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What Language Was Latin For The Greeks?

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What Language Was Latin For The Greeks?

Postby Jefferson Cicero » Sun Mar 30, 2014 3:51 pm

As everyone knows, for centuries in the post-Roman West, the study of Latin grammar was considered essential as the foundation of the Seven Liberal Arts. Of course it is unnecessary to go into the detail of why, except to say that the study of a foreign language was considered necessary in order for a student to properly learn how grammar works, since the study of the grammar of your native language was too easy and so the student wouldn't grasp it. Latin was the obvious choice for many reasons.

That begs the question, to which we already know the answer: what language did the Romans study to get that benefit? Of course they studied Greek.

By now you may already have figured out where this is leading, because that answer begs another question: What language did the Greeks study? Was the study of a foreign language part of Greek education, and if so, what language(s) did they study? Or did they just study Greek Grammar?
'Greek had to be simplified, and Latin had to be replaced with Italian, because we barbarians stole so many Greek and Latin words.'
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Re: What Language Was Latin For The Greeks?

Postby bedwere » Sun Mar 30, 2014 4:30 pm

Maybe nothing like for the Americans? :D
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Re: What Language Was Latin For The Greeks?

Postby Scribo » Sun Mar 30, 2014 8:49 pm

Ha! you're over-estimating how many people back then underwent anything like a course of study. There are essentially two elements to the answer.

i) Bilingualism was common in the ancient word and how a lot of specific encoded information was passed from one culture to another. But this didn't necessarily take a formal angle. No one really sat down as read the Akkadian Classics though we know of Greeks with access to such information.

ii) Grammatical study was rather rare and by the time it became in anyway common the Greek of the texts was sufficiently differentiated from the Greek of even educated speakers so as to make it challenging enough. Most work took the form of scholia on texts or dictionaries, grammar lagging somewhat behind.

So basically, yes they studied their own language and not a Latin equivalent but it was hardly native either.
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Re: What Language Was Latin For The Greeks?

Postby Markos » Mon Mar 31, 2014 2:21 am

Persian would have been the logical choice.

Also, to a limited extent Homeric Greek would have served that function. It at least taught Athenians about morphological change.
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Re: What Language Was Latin For The Greeks?

Postby Scribo » Mon Mar 31, 2014 11:27 am

No it wouldn't, Persian was spoken by actual Persians and perhaps understood with a little difficulty by other western Iranian speakers but the languages of administration were Aramaic, Akkadian and Elamite which would have made sense. Herodotus' famous blunder of confusing the word for "companions" (which, ironically, the Macedonians under much Persian influence got right) with "immortal" clearly stems from a mix up in spoken Persian. But that doesn't mean, necessarily, that he was much good in it or it was widespread. Especially because he had connections through the Carian Royal Family, right? So when Plutarch or whoever claims that Thucydides went and learnt Persian we should probably substitute that for some other language. Meh that entire episode smacks of typical nonsense anyway.

I dare say Homeric Greek could have served that function well, but honestly within the later Greek world people often over-estimate the concentration on Homer. It was too far different for all but a group of specialists and so concentration on what we call "Classical" Greek was enough for most people. But, guys, don't forget that literacy and study were not the norm and the overwhelming cases of bi-lingualism were from intermarriage, trading and other social contact.
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Re: What Language Was Latin For The Greeks?

Postby Jefferson Cicero » Mon Mar 31, 2014 2:07 pm

Thank you, Scibo. Actually, I wasn't overestimating the number, as I was aware that it was mostly elites who got what we might call a formal education, and I'm not sure that it would have been all that formal in the modern sense anyway.

The first element of your answer is something that I had already assumed without knowing for certain, but it stood to reason, since many Greeks were merchants, sailors, soldiers, and mercenaries. I almost included a speculation on that idea in the original question but dropped it for brevity's sake. I'm glad you brought it up since it provides confirmation.

The second element in your answer is quite interesting. I didn't think of it. Greek has changed much more slowly over time than English, thus, classical Greek stands roughly in the same relationship to modern Greek as Elizabethan English does to modern English, and so I assumed that Homeric couldn't be all that different from Classical. Perhaps I should break open an Homeric grammar some time.

So Homeric could play the part instead of a foreign language. That makes perfect sense, since Old English or Middle English could do it for modern English speakers.

Markos, I agree that Persian would have been logical. I was thinking Phoenician, Egyptian, or Akkadian. On the other hand, Persian, Egyptian and Akkadian might have been a little much because of the writing systems. I would have bet on Phoenician because at least it was alphabetical.
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Re: What Language Was Latin For The Greeks?

