Pronunciation of Consecutive Identical Vowel Sounds

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Jesse Goulet
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Joined: October 15th, 2011, 12:48 pm

Pronunciation of Consecutive Identical Vowel Sounds

Post by Jesse Goulet »

I've been practicing Buth's pronunciation for a few months now and find it both fun and more realistic than the Erasmian I was taught. However, I feel that Buth hasn't dealt with instances where a word that ends with a vowel is followed by a word that begins with the same vowel or same vowel sound. Some examples:

*1 John 1:5: "Καὶ ἔστιν αὕτη ἡ ἀγγελία . . . "

*1 John 1:6: ". . . αὐτοῦ καὶ ἐν τῷ σκότει . . ."

*1 John 1:7: " ἐὰν δὲ ἐν τῷ . . ."

*1 John 1:9: " . . . καὶ δίκαιος ἵνα ἀφῇ ἡμῖν . . ."

*1 Jogn 1:9 again (the next word): " . . . ἵνα ἀφῇ ἡμῖν τὰς . . ."

I ask because I find that when you try to just go on and pronounce in the most natural way that it sounds like you are slurring your speech because of drinking too much alcohol. Take 1 John 1:5 for example: "ke esteen awftayyyy awngeleeaw"

Or 1 John 1:9: "eenawwwwwwftayyyyyyymeen."

It sounds too sloppy.

According to Modern Greek pronunciation, many words that are constructed this way omit the final vowel of the first word, so as to create "elision" in its pronunciation to create a smoother sound. For example: "θα ἀγοράσω" is actually pronounced as "θ' ἀγοράσω".

In addition, Modern Greek also elides vowels in this manner even when the two linking vowels are different. For example: "το εἰπα" is pronounced as "τ' πα".

More examples can be found at 5:13ff from the video: ... plpp_video

But we are only taught that elision occurs like this for prepositions that end with a vowel when they are followed by a word that begins with a vowel. I'm wondering if elision in pronunciation occurred like this in Koine Greek as well.
Jonathan Robie
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RE: Pronunciation of Consecutive Identical Vowel Sounds

Post by Jonathan Robie »

No response from the Buth camp?
ἐξίσταντο δὲ πάντες καὶ διηποροῦντο, ἄλλος πρὸς ἄλλον λέγοντες, τί θέλει τοῦτο εἶναι;
Stephen Carlson
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RE: Pronunciation of Consecutive Identical Vowel Sounds

Post by Stephen Carlson »

I'm not in the Buth camp, so take this for what it's worth.

I believe that the spoken language betrays considerable variation in these contexts, particularly when speech is fast and fluid, especially compared to the written language. Modern Greek appears to have standardize some of these as stated in the video. I would expect careful speakers of Koine, especially when they slow their speech down, to perform just the elisions reflected in the manuscripts, but in rapid, spontaneous speech there would be more diversity.

Stephen C. Carlson, Ph.D.
Melbourne, Australia
Wayne Kirk
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Re: Pronunciation of Consecutive Identical Vowel Sounds

Post by Wayne Kirk »


The phenomenon of consecutive beginning-ending vowel sounds is an oddity in a language otherwise concerned with euphony. I too have began using Randall Buth's pronunciation. Whenever I've encountered the vowel issue, I insert a short pause. It does break the cadence of speech, but at least I don't sound inebriated. Like Jonathan, I'd also be interested in hearing Randall's take on the issue.
Louis L Sorenson
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Re: Pronunciation of Consecutive Identical Vowel Sounds

Post by Louis L Sorenson »

[Edit] I changed the title of this subject to more accurately reflect the content of this post. I am a follower of Buth's "Restored Koine" or "Imperial Koine" pronunciation. I'm an American, and don't always pronounce my υ and οι as [ÿ], but I try. I use Buth's pronunciation scheme becuase it is the closest to NT pronunciation that you can get. I have no desire to use spell-talk, as I am involved in the communicative approach to teaching ancient Greek.

I listened to Buth's audio of the 1st John passages that you cited. You are struggling with two things.

First, Buth's audio is read at conversational speed; but in some instances he reads a little slower, or will speak two words which could have been pronounced as a single word (using elision if spoken faster) as two words, sometimes for emphasis. When someone is speaking at a conversational speed, they do not insert pauses between the words. So in some cases, you are hearing a continuation of the vowel from one word to the next with no pause. In written poetry (and songs), there is usually an apostrophe marking the elision, e.g. ἐὰν δ' ἐν = ἐὰν δὲ ἐν (1 Jn 1.7). That's how Buth reads 1 Jn 1.7. One person's reading of 1 Jn 1.7 may have elision, another, slower reader who pauses on every word, would have no eliding of vowels.

