Results of survey on pronunciation

Randall Buth ButhFam at
Mon Aug 20 07:21:12 EDT 2001

re: results and comments on the pronunciation survey 


I would like to thank all those who participated in the survey on 
pronunciations to be used for reading/teaching/studying Koine Greek. 

Your patience and tolerance is especially appreciated for what was
poorly worded or categorized at cross-purposes for one person or another. 
Several expressed lack of clarity in the questions, yet in any 
case your attitudes have been helpful for me. 

Extra comments that came along with the responses have also been helpful to

me and I will try to include some of those perspectives in comments below, 

following the results. 

And compliments are due to each and everyone for following directions and 
keeping the tedium of scorekeeping offline. In things "human" that is no


#1 Assuming a historical KOINE pronunciation, which is preferable?
A. more practical KOINE consonants
B. more authentic KOINE consonants 
(Three of the abstainers opted for 'modern', which might logically line up
"1A, practical Koine consonants", since those would arguably be closest to 
modern Greek, but see below.) 

#2 What general scheme would be preferred for pronouncing Greek?
a. modern
b. Allen-Daitz Attic
c. Erasmian Attic 
      6    (5*)
d. Koine (type unspecified)
     18   (17*)
e. Other-Any
      1   (3*)
Note * :  two persons split their vote between 2c and 2d, so two 
one-half votes were credited to both 2c and 2d above. They could 
have been added to Abstain by another judge.

All of the responses reflect real people and responsible positions. In that

sense we are all winners, since languages are used among people. 

Comments on #1
On the practical versus authentic KOINE consonants, a few commented 
on the capability, or lack thereof, for speakers of western European 
languages to actually perceive and control a rapid distinction between 
aspirated and unaspirated voiceless stops. I have personally struggled with

this very problem, first as a student at UCLA where we had to incorporate 
such a distinction within Allen-Daitz system. "To butcher the 
distinction" might be a more correct appraisal of our production. 
Can a person learn it? Yes -- I'll probably add a track or two with this 
on my next CD material. But would those who voted for "authentic" 
continue to do so if they practiced such a system for season, or heard it? 
I think there might be quite an attrition. In any case, the problem needs
be addressed, both with ancient data and recorded demonstrations. 

Comments on #2 (Modern, Allen-Daitz, Erasmian, Koine, Other)
Several opted for "modern" with simple, understandable justification: 
it's real, it's living. All reconstructions are doubtful and inevitably
somewhere. Three of the "modern" respondents abstained from question 
one, which may positively reflect attitudes of modern Greek speakers 
for 'academic' Greek in general: "if you're going to speak Greek, please 
make it sound like Greek." Academic pronunciations have sometimes 
been appraised as between "ridiculous", "dead" and "offensive" by 
Greeks themselves. The academic community may shrug off such feelings
but they should be aware of them and might even look for ways of 
softening them where possible. There are also the rare scholars who 
quote in 'Erasmian' to fellow classics students and speak 'modern' 
to Greek speakers. 

Interestingly, no one opted for Allen-Daitz. Perhaps for lack of 
acquaintance. Yet one might have expected that some of those opting for 
"authentic Koine" might have opted for an "authentic Attic". A personal 
anecdote might be appropriate here. I played a portion of the Daitz 
recordings for some Greek students once and they were "rolling on the 
floor". Just the thought of speaking to one another in mimicry of the 
recording and being heard by outsiders was just too much to handle. 
Actually, I thought Stephen Daitz did an admirable job of demonstrating 
"the system", but the result was rather 'stilted' sounding, as a play and 
poetry might very well be. I would agree with the students, though : - 
if I invested all of the time and energy needed to be able to speak Greek 
to someone, I don't think I'd like to sound like those recordings. Yet I
it is nice to listen to Daitz for the old poetry. 

On Erasmian Attic, the response was lower than I had expected. This 
might be explainable by the fact that many Koine grammar books teach 
an Erasmian system without naming it as such, so that some respondents 
were actually thinking about an Ersamian type system when they voted for 
"Koine". Allowing for that, the questionaire still revealed some basic 
intial attitudes. See the next comment. 

Koine received the highest response, assumedly as an "in principle" vote, 
since the specific system of Koine was not specified. A few comments 
were in a direction of having one's system line up, "more or less" with the

actual system of people whose literature one is reading. In that way, a 
person will be better able to perceive the assonance, alliteration and 
rhetorical character of the original communication situation. 

A few commented on a desirability for a system to have one sound for 
one symbol, more or less, or for a system to be understandable to 
academic people.

In a real sense all of the above are admirable goals and yet just as real
the inability for one solution to cover all aspirations. 

Randall Buth
or as I have been known to say [ Erosthe ... en ierosoLYmys ]

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