[B-Greek] Koine, Erasmian, and Modern pronunciations

Kevin Riley klriley at alphalink.com.au
Mon May 19 22:07:38 EDT 2008

-------Original Message------- 
From: Randall Buth 
Date: 20/05/2008 8:07:11 AM 
I'm not sure on Caragounis. Caragounis argues AS IF the modern 
Vowel system was already in place, but in the footnotes admits 
That many of the sound changes were taking place over a period 
Of time and may not have been in place by the Roman period 
Koine. I use a 7 vowel system for the first century and treat a 6 
Vowel Koine as a 2-4th c. CE development. 
K:  Most writers on Greek linguistic history need to be read carefully, as
they sometimes use dialect development as if it were Attic or Koine.  Most
of the developments in Koine and Modern Greek started earlier in other
dialects than in Attic.  Doric [at least Spartan Doric] was probably using a
stress accent in classical times, some dialects had already merged EI with I
[Euboian being one, from memory], or had merged Y with OI.  The
spirantisation of B D G, and perhaps PH TH KH, was earlier in some dialects
than in Koine.  Always read the footnotes to find out where and when the
evidence is coming from.
On Erasmus I have not done a historical search to separate the real 
Erasmus from what is done in his name ('the feminine goddess' 
TON QEON of some 20th cent. Americans should not be attributed 
To Erasmus.) 
However, it is commonplace for 'Erasmians' to join 
HTA with EI in sound. 
There is something fundamentally wrong with doing this and it is 
Part of the reason why 'Erasmian' is out of sync with any Greek of 
Any age. 
K:  Erasmus made mistakes.  Partly because he paid attention to both the
contemporary Greek pronunciation and the contemporary European languages. 
As a first attempt - or the culmination of the work of a few 'first
attempters', it wasn't bad, all things considered.  Erasmus correctly
identified *Classical* H as an open /E/, OU as a monophthong /u:/ - and that
it was once a diphthong in pre-classical Greek - and, despite using wrong
evidence in some cases, identified U as the French /y/ sound.  He got AI, EU
and AU right, but assumed EI must also be a diphthong /ei/.  He got OI wrong
 as he compares it with French "OI", which was /wa/.  He correctly
identified B D G, Z and PH, but got KH and TH wrong as he thought they were
fricatives.  Erasmus did not adopt his pronunciation, but it was adopted in
England and then spread to the continent from there.  But then the Great
Vowel Shift in English wrecked the whole system in England.  It then took
until the late C20th for the whole process to be repeated.  For Classical
Greek, the only really indefensible part of the present system is that of
pronouncing aspirates as fricatives.  In some Classical departments the
Greek students pronounce PH, TH, KH as fricatives because the aspirate
pronunciation is too difficult for English speakers, but if those same
students also take Sanskrit, then it is a different story.  I have never
understood why Greek aspirates - and there are only three - are too
difficult, but the many aspirates of Sanskrit are possible to pronounce.
Kevin Riley
1) the post-Alexander papyrii and inscriptions show that 
EI sounded like I. 
2) HTA did not immediately follow EI into I but remained 
Separate for many centuries. That means that in the 
4th c BCE the Athenians were NOT pronouncing HTA like EI. 
If they had been pronounced the same, then both of those 
Graphs would have joined I in sound in the 3-4 c BCE. 
Restored Attic solves this by lowering HTA towards a 
Long 'ae'. That works for the 4c BCE. For the 3c BCE and 
Throughout the KOINH a correct reading joins EI with I in 
Sound and pronunciation. 
The Westcott Hort NT was spelled with many EI in positions 
Where people knew the sound was I: 
But people wanted their Erasmian and they didn't want to 
Mispronounce some words in the NT, so they changed the 
Westcott-Hort spelling. That is logical and reasonable, except 
For starting from a wrong starting point. 
Randall Buth, PhD 
randallbuth at gmail.com 
Biblical Language Center 
Learn Easily - Progress Further - Remember for Life 
B-Greek home page: http://www.ibiblio.org/bgreek 
B-Greek mailing list 
B-Greek at lists.ibiblio.org 
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