Re: Teaching Beginning Greek Pronounciation

From: Jonathan Robie (
Date: Sat Feb 22 1997 - 13:40:00 EST

Sam Johnson ( wrote:

> I am seeking advice on teaching beginning greek. I have truly enjoyed
> the discussion from previous posts but my question is on pronounciation
> for beginners. I have learned the Erasmus system but Spiros Zodhiates
> convinced me to learn modern greek pronounciation. That is all I use but
> I do know the Erasmus system.

I think Sam is referring to a discussion which can be found in the archives

The discussion kept changing the topic name. Look for these topics:

        "On hearing (and uttering) Greek aloud"
        "New Testament Greek Pronunciation"
        "Greek pronunciation"
        "On "using" Koine Greek viva voce "
        "Have you ever _used_ Greek pronunciation"
        "The Sound of Koine"

> I have two eager men at church who will be going into the ministry and
> are preparing to go to Seminary in a few years. I am really leaning
> toward teaching them modern greek because I see some definite advantages
> and I would introduce them of course to erasmus pronounciation but my
> emphasis would be modern greek. Does anyone see any real harm in doing
> this?

I started out using modern pronunciation, which I had learned from the
local Papouli at the Greek Orthodox church. However, I found that I
had a hard time looking up words in the lexicon or remembering them
since so many letters simply aren't distinguished in the modern

Also, there are some significant words that are not distinguished
in modern pronunciation, which I found confusing. In the phrase
hUMIN KAI hHMIN, the first and third words sounded identical.

I now live in a different city, so I asked the local Papouli here,
and he said that he did not suggest modern pronunciation for anyone
who wants to study Greek seriously, because it isn't what scholars
use. I'm not sure that scholars can understand each other's pronunciation
all that well anyways - when I asked one scholar about "scholarly"
pronunciation, he said that in scholarly settings, you'd better have
a printed copy, because you just can't count on people understanding

At any rate, the traditional Erasmian pronunciation just doesn't swing.
I wound up using the rhythm and prosody of modern pronunciation
with the phonology of Erasmian. At least, that's what I tell myself
I'm doing. It sounds good to me, and it helps me distinguish and spell
words. When I manage to get face to face with a scholar, they seem to
understand me.

For beginners, I think it is really helpful if the letters they see
are pronounced and distinguished as much as possible.


Jonathan Robie
POET Software, 3207 Gibson Road, Durham, N.C., 27703
Ph: 919.598.5728 Fax: 919.598.6728
email:, <--- shockwave enabled!

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