[B-Greek] pronunciation and accents...for a new guy

George F Somsel gfsomsel at juno.com
Sun Jul 24 02:58:42 EDT 2005

On Sat, 23 Jul 2005 23:14:38 -0700 (PDT) North Dude
<northdude7 at yahoo.com> writes:
> I'm so pleased to find this list and to have been accepted.  I am a 
> new student of koine Greek, and I'm very enthusiastic.  I've been 
> using Mounce's Basics of Biblical Greek, and I'm making good 
> progress.  Since I'm already bi-lingual in another language and 
> well-acquainted with grammar, I'm not having a hard time.  My 
> question is this: are accents really important to learn?  I am 
> having a hard time remembering whether to use grave, accute, or 
> circumflex accents, even on words I have learned.  Do I need to 
> "tough it out" and learn those accents carefully?  Or is this 
> something I can let slide a little?  
>             My second question is this: what pronunciation is 
> commonly used by koine Greek language learners?  I'm sorry, but 
> pronouncing the omicron like a short o sound (as in not) just sticks 
> in my throat  (for example, having hO LOGOS sounding like "haw 
> law-gaws"), but if I use the long o sound, then how do I keep 
> straight when it's an omicron and when it's an omega?  Trying to use 
> modern Greek pronunciation is even worse, with so many letters 
> sounding alike and no recognition of rough breathing marks.  So what 
> do you all do?
> Thanks for any advice you can give.
> Troy L. Fullerton

1.  No, accents are not absolutely necessary.  The earliest manuscripts
and inscriptions don't have them.  You will, however, find it helpful in
some instances to know the rules.  I would recommend that you DO learn

2.  You've opened a can of worms that periodically rears its head on the
list.  Randall Buth (Stick around and you'll get to know Randall.  He's
the guy who tries to converse with you in Greek) and a number of others
recommend a pronunciation more like modern Greek.  This view has much to
recommend it -- including the fact that a Greek would recognize that you
are actually using Greek.  Historically, it seems that by NT times
pronunciation was well on its way toward the modern usage.  As you note,
however, the Erasmian pronunciation does prove helpful in knowing
precisely what the spelling is.  That and the fact that I was taught the
Erasmian method cause me to continue its usage though, when I listen to
recordings of Greek I, I listen to a more modern pronunciation (or should
I say more historically correct?).  The fact that it is difficult to
discern the precise spelling from a modern pronunciation might be
compared to English.  Now, every schoolboy knows that English is a
totally phonetic language.  It admits of no exceptions in pronunciation
but must follow the rules :-) .  
Now, go ghoti
     That's gh = "enough"
                 o   = "women"
                 ti    = "nation"
Actually, English is not so inconsistent as is generally conceived.  It
has fairly consistently adopted the rules pertaining to any word it
adopts from another language along with the word itself so that there are
many different rules which govern various words.  Some languages (Dutch
comes to mind) have normalized their spelling so that only a few words
fail to follow the rules.  I would say in regard to pronunciation
"whatever floats your boat."


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