What do the three different accents indicate?

Is vocalizing the Greek words and sentences important? If so, how should Greek be pronounced (what arguments can be made for one pronunciation over another or others?) How can I write Greek characters clearly and legibly?
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Brian Gould
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What do the three different accents indicate?

Post by Brian Gould » May 26th, 2019, 11:14 am

From looking at one or two textbooks and online resources, I have the impression that at least as far as Biblical/koine Greek is concerned, there is no significant difference between the accents. Any one of the three accents indicates the stressed syllable, but that seems to be all. In the case, for example, of the nominative ἀρχή and the genitive ἀρχῆς, or the nominative λαός and the genitive λαοῦ, what change – in pronunciation, in meaning, or anything else – is indicated by the switch from the acute to the circumflex?
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Stephen Carlson
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Re: What do the three different accents indicate?

Post by Stephen Carlson » May 27th, 2019, 3:09 am

At the beginning of the Koine period, it was a pitch accent, but at the end of the Koine period, it became a stress accent.

The grave accent is more of an absence of an accent rather than a type of one. It is conventionally written on the last syllable.

The difference between an acute and a circumflex is that although they are both a high-low in pitch, the low happens after the syllable for the acute and within the syllable for the circumflex. This means the syllable has to be long for the circumflex. There is evidence for this in the Greek music for the time.
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Stephen C. Carlson, Ph.D.
Melbourne, Australia

Brian Gould
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Joined: May 26th, 2019, 6:30 am

Re: What do the three different accents indicate?

Post by Brian Gould » May 27th, 2019, 8:18 am

Thank you, Stephen. That is something to be going on with, though I can’t claim to have fully understood what you’re saying about pitch. Would it be akin to a rising or falling tone in Chinese?

From a post of yours on another thread, where you mention your time at Duke, I see that different teachers pronounced some of the vowels in different ways. In the case of the first nominative-genitive pair I mentioned in my query, ἀρχή and ἀρχῆς, would any of the teachers, including yourself, have taught their students to differentiate, in any way, the sound of “ή” from “ῆ”?
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Stephen Carlson
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Re: What do the three different accents indicate?

Post by Stephen Carlson » May 27th, 2019, 9:15 am

No one I know attempts a pitch accent when they speak Greek. Not even Swedes who have something like it in their language. That said, a stress accent puts a higher pitch on it naturally In addition to other effects (mainly increased volume and duration).
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Stephen C. Carlson, Ph.D.
Melbourne, Australia

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