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Is Vocabulary King?

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Is Vocabulary King?

Postby pster » Mon Jun 11, 2012 8:07 pm

1) My feeling is that, once you get to the intermediate level, if you know the meanings of the words you are reading, you don't need to spend too much time looking at your Smyth. You can of course. But alternatively, you can just deduce the grammar from the passage you are reading. And even if you are unclear the first time you encounter some construction. In time, you will see it often enough that you will eventually understand it if it matters. Smyth is big, but it only has a 3000 sections.

But what about the meanings of the words? LSJ has tens of thousands of entries. (I asked here once how many and nobody knew.) And they say you have to hear a word 100 times to know it. And judging by my experience with a couple of other languages, I think that number is a reasonable estimate. So then what are you supposed to do with Attic vocabulary? Are you just supposed to keep reading until you get to that 100 number? Some of you know the numbers better than I do, I am sure, but aren't there lots and lots of words that only occur a few times? What's a person supposed to do? You're reading your Thucydides. You encounter a few words in every sentence that you don't know. You look them up. In a month, if not a week, you will forget the meaning. Is that what enjoying Attic has to be? Enjoying looking up words in a dictionary? Somewhat better, are we supposed to consider ourselves fortunate to live in the internet age and can just click on Perseus to get the LSJ meaning? Are we supposed to do a Schleimann and just memorize passages? I think there is much to recommend Schleimann's approach, but even still, it is bloody repetitive! Or how about just drilling yourself silly with notecards for the book you are reading in advance? (I just made up 3000 (virtual) notecards for Thucydides.) How many words does the average classicist not know the meaning of in an average sentence of Attic?

So, to sum up:

1) Is vocabulary king?

2) What are we realistically supposed to do about it?
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Re: Is Vocabulary King?

Postby Skirnir » Tue Jun 12, 2012 3:40 am

While it would be wonderful to know every word written in the language of Aristotle and Plato, we are limited in our capacities. I would be more concerned with developing a 'working knowledge' by learning the most common words, and addressing the more obscure as needed. As one comes across a given word more frequently, one becomes more familiar with its usage. It is helpful that many Greek words share a common root, so this process will be more expeditious than one would think.

Grammar, however, is a great concern and should not be skimped.
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Re: Is Vocabulary King?

Postby Polyfloisbos » Tue Jun 12, 2012 9:14 am

I don't agree to the opinion that, if you understand the meaning of the words of a text, the grammar -and finally the meaning of the sentence- appears per se. Consider these sentences (I'm sorry but I can't type in greek alphabet right now).

· Oida theon onta.

· Oida theos oon.

· Oida theon oti esti.

Even if you know the meaning of oida, theos and the copulative verb, you can completelly misunderstand the meaning if you don't get the grammar, the syntax and so on.

Then it comes the question about how to read authors. The basic problem I've found when studying attic is that even if you are familiar with one author (ex: Plato), other authors use different words (Aristotle) -not to talk about koiné, homeric, and so.
So I think that the point is to learn a basic vocabulary (say, 500 words) and then focuse yourself into one author.
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Re: Is Vocabulary King?

Postby pster » Tue Jun 12, 2012 9:28 am

I am not trying to say that grammar is unimportant, and I probably didn't make myself very clear. I am just assuming that one has a decent grasp of grammar, say a couple of semesters worth at the university level. Something like that.

Also, I agree that it helps to focus on one author.

My point is that the "more obscure" words can often appear a couple of times PER sentence, for example in Thucydides. What then should be our attitude/approach?
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Re: Is Vocabulary King?

Postby John W. » Tue Jun 12, 2012 11:05 am

Hello, again, pster. I appreciate the issue you've raised - as my well-thumbed copy of the 'Middle Liddell' will testify!

On the whole, in tackling Thucydides I've personally found the grammar (or sometimes the apparent lack of it!) the most challenging aspect, since in many places the precise analysis of the construction is still a matter of debate. The vocabulary too is certainly demanding; even if one does remember a particular word, an additional problem can be its re-appearance with one or more different meanings. There are also places - e.g. the description of the Plague of Athens - where clumps of specialist terms occur, and these do take time to sort out.

