Modern Greek/Lesson 4x< Modern Greek
This is the fourth lesson teaching you how to read, write and pronounce Greek. By this time, you're already more than halfway done. The rest of the letters will be easy to learn.
Let's start with Eta:
Even though the capital letter looks like an H and the small letter looks somewhat like a small N, this is actually a vowel. In Hellenistic, Medieval, and Modern Greek, it is pronounced like the Spanish "i" (IPA [i]), same as the letter Iota. In Ancient Greek, it used to be pronounced like a long "e", as in the word "pain". That's why words which got derived in the past from Greek and are spelled with an Eta are actually spelled with an E in English, which is also a different sound from the original eta. An example: δημοκρατία became "democracy" and not "dimocracy" in English. In Attic Greek it must have sounded different from both. Fortunately, this reference to those English words is a way to know whether a Modern Greek word is spelled with Eta or Iota. In standard transliteration this letter is rendered as ī (the dash is used in order to distinguish it from Iota), while in names and toponyms it is transcribed simply as i (with the disadvantage of being unable to distinguish it from Iota). Sometimes h is used just because of the similarity of the respective capital letters, providing though a weird and wrong spelling. Practice your reading now:
There is yet another letter that sounds like i: upsilon.
The shape of this Greek letter seems to refer us to both Y and U, and that's correct: when English words derive from Greek ones, most of times this letter is rendered as Y in English and vice versa. Also, in very ancient Greek this letter was pronounced like the u in "rule" (IPA [u]) but later it transformed to the French U sound (German Ü, IPA [y], sound which doesn't exist in English). In medieval Greek the letter started sounding just like Iota and Eta. Example words:
Now you're probably wondering how to write the u sound as in "rule" in Modern Greek. Greeks need two letters for this: Omikron and Upsilon (ου). This probably sounds familiar to those who have studied French, because French also spells [u] as "ou". Here are a lot of sample words with this letter combination, for practice:
Now you're going to learn another very important Greek letter: Omega.
This is the second variety of O in Greek. The O that you already learned is called Omikron, which translates to "small O". This one is called Omega, which translates to "big O". They are both pronounced the same, as o in obey. In standard transliteration, this letter is rendered as ō because in ancient Greek it had the sound of a long [o], which made it essentially a different vowel. Transcription in names and toponyms is usually just o. Sometimes unofficially it is rendered as w(inspired by the shape of the small letter), but this leads to weird and incorrect spelling, as in some pretty weird-looking transliterations, like "egw agapw". Knowing this letter (and the ones taught before), you can read some new words:
The last letter I'd like to introduce to you in this lesson is Beta.
As I mentioned earlier, this letter sounds like an English V (IPA [v]), not like a B. That's why it is often used for English words that contain V or W. In classical Greek it was pronounced like English B, explaining the common origin of the two letters, but the pronunciation changed to V in hellenistic Greek. Compare the sound of Beta to the sound of the Spanish 'B', which has a V sound unless it's found in the beginning of a word. Beta is generally used very often and there are lots of example words that you can use for practice:
That's it for this lesson! If you didn't have trouble reading the example words, you're ready to continue with lesson 5!
|Άρης||Árīs||Ares (Greek god of war)|
|Ελ Σαλβαδόρ||El Salvadór||El Salvador|