Greek wav files
October 1, 2005 11:32 AM   Subscribe

Greek as it was spoke. Mrs. Jones thinks they sound like a cross between French and Chinese. You decide. Alternatively, Latin wav files, mostly poetry. Or, for those into the bestseller circuit, there’s this (narrator rolls the r’s a bit - Jim Dale he ain’t).
posted by IndigoJones (34 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Addendum - Peter Steadman and the NY Greek Drama Company recorded a VHS of Medea with English subtitles in 1986. Out of Print now, but probably languishing in various academic libraries for those whose interest is piqued.)

As a further side track, here’s a bunch of twentieth century Latin poetry (who knew?), including a Catullus loather.

(And this has nothing to do with anything, but I found it and presumably someone might like it.)
posted by IndigoJones at 11:34 AM on October 1, 2005

First link sounds like Greek with a Welsh pronunciation
posted by paddbear at 11:40 AM on October 1, 2005

When I was learning classic Greek, we did slightly concern ourselves with pronunciation. But not too much since it's ambiguous. However, with Homer and Homeric Greek (as opposed to Attic), there was naturally a greater curiosity as to how the poetry was meant to sound.

Interestingly, some of us found Greek pronunciation creeping into our English as we began to see primarily the cognates, particularly with "psyche" rooted words, which was unintentionally hilarious.
posted by Ethereal Bligh at 11:49 AM on October 1, 2005

excellent, thanks.
posted by Edible Energy at 12:05 PM on October 1, 2005

I haven't had time to visit the links in the FPP, but the super secret extra underground link is completely awesome. Thank god for the internet. That's just what I've been needing.
posted by OmieWise at 12:18 PM on October 1, 2005

Bar bar bar bar bar bar bar.
posted by TheophileEscargot at 1:08 PM on October 1, 2005

I took a class with Robert Fitzgerald and he read out loud a good bit of the original of both of Homer's poems -- very beautifully.

The one time I was in Greece I kept hearing Russian and more Eastern inflections present in it along with Romance language inflections.

"Language is the history of the race." (Paraphrase or direct Joyce quote.) In the Homer read here I hear a little bit of everything, which is thrilling, in that Joycean, musical, lingual way...

Thank you!
posted by rleamon at 2:01 PM on October 1, 2005

Excellent post IJ! Metafilter at its best.
posted by RMALCOLM at 2:11 PM on October 1, 2005

The first one sounds like it's spoken with a much stronger Austrian accent. Or it's the Greek version of Swedish Cook.

And Harry Potter sounds like CHANEL NIIIIIIIINE.

And no. I have no cultural background.
posted by Harry at 3:12 PM on October 1, 2005

One of my high school teachers pointed out to me that dactylic hexameter sounds like the Bonanza theme song.

"Dum diddy dum diddy dum da dum diddy dum BO-NAN-ZA!"

If I can't get it out of my head, you may as well have it stuck in yours.
posted by nebulawindphone at 4:01 PM on October 1, 2005

...we did slightly concern ourselves with pronunciation. But not too much since it's ambiguous.

I have no idea what "ambiguous" is supposed to mean, but we know quite well how Ancient Greek sounded, and the first link gives a pretty good feel for it, except for that weird uvular r, which I guess is a holdover from the reader's native German, and an occasional omission of a rough breathing. Nice post!
posted by languagehat at 4:19 PM on October 1, 2005

I was told and am sure I heard it from other sources, that we didn't really know how Ancient Greek sounded. I can see how via Linguistics you could reconstruct much of it, but isn't "quite well" an exageration?

By the way, "I have no idea what 'ambiguous' is supposed to mean, but we know quite well how Ancient Greek sounded..." is an odd sentence being as it's self-evident that you know exactly, or at the very least "have some idea", what I meant by "ambiguous". If you're going to be snarky, at least make sense while you are.
posted by Ethereal Bligh at 4:33 PM on October 1, 2005

...and after some Googling, it's obvious that at the very least you strongly overstated your argument. Even your own words on your blog show this.

