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QUESTION: In the Bible (John 1:1) we have the following: εν αρχη ην ο λογος
How should one pronounce the word αρχη? The letter χ has more than one way to it can be pronounced.

ANSWER: Hi Andrew,

the letter χ is pronounced according to the vowel that follows, i.e. (per IPA) χ + front vowel = /xi/ or /xe/, whereas χ + back vowel = /xa/, /xo/ or /xu/.

For a comparison, check how the word "chinesisch" (=Chinese) is pronounced in German:

Let me know if you need anything else. Have a good day.


---------- FOLLOW-UP ----------

QUESTION: I was asking this question since I found two recordings of the Gospel of John in Greek. The word αρχη was in two ways; with c as in cake and ch as in Lochnes. How do I know which pronunciation I should choose?

There are actually two suggestions concerning the pronunciation of the δασέα, i.e. φ,χ,θ but the one that you imply (/kh/) would belong to the classical period. You should know that some teachers prefer to use the classical pronunciation to recite Hellenistic texts, which is not correct.

From the 3rd century AD and on, the old Greek pronunciation becomes altered matching almost today's Greek. I suggest you use the one that belongs to that period, i.e. /arxi/. It could also be that there are local variations of a "heavy" Greek accent (in case you found it from modern Greek sources) which doesn't actually change anything. I mean, students of Greek should better concentrate on the more standard, more well-known and "original" accent, if that be the case. I am sure there are more sounds for χ in several Greek villages :)

So, that's all for now. Have a good evening and let me know whether you need anything else, Andrew.



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Michael Barkas


I provide assistance in linguistic, literary topics of Greek and Latin covering, thus, the following fields: translation, grammar, syntax, vocabulary, etymology, morphology, semantics and interpretations etc.


Studies: University of the Aegean, Dept Rhodes Friedrich Wilhelm Universitšt Bonn

Magister Artium (Archeology/Linguistics) Bachelor (Latin/English/Greek)

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