Shirley Rollinson wrote: ↑
May 23rd, 2020, 10:56 am
How about introducing yourself to us ?
Hi Shirley! I'm the other guy in the video linked in the top post (along with Luke Ranieri hehe). I'm a linguistics undergrad with a particular interest in historical linguistics. I've studied Latin and a bit of Modern Greek, but I have not yet had the opportunity to study Ancient Greek in any form.
Stephen Nelson wrote: ↑
May 23rd, 2020, 3:32 pm
If you get a chance to look at the study I cited above by Io Manolessou and Nikolaos Pantelidis, it documents a dizzying variety (in modern Greek dialects) with respect to velar fronting, which is extremely widespread - but not ubiquitous. Here's are some key excerpts (emphasis added):
Looks like a fascinating study, thank you for sharing!
So as Dr. Buth has pointed out, one thing that stands out to me is the fact that palatalization of gamma is the one that we have very direct evidence of quite early - your study indicates that in modern Greek at least, if this sound palatalizes then all the others should as well, and given that the backing of palatals to velars is an extraordinarily rare sound shift (so rare that this is considered to be highly problematic for some reconstructions of PIE which distinguish palatals and velars that then supposedly merge into regular velars in the centum languages), it strikes me as unlikely that these dialects which lack palatalization are not conservative dialects. Thus there is every reason to believe that this trend of gamma being the last sound to palatalize should extend all the way back to the classical period.
The other thing to keep in mind however is that the goal with our project is not to prescribe the system we think most likely was spoken by upper class speakers in the roman period (cuz this certainly ain't that hehe). Rather, our goal is to prescribe a standard which is not necessarily a-historical, but also achieves other pedagogical goals (inherently fits metre, is comprehensible to users of other systems, isn't suuuper hard to teach, etc.), aesthetic goals (we like it lol), and political goals (modern Greek speakers and attic reconstruction users don't hate it). When there is good evidence to suggest that a feature of modern Greek was present in this period, even if it wasn't ubiquitous, then as long as it matches our other goals we think an attempt should be made to integrate it. So many Greeks will simply reject any effort to use a reconstructed pronunciation, no matter how useful it may be, because ultimately they feel like a bunch of English and German and Italian speakers are trying to take something from them, do it all wrong, and ignore their perspective. This perspective, while ultimately not one I agree with, is not entirely misguided IMO. We would benefit enormously from getting more Greeks involved in or at least tolerant of historical pronunciations.
In this same vein I'd like to respectfully push back a little on some other points that have been made in this thread. Namely, this:
RandallButh wrote: ↑
May 23rd, 2020, 7:22 pm
The focus needs to be on phonemes, the meaningful sound units, not on the etic differences that can be heard in different dialects. The etics will be more opaque and impossible to recover through a phonemic orthography. In other words, fronted velars are adiafora, and not worth chasing, for the most part.
Stephen Carlson wrote: ↑
May 18th, 2020, 12:43 am
It's generally well-researched (or at least it fits with my research), but it makes a lot of fine phonetic distinctions that are largely out of the competence of L2 American speakers. For example I can barely hear and am not sure I can produce the palatalization of κ. I suspect that most Americans will be largely unable to follow their recommendations, except for those who are good with accents
I personally view the notion that acquiring a native-like grasp of the phonology of a foreign language being something only for people who are 'good at accents' to be akin to the notion that learning a language at all is something only for people who are 'good at languages'. This is actually an issue I have with language education in general, and one I feel very strongly about, so I really hope I don't come across as rude or dismissive, especially since we are discussing an area of expertise for you guys that I have really only dipped my toe into.
So, it's true that unlike in the case of children, a foreign phonology is something that can't really be acquired automatically, and must be studied explicitly. This is also true of vocabulary and grammar in the case of people who haven't acquired enough of the language to start consuming comprehensible input, but I think it's more true of phonology, because even people who have consumed thousands of hours of audio content in a foreign language may struggle to sound like a native.
However, I don't believe that it's actually all that hard for someone to learn to sound very close to native with a bit of study, unless they happen to have actual physiological impediments. The vast majority of people can be taught to produce any sound that exists in human language.
Personally, I've managed to acquire a native or near native accent in about six foreign languages - seven if you count me doing the reconstructed Latin pronunciation Luke and I use pretty much exactly as it is prescribed. Some of these (Spanish, Italian) took only a bit of explicit study of phonology. Japanese on the other hand has been much more difficult, and I've put many hours into acquiring pitch accent.
I am of the opinion that 2nd language teachers need training in basic articulatory phonetics and in dialect coach techniques, because sooooooooo many people are just a few intuitive explanations + a bit of practice away from sounding reeallly good.
Now as for why it matters, I think it boils down to two things: first, the kinds of errors that many people tend to make interferes greatly with things like poetic metre. As far as I know (please correct me if I'm mistaken) this doesn't matter much for biblical Greek, and we aren't at all saying that people who really only are interested in biblical greek should necessarily use phonemic vowel and consonant length. However, I think many people who study one form of ancient Greek will have some interest in other forms, and so our prescription is one that can work for any text and any period, not in terms of being how people actually spoke in those periods, but in terms of working both for communication and for things like poetry. Our intention is for people to take this prescription as a baseline, and modify it to suit their own needs anywhere on the spectrum between pure reconstructed attic and pure modern standard Greek phonology.
Vowel and consonant length in particular is a feature that many western European language speakers seem to assume will be too difficult to teach or acquire, but one only has to look at Japanese pedagogy to see that people will learn it quite easily when given tools and incentives to do so. I have met or heard hundreds of 2nd language Japanese speakers, and none of the ones who got to any level of proficiency had much trouble with distinguishing long and short vowels/consonants.
The other reason ties back into the politics of this that I was talking about before. People just receive you very differently when you sound 'legit' to them, and putting in a bit of work to avoid first language interference in pronunciation would go sooo far IMO to get people who prefer the modern pronunciation to be at least somewhat on board. Of course there will always be people who reject any attempt at reconstruction, but my experience speaking with a reconstructed classical pronunciation in Latin indicates to me that this doesn't have to be the case most of the time. Italians who hear my Latin pronunciation overwhelmingly like it, even as they are frustrated with people who use the 'classical pronunciation' but with their own L1 accent.
To give an example that I think illustrates this point - when English speakers hear someone doing the reconstructed Shakespearean pronunciation, they pretty much all love it with the exception of a few classist assholes who think it sounds too low class (probably because they know nothing about Shakespeare haha). However, if the only people who did the reconstruction were native Greek speakers, and you could easily hear that they were doing the 'reconstruction' phonemically, but by just substituting Greek sounds for the actual reconstruction, I would be surprised if most English speakers didn't reject it and lose interest.
I feel like doing the reconstruction with as little English accent as possible, without demanding perfection of course, would still do wonders for getting Greeks interested. It's also just a useful skill to have much in the way that learning new grammar and vocabulary is a useful skill, and plus it's really fun to speak another language using that language's phonology!
Okay, I think I've gone on long enough haha.