The alphabet is among the couple of linguistic elements that haveremained basically unchanged between the old and ModernGreek languages. Prior to listing the letters, let us make a briefcomment ~ above the together of the language, together it evolvedthrough the millennia.
How close is the sound of contemporary Greek to that of ClassicGreek?
Phonetically, standard Greek would certainly sound rather alien tocontemporary Greeks, yet don’t ever before say this come them! Itis an problem that most Greeks, even educated ones, ignore.(1) Isuspect the is due to the fact that the alphabet has stayed unchanged, soGreeks can read classic texts v no trouble at every (pronouncingin modern-day Greek). After ~ all, it all looks Greek come them! Ifany (non-Greek) scholar attempts come pronounce classic texts inthe reconstructed(2)pronunciation, that, to Greeks is tantamount come sacrilege.As a modern-day Greek myself,I can provide you my an individual feeling for how the reconstructedpronunciation sounds: it is as if a barbarian is do the efforts tospeak Greek.(3)For example, take words “barbarian” itself(which is the Greek origin): in classic Greek it would bepronounced . In contemporary Greek, the is
However, the reality is as soon as non-Greekscholars attempt to pronounce standard Greek in the reconstructedway, they think they express accurately. Come me, Americanscholars sound distinctly American (like Platos v spurs andcowboy hats), Germans sound German, etc. Probably nobody canreproduce precisely the classic Greek pronunciation: we might knowthe rules the the reconstructed system, however when the comesto relocating our jaws, tongue, and lips, something various comesout of ours mouths. As indigenous speakers that this or the language wenecessarily bring over our indigenous phonology. Finally, let that benoted that classic Greek supplied pitch come differentiatevowels in words, while nearly all modern European languages(including modern-day Greek) use stress instead.(5)
(Click ~ above the speak icon, next to the letter name, to hear the pronunciation inModern Greek)
|Letter||Name & Sound||Modern Greek pronunciation||Classic Greek joint (Attic)|
You are watching: How to say the greek alphabet
<γ>, a sound that does not exist in English. If complied with by the sound climate it sounds virtually like the early sound in “woman”, but with the ago of the tongue touching much more to the back (soft) palate. To express <γa>, try to isolation “w” indigenous “what” without round off your lips, and then speak . In Castilian Spanish this sound exists in “amiga”. Exact same is true because that <γo>: shot eliminating the sound from “water”. (C. Spanish: “amigo”.) top top the other hand, because of a phonetic phenomenon called palatalization, <γe> sound a little like “ye” in “yes”, and <γi> sound a little like “yi” in “yield”. Phonetically, gamma is a voiced velar fricative. (Its palatalized version is a voiced palatal fricative.)
, together in “spot”; a by chance bilabial plosive. Notification that in English
is aspirated if it shows up word-initially; Greek provides no together distinction.
). For example, in words psychologia (ψυχολογία = psychology) the early stage sound
is not omitted. Nothing put any kind of aspiration between
as soon as pronouncing this letter. The remark for sigma uses to the -sound the psi, too.
Phonology and OrthographyOops! Twenty-four letters only? Surely some sounds have to bemissing?
That’s correct. There space sounds usual in various other languagesthat carry out not exist in Greek. Together sounds are all the postalveolarfricatives and also postalveolar affricates (<ʃ> as in “shop”,<ʒ> as in “pleasure”,
And what about other really common sounds, choose ,
No! These room existent together sounds in the language. It isjust that there room no single letters to denote them. As soon as Greekswant to write those sounds they create them as two-lettercombinations: is written as μπ (mu + pi),
There is one an ext sound in the languagewhich is missing from the alphabet: the is <ŋ>, the “ingma”, thelast consonant in “king”. This sound is an extremely rare in Greek, and also when it shows up (as in “άγχος”:anxiety; “έλεγχος”: checking) that is denoted through thecombination gamma + chi, v the gamma pronounced together <ŋ>.
All the the over plus lot more, including the pervasivephenomenon of palatalization, deserve to be found in this page on the details ofModern Greek pronunciation, which consists of sound samples withthe author’s voice for all of the gift examples.
You may also find advantageous this page, mirroring the sound of contemporary Greekagainst all feasible sounds of any language in the world. Thetables for consonants and vowels in that page are really familiarto linguists, but you don’t must be a linguist come understandit.
