Sunday, July 18, 2021



W.B. Stanford, The Sound of Greek: Studies in the Greek Theory and Practice of Euphony (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1967 = Sather Classical Lectures, 38), p. 1, with notes on pp. 19-20:
In our world of printed books we mostly study and enjoy literature in silence. We do sometimes hear the sound of poetry and of good prose in the classroom and in the theatre, and when we listen to the radio. But most of our literary experience, as adults at any rate, is silent. We sit in a library or at home; our eyes move quickly over black marks on a white page; and our mind takes in an author's thoughts and images. When we were children at school, our teachers taught us to aim at rapid reading: the sooner we got through the elementary stage of sounding the words as we went along, the better, they said. In any educational book on the psychology of reading you will probably find a section called something like "Training to Decrease Vocalization."1

We take all this for granted, and undoubtedly we gain great benefits from this silent, rapid reading. So when we are studying the classical literatures of Greece and Rome we generally aim at reading them in just the same way. We use our eyes, but not our ears and our voices.2 We are what has been aptly called "eye-philologists," not "ear-philologists."3

1 See, e.g., John Anthony O'Brien, Silent Reading (New York, 1921).

2 Cf. A.W. Verrall, The Bacchants of Euripides and Other Essays (Cambridge, 1910) 246: "The habit of silent reading has made us slow to catch the sound of what is written. And moreover, used to language and poetry constructed on principles not merely different from the Greek, but diametrically opposed, our attention, even if given to the sound, brings us no natural and instinctive report. To logic, rhetoric, pathos we are alive; and upon these heads the tragic poets are criticised; but as to noise we will not notice it, not even if we are bidden and bidden again."

3 I take the terms "eye-philologists" and "ear-philologists" from Jespersen 23 f. How little the ear counts among modern rhetoricians is exemplified in the neglect of all matters of verbal sound except rhythm in so full a manual as Cleanth Brooks and Robert Penn Warren, Modern Rhetoric (New York, 1949).
Jespersen is Otto Jespersen, Language: Its Nature, Development, and Origin (London: George Allen & Unwin Ltd., 1922), p. 24:
But there can be no doubt that the way in which Latin has been for centuries made the basis of all linguistic instruction is largely responsible for the preponderance of eye-philology to ear-philology in the history of our science.

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