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The Greek Alphabet


Feb 19 2005, 01:19 AM (Post #1)
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The Greek Alphabet

I decided to research the Greek Alphabet one day because of a dispute that I had with my chemistry teacher on how SIGMA is written. It turns out that I was referring to the UPPERCASE form while he was referring to the LOWERCASE form. I thought this would be interesting to you as it had been for me, so I decided that I would share what I learned.

The Greek Alphabet Table

The following table gives the Greek letters, their names, equivalent English letters and tips for pronouncing those letters which are pronounced differently from equivalent english letters. More detailed information is placed in the footnote of the page.

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Notes for the Table



  • Sigma (s, V): There are two forms for the letter Sigma. When written at the end of a word, it is written like this: V. If it occurs anywhere else, it is written like this: s. Say fasade!


  • Upsilon (u): In the above table, we suggest that you pronounce this letter like "u" in "put". The preferred pronunciation is actually more like the German "ü" as in "Brücke", or like the French "u" as in "tu". If you do not speak German or French, don't worry about it, just pronounce it the way the table suggests.


  • Xi (c): This is the same sound as "ch" (sounds like "ck") in "Bach", which does not sound like "ch" in "chair". The same sound occurs in the Scottish "Loch", as in "Lochness Monster", or the German "ach!".


  • Diphthongs When two vowels combine to make one sound, it is called a dipthong: similar uses may be found in Chinese, if you are familiar with it. There are seven dipthongs in Greek:

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    The "eu" combination is probably the hardest to learn for most people. It may help to take the "ow" sound and say it slowly: if you notice, there are actually two sounds in "ow" - it starts out with "ah", then glides to an "oo" sound, "ah-oo". Try doing the same with "e" (as in "edward") and "oo" - "e-oo". This is a little like the "e-w" in Edward, if you remove the "d".






Accents

Accents tell you which syllable is stressed when the word is pronounced. There are three different accents, but by the time of the New Testament, they were all pronounced the same. Here are the three kinds of accents, with a Greek word to illustrate each:

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Breathings

The rough breathing is pronounced like an "h", and looks like a backwards comma written over a vowel. The smooth breathing is not pronounced at all, and looks like a regular comma written over a vowel. Note the difference between "en" and "hen":

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There are two marks over the epsilon in "hen"; the first is the rough breathing, the second is the accent.

Iota Subscripts

A vowel at the end of a word will sometimes have an "iota subscript" underneath it; here is an alpha with an iota subscript:

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The iota subscript is not pronounced, but it can be helpful for identifying certain grammatical forms that we will learn about later (especially the dative case).

Punctuation

The period and comma are the same as in English. The semicolon is a raised dot, and is also used as a colon. The question mark looks like an English semicolon:

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Vocabulary Used in This Document

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How to write Greek letters

The arrows show you where to start when you write Greek letters. Always remember to write the accents and breathing marks, as well as the iota subscripts!

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Footnote 1: Other Pronounciation Schemes

There are several different ways to pronounce Greek. This is the Erasmian pronunciation. Here are the main ways that Greek is pronounced:
  • Erasmian pronunciation: This is the pronunciation used here, and is probably based on the pronunciation used by a Renaissance scholar named Erasmus, who was the main force behind the first printed copies of the Greek New Testament. The Erasmian pronunciation is probably different from the way Greek was pronounced at the time of the New Testament, but it is widespread among scholars, and it has the advantage that every letter is pronounced, which makes it easy to grasp the spelling of words.
  • Modern Greek pronunciation: This is the way Greek is pronounced today in Greece. Some people prefer to teach this pronunciation for New Testament Greek as well. This is slightly more difficult, especially the spelling. Modern Greek pronunciation is probably more similar to New Testament Greek pronunciation than Erasmian is, but not identical.
  • Reconstructed New Testament Greek pronunciation There are some scholarly books which attempt to reconstruct the original pronunciation of New Testament Greek, and they have reached the point that there seems to be fairly widespread agreement on the original pronunciation. As far as I know, nobody ever teaches this pronunciation. Incidentally, since there was a large variety of Greek dialects, there was no single way to pronounce Greek even in the New Testament era.
  • Fraternity, Physics, and Calculus pronunciation: This is the way your physics teacher spoke Greek, and he learned this pronunciation in his fraternity. Next time you hear a physics or math teacher pronounce Greek, laugh and look superior. My math teacher's pronounciations are the most amusing stongue.gif
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Dec 30 2005, 08:43 PM (Post #2)
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You might want to fix those 'user posted images' huh?
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Dec 31 2005, 12:31 AM (Post #3)
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Dammit, where did the pics go >_<
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Mar 17 2007, 11:18 PM (Post #4)
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You should host them on originxt.com dude. All the images I use in the Xt Project are hosted at devoid.originxt.com.

I'll move this to "Submissions" pending you fixing the tables ssmile.gif
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