Textkit Logo

How to learn Classical Greek if you are Greek?

Here's where you can discuss all things Ancient Greek. Use this board to ask questions about grammar, discuss learning strategies, get translation help and more!

How to learn Classical Greek if you are Greek?

Postby ioannis » Tue Jan 13, 2004 4:51 am

Hi there.

I am a Greek. When I was a secondary school boy, I was one of the worst ever students in Ancient Greek (not as bad as in Physical Education, but bad enough). At that time, greek people who wanted to do science, had to learn Ancient Greek for two agonising and traumatic years!

I understand most ancient greek words, but grammar and especially syntax is a total nightmare! So, when I see an ancient greek text, I essentially understand every word, but they all look random and arbitary in the sentences. I am totally unable to put these words in order to make some sense!

Is there any hope for me? I wonder how I can learn Ancient Greek, in the age of 34, being Greek. Are there any books here especially for disgraceful Greeks like me? What do you suggest to me (apart from commiting suicide for being a total disgrace to my nation and to myself)?

Thank you in advance.

Dr Ioannis Michalopoulos
Bioinformatician
User avatar
ioannis
Textkit Neophyte
 
Posts: 2
Joined: Tue Jan 13, 2004 4:36 am

Postby chad » Tue Jan 13, 2004 5:59 am

Try Thrasymachus by Peckett and Munday, 1990. It's really good. You should just be able to skim read the vocab list for each lesson at the back of the book, then start reading the lessons pretty fluently. Each lesson is a few paragraphs of Attic Greek prose, with correct Greek idiom and syntax. There's also a companion website here:

http://www.vroma.org/~abarker/thrascontents.html

but you don't really need to use the site if you've already done some ancient greek.

Another book I really like--which gives you lots of easy Greek to read, lots of syntax and idiom notes but makes you look up the Greek vocab yourself (which won't be a problem for you) is Lampas: A New Approach to Greek, Basil Blackwell, 1970. The authors have taken extracts from all the major authors, and amended the difficult verb constructions to make them pretty readable from the start. gradually more difficult constructions are introduced; the final extracts are unamended. this book is slightly harder than thrasymachus. both are worth finding because they pay at least as much attention to syntax and idiom as to morphology right from the start, unlike many other greek books. hope that helps, cheers, chad. :)
chad
Textkit Zealot
 
Posts: 757
Joined: Tue Jul 22, 2003 2:55 am

Postby mingshey » Tue Jan 13, 2004 6:03 am

Kaleemera, and wow!
Many people here liked to see a Greek so we could talk about how Greeks think about ancient Greek language. I was speculating that a Greek would have hardly any difficulty understanding ancient Greek, because one or more member from germanic language group said they have no difficulty with old English, and I, being a Korean, have little difficulty reading the Korean written in 1400's.
So, if a Greek says Ancient Greek is so difficult, how could I have the hope to (don't say master) be good at it, almost re-starting at the age of 34, too? :cry:
User avatar
mingshey
Textkit Zealot
 
Posts: 1325
Joined: Tue Aug 19, 2003 6:38 am
Location: Seoul

Postby 1%homeless » Tue Jan 13, 2004 7:03 am

hmm... I wonder if ioannis is related to William. :)

Anyways, you seem to be able to learn English, so I don't see why you can't learn Ancient Greek. Your native greek is some how really getting in the way of your learning. Who knows how many of those words still mean the same thing as in ancient greek? Perhaps the difference of pronunciation makes morphology and meanings confusing too? Obviously, it would be very difficult to completely forget modern greek and start over with ancient greek. :) I guess you're going to need a whole lot of patience. :)
User avatar
1%homeless
Textkit Enthusiast
 
Posts: 440
Joined: Tue Oct 21, 2003 6:21 am
Location: East Hollywood

Postby chad » Tue Jan 13, 2004 7:26 am

we'll all get it in the end mingshey, whether we're greek or not: classical greek was just another normal language which people happily chatted away in without a problem. it just seems so hard to us beginners because of the way we approach it:

