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Lesson Transcript

Welcome to Introduction to Greek.
My name is Alisha and I'm joined by...
Hi everyone! I'm Chrissi
In this lesson, you'll learn the basics of Greek pronunciation. "Pronunciation" refers to the manner in which a word is spoken. So don't focus on reading what's onscreen, instead focus on listening and repeating.
Rhythm, Intonation, Stress &Tempo
One of the aspects of a language is rhythm. Modern Greek is a mixed rhythm language with characteristics varying between those of syllable-timed and stress-timed languages. In syllable-timed languages, like Spanish, all syllables have equal duration.
while in stress-timed languages, like English, some syllables are longer, and some are shorter.
Now, let's hear a Greek word:
(ómorfos, “beautiful”)
Another aspect of a language is intonation. Did you notice the accent mark above the first letter? There is only one type of accent mark in Modern Greek, the acute accent. It adds stress to a syllable. A stressed syllable usually lasts longer and has a slightly higher pitch than the rest. Other than pitch accents, there is no pitch system in Greek like in Chinese, for example, where different tones define the meaning of words. Let's listen to that again:
There is a golden rule in Greek concerning accents. The accent mark can only go on one of the three last syllables of a word. Let's see this in a longer word:
(omorfópedo, “beautiful boy or man”)
This word, as well as the previous one, share the same root. However, the accent mark had to be moved over to a different syllable in order to comply with our accentuation golden rule. By the way, did you notice that although this word is longer than the previous one, it feels as if the syllables are pronounced faster?
In general, you need to keep in mind that the duration of any syllable depends on whether the syllable is stressed and on the length of the word. Additionally, an unstressed syllable may have a different duration depending on its position relative to the stressed syllable. For example, in the second word, pre-stress syllables take slightly longer to be pronounced than the post-stress ones.
Imagine this rhythm is a rollercoaster ride: The pre-stress syllables are like going up to the highest point slowly. The stressed syllable is like waiting at the top for a while. And then the post-stress syllables are like the very fast fall. Of course, while Greeks speak, these duration differences between syllables are very small and hard to notice.
Now, regarding the tempo of the language, Greek is considered a fast spoken language. Laboratory experiments have shown that a Greek speaker pronounces more syllables per second than an English speaker.
Pronouncing the Greek Vowels
There are five vowel sounds in Greek that are represented by 7 letters and 4 double vowel combinations:
α, ε, ι, ο, ου
It's really that simple! The vowel sounds in Greek are exactly the same as the vowel sounds in English.
α, ε, ι, ο, ου
OK. Let's move on.
Pronouncing the Greek Consonants
There are 34 consonant sounds in Greek that are represented by 17 letters and 6 double consonant combinations. Let's hear them:
β, γ (two sounds here as in γάτα and γη)
δ, ζ, θ, κ (two sounds here as in κάτω and κέλυφος)
λ (two sounds here as in λαός and λιανός), μ, ν (two sounds here as in ναός and νιότη)
ξ, π, ρ (two sounds here as in τρώω and ώρα), σ, τ, φ, χ (two sounds here as in χάμω and χύμα), ψ (single letters)
The Sounds of Greek
In the previous lesson, you learned that around 25-30% of English words come from Greek, either directly or indirectly – which is quite a lot!
But did you also know that apart from the Greek vowels which are very easy to pronounce, out of the 34 consonant sounds in Greek, you already know 26 of them? That means that if you were to simply imitate a Greek speaker, your pronunciation would be correct most of the time!
For example, listen and repeat after Chrissi.
(parakaló, “please”)
Chances are, your pronunciation was pretty spot on. The "P," "R," "K," and "L" sounds are practically identical to English.
Don't forget that words get accentuated in Greek. So make sure to stress that final syllable with the accent mark. Repeat after Chrissi.
Since most sounds in Greek are identical to English, you only need to pay attention to the few sounds that are completely new to you.
The Unique Sounds of Greek
There are only 8 unique Greek consonant sounds that you need to learn in order to perfect your Greek pronunciation. One of these sounds can be heard in the following word:
(Signómi, “Excuse me / I'm sorry.”)
This word is often romanized like this:
The third letter is usually written as a "G," but don't be fooled! This character isn't pronounced using an English "G" sound at all!
It's like a very soft, continuous, and loosely held “G”. Almost as if you are gargling. But don't make it sound too throaty.
There's no such sound in English, but most people would transcribe this using the letter "G," because that's the closest equivalent in English. Pronouncing it like an English "G," however, would be a huge mistake.
To get that sound right, your tongue and the back part of your mouth should be barely separated from each other while you blow a steady stream of air between the small separation. Another approach is to try to pronounce a "G" as if an "H" sound were to follow after it and hold that sound while you exhale. The after-sound created by that H is what you are looking for. Listen as Chrissi will demonstrate this. Repeat after her:
Well done! Let's wrap up this lesson by recapping what we've learned.
In this lesson, you learned that:
- The rhythm of the Greek language is mixed and follows a fast tempo.
- The accentuation can only go on one of the 3 last syllables.
- A stressed syllable sounds longer, but the longer the word the shorter the syllables are pronounced.
- Pre-stress syllables are generally longer than post-stress syllables.
- Collectively, nearly all the sounds in Greek are identical to the sounds in English. And finally, there are only 8 new sounds that you need to learn.
We've covered only the basics of Greek pronunciation. If you're interested in learning more, check out the entire course we created named "The Ultimate Guide to Greek Pronunciation." In that course, we cover and break down every single sound in the Greek language, showing you mouth and tongue positioning, and giving you tips to help you perfect your Greek pronunciation.
In the next lesson, we'll introduce you to the basics of Greek grammar, where you'll learn about Greek word order and how to build basic phrases in Greek.
See you in the next lesson. Bye!
Γεια χαρά!