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What's the best way to start to learn ancient Greek?

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What's the best way to start to learn ancient Greek?

Postby ISA » Sat Aug 18, 2007 11:10 am

I am a language lecturer of 20 years experience. I speak 4 languages, three very well. Now I want to learn ancient Greek.

I would like some advice from you experts in learning Greek using the Pareto 80/20 principle.



Which core 20% of learning ancient Greek will be 80% effective?


So my questions are:

1. What is the 20% core of Greek grammar I should focus on?

2. What is that 20% core of Greek vocabulary that I should focus on?

3. What is that 20% core of Greek pronunciation that I should focus on?


Furthermore, what are the forseable difficulties that will face me in mastering this ancient language?

I would very much appreciate any help and advice you can give me.

Thank you,

ISA
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Postby ISA » Sat Aug 18, 2007 11:24 am

Me again.

By the way, I am going to chronicle my progress in learning ancient Greek in a blog.

I am going to do this in order to reflect on the learning process and become a more effective learner.

I hope to transfer the skills and insights I have from my professional life as a language teacher and teacher trainer to the learning of ancient Greek.

This is exciting.

ISA
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Postby ISA » Sat Aug 18, 2007 12:13 pm

The blog I will be using is:

http://pythagoras.tumblr.com
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Re: What's the best way to start to learn ancient Greek?

Postby annis » Sat Aug 18, 2007 8:42 pm

You're missing a very important first question: why are you learning Greek? That is, what is it in Greek that you intend to read? The answers to the other questions follow from that. See Greek Dialects: Where to Start for some of the issues.

ISA wrote:I1. What is the 20% core of Greek grammar I should focus on?


This is the trickiest question of the bunch. There's a lot of Greek grammar. Textbooks tend to start with the easy stuff and end with the stuff people somehow imagine is more difficult. The unfortunate result is that many of the most common things come late in textbooks.

Clyde Pharr's Homeric Greek: A Book for Beginners (available in PDF in the "Learn Ancient Greek" area of Textkit) has a long introduction, which includes a large chart tabulating the most common forms of the verb at least.

Master present and aorist participles. Master contraction. Master the -μι verbs (they come late in textbooks, for no good reason — they're hugely common).

2. What is that 20% core of Greek vocabulary that I should focus on?


There are several tools available to answer this question. First is the Perseus vocabulary tool. It can generate lists of the most common words in any author, and will certainly let you pick the top 20%. There are several books focusing on particular periods and authors. For Homer there is Homeric Vocabularies: Greek and English Word List for the Study of Homer; for Attic prose there's Classical Greek Prose: A Basic Vocabulary.

3. What is that 20% core of Greek pronunciation that I should focus on?


This is meaningless. Focus on all of it, whatever pronunciation you choose. Greek phonology isn't that complex.
William S. Annis — http://www.aoidoi.org/http://www.scholiastae.org/
τίς πατέρ' αἰνήσει εἰ μὴ κακοδαίμονες υἱοί;
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Postby ISA » Sun Aug 19, 2007 9:54 am

Annis

Thank you for your valuable advice. I would appreciate as much advice as you can give me.

When referring to pronunciation I mean those aspects of ancient Greek pronunciation that cause learners, whose mother tounge is English, difficulty.

But I admit that any answer about pronunciation is going to be academic, because who is out there who can judge the quality of your accent?

I am sure someone from Chaucer's time would cringe to hear the Middle English of any number of English teachers. Or would they? Is there really some way of reproducing accurately an Ionian accent, for example.

I am particulary interested in Ionian Greek and getting closer to the Early Greek philosophers and in understanding the Ionian way of life and the discourse and poetry and songs, the Ionian culture of the 6th and early 5th centuries.

Of course language study has to be a snapshot doesn't it? Otherwise everything goes diachronically pearshaped. And given the number of different islands from Lesbos to Rhodes and all their colonies from the black sea to Massalia, there would have been quite a variety of accents and dialectal variation.

What did this variation consist of.


Final greedy question.

Is there a place to practice ancient Greek handwriting on the web, printouts perhaps? You know, those sheets we used to practice on at school.

Thanks again.
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Postby ISA » Sun Aug 19, 2007 10:19 am

Annis

I have checked out your website and you go into the question of dialects at length.

http://www.aoidoi.org/articles/dialects.html

Great stuff.
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Postby annis » Sun Aug 19, 2007 11:34 pm

ISA wrote:I am particulary interested in Ionian Greek and getting closer to the Early Greek philosophers and in understanding the Ionian way of life and the discourse and poetry and songs, the Ionian culture of the 6th and early 5th centuries.


That's going to be difficult. The only major author to use straight Ionic was Herodotus (and even he is suspected of using a somewhat artificial dialect mix). For the pre-socratics we have only fragments.

Of course language study has to be a snapshot doesn't it? Otherwise everything goes diachronically pearshaped. And given the number of different islands from Lesbos to Rhodes and all their colonies from the black sea to Massalia, there would have been quite a variety of accents and dialectal variation.

What did this variation consist of.


You don't ask small questions, do you? There's no way I can give an answer to that here. Entire books are devoted to listing these variations. Buck's Greek Dialects is still standard.

Is there a place to practice ancient Greek handwriting on the web, printouts perhaps? You know, those sheets we used to practice on at school.


I know nothing quite like that, but you might find this old post useful: http://www.textkit.com/greek-latin-foru ... php?t=1232 — in particular the link near the bottom, which gives a chart with Greek letters and writing directions.
William S. Annis — http://www.aoidoi.org/http://www.scholiastae.org/
τίς πατέρ' αἰνήσει εἰ μὴ κακοδαίμονες υἱοί;
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Postby spiphany » Mon Aug 20, 2007 5:28 pm

The question about how difficult pronunciation is likely to be depends on how much you care about accuracy. Most courses teach a basic Anglicized pronunciation for the purposes of at least being able to connect the letters with a sound (which helps in memorization). If you are only concerned with being able to read the language, this is quite adequate and presents little difficulty.