1. we learn it through grammar... the unit of grammar is the word, and we try to get the words right first, then "build" the words into phrases, then into clauses, following the rules of syntax and applying the morphology rules on the fly. no-one can or could do that fluently. i think the greeks, like everyone else, learned the other way: stock phrases with the conjugations, declensions &c already worked out: "I want a [x]", "can we go to the [x]", "this makes me feel [x]", and then as they got older they started to get a sense of the individual words (when they were already fluent at a basic level).

i've found that e.g. if you take very general greek sentences, practice saying and thinking them fluently, and then make a few little changes, e.g. substitute new nouns/adjectives for the old, you can start to try a few whole new sentences without too much effort; e.g. plato parmenides 137c:

[face=SPIonic]ei) e9/n e0stin, a!llo ti ou0k a@n ei1h polla\ to\ e3n;[/face]

if "the one" is, the one would not be many

[face=SPIonic]ei) to\ pe/raj e0sti/n, a!llo ti ou0k a@n ei1h a1peiron to\ pe/raj;[/face]

if the finite is, the finite would not be infinite

similarly with homer, e.g. I.1.1:

[face=SPIonic]mh=nin a!eide qea& Phlhi+a&dew 'Axilh=oj[/face]

replace:

[face=SPIonic]mh=nin a!eide qea& Laertia&dew 'Odush=oj[/face]

[face=SPIonic]mh=nin a!eide qea& e9kathbo/lou 'Apo&llwnoj[/face]

&c. if you learned enough phrases in a genre, and figured out how to change them to say different things, you'd probably be able to say a fair few things quite fluently after a bit.

2. we start reading the greats, or working up to them: the average greek learner back in ancient times, as well as singing a bit of homer, would have had lots more exposure to simpler written greek, on vases and stuff at home, on inscriptions and graffiti around town, &c. we're doing it the hard way, but we'll get it eventually :)
chad
Textkit Zealot
 
Posts: 757
Joined: Tue Jul 22, 2003 2:55 am

Postby mingshey » Tue Jan 13, 2004 8:41 am

I hope so, chad :)
User avatar
mingshey
Textkit Zealot
 
Posts: 1325
Joined: Tue Aug 19, 2003 6:38 am
Location: Seoul

Postby annis » Tue Jan 13, 2004 1:51 pm

1%homeless wrote:hmm... I wonder if ioannis is related to William. :)


There is not, to the best of my knowledge, any Greek in my ancestry, even if I was born in a city named Sparta (Wisconsin, USA). Though, given the steady stream of disclosures about, um, irregularities in the parentage of various relatives, I shouldn't be surprised if there is.
William S. Annis — http://www.aoidoi.org/http://www.scholiastae.org/
τίς πατέρ' αἰνήσει εἰ μὴ κακοδαίμονες υἱοί;
annis
Textkit Zealot
 
Posts: 3397
Joined: Fri Jan 03, 2003 4:55 pm
Location: Madison, WI, USA

Postby annis » Tue Jan 13, 2004 1:56 pm

chad wrote:i've found that e.g. if you take very general greek sentences, practice saying and thinking them fluently, and then make a few little changes, e.g. substitute new nouns/adjectives for the old, you can start to try a few whole new sentences without too much effort;


This is excellent. It's how I learn modern languages. I memorize an entire dialogue. I mean really memorize it. Then start tweaking. When I was in college, our teacher inflicted these dialogues on us, and then had us modify them in various ways on the fly by playing one part and switching things. A little stressful, but quite effective.

The memorizing of idiotic conversations isn't in itself very interesting - in fact, it can be downright awful - but it really burns grammar into the brain.

