[B-Greek] Recent discussion concerning Erasmian pronunciation

Nikolaos Adamou nikolaos.adamou at hotmail.com
Sun May 3 22:39:54 EDT 2009

There is a third group, native Greeks, who
read the bible without any interruption from the time it is written, without a
need of any translation, in their own language; a language with music and

Do they know how their language sounds?

Or this does not count!

> From: jeffreyrequadt_list at hotmail.com
> To: b-greek at lists.ibiblio.org
> Date: Sun, 3 May 2009 19:19:48 -0700
> Subject: [B-Greek] Recent discussion concerning Erasmian pronunciation
> I feel like I must apologize for getting the list started again on the
> pronunciation debate. I certainly hope it stays within the bounds of
> discussion protocol. I think my original question-is there another
> artificial pronunciation for a language that has only been used in
> academia-was to intended to probe the usefulness of such a system. I think I
> would agree with Carl Conrad that the proponents of Erasmian are in that
> camp largely because it provides a method for differentiating between the
> different letters of a word, thus providing the reader/learner with a
> connection between the shape of the letter and a specific sound. I think
> there are also some who, like Mark Lightman, believe that such an artificial
> system is not only acceptable, but actually preferable to a "real"
> pronunciation (such as modern Greek, modern French, etc.).
> Perhaps another question might be, why learn any pronunciation at all? Maybe
> this seems like an obvious question, but is it? The following is not meant
> to cause fights, but rather to probe our own presuppositions and
> assumptions.
> I'm certainly not a veteran teacher, but I've had a few years under my belt,
> plus a couple decades as a reader/writer. I am aware that we use different
> sign systems continuously in our lives. As a musician, I can read notes and
> know what they mean, without pronouncing a single word. As a mathematician,
> I can solve equations without pronouncing a single word. When I look at art,
> I can interpret it without pronouncing a single word. Words are unnecessary,
> because those forms of communication and expression are not limited to
> (indeed, perhaps barely even touch) the realm of language. But when I read
> or write something, there is a certain pronunciation embedded in my brain
> for each word, depending on its context. Why is that? Why is it that when I
> write something, I actually "hear" the words in my head, almost always
> instantaneous with actually writing them? When I read, I actually "hear" the
> words in my head, even though I can read/hear in my head much faster than I
> can read aloud-or sometimes even talk aloud. Why is that? I don't know. I'm
> not a linguist or a psycholinguist or a psychologist or an expert on human
> development. But I think it has to do with the fact that
> language-communication of information and concepts and emotions, etc., from
> one person to another(s)-is inherently aural/oral. Yet, there is also a
> graphic component as well. From what I understand, researchers have learned
> (more or less) that written text is not simply the "graphic" representation
> of oral language. It is real language, simply in graphic form. In other
> words, there is receptive language: oral (listening) and graphic (reading);
> and there is productive language: oral (speaking) and graphic (writing).
> There are certain conventions that one must follow in each case in order to
> accurately communicate. They are not entirely dependent on one another. When
> someone writes something in English, as I am writing now, someone else can
> read it in English (as you are doing now), regardless of my pronunciation or
> theirs! Yet, writing cannot convey nearly any of the nuances that oral and
> body language (another sign system!) can. Every time I stop and think about
> the language capacity of the human brain, I am absolutely astounded and
> amazed-especially at the brain's need to make sense. We have to make sense.
> That's why confusion is so troubling. We usually try to "unconfuse"
> ourselves, don't we, unless we decide to give up? I mean, the fact that kids
> learn to read, often despite large obstacles, is itself amazing to me. 
> How does this relate to Greek? Well, it seems like there are two basic
> "camps" on this whole pronunciation thing (I'm not trying to pigeonhole or
> stereotype anyone, so please don't be offended if I seem to mischaracterize
> your viewpoint). There are the Randall Buth people (with whom I admittedly
> would probably lump myself as a result of my experience working with real
> human children and speakers of different African languages as well as
> English, and my own experience learning French and Greek) who view Greek as
> a real language that deserves to be taught on its own merits, which entails
> an authentic pronunciation as well as orthography as well as written and
> spoken conventions. They seem to have this unshakeable belief that Koine
> Greek was a language spoken and written by real people, and those people
> have the most prerogative as to what should be spoken, pronounced, spelled,
