RandallButh wrote: ↑
June 6th, 2020, 11:13 pm
"onset" sounds like a term to spin this as if it hadn't happened. But it did, it had happened. The Nazaereth inscription shows a mason/scribe in the employ of the government doing a length-less hatchet job on Caesar's edict.
Your argument seems to be that the ability of some literary poets to compose metrical poetry meant that the MAJORITY of the people spoke such Greek. Au contraire. The poetic evidence only shows that some people knew how to write metrical poetry, it does not show what the common people were speaking.
We have the direct attestation of Roman grammarians from the 2cAD — here, Velius Longus — asserting the length distinctions of the vowels: https://latin.packhum.org/loc/1374/1/1/745-761@1#1
The key note here: α ι υ are used "still today" for both long
Thus the Vowel Shift you propose is not universal at this time. It will be. But not yet. Since Roman grammarians frequently contrast the nature of Latin with that of not just
a standard academic Greek, but of the current Greek dialects (as Velius Longus does in his book), this would have been the perfect time for Velius Longus to add: "however, no/few Greeks make the vowel length distinctions anymore."
Velius Longus's silence on the matter indicates the loss of phonemic vowel length was not a phenomenon known to him. It seems reasonable to conclude loss of phonemic vowel length was common in Egypt (as documented by Horrocks) and in surrounding regions by 3cBC or 2cBC. But we can surmise not universally in places such as Italy and likely not in Athens (where Romans would go to learn Greek fluently, among other outlying islands).
That's better. Now it's "plenty of Greek people." Good. However, your "to be losing" seems to be tryng to avoid the evidence with an open-ended imperfective.
I retort, with utmost respect, Dr. Buth, that your assertions seem to be avoiding the incontravertible evidence of thousands upon thousands of Greek words borrowed into Latin with their phonemic vowel length intact — not only in poetry, but in prose (Cicero's clausulae, for example).
And where Greek words borrowed from non-Attic dialects had different vowel lengths, those are retained as well — one example among many is πλατεῖα which comes into Latin as plătĕa, later plătĭa > platja > (Italian) piazza, (Spanish) plaza. The common Greek in Italy had *πλατεα.
They had LOST phonemic length, done.
"They" = all Greek speakers?
"lost" : when? If by 5cAD, we agree. But you state:
Much too late. Try 3rdBCE-1BCE as the correct period for loss of length.
This is very funny to me, as it's demonstrably false. Thousands of Greek words are borrowed into Latin from 3cBC-1cBC, and thereafter, with all their vowel lengths intact — until the end of the Western Roman Empire when this moraic phenomenon had left both languages for certain. And when pronunciation changed in contemporary Greek, borrowings into Latin reflected that pronunciation change. For example:
κωμῳδίᾱ > cōmoedia (circa 3cBC)
μελῳδίᾱ > melōdia (circa 2cAD (!)) https://latin.packhum.org/loc/1518/1/39/2345-2350@1#39
(here the word melōdia
is borrowed in a poem about verse itself)
This is how we know iota-subscript is lost around the 2cBC, because Thrāx (Θρᾷξ !) states it directly in his text, and indirectly in the Latin spelling of his name.
The retained vowel lengths in both words above are a big deal, and cannot be easily dismissed. The change of iota-subscript shows the Roman sensitivity to the sound of Greek, as does their loyal employment of the contemporary vowel lengths of those Greek words.
I can cite Roman grammarians Varro, Cicero, Quintilian, Probus, Velius Longus, Aulus Gellius, Flavius Caper, etc., describing the contemporary Greek of their age
that they came into contact with in terms of phonemic vowel length (and pitch accent too!). The great heaps of evidence in the form of Greek spelling mistakes you have wonderfully collected and presented form a compelling argument for loss of phonemic vowel length for those speakers. I am very much persuaded by your theory. But, it is a theory based on evidence, whereas we have direct attestation of Romans who spoke Greek with Greeks
stating the contrary to your argument.
On οδε κιτε, Raphael Turrigiano pointed this out to me (W. S. Allen in Vox Graeca
"We have seen (p. 75) that the monophthong resulting from αι came often to be written as ε; but this need indicate no more than the quality of the monophthong in the absence of any other appropriate symbol
(cf. Sturtevant, pp. 39, 103). The appearance of ει for short ι in the 2 c. A.D. need be no more than a graphic reflex
of the use of ι ( = [ī]) for ει. Thus, whilst these phenomena could
result from a loss of length-distinctions, they need not do so
, and cannot therefore be relied upon as evidence. More suggestive is the confusion of ο and ω, which becomes common from the 2 c. A.D.; but since such confusion begins as early as the 3 c. B.C., it could again indicate a convergence of quality rather than duration
, in which the considerations mentioned on p. 85 may be relevant."