For her convenience, right here is a table to use as quick reference, listing the two-letter clusters that result in new sounds, not had in the Greek alphabet:Cluster
|Modern Greek pronunciation||Further:|
|ΜΠ μπ||, together in “bee”, in ~ the beginning of indigenous or in loanwords; otherwise: ||see more details and examples|
|ΝΤ ντ||see more details and also examples|
|ΓΚ γκΓΓ γγ|| |
g>, as in “fungus”.
|see an ext details and examples|
|ΓΧ γχΓΞ γξ||In former of χ (chi) the letterγ (gamma) is pronounced together an “ingma”: <ŋ> (king), complied with by χ.In front of ξ (ksi) the letter γ(gamma) is pronounced as an “ingma”: <ŋ> (king), adhered to by ξ.Note: the cluster γξ is also rare; it appears only in uncommon words such together λυγξ (the lynx).||see much more details and also examples|
Arguably, over there are likewise the following pairs, which execute not an outcome in distinct sounds however are viewed as “one thing” by native speakers the Greek:
|Cluster||Modern Greek pronunciation||Further:|
|ΤΣ τσ||see more details and examples|
|ΤΖ τζ||see an ext details and also examples|
What around vowels? Is there any type of similarity through the Englishvowels, or v those of any kind of other language?
Vowels in Greek space easy. The is, ifyou are not a native speaker of English! that’s becausealthough English is really rich in vowel sounds, still, itlacks almost fully the Greek vowels. The last are morelike the collection of Italian, Spanish, or Japanese: they space thefive sounds ,
Here space three great rules of ignorance for aboriginal Englishspeakers:
Greek vowels never ever sound choose glides. The is, English speakers have tendency to express Greek
(sigma), and also when English speakers hear Greeks pronouncing together endings lock think lock hear “sh”. (For an explanation check out the comments of the letter sigma, in the table.) If you can not reproduce the Greek sigma exactly, simply approximate it v English “s”, as in “boss”. Remember, there is no “sh” in Greek (except in the dialect of Crete, to be accurate), and also that’s why hearing “sh” sounds really foreign to the Greek ear.So, sounds simple. Is thereanything else about vowels?
Not in pronunciation. In writing, however, there is. Over there arethree so-called “diphthongs”, which space not diphthongsanymore, however digraphs. (A diphthong is a long vowel with morethan one part, each of which has a different quality, such asthe ou in “loud”,or the oy in “boy”;a digraph is 2 letters which, when put together, are review asone unit, such as the English th in “think”,or the ph in “graph”.)Here are the Greek digraph of vowels:
|Digraph||Modern Greek pronunciation||Classic Greek pronunciation (Attic)|
|Exactly prefer ε (epsilon, fifth letter, watch above)|
|Exactly favor ι (iota, 9th letter, watch above)|
|Exactly prefer ι (iota, 9th letter, watch above)|
|Exactly favor ι (iota, 9th letter, watch above; likewise read comment below)||~ |
|, currently explained in a vault paragraph||As in modern-day Greek|
The digraph ηυ (eta + upsilon) is exceptionally rare inModern Greek; it shows up in 3 verb-forms only: εφηύρα
Does that median that the sound
It is feasible to have the letters alpha and also iotanext come each other and creating the sound
What room those quick straight lines inserted over part vowelsin Greek texts?
That’s the stress. It shows which syllable should be express slightly higher in pitch and volume than the rest. I indicate that youclick here to find out all the details around how to place accent marksto present the tension in Greek. Yet if friend want just a briefdescription, possibly the following two paragraphs would suffice.