I've memorized a number of Greek poems. I have plans to memorize parts of some of Lucian's choicer dialogues eventually.
William S. Annis — http://www.aoidoi.org/http://www.scholiastae.org/
τίς πατέρ' αἰνήσει εἰ μὴ κακοδαίμονες υἱοί;
annis
Textkit Zealot
 
Posts: 3397
Joined: Fri Jan 03, 2003 4:55 pm
Location: Madison, WI, USA

Re: How to learn Classical Greek if you are Greek?

Postby annis » Tue Jan 13, 2004 2:03 pm

ioannis wrote:Is there any hope for me? I wonder how I can learn Ancient Greek, in the age of 34, being Greek. Are there any books here especially for disgraceful Greeks like me?


There are none like that here.

On another mailing list I remember reading a native Greek crying about the sad state of Greek education because someone has started to publish books with classical Greek texts with lots and lots of footnotes for grammar and vocab for native Greeks. He mentioned no titles.

If I go grab a copy of Chaucer's Canterbury Tales in the original Middle English, most modern editions will have notes, too, and probably a dictionary and mini-grammar explaining notable differences. A little time spent with that and you can pick up the grammar nicely. Are there no such books for modern Greeks? Have you called your local librarian or some big booksellers to ask about this?

Bioinformatician


Yikes! A few years ago my department added the phrase "and Bioinformatics" to the name. I'm still not quite sure what that means. We even have a bunch of faculty now, and their most notable product (to my computer support view) is the extraordinary amount of disk space they can use. :)
William S. Annis — http://www.aoidoi.org/http://www.scholiastae.org/
τίς πατέρ' αἰνήσει εἰ μὴ κακοδαίμονες υἱοί;
annis
Textkit Zealot
 
Posts: 3397
Joined: Fri Jan 03, 2003 4:55 pm
Location: Madison, WI, USA

Postby 1%homeless » Tue Jan 13, 2004 7:09 pm

annis wrote:There is not, to the best of my knowledge, any Greek in my ancestry, even if I was born in a city named Sparta (Wisconsin, USA). Though, given the steady stream of disclosures about, um, irregularities in the parentage of various relatives, I shouldn't be surprised if there is.


Hmm... so annis isn't a greek name?
User avatar
1%homeless
Textkit Enthusiast
 
Posts: 440
Joined: Tue Oct 21, 2003 6:21 am
Location: East Hollywood

Postby annis » Tue Jan 13, 2004 7:46 pm

1%homeless wrote:Hmm... so annis isn't a greek name?


Might be, but it's English, in my case. I believe there's an Arabic last name that sometimes gets spelled this way.

I don't have a Greek NT handy. Isn't "Ioannis" just the name that's "John" in English?
William S. Annis — http://www.aoidoi.org/http://www.scholiastae.org/
τίς πατέρ' αἰνήσει εἰ μὴ κακοδαίμονες υἱοί;
annis
Textkit Zealot
 
Posts: 3397
Joined: Fri Jan 03, 2003 4:55 pm
Location: Madison, WI, USA

Postby klewlis » Tue Jan 13, 2004 8:09 pm

yes except in the NT it's [face=SPIonic]Iwannhj[/face], 1st Dec. Masc, and there is no "is" form.
User avatar
klewlis
Global Moderator
Global Moderator
 
Posts: 1484
Joined: Tue Jul 29, 2003 1:48 pm
Location: Edmonton, Canada

Postby Skylax » Tue Jan 13, 2004 8:19 pm

In modern Greek, -h- -oi- and -ei- are pronounced as -i- .
User avatar
Skylax
Textkit Enthusiast
 
Posts: 672
Joined: Fri Jun 06, 2003 8:18 am
Location: Belgium

Postby chad » Tue Jan 13, 2004 11:13 pm

hi william, yes i do the same with modern languages as well like you... i bought an excellent cd reading of baudelaire's flowers of evil when i was in paris in june, and am memorising the whole thing... and then substituting a few words here and there in clauses and testing them in google searches to see whether or not they're idiomatic. i think it's important in learning languages to practice both ways of composition: building clauses from the bottom up (combining words and phrases through the rules of morphology and syntax) and from the top down (taking whole phrases and substituting as little as possible to say something completely new).