Postby Scribo » Mon Mar 31, 2014 2:46 pm

"Greek has changed much more slowly over time than English, thus, classical Greek stands roughly in the same relationship to modern Greek as Elizabethan English does to modern English"

No that's one of those tedious internet facts and the kind of stuff one finds on the lips of ignorant Greek nationalists. The two aren't even in the same ball-park. I'm pretty sure that's even came up here a few times...It's not even vaguely true.

As for the other languages, I repeat that Old Persian is not at all logical for the reasons I give above. It was highly restricted in usage throughout the Achaemenid Empire. If it wasn't, we'd actually have basic things like full verbal morphology (we don't). Tolman's lexicon and inscription is available online for free if you're curious about the language.

As for those other languages, we don't have real evidence for direct Greek engagement with those literary cultures but we have several examples of information/literature originally encoded in those languages making their way into Greek. Actually the most interesting examples for modern students would be Berossos (maybe the Babylonian priest Bēl-rē'ušunu) and Manetho (Egyptian priest).
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Re: What Language Was Latin For The Greeks?

Postby Victor » Mon Mar 31, 2014 3:07 pm

Jefferson Cicero wrote: I would have bet on Phoenician because at least it was alphabetical.

Your argument seems to be that since the Romans studied Greek, a parallel phenomenon almost certainly occurred with the Greeks, and they likewise studied some foreign language with a longer history than their own. Wouldn't it be more logical to gather what evidence there is in the first place for any second-language study among the Greeks before permitting yourself to theorise about what that second language might have been?
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Re: What Language Was Latin For The Greeks?

Postby Jefferson Cicero » Mon Mar 31, 2014 4:30 pm

Victor wrote:
Jefferson Cicero wrote: I would have bet on Phoenician because at least it was alphabetical.

Your argument seems to be that since the Romans studied Greek, a parallel phenomenon almost certainly occurred with the Greeks, and they likewise studied some foreign language with a longer history than their own. Wouldn't it be more logical to gather what evidence there is in the first place for any second-language study among the Greeks before permitting yourself to theorise about what that second language might have been?


Actually, I wasn't assuming any such thing. I simply wanted to find out whether or not they did, and rather doubted it to begin with. Perhaps my question was misleading in the way that it was worded so that one might assume that I thought a parallel case existed, but then you can't always think of everything when you ask a question.
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Re: What Language Was Latin For The Greeks?

Postby Jefferson Cicero » Mon Mar 31, 2014 4:52 pm

Scribo, I said that the Greek language had changed that slowly because I had read it years ago in a book written by a linguist sometime during the late 30's or early 40's, and had seen it repeated elsewhere since then, in books and on the internet, but not on websites connected with Greek nationalists. Even so, it is easy to understand how such ideas can work their way even into books written by otherwise knowledgeable people. Propaganda invades every field of knowledge to some degree or other. You are the first person who has ever told me that Greek hasn't changed that slowly. I had never really given it much thought, but I believed it because of the slow rate of change in Icelandic, which at least proves the possibility of such slow linguistic change, but I always thought it rather strange that Greek would change so slowly considering Greece's total lack of geographic isolation and all the invasions, trade networks, etc.

Is there a good source from which can one find out how the Greek language has changed over time?

Lastly, you write as if you were a scholar. Are you a professor, perhaps a classical scholar or a philologist?
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Re: What Language Was Latin For The Greeks?

Postby Scribo » Mon Mar 31, 2014 5:52 pm

Nope not a professor, sorry, though all my hithero academic training has been in Classics.

It's interesting you point out propaganda, and it kind of is nowadays, but I think the myth of conservatism partially arose out of indifference! If you look at manuals of "modern" Greek from the 10's and 20's you'll see very little ancient there. Classically educated Europeans were keen to speak Greek and Greeks in the diaspora were presenting as Classicised a version of Greek as they could get away with. There's a lot of interesting intellectual history here actually. Suffice to say when these people went to Greece they couldn't actually speak with actual Greeks lol.

The problem is the sense of "conservatism", conservative in what? there are several facets to each language (phonology, morphology, syntax, lexicon - semantics thereof, etc) and no language is going to be equally conservative across ALL. Greek is impressively conservative in the sense that it hasn't broken up into differing languages - yet even so pre-modern dialects are quite different! Tsakonion, living Doric, has θ as Σ and η pronounced like ε (contra modern Greek ι) and υ as ου where standard as ι again. Romeika in Turkey has an infinitive, Pontic is morphologically more complex and hasn't been as iotacised etc etc. Even so we haven't seen the level of break up which gave rise to the Romance languages.

"but I always thought it rather strange that Greek would change so slowly considering Greece's total lack of geographic isolation and all the invasions, trade networks, etc."

This is key! Honestly most Classicists are bloody clueless of the early middle ages onwards, the foreign element in Greece was very...prominent, but are ignored by wishy washy thinking.

