Nowadays, most classicists seem to teach a reconstructed Ancient Greek pronunciation, imitating how an Athenian would have spoken in the fifth century BCE. On top of that, there's solid evidence for how other dialects sounded, and for sound changes after the fifth century.

But what about before the fifth century? How far back can pronunciation be reconstructed with any certainty? Is it possible to reconstruct a proper Homeric pronunciation for the Iliad, for example? And if not, how close can we get?

  • When I remember right, there is a lot of evidence that in Homeric Greek the Digamma ϝ /w/ was still present and pronounced. But this is only one feature of Homeric Greek. – jk - Reinstate Monica Aug 3 '19 at 21:40
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    Just a comment here: most classicists blend their native accents with an Erasmian pronunciation which, broadly speaking, mixes “late” features (φ, θ, χ, σσ, ττ as /f, θ, x, ss, tt/) with “archaic” (ει as /ei/) and “classic” ones (αι, οι, αυ, ευ, η, υ, β, δ, γ as /ai, oi, au, eu, ε:, y, b, d, g/) There may be disagreement on the timing of sound changes, but everybody agrees that this particular mix never existed outside western scholarship. – Dario Aug 6 '19 at 19:50
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    @Dario Is σσ, ττ /ss, tt/ a "late" feature? What were they before that? – Draconis Aug 6 '19 at 19:57
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    Originally they represented a palatal sound, probably close to /tʃ/ (hence the spelling ττ), and later close to /ʃ/ (hence σσ) before merging with /s/. But this deserves a question by itself, with sources and examples. – Dario Aug 6 '19 at 20:41
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    Ok, checking the usual sources showed me that my previous comments about a late depalatalization of σσ represent a minority opinion: the majority seems to agree that it was /ʃ/ at a certain point, but had already merged with /s/ by the time of the adoption of the Ionic alphabet. Surely worth a question. – Dario Aug 7 '19 at 6:11

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