Greek Pronunciation IPA

From: yochanan bitan (
Date: Sat Feb 13 1999 - 09:03:50 EST

(dale wrote:)
> I am not very impressed with the English equivalent pronunciations
> that I was taught when I first began to study Greek.
> I hope that someone out there can give me
> (or knows where I can find one) a more accurate guide based on IPA.

ascii fonts in email don't have IPA symbols, but you can follow

in general on consonants:
the old attic greek used plosives, divided between an aspirated set and
thus, tau and teta were both plosives/stops but teta was aspirated.

during hellenistic times the aspirated distinction moved towards
it is difficult to place when and where, and what were the immediate stages
[e.g. intervocalic fricatives].

this affected all of the consonants veta, ghamma, dhelta, theta, fi, xi.

e.g. we find flavius spelled FLABIOS and FLAOUIOS. that shows something
approaching 'veta' but it is only intervocalic.

a recommendation for hellenistic: use the 'modern' fricative forms, even if
we don't know exactly when and where each developped. it became/was a real
pronunciation system.

on vowels: the papyri show the following fairly widespread:
Hta (probably mid-front vowel)
AI=E (probably lower than Hta)
OU (high,back, rounded)
OI=U (high,front, rounded)

[imagine a letter to a son spelled: OIEIWI ! a first century example is
in the loeb papyri volume (that's hUIWi in b-greek system)]

of course, by mid-first millenium HTA and then OI/U joined EI/I for the
modern greek (high, front, unrounded 'i')

randall buth

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