Pronouncing Hellenistic Greek

I’ve gone the rounds a few times with people about what pronunciation to use for Greek. The main reason for preferring the Erasmian (read: fake) pronunciation  over a historical reconstruction or modern Greek pronunciation has always been something like:

  • Its easier to differentiate the vowels
  • We’re not interested in speaking Greek – only reading, so it doesn’t really matter.

Now that first argument is the better one, though I still don’t accept it. You can only get away with an excuse like that if you’re already dependent upon the second argument.

But this is the thing that really gets to me: the majority of Greek classes that I’ve seen emphasize reading out loud. My wife studied Classical Greek in college. And since then we’ve been studying and reading the Greek New Testament together on our own. But she didn’t feel comfortable with trying to test out of the introductory grammar class for grad school, so this past semester she’s been working through Mounce.* When we study together, I’m using the reconstructed pronunciation while she’s using the fake pronunciation. She’s afraid that if she switches now, she’ll mess up when she has to do her oral reading pronunciation test in class! Why bother? I don’t get it.

*Its actually kind of funny because she knows Greek well enough that she hasn’t actually read Mounce at all since she started. She just does the excercises in the workbook.

7 thoughts on “Pronouncing Hellenistic Greek

  1. “The main objection to using a historical reconstruction or the modern pronunciation has always been something like:”
    This would be clearer as, “The main reason for preferring the Erasmian pronunciation over a historical reconstruction or modern Greek pronunciation has always been something like:”

    I’m glad to see my phraseology, “fake Greek,” is catching on. Maybe calling a spade a spade will win some people over. I went through a whole teaching career using the Erasmian pronunciation and now that I’m retired I repent me in sackcloth and ashes for doing so.

  2. I’m hoping at some point to pick up a copy of Rondal Smith’s dissertation:

    EMPIRICAL EVIDENCES AND THEORETICAL INTERPRETATIONS OF GREEK PHONOLOGY: PROLEGOMENA TO A THEORY OF SOUND PATTERNS IN THE HELLENISTIC GREEK ‘KOINE’

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