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Attic or Homeric first

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Attic or Homeric first

Postby Venabili » Fri Oct 05, 2012 1:31 am

Hi everyone,

Where to start - with Homeric or with Attic Greek? The long term plan is to pick up both (plus Koine) and the order does not really matter - I can start with either Homer or something else. So looking for what will end up the better progression.

I am not very good with reading courses - give me an old fashioned grammar-based class and I can get through almost anything (and the knowledge remains for the future); a reading class that hides the grammar or presents it as a feature of the text usually goes just fine while I am working on it and I forget it almost immediately. I know that most people prefer the new methods of language study but... they simply don't work for me. Textbooks using the reading method make for very good readers though.

So - Attic or Homeric? And based on my preference of type of class, which textbook (self-study so I need something that actually has an answer key - does not matter if it is free or paid)?
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Re: Attic or Homeric first

Postby C. S. Bartholomew » Fri Oct 05, 2012 3:44 am

Of the older Homer texts, I prefer Benner to Phar. I tried using Phar but it was a no go. Benner was something I could do with one book. I did pick up a copy of Cunliffe's Lexicon. Found it was indispensable once I started actually reading. So with two books you can do four books of the Iliad. Later on I picked up Monro's grammar. Don't particularly like it and it certainly isn't for beginners.
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Re: Attic or Homeric first

Postby Venabili » Fri Oct 05, 2012 5:04 am

Thanks. :)

What does not work in Pharr? He seems to be very popular (and not just in Textkit) - which does not mean that it will work for everyone and I usually fare very badly with textbooks that everyone likes. Thus the question actually. And I am going to lookuop Benner's book - haven't even heard of it before.

Thanks for bringing up Cunliffe's Lexicon - it does seem like something I'll need for Homeric. Looking it up on Amazon finds the classical version and an expanded one published recently. Any ideas how the two compare (and should I get the newer one or just to stick with the standard one).

I have Mastronarde but don't want to start there if Homeric as a start makes more sense. And I am not sure if this is a good start for Attic - I just got it because it was there and looked interesting.
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Re: Attic or Homeric first

Postby spiphany » Fri Oct 05, 2012 7:31 am

If you want to start with Attic, Mastronarde is excellent. He has also some excellent web tutorials to help reinforce some of the grammar in the early chapters.

I honestly think you should start with whichever dialect you're most interested in reading. William Annis argues for starting with Homeric, but I did it the other way around and think there are some advantages to starting with Attic. Particularly if you're interested in reading Koine, Attic has more overlap in vocabulary and grammatical forms. Homeric can feel a bit...chaotic at first, because there are a variety of morphological forms which are used interchangeably (i.e., contracted vs. uncontracted nound and verb endings, alternative forms for pronouns). If you like to have the illusion--at least in the initial stages--that the language you're learning is regular and orderly, then Attic may be somewhat more reassuring. Plus you already have Mastronarde. I'd say go for it, give him a try and see if his approach works for you.
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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Re: Attic or Homeric first

Postby Venabili » Fri Oct 05, 2012 8:13 am

The problem is that I might want to read Homer now and a few weeks down the road to change my mind and decide that I'd rather read Plato first. :)

I don't have any illusions that any language will be ordered and regular - had seen too many of them to believe such a fairy tale anymore. I will get around to Koine eventually simply because it is the logical thing to do but I am in no hurry and the New Testament is more literature than anything else for me.

So leave Homeric and Koine out for now, concentrate on Attic and then pick up Homeric some time down the road? Any recommendations on additional materials with the Mastronarde besides the online materials?
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Re: Attic or Homeric first

Postby Polyidos » Thu Oct 11, 2012 11:55 pm

Venabili wrote:
What does not work in Pharr? He seems to be very popular (and not just in Textkit) - which does not mean that it will work for everyone and I usually fare very badly with textbooks that everyone likes. Thus the question actually. And I am going to look up Benner's book - haven't even heard of it before.


