pronunciation question

Barry Hofstetter nebarry at
Fri Jan 3 14:54:13 EST 2003

----- Original Message -----
From: "Trevor Peterson" <06PETERSON at>
To: "Biblical Greek" <b-greek at>
Sent: Friday, January 03, 2003 10:41 AM
Subject: [b-greek] RE: pronunciation question

> >===== Original Message From SPegler919 at =====
> >My own reaction is that the final s was probably pronounced, given the
> >-os ending of the MNS 2d declension and -as -hs endings of the first
> >endings, to say nothing of various verb endings!  If the endings had not
> >been pronounced, then the varios endings would have changed over time,
> >which would have been reflected in spelling.
> To this I would add that unpronounced letters are generally there for a
> reason, even if it's as historical vestiges. Why would a Greek speaker add an
> unpronounced letter to a transliteration? It seems like there would need to be
> something that the letter did to the pronunciation of the word. And if the
> point of the inquiry is to account for these letters that don't seem to belong
> in transliterated foreign names, I don't know what the letter would be
> contributing. I believe the usual explanation is that the Greek names were
> just expected to have these final sigmas to give the right sound.

I'm not sure of the answer to the question, but I do know that in Latin, quite
early on, neuter nouns of the second declension began being pronounced with
nominative and accusative singulars as -o, so that *caelum* became *caelo* (this
apparently started as early as Ciceronian times).  The best way to figure this
out is through graffiti and an examination of the non-literary papyri, in which
people tend to spell the words as they sound to them.  Of course, more literate
authors, writing for a wider audience, will attempt to use whatever is
considered the "correct" spelling, which tends to reflect the pronunciation at
whatever period the spelling became standardized.

N.E. Barry Hofstetter
Professor of Theological and Biblical Studies
    The Center for Urban Theological Studies, Philadelphia, PA

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