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The Old Idiosyncrat's Method for Starting Homer

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The Old Idiosyncrat's Method for Starting Homer

Postby bernardo » Wed Feb 23, 2005 4:07 pm

In his page http://community.middlebury.edu/~harris/HomericProlegomena.pdf Prof. William Harris suggests a method that he used successfully to learn ancient greek; he copies a line of greek from the Iliad, puts a rough translation on the line below, and on the third line he adds any grammar he might need in order to understand the line. He says that by the 100th line he was starting to read with some ease, and that by the 200th line he was fluent, as the forms of nouns and verbs kept repeating themselves.

He thinks that after a brief look at a short grammar, that´s all you need to learn the language, in fact any language, since we learned our mothers tongues in a similar way, not by memorizing paradigms of declensions.

He has a very reasonable point, but since this is a practical matter, I´d like to know if there is anyone, or anyone that knows of someone, that followed these steps and learned ancient greek.

Cordially,
Bernardo.
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Postby swiftnicholas » Wed Feb 23, 2005 5:33 pm

I loved Harris' idea, and I still use that method often, with some personal modifications.

I write out about 5-10 lines of Greek with a dark pen/marker, evenly spaced on the page, and then I make interlinear notes with a pencil. I really think that having the Greek text in a darker type is a good learning aid. (You could probably type the Greek into MSWord, and make it bold, and space it accordingly; but I really enjoy writing Greek by hand.) I don't translate the whole of each line, but only make notes on words and phrases. I often note some English meanings--especially idiomatic phrases--and usually note the root, and whatever grammatical information I can find. I like to make notes on the things about which I feel confident, and then go back to fill in blanks and change mistakes, using Perseus or library resources---a pencil is handy for this too. I often underline connected phrases, or circle things (like men--de connections), and draw lines to help indicate relationship between separated words.

At first I made notes on everything, and even tried to note repeat words that I had to look up again, and then very naturally my notes started to become less intense. My success wasn't as rapid as that of W. Harris, but I did notice the pace quickening. I spent a lot of time working on Iliad 1.1-317 and 18.478-608, and then began to explore shorter selections from other authors---Sappho, Hesiod, Herodotus, Heraclitus, Plato. I tried a bit of Sophocles, but found it quite difficult. I've thought about trying some Thucydides, but I have the impression he is rather difficult also. [Edit]I just now rediscovered some notes on Archilochos at Harris' website. :D [/Edit]

I think it is a wonderful method. It is very direct, and can be used with very few resources (I wish I had known about Textkit earlier: that would have saved many headaches). I was excited to be working with the actual text, instead of short excercises. Plus, like William Harris mentions, you have a record of your progression, and a concise reference for future reading. You can also fold a few pages and carry them in your pocket. Since I discovered Textkit, I've been working with Pharr's book again (waiting ever so patiently and longingly for a future Pharr group :) ), and I can look through my notes as a quick reference for vocabulary or inflection. I'm discovering mistakes, and trying to fill in blanks.

It's nice to learn grammatical constructions by studying actual usage; Pharr's book accomplishes this very nicely. But I would suggest you not neglect to study inflection and paradigms; I wish I had spent more time doing that---it's essential for learning to sightread. [Edit]I think W. Harris offers a short grammar and some concise paradigms.[/Edit]

I think it would be a nice supplement regardless of how you study. I find that writing things out helps to organize my memory. Plus I've developed a nice Greek script. And although it requires a good amount of time, I think that it saves a lot of time referencing and rereferencing grammars and lexicons.
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Postby chad » Thu Feb 24, 2005 12:32 am

hi, i guess i do something similar with non-lyric poetry. thinking about it i generally use 3 different approaches.

for poetry other than pindar, mostly homer and drama, i make heaps of grammar notes in the margins of the OCT or a commentary. but i never translate into english.

for pindar, i make the same full grammar notes but also re-write the clauses into "prose", to make the complex syntax easier.

(for Olympian 1, I've actually done all this in an article which Will and I are editing and which we'll put online in a month or 2 i think, it takes a lot of work to get it right)

for prose, i don't make notes because i only read easy prose: plato and herodotus: not thucydides or people like that. :)
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Postby annis » Thu Feb 24, 2005 12:38 am

I also do something similar for poetry. The left page has the text, and textual notes, the right vocab and possible references to other works.

These days the right page is generally sparse (for Homer anyway), but I think writing the text, though slow, is a valuable exercise if done mindfully. It's a very intense way to think about the text the first time through.
William S. Annis — http://www.aoidoi.org/http://www.scholiastae.org/
τίς πατέρ' αἰνήσει εἰ μὴ κακοδαίμονες υἱοί;
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Postby adz000 » Thu Feb 24, 2005 5:20 pm

Something I've been having a lot of fun doing with Pindar recently is color-coding his metres with highlighters. For dactylo-epitrites one only needs five colors (to represent D, E, e, d1, d2). Photocopy and enlarge a strophe then paste it onto a page and color-by-numbers. The Aeolic meters are a bit trickier.

