I've noticed that the Greek alphabet is systemically mispronounced in the English speaking world. What is the main reason for that?
Examples and remarks
I've never heard anyone pronounce the letters β,γ,δ,ι the right way even though these sounds are common in the English language. This has led me to believe that scholars simply don't teach them the right way. But even if they were taught Greek the wrong way I still can't understand why people mispronounced my name after hearing it when I introduced myself (Dimitris - Τheemeetrees - Δημήτρης).
Most common occurrences of mispronunciations
- Names of fraternities in American colleges
- Greek letters in mathematics
- Common arithmetic letters like alpha/beta (versions) or delta (military task force)
Sounds that are not present in English
The only sound that is absent from the English alphabet is the hard Y (Γ). In Greek a soft Γ is easy to be pronounced by foreigners but corresponds to different writing. The English sounds yo, ya, ye, yu are written as γιο, για, γιε, γιου. The hard Γ is pronounced without the ι. It's impossible to speak a hard yi, ye. Although the hard γα and γο sounds are nowhere to be found in English, the hard γου is everywhere. Words like word, where, wait, work and womb have hard yama. But even if I spell γαμμα as wama everyone will read it as whama.
Letters, diphthongs, digraphs and their proper explanation
The following will help you pronounce the alphabet the right way:
e - like in epitome
ee - like in sheep
o - like in knot (not to be confused with the pronunciation of o in "no")
y - like yo-yo
x - like mexican
|Β||veeta||Θ||theeta (as thunder)||Ξ||xee||Υ||eepseelon|
|Δ||thelta (as this,the,there)||Κ||kapa||Π||pee||Χ||he|
|Ε||epsilon||Λ||lamtha (as those)||Ρ||ro||Ψ||psee|
ς - is not part of the alphabet and is called terminal siyma. There's no word ending in σ.
Diphthongs that produce sounds not present in the alphabet
g - like gear
|ΜΠ||b||ΤΖ||j||ΤΝ||d||ΤΣ||ch (like charcoal)|
In schools we are taught that diphthongs are compound sounds (hence the name). ΜΠ = m+p sounds like b if spoken fast. Some Greek letters sound like diphthongs probably as an ancient remnant of concatenation of more letters due to high frequency. Ψ = p+s , Ξ = k+s
I used the letters ee instead of i for pronunciation of the letters ι,η,υ,οι,ει because some might try pronouncing it like in mice. I could provide the guideline ship but from my experience people tend to go the other way again soon. It is true that in modern Greek the above 5 phthongs don't have the long "e" sound of sheep but this way you can't ignore the right sound 😊
Many know alpha written with a ph but for purposes of this article I write with the simplest sound forms.
Any other pitfall is already mentiond.