Some of the rarer words, including Thucydides' famous hapax legomena, can actually stick in the memory for that very reason. It is also often possible to deduce the meaning of many of the verbs with compound prefixes, and of the abstract nouns of which he is so fond by reference to the underlying verbs. But ultimately one is forced to battle one's way through the difficulties, the upside being that it really does get easier (though certainly never easy!) the further one goes!

Best wishes,

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Re: Is Vocabulary King?

Postby Polyfloisbos » Tue Jun 12, 2012 11:30 am

pster wrote:My point is that the "more obscure" words can often appear a couple of times PER sentence, for example in Thucydides. What then should be our attitude/approach?


Then here come the usual problems of memorizing vocabulary. Any book on language learning can be useful to that. From my personal experience, a good way to improve your lexicon is to compose greek texts with those difficult words, or even to record audio files and listen to them usually. I used to do that at University when Greek exams consisted of greek texts -translated in class- without dictionary.

If you want to improve in a general way your vocabulary, you might also be interested in this (check out the rémata in every chapter), which I myself and a friend of mine recorded: http://tamathemata.blogspot.com.es/
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Re: Is Vocabulary King?

Postby cb » Tue Jun 12, 2012 1:56 pm

hi, i agree with you pster, and even if you get the vocab into your head, it can go later.

i know that the vocab i've learnt will go (due to my job, i spend most of my reading time reading law and finance, not classics).

the only approach i can suggest is the one i currently use: as a time capsule for myself for the future (when i'll have forgotten lots of vocab) of the vocab I know now, i make notes in grk in my grk texts. i write each word in at least 2 different ways, and put in more notes rather than less, as i assume in the future i'll know less. my idea is to build up a store of simple vocab notes that then I will be able to supplement with the scholia later on to have several bodies of helpful notes (i never read the scholia while writing these notes, otherwise i'll be influenced by them and so will be cutting down the materials i'll have in the future to just the scholia and not my own separate notes).

here's an e.g. of my notes on the first few lines of soph ajax. cheers, chad

Ἀθήνα
1. Ἀεὶ {συνεχῶς, οὔποτε παυομένη. οὔ φησι ὁ Σ. τοῦτο τὸ ὄνομα σημαίνειν ἐνθάδε τὸ πάντα χρόνον, ἄνευ περάτων χρόνου} μέν, ὦ παῖ Λαρτίου, {Ὀδυσσεῦ, ἥρως Ἰθακήσιε} δέδορκά {ὁρῶ, ὀφθαλμοῖς αἰσθάνομαι} σε

2. πεῖράν {μηχανήν, δόλον} τιν᾽ ἐχθρῶν {ἐχθρόν τινα, ὅνπερ τις μάλιστα βλάπτειν βούλεται} ἁρπάσαι {λαβεῖν (τιν᾽ ἐχθρῶν), ἐπιφέρεσθαι (τινι ἐχθρῶν)} θηρώμενον· {διώκων τι ὥσπερ ἀνὴρ θήραν ποιούμενος διώκει ζῶιον, ζητοῦντα ἵνα εὕρηις. τὸ δὲ ἑξῆς ἐστι τοῦτο· ἀεὶ δέδορκά σε θηρώμενον πεῖραν ἁρπάσαι τιν' ἐχθρῶν}

3. καὶ νῦν ἐπὶ {παρὰ (ταῖς ναυτικαῖς σκηναῖς), οὐ πόρρω (τῶν ναυτικῶν σκηνῶν)} σκηναῖς {οἴκοις τοῖς ἐν στρατοπέδωι ὠικοδομημένοις, κλισίαις ξυλιναῖς} σε ναυτικαῖς {σημαίνει ἴσως εἴτε ταῖς τοῦ νεῶν Ἑλληνικοῦ στόλου, εἴτε ταῖς παρὰ τῶν νεῶν ὠικοδομημέναις} ὁρῶ

4. Αἴαντος, ἔνθα τάξιν ἐσχάτην {τὴν ἄκρην τάξιν τοῦ στρατοπέδου, ἔνθα δεινότατον ἦν σκηνὴν ἔχειν} ἔχει,

