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how do modern greeks learn ancient greek

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how do modern greeks learn ancient greek

Postby daivid » Tue Jan 08, 2013 4:07 pm

This is another way of posing the question of how different are Classical Greek and modern Greek.

So do modern Greeks just pick it up from being exposed to bits of Homer in the way British kids
are exposed to Shakespeare at school? Are there Classical Greek to Modern Greek dictionaries?
Are there translations of Herodotos into Modern Greek? Are the textbooks to help modern Greeks get to grips with Homer etc?
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Re: how do modern greeks learn ancient greek

Postby pster » Tue Jan 08, 2013 4:48 pm

I showed a 65 year old, native, not particularly scholarly yet not particularly dumb, Greek man my Plato one day and I asked him if he could read it. He popped it open and read a sentence and waved his hands as though to say that it wasn't that hard to read. I also got the impression that he had had some exposure to the original texts when he was back in grade school. It is interesting though that native Greeks do not dominate classics the way, for example, Italians dominate Dante studies and Italian Renaissance studies. Of course there are plenty of non-Italians who work on Dante and the Italian Renaissance, but my sense is that the most knowledgeable writers and probably a majority overall are native Italians. Italy is four times bigger than Greece, and the Italian of 1200-1600 is closer to today's Italian than Attic is to today's Greek. Still, off the top of my head, I can only think of a couple of prominent native Greek classicists.
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Re: how do modern greeks learn ancient greek

Postby Scribo » Tue Jan 08, 2013 8:04 pm

pster wrote:I showed a 65 year old, native, not particularly scholarly yet not particularly dumb, Greek man my Plato one day and I asked him if he could read it. He popped it open and read a sentence and waved his hands as though to say that it wasn't that hard to read. I also got the impression that he had had some exposure to the original texts when he was back in grade school. It is interesting though that native Greeks do not dominate classics the way, for example, Italians dominate Dante studies and Italian Renaissance studies. Of course there are plenty of non-Italians who work on Dante and the Italian Renaissance, but my sense is that the most knowledgeable writers and probably a majority overall are native Italians. Italy is four times bigger than Greece, and the Italian of 1200-1600 is closer to today's Italian than Attic is to today's Greek. Still, off the top of my head, I can only think of a couple of prominent native Greek classicists.


For several important reasons, but its best not to go into it. There have been some would be prominent Greek Classicists like Kakridis but they were demonised by the establishment, even now the best Greek Classicists tend to end up marginalised, I can think of (for example) Athanassaki who is a powerhouse internationally but is barely read in Greek and teaches in Rethymno I believe.

There are...lots of reasons, and just thinking about it makes me mad. Very mad. There is something very, very, very rotten in the Greek mindset.
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Re: how do modern greeks learn ancient greek

Postby LSorenson » Sun Jan 13, 2013 3:55 am

Nicholas Adamou, on the B-Greek site, gave an extensive account of how he studied modern Greek and then Ancient Greek in the 1950's or 1960's. His story can be found at the topic "Learning Greek Experience as a Native Greek" http://www.ibiblio.org/bgreek/forum/viewtopic.php?f=14&t=1117&p=5396&hilit=adamou#p5380
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Re: how do modern greeks learn ancient greek

Postby Scribo » Sun Jan 13, 2013 12:24 pm

LSorenson wrote:Nicholas Adamou, on the B-Greek site, gave an extensive account of how he studied modern Greek and then Ancient Greek in the 1950's or 1960's. His story can be found at the topic "Learning Greek Experience as a Native Greek" http://www.ibiblio.org/bgreek/forum/viewtopic.php?f=14&t=1117&p=5396&hilit=adamou#p5380


Interesting, he learnt in the 50's/60's so I guess that puts him in our parents generation or so? The references to biblical Greek are telling...thankfully no one is forced to read the bible or anything nowadays.

