The Classical Language Instruction Project “contains samples of Greek and Latin prose and poetry texts, read by various scholars and in different styles. It is designed to help students of the classical languages to acquaint themselves with the sound of Greek and Latin and to practice their own reading skills.” (Via wood s lot.)


  1. The Latin texts were unexpectedly odd. Most especially the /r/s and the glottal stops.
    Still, it’s a good thing for students to have, if only to remind us that dead languages weren’t always.

  2. david waugh says:

    I must admit I thought the recordings sounded faintly absurd. One reader had an unmistakable German accent and another, not German I think, was pronouncing Greek /eu/ as /oi/. It was particularly noticeable how difficult it seemed to be for the readers to pronounce a long unaccented vowel without transferring the accent to it, something which did not happen in Greek nor, I believe, in Latin. I suspect that most people studying dead languages are either not that interested in the sound of them or would prefer to reconstruct the sound of them imaginatively for themselves rather than rely on dodgy examples such as this, but I have occasionally heard Old English read very convincingly.

  3. Yeah, it’s too bad so few classical scholars seem to be able to apply what’s known about the phonology of the languages to their actual pronunciation of them. Hard to believe people still render eu as /oi/.

  4. David Lyle says:

    Yes, very odd. The Greek texts are definitely German Greek and the Latin texts just sound plain weird or computer generated.
    One of my own pet peeves studying language in Germany has been the peculiar system that Germans have of pronouncing Ancient Greek texts: [oi] for /eu/, and an aspirated [t] for theta despite [f] for phi and [ch (as in "ich")] for chi. It would make more sense to adopt either the archaic Greek series of aspirated stops, or be consistent with the later fricative series with an “English” [th] for theta. But alas Germans (and probably everyone else for that matter) make it easy on themselves by using sounds from their own phonetic systems.

  5. David Lyle says:

    LH: I always thought that [oi] for /eu/ was primarily a Germanism, as it reflects the pronunciation of /eu/ in German. Do you hear that in the States as well (among Greek scholars, that is)?

  6. “It’s too bad so few classical scholars seem to be able to apply what’s known about the phonology of the languages to their actual pronunciation of them.”
    Regrettably many classical scholars dispute the idea that anything is known about the actual pronunciation. I’ve had a couple of professors who are very resistant to the notion that one can reconstruction the general pronunciation of a dead language, and have no interest in even flipping through “Vox Graeca” and “Vox Latina”.

  7. err, rather, that should be “…that one can reconstruct the general…” *goes in search of coffee*

  8. In secondary school, we learned to pronounce the classical Greek eu as the Dutch ui [œy].

  9. People studying dead languages that were written in actual alphabets don’t realize how good they have it.

  10. First, hello.
    I have just fished out Sydney Allen’s Vox Graeca and looked out the section on ‘Accentual Marking’:

    The author has listened to a number of recordings, recent and less recent, of attempted melodic-accentual recitations of ancient Greek, and, whilst some are less objectionable or ridiculous than others, has found none of them convincing…. The carefully considered advice is therefore given, albeit reluctantly, not to strive for a melodic rendering.

    From what I have just listened to, I am not surprised by Allen’s dismay.
    It is a great pity that classicists produce such unnatural renditions of the pitch accent. From what I know, modern Japanese has an accentual system strikingly similar to what is described for classical Greek; why the Hellenists can’t ask their Orientalist colleagues for a few phonetics lessons beats me.

  11. That recitation of ancient Greek does sound ridiculous to my ears. But maybe not quite as ridiculous as we think – to push Matthew’s Japanese analogy, when ancient Greeks were reciting poetry for an audience did they deliberately exaggerate the pitch accents, perhaps in the way that traditional Japanese Noo play reciters do?

  12. There’s a book out called “The Prosody of Greek Speech” (OUP, 1996, I believe). Can’t remember the authors. Anyway, it gives a very reasonable reconstruction of the pitch accent, using typological support from modern pitch-accented languages. The book sank like a rock among classicists, since they seemingly can’t be bothered to learn anything about linguistic science.

  13. Didn’t S. Allen produce a record of his rendission of ancient Greek? As I recall his was among the less objectionable if theatric.

  14. As for Greek “eu”, I find it remarkable that many English-speaking classicists want to pronounce it /ju/ (I mean, with the same sound as “you”). Isn’t the evidence from Modern Greek (pronouncing “eu” as /ev/) and elsewhere clearly in favour of /eu/ (that is, roughly, /e/ with a shorter /u/ following it)? This excuseless /ju/ is perpetuated in Teach Yourself Ancient Greek (2002, Alan Henry and Gavin Betts – a couple of Australian academics, at Monash, which is my old university). O tempores.

  15. Ouch! I meant “O tempora”! That’ll teach me to foreshorten.

  16. How do British classicists pronounce the word Philoctetes?

  17. I assume fil-ok-TEE-teez, but I’m willing to be corrected by an actual British classicist.

  18. fil-ok-TEE-teez
    This is confirmed as a second standard British pronunciation in Jones and Gimson’s Everyman’s English Pronouncing Dictionary, after the more Britishly clipped fil-[schwa]k-TEE-teez.

  19. That’s what I was going by, but it would be nice to have a classicist confirm that that’s how he or she actually says it. Reference books do lag behind use.

  20. nuifl ouzlp

  21. Hello,
    I’m not at all sure this is the proper place to leave this query, but here goes:
    I found this site on the Internet while Googling “Greek pronunciation,” and thought someone here might be able to help with a project I am involved with here in Portland, Oregon.
    I’m seeking help from anyone who’s done research into the pronunciations of the characters and place names in Mary Zimmerman’s “Metamorphoses.” Our director will undoubtedly have pronunciations for us, but I’d also like to gather them for myself.
    I understand that some of these names seem very obvious, but one can’t be too sure… it looks like “Sigh-len-uss,” but perhaps it’s “Sih-len-uss.” “Af-ruh-di-tee” is how I’ve most often heard it, but maybe it’s “Af-row-di-tee.” For Lucina, might it “Loo-see-nuh” or “Loo-chi-nuh”? You’d think Zeus would be obvious, but is it “Zoos,” or Zee-oos”?
    I don’t want to simply assume… rather get it right at the start and worry about other things!
    Anyway, any help or directions to a url where the work’s already been done would be much appreciated. I understand that any assistance here would be a great act of charity, and that all here are probably busy with many more pressing matters. I did want to enquire, however, on the off chance that the task may hold some interest for one of the contributors here… If you haven’t time, please don’t be concerned, and thanks for taking a moment for this note.
    I can be reached directly at
    Mary McDonald-Lewis
    Portland, OR
    Rainer Maria Rilke (!)

  22. Im in the same boat as the person above, any help!

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