Phonetics and phonology

We provide here some details about Greek historical phonology, giving a listing of some of the important sound changes that affected Greek during Hellenistic, Roman, and Byzantine times.  These sound changes are responsible for a number of the pronunciation differences that characterize Modern Greek when compared with Ancient Greek.  In some instances, these sound changes help to explain what are otherwise odd idiosyncrasies about Modern Greek that can be hard to learn, while in other instances, knowing these changes serves to highlight the sociolinguistic distinction that is  omnipresent in Modern Greek between katharevousa (“puristic”) high-style Greek and dimotiki (“demotic” / “popular”) colloquial Greek.  Additionally, we touch on different conventions for the pronunciation of Ancient Greek, a discussion that may help teachers  overcome the facile distinction between “Erasmian” and “Modern” pronunciations of Greek.





Greek sounds

Learn to Write the Ancient Greek Alphabet

  1. McNeal, Richard A. (1975). Hellenist and Erasmian. Glotta, 53(1/2), 81-101.

  2. Dillon, Matthew. (2001). The Erasmian Pronunciation of Ancient Greek: A New Perspective. The Classical World, 94(4), 323-334. doi:10.2307/4352587

  3. Vernon Kooy. Thomas Jefferson’s Argument Concerning the Pronunciation of Ancient Greek.

Having read that the four books you MUST consult are:

  1. Anastassios-Fivos Christidis’ A History of Ancient Greek

  2. Geoffrey Horrocks’ Greek: A History of the Language and its Speakers

  3. Devine & Stephen’s The Prosody of Greek Speech

  4. Allen’s Vox Graeca


General resources for phonetics

Interactive Sagittal Section


Fundamentals of Phonetics: A Practical Guide for Students, 4th Edition (Larry H. Small)

Sounds of language : an introduction to phonetics (Henry Rogers)

Vowels and Consonants (2nd edition)  Peter Ladefoged