[B-Greek] Why insist on wrong when not necessary and with no advantage?

George F Somsel gfsomsel at yahoo.com
Wed May 6 11:22:49 EDT 2009

I think you must have missed something with the Logos software.  It is listed as "Greek Pronunciation Addin with Erasmian & Modern Data Sets" so I would expect that the user can choose between the classic Erasmian pronunciation or a modern pronunciation.  I'm not that interested in pronunciation so I haven't gotten it myself and therefore cannot verify this personally.  Personally I use either system depending upon whether I wish to simply read the text or am attempting to remember the proper spelling (i.e. lexically listed as a head word).

… search for truth, hear truth, 
learn truth, love truth, speak the truth, hold the truth, 
defend the truth till death.

- Jan Hus

From: Jeffrey T. Requadt <jeffreyrequadt_list at hotmail.com>
To: Randall Buth <randallbuth at gmail.com>; lightmanmark at yahoo.com; B Greek <b-greek at lists.ibiblio.org>
Sent: Wednesday, May 6, 2009 5:54:00 AM
Subject: Re: [B-Greek] Why insist on wrong when not necessary and with no advantage?

I think also that some posts have been at different purposes. I don't think even Randall is saying that Erasmian (or as he calls it, Astarteanism, although I missed why at some point, since my knowledge is fairly limited) is somehow morally wrong, and that if you've learned it you should immediately unlearn it, or that if you can understand it, you should try not to. I don't think he's saying that learning Erasmian means that you can't understand anything properly. It doesn’t seem like he's attacking USERS of the Erasmian system, but rather the academic system that continues to "foist" it on learners, probably by the simple virtue that it's what the system has always done for the past several centuries. For example, this new thing that Logos software is coming out with. For a company that touts itself as a user-friendly Bible software programmer (whose program I regularly use), I might have expected them to go the extra mile and make sure that the
 pronunciation that was going to be used would be historically accurate, instead of just following what "everyone" has done for so many years.
Here's an analogy from a different educational field, math. In the US at least, there have been going on, for several decades now, the "math wars." Basically, it boils down to: Should we be teaching kids the steps to do the three-digit addition problem (start at the right, carry the number, keep going, etc.), or should we be teaching them to understand what the problem means, and several different ways that they could solve it, even if one of them is not the traditional way of lining the numbers up vertically and doing it that way? Or another analogy would be the "reading wars." That one comes down to the same idea: should we be teaching kids to read faster and faster and sound out words, or should we be teaching them to use lots of different mental processes and strategies while they are reading, thus actually slowing them down a little?
In both cases, the first group feels/thinks/knows that the second group is ruining education for kids, trying to push a lot of fluffy feel-good nonsense on them. The second group feels/thinks/knows that actually they are training kids' minds and providing them with many more tools to think mathematically and to read effectively. I'm not saying which groups I find myself in (although you could probably infer by reading carefully what I've written), but I will say that both groups could do a much better job of listening to each other and effectively communicating their understandings and concerns to each other (and to the public).
I think perhaps the same thing is happening with the Lightman/Buth (as representatives of their views) debate. Maybe the Buth people should listen very carefully to the concerns of the other group (maybe they are?) and find a better way to explain their point of view. Maybe the Lightman people should listen very carefully to the concerns of the other group, and think carefully about why they have come to their conclusions--are they just trying to change everything, do they have good reasons, etc.--and maybe find a better way to support the Erasmian system, which from what I understand has no real historical basis anymore. I think it used to, since it seems to be Erasmus's (and followers') best shot at how ancient Greek sounded. I guess the question is, would Erasmus do the same thing in today's world, knowing so much more about languages and having so many more manuscripts available (not to mention the chance that he could actually visit Greece)?

Perhaps I would summarize the Buth view as "why continue to push something on students (and on the academic world) that only inhibits their ability to learn Greek?" and the Lightman view as "why stop a system that has worked for so long and doesn't have any flaws that other systems don't have?" That's my version of the two sides, so I hope both of them would find it fair.

