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

Carl W. Conrad (
Tue, 10 Dec 1996 06:09:20 -0600

At 10:36 PM -0600 12/9/96, Stephen C. Carlson wrote:
>In the first century, H (eta) was pronounced like the vowel in English
>"day", a closed 'e' (like the French =E9) with a strong 'y' glide. By
>the second century A.D., the H had completely risen to its modern
>Greek value.
>The U (upsilon) in the first century was a high, front, rounded vowel
>like the French 'u' or German =FC. This sound unrounded by the ninth
>century to acquire its modern Greek value. The ninth century, by the
>way, was also one of the most prolific in terms of production of the
>Byzantine text.
>So, hHMIN and hUMIN at the time they were in common use were pronounced
>differently. However, they came to be pronounced exactly the same
>when the copyists were active in transmitting the text of the New

Stephen, I find this fascinating.I know we've discussed similar items about
pronunciation on earlier occasions,and I am really curious about the
evidence for this assertion; it's not so much that I think it is wrong as
that I don't see how universal statements can be made about how Koine Greek
was pronounced in every area where it was spoken and written at any
particular time. I think there must have been considerable variation from
one area of the world to another, and also that pronunciations that came to
be standard everywhere later must have already been current or coming into
currency somewhere earlier. So I guess I'm curious about the real evidence
for this. I wold think that papyri from Egypt must be the strongest
evidence, and I guess that they can be dated with reasonable probability
within a quarter century or so?

>Bruce Metzger is a respected scholar and if you carefully read his
>statement, you will find it to be correct. Of course, =E7a va sans dire,
>not everything he says is right. I think Metzger is quite mistaken
>over the ending of Mk16:8, that it is so highly unusual to end a
>sentence with GAR. In fact, Gn18:15 (LXX) reads EFOBHQH GAR ("for
>she was afraid"). But I digress.

I certainly agree with this: GAR must be a second word of course, but so
long as the preceding word offers the requisite elements of subject and
predicate, it cannot be claimed that EFOBOUNTO GAR is an incomplete
sentence. I didn't think however, that this was Metzger's central reason
concerning Mk 16:8, however; in fact, I thought this was someone else's
objection to the ending at 16:8.

I think the point you implicitly raise here is also noteworthy: there are
figures whose general competence earns general respect, and Metzger is
certainly in that category, but on any particular question in dispute, a
judgment must be made upon the strength of the evidence rather than the
authority of one who holds an opinion about the evidence.

Carl W. Conrad
Department of Classics, Washington University
One Brookings Drive, St. Louis, MO, USA 63130
(314) 935-4018 OR