DAIMONAS.COM

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PRONUNCIATION OF GREEK WORDS

AUTHOR: about the Daimonas

ON THE CORRECT PRONUNCIATION OF GREEK WORDS
USUAL ENGLISH
"Zeus"
"Arcadia"
"Achilles"
"Theseus"
"Celt"
"Crete"
"Cyprus"
"Dracon"/"Draco"
"Europe"
  ACTUAL GREEK
Zevs (Ζεύς)
Arkadia (Αρκαδία)
Akhilles/Akhillev (Αχιλλέυς)
These-us/Thesev (Θησέυς)
Kelt
Krete
Kypros
Drakon
Evropa
("Evropi", mod.gr.)

EXPLANATION
There is a tendency in the English speaking world to claim mispronounced Greek words as being the correct pronunciation of those words. The only modern western nation which actually pronounces its Greek correctly is Norway. There are a number of Greek characters which when rendered into Latin characters for the English language are rendered by a convention which is wrong. Some such instances occur in the rendition of the character "K". For some reason it is usually rendered as the Latin "C", hence the northern English (who, though not Scots, refer to themselves  as "Scottish"), write "Celtic", instead of "Keltic" and mispronounce it "Seltic"(!).

The most contentious character in the Greek is the character "Y", ("ypsilon", which itself is miswritten as "upsilon" and mispronounced as "oopsilon").

(The "Y" character has anomalous properties in the English as well, evidence Year, mY, and maY.)

In its upper case form it is identical in appearance to the Latin "Y". In its lower case appearance it looks similar to the upper-case Latin "U". However, just because it looks like an upper case Latin "U" when rendered in its lower case form, does not mean it is pronounced so. Its pronunciation is actually dependant on whether it appears before or after another vowel, & what that vowel might be.

For some reason, Greek words which appear in the upper-case Greek as (for example) "ZEYS" are re-written in languages like Englsih as "zeus"(!) instead. To actually transcribe this word as it should be pronounced in English, it should appear as "Zevs".

The correct pronounciation of what in English is rendered "Zeus" is ZEVS. It is not, as is claimed in English glossaries, pronounced "zoows".

Greek "EY" = Latin EV (not eu);

Greek "AY" = Latin AV (not au);

Greek "OY" produces the same sound as "OO" does in English, or the same sound as does "U" in German and Italian. This is the only instance in which to render it "OU" in Latin characters produces the correct sound in Greek as well.  


The image used for the logo of this site shows ΖΕΥΣ fighting the 'monster ΤΥΦΟΝ.
The name Typhon appears as ΤΥΦΑΟΝΑ (TYFAONA) in Hesiod's Theogony, and ΤΥΦΟΕΥΣ (TYFOEUS) in the Homeric Hymn to the Pythian Apollon. The standard transcription as "Typhon" in this instance is actually sound. According to current convention however, it would have to be written as "Tufon". 

It is interesting to note that the Greek word for spirit/ghost, ΨΥΧΗ ("psyche"), if rendered according to this convention should actually be rendered: "psuche"!

If "Y" appears before any other character it is an "I" sound, and so should be renedered so, eg.: ypsilon & not Upsilon.

The pronunciation of "Y" as "V" can be shown to have been so to at least c.270 BC. In the Septuagint translation of the Jewish Old Testament, from Hebrew to Greek, the word "Leviticus" for example is rendered with the "Y" character and thus appears as ΛΕΥΕΤΙΚΟΝ - which means that if it were transcribed today into Latin characters it would incorrectly appear as "Leuiticus".

 The entry on the character "Y" in the wikipedia is instructive:

"...the letter ["Y"] technically named Y Græca (IPA [u gra?ka]) meaning 'Greek u' in contradistinction from native Latin /u/, came to be analyzed as the letter V (called /u?/) atop the letter I (called /i?/). " http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Y


The entry on the character "U" in the wikipedia is also instructive:
"The letter U is the twenty-first letter in the Latin alphabet. Its English name is pronounced /ju?/.

U, developed in the late Middle Ages, was originally a positional variant of the letter V..., used only in lower-case writing and only medially, and representing both the vowels now written with U and the consonants now written with V. The use of the two forms to distinguish the consonants and vowels which they now represent was not standardised until the 18th century." http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/U 


... thus "Y" is known as the "Greek u" and it is known that it should be pronounced "v". And, until a few centuries ago Greek was transcribed correctly into English, French, German... 


The only language written in Latin characters in which Greek names and terms appear in the correct form is Norwegian:
On Thesevs: http://no.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thessevs
On Zevs: http://no.wikipedia.org/wiki/Zevs



Above: detail of mosaic floor at Paphos, Kypros. In the centre is written, in Greek characters "THESEVS" (ΘΗΣΕΥΣ). A feature of Greek characters of the period in which the mosaic was made was the writting down of the Greek character for "S" (Σ)  as "C", thus it appears as ΘΥCΕΥC.
In the version of Homer which has come down to us, the name is rendered ΘΥΣΣΕΑΣ("Thess-e-as"), though on vases and mosaics it is not written so.

© demetrios vakras