Re: memorization (and modern vs. Erasmian pronunciation)

From: Jonathan Robie (
Date: Tue Oct 08 1996 - 04:56:04 EDT

Porson wrote:

> I don't think modern vs. Erasmus really matters. When I was a kid
> learning Latin and Greek, we recited or sang our paradigms in a
> rhythmic fashion.

It don't mean a thing if it ain't got that swing. Rhythm is important. Find some
way to pronounce Greek so that it sounds good to you. When people say Erasmian
pronunciation is ugly, I can sympathize somewhat, since I've heard some tapes
where it really is ugly. The Parson's Technology tutor uses an "AH" sound for
omikron: "hAH LAH-GAHS". Yuck. And the rhythm just doesn't sound like real
language. I'm reminded of the time that Mark Twain cut himself shaving, and his
wife tried to shame him by repeating back to him, word for word, everything he
had said. He told her, "You've got the words right, but the melody doesn't
sing." But I'm not convinced that it *has* to be ugly. I would kill for some
recordings where it is read with good prosody.

I started out with a modern pronunciation because I took 10 weeks of demotic
Greek in the local Greek Orthodox church once upon a time when I was 17, and
when I decided to learn biblical Greek 19 years later, I started out with that
pronunciation. I changed to Erasmian because modern pronunciation does not
distinguish some important word pairs, e.g. hUMWN/hHMWN. I really find it easier
to look things up in a lexicon now that my pronunciation distinguishes the
letters a little better. I'm tempted to use the modern pronunciation for AU and
EU ("AV" and "EV") since it distinguishes them more clearly.

Right now, I'm using modern Greek prosody with classical pronunciation, but my
pronunciation may be a little unique since I'm self taught. It works for me.


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