Some questionable statements, e.g those in the Scientific path being the more competitive students etc. Not necessarily, a lot of my friends who went through that tend to certainly think that is the case, I've certainly given up trying to explain ancient Greece or linguistics to them. Thankfully some of the more wealthy ones have been able to study in Europe and had their asses suitably kicked by our education to learn to shut up a bit. In general I think those in the Humanities side tend to be more intelligent, hell my partner did well enough that she could have transferred to Medicine - arguably the most competitive programme after Law.

I don't really understand how one can learn a language in context without proper phonology, a good grasp of historical context - which is deliberately lacking. Honestly, if you look at textbooks used in Athens like Babinotis' <<συνοπτική ιστορία τής ελληνικής γλώσσας>> you can see oodles of mistakes, though I think Horrock's book has been translated and I know its used in Thessaloniki Uni...

For what its worth, despite the near Hesiodic amount of lamenting in that account I think the way Greek and Ancient Greek is taught in Greece now is arguably a lot better. Its less obsessed with the bible, less interpretative and less romantacised. Moreover modern Greek philology is now getting pretty badass. The next 50-100 years will be very interested, with a slow (but hopefully steady) adoption of modern philological methods and the increase of students getting familiar with Latin too - well until the recession hit...
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Re: how do modern greeks learn ancient greek

Postby daivid » Sun Jan 13, 2013 4:02 pm

LSorenson wrote:Nicholas Adamou, on the B-Greek site, gave an extensive account of how he studied modern Greek and then Ancient Greek in the 1950's or 1960's. His story can be found at the topic "Learning Greek Experience as a Native Greek" http://www.ibiblio.org/bgreek/forum/viewtopic.php?f=14&t=1117&p=5396&hilit=adamou#p5380


Thanks for providing that link. What I found especially telling was even though he met a lot of Ancient Greek at church - memorising whole sections of it even - he still had to be formally taught classical Greek over quite a long period.

However odd 16th and 17th century English may seem to modern native speakers it isn't formally taught and simple exposure to Shakespeare and the King James version is sufficient. Hence the difference between modern an classical Greek must be as great as between modern English and Chaucer.
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Re: how do modern greeks learn ancient greek

Postby anphph » Sun Jan 12, 2014 1:52 am

Scribo wrote:For several important reasons, but its best not to go into it. There have been some would be prominent Greek Classicists like Kakridis but they were demonised by the establishment, even now the best Greek Classicists tend to end up marginalised, I can think of (for example) Athanassaki who is a powerhouse internationally but is barely read in Greek and teaches in Rethymno I believe.

There are...lots of reasons, and just thinking about it makes me mad. Very mad. There is something very, very, very rotten in the Greek mindset.


I stumbled upon this thread while checking if there was any thread where hints for learning Modern Greek after having learnt the Classical had already been started around here. Instead I found this, and you'll forgive me for resurrecting an old conversation and asking: I know you said it's best not to go into it, but what did you mean by that? I ask that as someone who's had barely no acquaintance with Modern Greek philology — were you talking about the True Heirs of Classical Greece jingoism, or something else?
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Re: how do modern greeks learn ancient greek

Postby daivid » Tue Jan 14, 2014 2:19 pm

MiguelM wrote:
Scribo wrote:For several important reasons, but its best not to go into it. There have been some would be prominent Greek Classicists like Kakridis but they were demonised by the establishment, <snip>


I stumbled upon this thread while checking if there was any thread where hints for learning Modern Greek after having learnt the Classical had already been started around here. Instead I found this, and you'll forgive me for resurrecting an old conversation and asking: I know you said it's best not to go into it, but what did you mean by that? I ask that as someone who's had barely no acquaintance with Modern Greek philology — were you talking about the True Heirs of Classical Greece jingoism, or something else?


You should check out the Wikipedia page for Ioannis Kakridis where it says he was sacked from his university post for republishing a lecture in the monotonic system in 1941. I surmise (Scribo correct me if I'm wrong) that the establishment could live with bohemian poets adopting demotic but for a classicist to do so was, for them, betrayal.