Some people find that Pharr simply doesn't offer full enough explanations. The lessons themselves will say learn this declension, or conjugation of a particular tense and mood, or aspects of syntax merely by referencing the material, which is collected in the back part of the book, by section number. The rest of each lesson consists of Greek to English exercises, a passage from the Iliad to be translated (starting at lesson XIII) with notes, English to Greek exercises (through Lesson L II) and a vocabulary list.

If one diligently reads the indicated sections of the Grammar and skips around to find all the bits of related material lurking, sometimes, in other sections, it is possible to achieve a decent foothold on Homeric Greek.

Benner's book was written in 1903 (Google Books has an edition printed in 1910) and consists of Iliad selections, taken across the whole work, together with copious notes to the student and a brief Homeric Grammar. Unlike Pharr, however, it does not take a student from no knowledge of Greek whatsoever, it assumes at least a full year of Attic Greek.

Thanks for bringing up Cunliffe's Lexicon - it does seem like something I'll need for Homeric. Looking it up on Amazon finds the classical version and an expanded one published recently. Any ideas how the two compare (and should I get the newer one or just to stick with the standard one).


Personally, I find Cunliffe to be indispensable, mainly because one needn't worry about all of the senses and citations from post-Homeric material found in the Liddell Scott Jones dictionaries. Everything in it is strictly Homeric. The new edition seems to have added in a dictionary of proper nouns: names of people, patronymics, places. Cunliffe compiled this while working on the lexicon but decided to publish it separately to keep the page count (and cost) down. It also has a short errata list and apparently gives a fuller explanation of the system used in citations to indicate books within the Iliad and Odyssey. Otherwise, it is the same as the old edition. It only costs a few dollars more than the original edition so if you choose to purchase it, I would say get the extended version.

I have Mastronarde but don't want to start there if Homeric as a start makes more sense. And I am not sure if this is a good start for Attic - I just got it because it was there and looked interesting.


I like Mastronarde because it does give extensive explanations of grammar points (and often gives examples in English to remind students of the principles before going on to the Greek.) An answer key is also available for purchase.

In the past, most Greek textbooks assumed that students had had a couple years of Latin study and generally prepared them to read Xenophon's The Anabasis. Mastronarde's choice of vocabulary still tends in that direction but also looks toward Plato and Herodotus.

Spiphany's points about Homer are all spot on. With Homer, there is more variability in endings and spelling in general, there are lots of words used only once, and some of the patterns of syntax are not yet as rigid as they become in Attic. However, compared to, say, Plato, Aristotle, Thucydides, Homeric syntax is much more straightforward. Also, there are lots of phrases and epithets which are used repeatedly and even whole verses that are appear more than once.

So, I would say it really is an even tradeoff between learning Attic or Homeric. It really does come down to which authors interest you the most.
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Re: Attic or Homeric first

Postby pster » Fri Oct 12, 2012 1:40 am

I did all of Mastronarde and I don't know much about other textbooks. I have a love hate relationship with Mastronarde that is more hate and less love as the years pass. I love it because it is thorough. It is what I wanted in a textbook when I started. The indecies are very good. And it has been proofread so many times, there are almost no typos left. And the web page is very good and shows a admirable level of commitment. But I hate how little fun it was. I have no happy memories from it. None at all. For example, he gives English words that derive from various Greek words, but he frequently chooses really obscure English words like 'poliorcetics' or 'eurygnathous'. That is poor pedagogy. More importantly, the book also has a bit of an identity crisis and can't make up its mind whether it is a text book or a reference book and the default tone is that of a reference book. After the first chapter or two, there are virtually no interesting or amusing cultural or historical observations. Nada. Another thing that doesn't get mentioned is that if you use Mastonarde, because it is so thorough, you will likely be referring to it for years to come. And while the binding is decent, it is a bit large and somewhat floppy. Add to that that it has the layout of a text book and not a reference book. So when you go back to look at conditional sentences you will be looking in Units 34 and 36--far from ideal for later reference. I say forget Mastronarde and do something that is fun. For Bauhaus, less was more. For Mastronarde, more is less.