In discussion with Raphael, we surmise that if all vowel length contrast had been neutralized in all colloquial Greek by the 1cBC, then all mispellings should look the same from that point on — but they don't. As the evidence for confusion of vowel length grows — and is especially present in certain dialects like Egyptian Koine — this indicates a system that is still evolving
Allen says that the epigraphical phenomena that you have amassed, Dr. Buth, "cannot therefore be relied upon as evidence," but I don't concur — you have concluded that they do account for sufficient evidence, and I am persuaded by your argument — just limited to some extent in register or geography. Given that caveat, I support your conclusions. But not for the pan-Hellenic voice.
So, what's the solution to the seeming contradiction of historical evidence? I propose this as the solution: A division of Greek speakers, based on geographical or other lines, using phonemic vowel length versus those who don't.
Horrocks has previously demonstrated the phonemic vowel length loss in Egypt as early as 2cBC. And there is no reason to think it was necessarily isolated there. But the universal loss of phonemic vowel length is not clear until the late Western Roman Empire. I stand with Allen and Horrocks who date loss of phonemic vowel length becoming dominant in 3cAD.
Again, misspellings by some shows what common people were pronouncing.
This needs a caveat: a
common people, but not all Greeks, in the Roman period, were pronouncing their language without phonemic vowel length. Common Greeks in Italy retained them, whence the vernacular borrowings found in Plautus, Terence, Horace, etc., where vowel length is maintained, plus the standard Greek learned by Romans abroad in Greece.
However, with literacy far far far from a majority, it does not make sense to use academy prescription for describing the majority.
It would be worthwhile to acknowledge that Buth Koine Pronunciation and Lucian Pronunciation have different aims, as I recalled in my previous post: Buth Koine Pronunciation is intended to appreciate Biblical Greek literature. Lucian Pronunciation is for all Ancient Greek. When it comes to the 2cAD, both can and probably did coexist in the same world, possibly even in the same geographies.
Can one use Buth Koine Pronunciation for all Ancient Greek, even Homer? Of course! It's merely a convention. People can and do speak Latin today with the Ecclesiastical Pronuncation, as well as traditional Polish and German Pronunciations, and appreciate Classical Latin texts with that set of sounds on a daily basis. It's not "historical," but who cares? It works for them. See the historical pronunciation quadrivium (science + art + pedagogy + politics). And just the same, one can appreciate Biblical literature with the Lucian Pronunciation.
I think it's perfectly acceptable to call Buth Koine Pronunciation — a key feature for which, as you assert, is loss of phonemic vowel length (but not geminated consonants, right?) — a
historical pronunciation of the early Roman Empire, localized in Egypt and even through Judea, if palatalization of velars before front vowels is restored, geminated consonants retained, and retracted s
is employed (though I can believe a Semitic substrate not using the last), becoming more historically plausible and geographically widespread the closer we approach Byzantine times. But to say Greek that lacks phonemic vowel length should be the
historical pronunciation for all
Greek in the Roman Empire (and Republic? no.) is contrary to direct attestation. You might as well claim that Classical Latin also lacked phonemic vowel length (and surely you don't claim that, do you? — but if you do I am sincerely very interested to hear the evidence!).
Thus, I see the following compromise. Hundreds if not thousands have learned Greek by the Buth Koine Pronunciation, and I support and defend every one who uses Buth Koine Pronunciation
, and will for all my days, for they are employing an historically plausible, beautiful convention for Ancient Greek. And I vehemently
support and promote Buth Koine Pronunciation over any variety of "Erasmian," including the kind found at the estimable Polis Instutite.
And yet, for those of us who are well acquainted with living languages that today have phonemic vowel length — Finnish, Japanese, Czech, Estonian, Serbo-Croatian, Hungarian, Slovak, etc. — whose literatures necessarily take account of phonemic vowel length in composing both poetry and prose, it is not desirable to dismiss phonemic vowel length in either Classical Latin or contemporary Koine Greek, because to do so robs us of the ability to appreciate the rhythm of verse and oration alike over a wide time period of literature.
We opine it should be learned rote for Latin and Ancient Greek, a skill easily turned off where it is not appropriate — Mediaeval Latin and Greek poems being a prime example.
Do you think, sir, we can agree to a compromise of coexistence?