5. πάλαι {πολὺν χρόνον, οὐκ ἐν ὀλίγωι χρόνωι} κυνηγετοῦντα {ζητοῦντα (τὰ ἴχνη) ὥσπερ κύων ζητεῖ, διώκοντα} καὶ μετρούμενον {διασκοποῦντα τὰ διαστήματα μεταξὺ (τῶν ἴχνων), ἐξετάζοντα τὴν πρὸς ἄλληλα θέσιν (τῶν ἴχνων)}

6. ἴχνη {χαρακτῆρας ποδῶν, τύπους ἐπὶ γῆς ποσὶ τετριμμένους} τὰ κείνου {Αἴαντος, ἥρωος Σαλαμινίου} νεοχάραχθ᾽, {οὐ πάλαι πέπλασται, ὧν ὁ τύπος ἄρτι ἐποιήθη}, ὅπως ἴδῃς

7. εἴτ᾽ ἔνδον {ἐν τῆι σκηνῆι, οὐκ ἐκτός} εἴτ᾽ οὐκ ἔνδον. Εὖ δέ σ᾽ ἐκφέρει

8. κυνὸς Λακαίνης {ἀπὸ τῆς Σπάρτης, Λακωνικῆς} ὥς τις εὔρινος {τούτου ὃς ἀκριβῶς ὀσφραίνεται, τούτου ὃς ὀξὺ ῥῖνι αἰσθάνεται} βάσις {τὰ ποδῶν ἴχνη ἐξῆς ποιημένα, οἱ ποδῶν τύποι ἐπὶ στοίχου κείμενοι}

9. Ἔνδον γὰρ ἁνὴρ ἄρτι {νῦν δή, οὐ πάλαι} τυγχάνει, κάρα {τὴν κεφαλὴν αὐτοῦ, τοῦ σώματος τὸ ὑπὲρ τοῦ αὐχένος κείμενον}

10. στάζων {ῥέων, ὑγρός} ἱδρῶτι {ὕδατι ἐκ δέρματος ῥέοντι, τῶι ἐπὶ δέρματος τοῦ θερμαινομένου ὕδατι} καὶ χέρας ξιφοκτόνους {αἷς ὅπλα θανάσιμα φέρει, σιδηροφοροῦσας}.

11. Καί σ᾽ οὐδὲν εἴσω {εἴσω (τινός), ἔν (τινι)} τῆσδε παπταίνειν {ὀξὺ σκοπεῖν, βλέπειν εἰς} πύλης {εἰσόδου τῆς σκηνῆς, ταύτης δι' ἧς τις εἰς οἶκον εἰσέρχεται}

12. ἔτ᾽ ἔργον ἐστίν, {δεῖ, χρή} ἐννέπειν {εἰπέ μοι, φαθί} δ᾽ ὅτου χάριν {διότι, οὗ ἕνεκα}

13. σπουδὴν ἔθου {πόνον ἐποιήσω, ἐσπούδασας περὶ τούτου τοῦ ἔργου} τήνδ᾽, ὡς παρ᾽ εἰδυίας {τῆς σοφῆς, τῆς δυναμένης λέγειν ὅ τι εἰδέναι θέλεις} μάθῃς.

Ὀδυσσεύς

14. Ὦ φθέγμ᾽ {φωνή, αὐδή} Ἀθάνας, φιλτάτης ἐμοὶ θεῶν,

15. ὡς εὐμαθές {εὔγνωστον, οὐ χαλεπὸν γιγνώσκειν} σου, κἂν ἄποπτος {ἐκτὸς τῆς ἐμῆς ἐπόψεως, πορρωτέρω ἢ ὥστε ἰδεῖν δύνασθαι} ᾖς ὅμως, {τοῦτο τὸ ὄνομα ἐν τῆι ἀποδόσει λεγέσθω, καίπερ ἐν τῆι προτάσει κείμενον}

16. φώνημ᾽ {φωνή, αὐδή} ἀκούω καὶ ξυναρπάζω φρενὶ {συννοῶ, μανθάνω}

17. χαλκοστόμου κώδωνος {ὀργάνου μουσικοῦ χαλκοῦ τῶι αὐλῶι ὁμοίου, σῦριγξ ἣ πνεύματος πληρουμένη φθέγγεται} ὡς Τυρσηνικῆς {τῆς ἐν Ἰταλίαι χώρας κειμένης ὑπὲρ Ῥώμης καὶ πρὸς τῆς Κύρνου καλουμένης νήσου, παρὰ Στράβωνι δὲ εἴρηται “οἱ Τυρρηνοὶ τοίνυν παρὰ τοῖς Ῥωμαίοις Ἑτροῦσκοι καὶ Τοῦσκοι προσαγορεύονται.”}

