronunciation, which may be why we got stuck with Erasmian pronunciation. A lesson to all of us - write it down!
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