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Byzantine Greek

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Byzantine Greek

Postby aleks » Wed Jul 20, 2011 6:09 am

Can someone tell me how well and with what ease you can read Byzantine (Koine) Greek if you master Classical Greek?

I'm interested in studying late antiquity and Byzantine history and although the University offers many interesting history topics in the area, it only offers Classical Greek langugage topics in the history Department, as well as Modern Greek in the language department. Nothing in between.

I've heard that Byzantine Greek can be as removed from Classical as it is from Modern, so I fear that my study of Classical Greek may not be that relevant. The language units -offered from beginner's to advanced level - are not mandatory - but as a future historian of late antiquity I feel I must be able to read Greek competently. I'm just sceptical that Classical Greek is a way to go.

Can you please give me some advice?
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Re: Byzantine Greek

Postby IreneY » Thu Jul 21, 2011 1:08 am

Hello there :)

Well, Classical Greek can be rather helpful. Yes, Byzantine Greek is rather removed from Ancient Greek but a) Greek goes from more complex to more analytical as the centuries go by, so, by knowing ancient Greek, you pretty much are going from more difficult to easier.
b) A great many byzantine writers actually wrote (more or less successfully) in Attic Greek. Some of the best works of the Byzantine era are written in Attic Greek.
c) Pronunciation-wise (if, that is, you are interested in pronunciation) Koine Greek and Byzantine Greek (well, most of the Byzantine period that is; we are talking about 1000 years give or take a few) are quite close.

Since Byzantine Greek is sort of in the middle, modern Greek (my rant about my own language needing a "modern" before it can wait for another time :D ) can be really helpful too.

Oh, and by the way, if you know some basic Latin that won't hurt either :)
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Re: Byzantine Greek

Postby aleks » Thu Jul 21, 2011 6:17 am

Thank you; that was very helpful. You made a very good point about Byzantine writers using Attic Greek in their work, I was not aware of that. I do know that the vast majority of the late antiquity to early-through-late Middle Ages (and even beyond) authors in Europe wrote in Classical Latin - to the best of their abilities of course, often heavily influenced by Vulgar Latin from the area where they lived and worked. I guess it was similar with Greek.

I got in touch with the professor that teaches Ancient Greek at Macquarie University (where I will be studying) and he said a good analogy between Classical and Byzantine Greek would be that of English from the Shakespeare's time and today's English - even words that sound and are spelled the same way may have changed meaning, many died out, while new ones were coined or imported. Grammar has changed.

By the way, I find the pronunciation of Attic Greek with its tonal accents very difficult (not that I know much about it, mind you), and I was hoping that Koine Greek would be more similar to Modern Greek, especially when it comes to pronouncing the vowels. Hadn't Greek lost the distinction between long and short vowels by the time the Byzantine Empire was forged?
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Re: Byzantine Greek

Postby IreneY » Thu Jul 21, 2011 7:37 pm

Glad I could be of some help. When it comes to pronunciation, yes, it had already started to by the time of Koine. With the exception of upsilon that continued to be pronounced differently throughout the Byzantine era as far as I remember, the rest can be roughly (very roughly) be divided in pre and after 10th century pronunciation: Everything pre is closer to Koine. Everything after is closer to Modern.
Given that the difference between Modern and Koine is rather small to begin with, you can choose to adopt the modern Greek pronunciation.
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