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Author Topic: Modern Greek and Russian vs. Koine and Slavonic  (Read 3515 times) Average Rating: 0
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CRCulver
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« Reply #45 on: July 03, 2011, 06:05:28 PM »

I don't doubt that you could get close or get a pretty good grasp of the matter. I mean, if the sound "ga" is transliterated into contemporary Chinese and Korean sources with a related sound, that would give you some clues -- or if some contemporary source stated that the Japanese look like they're swallowing a bowl of rice when they utter the sound ... You would still only be arriving at an approximation.

Any linguist would readily admit that reconstruction is only an approximation. The phonemic inventory of the classical languages is certain and many phonetic details are known. However, as Sidney Allen writes in Vox Latina, we'll never know what subtleties distinguished the speech of, say, Rome from that of Tuscany even though to Latin speakers the difference was readily audible.

Nonetheless, there's a great pleasure in at least approximating what the text must have sounded like to the people who wrote it.

In addition to pursuing the reconstruction of Koine, use of the reconstructed Attic accent at times aids learning. Even if some vowels had shifted by the time of the New Testament, learning words according to their Attic pronunciation helps remember spelling. For students of Modern Greek, spelling is not easy when you have so many vowels that are all pronounced alike. And as I said, morphophonemic alterations only make sense if you're aware that phi, chi and theta were originally aspirated stops and not fricatives.

Even the Church has maintained anachronistic details for the sake of avoiding ambiguity in texts. Think of all the various meanings of a single eta depending on what diacritic(s) it has. My editions of the Church Fathers all notate the Classical Greek pitch accent (acute, grave, circumflex) and rough or smooth breathings, even though this system had almost certainly changed before the birth of Christ.
« Last Edit: July 03, 2011, 06:09:58 PM by CRCulver » Logged
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« Reply #46 on: July 03, 2011, 06:20:00 PM »

And yes, we do know what chi, rho and gamma sounded like.

Isa, the failing might be mine, but I just don't see how this is remotely possible.

It wouldn't matter how many "related" sounds in other languages sound like the Japanese "ga" or how many descriptions of what the lips look like when the sound is uttered are discovered, without actually hearing the sound pronounced, you cannot really know what it sounds like.
It is true that the narrowest realization is beyond reach when the native speakers are all dead, but a broad realization is possible. Enough as within range of the dialects.

Btw, on the language in question:
Vox Graeca: a guide to the pronunciation of classical Greek By William Sidney Allen
http://books.google.com/books?id=yws4Zey-ZnYC&printsec=frontcover&dq=Vox+Graeca&cd=1#v=onepage&q&f=false
I don't doubt that you could get close or get a pretty good grasp of the matter. I mean, if the sound "ga" is transliterated into contemporary Chinese and Korean sources with a related sound, that would give you some clues -- or if some contemporary source stated that the Japanese look like they're swallowing a bowl of rice when they utter the sound ... You would still only be arriving at an approximation.
Close enough. Someone speaking the reconstructed pronunciation could actually be understood by an Ancient Greek. There is some question on whether an Ancient Greek would recognize the "received pronunciation" as Greek, let alone understand it.
By the way, I really appreciate the scholarship in this thread and would not dare to attempt to answer it. My objection is more of a philosophical one than a linguistic one.
No, you are by all rights correct as to the exactitude modern linguistics and phonlogists require.  But the aim of reconstruction is to get within the range of the native speakers and the foreign speakers they accept as sharing their language.  That much is available through reconstruction.
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« Reply #47 on: July 03, 2011, 07:52:48 PM »

Someone speaking the reconstructed pronunciation could actually be understood by an Ancient Greek. There is some question on whether an Ancient Greek would recognize the "received pronunciation" as Greek, let alone understand it.

But they're all dead, so who cares? (this is a serious question, not being flippant).

When I read ol'school Japanese, I read the characters in my head as if they were pronounced according to modern readings. Most of the time, it won't make any difference how the ancients pronounced the characters, because they are all dead. However, by doing it this way, I could read the text to any modern speaker of Japanese and the meaning could be understood. Surely this is advantageous?

