[B-Greek] main point: reading aloud, consonant clusters, modern

Randall Buth randallbuth at gmail.com
Mon Nov 6 07:47:19 EST 2006

I strongly agree with Jim West
>The whole debate about modern v. Ersamian pronunciation is a
distraction, in my estimation
simply because it major's on something quite minor.  After all, and
again, it's comprehension that matters.>

Yes, and the debate hides the main point. However, when I talk about
'comprehension' I mean being inside a text and being able to talk to
myself or others in the language of the text that I am reading. There
is a cohesion in the comprehension of a fluent language that is
missing in a 'read-only-decipher' language. If 'Erasmians' were
producing that kind of fluency and comprehension, this issue wouldn't
arise. But they don't, so it does. Once fluency arises, then the
choice of sound becomes a practical issue. The debate only has
relevancy after someone is committed to attaining a high-level,
second-language fluency in the language.

[Steve Westfall]
>Students benefit from reading aloud regardless of which type of
pronunciation is used.  One does not have to employ Modern Greek
pronunciation to emphasize reading aloud.>

I need to add, though, that reading aloud is a separate, small skill
within the knowledge of a language. Specifically, while good and
useful, reading aloud does not, and cannot, lead to fluency. If
someone thinks that it compensates for rapid use of a language -- see
comments below 'by their fruit...'.

>Regarding the primacy of reading ability in pedagogy, those who insist on
teaching ancient Greek conversationally might take issue with you, but most
instruction in the real world does not use that approach. >

Yes, most [read 99.6%] do not use that approach. But is it because of
second language acquisition testing that has shown such good results?
Reading has a highly regarded place in Natural Language Acquisition
and other Communicative approaches (See Lee and Van Patten), when it
is situated on a fluent core. Psycholinguistically, reading has even
been shown to be wired into the phonology of a language.
αὐτῶν ἐπιγνώσεσθε αὐτούς. By their fruit you will know them.
What is the result after ten years? Why do good German or Russian
literature programs not applaud 'reading-only' approaches to just
leave speaking to the tourists? Why do they have special dorms and
nights/days when the participants only speak the language of interest?
Obviously not because someone might accidently add to Goethe's output,
or Tolstoy. The language output is even filled with mistakes, as is
any language learner's (especially adult), but the practice allows
them to reach much higher levels of fluency, which later allows them
to read in depth beyond  consciousness of the nuts and bolts and to be
atune to things more literary.

[Jason Hare]
>First is the use of the
breathing marks over the U in edited texts. Does this not indicate
that it should be read as a vowel rather than as a semi-consonant
(similar to β or φ)?>

Ironically, those marks were added systematically on minuscules at a
time when we know that the 'modern' consonant system was already in
place. The marks were considered 'historical'.

>Also, I have come across some situations in which
pronouncing the EU as /ev/ or /ef/ is just uncomfortable. I cannot
think of a situation just now, but I have been practicing the Modern
pronunciation a bit just to try to get the feel of the text in another
light. I just don't like it. LOL>

Millions of Greeks feel differently. And I say that without advocating
or prejudicing the use of modern.

>[JH] But, the most troubling this is that Modern Greek has several
consonant clusters that do not exist in the Koine and that produce
sounds dissimilar to either of the written consonants. For example,
using MP to represent the sound of /b/ and the several similar
conventions. Where did this come from? It wasn't present in the Koine,
was it? I surely do not see it in my reading.>

You mean, of course, that you do not HEAR it in your reading.
Take a great word like SUMPOSION, a cultural centrepoint of ancient
entertainment. Your ears would likely have heard 'b' in the first
century for the 'p'. Of course, the nasal was probably preserved in
most cases. A form like ENPEIRWS 'skillfully' comes to mind, where the
nasal is written, though incorrectly, N for M.
We do have evidence that by the first century the vBETA and Ghamma had
already gone 'soft'. So Greeks did not need to write a distinct 'b' in
Greek. As a half-way parallel, Spanish people have HABANA [~=havana].
I wonder how they would write/pronounce a name like "Oberlin"   in

Randall buth
Randall Buth, PhD
χάρις ὑμῖν καὶ εἰρήνη πληθυνθείη
שלום לכם וברכות
ybitan at mscc.huji.ac.il
randallbuth at gmail.com

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