The 2001 Translation Translator NotesNote

Pronunciation of C and CH in Greek Words

The most mispronounced letters when English-speaking people try to pronounce Greek or Hebrew names are the letters C or CH. For there is no ‘soft C’ pronunciation in either of those languages… it is always a hard C (as in Call), even when a CH is used (as in CHrist).

So the name Caesar was actually pronounced more like Kaiser. And the name of the faithful woman Priscilla was pronounced Pree-skee-lah, as the town of Laodicea was called La-oh-dee-kay-ah. However, don’t try to pronounce those names and titles properly, because the mispronunciations are just too well entrenched in English. Yet, when it comes to less familiar names, there is nothing wrong with trying to pronounce them properly.

Take for example, the name of the sons of Chet, or the people called the Chaldeans. Note that in ancient Greek, these names were pronounced as with a ‘K.’ Oh yes, it helps to have an interlinear Bible translation to know how the word was actually spelled and a knowledge of how the Greek vowels were pronounced.

Understand that both the Hebrews and the Greeks had two letters that they pronounced as a K. In Greek, one letter looks like a K and is pronounced that way, with the tongue touching the middle roof of the mouth. The other (the one we render as C and CH in English) looks like an X and is pronounced with the tongue touching the soft palate at the back of the mouth, which gives a breathier or more guttural sound.

For example, say Christ and notice the part of your mouth that the tongue touches.
Then say Kill and you’ll see the difference. This is why there is a letter for CH and another for K in the Hebrew and Greek languages.

So, why did the Greeks have different letters for such a small variation in sound?
Because they actually had no alphabet until about the time of their classical poet, Homer. They then borrowed or adapted their alphabet from the Hebrew (if you examine both alphabets from that period, you will see the similarities). And since Hebrew is a more guttural language, their letter cheth (from which the Greeks got their letter X) has a far more pronounced palate sound.

Therefore, though the difference between the sounds of the two letters isn’t as obvious in the Greek language; Both letters were carried over from the Hebrew, as has also been done in the English alphabet when we use the hard ‘C.’

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