Fwd: Re: Bear with me, here. :-)

From: Carl W. Conrad (cwconrad@artsci.wustl.edu)
Date: Tue Oct 19 1999 - 06:02:53 EDT

Randall Buth sent this response on Sunday to me concerning Greek
pronunciation; although it was sent only to me and is a reply to my own
comments on list on the subject, I really think it was meant for the list
and deserves promulgation on the list. While I continue to be rather
skeptical just how much we can know for certain about pronunciation of
Greek at different times and places, I think that whenever I am confronted
with questions about pronunciation of Greek hereafter, I shall defer to
Randall for comment. I simply don't know of anyone else who has paid such
close attention to all the research on the matter.

>Date: Sun, 17 Oct 1999 14:10:59 -0400
>From: yochanan bitan <ButhFam@compuserve.com>
>Subject: Re: Bear with me, here. :-)
>Sender: yochanan bitan <ButhFam@compuserve.com>
>To: "Carl W. Conrad" <cwconrad@artsci.wustl.edu>
>(carl wrote:)
>>but I simply can't believe that the vowels and diphthongs of
>>fifth-century Attic can have already undergone that major "itacism"
>>Eta, Iota, Upsilon, EI, OI, and UI are pronounced more or less the
>>same--although the evidence of Egyptian papyri from the early Christian
>>does show that this pronounciation of the vowels was common at that time,
>>and this is attested also by NT MS confusion of hHMEIS and hUMEIS and
>>several other words which, though spelled differently, were pronounced
>i would agree.
>the complete modern system of vowels did not come into full use until
>mid-first millenium CE.
>>although the evidence of Egyptian papyri from the early Christian era
>>does show that this pronounciation of the vowels was common at that time,
>i would disagree. the papyri show that Eta, Iota, Upsilon, EI, OI, and UI
>were not pronounced same.
>EI and I were everywhere confused. OI and U were everywhere confused. But
>they were not confused with each other, nor was H confused with either set.
>umeis hmeis were not regularly confused in the pre- and early-christian
>centuries. the NT mss problems reflect a post 4th century phenomenon.
>there is one important distinction to add when evaluating the spelling
>evidence from papyri:
>random, scattered mistakes versus sweeping generalized mistakes. even
>'grammatical/historical' spelling cannot account for this.
>thus it is clear that by the beginning of the 2nd century BCE, already in
>the ptolemaic period, /ei/ and /i/ were not being distinguished. on the
>other hand, /h/ and /i/ is relatively rarely confused.
>i for one would love to assume that there were only 2 front vowel sounds
>for hellenistic and roman koine. (like spanish, modern greek and hebrew.)
>but hta simply held its own ground until around 2-4 century AD. so we need
>3 front vowel sounds for the koine: /i/, /h/ and /e/.
>>I am pretty well convinced that ancient Greek is NOT pronounced today in
>>most countries in a manner very much like that in which it was pronounced
>>in ancient Greek-speaking places, but I think there must have been at
>>as much variation from place to place as there is variation in the
>>pronunciation of English today in different places of the world. And
>>ultimately, I don't think it really matters, so long as one learns a
>>consistent pronunciation so that one can have the aural reinforcement of
>>hearing words and sentences to assist with learning the language--I think
>>that sounding out what one is learning to read is vital to successful
>>language learning.
>i would agree,
>-- with the added distinction of "emic" versus "etic".
>use a consistent pronunciation, and emically consistent with the
>hellenistic koine period.
>for example, the exact quality of / oi, u / is irrelevant.
>was it 'tighter' like a french /u/ or 'looser' like german umlaut u?
>variations certainly occurred, yet that is only an 'etic' distinction. and
>there were also, certainly, 2nd language speakers who obliterated the emic
>distinction, like some north-african french speakers today.
>but emically,
>the same pronunciation should be used for both /oi/ and /u/,
>and that pronunciation for 'oi' should be distinguished from /i,ei/,
>as well as from /ou/.
>in that way, a student will feel at home with the first century papyri that
>spelled 'son' as
>/ OIEIWi /, correctly getting the first sound /oi/, the second sound /ei/
>and remembering the grammatical dative /wi/.
>both erasmian and allen attempt an old attic pronunciation. but the
>language accelerated into sweeping changings during hellenistic/roman
>times. this leads to something widely attested and stable enough for the
>centuries 1st BCE to 3rd CE. neither modern nor erasm-allian.
>why not use a practical, emic pronunciation of those centuries?
>the above is not lightly proposed, since over the years i have had to use
>'american-erasmian' (erasmus minus 'y-psilon'), 'modern', and 'allen' at
>different times and in different places. i enjoyed the modern the most and
>used it for many years, but i see the value in a historical pronunciation
>that would override modern when reading hellenistic texts.
>homer is a different question. perhaps either allen or emic koine,
>depending on field of interest.
>randall buth

Carl W. Conrad
Department of Classics/Washington University
One Brookings Drive/St. Louis, MO, USA 63130/(314) 935-4018
Home: 7222 Colgate Ave./St. Louis, MO 63130/(314) 726-5649

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