What are the distorsions in the various (French, German, etc.) versions of the Erasmian Ancient Greek pronunciation?

By: | Post date: 2016-12-28 | Comments: No Comments
Posted in categories: Ancient Greek, Linguistics

Pronunciation of Ancient Greek in teaching – Wikipedia

Wikipedia enumerates English, French, German, Italian. I’ll list the pronunciations that I would deem wrong from the currently accepted reconstruction of Ancient Greek.

I’m not even going to list the traditional distortions of Erasmian in English courtesy of the Great English Vowel Shift, and some bizarre notions of how accentuation worked. If you’ve ever heard a Classical Greek word borrowed into English, you know what ended up happening.

The situation got bad enough that it was utterly abandoned in the teaching of Greek in the Anglosphere at the end of the 19th century; Athenaze for English (from Comparison of Greek Pronunciation Systems), as a popular modern textbook, sticks pretty much to the modern reconstruction.

For the other three languages:

  • No pitch accent. Italian, French, German
  • No vowel length. French.
  • No geminate consonants. French, German.
  • No distinction between genuine and spurious diphthongs. Italian, French.
  • αυ as [o]. French
  • ευ as [œ]. French.
  • ευ, ηυ, οι as [ɔʏ]. German.
  • ει as [ai]. German.
  • Zeta as [dz]. Italian, French.
  • Zeta as [ts]. German.
  • Sigma prevocalically as [z]. German.
  • Theta as [θ]. Italian.
  • Theta as [t]. French, German (Italian in practice)
  • Phi as [f]. Italian, German, French.
  • Chi as [x]. Italian, German.
  • Chi as [k]. French (Italian in practice)
  • Ignoring rough breathing. French.

Italian is the closest to reconstructed Classical Greek (and indeed to Erasmus’ Erasmian), with only a few distortions. German is punctiliously correct in some aspects, annoyingly wrongheaded in others. French is… wow. Just wow.

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