Vowel quality vs. quantity

Quasus

Civis Illustris
This is undoubtedly the case, but Irish is the language 'in need', not Russian, not Portuguese, and certainly not Latin.
My point is that it isn't in need of foreign students. A language is alive as long as it's passed on to kids. Foreign students have nothing to do with this.
 

Bitmap

Civis Illustris
My point is that it isn't in need of foreign students. A language is alive as long as it's passed on to kids. Foreign students have nothing to do with this.
Tell that Mr Ivrit.
 

Quasus

Civis Illustris
It can happen that a language starts to be transmitted to children. Think of creoles. So new living languages can come into being.
Tell that Mr Ivrit.
What about him? Once upon a time there was a living language of the Jews. Then they adopted Aramaic instead, and Old Hebrew became dead, even though it continued as a written language. Some two thousand years later a version of the written language started to be passed on to kids and became the living Modern Hebrew. BTW, I don't know how different it is from living Old Hebrew, but I think the discontinuity should be evident.

In idem flumen bis descendimus et non descendimus. Imagine that at our time some community adopts Latin as the everyday language and the children become native speakers. Personally, I find it easy to believe that in, say, two generations kids will be having a hard time reading Cicero and their Latin would terrify any classical philologist. So if by miracle all the anglophone Ireland switched to Irish, I still believe the Irish that we know now would cease to exist. In this unlikely situation a new form of Irish is likely to emerge.

But what about Hebrew and Irish? Modern Hebrew came into life not through foreign studies, not through textbooks like "Hebrew in 30 days" or "L'hebréu sans peine", but through devoted ... (I don't know, devoted who. Probably, not fans? Anyway, Ben Yehuda was devoted above average by all accounts) who were eager to replace the vernacular in their families by Hebrew. So I don't see how eventual foreign students would help Irish. Granted, if my family moved to a Gaeltacht, if my kids went to Irish kindergartens and schools, if I encouraged their communication with other kids in Irish, then I assume I would indeed contribute to the reviving of the Irish tongue. Even if my children didn't qualify as native speakers, my grand-children probably would. But somehow, I don't feel the motivation to do so. After all, for the Jews Hebrew was a national symbol, the language of their religion and culture. Whereas Irish doesn't motivate much even the Irish, and I'm not one of them.
 

sparkyyy

New Member
As long as I remember, I have no problem with Scorpio's pronunciation. Could you specify in detail what he pronounces wrong and where?

I wonder, @sparkyyy, on what criteria you are defining weird and unnatural when you aren't a native speaker? You literally cannot do that. Only a native speaker of Latin can use terms as weird and unnatural. You either follow the reconstructed model or you don't. And yes, it will feel weird and unnatural because that's how a language with phonetics which is not native to you SHOULD feel, since it's FOREIGN!
I think I can't really specify it further than the weird long vowel sounds being the same as short vowel sounds and yes you are right to say that only a native speaker could say with a clear certainty. I'll give you an example of what I mean. Not so long ago I stumbled across this video
@6minutes

and despite not knowing Greek at all I really cringed at his pronunciation and when I looked at the comment section numerous Greeks were criticizing him quite harshly. I feel like I could tell right away. I might be wrong regarding Scorpio though.
 
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Quasus

Civis Illustris
Maybe the Greeks just didn't get it? Maybe they thought the guy was reciting Modern Greek?

His pronunciation deviates a bit from our (perhaps somewhat fragmentary) knowledge of classical Greek pronunciation, like he pronounces ει as a diphthong and θ, as a spirant. No big deal, if you ask me.

But you know what? I think you'd find the guy unnatural if he tried to read something in German, too, even though his accent might be quite tolerable. Because it would have been a conscious effort. Often we can tell if someone is experienced or not, if someone is confident or not, if one is sufficiently "at home". To read a passage aloud once in a while is one thing and to live with a language for years and to make it a part of yourself is another. Of course, this is generally applicable, not only to languages. Why are Sunday drivers slow? Because they have the occasion to drive only on Sundays, which is a critical lack of practice, so they drive if not consciously, then surely not with as much confidence as those who drive every day (I owe this example to Lloyd Reynolds, the calligrapher).
 