Jeffrey T. Requadt

-----Original Message-----
From: b-greek-bounces at lists.ibiblio.org [mailto:b-greek-bounces at lists.ibiblio.org] On Behalf Of Randall Buth
Sent: Wednesday, May 06, 2009 4:03 AM
To: lightmanmark at yahoo.com; B Greek
Subject: Re: [B-Greek] Why insist on wrong when not necessary and with no advantage?

Thank you for this. I think we can make some progress.

On Wed, May 6, 2009 at 4:59 AM, Mark Lightman <lightmanmark at yahoo.com> wrote:
> Randall egrapse:
> <Would someone argue for something that was
> without advantage AND unnecessary AND wrong?>
> No, not even I would do that.
> Erasmus ran out of vowel sounds so eta for epsilon-iota was
> not unnecessary.  I agree it was without advantage. Iota
> for epsilon-itoa WOULD have been with advantage because it
> sounds better.  But Smyth (p. 13) says that EI was pronounced
> as ei in vein, so Erasmus was not wrong.  One out of three.

There is a danger with taking a datum out of a system. ('course Smyth might
simply have been following Erasmus in error, too.) In this case, though,
Smyth distinguished EI from H (see his upside-down vowel chart on
p. 9 ['upside-down' because mouthspace has 'a' on the bottom when people
are not standing on their head]) That means that Smyth did not justify
pronouncing EI the same as H. So you are back to zero out of three, even if
Smyth wasn't clear what to do with H. The good news is that Smyth p11 says
"after 300 BC EI gradually acquired the sound of ei in seize." That statement
is a little bit romantic and pre-linguistic although the time is
basically correct.
Colloquial Attic is supposed to have gone to the 'I' sound during the 4th cBCE
according to Teodorrson. Post-Alexander Koine certainly went that route
and it was firmly established by the third century BCE. A potential mis-
communication from Smyth is the word 'gradually'. In linguistics, sound shifts
are relatively sudden. Romantically, one might imagine EI slowly moving
toward I over a millenium or two. It was only a 100 year period.
Reality deals with phonemes and boundaries. As EI was pushed upward
in the mouth in order to distinguish it from H, there reached a point where
it became too close to I and, voila---pop, a merging took place. EI=I.
Note well: Hta did not merge at this time, which means that during the
pre-merger time it did not sound like EI.
So this is still an unredeemed problem for US Astarteanism.

>  <...why not be historically consistent and use 'v'?>
> Because there are too many onomatopoetic BETA words
> including BRUCW (I gnash my teeth) BLUZW (I bubble)

Varvaros sounded as philistine to the first century Greek
as barbaros sounded to the 4thcBCE Greek. etc.

> Or are you one of those people
> who argue that ancient Greek sheep said VAA VAA?

Why aren't you worried about FEY! words and QA words? TA `A becomes
Q'A? Doesn't  QOOS  'sharp' sound a bit blunted? You must be
careful about mixing apples and oranges from different time periods. A good
rule of thumb is to use whatever the locals accepted. First century Greek
adopted v. If they were using a 'Spanish' bi-labial as I assume, then it still
makes a good sheep noise. "veh". Just put creakiness in your voice,
something that the script can't show in any case.
By the second century CE the Aegean theta was starting to spread.
Bottom line--If you want 'fi', then consistency still demands veta.
If you want theta, then consistency still demands 'dhelta'

> <And why join O with A?>
> Here you got me.  I have argued just recently that
> this conflation is the beam sticking out of our
> Erasmian eyes as we look for iotacist specks.
> And don't just pick on Phemester.  I again
> restate that I have never heard any Erasmian that
> doesn't conflate alpha and omicron on at least some
> words.  I can only defend this by saying (a.) it is
> a natural conflation,  a "living" conflation, as you might
> say, not in Greek but in English.  (b) You can't distinguish
> these two vowels without making Erasmian sound even
> worse. (c.) I can't think of a third defense right now.