My cursory web search seems to show that the closest thing to an authoritative and rigorous pronunciation guide to Attic Greek would be Allen's. The modern Greek point of view is obviously wrong, and Erasmus's (the accepted standard in Classics departments) is not that rigorous for obvious reasons.

Seems to me that the pronunciation of ancient Greek is quite arguably "ambiguous". And it seems to me that what you've written here is an example of a bad combination of being misleading while one is being opinionated and authoritative to a lay audience. Something similar would be a physicist, speaking authoritatively as a physicist to a lay audience, strongly proclaiming (with irritation) that gravity is not a force, without making it clear that to relativists gravity isn't a force, but to most other physicists it is.

You've done the same thing, and again to me, with regard to Sapir-Whorf where you asserted as unadorned fact something that is, rather, a legitimate point of view within your field but not necessarily something that all your fellow linguists would agree with.
posted by Ethereal Bligh at 5:02 PM on October 1, 2005

I was told and am sure I heard it from other sources, that we didn't really know how Ancient Greek sounded.

Likewise here. When learning Greek (Homeric, Attic, Attic-Ionic and Koiné) and Latin I was taught that there is disagreement as to how either language was pronounced in "their day."

Regarding Latin, my professors differed on the pronunciation of words like "Cicero" -- debating the pronunciation of "C" having a "hard" or "soft" value. Hence some pronounced his name "sis -uh -row;" others "kick-uh-row."
posted by ericb at 5:26 PM on October 1, 2005

it's self-evident that you know exactly, or at the very least "have some idea", what I meant by "ambiguous"... Seems to me that the pronunciation of ancient Greek is quite arguably "ambiguous".

Nope, you're wrong. Allen has a very clear presentation of the very clear evidence for the pronunciation of Ancient Greek; there are a few details we're not clear on (exactly how the tones interacted, for instance), but I'm quite sure I would not have any huge surprises if I heard a tape of Socrates talking. And I wasn't snarking; I genuinely don't know what you meant by "ambiguous." If it had been most other people, I would have written it off to sloppy writing and/or ignorance of the meaning of words, but you're usually a very careful writer, so I didn't and don't know what you meant to convey by it. But if you meant, in a general sense, that we don't know how the language was pronounced, you're wrong. Don't just read online summaries; read Allen.

my professors differed on the pronunciation of words like "Cicero" -- debating the pronunciation of "C" having a "hard" or "soft" value.

Some of your professors were idiots. There is no doubt whatever that c was pronounced "hard" in Classical Latin; he certainly said his name Kikero. It would be silly to pronounce it that way in English, but that's how they said it back before the decline and fall.
posted by languagehat at 5:45 PM on October 1, 2005

A lot of this pronunciation sounds scandinavian. Sounds like my Norwegian grandfather speaking gibberish...

(not that I understand the normal norwegian he speaks...)
posted by stenseng at 9:25 PM on October 1, 2005

Thanks for this post. Would that there were more posts like this!
posted by telstar at 11:26 PM on October 1, 2005

Exploring the first website a bit, I was also really fascinated by the samples of Homeric singing. It is very different from seeing the words on the page, or even from hearing them spoken. Thanks for the links.
posted by greycap at 12:44 AM on October 2, 2005

I have a slight issue with the use "ancient Greek" or even "Classic Greek". It should of course be "Classic Attic Greek", since this was by all indications not how Greek was pronounced in Miletus or in Boeotia.

Another small issue is that this pronounciation glosses over the difficulties, in a way that's sure to get them wrong: i.e. the double consonants are pronounced the way single consonants are, zeta is pronounced "Z" (and not "zd" or "dz" which are more likely pronounciations), initial rho pronounced without aspiration etc.

But anyway, quite illuminating...
posted by talos at 5:20 AM on October 2, 2005

I think "classic Greek" is implicitly Attic and/or Homeric
posted by Ethereal Bligh at 5:38 AM on October 2, 2005

Another rendition by Stephen G. Daitz. Speaking as a Greek-American, one of the funniest things I've ever heard.
posted by longdaysjourney at 8:54 AM on October 2, 2005

When it comes to the value of consonants and vowels, the mass of evidence does allow for pretty detailed and thorough conclusions about ancient Greek pronunciation.