The best argument I can think of in favour of the reconstructed pronunciation is that it is so heavily entrenched in the West that it would be a bit too much trouble to change now. All the Koine speakers in the West understand each other when they speak in the reconstructed pronunciation and the whole point of a spoken language is to make yourself understood. If the reconstructed pronunciation had never taken root in the West, I believe my argument would be even stronger.

All pronunciations are ultimately arbitrary, are they not? We could all agree to pronounce Koine according to the rules of elvish and as long as we all agreed to do so we could understand each other.
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« Reply #48 on: July 03, 2011, 07:56:41 PM »

In addition to pursuing the reconstruction of Koine, use of the reconstructed Attic accent at times aids learning. Even if some vowels had shifted by the time of the New Testament, learning words according to their Attic pronunciation helps remember spelling. For students of Modern Greek, spelling is not easy when you have so many vowels that are all pronounced alike. And as I said, morphophonemic alterations only make sense if you're aware that phi, chi and theta were originally aspirated stops and not fricatives.

This is an argument I find very powerful. Surely, though, this argument stands in tension against the argument that we should pronounce the text in the same manner as those who composed it? Even though I see the logic in using the reconstructed Attic pronunciation, if we are to follow this "we have to be recognisable to the ancients in case we ever discover a time machine and blast ourselves back into Ptolemaic Egypt" argument to its logical conclusion, the only way to pronounce Koine would be as Cleopatra would have pronounced it, not as Socrates may have.

Even the Church has maintained anachronistic details for the sake of avoiding ambiguity in texts. Think of all the various meanings of a single eta depending on what diacritic(s) it has. My editions of the Church Fathers all notate the Classical Greek pitch accent (acute, grave, circumflex) and rough or smooth breathings, even though this system had almost certainly changed before the birth of Christ.

I see how this logically follows from your first point.
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« Reply #49 on: July 03, 2011, 07:57:06 PM »

Apologies to Volnutt for hijacking his thread!

PS: have you considered which language will contribute more to your style/coolness points?
« Last Edit: July 03, 2011, 08:12:53 PM by akimori makoto » Logged

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« Reply #50 on: July 03, 2011, 09:03:02 PM »

Someone speaking the reconstructed pronunciation could actually be understood by an Ancient Greek. There is some question on whether an Ancient Greek would recognize the "received pronunciation" as Greek, let alone understand it.

But they're all dead, so who cares? (this is a serious question, not being flippant).

When I read ol'school Japanese, I read the characters in my head as if they were pronounced according to modern readings. Most of the time, it won't make any difference how the ancients pronounced the characters, because they are all dead. However, by doing it this way, I could read the text to any modern speaker of Japanese and the meaning could be understood. Surely this is advantageous?

The best argument I can think of in favour of the reconstructed pronunciation is that it is so heavily entrenched in the West that it would be a bit too much trouble to change now. All the Koine speakers in the West understand each other when they speak in the reconstructed pronunciation and the whole point of a spoken language is to make yourself understood. If the reconstructed pronunciation had never taken root in the West, I believe my argument would be even stronger.

All pronunciations are ultimately arbitrary, are they not? We could all agree to pronounce Koine according to the rules of elvish and as long as we all agreed to do so we could understand each other.
I don't use "Erasmian" pronunciation (for that matter, supposedly neither did Erasmus) normally.  I use the modern one, or the received pronunciation of the Middle East (unlike the Greeks, we-Arabs, Copts, Syriacs-have a received pronunciation which is somewhat the pronuncation of a millenium ago (the Coptic a bit later, the Syriac a bit before). I rarely have to deal with Classical pronuncation, except when learning words and inflections (and the I learn the modern ones alongside).  I was just responding to the claim that Greek doesn't operate like every other human language.

Btw, no one, for instance uses Old Church Slavonic reconstructed pronunciation, which would be unintelligible.  Except in learning paradigms and philological discussion.
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« Reply #51 on: July 03, 2011, 09:06:26 PM »

Btw, no one, for instance uses Old Church Slavonic reconstructed pronunciation, which would be unintelligible.  Except in learning paradigms and philological discussion.