I wish I had started with Homer. Lots of recordings of it--well at least more than any other Greek. Nice poetry. And you will have something to show for your first year of work. If you start with Attic and Mastronarde, you may get to some Plato. But if you start with Homer, you will get to a lot of Homer--at least if you go the Pfarr route. And if you should quit after a year, at least you'll have something to show for it.
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Re: Attic or Homeric first

Postby Venabili » Fri Oct 12, 2012 6:15 am

I am in the "explain the grammar before going too deep into vocabulary" camp. I've learned Russian, English and German in the past - and the biggest issue I had with the inflected Russian was that I had to relearn some words once a certain grammar points were covered (it was in elementary school so there was no other way really but...). I've tried a reading method with Spanish and a few years later I don't remember anything (admittedly I let it slip).

When I was learning English, we went through a huge number of verbs without learning the irregular verbs second and third form. When we got around to the past and perfect tenses, these forms had to be learned overnight. Verbs I had learned later, in their full entries don't present any issues to me even to this day. Some of those early ones, especially the ones I don't use that often - I need to think on their forms. And Present Perfect was a nightmare for years. Admittedly, English is not inflected - so this was a problem with the "to English" translations but in an inflected language, it will be a problem in the other way around as well.

You need vocabulary to read but without the grammar in the inflected languages, you end up memorizing a ton of forms that actually make sense on their own. Fun have a different definition for anyone - I have fun conjugating verbs for example. It makes me feel that I learn something. And if I am able to recognize a form by just seeing it, then the battle towards reading is half won.

I don't have any short-term goals in reading real Greek in an year - I will wait as long as it takes. But I don't want to end relearning half of the things I think I know so that I can start reading fast enough. Call me weird if you wish - but when I finally decided to learn the language, I can as well do it fully.

Polyidos,

Thanks for the explanation for Pharr. That's what I was looking for and this kinda throws it out of any of my plans (except as a reader/exercise book down the road).

pster,

Any recommendation for accompanying book with the Mastronarde? He does mention in the preface that the teacher should provide the cultural and anecdotal elements to liven up the class... For self- learners there is no teacher.
I am not really worried about this part - once I get to reading, I will be a lot more prepared for it than if I rush to it. I may be wrong of course and I might as well change my mind in a few months but then... I will simply switch books.
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Re: Attic or Homeric first

Postby pster » Fri Oct 12, 2012 3:17 pm

Venabili wrote:
pster,

Any recommendation for accompanying book with the Mastronarde? He does mention in the preface that the teacher should provide the cultural and anecdotal elements to liven up the class... For self- learners there is no teacher.
I am not really worried about this part - once I get to reading, I will be a lot more prepared for it than if I rush to it. I may be wrong of course and I might as well change my mind in a few months but then... I will simply switch books.


Nah, I got nothing for you. This and related subjects have been discussed a lot on the forum. Teaching is an art. Text book writing is an art. What I think presents the biggest obstacle to anybody who tries to teach Greek is the huge number of forms that the student has to learn. (And that is just for Attic! If you add in Homeric and Koine, then there are even more forms.) Go look at Mastronarde's paradigms and click around. http://socrates.berkeley.edu/~ancgreek/ ... s4BOM.html Most people on this forum actually know most of those paradigms. The grammar is a piece of cake relatively speaking. The paradigms are hell. Now how do you want to approach that? Mastronarde, like most of the other books, is going to give you three paradigms a week, and after 42 weeks, you'll supposedly have learned everything that is on that web site. Except, unless you have photographic memory, you won't. When you go and pick up Plato, you will encounter a word you don't know. Then you will look it up in the dictionary. Then you will often check the ending against your list of paradigms to make sure you know what form it is. Often you will have to decide between different forms that share the same spelling. And you will have to look at the rest of the sentence to get a better grip on the function. While you are doing that, you will wonder what exactly you learned in Mastronarde.

