Pronounciation of PNEUMA

Theodore H. Mann theomann at
Wed Jan 8 13:05:28 EST 2003

Would it be possible or practical to organize an international congress or
committee for the purpose of developing a unified system of pronunciation
that could be accepted by most biblical language scholars and teachers?
Even if such a system were to turn out to be somewhat innacurrate, it might
at least eliminate or reduce the problem mentioned below.  Does such a
commitee already exist that could take on such a task?

Dr. Theodore "Ted" H. Mann
theomann at

----- Original Message -----
From: "Translation Officer - Bible Society of South Africa"
<translate at>
To: "Biblical Greek" <b-greek at>
Sent: Wednesday, January 08, 2003 2:30 AM
Subject: [b-greek] Re: Pronounciation of PNEUMA

> Dear Bert
> You wrote
> > The tutor I used to have pronounced PNEUMA the way it
> 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
> this to learn Greek, but it is very annoying to be reading along and not
> know which way is right(especially because I still speak the words as I
> or at least mouth the words). I'll be grateful if someone would answer
> > 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
> I have also been annoyed by the inconsistencies, and especially by the
> academic pronunciation used in my country.  In Modern Greek, PNEUMA would
> 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
> ... 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
> to it.  I once read in a Greek grammar that no person alive would be able
> pronounce one sentence from one of Aristotle's writings in a way that he
> (Aristotle) would understand without difficulty ...
> Regards
> Manie van den Heever

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