In order to help people chant these hymns in Greek, English phonetics have been provided directly beneath the Greek text. One should be aware, however, that these phonetics are merely an approximation of the actual sound of the Greek syllables. The following paragraphs explain the differences.

In Greek, there are only five vowel sounds: ah [α]*, eh [ε], ee [i], o [o], and oo [u]. Therefore, particular caution is necessary that no other vowel sounds are unintentionally used. For example, the Greek syllable "ταν," transliterated "tan," should be pronounced "tahn" [tαn] and not like the English word "tan." Likewise, the Greek syllable "σω" transliterated "so," should be pronounced "soh" [so] and not like the English word "so," which has a brief "oo" sound at the end [sou]. The Greek letters "α" and "ε" are trans­literated "ah" [α] and "eh" [ε] respectively. An "h" is used in their transliteration to empha­size that the vowels are pure sounds, not diphthongs.

The Greek letter " δ" (delta) is pronounced like the voiced consonant "th" [ð] in the English word "then." In order to distinguish this sound from the unvoiced "th" sound [θ] found in words such as "thin," the letter " δ" is always transliterated as "dh." All "r's" in Greek are rolled, similarly to the "r" [ř] in the English word "three."

The most difficult letters in Greek for native English-speakers to pronounce are "χ" (chi) and "γ" (gamma) because their corresponding sounds are never used in English. The letter "χ" is pronounced like a gutteral "h" [x] before the vowel sounds "ah," "oh," and "oo"; however, it is pronounced more smoothly [ç] before the vowel sounds "ee" and "eh." In this book, it is transliterated with the letter "h" when at the beginning of a syllable. Likewise, the letter "γ " is pronounced like a gutteral "g" before the vowel sounds "ah," "oh," and "oo"; however, it is pronounced like a rough "y" before the vowel sounds "ee" and "eh." For this reason, the letter "γ" is transliterated using the letter "g" in the former case and "y" in the latter.

A subtle difference between English and Greek pronunciation is that the English consonants "l," "n," "t," and "d" are lingua-alveolar, whereas the corresponding Greek consonants "λ," "ν," "τ," and "ντ " are lingua-dental. In other words, in Greek these consonants are formed with the tongue touching the back of the upper teeth instead of the upper gum ridge. Furthermore, the Greek letters "π" and "τ," corresponding to the English letters "p" and "t" respectively, are always pro­nounced softly, i.e., without forcefully expelling air. Another subtlety is that when the letters "κ," "γ," and "χ" are followed by an "eh" [ε] sound, a momentary "ee" [i] is pronounced before forming the "eh" sound.

Although these guidelines may be helpful, the most effective way to absorb all of these variations is to listen carefully to native Greek speakers.

For a much more thorough explanation of Greek pronunciation, see http://www.foundalis.com/lan/greek.htm

Footnotes

*Symbols in brackets on this page are from the International Phonetic Alphabet.

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