Q: Re: Pronunciation of the Greek diphthong "ei" and (vs.) the Greek letter "eta"

Andrew.Wergeland at mf.no Andrew.Wergeland at mf.no
Fri Jan 10 04:36:07 EST 2003

I'm no "higher scholar", but here's my two bits:

>For the higher scholars on the list-- I've always wondered (but never had
>the opportunity to ask all at once so many qualified academicians) why
>most of the Greek professors I've ever been acquainted with (and even most
>grammars)seem to teach the pronunciation of the Greek diphthong "ei" as
>carrying the same sound as found in the English word "freight" (i.e., a
>longer "a" sound),

Because in most American dialects, the vowel sound in "freight" is a
diphthong.  I grew up in Minneapolis, MN and until I studied linguistics at
the University of Oslo, I was not aware of how unstable (i.e. diphthonic)
American vowels are.  What you call a "longer "a" sound" in "freight", I
hear as the diphthong "ei" - something similar to what we also use in the
word "day".  I learned Greek here in Oslo and we pronounce EI as in
American English "day".

>and thereby giving it an identical sound as the Greek
>letter "eta". 

I don't know what kind of examples are given in North America for H, but we
learned here to use a long version of the vowel most Americans use in the
word "bat".  This is similar to the German "a mit umlaut" and the
Norwegian/Danish ae (stuck together).

>In my teaching, I always thought this set up an immediate
>mental confusion for the beginning Greek student, since both the Greek
>"ei" dipthong and the Greek "eta" occur in verbal endings (particularly),
>and since avoidance of the potential confusion (when memorizing endings)
>is easily avoided by teaching the "ei" diphthong as being sounded out as
>in the English word "height" (a long "i") sound rather than the long "a"
>sound of "freight."
>Any reason for NOT teaching the pronunciation of the Greek diphthong "ei"
>as sounded in the English "height?"

Again, how do you then distinguish between EI and AI?  Don't you pronounce
AI as in "height"?

Stud.Theol. Andrew Wergeland
Fakultetslærar (vik.) - Det gamle testamentet (Hebraisk) / 
Faculty Teacher (temp.) - Old Testament (Hebrew)

Det teologiske Menighetsfakultet / 
The Nowegian Lutheran School of Theology
Postboks 5144, Majorstua
N-0302 OSLO

Tlf: (+47) 22 59 05 00 (sentralbord/switchboard)  / 22 59 06 10
Fax: (+47) 22 69 18 90
E-mail: Andrew.Wergeland at mf.no

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