So what is my point? Others can speak about their experience, but I would say that "learning" Greek isn't like learning any living language. I think that unless you are going to just read the easiest authors, it is much more of a life long process that consists of text, lexicon, commentary, and grammar. You're not going to finish Mastronarde, then cuddle up in bed with your favorite Attic writer. Stupidly, I somehow believed that was what was going to happpen. That really doesn't happen with Attic. Instead, for a long time, you will always feel like you are studying the language. One of the great classicists, maybe Fraenkel not sure, was asked how much Greek he knew and he said something like he probably knew what a 9 year old Athenian boy knew. And that was somebody who had devoted their whole life to it. It ain't like learning a living language. It ain't like learning a living language. And it ain't like learning Latin. Hell, you can still listen to the news in Latin. Attic is not a noun. It is a verb. And it means to spend ones time rotating: text, lexicon, commentary, grammar. So, as outrageous as it sounds, I would just say start that process now. Why wait until you are done reading Mastronarde? If you want to do Attic, get a Xenophon, an LSJ, a good student commentary on the Xenophon (preferably one with Smyth numbers), and a Smyth. Memorize the verb forms that you need to as you go along. Now the first page may take you 4 months, but that's fine. You'll learn plenty and you'll be doing the same thing that most of the posters on this forum do now. Go read some of the threads in this forum, especially the ones that refer to a passage in the title. You will see what people around here do with their time. It's very similar tow what I am suggesting you do with Xenophon. I've been at it for four years now, and I still put up posts asking why something is neuter when it seems it should be masculine, or what the Smyth number is for some verb form that looks odd.
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Re: Attic or Homeric first

Postby Venabili » Fri Oct 12, 2012 7:46 pm

So I will spend a few years working with graded readers and adapted texts. And probably more beginner's textbooks used as readers. I suspect I will read some of the "easy" works in more versions than I can imagine exist before I really read them.

As I said - I am not in a hurry to read "real" Greek. Not because I don't want to but because I realize that it will not be easy. And because I jumped into reading English very fast with the wrong book and spent a month in deciphering the text. And English is not even inflected. I did not give up later on simply because the books I wanted to read were not translated. :)
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Re: Attic or Homeric first

Postby Venabili » Fri Oct 12, 2012 7:50 pm

OK - was writing while you were editing :)

I understand the idea of starting to read instead of dealing with the textbook but... this way never worked for me. I am better in learning the grammar and then using it than the other way around. Which does not mean that I won't decide to try when I get really tired from verbs and so on...
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Re: Attic or Homeric first

Postby pster » Fri Oct 12, 2012 7:54 pm

Sometimes I edit 30 times. Bad habit. You may want to reread. I've probably changed a few things.

Also, pretty much everybody on this forum has a different approach, so don't expect much consensus.
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Re: Attic or Homeric first

Postby pster » Fri Oct 12, 2012 8:04 pm

Venabili wrote:I am better in learning the grammar


Take a look at Smyth: http://archive.org/stream/rosettaprojec ... 0/mode/2up

When you read a real text, you may find yourself looking at almost any section of Smyth. You can't really learn enough of the grammar before you start working on texts. Mastronarde will prepare you for Attic texts only in the broad sense.

I'll tell you how hard I think it is. If I had known, I never would have started. I have been studying two other living languages along with Attic over the last 4 years. I have read a couple of thousand pages of literature in both of those languages and can get around fine on vacation. I think that Attic is about 6 times harder than something like German. If you throw in all of Ancient Greek, I would say it is 10 times harder.
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Re: Attic or Homeric first

Postby Venabili » Fri Oct 12, 2012 8:25 pm

Oh, no worries. I am not looking for a consensus - just for people's thoughts.

And I will remember for the edits and will wait a bit next time :)

That is why I mentioned the graded readers. They have their place to help a bit with the transition when you don't have all the grammar. Sooner or later, one must jump into the reading but the way I see it, it will take a while...