18. Καὶ νῦν ἐπέγνως {(ἀόριστον δεύτερον ἀπὸ τοῦ ῥήματος ΓΙΓΝΩΣΚΩ) ἤισθου, ἔμαθες} εὖ μ᾽ ἐπ᾽ ἀνδρὶ δυσμενεῖ {ἐχθρῶι, οὐ φίλωι}

19. βάσιν {τὰ ποδῶν ἴχνη ἐξῆς ποιημένα, τοὺς ποδῶν τύπους ἐπὶ στοίχου κειμένους} κυκλοῦντ᾽, Αἴαντι τῷ σακεσφόρῳ {ἀσπιδούχωι, ὧι ἀσπίδα φέρει}·

20. κεῖνον γάρ, οὐδέν᾽ ἄλλον, ἰχνεύω {θηρῶ, ἐρευνῶ} πάλαι {πολὺν χρόνον, οὐκ ἐν ὀλίγωι χρόνωι}.

21. Νυκτὸς γὰρ ἡμᾶς τῆσδε πρᾶγος {πρᾶγμα, ἔργον} ἄσκοπον {μάταιον, ἄπρακτον}

22. ἔχει περάνας, {πεποίηκεν, δέδρακεν, τὸ δὲ ΠΕΡΑΝΑΣ ἀπὸ τοῦ ῥήματος ΠΕΡΑΙΝΩ} εἴπερ εἴργασται τάδε· {ταῦτα τὰ ἔργα πεποίηται}

23. ἴσμεν γὰρ οὐδὲν τρανές, {καταφανῶς, σαφῶς} ἀλλ᾽ ἀλώμεθα· {ἀποροῦμεν, κυρίως· παρὰ τὴν ὁδὸν βαίνομεν}

24. κἀγὼ ᾽θελοντὴς {ἑκών, οὐδὲν πρὸς βίαν} τῷδ᾽ ὑπεζύγην {ἐπεχείρησα, κυρίως· ἡψάμην} πόνῳ. {ἔργωι, τῆι ἰχνεύσει}

25. Ἐφθαρμένας {ἀπολομένας, καταλελυμένας} γὰρ ἀρτίως {νῦν δή, οὐ πάλαι} εὑρίσκομεν

26. λείας {βοῦς ἑαλωκότας, βοσκήματα εἰλημμένα} ἁπάσας καὶ κατηναρισμένας {ἀποθανόντας, ἀπολομένας}

27. ἐκ χειρὸς {(ἀπολομένας) ὑπ' ἀνδρός τινος, ἐκ χειρὸς ἀνθρωπείας (σὺν)} αὐτοῖς ποιμνίων {βοσκημάτων, λειῶν} ἐπιστάταις. {τοῖς βοῶν ἐπισκόποις, τούτοις οἳ τὰ βοσκήματα νέμουσιν}

28. Τήνδ᾽ οὖν ἐκείνῳ πᾶς τις {ἕκαστος, οὐδεὶς ὅστις οὐ} αἰτίαν {τὸ ὅτωι πεποίηται, τὴν μέμψιν} νέμει.

29. Καί μοί τις ὀπτὴρ {σκοπός τις, ἀνὴρ οὗ ἔργον ἐστι σκέπτεσθαι} αὐτὸν {Αἴαντα, ὅνπερ ἰχνεύω} εἰσιδὼν μόνον

30. πηδῶντα {ἁλλόμενον ἐπί, τρέχοντα βάσεσι μακραῖς} πεδία σὺν νεορράντῳ {τούτωι ὃ νυνδὴ οὐ πάντως ἀλλὰ σποράδην ὑγρανθὲν, ἄρτι αἱματουμένωι ἔνθα καὶ ἔνθα} ξίφει

