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Questions on pronunciation in relation to Modern Greek....
In Living Koine Greek Forum
Diachronix
Jul 10, 2019
@timplanche Thanks for the input. That was very informative! I love the data you've compiled. I've been in a bit of a rabbit hole since posting my initial comment, trying to learn more about the topic. I've received feedback from some experts that I respect. And I've reviewed in detail the pertinent sections of volume 1 of Francis Gignac's "A Grammar of the Greek Papyri of the Roman and Byzantine Periods". Gignac documents many instances of "advanced forms of iotacism" throughout the corpus of Egyptian papyri from the Ptolomaic through the Roman and Byzantine periods. The papyri routinely conflate η, οι, υ, ι, ει in all sorts of phonetic environments (not just before labials) - more so in Byzantine times. He concludes that most of these kinds of anomalies likely arose due to interference from Coptic (which doesn't distinguish between these vowels). So, it seems like the spelling errors documented in Horrocks were actually quite common in Egypt. And what's observed in these instances is actually "Greek with a Coptic accent" - written either by Coptic speakers who acquired Greek as a foreign language or by native Greek speakers who had succumb to the influence of various forms of Coptic pronunciation. Mainstream Greek speakers themselves started having difficulty with the distinction in Byzantine times. Apparently, there was a great deal of cross-pollination. So I have to concede the point to you and BPK - that homophonization of ὑμᾶς and ἡμᾶς was not widespread in most of the Koine period. My point was NOT that it was widespread. It was simply that the iotacising process did begin early on. And the language did "tolerate" it for a period of time in certain places, possibly for several generations. But the formation of ἐσεῖς and ἐμεῖς certainly reflect a kind of intolerance on a global scale - though I don't imagine that this solution took hold immediately across the entire Greek speaking world. The new word for “you” is first attested in the 4th/5th century AD, with an eta (Horrocks, History of Greek, 2nd ed, p, 186). The first evidence we have of υ switching pronunciation to /i/ (in mainstream Greek) is as late as 1030 AD. Obviously, the Greek speakers in Egypt (native and non-native) had to cope with the ambiguity of ἱμεῖς somehow. Maybe they enunciated or devised other workarounds (like the way we deal with French in loan words. When Modern Greek speakers use the arcane expression "ουαί ημίν", they usually say "ουαί ημίν (με ήτα)" - "Woe unto us (with an eta) - not woe unto YOU". Obviously, there is simply not enough context in a phrase like that to permit the pronoun to stand on its own without further clarification. And there's the rub. I draw a lot of inspiration from the work of Christophe Rico. I think he's fantastic. I think his method is fantastic. And I think his textbook is fantastic. We need more Greek teachers like him, IMO. But watch what he says here in this video (the link is to the exact time marker 54:50): https://youtu.be/1n4LLBG2hgs?t=3290 He asserts that there are basically 3 different pronunciation systems (Modern Greek, Buth's Restored Koine and Erasmian - his preferred system). He notably conflates "Classical Pronunciation" with "Erasmian", which is a little annoying. He states that Modern Greek can not be "adapted" (for Koine Greek) for the "very good reason" that ὑμεῖς and ἡμεῖς are homophones. That seems to be the #1 reason given across the board (hence the current discussion). He mentions that there are some texts of Paul (but doesn't mention which books/sections), asserting that using Modern Greek pronunciation will result in "not understanding what he's talking about anymore". That's a bold statement and runs counter to the very notion Byzantine pronunciation's use as a liturgical language over the centuries (something that Rico reluctantly accepts). I imagine he's probably correct - there must be some passages in the Epistles that are like that. There are certainly plenty of textual variants that demonstrate this kind of confusion. But I just don't know what passages he's referring to specifically. I frequently listen to recording of the New Testament in Modern Greek pronunciation and I haven't yet come across any sections where I did not understand a pronoun. So Rico's firm position is that you simply can't communicate in Koine Greek using Modern Greek pronunciation (regardless of context), full stop. And that seems rather closed-minded to me. Rico acknowledges that Buth's Restored Koine system is "legitimate" (unlike Modern Greek, I suppose). But he rejects it as impractical, due to the merger of οι vs υ and αι vs ε, for example. He asserts that the challenges in spelling that may result from the ambiguities (i.e. οἱ ἄνθροποι being spelled as ὑ ἄνθροπυ, I guess?). Basically, it's the same objection raised for Modern Greek pronunciation, but without a concrete example like ἱμεῖς. I suspect that most people on this forum would certainly disagree with him on that. Ultimately, IMO, I think it boils down to the fact that it's simply not the system that he learned and old habits die hard.