As for live languages - I am slowly working on some. Greek (and Latin) are my pet projects. Just something I never had a chance to learn back in school. Will I get anywhere in the next few months/years? Doubt it. Long term - that's the plan. So... we'll see. I suspect that I will be posting for a long time around here when I get to a problem... and there will be a lot of those:)
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Re: Attic or Homeric first

Postby Polyidos » Sun Oct 14, 2012 4:11 am

I didn't really mean to scare you away from Pharr's text. It covers the whole of the first book of the Iliad and gives you a dozen lessons to learn the basics before dropping you into the opening of the poem. It is a bit inconvenient to use (at least at first) because it lacks an index to the grammar sections, but it doesn't try to drown the student in every stray form and exception to the basic grammar rules. Given that it is available for free, I would say give it a try (if Homer is of any interest to you) but be prepared to augment it with a fuller lexicon (Cunliffe's is recommended if English is not a problem) and an occasional bit of puzzling through passages that are puzzling to just about everybody who studies Homer.

Pster does make a number of valid points in regard to Mastronarde. It does have a hard time making up its mind about whether it is a text book or a reference book. Often, it doesn't truly succeed at either. However, when the mass of material covered by the true reference grammars is too much Mastronarde's book can be of some value.

If you want other suggestions (in English) the JACT Reading Greek course has lots of cultural background material (in separate volumes of course) and strictly derives its Greek texts from ancient authors. At first they are heavily adapted, but by the end of the course the student is reading completely unadapted material. It does have a funny notion that one should learn declensions in bits and pieces. At first, the student is asked to just learn the nominative and accusative forms, adding the others as needed. It's weird but I suppose it worked for the authors' students. (Full disclosure: I used the original edition of the JACT course for a year-long, adult continuing education course and found it useful.)

The classic textbook by Crosby and Schaeffer(originally from 1928) has been republished recently. It is geared to preparing the student to read Xenophon but moves the student quickly through most of the verb tenses and moods.

In a similar vein is Beginner's Greek Book by Herbert Weir Smyth and Allen Rogers Benner (yes, the same Smyth of the Greek Grammer and Benner of Selections from Homer) originally published in 1906. I found a nice copy in a used book shop many years ago and found it a solid introduction.

In the end, everybody has their own understandings of what constitutes a useful guide for the study of a language. If you find it of value, it is the right book for you.

Cheers.
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Re: Attic or Homeric first

Postby Venabili » Sun Oct 14, 2012 6:12 am

English is not a problem -- which made it possible to start learning Greek and Latin really - the materials in Bulgarian are far and few between :)

I am not discounting Pharr for a future reader - it sounds like something that will work for that. Same with the JACT course. I have a problem with reading declensions in pieces - I prefer all the rules at the beginning instead of the usual textbook ("and this is an exception which you need to memorize..." and then 3 units down the road "and here is a small rule that this irregularity follows" - like the i->a->u irregular verbs in English).

My background is in Maths (and Programming later) - give me any rule no matter how complicated and I will be just fine; make me memorize something and give me the rules later and I am struggling to connect the dots. Back in the times when I was learning English, I had 3 years of English with one of the Cambridge programs ("Discover" - in the early nineties and I might have the name wrong - it had been discontinued) (modern - pictures, readings and all) and I knew pretty much nothing and could not say/read anything that was not in these textbooks word for word. It was the standard intensive grammar class after that which worked.
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Re: Attic or Homeric first

Postby stephenesherman » Wed Dec 05, 2012 2:54 pm

Not sure if you have decided, but, as you are planning on learning both, then definitely Homeric first.

My original long-term goal was to read Homer, but (after due research and consideration) decided to start with Attic (Mastronarde). After 3 years, of that, I moved over to Homer, spent 2 years on that, and am now back to Attic. Should I say "and starting over, going more slowly and thoroughly, as I should have in the first place?"

In any case, the Homeric background is very useful, for understanding the development of the language, and, of course, the frequent references and quotes that crop up in Attic texts.
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