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Pedagogy of contract verbs

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Pedagogy of contract verbs

Postby Sinister Petrus » Sun Jul 10, 2011 3:26 pm

I was wondering if there was any reason behind how contract verbs are handled in Greek textbooks, all of which seem to have a slightly different take on it.

JACT's Reading Greek pretty much presents the contract verbs in the readings as contracted but uncontracted in the running vocabulary and glossary. Which seems like you've got to memorize an additional form that is used just for the glossary, but never in actual Greek.

Saffire and Freis's Greek Alive—a book whose charms I am coming to appreciate more and more—presents the contract verbs as uncontracted at the beginning but later contracts them. However, you've got to learn the contract verbs twice. Of course doing it this way does make some relationships very clear.

Rico's Polis seems to ignore the whole business of contracting, but rather treats them as different conjugations ala Spanish or Latin. This method seems best to me—you only have to learn it once, though I confess to being lazy this way.

The same also seems to be going on with elision and crasis.

So. Obviously there is a diversity of approaches in dealing with contract verbs. Obviously there are good philological reasons for getting into contract verbs—and anyone with a reasonable command of Greek should be able to master the concept pretty easily if they are going on to truly advanced study. I cannot imagine there is any other goal to learning Greek in secondary and undergraduate education beyond more-or-less fluent reading. Given this, is there any pedagogical reason to present contract verbs as such in those situations?
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Re: Pedagogy of contract verbs

Postby Homer74 » Sun Jul 10, 2011 11:17 pm

I think contract verbs are dealt with too briefly in most textbooks. Consider the following subtleties:

* παύοι: Verb = παύω
- present active optative, 3rd person singular.

* δηλοῖ: Verb = δηλόω
- present active indicative, 3rd person singular. Formed from δηλό - ει, accent contracts to circumflex, ο + ει = οι
OR
- present active subjunctive, 3rd person singular. Formed from δηλό - ῃ, accent contracts to circumflex, ο + ῃ = οι

The accent helps with recognizing the forms, but ultimately knowing the uncontracted form of the verb is the best approach. It is probably useful to learn various ways of thinking about the contract verbs so that it becomes easier to recognize and parse them. The uncontracted forms can appear in non-Attic writers such as Herodotus or Homer.

Maybe, the reason for the variety of approaches in the textbooks stems from the complexity of the area and an uncertainty on the part of the editor as to whether they are doing the area justice.
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Re: Pedagogy of contract verbs

Postby pster » Mon Jul 11, 2011 12:55 am

I think it is best to remember the uncontracted forms.

Mastronarde has all the paradigms: http://socrates.berkeley.edu/~ancgreek/ ... s4BOM.html

Many of them are denominative, i.e. derived from nouns or adjectives meaning to do or to be X.
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Re: Pedagogy of contract verbs

Postby Sinister Petrus » Mon Jul 11, 2011 3:07 am

Homer74 wrote:* δηλοῖ: Verb = δηλόω
- present active indicative, 3rd person singular. Formed from δηλό - ει, accent contracts to circumflex, ο + ει = οι


I see what you're trying to get at. If you know the uncontracted form, you'll never mix up δηλοῖ as being optative despite the οι screaming off the page at you. I'm always after my Latin students to know their conjugations. "No, amat isn't subjunctive. What conjugation does it belong to?" or "No, aget isn't present tense, it's future. What conjugation does it belong to?"

Would we be ahead if we just taught that the o-contract has -οῖ as its present tense 3rd person singular ending and be done with it for beginners? (Yes, I'm deliberately ignoring the subjunctive part of your example.)

Homer74 wrote:The accent helps with recognizing the forms, but ultimately knowing the uncontracted form of the verb is the best approach. It is probably useful to learn various ways of thinking about the contract verbs so that it becomes easier to recognize and parse them. The uncontracted forms can appear in non-Attic writers such as Herodotus or Homer.

Maybe, the reason for the variety of approaches in the textbooks stems from the complexity of the area and an uncertainty on the part of the editor as to whether they are doing the area justice.


Ok, now this seems like a pretty good reason to know the uncontracted form. Homer and Herodotus are major authors.

