rough breathing, KOINE

Michael Haggett michaelhaggett at
Tue Jan 29 18:49:53 EST 2002

Randall Buth wrote, 29 January


.... The preceding words and
their allomorphs (e.g. OUK/OUC, AP'/AF') had become a historical
process by the Roman period of Koine. It appears that 'h' had
out of common speech during that period though it may still have
preserved by upper classes who studied the 'classical' language.
apparently followed by Horrcks, points to spelling mistakes that
common at this time in words like (e.g. OUK/OUX, AP'/AF').


MH: Yes, Randall, but some of us remain unconvinced about the
whole idea of trying to reconstruct a pronunciation based on
errors. My guess would be that pronunciation patterns varied
widely between regions, in much the same way as English does
from place to place now.  The idea of one correct pronunciation
ignores the fact that Koine was spoken (mostly as a second
language) from India to Italy ... and beyond.

Some of us are unapologetic Erasmans (or should that be
Erasmians?) In my case, I believe it to be the best approach
because we are working with written texts, and spelling in the
texts we now use has been largely standardized (despite the
manuscript variations) ... therefore it makes sense to me that
we speak the language based on the way it is written. I believe
it is of paramount importance to have distinct sounds for each
letter or letter combination.

Of course this will mean different things to different people,
depending on the way we were first taught, or what we
subsequently come to believe works better. But, whatever
pronunciation system we choose, I personally like the diversity
of other pronunciation systems, just as I like listening to
people from all over the world speak English in different ways.


Randall also wrote:

I am impressed and puzzled that Michael suggests printing and
spelling the
Greek NT without accent marks other than 'rough' breathing. (see
This would only be effective pedagogically, in my opinion, if
students had
very high audio imput in order to internalize the correct
syllable accent.


MH: Well, the way I teach does do exactly that. I put a very
high emphasis on aural input and speaking complete passages out
loud from the very beginning.

However .... and I fully realize that this is opening a whole
new subject (and think I must be mad for doing it, not least
because I will appear to be even more radical than I do already)
nevertheless, here goes ...

I am convinced that our current accentuation system is not
intended to have anything to do with pronunciation, and we would
all be far better off ignoring it completely as a guide to
pronunciation.  Personally, I believe that anyone who develops
any fluency in Koine Greek can only do so by ignoring the
accents we have added, at least some of the time.  I'll say
more on the subject if anybody really wants me to,
but I'll sign off for now.

Michael Haggett

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