importance of audio/oral

From: yochanan bitan (
Date: Tue Mar 14 2000 - 05:15:14 EST

<x-charset ISO-8859-1>The real question behind accents and pronunciation is
fluency and truly knowing a language.
How to?

Discussions about accents and vowels do not bring people to fluency, even
after thirty years.
Reading alone and studying "grammar/syntax" does not produce fluency, even
after thirty years, even if someone is a whiz at it. (Maybe students should
be told that a particular road they may measure their success by is a
deadend by itself?)

Audio and oral use of a language is absolutely vital for guaranteed
progress to fluency. And it is only within such a framework that
discussions on accent and phonology take on added importance.

It seems that learning a language within a communicative framework and with
hearing and speech is like building a three-dimensional structure, while
reading-only and concomittant discussions are two-dimensional. The audio
part is sometimes at 'right-angles' to what students might imagine. The
networking of the leftbrain actually plugs into the right brain and
develops another dimension physically. [Or better: the right brain plugs
into the left.]

Now to be sure, developing a 'threedimensional' Greek in a student takes a
different kind of training and is probably more work than building a
traditional 'twodimensional' Greek.
But the rewards are great. Memory is greatly enhanced, enjoyment can't be
compared, and ease of access to literature in enhanced. (I say this after
experience with several other languages that I learned AFTER I "learned"

And if someone is going to invest in this kind of training, then
discussions of phonemic accent and phonology are appropriate. In addition,
human language is such that fluently learning one can't be done alone.
Interesting, no?

It seems to have gone from 'tone' to 'stress' when the language dropped
phonemic vowel length. Phonemic vowel length seems to have been dropped
across the board during/at the end of the ptolemaic period so for roman
period koine 1cBCE-on we are talking stress. (Acoustically, 'stress'
actually includes a high tone on the stressed syllable, for the record.)
The phonemic system of any language would be recommended. For classical
that would mean Allen/Daitz. [Erasmus was an earlier, incorrect attempt and
incompletely implemented in the US, and Allen/Daitz would allow a more
intuitive grasp of the historical development of the language. If someone
is going to develop the third dimension of the language and invest massive
energy, the question returns: why would anyone want to learn some things
backwards on purpose?]
For Koine, that should/might mean the main dialect(s) from 2cBCE to 4cCE. A
student might as well learn the language according to its own phonemes.
(What forms and sounds did the speakers themselves think were the same and
which resonanated together? Again this affects intuitive grasp of the
language and the literature of a period.)
Does that mean that there should be no cross-over? No way. Someone FLUENT
in Allen/Daitz would probably be able to converse with someone FLUENT in
emic Koine. In any case, a starting assumption would be that a literate
person in the first century would read, write and communicate high level
Greek (approximately 'classical', e.g. Josephus) with an emic Koine
pronunication. A student should probably chose the dialect of preference
depending on majority of interest and reading. Much like someone learning
modern Arabic today.

The bottom line, though, is that a decision to work toward FLUENCY comes
first, because it is so different from what we normally do with Greek. Once
that decision is made a student can consider how they would like to sound
when the process is finished.
[A secondary problem is that a decision 'not to work toward fluency' at the
beginning becomes an additional obstacle later when someone decides that it
would have been preferable to work toward fluency. It doesn't seem to be
quite as bad when working with a language close to a known language or
mother-tongue but it is near disasterous for many that I see here
struggling with Hebrew.]

Randall Buth

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