Biblical Greek: glottal stop pronounced in the middle of words?

barkoosh

Senior Member
Arabic - Lebanon
Hello

I was watching some videos about Biblical Greek. I noticed that some words are pronounced with a glottal stop, not with a "y" sound, in the middle of them. For example, Θεόν and Θεὸς of John 1:1 are pronounced "the-on" and "the-os" (as in uh-oh) instead of "theyon" and "theyos". Was that the norm in ancient Greek?

Thank you.
 
  • ioanell

    Senior Member
    Greek
    I don’t know which videos about Biblical Greek you watched, but I’m afraid I can’t understand what a glottal stop (that is k, p, t, g, b, d) or a “y” sound has to do with the word Θεὸς that you mentioned. To my knowledge, the word Θεὸς (and its accusative case Θεὸν) has always been pronounced as theos / θeɒs (and theon / θeɒn) without any glottal stop or “y” sound between the two syllables, except when in some cases and by some speakers a slight “h” sound could be heard in that place. If a video suggested another pronunciation, this must be clearly a personal opinion and such norm neither existed in Ancient Greek nor exists in Modern Greek.
     

    barkoosh

    Senior Member
    Arabic - Lebanon
    Thank you, ioanell, for taking the time to reply. I know that the notion of glottal stop, represented by the symbol "ʔ" according to Wikipedia, is a bit difficult for the speakers of European languages, since it's not part of their alphabets. It is, however, the very first letter of our Semitic alphabet.

    Since "[n]o audio or video files or links may be inserted without prior moderator approval", according to WR rules, I'm going to list the titles of those Youtube videos:
    - "John 1 GREEK New Testament".
    - "Reading Exercise for Chapter 4 of Basics of Biblical Greek" (Θεὸς on 2:20. Also notice the glottal stop when reading εαυτους on 8:14).
    - "God or a god: John 1:1c the Greek Grammar" (where Θεὸς is pronounced without the glottal stop the first time only).

    For the speakers of Semitic languages like mine, Θεὸς in Modern Greek is read and spelled as if it's theyos; in those videos, it's read and spelled as if it's theʔos (totally two different letters).

    It seems that both pronunciations are valid when reading Koine.
     
    Last edited:
    Thank you, ioanell, for taking the time to reply. I know that the notion of glottal stop, represented by the symbol "ʔ" according to Wikipedia, is a bit difficult for the speakers of European languages, since it's not part of their alphabets. It is, however, the very first letter of our Semitic alphabet.

    Since "[n]o audio or video files or links may be inserted without prior moderator approval", according to WR rules, I'm going to list the titles of those Youtube videos:
    - "John 1 GREEK New Testament".
    - "Reading Exercise for Chapter 4 of Basics of Biblical Greek" (Θεὸς on 2:20. Also notice the glottal stop when reading εαυτους on 8:14).
    - "God or a god: John 1:1c the Greek Grammar" (where Θεὸς is pronounced without the glottal stop the first time only).

    For the speakers of Semitic languages like mine, Θεὸς in Modern Greek is read and spelled as if it's theyos; in those videos, it's read and spelled as if it's theʔos (totally two different letters).

    It seems that both pronunciations are valid when reading Koine.
    Ι found the videos you've posted and I have to say, the speaker has a heavy English (American) accent, no Greek pronounces Θεός like that.
    If you're interested in the Greek pronunciation of it, please visit the following YT video: ΚΑΤΑ ΙΩΑΝΝΗΝ - Κεφ. 1 (Πρωτότυπο κείμενο), channel: Greece 2004
     

    pimlicodude

    Senior Member
    British English
    I don’t know which videos about Biblical Greek you watched, but I’m afraid I can’t understand what a glottal stop (that is k, p, t, g, b, d) or a “y” sound has to do with the word Θεὸς that you mentioned. To my knowledge, the word Θεὸς (and its accusative case Θεὸν) has always been pronounced as theos / θeɒs (and theon / θeɒn) without any glottal stop or “y” sound between the two syllables, except when in some cases and by some speakers a slight “h” sound could be heard in that place. If a video suggested another pronunciation, this must be clearly a personal opinion and such norm neither existed in Ancient Greek nor exists in Modern Greek.
    k, p, t, g, b and d are not glottal stops!
    The glottal stop is a catch in the throat that you can hear in English words ending in t (usually). Some people do pronounce a t in "hat", but most of the time it is a glottal stop. This is considered acceptable, whereas in words like "butter" where some people replace t by a glottal stop, this is considered less desirable.
    As Arab linguists have always realised, there is a glottal stop at the beginning of word that starts with a vowel: "apple" actually has a glottal stop before the "a". This is because the throat has to open before you even get to the vowel.
    There is no glottal stop in Θεὸς, and no "y" in it either. Videos on Biblical Greek by people with poor pronunciation should be ignored.
     

    barkoosh

    Senior Member
    Arabic - Lebanon
    Thank you guys for all your contributions. Please note that the Internet is full of lessons about "vowel to vowel linking", as in the case of "the end/the-y-end" (YouTube video: "Stop Saying...: Vowel to vowel linking", by BBC Learning English). Although they're about linking two vowels between two words, I think that the same applies to two syllables of the same word. One video gives the example of "triathlon".

    when we say "cooperation", we link (cowoperation); the French break (co.opération). While this could make no difference to the speakers of European languages, the implied linking y/w sound and the implied break have to be represented by actual letters in my language.

    Saint John spoke to people in Koine in the first century. When saying theos, did he link (as it's the case in Modern Greek) or did he break (as in the videos mentioned in #3)? I'll go for linking.

    Thank you again.
     
    Last edited:

    Αγγελος

    Senior Member
    Greek
    Thank you guys for all your contributions. Please note that the Internet is full of lessons about "vowel to vowel linking", as in the case of "the end/the-y-end" (YouTube video: "Stop Saying...: Vowel to vowel linking", by BBC Learning English). Although they're about linking two vowels between two words, I think that the same applies to two syllables of the same word. One video gives the example of "triathlon".

    when we say "cooperation", we link (cowoperation); the French break (co.opération). While this could make no difference to the speakers of European languages, the implied linking y/w sound and the implied break have to be represented by actual letters in my language.

    Saint John spoke to people in Koine in the first century. When saying theos, did he link (as it's the case in Modern Greek) or did he break (as in the videos mentioned in #3)? I'll go for linking.

    Thank you again.
    There is no reason to think that a y-glide developed between vowels in Koine Greek. It certainly doesn't in modern Greek. In fact, we clearly distinguish a word like μύγες=flies, pronounced ['mijes], from μύες=muscles, pronounced ['mies].
    To tell the truth, a glide can develop in dialectal forms; thus, one can hear αγέρας ([a'jeras]) for the standard αέρας(([a'eras], air). But it is a y-glide only before front vowels; before back vowels, it is a [γ]. [θe'γοs] for [θe'οs] is, I think, attested in dialects. But in standard Greek, no one confuses λαός (=people) with λαγός (=hare)!

    No glottal stop develops in Greek, either, whether between vowels or before an initial vowel, either. Successive vowels can always be pronounced in one syllable, say in words like πρόοδος, and τον ώμο sounds exactly like το νόμο. If we must hear something between successive vowels in words like λαός, it would probably be a very light 'ayin.

    Remarkably, a y-glide did perhaps develop in Mycenean Greek; at least, what has always been written as ια (e.g. μία) since the Greek alphabet was devised was written with syllabic characters deciphered as i-ja in Linear B. Then again, Linear B is poorly suited for representing Greek pronunciation...
     
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