Omega vs. Omicron

From: clayton stirling bartholomew (
Date: Mon Jun 05 2000 - 14:44:01 EDT

Randall Buth in his notes on the Emic Greek system of pronunciation that
come with his DemoCD suggests that we drop the sound distinction
between W and O. Buth argues that the apparent confusion of these vowels
beginning in the early Roman period is sufficient evidence that the Emic
distinction between these vowels had disappeared. In other words there was
no longer any meaning attached to the distinction between the sounds of W/O.

It hardly seems necessary to review the morphology of verbs and substantives
to illustrate that traditional grammarians have assigned a meaningful
distinction to O/W in NT Greek morphology. The loss of this distinction
would raise the general level of polysemy in the NT morphological system
significantly. In other words we would have more ambiguous forms.

I wonder if the confusion O/W in the texts starting in the early Roman
period is really sufficient evidence to conclude that the meaning
distinction had ceased to exist? When I talk to my old friend who was born
and raised in rural Alabama his use of vowels blurs some distinctions that
are crucial to my understanding of North Western US English and real
substantive loss of meaning takes place which results in constant requests
for clarification.

Koine Greek like English was an international language and for that reason
there would have been a significant geographical diversity in the way the
language was vocalized. This would have resulted in loss of distinction in
some regions which could have caused real substantive loss of meaning in
other regions.

I am certain that Randall Buth has done massive research on this subject and
I am not questioning his authority. I am just asking what seems to me an
obvious question.

Departing now from the historical question, what about the pragmatic
ramifications of removing the distinction between O/W? Is it really going to
help us understand NT Greek better to raise the level of polysemy in the
morphological system? I suspect not. Even if we could make an air tight case
that O/W were one and the same sound in the Koine period, the ramifications
in terms of rethinking certain aspects of the morphological system seem to
be a high price to pay for historical correctness.

This pragmatic issue will have some force with people outside of academia
who are just trying to learn enough of the language to do respectable
exegesis. The historical question will perhaps carry more weight with
professional scholars.

I am just going to throw this flaming bottle out the window and keep driving
since this post contains more or less all I have to say on the topic.



Clayton Stirling Bartholomew
Three Tree Point
P.O. Box 255 Seahurst WA 98062

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