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Which dialect should I start with?

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Which dialect should I start with?

Postby EveHarty » Mon Apr 30, 2018 5:56 am

I am looking to learn Greek, with the main focus of learning Aeolic later, I was just wondering which dialect I should start with right now? also, what is a good textbook for a beginner, who's teaching themselves, for that dialect? And Finally, are there any other dialects, in addition to the one I should start with, that you think I should learn before moving on to Aeolic Greek?

-----Many Thanks,
Evelyn Harty
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Re: Which dialect should I start with?

Postby jeidsath » Mon Apr 30, 2018 2:40 pm

You'll need to learn Attic Greek first, which contains considerably more extant texts (and all the textbooks teach it). After you are competent in Attic, the Aeolic poets, and the Aeolic choral sections of Attic drama will be achievable.
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Re: Which dialect should I start with?

Postby Barry Hofstetter » Mon Apr 30, 2018 3:27 pm

Affirming what Joel has said. Learning Attic allows you to move in all directions.
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Re: Which dialect should I start with?

Postby C. S. Bartholomew » Tue May 01, 2018 2:10 am

Barry Hofstetter wrote:Affirming what Joel has said. Learning Attic allows you to move in all directions.


Ann Nyland (Classics, University of New England, Australia. Translator, GLTB Study Bible) totally agrees. She told me (personal communication) no one should learn Koine without two years of Attic first. Ann helped me out on several occasions when I was finding my way through Sophocles and Aeschylus.

RE: Attic as preparation for Koine[1]

... is like studying Shakespeare so you can read Cormac McCarthy.

[1] Aeolic poets are a DIFFERENT ISSUE.
Last edited by C. S. Bartholomew on Tue May 01, 2018 2:29 am, edited 2 times in total.
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Re: Which dialect should I start with?

Postby Hylander » Tue May 01, 2018 2:27 am

There's very little literary material in the Aeolic dialects that has survived to the present -- just fragments of the Lesbian poets Sappho and Alcaeus, which are mostly quotes transmitted by other ancient authors, as well as some scraps of papyrus, and one or two possibly complete short poems. The more important fragments, especially those of Sappho, are so tantalizing, and it's crushingly sad that so much has been lost.

There are also plenty of inscriptions in local dialects that are classified as Aeolic (e.g., Theban Boeotian as well as Lesbian). I believe there may also be some Hellenistic poetry purportedly written in Aeolic several centuries after Sappho and Alcaeus, though I haven't checked this.

There is a considerable Aeolic substrate in the language of the Homeric poems, but that language is an altogether unique conflation of forms and vocabulary from several dialects. If you are interested in the Aeolic/Lesbian poets, it would be helpful to have some Homer under your belt before you tackle them.

Ancient Greek choral poetry, including choruses in drama, is generally written in some form of a literary Doric dialect, not Aeolic.

Because there is so little material in Aeolic, there are no textbooks specifically teaching Aeolic Greek: you can simply learn a few characteristic differences from Attic/Ionic, and most of the fragmentary Lesbian texts require substantial commentary anyway. However, you'll find discussions of the Aeolic dialects in grammars and other works dealing with ancient Greek in general and the dialects in particular.

So Attic is the basic dialect you should learn to start, and when you've more or less learned your Attic (not easy and there's no quick way to learn it), you should be able to approach the fragments of the Lesbian poets, if that's where your interest lies. There's a volume of the new Loeb series of the Greek Lyric Poets devoted to Sappho and Alcaeus, with English translation on the facing page, which I think you would find very helpful.

https://www.amazon.com/Greek-Lyric-Alcaeus-Classical-Library/dp/0674991575/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1525141117&sr=8-1&keywords=loeb+greek+lyric&dpID=41hIn9aQhUL&preST=_SY291_BO1,204,203,200_QL40_&dpSrc=srch
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