[DWJ] Classical pronunciation

Colin Fine colin at fine.me.uk
Wed Jun 9 03:39:29 EDT 2010

Gili Bar-Hillel wrote:
> It's always been confusing for me that the same people have different
> traditional name pronounciations here in Israel than they do in the USA. I
> was a theatre major and studied theatre both in Israel and in the USA, and
> though I was able to make the regional distinctions, I would sometimes
> stumble with my brain trying to remember:
> Sophocles is Soh-foh-KLESS in Israel but SAW-fu-kleez in America
> Aristotle is Ah-REES-toh in Israel but Ah-riss-TOT-ul in America
> Aeschylus is AIY-skee-loos in Israel but ESS-ka-less in America
> Aristophanes is Ah-rees-toh-FAH-ness in Israel but Ah-riss-TAW-fa-neez in
> America, etc. etc.
Ah, yes, the English mangling of classical names.

Unfortunately the standard English rendering of classical names got 
established just before the Great Vowel Shift, so when the English 
vowels went on their Great Trek round the mouth, they took the Latin and 
Greek ones with them for company.

It's particularly ironic in the case of Latin, since the Humanists had 
only just reconstructed the Classical pronunciation as opposed to modern 
(ie Church) Latin.

When I was working in Germany in 1984, I failed to recognise the name of 
a project and had to ask for it to be repeated. It was "Hermes" - 
/her'mes/ in German. They asked me how we pronounced it in English, and 
I felt extremely embarrassed as I said /'h3:mi:z/.


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