When dissimilar vowel are pronounced in succesion: e.g. φωνὴ ἐβόησεν, your mind ignores the transition. The change from one vowel to the next is a sort of glide sound - one continual range of vowel sounds with some intermediary pronunciation which does not approximate either vowel η or ε. But your mind/ears hear the two distinct phonemes.

In English, as I believe happens in Greek, if someone pauses quickly between words, they are actually pronouncing a glottal stop [denoted by the IPA character [?] (without the dot). (In English, the feature is represented, for example, by the hyphen in uh-oh! ) cf. Wikipedia: The glottal stop is not a written consonant in English, but it is a consonant that is spoken (and unwritten). Now one could just stop pronouncing a vowel, but that takes a little longer than using a glottal stop. You may be hearing a little of both.

In some instances, e.g. *1 John 1:6: ". . . αὐτοῦ καὶ ἐν τῷ σκότει, for clarity there is a slight pause (or glottal stop) happening between [kε] and [εn], so as to make the phrase more clear. This pause can be quick (which requires a glottal stop - or some form of a glottal stop) or slower (simply letting the airflow stop).

I would say that Buth uses a glottal stop in 1 Jn 1.1 καὶ αἱ χεῖρες ἡμῶν.

Secondly, The point is that people do not realize how they pronounce their own language. And so variations, which are not phonemic [meaning associated differences] are ignored and heard as being the same sound. You wrote
It sounds too sloppy.

Have you ever closely listened to a recording of yourself in English? In English, we enunciate the letters L, T, K, etc. differently, but we hear them as the same phoneme. If you ask the normal person on the street if there is a difference in pronunciation, they would say "No way man, I pronounce every letter the same all the time." But when you repeatedly listen to any audio, in any language, you will start hearing variations of which you were not originally aware existed. What you are struggling with is the fuzziness that happens in spoken language. The more you listen to Greek audio, the less this will be a concern.
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Re: Pronunciation of Consecutive Identical Vowel Sounds

Post by RandallButh »

Most things will depend on your speaking speed. At first you may want to separate words and this may result in a lengthened vowel (the time takes longer) or a change in pitch or loudness, or a 'glottal stop'. At some point a person will start to speak without consciously enunciating a word break. This should sound natural and will be clear to another fluent speaker.

I wrote a blog last week about a similar phenomenon in Hebrew from BarKochba 1900 years ago compared to today. ... -language/. Check it out.

Now about camping, Stephen should drop by our camp when some buffalo steaks are over sweet-burning wood. His comments about expecting some natural variation in elision in real environments would reflect common sense.
Mike Noel
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Re: Pronunciation of Consecutive Identical Vowel Sounds

Post by Mike Noel »

Would you expect the glottal stop phenomenon to occur within a single word? For example ἵει-- 3rd person singular imperfect active ἵημι. Would that be "hee-ee" or "heeee" or just "hee"?
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Re: Pronunciation of Consecutive Identical Vowel Sounds

Post by klriley »

In classical Greek there would have been a /j/ between the two vowels. It is a very common solution in many languages. While never written, there is enough evidence to believe /w/ and /y/ survived at least until Koiné times - and /w/ has survived as /v/ or /f/ into modern Greek. So I would suspect 'ee-yee' was a common pronunciation, just as 'hee-yey' would have been in earlier Greek.
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Re: Pronunciation of Consecutive Identical Vowel Sounds

Post by RandallButh »

I think that Kevin is probably correct on a word like καθίει 'he was dropping something'. Basically, the speaker is going to be giving a two-syllable pulse to the sound and a 'closer' articulation between the syllables would be expected. A 'closer' articulation refers to getting closer to the roof of the mouth, also called an 'approximant' in phonetics, a 'y' in common English.

We have occasional evidence of this in the papyri. For example, in the phonology paper I've posted on line there is a word
Babatha 21.17, 25 δια ενγυιου διὰ ἐγγύου ‘by guarantor’ (130CE)
While this is not an identical vowel and shows the 'front' umlaut-u pronunciation of υ-ψιλον, it also demonstrates an intrasyllabic glide, an English 'y'.

Of course, such situations in a langauge can be called a potential weak spot where something is likely to change or give way. Elision is one phenomenon where length was not appreciated and dealt with. Another common solution is to change the morphology.
The verb ἵημι ἱέναι was not commonly used in the imperfect active. Instead, we have ἵετο 'was going, sending oneself' (>ἱέναι) taking on some of the meaning of another word ᾔει 'was going' (>ἰέναι). It is not surprising that both verbs developed restricted patterns of use in the Koine period, where the 'h' was dropping out of dialects (or one could say that Ionic was winning the day). ιημι 'send' was mainly used in compounds. εἶμι 'go' was not used aoristically.

Nevertheless, with καθιέναι 'to drop', both καθίει he was dropping' and καθῆκε 'he dropped' were in use, so the first one probably had a very slight 'y' glide: kathiyi.
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