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Lesson Transcript

Hi everyone.
Welcome to The Ultimate Greek Pronunciation Guide.
In this lesson, we'll cover Greek accents.
Have you seen these marks before?
They commonly appear above vowels.
They're called accents and their main job is to tell us when to modify the pronunciation of a vowel.
They may look intimidating at first and their function may seem complicated, but in fact it's quite simple.
Fortunately, Greek only uses one accent and it only applies to vowels.
It's represented by an upward stroke, going from left to right.
This accent is used to mark stress in Greek. This simply means that when you come across this accent, all you need to do is to stress the syllable.
But what exactly is stress?
"Stress, refers to the prominence or relative emphasis placed on certain syllables in a word.
When you say the word ""unbelievable"" for example, do you notice how the ""lie"" is accentuated?
That's because it's pronounced longer and louder than any of the other syllables."
Consider the word for 'Athens' in Greek.
Αθήνα (Athens)
The accent, and thus the stress, is on the second syllable.
If we were to place the accent and the stress, on the *last* syllable...
Αθηνά (Athena)
The word changes to the Greek goddess of wisdom Athena.
Notice the difference?
"Αθήνα (Athens)
Αθηνά (Athena)"
Stress the syllable by pronouncing it longer, and louder, than the surrounding syllables.
Okay. Now you know how the Greek accent looks, what it's function is, and what to do when you encounter it. Next, let's talk about *where* this accent appears.
We already mentioned before that the Greek accent only applies to vowels.
Well, there's more good news because it gets even simpler than that.
First, consider these examples...
"που (that)
πού (where)"
The first one, meaning "that", is a conjunction, while the second one, meaning "where" is a locative adverb. Listen to how they sound when used in a sentence.
Είδα που έφυγε. (I saw that he left.)
Δεν ξέρω πού πήγε. (I don't know where he went.)
They sound identical right? That's because single syllable words are already naturally stressed. Let's listen to them again...
Είδα που έφυγε. (I saw that he left.)
Δεν ξέρω πού πήγε. (I don't know where he went.)
In speech, the context usually helps us understand whether we mean "that" or "where". In writing though it is necessary to clearly diffentiate them for grammatical reasons, so in this case the locative adverb will always get an accent marker.
There are a few more single syllable word pairings like this in Greek. Without the accent marker though, it would be difficult to tell which word you're referring to.
The good news, is that the accent mark will never appear in single syllable words *UNLESS* of course, that word has an identical pair like in the examples we showed you
For words that are longer than one syllable, the accent marker can only appear in one of the *last three syllables*. However in some few cases there can be two accent markers in a word with 3 syllables and more. When that happens then one accent mark will be placed on the third last syllable while the other on the last syllable. For example in this case...
"Το όνομά μου είναι Στεφανία.
(My name is Stefania.)
Το όνομά μου είναι Στεφανία. (slowly)"
In gereral, remember that an accent marker could either be on the last syllable, the second last syllable, or the third last syllable. Isn't that simple?
Listen to a few examples to hear what each pattern sounds like.
"Got the hang of it? All you need to do is to stress the syllable that's accented!
Okay. Now there's one final thing you'll need to know about Greek accents."
As you know from the last lesson, vowel combinations are pretty common in Greek. These can also be stressed and therefore need to be accented properly. Let's take a look at how you can accent double vowel combinations. There are 5 possibilities here:
When you have a double vowel combination that is pronounced as a set, the accent can either be placed on the second vowel if the syllable is stressed...
..or not at all if the syllable is *not* stressed.
If the accent is placed on the *first* vowel, this means that the two vowels must be pronounced separately. The vowel in the first syllable is then stressed, whereas the vowel in the second, isn't.
When both vowels are meant to be pronounced separately in an unstressed syllable, then we must add a special marker on the second vowel. The same thing occurs for loan words in English, such as "naïve" or "Noël". The two dots just indicate that you must pronounce them separately and they need to be used even in words written in uppercase letters.
However if the syllable *is* stressed and we still have to pronounce the two vowels separately, then we must use the special marker with the accent marker and place both over the second vowel.
And that covers every scenario you'll encounter. That wasn't really hard, was it?
In this lesson, we learned about Greek accents.
In the next lesson, we'll cover diphthongs in Greek.
Do you have accents in your language? If so, what kind of accents? Let us know in the comments.
See you in the next Ultimate Greek Pronunciation Guide lesson!
Max Greek Accents Notes
Modern Greek has one accent marker ´
This marker can only appear atop of vowels
´ signifies where to place the stress
Αθήνα (Athens) vs. Αθηνά (Athena)
The accent marker doesn't appear in single syllable words, except when they are used to differentiate words that would otherwise be identical.
eg. που (that) vs. πού (where)
Το αυτοκίνητο που πέρασε. (The car that passed.)
Πού ήσουν; (Where were you?)
The accent marker can only appear in the last three syllables.