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Pronunciation of ancient Hel..

Post  J_Agathokles on Thu Apr 11, 2013 9:24 am

I wanted to share this video so people could hear how ancient Hellenic was pronounced, as it is quite different from modern Hellenic pronunciation. The video is about the Hippocratic Oath being recited using the reconstructed pronunciation of Classical Attic, i.e. the language of Athens in the 4th century BCE. It also shows the text in the video itself, with translation in English.


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Re: Pronunciation of ancient Hel..

Post  Erodius on Thu Apr 11, 2013 10:13 am

Classical Attic is good to be familiar with, but it had already been replaced by Koinē Greek dialects by the Hellenistic period, whose pronunciation, from what we can glean, is closer to that of modern Greek than to reconstructed Classical Attic.

It's something like Latin. As Latin was actually pronounced by the time of the Roman Empire, the 'Classical' pronunciation that is often taught in schools, was already about 400+ years obsolete.

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"O Best of Gods, blest daimon crown'd with fire . . . hear, and from punishment my soul absolve, the punishment incurr'd by pristine guilt, thro' Lethe's darkness and terrene desire: and if for long-extended years I'm doom'd in these drear realms Heav'n's exile to remain, O grant me soon the necessary means to gain that good which solitude confers on souls emerging from the bitter waves of fraudful Hyle's black, impetuous flood!"
-Iulianic Hymn to Apollon-Helios, ll. 65-106

"Having come for punishment, one must be punished. One must not pull apart the god within oneself."
-Iamblichus, Vita Pythagorica

"Truth would you teach, or save a sinking land,
All hear, none aid you, and few understand."
-Alexander Pope


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Re: Pronunciation of ancient Hel..

Post  Achrelus on Thu Apr 11, 2013 11:33 am

Myself, I prefer the "clasical" pronounciations of Latin and Attic Greek.

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Re: Pronunciation of ancient Hel..

Post  Ελευθερια on Thu Apr 24, 2014 3:10 pm

That's awesome. That is exactly the pronunciation I was taught in school. Except that we didn't get the flow of the language right. I only took one year of Greek back in secondary school in Belgium.

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Re: Pronunciation of ancient Hel..

Post  Erodius on Thu Apr 24, 2014 3:23 pm

You should also be familiar with Reuchlinian pronunciation, which was the standard for about 1,000 years until the invention of 'reconstructed classical pronunciation', and is the way Ancient Greek is pronounced in Greece itself by Greek scholars.

Personally, I find the 'reconstructed classical pronunciation' grating, harsh, artificial and difficult to listen to.

Whether the 'reconstructed Attic' or the Reuchlinian system is more accurate is hotly debated by scholars.

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"O Best of Gods, blest daimon crown'd with fire . . . hear, and from punishment my soul absolve, the punishment incurr'd by pristine guilt, thro' Lethe's darkness and terrene desire: and if for long-extended years I'm doom'd in these drear realms Heav'n's exile to remain, O grant me soon the necessary means to gain that good which solitude confers on souls emerging from the bitter waves of fraudful Hyle's black, impetuous flood!"
-Iulianic Hymn to Apollon-Helios, ll. 65-106

"Having come for punishment, one must be punished. One must not pull apart the god within oneself."
-Iamblichus, Vita Pythagorica

"Truth would you teach, or save a sinking land,
All hear, none aid you, and few understand."
-Alexander Pope


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Re: Pronunciation of ancient Hel..

Post  Momos on Fri Apr 25, 2014 4:22 am

Ancient Greek pronounciation is indeed different from modern Greek, languages are a living organism and experience evolution. We know for a fact old English (or rather Anglo-Saxon) sounded nothing like the modern English we know today, it probably sounded a lot closer to modern Icelandic - harsh and barbaric. But at the same time, Greek preserved a lot of its vocabulary in comparison to other Indo-European languages so my theory is that much has stayed the same but I do not believe for a second that ancient Greeks spoke the reconstructed language we use today - for example, you wouldn't pick up a French text and read it as it is written, it wouldn't even sound like a language to begin with and this is done to both Latin and Attic Greek which makes them seem montone, boring and very much dead - there's no dialect, no flow and they seem and feel nonliving. These are just my 2 cents though.

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Re: Pronunciation of ancient Hel..

