Chapter 15: The Greek Language
§100. Notes on Classical Greek Pronunciation
Alpha (α) and iota (ι) were pronounced very much like Latin a and i (long or short).
Epsilon (ε) and omicron (ο) were always short vowels in Greek, like Latin ĕ and ŏ—very much like the English vowels in get and got.
Eta (η) and omega (ω) were always long vowels, like Latin ē and ō—something like the English sounds in gate and goat. THESE TWO VOWELS SHOULD ALWAYS BE TRANSCRIBED as ē and ō, in order to distinguish them from epsilon and omicron.
Upsilon (υ) was not pronounced like Latin u, but rather like the u in French pur or German grün. The Romans transliterated it as y (i.e., capital upsilon).
|β, γ, δ, κ, λ, μ, ν, ξ, π, σ (ς), τ||much like English|
|ζ||like dz in English adze|
|ρ||lightly trilled (?); at the beginning of words, aspirated as hr or rh|
|θ||an aspirated τ = (th), like th in English coathook|
|φ||an aspirated π = (ph), like ph in English uphill|
|χ||an aspirated κ = (kh), like kh in English backhoe|
|ψ||always pronounced like ps in English capsule, even at the start of words|
If a word begins with a vowel, a BREATHING MARK is placed above it to indicate whether or not that vowel is ASPIRATED—that is, whether or not there is an h sound at the start of the word. If there is an h sound, the ROUGH BREATHING mark is used (ʽ as in ἡλιος = hēlios). If there is no h sound, the SMOOTH BREATHING mark is used (ʼ as in ἀγορα = agora). One or the other must be present on all such words. Because rho is aspirated at the beginning of words, initial rho is written ῥ as in ῥυθμος = ruthmos or rhythmos.
- If a word begins with a diphthong, the breathing mark is placed over the second letter of the diphthong; e.g., αἰ, αὐ, εἰ, εὐ, οἱ, οὑ, υἱ. If the word begins with a capital vowel, the breathing mark is placed to the left of the capital; e.g., ʼAθηυη, ʽOμηρος = Athēnē, Homēros (E Homer). ↵