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Dialects

Next time I have the opportunity to teach Greek, I’m going to ask the students to watch this video, not because I need them to know about English dialects, but because it’s helpful to know how dialects change and are formed (HT: Dave Black Online).

One of my more interesting experiences with phonetics came in Hungary where I went on a couple of mission trips. I was trying to learn Hungarian words. Now in print, this isn’t all that difficult, but both vowel and consonant length, i.e. the length of time the sound is held, are phonemic in Hungarian. What I was taught about vowel length in elementary school isn’t really “length” but rather a change in the sound, in which the length itself is rarely phonemic. What I found particularly difficult was lengthening a vowel with accenting the syllable. I got nowhere with that. Of course, anyone who actually speaks Hungarian may be able to correct my “short term mission” knowledge of the subject!

But my purpose in making Greek students listen to this would be to build flexibility. I’ve found people who have not spent significant time in a foreign language don’t realize the difference in the range of sounds and how they apply to meaning, or how easily a regional dialect can develop.

 

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