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Iáson

Cívis Illústris
He's using a version of Erasmian, ie. the standard pronunciation in Anglophone academic circles, but it's patently not the reconstructed Classical pronunciation, nor does it correspond to the pronunciation of Greek at any period. For example, he makes no distinction between η and ει, but does not pronounce either as /i/. In fact, ει was definitely pronounced as /i/ before the two merged. A lot of American scholars do that.

Even if he had used perfect 4th century Attic pronunciation, however, he would still have been criticised by the people who object to ancient Greek being pronounced differently from modern Greek, which for some reason seems to include a substantial number of the modern Greek speakers who comment on Youtube videos. But perhaps you agree with them that the pronunciation of languages never changes over time, in the face of all linguistic study?

This, incidentally, is Ioannis Stratakis' version of the reconstructed Classical pronunciation, the best I've heard so far:
 

Quasus

Civis Illustris
I can clearly hear that the Nazi guy reads ει as the diphthong [ei] instead of [e:], while his η is something like [ε:]. I'd say that on the whole he's close to e. g. Allen's Vox Graeca.
 

Iáson

Cívis Illústris
I thought he was pronouncing ῥήμαϲιν with a diphthong as well, but perhaps not. At any rate, I'm pretty sure he's not doing the pitch accent, distinctive geminates, or the aspirated-unaspirated distinction.
 

Iáson

Cívis Illústris
They didn't occur.
In ἀγγέλλειν? Actually, listening back to it, I'm not sure if he does pronounce that or not.

I can't tell. But surely it's "insufficiently reconstructed". Allen advises against it.
There is no doubt as to the pitch accent in Classical Greek, nor does Allen argue that it was not the case. He simply doesn't recommend that it be taught in English schools, on the grounds of practicality and his own aesthetic preference.
 

Quasus

Civis Illustris
There is no doubt as to the pitch accent in Classical Greek, nor does Allen argue that it was not the case. He simply doesn't recommend that it be taught in English schools, on the grounds of practicality and his own aesthetic preference.
We just don't have enough data. Allen discusses the accent at length. Naturally, his arguments gradually fade into plausible reasoning. Having analyzed scanty available data, he states that he has nothing to say whatsoever about pronouncing phrases. He had to hypothesize about isolated words, but phrases are terra incognita at all. So Allen admits that no matter how we try, we'll hardly sound more authentic and advises against.

Allen said he was yet to find a recording that wouldn't sound ridiculous. Now, Assimil's records use pitch accent. Sometimes you can hear a lengthy phrase, like ἡ ἑλληνικὴ φωνή, carefully pronounced at a constant pitch (in this case with the rise on the last syllable). This sounds weird. You can say that I'm no native speaker to decide, but there is no evidence of constant pitch and I'm at liberty not to consider it a plausible assumption.

Probably it would be a fun experiment to try and learn Swedish or Lithuanian or Serbian pitch accent without recordings, using just books, and to compare.
 

Quasus

Civis Illustris
Not that it matters much, but personally, I'm not a fan of reconstructed pronunciation and stick to the good old Erasmian one. At least it has the benefit of a transparent correspondence between sounds and letters.
 

Iáson

Cívis Illústris
We just don't have enough data. Allen discusses the accent at length. Naturally, his arguments gradually fade into plausible reasoning. Having analyzed scanty available data, he states that he has nothing to say whatsoever about pronouncing phrases. He had to hypothesize about isolated words, but phrases are terra incognita at all. So Allen admits that no matter how we try, we'll hardly sound more authentic and advises against.

Allen said he was yet to find a recording that wouldn't sound ridiculous. Now, Assimil's records use pitch accent. Sometimes you can hear a lengthy phrase, like ἡ ἑλληνικὴ φωνή, carefully pronounced at a constant pitch (in this case with the rise on the last syllable). This sounds weird. You can say that I'm no native speaker to decide, but there is no evidence of constant pitch and I'm at liberty not to consider it a plausible assumption.

Probably it would be a fun experiment to try and learn Swedish or Lithuanian or Serbian pitch accent without recordings, using just books, and to compare.
Have you not come across Devine and Stephens' book?

