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Ancient Greek Pronunciation in Continental Europe
by O Canter - Saturday, 16 January 2010, 03:07 PM
  I may have the opportunity soon to teach an introductory course in Ancient Greek, and I am curious about the way Greek pronunciation is taught on the Continent. I have heard from several people that in France and Spain teachers of Ancient Greek employ something like a reconstructed ancient pronunciation. In America curious students are usually referred to Sydney Allen's Vox Graeca, but no one actually attempts to implement his pronunciation. I am curious what people are using in the classroom over there, and if I might have a look (or even better, a listen) to any relevant materials. Any information from Greeks studying Ancient Greek would also be quite welcome.

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Re: Ancient Greek Pronunciation in Continental Europe
by Greg Brush - Sunday, 17 January 2010, 01:03 AM
  Greeks studying Ancient Greek use the pronunciation of the contemporary language in pronouncing the ancient language. That is, they read the ancient texts according to modern contemporary pronunciation, and have done so for a number of centuries.

I don't know what is done in France or Spain nowadays, but the Anglo-American world still tends to largely use a reconstructed "Erasmian" pronunciation, especially for vowels and diphthongs, at least as an explanation of what the ancient spellings should have represented in speech. However, as you note, the English-speaking world does not completely employ this reconstructed pronunciation in practice. For example although the grammar texts state that ancient φ, θ, χ actually represented aspirated π, τ, κ (i.e., as /p'/, /t'/, and /k'/ respectively), these ancient aspirates are almost universally pronounced here in the U.S. as /f/, /θ/, and /h/. And no one here, as far as I know, actually attempts to pronounce the tonal/pitch accents of the ancient language (partly because no one knows for sure exactly what the ancient pitch accent sounded like).

I personally learned Attic Greek many years ago according to the "Erasmian" pronunciation which was the norm in American classrooms for many decades. About six years ago, I decided to replace that "reconstructed" pronunciation with the modern one which contemporary Greeks use. It took me over two years to successfully make the transition -- that is, to unlearn the old "reconstructed" habits I had learned many years before and to replace them with new habits based on the contemporary Greek pronunciation used in the LGO Audio Lessons.

Greg Brush
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Re: Ancient Greek Pronunciation in Continental Europe
by Guest User - Sunday, 21 February 2010, 10:49 PM
  Hmmm.... As an American who learned Modern Greek first and then taught himself Ancient Greek. My observations would be:

- Most teachers skim over pronunciation -- it's covered in the first week of class and never touched again -- and most teachers don't really care, the goal never being to speak the language but only to acquire fluency in reading it. One of my tutors Modern Greek tutors, who spoke Modern Greek at home, took Ancient Greek courses, in America, at the university level said that his teachers were perfectly happy for him to use Modern Greek pronunciation rather than conventional pronunciation.

- When you're reciting poetry you use the rhythm of the poem. No modern methods that I'm aware of differentiates between long and short values in a way that would allow you to recite poetry in quantitative fashion.

- Ancient Greek pronounced in conventional, Erasmian fashion, sounds completely barbaric to me, to be honest my own feeling is that you might as well just pronounce them as though you transliterated them into English characters. It seems to suck the grace and lightness out of the language. My own practice is to use Modern Greek pronunciation with a very light 'h' (rather than entirely silent) and variation in vowel length (but not quality) when reading poetry, which is a rough approximation of what Ancient Greek would have sounded like in the Hellenic period.