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Medieval Greek

Greek after classical antiquity

Medieval Greek

Postby testsuda » Sat Jan 23, 2016 11:25 am

Dear all,

I do not know anything about Medieval Greek. Does it has any great history work like Gesta Francorum or Gesta Romarum...? I am very interested in reading History, Legend, Myths like those

If the Medieval Greek is different from the Classical, could I learn it with the standard of Classical Greek?

Please kindly share your knowledge

Sincerely yours,
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Re: Medieval Greek

Postby mahasacham » Sat Jan 23, 2016 7:06 pm

I have been intrigued by this topic for the last few months. In many instances, my knowledge of the language has been severely taxed by the few texts that I have happened to come by that are from the Byzantine era (from 400 A.D. to 1400 A.D.).

My only advice for how to approach this form of the language is to become very familiar with high literary Koine and Attic. As for recommendations of authors I would recommend Laonikos Chalkokondyles for the history of Europe and Asia up to the mid 1400s. Also, I have found the Philokalia to be quite easy to read and there is a lot of it (if you're interested in discussions of spiritual practice).

Obviously, another point that must be stated is that what is difficult for me may not be so for you. I feel pretty confident in much of the Attic dialect I have read (Except Demosthenes and Thucydides) and I seem to have a very strong grasp of the Koine Dialect. However, in the Byzantine era, the vocabulary seems to be quite similar to these two dialects but the syntax is quite difficult (for me) in many of the authors I have tried to read (Laonikos Chalkokondyles, Maximus the Confessor, Gregory Palamas). In addition, some of the semantic range of the words has shifted or expanded slightly.

Having done a search on this subject I often find people commenting on how the language at this stage is changing from a synthetic form to an analytical form (meaning more conjugations to less conjugations) but I have not found this to be the case as many of the authors I find most difficult recall a form of the language closer either to high literary Koine or a form of Attic.

My own strategy for improving my ability to read this form of the language is to become more familiar with Demosthenes' and Thucydides' literary devices and turns of phrase, simply as a way to push my metal flexibility when it come to syntax. Also I have noticed some elements that are similar to Josephus' use of the language, so this might be another author to become more familiar with.

Nevertheless, I should state that I am not a professional and have far fewer years of study than many members in this forum and you would do well to heed their advice should any come to your aid in this question.
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Re: Medieval Greek

Postby anphph » Tue Feb 02, 2016 4:50 am

The most important thing to note here is that Medieval Greek can be seen both as Greek written by people living in what we today call the Medieval Era, and which generally speaking (borderline cases apply) we call today Byzantine Era when it relates to the Roman Empire, and it can also mean the Greek being spoken at that same time.

The written Greek follows, by far, the conventions of Antiquity, with Koinê and Atticism as the leading conventions. This means that if you know Classical Greek you can read what Byzantine writers wrote, with only a small number of words being added, some others getting a new meaning, and some very fine tuning of the syntax (but then again the jump won't be greater than, say, going from Thucydides to Polybius).

The spoken Greek, which obviously ended up as the Demotic or Popular language of more recent times (which, when paired with the XIX century Katharevousa, spawned Modern Greek), does not survive much, that I am aware. I may be quite wrong about this, but I wouldn't expect us to have more than a few songs written in "pure" Demotic Greek (much in the same way that we barely have any "Proto-Italian" of the 10th century).

Then there a number of texts which are written in the scholarly language, but which adapt a higher number of variations from the spoken language, creating a sort of mixed language which was probably closer to what people would have spoken when they were trying to actively speak "Attic", since it must be tough to maintain a Demosthenian style all afternoon, and words from your daily speech would have certainly creeped in. The most famous examples of this, again that I know of, are the Spiritual Meadow and the Digenis Akritas. Regardless of all that, they are still by and large readable by someone who knows Classical Greek, but the differences will be legion (to start with, a consumation of the abandonment of the quantitative meter of Antiquity, which was kept on life support by everyone else).

If you are looking for texts to read, apart from just suggesting a History of Byzantine Literature, maybe you could either take a look the Dumbarton Oaks Medieval Library, and check the Greek texts that they published, or else read Nigel Wilson's Anthony of Byzantine Greek (I believe this is the title), a great book that covers both the continuity and the rupture of Greek language and style during the period.

