[B-Greek] language pronunciation

Leonard Isaksson leonardo1orchardcity at mac.com
Tue May 5 08:12:32 EDT 2009

An interesting and humorous contribution you have put in here.   
Recently I have listened again to Gregory Nagy reciting the first few 
lines of Homer's Iliad, and also Stanley Lombardo doing the same.  For 
me, with Lombardo, one can more recognise some of the Greek words, 
without having a text of Homer sitting to read.   He reads with a more 
recitative type of manner, where Nagy seems to have phrasing that is 
more conversational.  For most folks, unless we are familiar with the 
Greek text enough that it is stored in memory, we will have to read 
along with a text in front of us.

Yes, one can understand Phemester as she reads.

  Catherine Freis also has a more understandable way of speaking(she 
teaches classical Greek), too, although there are just a few excerpts 
on her pages.  Freis students enjoy the conversation that is injected 
into class.

As an old teacher of Greek said "It is good to have Greek inside you."

I would have to say that I prefer to hear Zodhiates read the NT, or the 
  Buth pronunciation, or a Greek service at worship.  It is pleasant to 
hear a living language.

The only criticism that I have of your humane post is that one should 
not call these efforts at Erasmian types of pronunciation American 
Greek.  If you meet Greeks who are Greek Americans, who speak modern 
Greek, such as teach at  Holy Cross Greek Orthodox Seminary, then you 
have  a modern living Greek pronunciation.  I know some are American, 
and some are Greek.

It would be better to call it something else.

I do not think it is political correctness to say that.  Any speaking 
of another language will probably have a thick portion of one's native 
speech, or speech accents, as well as one's own individual 

Leonard Isaksson
On May 4, 2009, at 10:39 PM, Mark Lightman wrote:

> When I tell people that I read Ancient Greek for fun,
> they will sometimes say "How can you stand studying
> a dead language?"  My response is always the same:
> "You say 'dead' like it was a bad thing."
> --- On Sun, 5/3/09, Kevin Riley <klriley at alphalink.com.au> wrote:
> <Greek should not sound like American or English or French, or Spanish 
> or Italian
> or anything else.  It should sound like Greek.>
> Well said and of course you're right.  But as you know, it's
> more complicated than that.  Let's assume that someone
> like Smyth knew what he was talking about.  He chose to
> retain Erasmus because "ignorance of the exact pronunciation,
> as well as long-established usage, must render any reform
> pedantical, if not impossible." (Greek Grammar p.12)  But if,
> like Smyth, you speak Erasmian, if not DOES sound like
> Greek.  I guess according to some Modern Greeks it does
> not sound anything like Greek.  So Erasmians try to make
> it sound more like Greek by rolling their R's and not gliding
> their vowels.  I'm suggesting, not arguing, just suggesting,
> that maybe like Phemester we should not even bother. 
> Or I'm not even suggesting that.  I'm just stating the fact
> that since American Greek exists, I'm going to listen to
> it.  And I don't regret that American Greek exists.
> <If we follow your argument for pronunciation, why not for
> grammar as well? >
> If you mean should we call the genitive absolute a dangling
> participle and the subjuntive the "should" mood, yes, I guess
> maybe we should.  But I get your larger point.  To make Greek
> easier there are certain things I would not do, like changing
> the word order or using the English Alphabet, but I don't consider
> Erasmianism on this par.  Remember that most of the letters and
> dipthongs per the Erasmian scheme did sound like that in some
> Greek at some period.
> Nikolaos Adamou wrote:
> <If someone does not want to try or use the native Greek pronunciation 
> it is
> fine: there is no need for arguments.It is a choice (right or wrong, I 
> respect it)>
> Great attitude.  I have tried it and I do use it from time to time, but
> I still think Erasmianism is the best for learning ancient Greek.  
> Again,
> I respect your respect.
> Leonard Isaksson wrote:
> <How are you going to learn Greek when the way
> it sounds grates on your ears so that it sounds
> like scratching fingernails that need to be cut
> across a blackboard?>
> I understand.  Until recently I felt this way
> about most Erasmians.  But Phemester changed
> my mind.  Have you checked her out?  I can't
> explain why she works so well for me.  Maybe
> it's just because she fully ennunciates each syllable,
> or because she speaks slowly.  Or maybe it's because
> she sounds a little like a sixth Grade teacher I once had
> a crush on.  But look, the entire Greek NT
> is available for free on her site and on Greek Latin Audio.com.
> I downloaded books from both, and have just found that
> she is best helping me to learn how to listen to NT Greek.
> She doesn't roll her r's.  But if she sounds okay, and if she
> is easy to understand, what's the harm in listening to her
> and speaking Greek like her?  If Homer, Socrates, Paul, and
> Phemester were all in the same room, wouldn't they all
> sound funny and a little grating to each other?  Paul, with his Turkish
> accent, may sound the funniest of all.
> Jeffrey Requadt wrote:
> <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? Would we 
> tell them that that's fine, as long as they know what the words 
> mean?> 
> Why the heck not?  I bet Shakespeare sounds just fine with
> a French accent.  Who am I to tell somebody who wants to read
> Shakespeare that it is NOT fine to do so in whatever way they choose?
> Some people even think that Shakespeare WAS French (Jacques Speare)
> so maybe he himself had a French accent.  Shakespeare, like Lincoln and
> the Greek NT, belong to the ages.  They are not mine or yours or 
> anyone elses,
> and anyone can do anything with them that they want.   See Nicolaos'
> gracious attitude above.  Actually, I know you, Jeffery have the same
> gracious attitude.
> Jeffrey Requadt wrote:
> <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 ofthe target language, but like
>  Native speakers of their own." I'm skeptical.>
> I'm skeptical too.  I was actually paraphrasing what someone
> on the list had said, I can't remember when or who, and when
> I read it I wondered myself it it is true. 
> I wonder too if there is not an underlying political correctness,
> which is actually just the oppostive, in the notion that there
> is something terrible in American Greek.  I wonder, I just
> wonder because I don't know, if in fact what has happened
> with American Erasmianism is actually more of the historical
> norm. Historically, haven't people just spoken second
> languages in whatever way came natural to them?  My
> grandmother never lost her strong Yiddish accent.  I don't
> think if would ever occur to her whether she should or
> shouldn't roll her r's.  She just did or didn't.  I think the people 
> in her neighborhood
> took less offense over these issues than some of us do on
> this list.   The irony is that maybe Amerian Erasmian Greek
> is the most living language of them all.  When it's just
> us and our Greek NT's we do or we do not confuse alpha
> and omicron, we do or we do not roll our r's.
> Well, to sum up, I guess with defender's like me,
> Erasmus does not need detractors.  I am surprised, and
> not at all unpleased, that based on the responses to
> my post, Randall and my Native Greek friends seem to be making
> more headway than I thought against the specter of Erasmus.
> To quote Yeats, the best Erasmians lack all conviction,
> while the Iotacists are full of passionate intensity.  That's
> fine with me. 
> Mark L  
> ---
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