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Orthoepy is the study of pronunciation of a particular language, within a specific oral tradition. The term is from the Greek ὀρθοέπεια, from ὀρθός orthos ("correct") and ἔπος epos ("speech"). The antonym is cacoepy "bad or wrong pronunciation". The pronunciation of the word orthoepy itself varies widely; the OED recognizes the variants /ˈɔːθəʊˌiːpi/, /ˈɔːθəʊˌɛpi/, /ˈɔːθəʊɨpi/, and /ɔːˈθəʊɨpi/ for British English, as well as /ɔrˈθoʊəpi/ for American English.
The tetrasyllabic pronunciation is sometimes indicated with a diaeresis: orthoëpy, such as in the title of Edward Barrett Warman's Warman's Practical Orthoëpy and Critique, published in 1888 and found in Google Books.
Warman states on page 5: "Words possess three special characteristics: They have their Eye-life - Orthography; Ear-life - Orthoëpy; Soul-life - Significance." As with Warman's book, the purpose of this article is "to deal exclusively with the ear-life, or orthoëpy.
In English grammar, orthoepy is the study of correct pronunciation prescribed for Standard English. This originally was understood to mean Received Pronunciation specifically, but other standards have emerged and been accepted since the early 20th century (e.g., General American, General Australian).
In ancient Greek, ὀρθοέπεια orthoepeia had the wider sense of "correct diction" (cf. LSJ ad loc., or the etymology in the OED), referencing correct pronunciation not just of individual words but also of entire passages, especially poetry, along with the distinction of good poetry vs. bad poetry. The archaic English term for this subject is orthology, and in this sense its opposite is solecism. The study of orthoepeia by the Greek sophists of the 5th century BCE, especially Prodicus (c. 396 BCE) and Protagoras, also included proto-logical concepts.
Protagoras criticized Homer for making the word for "wrath" feminine (Aristotle, Sophistic Refutations 14) and for praying to the Muse with an imperative (Aristotle, Poetics 19). Plato depicts Protagoras criticizing the poet Simonides for contradicting himself, and then shows Socrates and Prodicus arguing to the contrary that Protagoras has conflated the senses of the words "be" and "become" (Protagoras 339a-340c).
Aristophanes, in his comedy The Frogs, parodies such disputes by having Euripides and Aeschylus bicker over orthotes epeon. Between the two poets Dionysus states in lines 1180-1181: «ἴθι δὴ λέγ᾽: οὐ γάρ μοὔστιν ἀλλ᾽ ἀκουστέα τῶν σῶν προλόγων τῆς ὀρθότητος τῶν ἐπῶν.» Translated "correctness of diction" in Perseus: "Speak, come on. For I cannot but hear the correctness of your prologue's diction."
- Warman, Edward Barrett (1888). "Warman's Practical Orthoëpy and Critique".
- Warman, Edward Barret (1888). Warman's practical orthoepy and critique (classic reprint). University of Chicago: Forgotten Books. ISBN 1332889956. OCLC 983304758.
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