Hope this helped.
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Re: Medieval Greek

Postby seneca2008 » Wed Feb 03, 2016 10:21 pm

I have no special knowledge of Medieval Greek, but you might find the chapter on Medieval amd early Modern Greek by David Holton and Io Manolessou in "A COMPANION TO THE ANCIENT GREEK LANGUAGE" Edited by Egbert J. Bakker useful.

Under further reading it gives the following summary:
There is no comprehensive grammatical description for any sub-period of Medieval Greek. However, there are five scholarly works which constitute indispensable contributions, though now considerably out of date: Hatzidakis 1892 and 1905–7, Jannaris 1897, Dieterich 1898, and Psaltes 1913. Recent accounts of the history of later Greek are Browning 1983 and Tonnet 2003; the most linguistically informed description is Horrocks 1997a. The University of Cambridge hosts a major research project which will shortly pro- duce a grammar of LMed.Gk and EMod.Gk (details at http://www.mml.cam.ac.uk/greek/gram- marofmedievalgreek; see also Holton, forthcoming). Many examples in this chapter come from the electronic corpus and database of the project. The vocabulary of LMed.Gk and EMod.Gk is well served by the dictionaries of Kriaras (1967–), (available online in a con- cise version, at http://www.greek-language.gr/greekLang/ ... aras/index. html) and Trapp et al. (1994–); both, however, have yet to reach completion. EMed.Gk is only partially covered by Lampe 1969, Sophocles 1887, and Konstantinidis and Moschos 1907–95 (the Greek translation of the eighth edition of Liddell and Scott, with additional material on Koine and EMed.Gk). Loan words in Medieval Greek, their sources and pho- netic adaptation, are discussed in Triantaphyllidis 1909. Bibliographic surveys of linguistic research on the period are Kapsomenos 1985, Apostolopoulos 1994, Janse 1996–7, and Jeffreys and Doulavera 1998.
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Re: Medieval Greek

Postby Manuel » Mon Feb 08, 2016 4:17 am

I am not a professional Byzantinist but I have become engaged with some mid-late Byzantine texts recently and can say at least a bit about them in relation to Classical and Koine Greek.

I have found that letters in particular are very difficult to get through. Having spent some time with the letters of Michael Choniates, archbishop of Athens during the Fourth Crusade, I've noticed that there is an overabundance of participles compared to anything Classical or Biblical that I've read along with a much expanded vocabulary, particularly with compound verbs.

The literature of the middle and late periods is very fascinating. Since you mentioned the Gesta Francorum, you should also be aware of its Greek contemporary, The Alexiad by Anna Komnene. Chronicles like this are very common, others including Theophanes the Confessor, Ioannes Skylitzes, and Michael Choniates. Moving into the late period, we get the Palaiologan Renaissance from which come many more histories and also the great letters of the emperor Manuel II.

As far as epic goes, there is Diginis Akritis, as Miguel mentioned above, though I am not aware of any others.
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Re: Medieval Greek

Postby opoudjis » Thu Oct 05, 2017 1:10 pm

anphph wrote:The spoken Greek, which obviously ended up as the Demotic or Popular language of more recent times (which, when paired with the XIX century Katharevousa, spawned Modern Greek), does not survive much, that I am aware. I may be quite wrong about this, but I wouldn't expect us to have more than a few songs written in "pure" Demotic Greek (much in the same way that we barely have any "Proto-Italian" of the 10th century).


We have just a couple of ditties before the 12th century, recorded by chroniclers. We also have the https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Category:Bulgarian_Greek_inscriptions, which don't get as much prominence as they should as the earliest texts of something like the vernacular. (Who wants the founding texts of their language to have been written by prisoners of war?) We have kind-of vernacular poems from the 12th century, we have some slightly garbled Greek verses by Rumi (yes, that Rumi) and his son from the 13th, and we have a large number of vernacular texts from the 14th century on. To be literate in Byzantium was to be literate in Ancient Greek, so most vernacular texts are still macaronic with Koine to some extent; it's only in places like Cyprus, and later Crete, that you get texts with a more consistent vernacular.
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