In my opinion, there is an important difference w/ our understanding of the pitch accent. On paper, it looks like we know just as much about it, but this kind of knowledge is much less useful in creating a credible recitation than our knowledge about consonants and vowels. When you attempt such a recitation, you realize that this evidence is really less precise and more open to various interpretation.

In other words, when I hear an "authentic" recitation, it is very easy to test whether the vowels & consonants are being done perfectly consistently with our reconstructed picture of ancient Greek. Our more imprecise knowledge about pitch accents, though, leaves the reciter a lot of wiggle room. You can say "that doesn't break any of the principles according to which we've described the pitch accent," but you can't say "Socrates' sentence inflection-music would have resembled that closely" (whereas you can say, "I hear Socrates' vowels/consonants").

When it comes to the shaping of a stream of correct vowels & consonants, we want to know more about stress-emphasis, sentence-rhythms, semantic inflection, word- and sentence-profiles generally in both rhythm & pitch — the kind of subtler information that is not as precisely reconstructible as is an IPA transcription.

When you add the consideration that virtually every known human language allows for a great deal of expressive, emotional, etc., inflection (& for that matter there is ancient evidence for this in anc. Gk. if needed), you realize that it's pretty lame to say that the best "scientific" recordings of Homer would have passed for better than atrocious hackwork for the ancients. It may be pretty unscientific and false-analogizing to say it, but IMHO "There's no feeling or poetry in that recitation of the Iliad" is a pretty legitimate complaint, if it comes from someone who shares the reciter's knowledge of the linguistic data qua data.

Which is another way of saying, Fitzgerald's recitations (prev. poster) or what any of us who enjoy Greek poetry in the original hears in his or her head, may well be grasping something that the Daitzes of the world have missed...

[w/ apologies for incredibly inelegant & rambling way of stating all that]
posted by Zurishaddai at 9:30 AM on October 2, 2005 [1 favorite]

Look at that gown you're wearing. I happen to know it's a subject of amusement to the whole school. A year ago, I told you that I wanted the new style of Latin pronunciation taught. And you totally ignored it.
Oh that! Nonsense in my opinion, nonsense. What's the use of teaching boys to say Cicero [with a hard C] when for the rest of their lives, they'll say Cicero [with a soft C], or say it at all?
There you are. I'm trying to make Brookfield an up-to-date school, and you insist on clinging to the past. The world's changing, Mr. Chipping.
[Goodbye Mr. Chips | 1939]
posted by ericb at 9:49 AM on October 2, 2005

Our knowledge that phi and chi were aspirated stops helps us appreciate the intentional musical sound-effects of countless passages in Greek literature. Our knowledge of prosodic principles likewise allows us to point to examples of the conscious use of the language's structural givens to create literary effects & personalities on the part of orators, etc.

I guess as a literary-philological sort of guy, I'm just suspicious of our supposedly wonderful understanding of the pitch accent (look, I can go to a Classics conference and read Aeschylus with a pitch accent), when, although ancient speakers could use it quite consciously to distinguish words & such, was never exploited in an aesthetic way, so far as any of us moderns can explain it. Is it really possible to have so definite a part of a language's musical structure treated by its speakers (even its great poets, who were also musicians) as an indifferent matter?

When lit-crit blowhards like nothing else than to extol the prose rhythms of O my son Absalom, O Absalom, my son, my son, or when other pitch languages have tone regularly exploited in poetry, am I too prejudiced expect our understanding of pitch accent to meet this criterion?

[Looking forward to a convincing "yes" from a linguist...]
posted by Zurishaddai at 10:05 AM on October 2, 2005

Especially enjoyed the readings of Catullus as that's the only Latin poetry I'm at all familiar with.

