Re: spoken koine greek

From: Antonio Eduardo Costa Pereira (costa@ufu.br)
Date: Fri Apr 16 1999 - 15:10:12 EDT


George Blaisdell wrote:

> Another imaginative yearning of mine blown into the wind! Is the
> biblical text then read in the churches pronounced in katharevouska?
> Even that would have to be better than our English attempts, or
> German, or French or any non-Greek attempt. I would sure like to hear
> John done by one of you guys!!

I would suggest that you go to an Orthodox Church in the United States
to see a cerimony. It is really beautiful! The songs (in a kind of Katharevousa
that is very close to Koine) are really impressive. Marriage cerimonies are
among the most beautiful, and I strongly recomend these. Orthodox marriage
celebrations are so beautiful that not few Brazilians of other affiliations
marry in So Paulo's Orthodox Church for the sake of the celebration!
If you visit Greece, don't forget to attend the Church's celebrations,
for the sake of the Greek, even if you don't agree with them.

As for your question, when priests read and speak, they use the modern
Katharevousa pronuntiation, as one would expect. That pronuntiation
changes very little from country to country. In Greece, it sounded to
my ears exactly as Dimotiki's pronuntiation. In this pronuntiation, I, H, OI,
U and EI sound alike, more or less like the "ee" of "feet", but shorter.
In the Diaspora (people of Greek descent who live outside Greece;
I suppose that there is a large Diaspora in the United States), there is
a small difference in sound between the U, the I and the H.
The reason is that the Diaspora kept the nineteen pronuntiation,
while the Greeks modernized it. The difference is so small that
foreigns hardly can notice it. In one of the recordings that I have
sent you, you can hear two small
sentences of Mark as read by a boy of the diaspora. On purpose,
the sentences contain the words "hHMAS" and "hUMAS". If
you pay attention, there is a very tiny difference between the two
words. The H of "hHMAS" sounds like the i of "sit". The U of
"hUMAS" sounds like the i of "sit", but pronounced by a Mexican
(according to Vernon, because I don't know how a Mexican
pronounces the i of "sit" :) Any way, when people read and
speak, they use the Katharevousa pronuntiation.

When people sing, they use a pronuntiation very close to
Classical pronuntiation. They do keep the difference between
long and short vowels, as you will notice if you go to a Church.
However, the differences between U, I, H disappear, even in
the diaspora (in my opinion, of course; it is very hard to
perceive small differences in pronuntiation). In Orthodox
Churches, you can buy recordings of monks singing in Koine.
Their singing sounds to me more or less like Gregorian Chant.

I am sure that you will find recordings in the United States,
a country where people can buy anything easily. Churchs (at least in Brazil)
sell them. Even if they don't, the priests always have a few
CDs of their own, and they will be happy to allow you to make
a copy. However, if you have difficulty in buying a CD in the
United States (which is unlikely), I can try to find one in
the Church of the Holy Cross, in So Paulo.

A. Costa

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