re homer, i'm trying to build up a list of about 10 variants for each line of the iliad, using perseus dynamic cluster word searches... it would be good to be able to compose little homeric stories in dactylic hex on the spot, like "sing the wrath of odysseus, who brought many woes to the suitors"; "sing the wrath of telamon ajax, who brought many woes to the prize cattle"; &c :) that's probably what the epic bards used to do themselves.

i'm still trying to figure out how homer most commonly filled 1-beat and 2-beat gaps in the metre where some formulas don't quite fit, e.g. would homer say

[face=SPIonic]mh=nin a!eide qea& tou= 3Ektoroj a)ndrofo/noio[/face]

or something else instead of [face=SPIonic]tou=[/face]? according to milman parry, epic bards would have been able to sing something like "sing the wrath of hector" without a prob, but i don't know what word he would have most likely used as filler here.

similarly,

[face=SPIonic]mh=nin a!eide qea& moi Poseida/wnoj a!naktoj [/face]

would homer have most likely used moi here, like odyssey 1.1, or a particle or something else? any advice from the homer experts here would be much appreciated. thanks heaps, chad. :)
chad
Textkit Zealot
 
Posts: 757
Joined: Tue Jul 22, 2003 2:55 am

Postby mingshey » Wed Jan 14, 2004 12:17 am

Yes, Chad and William. That's how I learned English. Lots of idiomatic phrases and practical sentences helped greatly. Various media was used indeed. casette tapes, school lessons, TV lessons, etc. I could listen and practice with so many English sentences and the grammar got carved in my brain. But with Greek, there are only books. Of course there are some works recited you can find on the web. But they are not very instructive.
Learning the poems by heart might help. But poems are more free from normal grammar, isn't it true for greek, too? and I don't want to confuse myself with Homeric greek, yet.
How about those drama scripts as by Aeschilos or other authors? Are they recommendable for learning normal conversational grammar and vocabulary?
User avatar
mingshey
Textkit Zealot
 
Posts: 1325
Joined: Tue Aug 19, 2003 6:38 am
Location: Seoul

Postby annis » Wed Jan 14, 2004 12:31 am

I've shifted this interesting conversational classical Greek over to its own thread:

http://www.textkit.com/greek-latin-forum/viewtopic.php?t=1220
William S. Annis — http://www.aoidoi.org/http://www.scholiastae.org/
τίς πατέρ' αἰνήσει εἰ μὴ κακοδαίμονες υἱοί;
annis
Textkit Zealot
 
Posts: 3397
Joined: Fri Jan 03, 2003 4:55 pm
Location: Madison, WI, USA

Postby Kasper » Wed Jan 14, 2004 1:19 am

Sorry to continue here William, but I think this is more appropriate in this threat:

as you spoke of being able to read Chaucer and Shakespear and the like as they were originally written while having only 'studied' Modern English I wondered if the same would be possible in Greek. As Greek seems to be divided into Homeric, Attic and NT, how do these relate to each other, and does learning one of those still allow you to read the others?
I am currently studying Attic Greek with White's book, will I still be able to read Homer and the NT? And what is the chronological order of these three? Homeric -> Attic -> NT?
“Cum ego verbo utar,” Humpty Dumpty dixit voce contempta, “indicat illud quod optem – nec plus nec minus.”
“Est tamen rogatio” dixit Alice, “an efficere verba tot res indicare possis.”
“Rogatio est, “Humpty Dumpty responsit, “quae fiat magister – id cunctum est.”
Kasper
Textkit Zealot
 
Posts: 799
Joined: Wed Nov 05, 2003 3:01 am
Location: Melbourne

Postby annis » Wed Jan 14, 2004 4:07 am

Kasper wrote:I am currently studying Attic Greek with White's book, will I still be able to read Homer and the NT?


