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The Jeffersonian cyclopedia;

a comprehensive collection of the views of Thomas Jefferson classified and arranged in alphabetical order under nine thousand titles relating to government, politics, law, education, political economy, finance, science, art, literature, religious freedom, morals, etc.;
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4438. LANGUAGE (Greek), Pronunciation.—
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3 occurrences of jefferson cyclopedia
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4438. LANGUAGE (Greek), Pronunciation.—

Mr. Pickering's pamphlet on the pronunciation
of the Greek, for which I am indebted
to you, I have read with great pleasure.
Early in life, the idea occurred to me that the
people now inhabiting the ancient seats of the
Greeks and Romans, although their languages
in the intermediate ages had suffered great
changes, and especially in the declension of
their nouns, and in the terminations of their
words generally, yet having preserved the body
of the word radically the same, so they would
preserve more of its pronunciation. That, at
least, it was probable that a pronunciation,
handed down by tradition, would retain, as the
words themselves do, more of the original than
that of any other people whose language has
no affinity to that original. For this reason I
learned, and have used the Italian pronunciation
of the Latin. But that of the modern
Greeks I had no opportunity of learning until
I went to Paris. There I became acquainted
with two learned Greeks, Count Carberri, and
Mr. Paradise, and with a lady, a native Greek,
the daughter of Baron de Tott, who did not
understand the ancient language. Carberri and
Paradise both spoke it. From these instructors
I learned the modern pronunciation, and in
general trusted to its orthodoxy. I say, in
because sound being more fugitive than
the written letter, we must, after such a lapse
of time, presume in it some degeneracies, as we
see there are in the written words. We May


Page 473
not, indeed, be able to put our finger on them
confidently, yet neither are they entirely beyond
the reach of all indication. For example,
in a language so remarkable for the euphony
of its sounds, if that euphony is preserved in
particular combinations of its letters, by an
adherence to the powers ordinarily ascribed to
them, and is destroyed by a change of these
powers, and the sound of the word, thereby,
rendered harsh, inharmonious, and inidiomatical,
here we may presume some degeneracy
has taken place.

While, therefore, I gave in to the modern
prounciation generally, I have presumed, as
an instance of degeneracy, their ascribing the
same sound to the six letters, or combinations
of letters, ε, ι, υ, ει, οι, υι, to all of which
they give the sound of our double e in the
word meet. This useless equivalence of three
vowels and three diphthongs did not probably
exist among the ancient Greeks; and the less
probably as, while this single sound, ee, is
overcharged by so many different representative
characters, the sounds we usually give to
these characters and combinations would be left
without any representative signs. This would
imply either that they had not these sounds
in their language, or no signs for their expression.
Probability appears to me, therefore,
against the practice of the modern Greeks of
giving the same sound to all these different
representatives, and to be in favor of that of
foreign nations, who, adopting the Roman
characters, have assimilated to them, in a considerable
degree, the powers of the corresponding
Greek letters. I have, accordingly, excepted
this in my adoption of the modern pronunciation.

I have been more doubtful in the use of the
αυ, ευ, ηυ, ωυ, sounding the υ, upsilon, as
our f or v, because I find traces of that power of
v, or of υ, in some modern languages. To go
no further than our own, we have it in laugh,
cough, trough, enough.
The county of Louisa,
adjacent to that in which I live, was, when I
was a boy, universally pronounced Lovisa.
That it is not the gh which gives the sound of
f or v, in these words, is proved by the orthography
of plough, trough, thought, fraught,
The modern Greeks themselves, too,
giving up υ, upsilon, in ordinary, the sound of
our ee, strengthens the presumption that its
anomalous sound of f or v, is a corruption.
The same may be inferred from the cacophony
of ελαφνε (elavne) for ελαυνε (elawne.)
Αχιλλεφς (Achillefs) for Αχιλλευς (Achilleise,)
εφς (eves) for εϋς (ee-use,) οφκ (ovk)
for (ouk,) ωφιος (ovetos) for ωϋτος (o-u-tos,)
Ζεφς (zevs) for Ζευς (zese,) of which
all nations have made their Jupiter; and the uselessness
of the υ in ευφωνια, which would
otherwise have been spelt εφωνια. I, therefore,
except this also from what I consider as approvable
To John Adams. Washington ed. vii, 112.
(M. 1819)