Adding up 'a' (not Greek), 'b' (irrelevant), and 'c' (a non-defense) we
get "0". So we're still back at zero out of three.

> Your crack about praising the Goddess is funny enough,
> but I can give you a more serious problem with A-O.
> I have only laughed out loud while reading Greek one time.
> I have CRIED out loud while reading Greek plenty of times, but
> that's another story.  The one time I laughed out loud is when
> I looked up SAFOS in the big LSJ and they quote Euripides:
> ὁ μεν σοφως γαρ ειπεν, ὁ δ’ ἑτερος σαφως
> "This guy spoke wisely, but the other guy spoke clearly."  It's
> the DE that's so funny.  This joke is impossible in
> Phemesterian Greek, and that is a serious problem.

this is why a good rule of thumb is to use the choices that the language
users themselves were happy with. If they could live with it, we can. If they
didn't live with it, we shouldn't.

> But your solution, O-W will destroy more jokes, won't it?
> Seriously, do we know which conflations A-O, O-W, OU-U
> or whatever, cause more chaos with the language.  Is there a
> way to quanitify this?  Or is this too subjective?

No, it is not too subjective. It is exactly why the safe choice is to
choose what
the GREEKS chose, not what some NorthAmerican drempt up.
The Greeks joined O with W. That created 'their' chaos that 'they' could live
with. And if they could live with it, so can I. It is just folly to
divide O from W
and then reattach it to A. Unnecessary, providing no advantage, and WRONG.

PS: As for OY-Y, we know that Y eventually joined I, but OY did not, so again,
Astarteanism comes up short. But this was forgiven on the grounds that
Americans might not want a 'French' sounding Greek. They might demand
this as a 'necessary' innovation. FEY. But a learner can always choose not
to learn some part of a foreign langauge and hobble along.

> Finally, let me just fight back a little for the THEON/THEAN
> embarassment.  Look at what you Omegalomanics do to
> και ὁ λογος ην προς των θεων.  "And the Word was

First, I won't mention that LAGAS sounds like a dialectal form of 'rabbit'
(LAGOS) 'in the beginning was the RABBIT.'
Wow, a rabbit on the altar of Astarte!  OK, I mentioned it.
"In the beginning was the rabbit, and the rabbit was with the female
god and it was from the female god that the rabbit existed."

And I do distinguish TON / TWN with their tone as well as context.
TON QEON has a low tone on TON,
while EK TWN QEWN would have a high tone on TWN.
And you notice that languages have quite a bit of redundancy in them
so that in this case the preferred case with PROS is aitiatikH  TON.

The principle remains the same, we accept the choices that the Greeks
were comfortable with. And even Erasmians should want to be able to
listen to this text read in a KOINH pronunciation and be able to process it
instantly on the fly if they have internalized the language. It is up to us to
find out why it worked for them, just like a French learner must learn how
the French are able to communicate without pronouncing 's' at the end of
most plurals.

BTW, that is why I recommend keeping Y and H for reading KOINH texts. By
the end of the first millenium CE even Y [not OY!] had joined  I. Hta had gone
that route by the 2-3cCE. Which meant that YMEIS and HMEIS sounded
identical in all environments. The language couldn't bear this and remedied
the situation by creating EMEIS and ESEIS. Since I am interested in the
KOINH I go back to a system that the language users themelves found
workable and tolerable. The Roman period Greek speakers were quite
happy and functional with EI=I, H, AI=E, A, W=O, OY, Y. So I don't need
to worry about subjective quantifications about whether or not US
Astarteanism could/might work as well. Astarteanism
was (1) never part of the historical trajectory of the language,
(2) it is unnecessary, and (3) it offers no theoretical advantage.
In theoretical discussions that is called bankrupt. AMericans should
understand this. "Three stirikes and you're ... in an argument with the
umpire." That is why I must rank it last among options for students.
Modern Greek, KOINH, and Restored Attic are all to be recommended
above Astarteanism.
Teachers should take the responsibility to see that this is not perpetuated
in the next generation. The technology is abundantly available if we do not
abuse it and introduce a 'perversity factor' into the equation, 'just cuz'.


