Re: accents - and "breathing" marks

From: Isidoros (
Date: Mon Feb 10 1997 - 14:26:35 EST

Re Andrew S. Kulikovsky's question,

while in general agreement with the brief opinions expressed by
Jonathan Robie and Carl Conrad (whose learned contributions I too
have come to respect after about a month on list) and after, in
particular, Jonathan's

>The tricky thing about accents is that you can usually ignore them
>safely, but there are a few places where they can be significant.

I'd like to point out, if I may, that it is the _accent_ (singular)
that may be important in accessing a _text_ in terms of meaning,
not "the" accentS. And that, even that, is not as important as it
first may seem, giving a good lexicon, practice, and experience.
As far as I am concerned, and were I to weigh the services which
they render as against the difficulties which they introduce,
accents are not worth the trouble and, for at least the list
purposes, not even the one accent.

Certainly this is the case, too, and in every contextual regard,
for the aspiration marks which may, not only be not necessary
for meaning and word understanding but, often confuse and, on
top of the accents, make so very complicated learning Greek that
it all works altogether counterproductively, discouragingly, to
the extend of practically prohibiting, many a very hopeful and
able student from going on to mastering the tongue. Leaving aside
the aesthetic and, more importantly, the semantic--in terms
of accessing by comparisson and association the meaning, here--
difficulties, of using the "h" in front of vowels. For how
many do associate, on the face of it, "hagios" (as met in
ordinary languge in "hagiography") with "agony"?! Or, yet more
singnificantly for the list purposes, hAGIOS with AGGELOS, or
with AGAPH!! Or "Hellene" " (Ellene, Ellen, Elliin) with (past
the "Old French", or the "Romance" and bruta Latin, with)
elect, elegance, ellan, or (to test faith) elit and ex(c)ellence?!

How lesser the richer we all as culture perhaps we are. And
how many generations of scholars were lost because certain
grammarians were overly jealous in their yearning for specificity,
and narrow-mindedness, and attachment, for representing "fully" and
"accurately" this language? How many thousands, millions of peoples
were discouraged from going on to learning it, in spite of the great
energy invested by faithful, hard working touto-rs and scholars?
How many ministers and pastors were ever lost in thought, and in
a quiet desperation, lost between the occeans of tropic accents
and of the beclouding, tempesteous"spirits"?! Language is not writing.
The latter is only to serve the former, humbly, modestly, fittingly.
Not to impose on it. PAN METRON ARISTON, some said, and however one
is prone to read this (!!) there has certainly been no proper metre
applied in the history of learning Greek, Elliinika--or would have been
now THE tongue, with hundreds of millions accessing directly the Biblos
--may still be possible) just as not only was not in this case
ARISTON, but it became due to the excess comlexities not even

Yet, dispair not, Andrew. There may be EL-P-IDA!

The Ionic Centre, Athens

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