Research request to Ward Powers

B. Ward Powers bwpowers at
Mon Aug 13 09:46:00 EDT 2001

At 07:13 AM 010813 -0400, Randall Buth wrote:
>shalom Ward,
>Could help me with an intriguing statement of yours?
> >I would of course concur that
> >the basic form of a language (any language) is the spoken form. It
> >the written form, and writing it down is simply an attempt to represent
> >and preserve the spoken words.
> >
> >But for koine Greek all we have is the written form. My own reading and
> >research concerning the pronunciation of Greek in the koine period has
> >led me to conclusions which do differ from those of Randall. <
>I would greatly appreciate your data examples/notes and briefest summary 
>of methodological guidelines in establishing your differences.
> >rather, pronunciation did come to differ somewhat over time,
> >and from one area to another. Therefore any attempt to reproduce the
> >"sounds" of Greek must be subjective, in decided what pronunciation (out
> >of several which could have been chosen) one will select to use.
>I would agree that the exact phonetic sounds are "subjective", diverse, and
>unrecoverable without ancient recordings of , e.g., various shades of "A"
>sound. However, the PHONEMIC system (e.g., "A" was a single phoneme in
>the first century) and the basic phonetic representation of it are not so
>difficult to recover. Note the vowels above. They are a function of 
>analysis of the misspellings in thousands of written remains and are 
>therefore "objective", in the practical use of the term.
> >I believe in teaching my students a pronunciation scheme which they are
> >thereafter to master and use, so that they can verbalize their reading.
> >But the one I have chosen to teach and use is one which, while drawn
> >from valid pronunciations in use during the koine period, is 
> deliberately phonemic -
> >one letter, one sound.
>Yes. As mentioned above, I am especially interested in your data behind
>your "valid pronunciations in use", bracketing the first century if
>Randall Buth, PhD

Dear Randall,

I embodied the fruits of my own research in this area in the text of my 
Grammar "Learn to Read the Greek NT", especially in those sections actually 
teaching pronunciation of the alphabet (pages 18-20; 171-173). My 
explanations about my choosing one pronunciation as against another, and 
the authorities upon whom I have relied in this connection, are set out in 
footnotes (endnotes) on pages 308ff.

It would be my pleasure to send you a copy of my Grammar book, with my 
compliments, if you would wish to have one, and will let me know the 
address to which it should be mailed. Then we can continue our discussion, 
if you would like. (Perhaps offline - I am not sure of the extent to which 
these details would capture the interest of other list members.)

If there are others in our b-greek family who are interested in the issues 
which have been raised in these list discussions and who would also wish to 
have a copy of my Grammar, please regard my offer of a copy as extended to 
you also.

Randall, in closing: what do you think of "Vox Graeca" by W. Sidney Allen 
(Cambridge U.P., 1968/1974)?

Best wishes,


Rev Dr B. Ward Powers        Phone (International): 61-2-8714-7255
259A Trafalgar Street          Phone (Australia): (02) 8714-7255
PETERSHAM  NSW  2049      email: bwpowers at
AUSTRALIA.                         Director, Tyndale College

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