I suppose you're talking about Church Slavonic. Old Church Slavonic would be spoken aloud purely among historical linguists, and we do use the reconstructed pronunciation for it.

A reconstructed pronunciation for Church Slavonic is hardly necessary, since Church Slavonic already reflects the major changes that led to the modern Slavonic languages, namely the disappearance of the reduced vowels and shift to a stress-based accent. I do hear that some isolated traditions maintain nasal vowels, though.
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« Reply #52 on: July 03, 2011, 09:16:44 PM »

Btw, no one, for instance uses Old Church Slavonic reconstructed pronunciation, which would be unintelligible.  Except in learning paradigms and philological discussion.

I suppose you're talking about Church Slavonic. Old Church Slavonic would be spoken aloud purely among historical linguists, and we do use the reconstructed pronunciation for it.
That would be the aforementioned philological discussion.

A reconstructed pronunciation for Church Slavonic is hardly necessary, since Church Slavonic already reflects the major changes that led to the modern Slavonic languages, namely the disappearance of the reduced vowels and shift to a stress-based accent.

that would be the difference between Old Church Slavonic, a dead language, and Church Slavonic, living recensions of Old Church Slavonic (and the Romanian one, which I expect is dead now), which ipso facto don't need to be reconstructed.

I do hear that some isolated traditions maintain nasal vowels, though.
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« Reply #53 on: July 03, 2011, 11:42:50 PM »

I was just responding to the claim that Greek doesn't operate like every other human language.

I agree with this observation and hope it is clear that I am not suggesting that the way I sound when I speak Greek to my grandparents is the way Homer or Cleopatra sounded. My argument is more of the nature of "so what?".
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« Reply #54 on: July 03, 2011, 11:56:54 PM »

As an amateur linguist, I am eagerly watching this thread.

*gets popcorn*

Back to the discussion, please.
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« Reply #55 on: July 04, 2011, 08:04:19 AM »

I think you are all right.
-Greek has indeed changed in pronunciation and syntax; it's impossible for a living organism (such as the language) to remain changeless. Greek historically moves from a synthetic structure to a more analytical one.
-The Modern language is the great-grand child of the Koine. The Koine was nothing more that the merging of all the different dialects spoken in the Greek speaking world (some were even unintelligible, mostly due to pronunciation; e.g. the Acarnanian dialect was considered unintelligible by the rest of Greeks and Acarnanians were even perceived as barbarians) into one lingua franca. Koine shares characteristics with all the major dialects of ancient Greek (Attic, Doric, Ionic, Aeolic) with Attic being the model of the language.
-The main characteristic of the Modern language is iotacism, the merging of ι, υ, η vowels and diphthongs of the ancient language in pronunciation so that they all sound like iota, a process that started in the Classical era with the merging of ει->ι; e.g. Plato bents on paretymology and for him erroneously the name of the god of the sea, Poseidon "Ποσειδὼν" derives from the masculine noun "ποσίδεσμος" (foot-shackler, fetterer). His assumption is wrong but interestingly, ει was pronounced ι, already in the 4c. BC.
-Aristophanes writes in one of his comedies that sheep bleat "βη, βη". All Greeks know that sheep bleat "beh, beh", therefore, β was pronounced as a voiced bilabial plosive (like the English b) in the Classical era, and eta was pronounced as /ε:/ the long edition (macron) of the short vowel ε.
-The pronunciation of οι->ι, is probably the last sound shift occured in the language (9-10 c. AD).
-Erasmus in my personal and humble opinion, presumptuously takes for granted and recontructs a "scientific pronunciation of Ancient Greek" while everyone knows that Ancient Greeks themselves pronounced Greek in various ways according to places, times and purposes of speech.
-The same can be said for Koine Greek. Cappadocians -is well attested- were pronouncing η as /ε:/ even until the 10th c. while the Constantinopolitans or the mainland Greeks did not. Even today, Pontic Greeks pronounce η as /ε:/   
-The Gospel according to John in the Byzantine/Modern pronunciation by a native:
http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=5351909567436805703&ei=00VrSvHpOJWerQLo0JH0DA
-The best reconstructed pronunciation of Homeric Greek I've heard so far:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=22mJXuQnYIg
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« Reply #56 on: July 04, 2011, 10:29:47 AM »

If you were to ask 100 average Americans on the street if they could tell you about the following words -- divine condescension, providence, atonement, ascetic, salvific, cruciform, prelapsarian, ascension, beseech, prostration, ecumenical, eschaton, anchorite, presbyter, ineffable, incarnate, begotten, sanctified, etc -- I guarantee that the majority would know very little of them. Many people would know absolutely none. Studies show that levels of literacy and especially religious literacy are extremely low.

