Re: accents

From: Paul F. Evans (
Date: Tue Feb 11 1997 - 07:42:18 EST

<html><html><head></head><BODY bgcolor="#FFFFFF"><p><font size=2 color="#000000" face="Arial">Carl,<br><br>My professor in NT Greek classes did not conduct any excursions into accents at all, except to note a few bits and pieces about &quot;aspirations,&quot; (not the ambitious-to- pass-NT-Greek kind either). &nbsp;I have always felt as though I may have missed something material to my understanding of the language.<br><br>From what you seem to be saying, there is very little to be gained from careful study of accents when it comes to understanding the text. &nbsp;Would that be accurate enough a statement?<br><br>Paul F. Evans<br>Pastor<br>Thunder Swamp Pentecostal Holiness Church<br>Mount Olive, NC<br><br>&quot;Endeavouring to make use of NT Greek in a real life ministry!&quot; <br><br>----------<br>From: Carl W. Conrad &lt;<font color="#0000FF"><u></u><font color="#000000">&gt;<br>To: Paul F. Evans &lt;<font color="#0000FF"><u></u><font color="#000000">&gt;<br>Cc:
 '<font color="#0000FF"><u></u><font color="#000000">'<br>Subject: Re: accents<br>Date: Tuesday, February 11, 1997 7:01 AM<br><br>At 3:06 PM -0600 2/10/97, Paul F. Evans wrote:<br>&gt;Carl,I would like to demonstrate my usual knack for the<br>&gt;&quot;basic&quot; and elementary question. &nbsp;In the recent discussion<br>&gt;of accents, it has been observed, and I am well aware of<br>&gt;the fact, that accents were not original to the text (NT<br>&gt;in particular). &nbsp;Where do they come from, and by what system<br>&gt;were they put into place? &nbsp;And if they do, in some instances,<br>&gt;make a material difference to meaning, surely where the<br>&gt;meaning is ambiguous in the first place, or a textual variant<br>&gt;disputed, accents cannot be the determiners?<br><br>I have to plead ignorance on this one, but I would readily defer five or<br>six list-members whom I know to be fully competent to offer a quick answer<br>to this one. I do know that later Greek MSS do show accents an
d breathing<br>marks, but my impression is that these were a Byzantine invention, intended<br>to indicate how Greek HAD been pronounced prior to the gradual shift-over<br>to a stress-accent pronunciation that may have been in process already as<br>the shift in pronunciation of 2/3 of the vowels to an (English) long-E<br>sound, &quot;itacism&quot; was completing itself (dare I use he &quot;reflexive voice&quot;<br>here?).<br><br>It would certainly be hard to estimate the full measure debt we users of<br>neatly punctuated, word-separated, fair-font-figured, generally elegant<br>Greek texts of our NT and other ancient Greek literature owe to editors and<br>printers. One must learn a great deal (that I have never learned) in order<br>to be able to make good sense of the important early MSS. I must add that I<br>think Isidoros is quite correct in saying that the printing of accents and<br>breathing-marks is at best a mixed blessing: rough breathings make sense to<br>indicate where we should aspirate a vowel, but
we could just as well leave<br>unaspirated initial vowels unmarked; and unless we serious intend to give<br>Greek words a pitch accent in correspondence with values indicated by<br>theory (and I have come across fewer scholars than can be counted on the<br>fingers of one hand who do), it would be more sensible to mark only the<br>syllable receiving the stress accent, and an acute would be the only accent<br>needed (or whichever other anyone preferred, as it would not be indicating<br>pitch, in any event). That is, I think, the procedure adopted in current<br>modern Greek, and unless it can be shown that spoken Greek of the NT era<br>was still being pronounced with a pitch accent, it would seem reasonable to<br>me to reform the orthography of the Greek NT that way. But even if that<br>should seem wise to some, I frankly don't expect it to happen within my<br>lifetime if it ever does; the U.S. cannot even make the obviously desirable<br>change-over to the metric system, and we know that Law and Religion in<br>
general are the most conservative institutions in human culture.<br><br>It's too early in the morning where I am to be thinking such futile thoughts.<br>Time to lighten up! Anyone for accents?<br><br>Carl W. Conrad<br>Department of Classics, Washington University<br>One Brookings Drive, St. Louis, MO, USA 63130<br>(314) 935-4018<br><font color="#0000FF"><u></u><font color="#000000"> &nbsp;OR <font color="#0000FF"><u></u><font color="#000000"><br>WWW: <font color="#0000FF"><u>><font color="#000000"><br><br><br>----------<br><br></p>

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