> etc. Then, there is the other camp (I would put Mark Lightman et al. in this
> one) that seems to have the opinion that the only really important thing is
> that we can understand what the words on the page say. They might even limit
> their focus to the words that are found in the New Testament and/or LXX. To
> them, they don't really care how the words are pronounced as long as you can
> understand what the author was saying.
> I can think I can see the point of view of this latter camp (in fact, I've
> had excellent correspondence with some of them). But I think the reason I
> keep lumping myself with the "Buthites" is that I keep coming back to the
> fact that the words of the New Testament were written-language-by some
> individual or another to be understood-language-by another individual or
> group. The fact that we can actually translate these writings, or read them,
> today, is evidence that they are examples of language that are meant to be
> understood. They're not just some code. They convey meaning, perhaps on
> several different levels. They convey varying degrees of importance and
> focus. They are written texts with all the conventions of written texts.
> They are language, and they must be treated as such if we are to actually
> understand them-what the authors wanted their readers to understand. 
> If some French person wanted to learn to read Shakespeare-to understand it,
> or even 16th-17th century English literature in general, would we really
> want them to learn to pronounce it in a modern French accent? I could
> understand that such a thing might happen naturally, much as Americans try
> to read French spelling with English phonetic rules ("Parlezz vouz
> fransays?"). But would we actually encourage that? Would we tell them that
> that's fine, as long as they know what the words mean? I suppose one could
> say that pronunciation would matter more in poetry than in prose. But would
> we really want a French person to read English spelling of any kind, period,
> dialect, etc., with sounds that are purely French? In other words, we would
> encourage them to just skip trying to say "th" and substitute "z" instead.
> I think the point I'm getting at is that because the texts of the New
> Testament were written in Greek, an actual language spoken by actual people
> in an actual time and place with actual thoughts to communicate, we need to
> treat those texts as more than some kind of code to be understood.
> Pronunciation, even though it changes with each generation and location, is
> something that is inherently linked to language. Creating a pronunciation,
> rather than growing one out of real use, eliminates some aspect of the
> reality of the language which it is trying to represent. That's why even
> though I might initially agree with Mark Lightman, ("Am I saying that
> Americans should learn to speak French using an American accent rather than
> sounding like Frenchmen?  Yes, I guess I am, if they intended to communicate
> with other Americans and intended never to go to France, as I intend never
> to go to Ancient Greece"), I have to disagree because such a method treats
> the language as non-language. Even from the point of view of "learning to
> read the words, regardless of pronunciation," I would ask, "why?" Why learn
> to read the words? Isn't it because you want to know what the author is
> saying, and what he/she means? If that's the case, why would you treat the
> author's words as less than language?
> And by the way, accent (as in, American vs. French) is a totally different
> prospect than pronunciation. Yes, they are related, but an American can say
> "Parlay-voo Fronsay" rather than "Parlezz vouz fransase" (did you notice
> that I changed the spelling from the first time I wrote that? That's because
> in English, as in French, and presumably in Greek, I can write the same
> sound with several different orthographic options!! And the reader who is
> used to English orthography might pronounce them both the same, or might
> not!! Aren't are brains amazing?!). There is a HUGE difference between
> pronouncing something with a foreign accent, and pronouncing it with WRONG
> pronunciation. I can speak French fairly fluently, but my accent leaves a
> little to be desired. That's a far cry from pronouncing sounds incorrectly
> or mistakenly.
> Last, I would challenge the notion that "people actually learn languages
> better and faster it they speak it and hear it not like Native speakers of
> the target language, but like Native speakers of their own." I'm skeptical.
> I do agree that people learn languages better when they get to use their own
> native language. But is that because of the accent or the pronunciation?
> Wouldn't it be better all around if the target language speakers taught the
> new language learners slowly but with a correct pronunciation and real
> accent? If I'm missing something here, or there is research to back it up,
> let me know. I'm always willing to broaden my perspective.
> Just some things to think about.
> Jeffrey T. Requadt
> Dietz Elementary
> (520) 731-4000
> "I like to talk. I also like to think. Sometimes they go together." ~ Jeff
> Requadt
> ---
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