Re: Question?prnnc

From: Micheal Palmer (
Date: Tue Feb 02 1999 - 23:14:04 EST

This post comes in two parts: I. Reconstructed Attic Pronunciation II.
Greek Pronunciation in the Hellenistic/Roman Period. If you are not
interested in Attic, just scroll down until you see the second heading.

I. Reconstructed Attic Pronunciation

At 9:23 AM -0000 1/29/99, yochanan bitan (Randall Buth?) wrote in response
to my brief comment on 'reconstructed' (I meant 'restored') Attic

>michael--how many schools use 'reconstructed' attic? by that i mean HTA as
>"ae" in english 'bat', w-mega as o in 'note' and o-mikron as 'au' in

Well, ... this is not what I meant by the reconstructed pronunciation. I
meant the pronunciation that is the result of work like that seen in W.
Sidney Allen's _Vox Graeca: A Guide to the Pronunciation of Classical
Greek_. (See especially pages 177-179 of the third edition-1988.)

Distinctions of vowel length are truly distinctions of *duration* (length
of time it takes to say them). They are distinctions of quantity, not
quality of sound. OMEGA and OMICRON, for example, are pronounced
identically except that it takes twice as long to say OMEGA as it does to

HTA is pronounced like the first part of the diphthong in "bait", but with
longer duration.

THETA is identical to TAU except for the addition of an aspiration (similar
to the difference between the T in "Top" and the one in "sTop"). PHI is
pronounced like PI except for the addition of an aspiration (similar to the
difference between the P in "Pit" and the one in "sPit").

ZETA is pronounced zd, not dz.

As to how many schools use the restored Attic pronunciation, I don't know.
It is used (although with serious accomodation to the shortcomings of
English speakers :-) in Balme and Lawall's _ATHENAZE: An Introduction to
Ancient Greek," and that textbook is used fairly widely both in the US and
in Europe for teaching Attic Greek. It is what I am using at NC State.

For those interested in *hearing* the reconstructed Attic pronunciation, it
is available on tape: Stephen G. Daitz, _The Pronunciation and Reading of
Ancient Greek: A Practical Guide_. Daitz uses the pitch accents (which I do
not use).

II. Greek Pronunciation in the Hellenistic/Roman Period

At 9:23 AM -0000 1/29/99, yochanan bitan (Randall Buth?) wrote about his
own pronunciation for Roman-age Hellenistic Greek:

>however, i dropped the modern greek vowels when i started teaching koine
>greek as a living language in the classroom. rather than introduce
>'english' vowels, the i now use a roman-age hellenistic:
>Hta as distinct from i (close to 'e' of 'they'),
>ai=e, ('bet')
>oi=u (french u)
>i would recommend that for anyone majoring with post-alexander,
>pre-byzantine greek, ie. most interested in nt, early church fathers,
>papyri et al.
>randall buth

I applaud your effort to do this. Not many people (to my knowledge) are
going to the trouble to be this authentic. I have not made that move in
teaching koine, but I would like to try it at some point in the future. I
can see real value in it. It is definitely preferable to both Erasmian and
Modern pronunciation.

I use Modern pronunciation for the Hellenistic (New Testament) period
simply because it is what I know best and it works. The actual
pronunciation in that period probably varied widely from one region to
another, especially among uneducated speakers, but the system you outline
above would be pretty close to that of educated speakers in most major
cities. The differences between this and Attic pronunciation are very
large, while the differences from Modern Greek pronunciation are
comparatively small.

Micheal W. Palmer
North Carolina State University
Philosophy and Religion (New Testament)
Foreign Languages (Ancient Greek)

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