31. φράζει τε κἀδήλωσεν· {καὶ δείκνυσι, καὶ φαίνεται} εὐθέως δ᾽ ἐγὼ

32. κατ᾽ ἴχνος {χαρακτῆρας ποδῶν, τύπους ἐπὶ γῆς ποσὶ τετριμμένους} ᾄσσω {κινοῦμαι ταχέως, τρέχω}, καὶ τὰ μὲν σημαίνομαι, {συλλογίζομαι Αἴαντος εἶναι, τεκμαίρομαι Αἴαντος εἶναι}

33. τὰ δ᾽ ἐκπέπληγμαι, {ἀπορῶ, κυρίως· θαυμάζω} κοὐκ ἔχω {οἷός τ' εἰμί, δύναμαι} μαθεῖν ὅτου {οὗπερ ἀνδρός ἐστιν ταῦτα τὰ ἴχνη}.

34. Καιρὸν {οὔτε ὕστερον οὔτε πρωί, χρόνον πρέπον} δ᾽ ἐφήκεις· {ἀφῖξαι, δεῦρο ἦλθες} πάντα γὰρ τά τ᾽ οὖν πάρος {τὰ γεγενημένα, ἃ πρότερον γέγονεν}

35. τά τ᾽ εἰσέπειτα {τὰ μέλλοντα, τὸν λοιπὸν χρόνον} σῇ κυβερνῶμαι χερί.

Ἀθήνα
36. ἔγνων, {ἀόριστον δεύτερον ἀπὸ τοῦ ῥήματος ΓΙΓΝΩΣΚΩ) ᾐσθόμην, ἔμαθον} Ὀδυσσεῦ, καὶ πάλαι φύλαξ ἔβην

37. τῇ σῇ {λεγέσθω μετὰ τοῦ ὀνόματος ΚΥΝΑΓΙΑΙ} πρόθυμος {ὅτι μάλιστα ἤθελον οὕτως ποιεῖν, ἑκοῦσα} εἰς ὁδὸν {λεγέσθω μετὰ τοῦ ῥήματος ΕΒΗΝ) ἐπί σε, ὅποι σὺ ἤιεις} κυναγίᾳ {θήραι, τῶι διώκειν}.

Ὀδυσσεύς
38. ἦ καί, {σπουδαίως δὲ ἐρωτῶ, μάλα δὲ βούλομαι παρὰ σοῦ μαθεῖν τοῦτο·} φίλη δέσποινα, πρὸς καιρὸν {οὐ μάτην, ὥστε σκοποῦ τυχεῖν} πονῶ;

Ἀθήνα
39. {λείπει· οἶσθ', βεβαιῶ σοι τοῦτο·} ὡς ἔστιν ἀνδρὸς τοῦδε τἄργα ταῦτά σοι.

Ὀδυσσεύς
40. καὶ πρὸς τί {τίνος ἕνεκα; διὰ τί;} δυσλόγιστον {ἀνοήτως, οὐδὲν προϊδὼν ἃ συμβήσεται ὕστερον} ὧδ᾽ ᾖξεν {ἀΐσσειν ἐποίησεν, ἐκίνησεν} χέρα;
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Re: Is Vocabulary King?

Postby Markos » Tue Jun 12, 2012 8:26 pm

ἔγραψεν ὁ Chad: ...i make notes in grk in my grk texts. i write each word in at least 2 different ways...Ἀεὶ {συνεχῶς, οὔποτε παυομένη. οὔ φησι ὁ Σ. τοῦτο τὸ ὄνομα σημαίνειν ἐνθάδε τὸ πάντα χρόνον, ἄνευ περάτων χρόνου}


καλόν ἐστιν. λίαν ὠφέλιμόν μοι. ἐπαινῶ δή σε. Ἑλληνικὴ Ἑλληνικῇ.

{ This is a fantastic method. I found it very helpful to read this. Well done, Chad. I love learning Greek with Greek. }
I am writing in Ancient Greek not because I know Greek well, but because I hope that it will improve my fluency in reading. I got the idea for this from Adrianus over on the Latin forum here at Textkit.
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Re: Is Vocabulary King?

Postby daivid » Wed Jun 13, 2012 1:15 pm

Polyfloisbos wrote:I don't agree to the opinion that, if you understand the meaning of the words of a text, the grammar -and finally the meaning of the sentence- appears per se..


