Re: Greek pronunciation

From: Carl W. Conrad (
Date: Fri Feb 28 1997 - 05:25:31 EST

At 8:48 PM -0600 2/27/97, Mark B. O'Brien wrote:
>Not wanting to beat a horse to death, but I took someone's advice (I
>forget which kind soul suggested it), and took a look at the article by
>Chrys Caragounis in *Filologia Neotestamentaria* ("The Error of Erasmus
>and Un-Greek Pronunciations of Greek," Vol. 8, Nov 1995), and I must say
>I was very impressed by the depth of this piece.
>I think that this is a "must read" for anyone wishing to pursue this
>particular thread any further. Part of this work makes a very
>interesting (and cutting) critique of Allen's *Vox Graeca* (the text
>usually put forward to defend Erasmian pronunciation), noting some
>deficiencies in that work which need to be considered. I'm not sure I
>agree with everything he has to say, and there are spots where I'm not
>entirely convinced by his logic (even though I think he has a good
>point), but on the whole I recommend this as a very serious piece of
>scholarship for anyone interested in this topic... it's certainly got me
>thinking, and I was previously quite content with the Erasmian system!

This is interesting, and I will certainly try to get hold of the article. I'm a bit surprised to hear Allen's book, about which I have some reservations of my own on just a few matters, criticised on grounds that it is used to defend Erasmian pronunciation, since it doesn't do that; rather, it attempts to determine how Greek was pronounced in classical Attic at the key period of the 5th and 4th centuries B.C.E. and suggests what is sometimes called the "reconstructed" pronunciation. As for the Erasmian pronunciation, I've never tried to argue that it represents the actual pronunciation of Greek at any one period; I just simply have my doubts whether the actual pronunciation of any one time and place is adequately recoverable when you go back to antiquity. I think Allen examines the evidence there is pretty thoroughly, and I would like to see what Caragounis has to say. I would suppose that he's not trying to push the modern Greek pronunciation, is he? I can readily imagine an argument that any other pronunci
ation is a "fake," but I suspect that even that is a "fake" insofar as the assertion is propounded that this IS the way it was pronounced in the first century C.E.

Poor old horse! All I care about in this business is a pragmatic method suited to pedagogical purposes, and I just haven't been convinced (as yet) that pronunciation of 2/3 of the vowels and diphthongs in identical fashion is best suited to aural reinforcement as one learns vocabulary, provided we are not going to alter the spelling of all these words of our GNT.

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