And of course, the complexity of the area is why I'm thinking about this.

pster wrote:I think it is best to remember the uncontracted forms.

Mastronarde has all the paradigms: http://socrates.berkeley.edu/~ancgreek/ ... s4BOM.html


Why is it best to remember the uncontracted forms? Is it best for casual students of Koine? Best for high-school students learning a first foreign language? (As unlikely as that may be.) It seems needlessly complicated until you've reached advanced study. Or go for Homer, but there are textbooks for geared specifically toward that.

That link is seriously wonderful. Thanks for sharing.

Why can't we just treat the contracts as conjugations like Spanish or Latin? I ask because they're sort of shaping up that way as I come to understand the Greek verb better. Though I'm finding that there are a bundle of endings, which is what my wife reported about her experience with Spanish.

Is the difficulty with Greek contract verbs that the literature spans an easy 1,000 years from Homer to the New Testament (ignoring that those aren't quite the language's bookends) and more or less mirrors the development of the spoken language as it varied between times and places? As opposed to Latin's more or less single standard over all time.
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Re: Pedagogy of contract verbs

Postby pster » Mon Jul 11, 2011 11:34 am

If you remembered the present active first person singular in the contracted form, you wouldn't know which of the three kinds of uncontracted verb you were dealing with and so would not be able to derive other forms. The uncontracted form has more information. I'm not sure why you think that this area is especially difficult. It strikes me as maybe 5% of what makes learning Greek verbs hard.
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Re: Pedagogy of contract verbs

Postby cb » Mon Jul 11, 2011 1:19 pm

hi, contracted verbs are different conjugations, e.g. in the aeolic dialect contracted verbs have different endings to non-contracteds: see pg 3 of my notes on aeolic grk here: http://mhninaeide.webs.com/writingsapphics.pdf

i get the feeling that your qn is really whether you need to learn the underlying rules of sound changes which produce the contracted forms (or whether you can get away with just learning the contracted forms as if they were separate conjugations). this is is a memorisation qn and is totally up to you. however as you may already know, contracted verbs is not the only place in the conjugation of the grk verb where sound changes occur. whenever an element of a grk verb (whether prefix, suffix etc.,) is joined to another, you can have sound changes; see e.g. the rules of sound changes on pgs 1-3 of tiarks' conjugation of the grk verb and then see in the rest of the book how these rules are applied: http://www.archive.org/stream/conjugati ... 8/mode/1up

so in considering how you want to memorise contracted verbs, i suggest you take a step back and consider, in relation to the whole grk verb conjugation, whether you want to memorise just the "surface" form of the verbs, or whether you want to understand how each form is produced from its elements. the advantage of the latter approach is that, when you see a form of a verb you've never seen before, you can mentally apply the rules of sound changes to pull apart the word into its separate elements; once you can see these elements, you can often work out what the whole word means.

when i worked through smith's initia graeca a long time ago, i used to write out, in the english-grk exercises, after each verb form, the elements of that form separated by hyphens, and then the page numbers of the rules (mentioned earlier in the textbook) explaining the sound changes to the elements when put together into the whole word. this really helped with reading grk afterwards.

cheers, chad :)
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Re: Pedagogy of contract verbs

Postby Ahab » Wed Jul 13, 2011 12:27 pm

Thanks for posting those links, Chad. Some very useful information there.
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Re: Pedagogy of contract verbs

Postby refe » Wed Jul 13, 2011 12:45 pm

This is one of the strengths of Mounce's koine intro grammar - he goes into great detail on the morphology of Greek verbs, as well as the rules that govern contractions. The contractions aren't all the same as in Attic, but it might still be helpful if anyone is having trouble keeping track of what's going on with contract verbs.
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Re: Pedagogy of contract verbs

Postby Sinister Petrus » Fri Jul 15, 2011 3:44 am

cb wrote:i get the feeling that your qn is really whether you need to learn the underlying rules of sound changes which produce the contracted forms (or whether you can get away with just learning the contracted forms as if they were separate conjugations). this is is a memorisation qn and is totally up to you.