If you know the vocab of a language but not the grammar then you are almost as screwed
as if you know the grammar perfectly
but no vocab.

But really the question is how much time do you need to get a basic level of vocab compared with how
much time you need to get a basic level of grammar. Someone suggested you should aim for a basic
500 words. That really doesn't cut it and includes things like prepositions that are half to being grammar.
5000 is probably closer to the mark for the level you need to wing it.

Getting that level of vocab will take longer than getting a basic grasp of the grammar so concentrating
on vocab is a sensible strategy.

On the other hand the best way to learn vocab is in context so good methods of learning vocab are
likely to help with grammar as well.

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Re: Is Vocabulary King?

Postby pster » Sat Jul 14, 2012 5:44 pm

So I was reading Chantraiine for the first time today. Wow. Great stuff. It seems much easier to get a grip on vocabulary when you learn all the derivatives, denominatives, etc. of a given root at the same time. Do you guys agree? Did you all know that? How come nobody told me? :x It's nice the way he works in Modern Greek too.
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Re: Is Vocabulary King?

Postby Aluarus » Sat Jul 14, 2012 9:41 pm

I would say vocabulary is actually King but with a grain of salt. Of course learning vocabulary is something very important (the limits of our vocabulary are the limits of our world, as Wittgenstein wrote) not to be denied the important part of how the vocabulary interacts. First came the words, then people with enough free time to reflect about the language and give things a name, that is what we call grammar. Not only grammar, but I am tempted to say phraseology is perhaps the hardest part in any language, and what differentiates an advanced student from a beginner.

Knowing the rules is fine about building walls (or writing a sentence) but it is even more useful if you have briks at hand (or words) that you can use. One doesn't know all the words in any given language (not even his own mother tongue) so I wouldn't mind strange or uncommon words found in an author, as long as they are not essential to the proper understanding of the text. I mean, I wouldn't mind memorizing them if they are obscure, or nothing related what I intend to write about in Greek, (for instance, I didn't find it worthy to memorize the insults of Dikaiopolis to Xanthias in Athénaze. I would recognize the words, perhaps, but I don't want to waste my time at that if there's still plenty to learn).

I now use flashcards to learn the vocabulary, but also learning things from a context, writing examples changing the position or words of vocabulary, keeping a diary in the language you are learning... are very important things. One must find the method that best suits him.
“Captivæ Graeciæ lingua in paucorum Eruditorum memoria hodie vivit; laborandum est, ne omnino intereat linguarum pulcherrima” Balbinus, Verisimilia Humaniorum Disciplinarum, XII, 3.

“In omni disciplina infirma est artis præceptio sine summa adsiduitate exercitations” R. ad Herennium, III, 40.
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Re: Is Vocabulary King?

Postby Grochojad » Wed Jul 25, 2012 12:38 am

Aluarus wrote:(the limits of our vocabulary are the limits of our world, as Wittgenstein wrote)

"Die Grenzen meiner Sprache bedeuten die Grenzen meiner Welt."/"The limits of my language mean the limits of my world."


Aluarus wrote:First came the words, then people with enough free time to reflect about the language and give things a name, that is what we call grammar.


And objects didn't fall before Newton?
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Re: Is Vocabulary King?

Postby Aluarus » Wed Jul 25, 2012 1:52 pm

And objects didn't fall before Newton?


Erm... not quite. Newton didn't invent gravity, he described and formulated it.

I don't remember well, but I am pretty sure that when I started speaking my mother tongue no one explained to me the different endings of verbs, nor the different conjugations nor I had to analyse sentences and find verbs, complements and the like, I think I just listened and then repeated, being corrected when wrong, learning how to call things in the process. Perhaps I followed the wrong method and I am mistaken. It is widely known, though, that Romans learnt Latin through paradigms and analysing Virgil.

"Die Grenzen meiner Sprache bedeuten die Grenzen meiner Welt."/"The limits of my language mean the limits of my world."


Thanks for the correction, but I don't see the dichotomy or opposition between vocabulary and language.
“Captivæ Graeciæ lingua in paucorum Eruditorum memoria hodie vivit; laborandum est, ne omnino intereat linguarum pulcherrima” Balbinus, Verisimilia Humaniorum Disciplinarum, XII, 3.

