Re: Phonemic?-Fantin (was Fluency...)

From: yochanan bitan (
Date: Sun Jun 11 2000 - 03:15:05 EDT

Fantin egrayen
(Grebe egrayen)
>> >What is Emic Koine? Koine from an insider's viewpoint? If so what
>> >exactly does that mean.
>Radall Buth responds:
>> That is a fair question. It means Koine Greek, using a pronunciation
>> that reflects the PHONEMIC structure of the standard/majority/common
>> language of the period. (It does not mean exactly reproducing the
>> sound of any one particular dialect or speaker.) The phonemic structure
>> the system of distinctive sound-units that a speaker uses in producing
>> or in deciphering words. Thus, for general Roman-period,
>> Koine that means one sound-unit [i] for the graphic symbols EI and I.
>> Another sound-unit [y] for the graphic symbols U and OI, etc.

(Fantin EGRAYEN)
>I was planning to write off list but when you mentioned “phonemic” I
>I would respond to the list. However, if you feel we are getting too far
>off-topic, please feel free to respond off-list. First of all, I am
>impressed with the demo CD and look forward to the two CD set. This is
>done with helpful accompanying documentation. And quite frankly, it is
>fun to listen to.
>I have a question about the “emic” notion and especially about
>sound units”. Your use of the term(s) seems different than that which I
>accustomed. Your examples above suggest that each phonemic sound (you
>them phonemes in the next sentence--not quoted here), there is only one
>sound. I acknowledge that much more can be said here and you did not
>further discussion at this point. In fact, without your examples, I may
>assumed the points I make below (therefore. forgive me if I am just asking

>the obvious--your statement is important: “It does not mean exactly
>In my understanding, a phoneme is really not a sound at all but an
>abstraction demonstrating complementary distribution of (phonetic)
>Thus, the final sound (forgive my phonetic transcription due to lack of
>symbols) in the two words: bats [bats] and bags [bagz] can be analyzed as
>same phoneme, /s/. after voiceless stops, this phoneme is realized by the

>voiceless [s] but after voiced stops, it is realized by voiced [z]. Thus,

>[s] and [z] (in this case) are co-allophones of the same phoneme /s/.
>Environment determines which sound expresses the phoneme. Of course, this
>not the limit of phonemic analysis.
. . .
>Joe Fantin
>Dallas and Sheffield

You are partially on track with phonemic. Your example of [s] and [z]
plural also shows how two different phonemes /s/ and /z/ can be neutralized
in some environments. Others used to call this a 'morphophoneme'. But back
to GreeK:

Your sense of question probably stems from the different direction of the
processes involved in Koine Greek and problem solving given to beginning
linguistics classes. E.g. The [ph] sound in English 'pill' is aspirated and
different from the [p] in English 'spill'. Yet they function as the same
abstract phonemic unit /p/.
     Ancient Greek only left phonemes around for us (graphemes, if you
will), which hide the underlying fluctuations in qualities that often occur
in different environments, say vowels in open syllalbes, closed syllables,
intervocalic, contingient to labial consonants, etc. (There was, of course,
a lot of ancient dialectical fluctuation--we are speaking 'standard 403BCE
Athenian here') However, in the post Alexandrian period with the phasing
out of length in the language and its wide popularity, several of the
phonemic vowels collapsed/merged and produced single phonemic units.
     Consequently, Koine Greek had more graphic symbols than phonemes. And
that is what they lived with (happily?--why not?--the writing seems fairly
stable) for hundreds of years until in the middle of the first millenium CE
further reductions produced the modern vowels, which resulted in another
shove toward the modern language.

All you need to do is pick up a few papyri letters and start reading in
order to appreciate what was going on in Koine.

Randall Buth
PS: please turn off 'htm' or any kind of 'echo' document when you send
email messages.

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