Chad,

Thanks. That pretty much answers it. I won't teach it. Ever.

Now, as teacher, I should know the contract rules (or be so comfortable with it that I just know the forms), but there seems no sense to burden the students with them. Certainly at no point before aorist verbs. Possibly not even then.

Yes, memory work is part of any foreign language. Yes, there are patterns to how languages work. But there is no need to burden students with this at the beginning. It is good enough for them to know that ὁρᾷ is 3rd person singular present tense indicative. Or rather that the one person associated with the subject is performing the action. Good enough. Who cares that there is a theoretical form of ὁρά-ει? (In Attic or Koine.)

If students want Homeric: it doesn't matter. If students want Attic or Koine: it doesn't matter. They have to interpret the language in front of them correctly. (I work with homeschoolers, so I'd actually expect Koine to be on the roster but one never knows what paying clients may want.)

By the way, does anyone know why we classical language folks use the 1st person singular as the dictionary form? Spanish uses the infinitive as the dictionary form. It would seem that using the infinitive (and thus subverting what is likely to be a few centuries of lexical tradition) would make things simpler for both houses.
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Re: Pedagogy of contract verbs

Postby NateD26 » Fri Jul 15, 2011 3:56 pm

Sinister Petrus wrote:Yes, memory work is part of any foreign language. Yes, there are patterns to how languages work. But there is no need to burden students with this at the beginning. It is good enough for them to know that ὁρᾷ is 3rd person singular present tense indicative. Or rather that the one person associated with the subject is performing the action. Good enough. Who cares that there is a theoretical form of ὁρά-ει? (In Attic or Koine.)

But this particular contracted form can also be:
3rd sg pres subj act
2nd sg pres subj mp
2nd sg pres subj mid
2nd sg pres ind mp
2nd sg pres ind mid

In context of a sentence, it may not always be easier for the student to know which of these
the contracted form represents, but knowing at least these options in their uncontracted forms,
I think, would aid him/her to find the right one.
Nate.
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Re: Pedagogy of contract verbs

Postby refe » Fri Jul 15, 2011 7:13 pm

NateD26 wrote:
Sinister Petrus wrote:Yes, memory work is part of any foreign language. Yes, there are patterns to how languages work. But there is no need to burden students with this at the beginning. It is good enough for them to know that ὁρᾷ is 3rd person singular present tense indicative. Or rather that the one person associated with the subject is performing the action. Good enough. Who cares that there is a theoretical form of ὁρά-ει? (In Attic or Koine.)

But this particular contracted form can also be:
3rd sg pres subj act
2nd sg pres subj mp
2nd sg pres subj mid
2nd sg pres ind mp
2nd sg pres ind mid

In context of a sentence, it may not always be easier for the student to know which of these
the contracted form represents, but knowing at least these options in their uncontracted forms,
I think, would aid him/her to find the right one.


True. And is it really more burdensome to learn the rules of contraction? I certainly didn't find that to be the case. In fact, I found that understanding the actual verb suffixes and how they contract was very helpful and got me reading much more quickly.
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Re: Pedagogy of contract verbs

Postby Sinister Petrus » Mon Jul 18, 2011 1:43 pm

NateD26 wrote:But this particular contracted form can also be:
3rd sg pres subj act
2nd sg pres subj mp
2nd sg pres subj mid
2nd sg pres ind mp
2nd sg pres ind mid

In context of a sentence, it may not always be easier for the student to know which of these
the contracted form represents, but knowing at least these options in their uncontracted forms,
I think, would aid him/her to find the right one.


If context doesn't give it away, the author failed the reader. Or am I being harsh?

I won't disagree, students should know all of these possibilities (and discard the impossible quickly, though they hate to let go of Nom/Pl/F as a possibility for filiae when the verb is clearly singular, so I'm probably hoping against hope on this).

In any case, they're all present tense/continuous aspect. They are either 2nd or 3rd person: which students had better be able to know from context. Mood (at least in my Latin experience) tends to not be as important as the first two. Voice can be a biggie: but it does tend to give itself away.

I'm still not seeing a good reason to know the contract rules outside of the augment. And maybe not even then.
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