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have been able to say with certainty, that the mode now prevailing in Greece of pronouncing these three vowels alike, was not the mode in use among well-educated Greeks in the time of Dionysius.
It seems clear from the description of Dionysius, that this letter was pronounced as we sound the A in father. The modern Greeks so sound it, and so do most, if not all, the other nations of Europe. Our English mode of pronouncing the Greek A is peculiarly unfortunate, excluding the very sound which Dionysius thought the most agreeable.
E. H. It seems equally clear that the E was pronounced as we sound the A in baker: the modern Greeks so sound it. With respect to the H, we learn from Dionysius that it was pronounced like the E, only with a longer quantity or time. And this is expressly confirmed by Terentianus Maurus :
Literam namque E videmus esse ad ira proximam :
Apud Putch. p. 2393. The modern Greeks, however, give to the H precisely the same sound as the I, namely, like the E in mete. It is particularly necessary with regard to this letter to bear in mind the distinction between vulgar and polite pronunciation. Many are the inscriptions of unquestionable antiquity in which the H and I are used for each other. These are cited by the modern Greeks and by their classical advocates as proofs that these letters were pronounced alike; and the same inference is drawn from the expression in Plautus,
Nam tuæ blanditiæ mihi sunt, quod dici solet
Pænul. act 1. sc. 1. v. 7. where liroe seems to represent the Greek ληροι.
I have already given the reasons why I think that mistakes in inscriptions ought not generally to influence us in deciding what was the pronunciation of the well-educated ; and in the particular case now under consideration they are of still less weight, because opposed by the express testimony both of Dionysius and Terentianus. Neither can an expression, which is put into the mouth of a slave, afford any safe rule for polite speech. That liroe by no means affords us a certain guide as to the correct pronunciation of the letters of dñpoi, may further be inferred by its differing from lapor both in accent and quantity.
That the H differed in sound from the I appears plainly from a passage of Plato's Cratylus : Οισθα ότι οι παλαιοί οι ημέτεροι τω ιώτα ευ μάλα έχρώντο, και ουχ ήκιστα αι γυναίκες, αίπερ μάλιστα To åpxalav owviv ouLovol vův dè, årti roll I, E, ñ ήτα μεταστρέφουσιν οίον, οι μεν αρχαιότατοι μέραν aniv ňuépav ekálouv, oi dè, éuépav, oi dè vũv, ñuépav. (c. 15.) It seems evident from the whole passage, and particularly from the expression purrin, that Plato is speaking of a change which had taken place, not in the orthography, but in the pronunciation of the word ; that the ancients pronounced the first letter as an I, and the moderns as an H, which must therefore have differed. The same inference may be drawn from the manner in which the Dorian pronunciation of the H was represented : for instance, in the 'Lysistrata' of Aristophanes (v. 86), where the Spartan woman is made to say ikel instead of äkel, the poet must have intended to ridicule her coarse and vulgar pronunciation ; but what could have been the object of writing the I instead of the H, if both were sounded alike?
The I was sounded like the E in mete. The modern Greeks so pronounce it: and here again the English, in differing from the modern Greeks, differ also from all the nations of Europe.
| 0. 2. The Greek O seems from Dionysius to correspond nearly with ours: the modern Greeks so pronounce it, only with a rounder and fuller sound, very grateful to the ear.
I have never been able to perceive any difference in the common discourse of the modern Greeks between the O and the 12.
Y. The description of Dionysius is perhaps consistent with the pronunciation of this letter, being like that of the U in lute; but the contraction of the lips being considerable (ažuodóyov), and the still stronger expression, that the sound is compressed or even suffocated (Tviyetai), seem to make it highly probable that it was pronounced like the French U. “Perhaps the nearest letter to it in modern alphabets is the French accented U, the sound of which is indeed poor and slender ; but such Dionysius informs us that of the Greek Y was.”—R. P. Knight, Analytical Essay on the Greek Alphabet : London, 1791, quarto, p. 22.
Mitford says, “ Strong national partiality only, and determined habit could lead to the imagination cherished by some French critics, to whom otherwise Grecian literature has high obligation, that it was a sound so unpleasant, produced by a position of the lips so ungraceful, as the French U.”—Hist. of Greece, ii. s. 3, note ; vol. i. p. 148, ed. 1820. And yet these very reasons incline me to side with the French critics, because the unpleasing sound and the ungraceful position of the lips agree with the description of Dionysius.
The modern Greeks pronounce this letter precisely in the same manner as they do tbe H and the I, namely, like the E in mete. I have already shown the impossibility of any two of the five vowels having been pronounced alike by welleducated persons in the time of Dionysius; that three should have been written differently, without any distinction of sound, seems still more unlikely. Besides, it can be shown from the following authority that the pronunciation of the Y was different from that of the I. Aristophanes in his comedy of the Clouds'introduces Strepsiades computing the debts in which the extravagance of his son has involved him, and reckoning among other things a bill for repairs of a chariot owing to AmuniasΤρείς μναι διφρίσκου και τροχοίν 'Αμυνία.
Nubes, v. 31. We learn from the scholiast that the satire was directed against Aminias, who, though invested with the dignity of archon, had exercised, or was perhaps even then carrying on, the craft of a chariot-builder. But as there was a law forbidding the bringing of a magistrate of that degree by name on the stage, the poet evaded it by changing one letter of the name. Now as the law was not against the writing of the name of the archon in a comedy, but against the pronouncing it on the stage, it is clear that a mere writing of Y instead of I could have been of no use, supposing both those letters had then been pronounced in the same manner. Hermann reads the word in the scholium 'Auetviac, and I dare say rightly (Aristoph. Nubes, ed. Hermann, Lips. 1799); but this does not invalidate the inference drawn from it, as the el was only the long iota.