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Questions on pronunciation in relation to Modern Greek....
In Living Koine Greek Forum
Diachronix
Jun 27, 2019
Thanks. I hope you don't mind my bringing up a few more key points. So, by that definition of a pronunciation system’s “working” - you’re totally right and we’re in agreement. It’s kind of like saying, "the only pronunciation system that ‘works’ for Harry Potter is ‘London English’ - because its the only pronunciation system with matching phonemes to the person who composed the text”. American pronunciation does not “work” at all for Harry Potter in that sense. And neither do the plethora of other British accents, or even other working-class forms of London English. However, in that sense, I don’t know how one can conclude that the Greek language of the Koine period simply could not “tolerate” Modern pronunciation (loosely defined) without exception. It’s obvious that the Greek language DID, in fact, tolerate a lot of the phonological ambiguity, as does Modern Greek today (resulting from iotacism and iticism). There are a plethora of homophones in Modern Greek (as there are in English) that are simply “tolerated” by native speakers. As a case in point, see section 4.11.2 of Geoffrey Horrocks’ 'Greek, A History of the Language and its Speakers', where he describes the eventual merger of ‘classical’ /oi/ with /y/, noting that οι and υ are never confused in his sample text on papyrus from 152 BC, implying that, for the speaker who composed the text, “οι”, still represented an intermediate stage in the development from [oi], namely [ø]. "On the other hand the word for ‘us’ (normally ἡμᾶς) is spelled ὑμᾶς, the word for ‘you’. Since this is a not uncommon error in the papyri of the period, it seems that in certain circumstances… and/or in certain words of high frequency (e.g. personal pronouns) changes had already gone through that otherwise took effect much later. Thus despite the absence of confusion between υ and η elsewhere, it seems that in these words at least both letters represented the same sound, namely [i], and that the two pronounce were therefore homophonous. This naturally lead to the eventual replacement of the classical forms." Horrocks goes on to describe the circumstances for the gradual shift from η and υ to ι during the “Koine” period, noting the absence of ε/αι confusion in Egyptian Koine (implying that some Egyptians were a little late to the party). He then cites a papyrus from 154 BC that literally substitutes ἱμεῖν for ὑμῖν, while exhibiting αι/ε confusion (rendering "εἰδῆται" for εἰδῆτε). Lastly, at the end of this section, he notes the following: “Many of the changes first attested in the private documents of the moderately educated eventually begin to make a sporadic appearance in official documents too. But if they do appear in such texts, there is often a very considerable time lag in matters of grammar and lexicon, and as far as spelling is concerned we should never forget that the aim of all who composed official texts throughout the history of Greek was to use the classical orthography correctly." I completely understand why so many people harp on the challenges of using Modern Greek pronunciation in general, especially for older dialects. But using everyone's favorite go-to example of ambiguity (ἡμείς vs ὑμείς) as proof that Modern Greek pronunciation CAN NOT or SHOULD NOT be used is problematic, because this shift is attested well before the common era. And the Modern Greek personal pronouns did not arise in this period as an immediate reaction to the change. So one must accept the fact that, even though Modern Greek adapted to the ambiguity over time by forming new pronouns, there was certainly a VERY long span of time (the Byzantine period) during which native speakers went about their lives speaking in a variety of registers of Koine while using what we would consider to be the emerging “Modern” pronunciation. And the language “tolerated” it just fine for generations prior to the various adaptations that we see in Standard Modern Greek.
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Questions on pronunciation in relation to Modern Greek....