Sort of relevant is the story our Greek teacher told of his national service in the army. The army still uses Ancient Greek but in an entirely fossilised form. For instance a sentry will make the challenge "Halt, τις ει"
(Any mistake is down to me). Not even the officers had a clue what it actually meant - it was just the words you used when challenging someone when on sentry duty. From that I conclude that for a section of the Greek establishment a symbolic but empty connection with Ancient Greek was more important than the reality.

And I wonder if Ioannis Kakridis' translation of Homer into modern Greek was exactly approved of.
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Re: how do modern greeks learn ancient greek

Postby Scribo » Tue Jan 14, 2014 3:08 pm

Your inference is hardly off, however I commented I'm not going to go into it and I stand by it. There's a lot of nastiness there and textkit is a wonderful place and I'd rather not attract more of the mentalists I have to deal with quite often. Even family members, otherwise intelligent enough, can revert to the rabid nationalist and retarded a-philological when this subject comes up, let alone the kind of know it all idiots one finds on the internet. You know, philology is devilry, western imperialists, Greek is a magic language and all that.

I'll answer vs. Kakridis, though. Well the translation was done with Kazantzakis whom I sure is known to all as a famous novelist. For an example of its ideological orientation bear in mind it was dedicated to Alexandros Pallis. Here's a wonderful Wiki excerpt:

Code: Select all
Alexandros Pallis (Αλέξανδρος Πάλλης) (Piraeus, 1851 – Liverpool, 1935) was a Greek educational and language reformer who translated the New Testament into Modern Greek. The publication, in the Akropolis newspaper, caused riots in Athens in 1901 in which 8 people died. The New Testament in Modern Greek was not legalised until 1924.


As for the translation itself its not very accurate and often difficult due to its use of hyper demotic words but its rather pretty, take the first lines where Akhilleus loses his patronym and is simply called "famous" (ξακουστος). It generally has a wonderful slightly swaying rhythm and I love it but its not Homer.
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Re: how do modern greeks learn ancient greek

Postby opoudjis » Thu Oct 05, 2017 1:24 pm

daivid wrote:Sort of relevant is the story our Greek teacher told of his national service in the army. The army still uses Ancient Greek but in an entirely fossilised form. For instance a sentry will make the challenge "Halt, τις ει"
(Any mistake is down to me). Not even the officers had a clue what it actually meant - it was just the words you used when challenging someone when on sentry duty. From that I conclude that for a section of the Greek establishment a symbolic but empty connection with Ancient Greek was more important than the reality.


Now that I've written 10 posts, I'll leave here my relevant anecdote:

http://hellenisteukontos.opoudjis.net/greek-diglossia-and-how-it-isnt/

The influence of Puristic is pervasive enough to illustrate in the following anecdote. To set the context: the Greek Army was an institution well placed to roll out Puristic to the populace: you had a captive audience, that you barked orders to, that they had to obey. It was the one place where you could convince people that the word for “fire” is not φωτιά “lightness” (or λαμπρόν “bright” in Cyprus, or στιά “hearth” in the Ionian islands), but the Ancient πῦρ.

Psichari of course had a field day with this: the sergeant could bark “fttpt” or “herring”, and the soldier will still shoot; that doesn’t mean you’ve rewired his brain to call “fire” anything but φωτιά (or λαμπρόν or στιά).

As it turns out, my brain has been rewired. Not quite in the way Psichari said, but close.

When King Otto arrived in Greece in 1833, an honour guard of veterans was set up to fire off a 21 gun salute. When the appointed time came, the designated officer walked up, and proudly shouted, in the only form of Greek worthy of the occasion:

OFFICER #1: … Ignis! [Πῦρ!]

VETERANS: ….

OFFICER #1: … Ignis! [Πῦρ!]

VETERANS: ….

