Why not modern? The Arabic analogy

From: yochanan bitan (ButhFam@compuserve.com)
Date: Thu Jun 08 2000 - 02:36:07 EDT

TOIS FILOIS MOU, CAIREIN --- The logic of much of this weeks'
discussion on not using reconstructed Attic for Koine (Allen), or more
often 'nice-try' Attic (Erasmian), might logically lead to another common
Why not use modern Greek pronunciation? The Greeks themselves do.

My argument for Emic Koine over Modern Greek can be paralleled by modern
Arabic, where educated speakers shift their pronunciation when
purposefully speaking 'high language'. Arabs still use and communicate with
their old language, or at least several mixtures of a modern, high form of
the old language, and they reflect this in their pronunciation. Now Greeks
read the old language with a modern pronunciation BUT they do NOT
communicate with it.
If they did, I think they might appreciate adopting an "Arab" practice and
adopt a different phonology, since Greek has a noticeably different
structure for the old dialect/language. For Emic Koine they only need to
restore U/OI as a rounded front vowel distinct from I, and then restore H
as a close mid vowel distinct from I and from E. Et voila the old language
and structure comes gleaming out like shined metal.
My own extremely limited survey has found Greek speakers appreciative of my
coming "almost all the way home" compared to most wayward 'ancient Greek
types'. (Those with the Demo CD might provide more feedback.)

A second argument for not using modern is that the Greek language itself
seems to testify that the modern pronunciation has gone too far and created
too many homonyms in the old language. Thus, HMEIS and UMEIS became
pronounced IMIS which resulted in two new words: EMEIS and ESEIS.
For me, that is insider testimony that we should draw the line at Emic
Koine, where these words were still distinguished.

Anyway, I'm off tonight, erev shavuot, H EPIFWSKOUSA THS PENTKOSTHS (H
EORTH TWN PENTHKONTA HMERWN) for a weekly Koine Greek class. Only three
hours, such a far cry from an intensive immersion. But challenging enough
to teach at a beginning level.

Randall Buth

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