rough breathing, KOINE

Michael Nicholls mikusa at
Wed Mar 6 14:47:04 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
> dropped
> out of common speech during that period though it may still have
> been
> preserved by upper classes who studied the 'classical' language.
> Gignac,
> apparently followed by Horrcks, points to spelling mistakes that
> become
> 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
> spelling
> 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
> below)
> 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
> London

Those in my Greek class who pay special attention to accents are reading
Greek better than anyone (including my professors, who don't emphasize
it!). In fact, those who pronounce every word exactly (accent, breathing
etc.) are doing Greek better than anyone in reading, writing, diagramming,
translating, comprehension - basically everything. It sticks in the mind
better. My humble opinion.

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