You can say that I'm no native speaker to decide, but there is no evidence of constant pitch
I don't think anyone reconstructs constant pitch the whole way through.
 
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Quasus

Civis Illustris
Thanks to your reminder, I've found an unauthorized copy in the Downloads folder. :) But surely I never read it, I don't remember, why. Probably I decided it was too abstract for me. After all, I don't believe in learning pronunciation from books. At least, I am unable to. On the other hand, my interest for reconstructed Greek pronunciation didn't last long.
 

Iáson

Cívis Illústris
It's not easy reading; unlike Allen, they are not writing for a general audience and they have made no effort to be comprehensible or avoid abstruse technical language. However, it is a fairly convincing approach and I do find it pretty hard to argue against their findings, when backed up with such copious statistics.
 

Quasus

Civis Illustris
Then I have to take back my words about the lack of data. I don't think I'm ever going to read that book, so for me the issue will remain undecided forever. :) Anyway, if I know something about the pronunciation, it doesn't imply that I'm able to reproduce it. Pitch accent and intonation - certainly not.

On the other hand, why bother? I believe it would be important if the accent differentiated the meaning. But actually there are very few examples of words that differ only by accent (acute vs. circumflex) and that when you know the principles of accentuation, you can predict the accent almost automatically. Not quite automatic as in Latin (the reason why I don't bother at all with Latin accent), but still. So if I invested time in reading that book and if later I managed to convince myself that I pronounce according to it, what would be the benefit? Nearly nothing from the standpoint of phonology.

Would I sound "authentic"? By no means.

Surely there are significant gaps in our knowledge. Come on, one opens Wikipedia at "Zeta" and sees entire lists of arguments and counter-arguments in favour of [zd] or [dz]. Or with that vowel zoo you never know what turned into what and when. Is iota subscriptum pronounced and if it is, then how? Etc, etc.

And even if one learns modern Greek with a potentially infinite access to recordings and native speakers, accent remains. (Except Soviet spies.) Probably stress instead of pitch is not the most striking peculiarity. We don't even have ancient Greeks to judge. Any practical system of pronunciation is meant to be used with contemporary audience.
 

Iáson

Cívis Illústris
you can predict the accent almost automatically.
Well, with nouns only if you know the underlying accent.

The accent is contrastive. True, one can't always find minimal pairs. But the same could be said of any other phonemic distinction.

Surely there are significant gaps in our knowledge. Come on, one opens Wikipedia at "Zeta" and sees entire lists of arguments and counter-arguments in favour of [zd] or [dz]. Or with that vowel zoo you never know what turned into what and when. Is iota subscriptum pronounced and if it is, then how? Etc, etc.
There is still a degree of uncertainty over many points, granted. On the other hand, just because we're not quite sure yet whether A or B is true is not a particularly good justification for opting for Z instead. One might end up with a pronunciation that would have sounded a bit stilted, and obviously you're never going to end up pronouncing a foreign language entirely accurately. On the other hand, it's going to be considerably closer than if you don't bother.

For the most part I think these points (zeta, exact chronology of vowel changes, etc.) are fairly minor - and it's worth noting that there has been considerable work since Allen on these things as well, especially Threatte's grammar of Attic inscriptions.

Why do you learn Greek, Quasus? If you learn it to better appreciate ancient Greek literature, doesn't it make sense that one could gain something by a more accurate understanding of the original sound of the language? From the way it is observed even in relatively late musical evidence, the pitch accent was clearly an important aspect of the way Greeks understood the musicality of their own speech. And if you learn Greek as an intellectual effort, how is learning phonetics and phonology different from studying syntax or morphology?
 

Quasus

Civis Illustris
Why do you learn Greek, Quasus?
Rem acu tetigisti. :) I don't know much Greek and I put it on hold a good while ago. I'm just convinced from my experience with languages that non-audio materials can offer but a rough idea of pronunciation. Given the imperfection of our reconstructions and given the imperfection of my attempts to follow them, I find it hard to believe that discarding pitch accent in favour of stress would take my pronunciation much farther away from the unknown ideal. But frankly, I think it's unfair for me to carry on the topic of Greek.
 
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