On Greek Pronunciation Again

Okay, Caragounis’ description of kappa is even worse:

Capitol: Κ Small: κ HGP: k as in keen (before e and i-sounds). kodak (before α, ο, ω, and consonants) (same book, same page).

I’m really, really struggling to figure what exactly what he’s thinking regarding the difference (?)  in pronunciation of “keen” and “kodak.”

No clue on that one.

No clue.

10 thoughts on “On Greek Pronunciation Again

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  1. Mike,

    There’s a difference if you’re a phonetician, :). Say the two of them and pay attention to the shape of your mouth when you’re saying the k. It’s lightly different. But why they try to describe this to someone who hasn’t studied phonetics and who can’t read the phonetic alphabet (which is designed to describe the differences), is beyond me.

  2. Damian,

    Good point.

    Although, from what I read in his book, Caragounis is clearly *not* a phonetician!

    Not to mention that the very little difference between [ki] and [ke] in Greek is far from phonemic.

  3. Yeah, I don’t understand why he thinks it’s important to identify a non-phonemic distinction in a language that hasn’t been spoken in over 1500 years. It’s not like pronunciation is that important in a dead language (especially one that’s been recorded in writing and not orally).

  4. Oh, but his point is that the pronunciation of ancient Greek is not dead, but rather, that there exists a “native Greek” pronunciation whose natural and organic development spans the whole history of the language, and which now lives among modern Greeks.

    Of course, this is precisely the point made by nearly every Greek I’ve ever met (and I’m Eastern Orthodox, so I’ve met a few); added to that is usually the comment that this glorious, exalted, pure, etc. Greek pronunciation is basically unattainable for us lowly xenoi: try as you might, you’ll never really get it right. For this I have no patience, and Caragounis strikes me as your average Hellenic (ha! like there are any true Hellenes left after the population exchanges of the Turkocratia!) xenophobe, except that he has a PhD and can write outrageously expensive books to elaborate on our ethnic and linguistic inadequacies.

    The point is, don’t try, Mike. You’ll never get it right.

    (All of that said, I do think there’s a great deal of merit to the notion of a “native Greek” pronunciation, and I myself always use the modern Greek pronunciation; my students have remarked that it makes it sound like a real, living language, and I agree. It is the tone and subtext of Caragounis’ arguments, together with his presumption that his pet theories are beyond criticism, that irk me.)

  5. Esteban, I don’t think that’s true. Or, I should say, its not completely true. He concedes that “υ” has not always been pronounced “ι” at one point, but as [ɨ]. So while he argues for his five vowel system throughout the book, at one point he actually admits there once was a six vowel system – maybe, perhaps, if he doesn’t think about it too much…

  6. That palatalisation of k before i and e is of course very general in European languages. Russian does it as well, as I’m sure you observed Mike – it has a phonemic palatalised/non-palatalised distinction for most consonants, but not for k, g and kh where the distinction depends entirely on the phonetic environment. But things get different further east, with Turkic and Semitic languages which distinguish k and q sounds as separate phonemes (actually a distinction lost in western Turkish dialects probably under Greek influence). So I have had to learn to say phonetic [q] before front vowels and phonetic [k] sometimes tending towards [c] before back vowels.

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