Post  Erodius on Fri Apr 25, 2014 11:21 am

We know for a fact old English (or rather Anglo-Saxon) sounded nothing like the modern English we know today, it probably sounded a lot closer to modern Icelandic - harsh and barbaric.

That is true — the comparison is, however, a little shaky in this instance, because Old English was really an entirely different language from modern English. Modern English is really not a direct descendant of Old English in the way that, say, Italian is of Latin — it's an EnglishxNorman French creole language, supplemented with an enormous influx of neo-Latin coinages from the 16th and 17th centuries.

But at the same time, Greek preserved a lot of its vocabulary in comparison to other Indo-European languages so my theory is that much has stayed the same but I do not believe for a second that ancient Greeks spoke the reconstructed language we use today - for example, you wouldn't pick up a French text and read it as it is written, it wouldn't even sound like a language to begin with and this is done to both Latin and Attic Greek which makes them seem montone, boring and very much dead - there's no dialect, no flow and they seem and feel nonliving.

The 'learned' pronunciation that is usually taught to students of Ancient Greek today is based on a reconstruction of an extremely archaic pronunciation — one that would have been obsolete even by Plato's time. And, even then, the 'reconstruction' is quite tentative, and is based on little more than an assumption that the earliest post-Mycenaean literate Greeks spelled things phonetically and that, thus, the standard orthography of Ancient Greek might represent the way in which the words were originally pronounced at the time when they were first written down.

The phonological changes to Ancient Greek that would ultimately result in Modern Greek were already under way by the 200's BCE, and the vowel shift to a mostly modern pronunciation seems to have been complete by the 100's CE/AD, when diphthongs had become single vowels, αι becomes 'eh', υ υι and οι all merge into 'i' as in 'sit' or 'kin' (not the awful 'ooh' and 'oy' as students are so often taught), and postvocalic ypsilon becomes pronounced as 'v', (which, in modern Greek, becomes 'f'). Thus αὐτοί in the high imperial era was 'av-TIH', not 'ow-TOY' (in modern Greek, it is 'af-TEE'.

We can also be fairly sure about the pronunciation of Latin. The 'classical' pronunciation of Latin is not quite as far off as the reconstructed Attic Greek pronunciation. The primary errors in most people's pronunciation of Latin are in the diphthongs, 'ti+vowel' syllables, and in final 'm's. OE and AE are both pronunced 'eh' by the high empire, ti+V is always palatized to 'ts' (thus, salutatio is 'sah-loo-TAH-tsee-oh, and, most importantly, words that end in vowel+m do not end in consonants. These were nasal vowels, even by the late republican era. Students are taught this when they study Latin poetry, because it is necessary to understand this in order to read hexameter properly, but they rarely implement it in their pronunciation.

this is done to both Latin and Attic Greek which makes them seem montone, boring and very much dead - there's no dialect, no flow and they seem and feel nonliving.

It is, it does, and it is unfortunate — which is why I trouble my students with forcing them to speak, and speaking to them in Latin, likewise, and having them listen, and testing their understanding.

Viv' erit semper classica sermo.

_________________
"O Best of Gods, blest daimon crown'd with fire . . . hear, and from punishment my soul absolve, the punishment incurr'd by pristine guilt, thro' Lethe's darkness and terrene desire: and if for long-extended years I'm doom'd in these drear realms Heav'n's exile to remain, O grant me soon the necessary means to gain that good which solitude confers on souls emerging from the bitter waves of fraudful Hyle's black, impetuous flood!"
-Iulianic Hymn to Apollon-Helios, ll. 65-106

"Having come for punishment, one must be punished. One must not pull apart the god within oneself."
-Iamblichus, Vita Pythagorica

"Truth would you teach, or save a sinking land,
All hear, none aid you, and few understand."
-Alexander Pope


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Re: Pronunciation of ancient Hel..

Post  Momos on Fri Apr 25, 2014 12:44 pm

(not the awful 'ooh' and 'oy' as students are so often taught)
This I completely agree with, it's rather amusing whenever someone pronounces it as 'ay', 'oy or 'ey' - it doesn't sound authentic at all.