So if you briefly sketch out changes from ancient to modern. You have phonology (which I shan't cover, well known), the loss of dative (which means no verbs with dative etc), the loss of several third declensional noun classes save very literary Greek (but again Pontic has retained some), the lack of participles (one of the defining features in ancient Greek syntax, we only have a few left and they're not productive), athematic verbs, infinitives, optative mood, subjunctive mood (να + verb isn't really a proper subjunctive), the particles, several clausal markers have been list or assimilated etc I could go on but I'm actually bored of this list. That is a huge a** list and the difference between Modern and Elizabethan English isn't a fraction of that (which is largely a productive of orthography outside of the vowel shifting).

A lot of the so called conservatism, then, is a product of everyone learning ancient Greek and propaganda.

There are several good sources. The best for post-classical Greek is definitely Geoff Horrock's "A History of Greek and Its Speakers" which has, thankfully, finally came out in paperback form. As an undergraduate I had to fight to get hold of this book, it's the best book in any language on such a topic and translations will apear most surely. There's been a Greek one for a few years and I'm sure more will follow. Other than that, I always recommend the Blackwell Companion to Ancient Greek Language here because it has some bloody good articles, especially the one on phonology (though it pales in comparison to its Latin cousin, alas).

Btw it's interesting you mention Icelandic. I've always thought it was hyper-conservative though, but I've recently been told by a friend (who is a Germanic Philologist) that actually this conservatism is recent, that there was a deliberate purging of the language a while back and thus it's not natural conservatism. I had NO idea this could be successfully done. Honestly, clawing my way through the Volsung saga very slowly...I'm envious that they get such a head start.

Sorry we've sort of veered off topic, but to bring us back may I just say that these changes were precisely the reason why Greeks studied their own language and got similar benefits to Romans learning Greek.
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Re: What Language Was Latin For The Greeks?

Postby Victor » Mon Mar 31, 2014 6:47 pm

Jefferson Cicero wrote:Actually, I wasn't assuming any such thing. Perhaps my question was misleading in the way that it was worded so that one might assume that I thought a parallel case existed, but then you can't always think of everything when you ask a question.

Well a certain single-mindedness was evident in the thread title for a start: "What was Latin for the Greeks?" You did qualify this at the end of your first post by asking "Was the study of a foreign language part of Greek education?" but then at the end of your next post you began again on the original tack, discussing Persian and Phoenician as theoretical second languages, without offering any evidence that either language was actually studied by the Greeks.
I'm sorry if you feel unfairly criticised for your approach, but the question that preoccupies you can only be answered by the discovery of supporting evidence, not by speculation as to what would be "logical" or what it would be fair to "bet on".
Classical scholarship and Ancient History have been bedevilled over the years by speculation on all sorts of matters. Rigorous scholarship surely starts with being rigorous with ourselves, acknowledging the limits of what is currently known, and working from there towards insights which, if small, will at least have a sure foundation.
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Re: What Language Was Latin For The Greeks?

Postby MiguelM » Mon Mar 31, 2014 6:59 pm

Scribo, people have been trying to convince me to read Robert Browning's Medieval and Modern Greek, but it isn't that easy to get a hold of it; are you familiar with that one? If you are, is it comparable to Horrock's?
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Re: What Language Was Latin For The Greeks?

Postby Scribo » Mon Mar 31, 2014 8:22 pm

I can imagine it might be quite difficult to get hold of nowadays, though I always see second hand copies in stores. I haven't read it since 2008 and only flicked through it since. It's ok. Often where it claims we don't know or don't have enough information, the intervening decades have made clearer. It's very...condensed, treating HUGE periods in a single chapter (iirc, one "Hellenistic and Roman Greek"!! another "600-1100 a.d"!), but that is an evil of the format. It can be hard to follow because of this. Generally the more modern it gets the better it is, the medieval bits are quite illuminating.

It's not really comparable to Horrocks. Horrocks is by its nature dedicated more to post-classical Greek but it still begins with PIE, so that is a plus. Horrocks also gives lengthy examples where Browning will give brief summaries due to space. I mean Horrocks isn't ever going to replace specific studies of phenomena, times and spaces, but for a general account it rules the roost.

EDIT: BTW going back to the title, we're forgetting the fact that many Greek speakers also learnt Latin. There was an effected snobbery during the second sophistic towards Latin literature, but later Greek has A LOT of Latin loanwords for many objects and concepts (for example, king, ΡΗΓΑΣ from REX) and borrows whole-sale things like Roman law, rhetoric, administration titles. Technical literature becomes dominated with Latin. As to the literary influence of Latin, well that's one of those incipient areas that we'll know more about in a few years.
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Re: What Language Was Latin For The Greeks?