“In omni disciplina infirma est artis præceptio sine summa adsiduitate exercitations” R. ad Herennium, III, 40.
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Re: Is Vocabulary King?

Postby Laertiades » Wed Jul 25, 2012 11:28 pm

I feel I have solved the vocabulary problem with the following method: For the first three years of study I marked every word I looked up. If I looked up a word twice I wrote it down on a piece of paper. Every morning I would look over 1 or 2 hundred of the words I wrote down recently. I now have a pretty solid grasp of 4 or 5 thousand words and that serves me well enough. The problem now is mostly one of idiom.
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Re: Is Vocabulary King?

Postby katzenjammer » Mon Jul 30, 2012 6:01 pm

pster wrote:So I was reading Chantraiine for the first time today. Wow. Great stuff. It seems much easier to get a grip on vocabulary when you learn all the derivatives, denominatives, etc. of a given root at the same time. Do you guys agree? Did you all know that? How come nobody told me? :x It's nice the way he works in Modern Greek too.


Do you have a link/reference for this?
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Re: Is Vocabulary King?

Postby NateD26 » Mon Jul 30, 2012 10:20 pm

katzenjammer wrote:
pster wrote:So I was reading Chantraiine for the first time today. Wow. Great stuff. It seems much easier to get a grip on vocabulary when you learn all the derivatives, denominatives, etc. of a given root at the same time. Do you guys agree? Did you all know that? How come nobody told me? :x It's nice the way he works in Modern Greek too.


Do you have a link/reference for this?

I think pster is referring to this book by Pierre Chantraine . It's written in French.
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Re: Is Vocabulary King?

Postby katzenjammer » Mon Jul 30, 2012 11:21 pm

NateD26 wrote:
katzenjammer wrote:
pster wrote:So I was reading Chantraiine for the first time today. Wow. Great stuff. It seems much easier to get a grip on vocabulary when you learn all the derivatives, denominatives, etc. of a given root at the same time. Do you guys agree? Did you all know that? How come nobody told me? :x It's nice the way he works in Modern Greek too.


Do you have a link/reference for this?

I think pster is referring to this book by Pierre Chantraine . It's written in French.


ah, that makes sense. Thank you!
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Re: Is Vocabulary King?

Postby pster » Wed Aug 01, 2012 12:25 pm

Laertiades wrote:I feel I have solved the vocabulary problem with the following method: For the first three years of study I marked every word I looked up. If I looked up a word twice I wrote it down on a piece of paper. Every morning I would look over 1 or 2 hundred of the words I wrote down recently. I now have a pretty solid grasp of 4 or 5 thousand words and that serves me well enough. The problem now is mostly one of idiom.


I have about a thousand virtual notecards now. I try to grow it by 50-100 a week. Except for eyestrain from staring at the computer, it is vastly superior to physical notecards. You can rearrange them in numerous ways and duplicate them and copy them, or any subset thereof. I really like having the entire LSJ entry on the card with the HTML code. So if it is a word you know, you subconsciously/automatically start working on the secondary definitions further down the entry. And if you need to, because they are HTML, you can pop open up the text referred to by the entry. I have had such a freaking hard time feeling like I am getting anywhere with Attic that I have set myself the goal of memorizing all the vocabulary in Thucydides. Book 1 has about 3000 words, about half of which I knew. So I have been going at the remaining 1500. Hard part is maintenance. You can feel you know a word well but 4 weeks later have no idea what it means. So I have settled on one schedule for growth and another for maintenance. Another great thing about the virtual cards is that, since we are all on the computer a lot of the time these days, it is easy to review them whenever you have a few minutes to kill. I find it hard to read Greek for 15 minutes, but I can easly do 15 minutes of notecards. You can also put them on auto. You could have a monitor flashing Greek at you 24/7.
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Re: Is Vocabulary King?

Postby rustymason » Fri Aug 03, 2012 1:27 pm

Hello, pstr,

What I try to do is review several pages of the Greek that I have already learned before I move on to learning a new page. That way I see the same words and structures over and over again and begin to memorize them a bit. I make sure that I know the full declension, conjugation, or part of speech of every word well enough that I could teach someone else, and I turn over the phrases slowly in my mind before proceeding. The hardest part is having the discipline to slow down and ponder the old material before diving into the new stuff.