OFFICER #1: … Ignis? [Πῦρ;]

VETERANS: … (Who the hell’s this Innis guy he keeps calling out for?) (Nay, nay, you see, he’s addressing his Majesty in his native Barvarian.)

OFFICER #2 (BILINGUAL IN ANCIENT AND MODERN GREEK): [from the crowd] … *FIRE*, damn your hides! [Φωτιά, πανάθεμά σας!]

VETERANS: … Oh! *bang bang bang* (See, told you! That’s Sgt Innis right there.)

When I read this, I thought to myself (in Greek): what does setting things on fire (φωτιά) have to do with shooting guns (πυρά)?

Then I translated both words into English.

Then I was sore amused.

There’s a simple metaphor in many a language between setting things on fire and shooting guns. Hence, gunfire, and fire!. Saying fire! in Ancient Greek at the barracks did not succeed in reviving the ancient Greek word for setting things on fire.

But it did succeed in destroying the metaphoric link: the Ancient Greek word for “fire” is the only word now used for “fire” in a military context—that is, gunfire. The Modern Greek word for “fire” is the only word now used for “fire” in any other context. And modern speakers do a double-take, to realise that gunfire has something to do with burning.

Not what people in 1833 had in mind…
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Re: how do modern greeks learn ancient greek

Postby Hylander » Thu Oct 05, 2017 1:49 pm

When I visited Greece in 2012, our driver/tour guide, who was otherwise quite knowledgeable as well as enthusiastic about Greek history and the sites we visited, looked back with disgust on the agony of having been forced to learn some ancient Greek in school, which he seemed to have completely forgotten beyond a few expressions such as μολων λαβε. I think the ancient Greek requirement has since been abolished.
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Re: how do modern greeks learn ancient greek

Postby opoudjis » Fri Oct 06, 2017 12:49 am

Hylander wrote:When I visited Greece in 2012, our driver/tour guide, who was otherwise quite knowledgeable as well as enthusiastic about Greek history and the sites we visited, looked back with disgust on the agony of having been forced to learn some ancient Greek in school, which he seemed to have completely forgotten beyond a few expressions such as μολων λαβε. I think the ancient Greek requirement has since been abolished.


It comes and goes with different governments. It has never been done well, with the result that generations have resented Sophocles as a pretext for dry grammar lessons, alternating with generations that loved Sophocles in translation.
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Re: how do modern greeks learn ancient greek

Postby Barry Hofstetter » Fri Oct 06, 2017 3:21 pm

Interesting colloquium redivivum here. Just an anecdote. Way back in the 20th century when I was an undergrad, my undergrad school had an agreement with the Greek university system to have students spend a year or more studying here, and with a fairly large Greek expatriate community in the area, we had a rather large minority of students who had Greek as their primary language. We would occasionally get students in our classics courses, particularly if it were an "easy" text such as the NT or Xenophon (somehow they never showed up for Thucydides or Greek lyric poets). They were mostly looking for the odd grade average raising course. What our professors found interesting was the students did no better or no worse than students who had started Greek in their freshman year. Some did considerably worse, and ended up dropping the courses. It all depended with how much training in Ancient Greek they had had prior to ending up in one of our classes, and just how good a student they were in the first place. This was in the '70's, and we were getting the first generation of students for whom classical training was no longer mandatory. Those who had received that education, however, were about on par performance wise with any of our advanced undergrads.
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Re: how do modern greeks learn ancient greek

Postby Barry Hofstetter » Fri Oct 06, 2017 3:36 pm

opoudjis wrote:
The influence of Puristic is pervasive enough to illustrate in the following anecdote. To set the context: the Greek Army was an institution well placed to roll out Puristic to the populace: you had a captive audience, that you barked orders to, that they had to obey. It was the one place where you could convince people that the word for “fire” is not φωτιά “lightness” (or λαμπρόν “bright” in Cyprus, or στιά “hearth” in the Ionian islands), but the Ancient πῦρ.



