HomeIndexancient greek : section indexThe pronunciation: ancient Greek phonology

Note: Before learning ancient Greek phonology, I advise those interested in deepening the language to learn the  l’alphabet well before delving into pronunciation.


to store the alphabet I recommend to take a notebook fill a page with “alpha”, the next one with “beta” etc. until you fill the whole notebook with the alphabet. To make the work less tedious I recommend dividing the alphabet into two parts, one ranging from alpha to mu and the other from nu to omega.

Greek phonology
discussion in the Agora Of Athens

Greek phonology: pronunciation of letters

γ: its sound is always guttural even when it is followed by vowels ε,η,ι.

γένος “Lineage” you pronounce ghénos
γίγας “Giant” you pronounce ghìgas

even in groups γν- e γλ- il suono si mantiene sempre gutturale.

γίγνομαι “Become” you pronounce ghìgnomai
γλῶσσα “tongue” you pronounce glòssa

when it precedes another guttural as κ,γ,χ,ξ it is nasalized and pronounced as the italian n  of anca, angolo

ἀγγέλλω “announce” you pronounce anghélo
τυγχάνω “encounter” you pronounce tünchàno
Σφίγξ “Sphynx” you pronounce Sfinx

.ζ: the sound is sweet and was originally sd like  in sdentato,in the post-classical era dz like in razzo and in the late koinè s sound as rosa. Anyway we will pronounce it as the words zaino,zizzania,zero.

.ϑ: is like th  as a thing,nella tarda koinè diventerà un suono sordo come l’inglese path but we will follow the classical pronunciation of the aspirated th.

.κ: the sound is always guttural, even when it’s followed by vowels ε,η,ι.

κεφαλή “head” is  chefalé
κίνημα “movement” is  chìnema

.σ: always deaf as in sasso and it’s used at the beginning and in the body of speech, while ς at the end of the word.

πᾶσα “all” is pàsa
ληός “people, army” is leòs

.υ: pronounced as the french ü ,the dittongo ου pronounced like the Italian vowel u,in the late koiné will be pronounced as i.

λύω “i’m melting” is lüo

.φ: is an aspirated lip consonant, the Latin transcription is ph,so it’s pronounced as a aspirated p .

.χ: this is a guttural aspirated consonant, the Latin transcript is in fact ch and it’s pronounced as the dutch ch .

this is not ancient Greek phonology, but a conventional pronunciation that is closer to Attica than the Byzantine one.
This pronunciation, adopted in all European schools, is defined as Erasmianao etacism because it was Erasmus of Rotterdam, in 1528, in his treaty Dialogus de recta Latini Graecique sermonis pronunciation advocate this type of pronunciation.
The Byzantine pronunciation, introduced precisely by the Byzantine ducts, is called iotacism because the pronunciation of vowels, and diphthongs, is i.
Alternatively, this pronunciation is also known as reuchlinianad to the German humanist John Reuchlin who first supported this type of pronunciation.

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