This method is better than flashcards in that everything is real Greek in context and already written out. It's not as fun as Anki because all the words stay in the same order and I keep seeing a lot of stuff I already know. Also each particular word shows only its own current form, not its nom-gen-gender or six principal parts. The ideal would be doing this review method along with the corresponding flash cards. That, or having a servant follow me around and read it to me and answer all my questions. I would like that very much.
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Re: Is Vocabulary King?

Postby Laertiades » Thu Aug 30, 2012 1:30 am

What I try to do is review several pages of the Greek that I have already learned before I move on to learning a new page.


-I have used the same technique and recommend it. I also recommend going over as many words as possible when studying vocabulary rather than taking the time to make sure your definition for each word is exact. In my experience, just sounding the word each day is beneficial: it creates a place in your brain where future encounters with the word can stick.

Based on my observations I would say that vocabulary is king. It was the chief obstacle to comprehension when I started reading, it required the greatest effort to surmount, and tackling it has had the added benefit of improving my English vocabulary.
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Re: Is Vocabulary King?

Postby Markos » Tue Dec 18, 2012 6:55 pm

I've been thinking about this question of late. It is a good question. It raises issues, I think, which lie at the heart of why it is so hard to learn to read Ancient Greek.

There are three basic skills that one must master in order to read Greek. They are all important. They all reenforce each other. The three skills are:

1. vocab.
2. paradigms/endings/forms
3. BASIC syntax, basic sentence processing, the ability to figure out the basic structure of a sentence, what is the subject and what the predicate, what does this genitive go with, why is this in the dative, decoding the forms into a BASIC comprehensible meaning.

The question raised, I think it which is the most important. Put differently, if you could be really good at one and still struggling with the other two, which would you choose?

I understand the argument that vocab is king. If you had terrific mastery of vocab, you could probably fudge a little on the endings and you could figure out the syntax, maybe, if you knew what each word means.

But we have all had the opposite experience, where we know what every individual word means, but maybe because we are missing a form or two or the word order throw us off as to what this genitive goes with or what is the subject, we fail to process the sentence. With learners, this inability to process the syntax of the sentence happens too often, thus even if they have good mastery of vocab, they cannot really read Greek.

I actually think that the third skill--basic sentence processing--is the most important skill. It should be the other way around, vocab should be an attendent, not a king; You may NOT know what each vocab word means, but you have to get to the point where you see a sentence and you can break down the basic structure. For advanced learners, say reading Homer, this happens all the time. "Thus answering with xxx words the xxx hero x'd the xxx foe on his noble xxx and he fell into the xxx dust, xxing in his spirit." The third skill is actually more dependent on the second skill. The forms, all of them, have to absolutley mastered. On an almost subconcious level one must recognize the case and the person so as to have the mental energy to break down the sentence, which is really the hardest part of Greek.

The tough thing is that while basic syntax is the most important skill, I'm not sure what one can do to get better at it. We know what works in learning vocab--flashcards, readers editions, listening to words and glosses--and we know how to master forms (active use/composition) but I really don't know how to help learners intuitivley break down sentences. Reading ABOUT Greek in minute linguistic detail is no help and is not what I'm talking about. In many ways it involves undoing the hardwiring in your brain which breaks down a sentence based on English word order. If I had time, I would try to write a text book with exercises which would teach this skill, which I do believe to be King. The only thing that has really helped me in this is tons of reading.
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Re: Is Vocabulary King?

Postby pster » Tue Dec 18, 2012 7:54 pm

Thanks Markos for taking the time to write such a thoughtful response. I won't directly debate what you have written now. Maybe next time. :D

But I will share an experience. I went to a Spanish speaking country once for a couple of weeks. I had never studied Spanish, so I needed a plan. What I decided to do was go with just nouns. No grammar. No verb endings. No verbs! Just nouns. And it actually worked really well. Of course that is a living language and I wasn't trying to read it just speak it. With Greek, I still think you need to know the verbs! But if you go travelling in the future, try my all noun approach.

Actually, I lie. I did use a bit more. It was actually nouns plus logical connectives. ("and", "or" and "if, then"). ;)
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