Re: Greek Pronunciation

From: yochanan bitan (
Date: Wed Sep 09 1998 - 20:05:55 EDT

for another angle on the classic/modern question:
 the papyri and inscriptions are fairly revealing about the broad scope of
the vowels from 200 BCE to 200 CE. the following lines are 'emic' from line
to line, that is, kept distinctive by speakers/writers. within each line
itself the symbols are equivalent sounds:

I = EI (=modern)
   H (not modern)
E = AI (=modern)
   A "
O = W "
  OU "
U = OI (not modern,=french u)

That is manifestly not the attic seven vowel system, nor the modern five
vowel system.
[i would tentatively date the beginning of the full shift of I=EI=H=U=OI to
the 4-5 century CE.]
(on caragounis, i did see the article in a library but did not have the
time to study it and cannot give a fair appraisal, sorry.)
the hellenistic vowels, with EI being different from H, preserve many
indicative/subjunctive distinctions not available to 'american seminary'
dialect. On the other hand a W/O distinction is lost.
i would recommend the above vowels for those interested in some
authenticity as well as ease in reading papyri and NT manuscripts.
[i teach hellenistic greek orally with monolingual-immersion/TPR and
audio-lingual approaches. having sifted through classical, both reformed
and traditional, and modern pronunciations and some vociferous arguments of
quite a few, i finally decided to go hellenistic/koine (as above), not a
bad 'compromise'.]

randall buth

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