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Indeed the modern Greeks, though great sticklers for the purity of their own pronunciation, are pretty generally ready to admit that the Y could not have been pronounced like the I by well-educated persons in the time of Aristophanes. They content themselves with insisting that the alteration is small, which, supposing the Y to have been pronounced like the French U, is true. You will find, if you first dispose the organs to pronounce the E in mete, nothing more will be required to produce the French U but a trifling contraction of the lips. Still, however, the difference, though trifling, is very perceptible ; and unless we can persuade ourselves that a modern Parisian would perceive no difference between ému and émi, we can scarcely suppose that the ears of Aristophanes would not have been shocked at 'Auvvlag being sounded like 'Auwiac; particularly as such a pronunciation on the part of the actor would have cost him a fine, probably much exceeding the bill for the wheels and driving-box. Aristophanes describes the sycophant snuffing up the smell of roast meat, ů, , ů, ú. (Plut. 895.) This, I think, agrees better with the pronunciation of the French U than our E.
The dispute as to the proper pronunciation of the H and Y was carried on with considerable warmth in the sixteenth century; those who advocated their pronunciation like the I being called lotists, and their opponents Etists. The chief of the former was Reuchlin, and of the latter Eras
mus, from whence the terms Reuchlinian and Erasmian pronunciation. The Erasmians infer, from many passages of ancient authors, that the same sound could not have obtained for so many different vowels ; as for instance,
ei por Evvein.-Sophoc. Ed. Tyrann. 854.
où deiné pol und unkos.-Antig. 444. A modern Greek in reading these passages would give to every syllable, except the last of time and the last of unkou, the same sound, namely the iotacism.
DIPHTHONGS. 3. If Dionysius had added a few sentences on the pronunciation of the diphthongs, how much study and how many contentions would have been saved! Unfortunately, he has passed them over without the slightest notice. Can this be neglect, in a work showing such elaborate care ? Our guide quits us at the very point where we most stand in need of his aid, leaving us equally in doubt where we are and why he has left us. The consequence is, that the greatest uncertainty has prevailed, and probably ever will, on the manner in which the Greeks pronounced their diphthongs.
The contest which I have mentioned between the Reuchlinians and the Erasmians was not confined to the pronunciation of the H and Y, but extended also to that of the diphthongs; the Erasmians contending that they ought to be ex
pressed by blending two sounds together, and the Reuchlinians supporting the pronunciation of the modern Greeks, who make single sounds of them. Which party is in the right ? I think both. I have always been pleased with the fable which we learn in our infancy, and too soon forget, of the two knights, who after a stout contest as to the materials of a shield suspended on a tree, found that it was silver on one side and gold on the other, and that their dispute might have been saved, if they had looked on both sides. On such a subject it sounds almost ridiculous to boast of one's impartiality; and yet it is curious to observe how few of the writers“ upon it have treated it with indifference or even fairness. The question seems, in the early days of European literature, and especially in the sixteenth century, to have excited a party-spirit very unfavourable to the elucidation of truth. Both parties pressed their own arguments too far, and both perverted or misunderstood the reasoning of their opponents. In some instances the strength of argument was enforced, or the lack of it supplied, by academical and episcopal authority. The Erasmians, before they come to the passages in ancient authors which seem to favour their mode of pronouncing particular diphthongs, found in the outset an argument on their side upon the very etymology of the word diployyoc (doublesounded); whereas, say they, if the sound had been single, though represented by two letters, it would rather have been called diypadoc. (Mekerk. de ling. Græc. vet. pronuntiatione, apud Havercamp., p. 123.) They further infer, from the division of some of the diphthongs into two syllables by the poets, and particularly by Homer, that each of the sounds must have existed in the syllable before it was so divided. (Ibid. 124.) Then Terentianus Maurus expressly says, that the origin of the term diphthong was, that two letters joined together are blended in sound into one syllable.
. Unde diphthongos eas Græciæ dicunt magistri, quod duæ junctæ simul Syllabam sonant in unam. '
Apud Putch. p. 2392. We must be content, in the absence of Dionysius, to follow Terentianus, whose work carries in every page abundant internal evidence that he was well skilled in the niceties, not only of the structure, but of the pronunciation and rhythm of Greek. His only defect is, that he chose to write in various metres, which, in a subject requiring great precision of expression, makes him appear quaint and pedantic, and sometimes obscure. The Erasmians are further able to produce, in favour of their theory, many passages which will be discussed under the heads of the different diphthongs.
The Reuchlinians, though unable to confute the general presumption to be drawn from the etymology and the Homeric usage of the diphthong, appeal in their turn to other passages of authors, which, by showing that some at least of the diphthongs have a single sound, disprove, by reducing to absurdity, a theory, which, if good at all, is as good for one diphthong as another. These authorities are so discrepant as at first to appear to be utterly irreconcileable with each other; and yet, as they proceed from writers who could not have been mistaken, no theory can be sound which rejects either. The most probable mode of reconciling them seems to be, by supposing some of the diphthongs at least to have been differently pronounced in different ages.
AI. The diphthong AI is that whose pronunciation is the most difficult to make out, if we merely weigh the conflicting testimonies; but most simple, if we suppose the manner of expressing it to have varied at different times.
It seems probable that in the word maig in Homer's time each of the four letters was fully sounded ; that by degrees the vulgar neglected this double sound, and changed it to a single sound, pronouncing it like our pace; and that by degrees this latter sound prevailed, not only among the vulgar, but at last also among the well-educated. This theory has the advantage of reconciling all the authorities. The Homeric use here is in favour of the Erasmians : if Homer had pronounced maid pace, as the modern Greeks do, making the sound single, like our long A, it