Yes, but.

All three have a very great deal in common, but they all have differences, too. Attic->NT will be easiest, but you'll want some notes. Going from either Attic or Koine to Homeric is trickier in some ways: some case endings are a bit different, and words can mean quite different things. For example, the word that means "to sin" in the NT simply means to miss a target most of the time in Homer ([face=spionic]a(marta/nw[/face]). Attic "to jabber" simply means "to speak" in the Koine.

And what is the chronological order of these three? Homeric -> Attic -> NT?


Yes, but you shouldn't assume direct transmission. Homer's Ionic has more in common with Herodotus than Attic of the same period. In addition to many simplifications on Attic, the Koine borrowed a lot from Ionic.

While I'd usually recommend starting with Homeric, starting with Attic is fine, too. No matter where you start, you'll have to make some adjustments to move to a different dialect. Starting with Koine is somewhat easier, but you have a lot more to learn to go from there to Homer or Attic, whole new conjugation systems, in fact. It just depends how you want to pace your effort (in light of what you want to read, of course).
William S. Annis — http://www.aoidoi.org/http://www.scholiastae.org/
τίς πατέρ' αἰνήσει εἰ μὴ κακοδαίμονες υἱοί;
annis
Textkit Zealot
 
Posts: 3397
Joined: Fri Jan 03, 2003 4:55 pm
Location: Madison, WI, USA

Postby ioannis » Wed Jan 14, 2004 2:34 pm

klewlis wrote:yes except in the NT it's [face=SPIonic]Iwannhj[/face], 1st Dec. Masc, and there is no "is" form.


And of course [face=SPIonic]Iwannhj[/face] is not a Greek name. It is derived from the Hebrew name "Yochanan" meaning "Yahweh (God) is gracious". Modern Greek tend to name their children with Hebrew than Greek names to forget their "guilty" (12 God Religion) past.

[face=SPIonic]Iwannhj[/face]
User avatar
ioannis
Textkit Neophyte
 
Posts: 2
Joined: Tue Jan 13, 2004 4:36 am

Postby Emma_85 » Wed Jan 14, 2004 4:53 pm

When I first tried to read some old English it was difficult, I did understand most words, but not the sentences :wink: . The same problem. My old English still isn't very good, I mean it's not like I understand every single word, I could look it up in the commentary, but I just can't be bothered. I can understand texts well enough now, though.
What I did was take an old English text and a modern version of it. Maybe if you did the same that would help. Read the Modern Greek translation of Plato and then try to read Plato in the original. Later only read it in the original and only if you don't understand it or something makes no sense read the translation. Don't know if this method will help you, it helped me, but I wasn't trying to learn Old English thoroughly.
phpbb
User avatar
Emma_85
Global Moderator
Global Moderator
 
Posts: 1564
Joined: Thu Jul 03, 2003 8:01 pm
Location: London

Postby mingshey » Thu Jan 15, 2004 12:33 am

ioannis wrote:Modern Greek tend to name their children with Hebrew than Greek names to forget their "guilty" (12 God Religion) past.

[face=SPIonic]Iwannhj[/face]


when I'm trying to name my daughter with ancient Greek. :D
Maybe it's time for Israelis like Kalailan, in turn, to name their children with Korean. :P
User avatar
mingshey
Textkit Zealot
 
Posts: 1325
Joined: Tue Aug 19, 2003 6:38 am
Location: Seoul

Postby 1%homeless » Thu Jan 15, 2004 1:15 am

when I'm trying to name my daughter with ancient Greek.
Maybe it's time for Israelis like Kalailan, in turn, to name their children with Korean.


hahahaha!
User avatar
1%homeless
Textkit Enthusiast
 
Posts: 440
Joined: Tue Oct 21, 2003 6:21 am
Location: East Hollywood


Return to Learning Greek

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: MSNbot Media and 43 guests