[B-Greek] language pronunciation

Ian W. Scott iscott at tyndale.ca
Mon May 4 10:06:15 EDT 2009


One important reason I can think of for trying to use an historically 
accurate pronunciation is the crucial role sound often played in ancient 
language. Rhyming, assonance, alliteration, the use of similar-sounding 
words as (almost) catch-word connectors, are all used by the New 
Testament authors (for example) as communicative strategies. (They are 
certainly discussed in ancient stylistic and rhetorical manuals). It 
seems to me that the current renewed sensitivity to both the aesthetic 
dimensions of biblical Greek and to rhetoric should bring along with 
them a concern to hear such phonological devices. But if we are using an 
anachronistic pronunciation we will completely miss many of them. We 
would miss, for example, the aural connection (on Buth's reconstructed 
pronunciation) between LYEIN and PRIN.


I think our lack of interest in this aural dimension of the text 
reflects a sort of scholastic habit of treating the Greek of the NT as a 
sort of code for logical propositions rather than as a language. As for 
students' responses to a more "difficult" pronunciation, I also find 
that what often engages students is the aesthetic and phonological 
dimension of the GNT. It's often hard to explain to a student why they 
should learn the language when they can "look it all up in BibleWorks" 
if we're focused on decoding the straightforward "meaning" of the text. 
If they begin to hear, though, the hymnic lilt of Col 1:15ff. they 
quickly realize at a gut level that a language is more than a platform 
for word-studies.


Cheers,


Ian


Ian W. Scott

iscott at tyndale.ca






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