TRANSLITERATION OF ANCIENT GREEK
TRANSLITERATION OF ANCIENT GREEK
using the Reuchlinian Method of pronunciation
INTRODUCTION: This website utilizes the Reuchlinian method of pronouncing ancient Greek, the system preferred in Greece itself by contemporary scholars and religious teachers. The Reuchlinian method is the same as modern Greek pronunciation and stands in contrast to the system used in universities outside of the country, who utilize, by contrast, what is called the Erasmian method, or various other methods. Being that this author was taught by Greeks, this website is loyal to their preference.
Contemporary scholars and religious teachers in Greece do not believe that modern Greek is significantly corrupted from Classical Greek, the language of Athens approximately 500 BCE. They argue that contemporary Greek pronunciation is very similar to Classical Athenian pronunciation. According to these scholars, there was once a significant change in the pronunciation of the language, but this change occurred between the Heroic age going into the Classical age. The ideas of the Greeks are not simply some kind of chauvinism, but these scholars can point out evidence for consideration. (See also: Pronunciation of Ancient Greek.)
A transliteration method was slowly developed to reflect this pronunciation; the list below being the result, and the emphasis of this transliteration is primarily on pronunciation, causing certain inevitable compromises. Observing the length of this list, it may seem terribly complicated, but in reality, if you try to pronounce words transliterated using our system, you will find that they simply sound the way they look, with a few exceptions. There are faults in this system, but it is still quite good. In any case, for reference, we are slowly updating the entire site such that after each appearance on a page of a transliterated word, in parenthesis will be found the more familiar Erasmian spelling followed by the original ancient Greek. Unfortunately, this website was constructed previous to the development of this transliteration scheme and it will take a great deal of time before everything is updated.
Please keep in mind that this transliteration is unique to this website. Once accustomed to our system, it is very easy to correctly pronounce Greek words. It always helps to see the original Greek, nonetheless, I believe that even not knowing the original Greek, it is possible to give a reasonable pronunciation simply using our spellings; without even consulting the below list, most words will be pronounced correctly just simply reading the way the words are spelled.
The aim of this transliteration system is to provide a simple way to pronounce the words correctly; it is not so much designed to help the reader if she/he wishes to transpose the words back into Greek letters, although some attention has been given to this; learning the below conventions will help with that task.
Please keep in mind that the pronunciation-examples are American-English, not British-English. If you are confused, you are welcome to write the author at email@example.com for any questions. I will be happy to go over the pronunciation using Skype or telephone.
English Greek Letter Pronunciation Example/Explanations
a = Α α (Álpha) - always like the a in father unless it is a component of a diphthong.
Æ or æ = Ε ε (Ǽpsilon) - usually like the e in get but frequently like the a in say or pay, particularly on the last syllable of words.
af = αυ (diphthong: Álpha/Ýpsilon) - pronounced: ahf, the a is short like the a in father.
ai = αι (diphthong: Álpha/Iόhta) - usually like the e in get but frequently like the a in say or pay, particularly on the last syllable of words.
av = αυ (diphthong: Álpha/Ýpsilon) - like the av in aversion.
b = μπ (Mi/Pei) - Used when μπ (mu/pi) is at the beginning of a word, then like the b in boy. (The letter b is not used for Víta [Β β ϐ] because in the Reuchlinian pronunciation, it does not sound like b.)
ef = ευ (diphthong: Ǽpsilon/Ýpsilon) - like the ef in Jeff or left
ei = ει (diphthong: Ǽpsilon/Iόhta) - as the ee in beet.
ev = ευ (diphthong: Ǽpsilon/Ýpsilon) - like the ev in every.
d = Δ, δ (Dǽlta) - If if the d is representing Dǽlta, pronounce it as the soft th in this or there, not like the hard th in theory, never like the d in dog. Please visit this page: Pronouncing Delta and Theta.
- If the d is representing ντ, then it sounds like the d in dog (with the n-sound before it except when found at the beginning of a word).
g = Γ γ (hard Gámma) - like g in go or get. The hard Gámma, when within a word, sounds something like w or gw or wh, but there is no exact English equivalent, but if you pronounce it like a hard g, it will be a bit off, but you will still be understood.
i = Ι ι (Iόhta) - like the double-e in bee or knee or like the short i in stiff or give (see below if and iv) if it appears before an f or v.
i = οι (diphthong: Ómikron/Iόhta) - like the double-e in bee or knee. (If we used oi people would be inclined to pronounce the diphthong like the oy in boy, which is incorrect.)
î = Η η (Íta) - like the double-e in bee or knee
îf = ηυ (diphthong: Íta/Ýpsilon) - like the if in stiff or gift
îv = ηυ (diphthong: Íta/Ýpsilon) - like the iv in give.
k = Κ κ (Káppa) - like the k in kite or kind
x = Ξ ξ (Xei) - like the x in lux or the x in axe
kh = Χ χ (Khi) - There are two pronunciations of χ dependent on what letter follows it.
If χ is followed by a consonant, or α, ο, ω, and the diphthongs αυ and ου, it sounds like a guttural h as the ch in Christus, from the back part of the mouth, as the Scottish pronounce the ch in Loch Lomond, guttural, or the Germans pronounce the ch in Bach.