In modern-day Greek, the accent mark is inserted only in lowercase writing, and also only over the collection of the emphasize syllable. If the vowel is written with a digraph (see above), the accent note is inserted over the second letter of the pair. Monosyllabic words are not presented with stress, because the details would be redundant. In Greek (of every times), only among the last three syllables of a word can be stressed. Native Greek speaker “internalize” this preeminence (they likewise learn it clearly at school), and also tend to use it also to languages that enable placement of stress on any kind of syllable, such together English. (For example, the word difficulty is often pronounced
No, there is no definition in Greek letters. You are probablythinking of Chinese ideograms, or ancient Egyptian hieroglyphs,which room symbols v some associated meaning. Alpha, beta,gamma, delta, etc., be affected by each other no more definition in Greek 보다 a,bee, cee, dee, etc., bear in English. Their names are simply abit longer, that’s all, that’s why they might look likemeaningful words. Now, over there is one English letter the surname ofwhich have the right to be claimed to have some meaning, yet trivial: it’sw, which us pronounce “double-u”. The name of this letter isderived from ancient forms of it, when it was composed as two U’s,joined like this: UU. Similarly, thereare a grasp of Greek letters that can be claimed to have actually suchtrivial meanings, associated always with your pronunciation:epsilon (εψιλον) is yes, really e-psilon, definition “light e”,“bare e”, or “mere e”, a name presented in Byzantinetimes, to identify it native the various other
That said, it must be pointed out that the origin ofthe Greek letters, which is the old Phoenician alphabet, didassign definition to every letter. For example, the first letter ofthe Phoenician alphabet (a close cousin the the Hebrew alphabet,the first three letters of which are aleph, beth, and also gimel)was created as an reverse A, astylized relenten of the triangle head of one ox through itshorns. In Phoenician, the surname of the letter was theword because that “ox”. Similarly, the letter gamma (Hebrew gimel)is obtained from the Phoenician word because that “camel”; and so on.But this is not certain to Greek, it is existing in Semitic languages. In Greek, theletters are just symbols, devoid of meaning.
|Footnotes (clicking ~ above the footnote-number, ~ above theleft, brings ago to the text)|
(1). As I to be informedrecently through a Greek reader of this page, now they do learn atschool the the ancient pronunciation was different. Good, that’sprogress; in my high school years (late 70’s) us were left inthe dark. However, ns tested this reader’s info by askinga pair of young Greek college student (friends’ children), and also foundout that just about the only thing they find out is the somevowels, such together the omega and also eta, to be pronounced in different ways bythe ancients; at the very least that’s what was registered in thoseyoung students’ memory.
(2). An previously version that this web page referred to the “Erasmian”pronunciation that Greek, after the dutch scholar DesideriusErasmus (1466?-1536), who established a pronunciation mechanism forancient Greek that was geared towards the phonological abilitiesof speaker of Dutch. Later, his system was embraced by speakersof assorted other languages, who readjusted it slightly to your ownneeds. Because today that is not well-known what exactly one refers towhen one mentions “the Erasmian system”, this web page refersto the “reconstructed” system of pronunciation, as displayed onthe rightmost column, “Classic Greek together (Attic)”,and as defined if you monitor the web links that say “Evidence”.
(3). Part readers (esp. Fellow Greeks) took this comment tomean that I do not think the reconstructed pronunciation isright. Wrong! i do believe it is right. However, what Ibelieve or no is entirely inconsequential. One need to believetheir eye (looking in ~ data, that is) and that is why Ihave accumulated the data (which is known to me) under those linksthat speak “Evidence” (last obelisk of the table; friend know,those blue underlined things? click them!). I made thiscomment to define to non-Greeks what it feels come hear thereconstructed pronunciation if you are a Greek, and also if friend havebeen educated thinking that Pericles could have claimed to his wife,“Ασπασία, τι γκαντεμιά! Εγώ τηψυλλιάζομαι τη δουλειά, φιρί-φιρίτο πάνε να μας την πέσουν οιΛακεδαιμόνιοι. Πρέπει να τουςσπάσουμε τον τσαμπουκά!”
(4). Cratinus, in Dionysalexandros:
the silly goes around like a lamb saying “ba ba”.
(5). Not really all modern-day Indo-Europeanlanguages, though; Serbo-Croatian, because that example, supplies pitch. Thereare more than likely other I-E languages using pitch as well.
(6). But, English speaker beware: the symbol
(7). Sometimes young human being from the U.S.A. Who desire toestablish a new fraternity or sorority ask me this question,because they want to pick “meaningful” Greek letter fortheir organization. If girlfriend are among those people and also aredisappointed by the prize of this question, there is tho hope. Select two or threeEnglish words the are systematic to you, ask me what the corresponding Greek native are, and choose theinitial Greek letter for your fraternity or sorority.