Of course, the word "fire" in the sense of "discharge a firearm" dates from the mid-16th century or so and has everything to do with how firelocks and arquebuses were handled. In English it itself has become a frozen term divorced from its original context, so that one may "fire off a barrage of words" or "fire arrows." But that's how semantic shift occurs...
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Re: how do modern greeks learn ancient greek

Postby RandyGibbons » Fri Oct 06, 2017 10:07 pm

Seems like I've had an experience similar to Scribo's, And yes, a sensitive topic best to avoid.

But I'll add my anecdote or two. I was a graduate student in classics at the University of Cincinnati in the early 70's. The department had a strong connection to Greece because of the department's dominance in Greek archaeology (my classmate Jack Davis is the Carl W. Blegen chair there now and, along with his wife, has made some astonishingly cool Bronze Age finds at Pylos recently), and we had maybe six or seven PhD candidates from Greece there at the time. The Colonels were still in power, and I learned from my Greek friends how fraught the language question (το γλωσσικό ζήτημα) was. (If you think our political and cultural divide into Blue and Red states is depressing, you ain't seen nothing. For example, the wife of one of my friends lost her parents in the Civil War there following WW2 and found discussions about politics unbearable.) Emotions run very high there, and the modern Greek seems no less disputatious than his forebears!

On the more amusing side, I remember how hilarious the Greek students found our earnest attempts to read ancient Greek in a reconstructed ancient pronunciation.

Regarding scholarship: I had a dissertation topic for which there was mostly German, French, and Italian scholarship. I came across a citation, though, of an article in modern Greek. That's cool, I thought, and I asked one of my friends to translate it. I realized after a couple sentences that it was just a verbatim translation of one of the French articles I'd read. Sigh.

I feel very sorry for the economic crises my Greek friends have had to go through as of late. Yet, despite that, the warmth and generosity they have shown the refugees from Africa and the Middle East washing up on their shores make the rest of Europe (and ourselves) look pretty bad.
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Re: how do modern greeks learn ancient greek

Postby opoudjis » Sat Oct 07, 2017 3:16 am

Scribo wrote:As for the translation [Kazantzakis & Kakridis' Iliad] itself its not very accurate and often difficult due to its use of hyper demotic words but its rather pretty, take the first lines where Akhilleus loses his patronym and is simply called "famous" (ξακουστος). It generally has a wonderful slightly swaying rhythm and I love it but its not Homer.


I actually loathe their metre: the iambic octameter that Kazantzakis came up with always struck me as limping, especially when the Modern Greek heart still beats to iambic heptameter. I left Greece during my first year of high school, so I didn't get their Iliad taught to me; I did get the high school translation of the Odyssey by Zisimos Sideris, and I did love it, not least because its meter was what you'd expect of Modern Greek folksong, and so was its diction—without the hunting after recherche words that Kazantzakis did.

You can compare four Modern Greek translations of the Odyssey at http://users.sch.gr/ipap/Ellinikos%20Politismos/Yliko/OMHROS%20ODYSSEIA/OMHROS%20ODYSSEIA.htm. All of them cast Homer like folk song—Polylas' maybe somewhat less. Maronitis' recent, much more scholarly translation, on the other hand (http://www.greek-language.gr/digitalResources/ancient_greek/anthology/literature/browse.html?text_id=12), leaves me cold.

Those folksong renderings—they're not Homer, Scribo says. True. But then, what translation of Homer is "Homer"? What act of literary translation does not end up undertaking some cultural translation? I don't have much against the belle infidéle school of translation (which is why I'd rather link to [url]https://it.wikipedia.org/wiki/Belle_infidèle[/url] than [url]https://fr.wikipedia.org/wiki/Belles_infidèles[/url].)

But that is a much, much bigger discussion.
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Re: how do modern greeks learn ancient greek

Postby jeidsath » Sat Oct 07, 2017 10:21 am

Derailing this thread somewhat, Sozomen has the following story of the period when Julian the Apostate forbid Christian study of the Greek classics.

