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Pronunciation of Amen

ilyazhito

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Amen is a very important word in Orthodox Christian worship, because it both starts and finishes many prayers. The Third Hour, and many other services, start with the reader or choir responding "Amen" to the priest's opening exclamation (sometimes preceded by an exclamation/reminder from the deacon), and it is traditional to respond to the priest's dismissal with "Amen" before beginning the polychronion.

In the Orthodox English-speaking world, it is pretty much standard to pronounce Amen with a short "AH" as in ramen, or as the ah in the British pronunciation of the word bath. However, I have noticed that when Protestants pray, they often say Amen with the first vowel as in the word "aim". Does anyone know why they do that? It sounds strange when I hear an Orthodox person saying Amen in the Protestant way, because the spelling indicates a short pronunciation for Amen, if it were an English word and not a Hebrew borrowing.
 

Luke

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Some Americans take it as an "ai." I used to when I was a young but switched to "ah" at some point. It takes us (Americans) a while to figure out things. :censored:
 

Pater Cyprianus

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ah in the British pronunciation of the word bath
Which one? ;)

There are various British pronunciations of bath, even within Received Pronunciation. Certainly in these parts, the 'a' of Amen (which is "ah" as in father) sounds nothing like the 'a' of bath, which is identical to the 'a' of cat.
 

biro

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I am Greek Orthodox by conversion, Irish and Italian by heritage. I sing in the choir, or used to, before Covid.

Almost everyone else in the choir is Greek.

I sing "Ah-mennn." They sing, "Ah-meeen."

Sometimes they give me looks. ;)
 

JTLoganville

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I too am Greek Orthodox by conversion.

When cantoring I try to match the language of the Deacon or Priest.
 

sestir

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Can we be sure that Hebrew אָמֵן is more original than Greek μην? Early uses of אָמֵן in the OT were translated with Greek γένοιτο (such as 1 Kings 1:36), but μην is used by Homer, giving a terminus ante quem of ca 700 BC, roughly contemporary with Isaiah. Occurrences of אָמֵן post this date get translated into Greek with αμην.

The Hebrew verb ᵓaman אָמַןhas earlier t.a.q. (Numbers 11:12, Job 12:20; Genesis 45:26).

- Germanic languages moved towards stressing the first syllable. If we don't know which syllable to stress, we will typically guess on the first one.
- -en may have been perceived as a case-ending by some people, and as an imperative verbal ending by some others.
- Some Germanic lects tend to make the vowels of stressed syllables long. Some (including mine) make long vowels into diphthongs.

I stress the second syllable, as I perceive the a- as a stative prefix. ^^
 

Luke

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If it was closer to γένοιτο, do you think the אָ had more of an epsilon sound?
 

sestir

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I am not qualified to say much about Hebrew pronunciation. My thinking was the Hebrew exemplars (vorlagen) of the LXX translators could have had a verb of 'being', which would have been replaced with amen after the form was established/borrowed in order to avoid confusion with the Name. Of course, there would have been no need to replace genoito in LXX for that reason, so it remained. Every time I see a word first being translated consistently in one way, and then consistently in another way it makes me curious.

BDAG pointed me to Justin's first apology (wouldn't surprise me if you have all read it ;) ) which says:
``... πᾶς ὁ παρὼν λαὸς ἐπευφημεῖ λέγων ἀμὴν. Τὸ δὲ ἀμὴν τῇ ῾Εβραἰδι φωνῇ τὸ γένοιτο σημαίνει.''
``... all of the present people acclaimed saying amen. This amen in Hebrew vocalization signifies γένοιτο.''
— chapter 65.

This suggests, at least in his time, 'genoito' would have seemed a good translation, thus weakening my hypothesis slightly.
 

ilyazhito

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Eta was originally pronounced as a long eh sound, and only later merged phonetically with iota. Anyway, "Amen" is the way it sounds in Hebrew, and in Orthodox English, the pronunciation hasn't really changed.
 

RaphaCam

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Eta was originally pronounced as a long eh sound, and only later merged phonetically with iota. Anyway, "Amen" is the way it sounds in Hebrew, and in Orthodox English, the pronunciation hasn't really changed.
Kinda, "Amen" doesn't come straight from Hebrew, but rather from Greek through Latin. Greek eta is turned into "e" when Greek words are loaned into Latin, continuing ancient established traditions based on classical pronunciation. Since non-Greek Eastern Christians don't share this tradition, "Amin" was good enough for them.
 

sestir

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Greek eta is turned into "e" when Greek words are loaned into Latin, continuing ancient established traditions based on classical pronunciation.
"The vowel η became like ι and ει by the third century CE. Gignac is of the opinion that η merged with ι in sound in the second century CE.
[...]
Broadly speaking, it would appear that most people correctly used η as an equivalent for a close/mid-high [e] sound in the early Roman period."
BiblicalLanguageCenter (useful artcle, iirc written by Randall Buth)

So, amen should have been borrowed from Greek (or Hebrew) to Latin several centuries before 〈η〉was raised in Greek, continuing the ancient established tradition of not turning into something it wasn't already. :]
 

RaphaCam

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"The vowel η became like ι and ει by the third century CE. Gignac is of the opinion that η merged with ι in sound in the second century CE.
[...]
Broadly speaking, it would appear that most people correctly used η as an equivalent for a close/mid-high [e] sound in the early Roman period."
BiblicalLanguageCenter (useful artcle, iirc written by Randall Buth)

So, amen should have been borrowed from Greek (or Hebrew) to Latin several centuries before 〈η〉was raised in Greek, continuing the ancient established tradition of not turning into something it wasn't already. :]
Well, Latin Christianity (or Judaism) wasn't a big deal in the 2nd century, plus if it were for mere pronunciation's sake it wouldn't be long e, since length was most probably obscure from common speech in both languages when the definitive borrowing happened.
 

Stephen Philips

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When we chant together in my parish, not everyone pronounces every word the 100% same way, but it never distracts from prayer.
 
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