[b-hebrew] Initial "Beged Kefet" consonants always have a...

Karl Randolph kwrandolph at email.com
Wed Oct 19 17:34:57 EDT 2005

Dear Peter:

Thanks for giving us URLs to the articles by Buth and 
others concerning the Greek pronunciations. You've 
mentioned them plenty of times in the past, so I found it 
quite useful to access the originals.

To start out, I think Buth's phonemic argument is weak. He 
gave the example of "top" and "stop" as having two 
different pronunciations for "t". But when I checked my 
pronunciations, I pronounce both "t"s as aspirated. But 
then I have dyslexia, and careful pronunciation is one way 
I deal with the problem: I often do not understand others 
when they speak sloppily. (I often have more problems 
understanding native speakers who speak sloppily, than 
foreigners who speak carefully but with an accent.)

Which brings us to page 5, where he makes the 
assumption that theta originally had a plosive, a hard, 
aspirated stop based on what could just as well have 
been dialectal, foreign language accented or even a 
sloppy pronunciation by an individual. The same with 
some of his other examples and conclusions.

Though Buth mentions that there were thousands of 
examples studied for his conclusions, he made no 
mention whether they were analyzed according to the 
native tongue of the writer, whether or not the writer 
originated in an area with an idiosyncratic pronunciation 
or foreign accent, or other factors which could 
dramatically adjust his conclusions. Let's not forget that, 
though it was a few centuries after Alexander the Great, 
the majority of people speaking koiné Greek were not 
native speakers of the language. Thus when such people 
wrote phonetically, they would have "misspellings" 
consistent with their accents and not according to the 
"proper" pronunciation of koiné Greek.

His example on page 4 where Greeks transliterated the 
Latin "v" as "b" does not necessarily mean what he claims: 
the use of the "b" for the "v" is just as likely the result that 
koiné Greeks didn't have the voiced fricative at that time, 
so they simply used the closest equivalent in their 
language for transliterations. Along with Dr. Hoffman, I 
view transliterations as an untrustworthy indicator as to 
how a language was pronounced.

I may be wrong, but I suspect that modern Greek is far 
closer to Byzantine pronunciation than koiné. I date many 
of the pronunciation changes that led to modern Greek to 
the Byzantine period, in other words after the LXX and the 
New Testament with their transliterations were written.

The reason I go on about this is because of the 
transliterations in the LXX and other literature. The LXX 
was written about 200 years after the last native speaker 
of Biblical Hebrew died or later. Its transliterations reflect 
names as they were pronounced in Egypt at that time. Do 
they accurately record the pronunciations used by native 
speakers of Biblical Hebrew? Not likely. But they give an 
indication as to how the language changed over time.

Thanks again for the links.

Karl W. Randolph.

----- Original Message -----
From: "Peter Kirk" <peterkirk at qaya.org>
> >...
> I have already suggested to you Randall Buth's article
> http://biblicalulpan.org/PDF%20Files/PRONSYS1_US.pdf, undated but quite
> recent. This is obviously an overview which doesn't go into all the
> evidence, but he lists books which do, e.g.
> ...
> Another interesting article,
> http://www.artsci.wustl.edu/%7ecwconrad/docs/CompPhon.pdf, is by Carl
> Conrad of the b-greek list, but this does not go into the dates of
> pronunciation changes. See also
> http://www.bsw.org/?l=72081&a=Art06.html, but I am surprised by the
> conclusion here, from a modern Greek speaker, that Koine Greek was
> already pronounced almost the same as modern Greek. There are more
> interesting links at http://www.biblicalgreek.org/links/pronunciation.php.
> --
> Peter Kirk
> peter at qaya.org (personal)
> peterkirk at qaya.org (work)
> http://www.qaya.org/

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