The point being: Everyone has to learn theological vocabulary to understand the liturgical services, including native speakers of English worshiping in English. The language of Orthodox worship is poetic, theologically rich, and substantially more sophisticated than average speech. That's a real and significant barrier to many people, young and old. Overcoming it requires education, exposure, and effort.

Such is true, in my experience, of most Greeks. Those who are (a) educated and/or (b) spend a lot of time in Church don't have much trouble understanding the Divine Liturgy and common liturgical hymns. As long as you overlook the priestly prayers, the vocabulary and syntax of the fixed parts of the Divine Liturgy are relatively simple.

At least for me, making the switch is about as easy as reading 14th century English. Some people find that hard or even "impossible", but, with a little effort, it's quite easy for a literate speaker of modern English. Consider this famous passage from the Gospel according to St John, translated by John Wycliffe in 1384:

For God louede so the world, that he yaf his `oon bigetun sone, that ech man that bileueth in him perische not, but haue euerlastynge lijf. For God sente not his sone in to the world, that he iuge the world, but that the world be saued bi him. He that bileueth in hym, is not demed; but he that bileueth not, is now demed, for he bileueth not in the name of the `oon bigetun sone of God. And this is the dom, for liyt cam in to the world, and men loueden more derknessis than liyt; for her werkes weren yuele. For ech man that doith yuele, hatith the liyt; and he cometh not to the liyt, that hise werkis be not repreued. But he that doith treuthe, cometh to the liyt, that hise werkis be schewid, that thei ben don in God.
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« Reply #57 on: July 04, 2011, 12:27:38 PM »

Apologies to Volnutt for hijacking his thread!

PS: have you considered which language will contribute more to your style/coolness points?
No problem. Whenever you're dealing with nationalism, the threads hijack themselves, not that this is a bad thing.  laugh

Well, I'm already learning German, pretty much on the top of the style heap imo  Wink

Otherwise, Koine brings the geek factor and Russian the James Bond ethos, so I'll have to chose lol.
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« Reply #58 on: July 04, 2011, 12:28:38 PM »

no matter which one you learn, Greek is a difficult language to learn.

But this web site might help.

http://www.greek-language.com/Learn-Greek-2.html
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« Reply #59 on: July 04, 2011, 12:38:30 PM »

If you were to ask 100 average Americans on the street if they could tell you about the following words -- divine condescension, providence, atonement, ascetic, salvific, cruciform, prelapsarian, ascension, beseech, prostration, ecumenical, eschaton, anchorite, presbyter, ineffable, incarnate, begotten, sanctified, etc -- I guarantee that the majority would know very little of them. Many people would know absolutely none. Studies show that levels of literacy and especially religious literacy are extremely low.

The point being: Everyone has to learn theological vocabulary to understand the liturgical services, including native speakers of English worshiping in English. The language of Orthodox worship is poetic, theologically rich, and substantially more sophisticated than average speech. That's a real and significant barrier to many people, young and old. Overcoming it requires education, exposure, and effort.

Such is true, in my experience, of most Greeks. Those who are (a) educated and/or (b) spend a lot of time in Church don't have much trouble understanding the Divine Liturgy and common liturgical hymns. As long as you overlook the priestly prayers, the vocabulary and syntax of the fixed parts of the Divine Liturgy are relatively simple.
Very good points. Wycliffe is pretty easy for me, actually. I think Greek young people are just lazy like their American counterparts  Grin.
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« Reply #60 on: July 04, 2011, 12:38:59 PM »

no matter which one you learn, Greek is a difficult language to learn.

But this web site might help.

http://www.greek-language.com/Learn-Greek-2.html
Thanks!
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