Re: Finnish Erasmian and Aspect (was Fluency...)

From: yochanan bitan (
Date: Thu Jun 08 2000 - 02:36:02 EDT

TW KimmW


>Do you think using the
>Finnish Erasmian in an intro course would backfire later if people move
>into a more accurate historical pronunciation, or would it be a help in
>learning high register orthography?

Your question on Finnish Erasmian sounds like you are keeping EI distinct
from H, and both distinct from E; likewise U, from OU and from OI, etc.
Of course, you will overgenerate phonemes for Koine Greek, but that is
apparently your intention.
That works fine if they don't want to enjoy reading the papyri, nor sound
like they are part of flow of the Greek language. [It does raise an
opposite, parallel question about whether spoken French is easier to learn
than spoken Spanish because of a simpler spoken morphology? Most Americans
balk at the front rounded vowels and never get far, but I have to say
French was pleasant for getting started--pour aider quelqu'un a se

Would overgeneration of phonemes backfire?
Switching later always creates a mental block and point of inertia--witness
the responses on this list.
As for helping with high register orthography, this whole question seems
out of proportion to me and somewhat misguided. The amount of material that
students learn only-orally is negligible in 'living Koine' classes and is
non-existant in traditional classes. Over-differentiated orthographies
(from the synchronic phonemic viewpoint, which includes many modern
languages) are usually learned through reading, not artificial
pronunciations. There is already so much reading in any Greek curriculum
that spelling would remain a minor problem. And if writing, the problem
virtually disappears, since writing a language is where the orthography
really sinks in, again, learning as a result of real use of a language.
In any case, Koine Greek pales in comparison to the formidible orthography
of the language we are using here, English. And people learn that by
reading, reading, writing, reading, writing and then they still get it
wrong often enough to be amusing. English may an extreme example, I admit,
and many are the voices that call for orthographic change. That will come
some day.
Literate Greeks, on the other hand, were able to do quite nicely, despite
the lack of movable type and cheap books. Of course, Vaticanus does have
quite a few idiosyncratic EI and I switches. Shame! :-)

>> And I've become more acutely aware that aorist infinitives are the
>> thing to an abstract verb in Greek, despite 1st person present
>> dictionaries. ('fagei~n' is 'to eat' while esqi'ein is "to be eating"
>> simple 'to eat')

>Isn't this very much dependent on lexis (lexical aspect, perhaps even
>the individual lexeme): PISTEUSAI vs. PISTEUEIN (stative verb; I feel
>the present less marked)?

Yes. Good point. "Lexical aspect" is exactly the reason for most verbs: the
majority of verbs are dynamic and with that comes an 'aorist' simple verb.
PISTEUEIN is in a similar class as ECEIN vs. SXEIN and the PROSECEIN that I
mentioned. Even with 'stative/psychologicals', though, a surprising number
of aorists are used: TACUS EIS TO AKOUSAI (psychological) BRADUS EIS TO
LALHSAI, BRADUS EIS ORGHN (noun as most abstrac/stative, interesting,
no?).James 1.19. Despite this, I often say AKOUETE '(approx)~be listening'
to my class, though AKOUSATE '~listen' as well, partially depending on how
much I'm focused on something specific.
Other verbs are complex within their semantic domain: LEGEI, (EFH), EIPEN;
Thank you for the clarification.

Randall Buth

B-Greek home page:
You are currently subscribed to b-greek as: []
To unsubscribe, forward this message to
To subscribe, send a message to

This archive was generated by hypermail 2.1.4 : Sat Apr 20 2002 - 15:36:28 EDT