Aspirated consonants. You have already encountered the notion of "breathing" or aspiration when you studied the Greek consonants, because there are three consonants which are aspirated. Take a minute to review these consonants:
Phi can be pronounced in two ways. Many people just pronounce it like the "f" sound in "fall" but if you want to aspirate the phi (and it is an aspirated letter), you can pronounced it like the "p h" in the phrase "top hat"
Chi is pronounced like the "k h" in the phrase "look hard" (pay attention to what happens to the k sound in your mouth: can you get a sense of the aspiration?).
Theta can be pronounced in two ways. Many people just pronounce it like the "th" sound in "thing" but if you want to aspirate the theta (and it is an aspirated letter), you can pronounced it like the "t h" in the phrase "cat house"
Aspirated vowels. In addition to these aspirated consonants, the vowels and diphthongs in Greek can also be aspirated - and they are much easier to pronounce than aspirated consonants. It is very easy to add a breathing ("h" sound) to the beginning of a vowel. We have aspirated vowels in English too, like in these words: hat, hello, hiss, hold, hug, hi, hay, hook, and so on.
Breathing marks. In Greek, there is not a letter "h" which is used to indicate aspiration like we do in English. Instead, the aspiration is shown by a little breathing mark. There are actually two kinds of breathing marks:
|smooth breathing: indicates no aspiration - this sign looks just like an apostrophe mark||ἀ ἐ ἰ ὀ ὐ ἠ ὠ αἰ εἰ οἰ υἰ αὐ εὐ οὐ|
|rough breathing: indicates aspiration - this sign looks like a backwards apostrophe mark||ἁ ἑ ἱ ὁ ὑ ἡ ὡ αἱ εἱ οἱ υἱ αὑ εὑ οὑ|
For every single word in Greek that begins with a vowel or a diphthong, there must be a breathing mark. There is either a smooth breathing mark or a rough breathing mark. So far, these breathing marks have not been written with the names that you have seen, but now you need to get used to the breathing marks!
Smooth breathing examples. Here are some examples of smooth breathing marks (meaning it does not affect the pronunciation at all - which is why you have been able to read the words without this mark!). The names are written out with an initial capital and also in lower-case so you can see the difference. Notice also that in the case of diphthongs, the breathing mark is written on the second vowel of the diphthong pair (the diphthongs are marked in red). You should practice writing these out, pronouncing the names carefully as you write them out and paying attention to the breathing mark.
Rough breathing examples. Since the smooth breathing mark shown above does not have any effect on your pronunciation, it is not a very helpful mark. However, the rough breathing mark is incredibly important and you need to start making a list for yourself of all the words that you encounter with rough breathing. (As you work through the Croy vocabulary, you can keep track of the words with rough breathing in Croy.) The names are written out with an intial capital and also in lower-case so you can see the difference. To help you recognize the presence of the rough breathing, an English transliteration is also provided. You should practice writing these out, pronouncing the names carefully as you write them out and paying attention to the breathing mark.
[Hellen and Hellenikos
Aspirated rho. Another odd feature of the Greek language is that an intial rho is always aspirated (you can see this in words borrowed from Greek such as rhetoric, Rhodes, Rhoda, rheumatism, etc.) This will not affect your pronunciation of the words, but you should not be surprised to find a rough breathing mark on the initial rho. Here are some examples. You should practice writing these out, pronouncing the names carefully as you write them out and paying attention to the breathing mark.
Okay: you have learned about vowels, and syllables, and breathing marks. Now you are ready to learn some more about the Accent Marks and how to use them.
Biblical Greek Online. Laura Gibbs, Ph.D. This work is licensed under a Creative Commons License. You must give the original author credit. You may not use this work for commercial purposes. If you alter, transform, or build upon this work, you may distribute the resulting work only under a license identical to this one. Page last updated: April 9, 2005 8:06 PM