What I want to know is what did ancient Egyptian sound like? How on earth do you pronounce hieroglyphics?
posted by grapefruitmoon at 10:15 AM on October 2, 2005

Written languages don't have to be phonetic. Some (many?) aren't.
posted by Ethereal Bligh at 10:29 AM on October 2, 2005

By the way, "Greek as it was spoke" didn't initially bother me, but every time I read it I find it annoys me more than it did the last time.
posted by Ethereal Bligh at 10:32 AM on October 2, 2005

What I want to know is what did ancient Egyptian sound like

Googling returns many sites, some with sound files. Apparently the stuff the slave people in Stargate say was put together by an Egyptologist and is Not Terrible.

How on earth do you pronounce hieroglyphics?

Same way you pronounce random squiggles like these, with a few wrinkles. There's a wikipedia page that goes into the wrinkles:

Take, e.g., the hieroglyph representing a house. It can be used to write the word pr (vowels unknown, see below) which means 'house'. The same hieroglyph is used for the word prj 'to come out' due to the similarity in pronunciation. To leave no doubt as to which word was actually meant, the Egyptian scribe would add a pair of walking legs underneath the house to clarify that prj and not pr was meant here. To further clarify the pronunciation, the hieroglyph for mouth (ro) is typically added in between the house and the walking legs, so that the whole combination encodes the word prj like this: "Word that sounds like a word for house which ends in an r and is related to walking => to come out".
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 11:35 AM on October 2, 2005

I didn't think I had many fond memories of latin classes, but listening to the Catullus reading brought back many such recollections. Though I have to say that I remember classical latin pronunciations as harsher than that of the link.
posted by Kattullus at 11:58 AM on October 2, 2005

Zurishaddai: You're quite right, the pitch accent is the weakest aspect of our understanding. Most people compound the problem when trying to read ancient Greek by drastically overemphasizing it; they swoop up and down like Lady Bracknell. One thing I liked about this recording is that the guy was pretty inconspicuous about the accents, and especially downplayed them on finite verbs (at least once in a while), which I try to do myself, since we think they were unaccented in early Indo-European. If you've ever heard a speaker of a modern language with pitch accent, like Lithuanian or Serbo-Croatian, it's not at all easy to hear the accents -- you have to learn what to listen for.

grapefruitmoon: Alas, we have basically no idea what Egyptian sounded like. We can scrape together a few clues from Coptic (its much later form) and from loan words in other languages, but it's pretty much a crapshoot, and the only realistic way to read the hieroglyphs aloud is to use an arbitrary vowel (usually e) to break up the string of consonants. I was interested in the subject a year or two ago and asked about this on LH; if you read the thread and follow the links you'll have a pretty good grasp of what there is to know.
posted by languagehat at 2:58 PM on October 2, 2005 [1 favorite]

By the way, "Greek as it was spoke" didn't initially bother me, but every time I read it I find it annoys me more than it did the last time.

It was an obscure joke. I will try to be stiffer in future.
posted by IndigoJones at 3:45 PM on October 2, 2005

languagehat : Thanks for the link!

Since reading this thread here on MetaFilter, my husband has informed me that he knows a guy who "speaks fluent Ancient Egyptian." I don't know how accurate this claim is, but I'm going to have to meet this guy. And possibly steal his brain.
posted by grapefruitmoon at 4:04 PM on October 2, 2005

Indigo: Your mistake was not calling it "Greek as she was spoke"; that might have set off the allusion alarm.

grapefruitmoon: I suspect your husband is misunderstanding/exaggerating whatever the guy said ("I've spent a lot of time reading hieroglyphic texts," perhaps?); if the guy did in fact claim to speak fluent Egyptian, he's a liar or a fool. Nobody has spoken Ancient Egyptian, fluently or not, for a couple of millennia.
posted by languagehat at 5:55 AM on October 3, 2005


Too late, too late! The saddest words in the English language! Or any other language, for that matter

By the way, as you like Gillian Bradshaw, you might want to take a look at R. Graves' Count Belisarius.

And on a more serious level, as you like Yourcenar's Hadrian's Memoirs, you might like The Abyss.
posted by IndigoJones at 7:48 AM on October 3, 2005

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