In Living Koine Greek Forum
Diachronix
Jun 25, 2019
You raise some excellent points. IMO, one can safely ignore criticism from Greeks, since most of them are quite uninformed on the topic of historical pronunciation. As the Greeks say, "it's all Chinese" to them ;) One can certainly argue for the merits of various pronunciation systems in Greek pedagogy, and other applications. But it seems problematic to over-extend those arguments to some kind of universal prescription for EVERYONE (outside of forums like these) - i.e. declaring by fiat that "a modern pronunciation will not work", full stop. Ultimately, it should boil down to the subjective personal preferences of individuals or groups that employ a particular method for a particular purpose. If one is going to make a universal prescription for what pronunciation system SHOULD be used by everyone, I fail to grasp why an exception should be made for Greeks (special pleading). Either their pronunciation works or it doesn't work (whatever "work" means). And if it doesn't work now, then presumably it didn't work throughout the Byzantine and Ottoman periods of Greek history (reductio ad absurdum). And, by extension, it then doesn't work for recitation of the Lord's Prayer, or the Nicene Creed, or any text regularly read and recited in the Greek Orthodox liturgy. So, if some reasonable level of flexibility is extended to the Greeks, to allow for their age-old practice that conforms to their native language, why should this leniency NOT be extended to non-native speakers of Modern Greek, for example? What if someone who doesn't speak wants to learn Biblical Greek in an Eastern Orthodox seminary? What if someone has Greek parents? Or what if someone simply prefers the Modern Greek system for some other personal reason? Where does one draw the line and arbitrate objectively between the various options available, declaring who is right and who is wrong? I know I'm never going to quell the pronunciation debate. And I'm probably inviting a lot of criticism on this forum of like-minded people. But I wish a mutual understanding could be reached that this is not black-and-white issue that boils down to right vs wrong. I think people should be free to use whatever pronunciation they prefer, and find to be effective, based on individual circumstances. If Erasmian floats your boat, so be it. If you want to speak Greek with a Texan twang and refuse to try to roll your R's, who cares? I certainly don't denigrate anyone's personal choice, based on my own subjective aesthetic preferences.
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New Testament audio
In Living Koine Greek Forum
Diachronix
May 24, 2019
You don't need to stream YouTube audio for this. The only advantage I see in that is that the text cycles with the audio - if you want to read along. In that cast, I prefer to have the text scrolling up like in this playlist: https://youtu.be/Pa8i-F04PKQ That recording is of a native speaker (Apostolos Vavylis) who reads briskly and articulately. He's much better than the reader linked further up the chain, IMO. I hope I'm not committing some kind of blasphemy on this forum by recommending resources that use Ecclesiastical (Reuchlinian/Modern) Greek Pronunciation. But here you go: I think your best option is the Bible.is app (or website) and select the "Ancient 1904 Ecumenical Patriarchal Text" version of the NT. That's the same version as the one I linked above. You can press play on the audio with the text pulled up (and ignore the text if you just want to listen). You can download it for later offline listening. The text does not scroll with the audio, unfortunately. So you have to scroll manually and you can easily lose your place. You can also access that version through the iTunes store via Podcast (Faith Comes Through Hearing). But I've had issues trying to keep those versions saved to my device for offline listening. I don't use it anymore. Bible.is now offers the "OT: Septuaginta LXX NT: Antoniades Patriarchal Edition", which is a new addition. This version has OT and NT. But, as far as I can tell, this NT audio is the same as the ones mentioned above. So selecting this version gives you access to the whole bible in Koine Greek. You can also order this NT audio on CD (MP3 format) through the Hellenic Bible Society's website: https://www.greekbibles.org/index.php?id_product=41&controller=product&id_lang=1 This is a box set of the OT & NT in Today's Greek Version 2013 edition (the "authorized" Modern Greek translation). But the set also contains 1 CD with the 1904 Antoniadis (Patriarchal Text) version mentioned above. This may be useful if you want to rip the MP3 files to your personal hard drive. Pulling the MP3s from your iTunes folder may or may not work for you, if you want to export those files to another listening platform. But otherwise, if you have no use for the Modern Greek audio, you probably don't need the CDs at all. It does not seem like the HBS offers the above-mentioned LXX version on CD yet. But I think Bible.is can be your one-stop-shop for all of the above.
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