If you wish to adopt a reconstructed pronunciation, this is likely to be somewhat harder. The two primary difficulties for an English speaker are 1) that ancient Greek had a pitch accent instead of a stress accent and 2) it distinguishes between aspirated and non-aspirated consonants which in English are not contrastive (i.e., φ/π, χ/κ, θ/τ) and between long and short vowels.

I don't think I can give you any more suggestions without knowing more about your background. What aspects of Greek are easy or difficult depends a lot on what you already have experience with. (Okay, so -μι verbs are hard no matter where you're coming from.) For example, some things -- like the morphology -- are much easier if you have some background in phonetics or historical linguistics, because you can see the process that is happening more easily. But it can be learned without that, it just takes more work.
IPHIGENIE: Kann uns zum Vaterland die Fremde werden?
ARKAS: Und dir ist fremd das Vaterland geworden.
IPHIGENIE: Das ist's, warum mein blutend Herz nicht heilt.
(Goethe, Iphigenie auf Tauris)
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Postby ISA » Wed Aug 22, 2007 10:09 am

I specialised in English phonology, grammar and linguistics. I studied with Wells and Ramsaran, among others, at UCL. NO historical linguistics, I am afraid. I speak Russian (The cyrillic might help) Spanish and French. Most of what I do is applied linguistics.

I think learning Ancient Greek will give me an insight into their world view. I think the meanings of many words are almost unrecoverable outside a knowledge of the context in which they were spoken. I guess that a lot of intuition and openess is involved in learning Ancient Greek.

Is this true. how many of you who speak the language feel intuitively, from your general "feel" for the language after years of study that X or Y is probably true or correct, but that you can't substantiate it.

Perhaps a lot of things about ancient Greek go unsaid because they are hunches. Or are you free with sharing these hunches.

The terms moira, dike, and arete for example.

I am interested in everythingthing you have to tell me.
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Postby annis » Thu Aug 23, 2007 1:25 am

ISA wrote:I think the meanings of many words are almost unrecoverable outside a knowledge of the context in which they were spoken. I guess that a lot of intuition and openess is involved in learning Ancient Greek.

Is this true. how many of you who speak the language feel intuitively, from your general "feel" for the language after years of study that X or Y is probably true or correct, but that you can't substantiate it.


Knowing, and being able to cite, comparable examples to whatever it is you think is a good reading is always best. Unchecked intuition will only lead to trouble.

Perhaps a lot of things about ancient Greek go unsaid because they are hunches. Or are you free with sharing these hunches.

The terms moira, dike, and arete for example.


Well, we do expect some culturally complex vocabulary to be tricky, but I would strongly recommend against any traffic in hunches until you've been studying Greek for a while, or, if you do have a hunch, see what others (text commentators, post here, etc) have to say about it.

Languages are not codes, of course, and some quite common Greek words cover a different semantic range than the English words we use to translate them. Nonetheless, by far the majority of Greek vocabulary is straightfoward.
William S. Annis — http://www.aoidoi.org/http://www.scholiastae.org/
τίς πατέρ' αἰνήσει εἰ μὴ κακοδαίμονες υἱοί;
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Postby Aristoklhs » Tue Sep 11, 2007 4:52 pm

Did you learn the other languages with this system?

In modern languages the knowledge of 3000 words, which leads to 4000 different meanings, is enough to make somebody understand 80% of a common text.
In Germany such books are being sold. 4000 sentences and their translation in german. They are divided in basic and advanded vocaburary 1500/2000 words/meanings each.
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Getting the Most Bang for Your Ancient Greek-Buck

Postby Prometheus » Thu Dec 13, 2007 6:47 pm

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Re: What's the best way to start to learn ancient Greek?

Postby Mcinnes » Tue Jun 22, 2010 9:54 am

Make sure you want to learn ancient Greek. If you don't, you won't. So go ahead and buy a book if you want to, you might pick up a little bit and satisfy linguistic curiosity--it certainly won't hurt you. But unless you have a reason for studying Greek, that book probably won't get a lot of use.
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Re: What's the best way to start to learn ancient Greek?

Postby jaihare » Sun Aug 15, 2010 7:45 pm

What ever happened with this study? It only lasted one post?? :(

Following the OP's example, though, I've opened a blog for my Greek study. Anyone may follow and comment as you see fit:

τέκνον μακάριον: http://teknonmakarion.blogspot.com/

ἔρρωσθε,
Ἰάσων
Jason Hare
jaihare@gmail.com

ὁ μὲν Παῦλος τοὺς ἐν ταῖς ἐκκλησίαις μαθητὰς τὴν χωρὶς νόμου δικαιοσύνην τὴν ἐν Χριστῷ ἐδίδασκεν, οἱ δ᾿ ἄλλοι ἀπόστολοι τοὺς ἀνθρώπους ἐδίδασκον τηρεῖν τὸν θεῖον νόμον τὸν χειρὶ Μωϋσέως δοθέντα.
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Re: What's the best way to start to learn ancient Greek?

Postby skywola » Wed Jul 11, 2012 1:43 am

First, I am far from an "expert", but you might want to check this out:

If you are good at self-study, take a look at this set on Amazon.com . . . http://www.amazon.com/Reading-Greek-Ass ... 0521219760

I would recommend that you read the reviews to see what other people are saying about the set to see if it is something you may like . . . and notice, I said "set", as it is not just one book.

I totally like this method, because I listen to the audio over and over until I get it. I like the narrative nature of it too.
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