Unfortunately I'm not a teacher but I'd advise everyone to use the modern Greek pronounciation just for the authenticities sake with the exception that

H (eta) becomes E (epsilon)
B (beta) remains B

We actually have proof of etas becoming epsilons and betas being just that in ancient Greek thanks to Latin. Romans borrowed Greek words directly into Latin and thereof retained its natural form. Some examples I can think of right now that springs to mind are;

Barbarian
Latin: barbarus
ancient Greek: βάρβαρος barbaros suddenly becomes varvaros in modern Greek
Academic
Latin: academicus
ancient Greek: ἀκαδημικός in modern Greek this would've been pronounced akadimikos and not akademikos

What I'm trying to say is if one would use the modern Greek pronounciation with some tweaks here and there it would indeed sound very much alive, but then again it's just my opinion.

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Re: Pronunciation of ancient Hel..

Post  Erodius on Fri Apr 25, 2014 2:23 pm

We actually have proof of etas becoming epsilons and betas being just that in ancient Greek thanks to Latin. Romans borrowed Greek words directly into Latin and thereof retained its natural form.


The pronunciation of eta seems to have been one of the main distinguishing features of different Greek dialects. For most, it seems to have become a long e, leaning toward i, while, for some, particularly the Doric-influenced dialects, it was interchanged with alpha — hence the Latin Atalanta for Greek Ἀταλάντη.

The beta question is complex, because B and V were often interchanged in Italic Latin dialects (Latin: habere -> Italian: (h)avere), and were identical in Iberian dialects, hence the joking aphorism "Beati sunt Hispani, quibus 'vivere' 'bibere' est."

What I'm trying to say is if one would use the modern Greek pronounciation with some tweaks here and there it would indeed sound very much alive, but then again it's just my opinion.

Modern Greek with a few phonetic modifications will indeed get you almost exactly the sound of spoken Greek from the later Hellenistic period onward through the Roman era.

The Erasmian pronunciation will have you perhaps (or perhaps not) sounding something like the Greeks of Homer's day.

_________________
"O Best of Gods, blest daimon crown'd with fire . . . hear, and from punishment my soul absolve, the punishment incurr'd by pristine guilt, thro' Lethe's darkness and terrene desire: and if for long-extended years I'm doom'd in these drear realms Heav'n's exile to remain, O grant me soon the necessary means to gain that good which solitude confers on souls emerging from the bitter waves of fraudful Hyle's black, impetuous flood!"
-Iulianic Hymn to Apollon-Helios, ll. 65-106

"Having come for punishment, one must be punished. One must not pull apart the god within oneself."
-Iamblichus, Vita Pythagorica

"Truth would you teach, or save a sinking land,
All hear, none aid you, and few understand."
-Alexander Pope


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Re: Pronunciation of ancient Hel..

Post  J_Agathokles on Fri May 09, 2014 7:06 am

Concerning the Beta/Vita, it has been observed that the shape of the letter served for the letter B (pronounced phonetically as /b/) in the Gothic script in the 5th century or so CE, and later in the Ninth century it was the basis for Cyrillic B (pronounced phonetically as /v/). So that change probably took place in between those centuries. The border between Ancient and Koine Hellenic on one hand and Byzantine and Modern Hellenic on the other hand is often placed at about the 7th century CE, when most changes from Ancient to Modern Hellenic had either occurred already, or were in the process of happening.

As for my personal choices of pronunciation, I am studying modern Hellenic as well as ancient Hellenic. I naturally use the modern pronunciation for the modern language, but I firmly cling to the reconstructed classical Attic pronunciation for ancient Hellenic, as I try to keep the two languages somewhat separate in my head so as not to use wrong/anachronistic forms in either of them. I try to keep the two grammars separated in my head by attaching them to reconstructed classical pronunciation and the polytonic script on one hand, and modern pronunciation and monotonic script on the other.

Furthermore, I think the esthetic argument is rubbish. I think reconstructed classical Attic pronunciation is quite beautiful when done correctly. The difficulty is that it requires a lot of practice as there are no ancient Hellenes around to teach us. The most difficult aspect to it is getting the hang of the ancient tones in my opinion.

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Re: Pronunciation of ancient Hel..

Post  Erodius on Fri May 09, 2014 9:43 am

As for my personal choices of pronunciation, I am studying modern Hellenic as well as ancient Hellenic. I naturally use the modern pronunciation for the modern language, but I firmly cling to the reconstructed classical Attic pronunciation for ancient Hellenic, as I try to keep the two languages somewhat separate in my head so as not to use wrong/anachronistic forms in either of them. I try to keep the two grammars separated in my head by attaching them to reconstructed classical pronunciation and the polytonic script on one hand, and modern pronunciation and monotonic script on the other.

