My friend and fellow classics student, Jonathan Homrighausen, has created a blog dedicated to the exploration of ancient tongues, particularly Hebrew, Latin, and Greek. Jonathan is a student at Santa Clara University, where he is double-majoring in both religious studies and classics. He first began his language-learning quest with the Hebrew of the Old Testament, but he quickly expanded to Latin and Greek as well, and now, as he writes on his blog, “I have grown to love the seriousness of dead languages. I have enjoyed the thrill of a language that connects me to people, but I prefer connecting to the philosophy and myth of the ancients.”
I myself have been on a journey to learn both Latin and Greek, as I seek to connect to the world of ancient Greek and Roman literature. In my experience, I have seen that these two languages share similar grammatical structures that make it easy to learn both. They are both inflected languages that alter the endings of the words to convey meaning, but Jonathan has told me that Hebrew, on the other hand, is apparently a very different language compared to Latin and Greek. Not only, then, do I find it incredible that Jonathan is able to study three languages at the same time, but the fact that he can learn languages that are quite different from each other is also pretty amazing.
So, please check out his blog if you have a moment. He already has a fascinating post written regarding the proper pronunciation of Greek. This is a more complex topic than one might think. What, exactly, is considered “real Greek”? What makes one style of pronunciation better or worse than any other? After all, there are regional variations (Attic, Doric, Ionian, and Aeolic, which existed in Greece during the archaic and classical periods), as well as new forms of Greek that have emerged through the passage of time, such as the Koine Greek of the Hellenistic age, the Byzantine Greek of the medieval ages, and the modern form spoken in Greece today.
To complicate matters, reconstructing the exact pronunciation of an ancient language is bound to carry all sorts of uncertainties; how do we know exactly how an Athenian thousands of years ago would have spoken? The answer is: we don’t, though some approximations can be made. So, as you can see, the answer regarding this question of Greek pronunciation remains unclear. Please check out Jonathan’s blog post for more.