ἐντεῦθεν οὖν μόνον δημιουργεῖσθαι τὸ πεῖθον οἰόμενος οὐ συνεχώρει τοῖς Χριστιανοῖς ἐν τοῖς τῶν Ἑλλήνων ἀσκεῖσθαι μαθήμασιν· ἡνίκα δὴ Ἀπολινάριος οὗτος εἰς καιρὸν τῇ πολυμαθείᾳ καὶ τῇ φύσει χρησάμενος, ἀντὶ μὲν τῆς Ὁμήρου ποιήσεως ἐν ἔπεσιν ἡρῴοις τὴν Ἑβραϊκὴν ἀρχαιολογίαν συνεγράψατο μέχρι τῆς Σαοὺλ βασιλείας καὶ εἰς εἰκοσιτέσσαρα μέρη τὴν πᾶσαν πραγματείαν διεῖλεν, ἑκάστῳ τόμῳ προσηγορίαν θέμενος ὁμώνυμον τοῖς παρ’ Ἕλλησι στοιχείοις κατὰ τὸν τούτων ἀριθμὸν καὶ τάξιν. ἐπραγματεύσατο δὲ καὶ τοῖς Μενάνδρου δράμασιν εἰκασμένας κωμῳδίας, καὶ τὴν Εὐριπίδου τραγῳδίαν καὶ τὴν Πινδάρου λύραν ἐμιμήσατο. καὶ ἁπλῶς εἰπεῖν ἐκ τῶν θείων γραφῶν τὰς ὑποθέσεις λαβὼν τῶν ἐγκυκλίων καλουμένων μαθημάτων, ἐν ὀλίγῳ χρόνῳ ἐπόνεσεν ἰσαρίθμους καὶ ἰσοδυνάμους πραγματείας ἤθει τε καὶ φράσει καὶ χαρακτῆρι καὶ οἰκονομίᾳ ὁμοίας τοῖς παρ’ Ἕλλησιν ἐν τούτοις εὐδοκιμήσασιν· ὥστε εἰ μὴ τὴν ἀρχαιότητα ἐτίμων οἱ ἄνθρωποι καὶ τὰ συνήθη φίλα ἐνόμιζον, ἐπίσης, οἶμαι, τοῖς παλαιοῖς τὴν Ἀπολιναρίου σπουδὴν ἐπῄνουν καὶ ἐδιδάσκοντο, ταύτῃ πλέον αὐτοῦ τὴν εὐφυΐαν θαυμάζοντες, ὅσῳ γε τῶν μὲν ἀρχαίων ἕκαστος περὶ ἓν μόνον ἐσπούδασεν, ὁ δὲ τὰ πάντων ἐπιτηδεύσας ἐν κατεπειγούσῃ χρείᾳ τὴν ἑκάστου ἀρετὴν ἀπεμάξατο.


So the Christian bishop Apollinaris quickly produced his own Christian imitations of Homer, Menander, Euripides, and Pindar, set on Biblical themes. And according to Sozomen, they were all better -- or at least as good -- as the originals. It is a tragedy that none of these works survive, and that we have to make do with the old versions.
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Re: how do modern greeks learn ancient greek

Postby Barry Hofstetter » Sat Oct 07, 2017 11:07 am

jeidsath wrote:Derailing this thread somewhat, Sozomen has the following story of the period when Julian the Apostate forbid Christian study of the Greek classics.

So the Christian bishop Apollinaris quickly produced his own Christian imitations of Homer, Menander, Euripides, and Pindar, set on Biblical themes. And according to Sozomen, they were all better -- or at least as good -- as the originals. It is a tragedy that none of these works survive, and that we have to make do with the old versions.


I think I detect a bit of sarcasm here... :wink:

But it would be pretty fascinating to have them, both from a literary and history of theology point of view.
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