Re: Accent marks

From: Michael Haggett (
Date: Mon Mar 13 2000 - 14:05:16 EST

<x-charset iso-8859-1>I would like to present a counter to a view that has been expressed in this
thread and in the past ... that accents and other diacritical marks make
Greek easier.

My own perspective has been to use Greek without any accents for the last
twenty years. I decided within a couple of years of first learning Greek
that the whole accentuation system was inessential, and that the peculiar
idea that *stress* should fall on the accented syllable, irrespective of the
accent's shape, bizarre. I don't mean any offence by this, only that it
defies any logic: why have three accents if they all indicate the same

However the purpose of this post isn't to argue a point over pitch versus
stress accentuation, nor to argue a particular pronunciation system. It is
only to say that, in my experience, reading (and pronouncing) the NT and
other Greek texts without accentuation ... and without smooth (but not
rough) breathings, punctuation, differentiation of upper and lower case, and
even iota subscripts, for that matter ... is actually very easy indeed. It
just takes a little getting used to if you've been accustomed to something
different - which is simply a matter of modern (one thousand year old)
convention, not substance.

Not only is this a more faithful representation of the texts themselves, it
is also, I maintain, much easier for students to learn NT Greek without
these encumbrances. A student learns right from the outset that, for
example, the difference between a definite article and relative pronoun, or
a present continuous and a future simple ... or a nominative and a dative,
or a statement and a question, is ALWAYS to be determined from the context
rather than the accentuation or punctuation of a modern printed edition.
It produces a far more healthy attitude to the way one approaches the text.

I would then go on to say that if it is unnecessary to use accents at the
beginning ... why on earth should they be added later, when the student is
more advanced, as some contributors have advocated. Why add a pair of
"kiddie-wheel" stabilisers to a bike when you've already learned to ride it?
They would only get in the way, being:

... 's 'irrlevant 's 'f ' tred t 'accntuate th 'nglish 'f ths

Michael Haggett

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