As Momus said, there is the simple fact that language is not static, it evolves — especially when spread over a huge geographic area and centuries of passing time. Greek was not a dialectically unified language until fairly recently. Greatly divergent dialects existed in the regions of Greece prior to the Hellenistic era, and, subsequently, after common Koine became the world lingua franca, it itself diverged into regional dialects, just as English or French or Portuguese have done in the contemporary world, that can be so different from one another in terms of pronunciation as to make it difficult for speakers of one to even communicate with those of another. The written language is often the unifying factor.

Defaulting always to more Erasmian or more Reuchlinian pronunciations of Greek will give you anachronistic speech either way. If somebody wants to avoid anachronistic speech, he or she has some work ahead: to figure out the temporal and regional context of a composition, and try to habituate oneself to whatever information is known about that dialect at that time. Think of it like reading an old poem in your own native language (a poem, because proper pronunciation of words is more essential to making a poem sound the way it was intended, whereas prose doesn't have that factor). Surely anyone who has done this has had the experience of reading the poem more or less alright, when, then, you come across a line or a word that sounds like you've just hit a sour note on a piano  Razz 

The practical issue of grammatical usage, J_Agathokles, especially in a schoolroom setting, is one of the major advantages of the Erasmian system, regardless of its own anachronisms, and is probably among the reasons why it is so favored in teaching Classical Greek. Simply put, it is much, much easier to hear the inflections and endings of words, and, thus, for an instructor to hear if the student is doing it right. Unfortunately, most instructors of Greek here, and many of Latin, don't give a hoot whether your speaking could peel paint off a wall, as long as you make it clear you've conjugated/declined correctly.

The pronunciation taught, at least in the Ancient Greek classes I have been in in the United States, is really only superficially similar to what you hear in J_Agathokles' video of the Hippocratic Oath. It is very evident to me that the narrator in that video speaks Greek natively, and can pronounce pre-Hellenistic Attic appropriately — but that is hardly what you'd hear here in the US — even among some scholars I've known.

I'll try my best to approximate what Erasmian sounds like at least where I come from:

The title of the Classical honors society of which I'm part, called ΗΣΦ, is:

' ἠ συνουσία τῶν φιλελλήνων ' — which around here is pronounced:

'hay sooh-nooh-SEH-yuh tawn fill-el-LAY-nawn'

Concerning the Beta/Vita, it has been observed that the shape of the letter served for the letter B (pronounced phonetically as /b/) in the Gothic script in the 5th century or so CE, and later in the Ninth century it was the basis for Cyrillic B (pronounced phonetically as /v/). So that change probably took place in between those centuries.

As far as linguists know, Greek beta, by the 1st century CE, at least in Alexandria, was actually neither b nor v, but was a sound that does not even exist in English, and is even still written in the IPA as ᾽β᾽. It's a kind of intermediate between b and v that occurs in Spanish.

Furthermore, I think the esthetic argument is rubbish. I think reconstructed classical Attic pronunciation is quite beautiful when done correctly. The difficulty is that it requires a lot of practice as there are no ancient Hellenes around to teach us. The most difficult aspect to it is getting the hang of the ancient tones in my opinion.

It isn't rubbish around here, where Ὡμήρος is 'Home-ay-Ross' and Ὀδυσσεύς is 'Owe-doo-say-oos'.  No  Shocked 

_________________
"O Best of Gods, blest daimon crown'd with fire . . . hear, and from punishment my soul absolve, the punishment incurr'd by pristine guilt, thro' Lethe's darkness and terrene desire: and if for long-extended years I'm doom'd in these drear realms Heav'n's exile to remain, O grant me soon the necessary means to gain that good which solitude confers on souls emerging from the bitter waves of fraudful Hyle's black, impetuous flood!"
-Iulianic Hymn to Apollon-Helios, ll. 65-106

"Having come for punishment, one must be punished. One must not pull apart the god within oneself."
-Iamblichus, Vita Pythagorica

"Truth would you teach, or save a sinking land,
All hear, none aid you, and few understand."
-Alexander Pope


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