> --- On Tue, 5/5/09, Randall Buth <randallbuth at gmail.com> wrote:
> From: Randall Buth <randallbuth at gmail.com>
> Subject: [B-Greek] Why insist on wrong when not necessary and with no advantage?
> To: "B Greek" <b-greek at lists.ibiblio.org>
> Date: Tuesday, May 5, 2009, 9:23 AM
> Would someone argue for something that was
> without advantage AND unnecessary AND wrong?
> Why?
> I hear a potential Seinfeld skit.
> Well, after Mark's courageous and strident support of PHemister's
> Greek I had a listen again after many years.
> [definitely not recommended for learning Greek]
> [What follows technically only applies to a particular brand of
> Erasmianism. I am well aware that there are other brands.]
> The support of this Lightman-Phemister system raises serious
> questions of logic in the argumention.
> For example, Marylin reads EI as H. She thereby defeats one of the
> Erasmian claims/goals of differentiating every graph. But what is
> worse is that she equates it with a vowel with which it was never
> equated in the history of the Greek language.
> (We know this because EI and Hta have different historical
> trajectories. EI joined 'I' during the fourth century BCE but Hta did
> rise to 'I' until several centuries later.)
> The question becomes
> Why choose wrong, when one could just as easily have chosen
> right? English did NOT force this, since Phemister can pronounce
> the sound of English 'feet' (Greek I).
> And why join O with A? This is not something forced by English.
> Again, in the history of the Greek language A was never equated
> with O. Greeks joined O (like 'hope') and W (like 'awe'), and
> Phemister could have done the same if she was looking for a
> loose single vowel.
> Now if someone is going to collapse a few of the graphs of the
> Greek language into fewer sounds (EI=H, A=O, OY=Y), why in
> the world would they join them against the language itself?
> (Hellenistic Greeks had  EI=I, A, W=O, OY, Y)
> I can forgive Y=OY on the grounds that the sound of Greek Y
> (YPSILON) doesn't occur in English. (German 'ue', French
> 'u')
> [[I don't recommend it, of course, since I feel that learning a language
> involves some changes for the learner. This post is simply
> arguing within the parameters of Lightman-Phemisterian Greek.]]
> In the above cases there is NO theoretical advantage acquired
> AND it was unnecessary.
> So why would someone insist on WRONG?
> And then, why would someone want it fixed in concrete!?
> Ah yes, how do I define 'wrong'? A wrong joining would be to
> join two vowels together against the historical choice of the
> language. And in two of the above three examples it was not
> even necessary in that person's native language.
> The bottom line is that U.S. Erasmians should consider using
>  EI=I instead of EI=H. Then, instead of A=O they should
> use O=W. Just those two changes would put them back on the
> same side of the track with the Greeks. And it wouldn't cost
> any more vowel pairings than they already have.
> Finally, since the soft sounds 'f' and 'th' are used, why not
> be
> historically consistent and use 'v' and 'dh', too?  v and
> 'dh' entered
> the Greek language BEFORE the shift to 'f' and 'th'. We will
> pardon the lack of 'xh' and 'gh', because Americans may want to
> sound "American". But people should not create unnecessary
> problems. Again, this would cost nothing in terms of theory
> but would put them back on the side of the tracks with the
> Greek language.
> As posted couple of years ago,
> why would US Erasmians want to praise Astarte and cohorts?
> The concrete isn't dry as long as you're depending on
> written texts to follow something. The time to change is
> when the concrete is still wet.
> --
> Randall Buth, PhD
> www.biblicalulpan.org
> 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
> http://lists.ibiblio.org/mailman/listinfo/b-greek

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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