Please post the Greek prose for Olympian 1 soon! Are you Atticizing and prosifying the vocabulary as well? I'd be a very happy consumer of this article and am going to try prosifying some other Odes I'm reading (though I don't know how far I'll get). It'd also be great to read any other comments you have on Olympian 1 in textkit.
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Postby chad » Thu Feb 24, 2005 10:44 pm

hi, in this article i've actually scanned the whole thing, putting long and short symbols over the syllables. i've also in the intro broken up the strophe into about 6 or 7 rhythmic sections, explaining how to follow the rhythms in each section, so that the whole strophe's rhythm can be followed. i don't think colour-coding would work for this one: it's not regular...

for the "prose" bits, i didn't change it into attic, i just re-arranged the words and re-accented enclitics and postpositive prepositions and added implied words in square brackets: the purpose was just to show how pindar's words fit all together (because they can be spread out over several lines).

while we're editing oly 1 i'm writing something similar for oly 2: you couldn't colour-code that either, the epitrite and iambic metron are the bases but in a highly resolved form...

we'll let you know when it's ready to go online, it'll be a while :)
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Postby Bert » Thu Feb 24, 2005 11:33 pm

That sounds interesting. (I think that fluency after 200 lines is pushing it a bit though.)
Could you, William, Chad or Swiftnicholas (Or all of you) use the first 5 lines of the Iliad to show me how you would make these notes?
I typed them out for you to make it easier to respond.

[face=SPIonic]Mh=nin a)/eide, qea/, Phlhia/dew )Axilh=oj

ou)lome/nhn, h(\ muri/' )Axaioi=j a)/lge' e)/qhken,

polla\j d' i)fqi/mouj yuxa\j )/Aidi proi/+ayen

h(rw/wn, au)tou\j de\ e(lw/ria teu=xe ku/nessin

oi)wnoi=si/ te dai=ta, Dio\j d' e)telei/eto boulh/,[/face]
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Postby chad » Thu Feb 24, 2005 11:37 pm

hi bert, see page 12 of the following .pdf by Bill Harris:

http://community.middlebury.edu/~harris ... gomena.pdf

homer's word-order is much easier than pindar's, you wouldn't need to re-write it in prose of course :)
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Postby swiftnicholas » Fri Feb 25, 2005 9:48 pm

Bert,

Check out the link, provided by chad, to William Harris’ article---that's where I first got the idea. I started this method with the beginning of the Iliad, so those lines were my first attempt. At that point, I was relying almost exclusively on Pharr, and then discovered Perseus shortly afterward. Later, I purchased Cunliffe, and began embarking on quixotic adventures in quest of commentaries at distant libraries. :roll:

I was disheartened to find that Homer used the augment sporadically, so I found myself noting unaugmented words. I also tried to note the root if it wasn't clear to me.

My general pattern for nouns was---for example---[face=spionic]mh=nin[/face], acc. sg. f. And for verbs---[face=spionic]a)/eide[/face], pres. act. imperat. 2d sg, ([face=spionic]a)ei/dw[/face]). But I never really standardized my notations, which I regret slightly. It was really only limited by what information I could find; for example, I have a note for [face=spionic]ou)lome/nhn[/face]: acc. sg. f, ([face=spionic]ou)lo/menoj[/face], 2aor. med. part., [face=spionic]o)/llumi[/face], used as adj., in acc.)---I must have found this somewhere else and added it later, because I don’t think it’s from Pharr. I also made a note for [face=spionic]dai=ta[/face], when I discovered Perseus, that some read [face=spionic]pasi[/face]. [Does anyone know about that debate? is it ongoing?]

I also found it helpful to draw lines connecting words. Early on, I would note things like a connection in Line 2 of [face=spionic]muri/'[/face] and [face=spionic]a)/lge'[/face], which is clear already from the use of the accusative, but I felt that a connecting line allowed me to keep my eye on the Greek rather than look my notes (I felt that the elision hampered recognition). Usually, though, it was to indicate connected words between lines. But Homer's word order is more managable than others, like chad says, and you probably already know. I haven’t read Pindar yet, but I experienced a reality-check when I tried to decipher some of the tragedians. [I find the sentence diagrams on Rodney Decker's website helpful, even though NT syntax is relatively simple. I think they are computer generated. Is there something like this for the tragedians, Pindar, Homer, et al?]

Whether or not to use English is an important question. I like to use flashcards for vocabulary, so I don’t translate words for which I have made cards. But this method was, for me, a way to record language notes for quick reference; so, when I found myself looking at a dictionary, I usually either made notes on these pages, or created a new flashcard. But until I found a used copy of the OCT Iliad, I used to write out Greek-only pages to read, without any notes, so that I would focus on the Greek syntax (and because I secretly enjoyed writing Greek *blush*). I think I recall William Harris stressing the importance of understanding how the meaning develops from the Greek word order.

The style and content of your notes should suit your purposes. Now I find myself browsing and searching Textkit as a large collective notebook.
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Postby Bert » Sat Feb 26, 2005 1:02 am

Thanks guys.
I'll give it a try.
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Postby swiftnicholas » Sat Feb 26, 2005 1:46 am

I also made a note for [face=spionic]dai=ta[/face], when I discovered Perseus, that some read [face=spionic]pasi[/face]. [Does anyone know about that debate? is it ongoing?]


I just discovered the answer to my question in this old post from annis:

For example, line 5 in Pharr is different. Murray uses this reading:

[face=spionic]oi)wnoi=si/ te pa=si, Dio\j d' e)telei/eto boulh/,[/face]

"And all (kinds of) birds." Zenodotus, an early editor of Homer, objected to this reading since all birds don't eat flesh, just certain ones. So he imposed his own sense of reasonableness onto Homer, and said [face=spionic]dai=ta[/face]. Some editors accept Z's reading, some go with the old one.


Thanks :D
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