[b-greek] re: Greek accents in III - II cent. BC

From: yochanan bitan (ButhFam@compuserve.com)
Date: Fri Nov 03 2000 - 14:33:48 EST

The message below was written before seeing Clay's musings.
(as for Jerusalem, life goes on as normal, except for not being able to
visit westbank areas. and we feel safer than when visiting outside of
The whole situation brings home the centrality of

Randall Buth
========message follows --->

an interesting question:

Desnitsky HRWTHSEN:
>Does any of you know of any work that aims at reconstituing actual
>pronounciation of Greek accents in III - II centuries BC, i.e. about the
>time when LXX was composed

The problem is that the post-Alexander, ptolemaic Koine period is exactly
the time when the system collapsed on itself.
(Clayton mentioned Stephen Daitz' tapes and he is right that Daitz aims at
the fifth century BCE. )

The old system had length distinctions in the vowels and allowed a
distinction between 'high tone' and 'high-falling' tone. When the length
distinction disappeared, the phonetic base for the accents/tones fell away
(both 'high' and 'highfalling' became 'high') and certain long vowel//short
vowel distinctions fell together as well.
That means O-mikron fell together with W-mega and certain dipthongs and
long vowels rearranged themselves and fell together: AI with E, OI with U
psilon, and EI with I.
Apparently an educated class kept the older distinctions alive at least
through the 2nd century BCE, and can be assumed to underlay the LXX. But
popular speech had already shifted throughout the Hellenistic world of the
2nd century BCE and led to the accent and vowel leveling that would stay
fairly consistent throughout the roman Koine period.
The Greek Demo CD I mentioned last June only reconstructs a Roman Koine,
not a Ptolemaic one. Write me offlist if interested.

Randall Buth
Jerusalem University College

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