[B-Greek] rough breathing in Koine times

R Yochanan Bitan Buth ybitan at mscc.huji.ac.il
Wed Jul 27 17:12:49 EDT 2005

egrapsen Eric
>Schemes which set forth Koine/NT/1st-century Greek pronunciation
>state that the rough 
>breathing had ceased by then and was not pronounced (just as it's not
>pronounced in Modern Greek), even though the rough breathing mark
>continued to be used.

Actually, most writing was done without breathing marks, including NT
uncial manuscripts and papyri. [Even more ancient Greek was somewhat
schizophrenic in this. Ionic was noted as a 'psilotic' dialect, that
is, a dialect that did not pronounce DASUFQONGOS [='h'].]

>Why, then, did the forms of AF' (from APO) and OUC (from OU/OUK) and
>hUF' (from hUPO) etc. continue if there was no difference in
>pronunciation or sound between an initial vowel (or 
>diphthong) with a rough breathing and an initial vowel (or diphthong)
>with a smooth breathing? 

For the same reason that AFIHMI did not revert to APIHMI. Once forms
are generated and hold a place in a language, they can stay there even
though the original environment that caused them disappears. Then, as
long as people maintain combinations like OUX EKS 'not six', even an
historical memory of the breathing system can be preserved.

>Why do we not usually see AP' and OUK and >hUP' etc. before initial
>vowels and diphthongs 
>when there is a rough breathing?

Maybe the word 'usually' is misleading. We do see AP and OUK before
"rough breathings" in the first century. That is part of the evidence
that the breathing system was no longer in use. Historical spelling
will preserve a majority of correct spellings, but the misspellings
testify to the dropping of 'h-'. I would recommend looking at Gignac
for data. My notes on my website may help point out what kind of
evidence you are looking for. (needless to say, the above data refers
to actual first century manuscripts and not to modern editions of the
NT or other ancient authors.)

Randall Buth

Randall Buth, PhD
Director, Biblical Language Center
and Director, Biblical Studies in Israel
Hebrew University, Rothberg International School
ybitan at mscc.huji.ac.il 

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