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Orthoepy means the doctrine of correct pronunciation 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/, /ɔːˈθəʊɨpi/ for British English and /ɔrˈθoʊəpi/ for American English. The tetrasyllabic pronunciation is sometimes indicated with a diaeresis: orthoëpy.


In English grammar, orthoepy is the study of correct pronunciation prescribed for Standard English. This is Received Pronunciation specifically, but other standards have emerged since the early 20th century (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), i.e. the correct pronunciation not just of individual words but of entire passages, especially of poetry, and 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 BC, especially Prodicus (c. 396 BC) 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.

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