[b-greek] Re: A question about koine pronunciation

From: Carl W. Conrad (cwconrad@artsci.wustl.edu)
Date: Thu Nov 09 2000 - 16:01:00 EST

At 1:20 PM -0600 11/9/00, Marilyn Phemister wrote:
>Hi People,
>I have acquired Zodhiates' tapes of the Greek New Testament, which is read
>with a modern Greek pronunciation. I'm listening to it, but it will take a
>long time before I can understand it, I would rather have the pronunciation
>taught in textbooks for koine. It looks like I will have to make my own.
>There is one problem. There are some differences in how the pronunciation
>of koine is presented. I have the Parson's Greek tutor, which surprised me
>by treating the first letter in PNEUMA as a silent letter. Some textbooks
>don't help the student a bit with this, and one I found says that no Greek
>letters are silent. So I have been pronouncing the first letter of such
>words as PNEUMA of PNEUMATOS. Leaving it silent seems to me like giving
>Greek an English pronunciation. THEOS is pronounced with a break, like
>THE-OS, which I have a difficult time accepting as correct.
>If I can learn the correct way of pronouncing "pneuma" and "theos" I think
>I will be ready to begin recording.

I do have a somewhat irreverent and very pragmatic approach to this
problem; the primary reason for vocalizing Ancient Greek is to add the
aural reinforcement to the visual and intellectual recognition of words: to
HEAR a word one is becoming intimately familiar with contributes immensely
to making it a concrete experience of physical reality, not just the
printed symbol on the page. But to endeavor to attain THE SINGLE RIGHT
pronunciation of ancient Greek is of some questionable degree of value. I
personally think it's better to learn a pronunciation that distinguishes,
where possible, the way that roughly similar consonants, vowels and
diphthongs are pronounced. I believe it probable that the Greek of the era
of the composition of the NT was pronounced much more like modern Greek
than like any of the schemes offered for pronunciation of classical Attic,
but the phenomenon of "itacism" has reduced U, I, EI, H, OI to a
scarcely-distinguishable vowel sound; I think that the reinforcement of
sound in learning Greek is better enhanced by using even an arbitrary
pronunciation that distinguishes the vowel sounds.


Carl W. Conrad
Department of Classics/Washington University
One Brookings Drive/St. Louis, MO, USA 63130/(314) 935-4018
Home: 7222 Colgate Ave./St. Louis, MO 63130/(314) 726-5649

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