[B-Greek] Long/short vowels, macrons, and Unicode

James Tauber jtauber at jtauber.com
Wed Mar 8 07:04:38 EST 2006

On Wed, 8 Mar 2006 05:51:18 -0500, "Carl W. Conrad"
<cwconrad at artsci.wustl.edu> said:
> Although the matter of how the accents were pronounced is talked  
> about, to some extent, in the grammars, it really ought to be  
> recognized that it is all very theoretical. I've read that Caragounis  
> claims there never was a tonic accentual pronunciation of ancient  
> Greek. I think there probably was, but I do think it ought to be  
> realized that the explanations offered for it (that the acute is a  
> musical fifth above, the grave a third, the circumflex a rising to a  
> fifth and falling to a third on a long vowel or diphthong of two  
> morae) is pretty much a theoretical construct.

While we may be uncertain of some things, I think we know more than "it
is all very theoretical" or "a theoretical construct" might suggest. As
you know, some people come to this list saying things like "we have no
idea how NT Greek was pronounced" which is not true at all. As Dr Buth
reminds us, we can say things like AI=E phonemically without necessarily
knowing how that phoneme might compare phonetically to the way I, say,
pronounce 'e' in English.

Everything I've read from Allen to Sommerstein to Steriade to Probert
assumes the following:

> > An acute then means the last mora is accented.
> > A circumflex means the second-to-last mora is accented.

And I would be intrigued if Caragounis denied that.

> > Note that the placing of the accent on the second vowel of a diphthong
> > is a writing convention that is somewhat misleading from a  
> > phonological
> > viewpoint because if the accent is a circumflex, it is actually the
> > first mora that is accents phonologically. In other words, when  
> > Ancient
> > Greek was still a pitch-accent language, it AU= would have had a
> > high-pitch on the A mora, not the U, despite the fact the accent is
> > written over the U.
> You're right, of course, But since the question was about the  
> conventional writing and printing of ancient Greek texts with accents  
> and macrons, I thought the question was about the written form.

Oh, absolutely. I was just pointing out to other readers that the
written form doesn't reflect the phonological.

  James Tauber               http://jtauber.com/
  journeyman of some    http://jtauber.com/blog/

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