Pronounciation of PNEUMA

Translation Officer - Bible Society of South Africa translate at biblesociety.co.za
Wed Jan 8 02:30:46 EST 2003


Dear Bert

You wrote

> The tutor I used to have pronounced PNEUMA the way it reads(ie.pronouncing
the Pi.) Since then I heard someone pronounce it without sounding the Pi.
When I asked him about it, he said that the Pi was silent like the p in
pneumatic and pneumonia in English. I know it is not crucial for me to know
this to learn Greek, but it is very annoying to be reading along and not to
know which way is right(especially because I still speak the words as I read
or at least mouth the words). I'll be grateful if someone would answer this
> Bert de Haan
> Arthur Ontario

The pronunciation of Classical/New Testament Greek is problematical.  In
fact, at academic conferences, scholars from different parts of the world
aren't always able to understand one another's pronunciation of Greek texts!
I have also been annoyed by the inconsistencies, and especially by the
academic pronunciation used in my country.  In Modern Greek, PNEUMA would be
pronounced "pnevma" (sounding the Pi).  Although I tend to favour the
pronunciation used by Greek mother-tongue speakers, I am aware of the fact
that, didactically speaking, Modern Greek pronunciation isn't such a great
choice, since about half of the vowels and diphthongs are pronounced as "i"
... just imagine how you would confuse students by pronouncing hUMEIS and
hHMEIS exactly the same -- and without rough breathing!

I suggest you opt for a pronunciation you feel comfortable with, and which
most Greek scholars in your area would more or less understand (!) and stick
to it.  I once read in a Greek grammar that no person alive would be able to
pronounce one sentence from one of Aristotle's writings in a way that he
(Aristotle) would understand without difficulty ...

Regards
Manie van den Heever
______________________________________________
Translation Officer: Text Processing
Bible Society of South Africa
P O Box 6215, Roggebaai 8012, South Africa
Tel: +27 (0)21 421-2040
Fax: + 27 (0)21 419-4846

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