hHMIN, hUMIN : were both pronounced the *same* ?

Jonathan Robie (jwrobie@mindspring.com)
Fri, 06 Dec 1996 17:01:47 -0500

Acts 13:26 (GNT) Andres adelfoi, uioi genous Abraam kai oi en umin
foboumenoi ton qeon, hmin o logos ths swthrias tauths exapestalh.

In "A Textual Commentary on the GNT", Bruce Metzger talks about text
variants which choose hHMIN vs. hUMIN, and he says:

The interchange of hU for hH (both were pronounced EE), and
vice versa, was a common blunder among Greek scribes...

Certainly, they sounded similar, but the *same*? At a time that both forms
were in active use in the language?

I hate to disagree with Bruce Metzger, who knows an awful lot more than I
do, and for whom I have a lot of respect, but I find it very difficult to
believe that hHMIN and hUMIN were both in common use but pronounced
identically. Yes, I know that they would be pronounced the same in modern
Greek, but modern Greek uses different pronouns which clearly distinguish
the two. By the time the two pronouns were indistinguishable, I would have
expected different pronouns to come into use, as they now have.

How could a language fail to distinguish "you" from "we"? Can you imagine
negotiating anything in such a language? If the direct participants in a
conversation can't be distinguished orally, it is rather hard to communicate
about anything!

Of course, in German, the second person formal pronoun "you, sir or madam"
sounds the same as the third person singular "she". But "she" isn't directly
involved in a conversation that "I" am having with "you", which means it is
possible to have an intelligible conversation.

Jonathan Robie
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