If χ is followed by all vowels and diphthongs which have the eh sound as in kettle (ε, αι, ευ), and all vowels and diphthongs which have the ee sound as in see (η, ι, υ, ει, οι, υι, ηυ), it is pronounced something like the h in hubris but with more air.
l = Λ λ (Lámda) - like the l in leather
m = Μ μ (Mi) - like the m in man
n = Ν ν (Ni) - like the n in no
o = Ο ο (Ómikron) - always long as the o in low or go. The Ómikron sounds exactly the same as the Ohmǽga, but, to help the reader to be able to reconstruct the original Greek word, we are spelling Ómikron with a single letter o and Ohmǽga with óh (when accented) or ô (when not accented). See also oh for exceptions regarding Ohmǽga.
ô = Ω ω (Ômǽga) - like the o in low or go. The Ômǽga sounds exactly the same as Ómikron but we are spelling Ômǽga as óh (when accented) to distinguish if from the Ómikron (o), but sometimes you will find ô (when not accented). The letter ô (with the diacritical mark above it) always represents Ômǽga and nothing but Ômǽga.
oh = Ω ω (Ômǽga) - like the o in low or go. The Ômǽga sounds exactly the same as Ómikron but we are spelling Ômǽga as óh (when accented) to distinguish if from the Ómikron (o) and to help the reader to be able to reconstruct the ancient Greek word, should he/she so desire. When Ômǽga is followed by a vowel, we are usually spelling it with a single o or ô to avoid confusion if there were an h to follow it. For instance in the word ζωί...if we were to spell it zohi, this could be construed to be pronounced zoh-ee or zo-hee; therefore we use a single o and place a diaeresis over the i to indicate that it is a separate syllable: zoï.
ou = ου (diphthong: Ómikron/Ýpsilon) - like the o in prove or or the double-o in groove
p = Π π (Pei) - like the p in pen
ph = Φ φ (Phei) - like the ph in Philadelphia or the f in feet
ps = Ψ ψ (Psi) - like the ps in lapse or psalm
r = Ρ ρ (Roh) - like the r in run
s = Σ σ ς (Sígma) - like the s in see
t = Τ τ (Taf) - like the t in tomorrow
th = Θ θ (Thíta) - like the hard th in theory, NOT like the softer th in this. See Pronouncing Delta and Theta.
u = Υ υ (Ýpsilon) when part of a diphthong, but not usually when it stands alone. Occasionally, in ancient Greek you will find γυ: the γ (gámma) when before υ (ýpsilon) sounds like the letter y (as a consonant). We usually transliterate υ (ýpsilon) with the letter y (using it as a vowel), but then you have yy, which pronunciation is unclear. It such cases we use the letter u to represent Υ υ (ýpsilon).
v = Β β (Víta) - like the v in victory (never like the b in boy). Generally, v = Víta [Β β ϐ].
x = Ξ ξ (Xei) - like the x in lux or the x in axe, it can also be thought of as ks.
Y, y = Υ υ (Ýpsilon) - like the double-e in bee or knee, never like the i in sigh. See Y, y below.
Y, y = Γ γ (soft Gámma) - like the y in yes or yet. See Y, y above. We are using the letters Y, y to represent the soft Gámma sound [when Gámma is found before ε and the diphthong αι, and all letters and diphthongs which have the ee sound as in see (η, ι, υ, ει, οι, υι). Because we are using Y, y in two different ways (as both Ýpsilon and Gámma), this reveals a flaw in our system of transliteration, but, it is hoped, the correct pronunciation will be rather obvious. When in doubt, check the actual Greek word which should appear in parenthesis next to the transliteration.
z = Ζ ζ (Zíta) - z as in zodiac, or sd as in wisdom.
To help English readers know exactly where is the stressed syllable, we are slowly updating transliterated words on the site to include accent, for instance, Ἑστία is transliterated: Æstía.
On pages where this updating has been completed, but where the accent falls on a diphthong, we are not marking the accent. This is another shortcoming of our transliteration method. The Greek words place the accent symbol on the second letter of accented diphthongs, but if we followed this same convention with the transliterated words, English readers may think that each letter is to be pronounced as a separate syllable. In most cases, when a transliterated word does not have an accent mark and also contains a diphthong, the accent will usually be on the diphthong. An example of this would be Στοβαῖος, which we transliterate with no accent symbol: Stovaios, pronounced stoh-VAY-ohs. Unfortunately, some words having the stress on a diphthong also contain a second diphthong in which case the only solution is to look at the Greek.
Use of the Diaeresis
We are using the diaeresis to clarify certain transliteration problems. For instance in the word Πρόοδος, if this were transliterated Proodos, the inclination of the average reader would be to pronounce proo like the pro in prove, but actually the two o's are separate syllables, so we transliterate thus: Próödos, pronounced PROH-oh-thos, all long o's as in go or low.
Some Exceptions to Given Conventions
The Ohmǽga (Ω ω) is transliterated oh, but sometimes, for clarity, we use just a single o, as though it were an Όmikron. For instance, consider the word Δηωΐνη. If you transliterate like this Diohini, some readers may think that it is pronounced dee-o-Hee-nee. The ultimate purpose of our technique is to create transliterations which are properly pronounced, with little or no instruction. Therefore, we transliterate Δηωΐνη as Dioΐni which should be pronounced dee-o-EE-nee.
If you are confused, please write: Inquire.firstname.lastname@example.org. I will be happy to go over the pronunciation of anything over Skype.
HELPFUL TOOL for this method of transliteration
If you like our method of transliterating ancient Greek, here is a little tool whereby you can copy-paste the various letters with accents, diaeresis, etc.: SPECIAL LETTERS FOR TRANSLITERATION
For a full explanation of pronouncing directly from the ancient Greek visit this page: Pronunciation_of_Ancient_Greek
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