Postby Jefferson Cicero » Tue Apr 01, 2014 2:46 pm

Victor wrote:
Jefferson Cicero wrote:Actually, I wasn't assuming any such thing. Perhaps my question was misleading in the way that it was worded so that one might assume that I thought a parallel case existed, but then you can't always think of everything when you ask a question.

Well a certain single-mindedness was evident in the thread title for a start: "What was Latin for the Greeks?" You did qualify this at the end of your first post by asking "Was the study of a foreign language part of Greek education?" but then at the end of your next post you began again on the original tack, discussing Persian and Phoenician as theoretical second languages, without offering any evidence that either language was actually studied by the Greeks.
I'm sorry if you feel unfairly criticised for your approach, but the question that preoccupies you can only be answered by the discovery of supporting evidence, not by speculation as to what would be "logical" or what it would be fair to "bet on".
Classical scholarship and Ancient History have been bedevilled over the years by speculation on all sorts of matters. Rigorous scholarship surely starts with being rigorous with ourselves, acknowledging the limits of what is currently known, and working from there towards insights which, if small, will at least have a sure foundation.


As should have been obvious, the title was meant to be purely whimsical, as are many titles of many posts by many posters on this forum. I would have thought you could have figured that out. After all, this is an informal forum, not a journal of scholarly research, and in any case I am no scholar and thus I am very unlikely to pollute the scholarly world with nonsense. Therefore I don't need that lecture. I'm not sure why you even wish to argue about it, as I have better things to do, and any more posts of this nature from you will be ignored.
Last edited by Jefferson Cicero on Tue Apr 01, 2014 3:03 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: What Language Was Latin For The Greeks?

Postby Jefferson Cicero » Tue Apr 01, 2014 3:02 pm

Thank you very much, Scribo. I will check out Horrock and the Blackwell Companion.

I wasn't aware of that purging of Icelandic, but it is very interesting. It brings to mind some of the changes that were introduced into Dutch and Norwegian in the early 20th century, but I don't know that much about them, except that they seem to have been attempts to make Dutch more different from German, and Norwegian more different from Swedish, but I believe these were more orthographic changes than anything else. There is also the case of Webster's changes in English orthography in America, a phenomenon which was politically based, and was resisted by some people in the Mid-Atlantic and Southern states, including some prominent writers (William Faulkner for one), up until the 1920's.

Speaking of the issue of Classically educated Europeans wanting to speak Greek and Greeks presenting as classicised a version of Greek as the could get away with, how about that problem the Greeks had during the war of independence, when they had to decide whether to present themselves to west Europeans as classical Greeks or as Byzantine Romans? Were they going to have a Roman restoration or a Greek republic? Now that's an identity crisis I would never wish on anyone.
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Re: What Language Was Latin For The Greeks?

Postby MiguelM » Tue Apr 01, 2014 4:21 pm

Scribo wrote:If you look at manuals of "modern" Greek from the 10's and 20's you'll see very little ancient there. Classically educated Europeans were keen to speak Greek and Greeks in the diaspora were presenting as Classicised a version of Greek as they could get away with. There's a lot of interesting intellectual history here actually. Suffice to say when these people went to Greece they couldn't actually speak with actual Greeks lol.


Jefferson Cicero wrote:Speaking of the issue of Classically educated Europeans wanting to speak Greek and Greeks presenting as classicised a version of Greek as the could get away with, how about that problem the Greeks had during the war of independence, when they had to decide whether to present themselves to west Europeans as classical Greeks or as Byzantine Romans? Were they going to have a Roman restoration or a Greek republic? Now that's an identity crisis I would never wish on anyone.


These ones grabbed my attention. I'm assuming that epoch and phenomenon gets a paragraph or two in case I manage to get my hands on the Horrock, right, Scribo?

Also, JC, do you happen to know where I could go to learn more about that Greek national Greco-Roman identity crisis of the XIX century?

Thanks a lot to both of you—
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Re: What Language Was Latin For The Greeks?

Postby Scribo » Tue Apr 01, 2014 5:06 pm

Hi, I can answer both but first off. Cicero, I know right? I had no idea about Icelandic and I had sort of had it drilled into me by my professors that it's hyper conservative (who were, to be fair, Classicists not Germanicists) so I was surprised to hear from someone in the field. It is still the most conservative Germanic language, but still. I had no idea about the American spelling problem, I had assumed it had just naturally evolved like that, mutually divergent.

Right, modern Greek both as language and identity thing. Well Greece itself used to have a few good scholars on this but...well funding is low. Nor is the atmosphere still conducive to re-visiting national history - there was a wonderful documentary done a while back re-appraising the Tukric dominion. It was wonderful but drew a lot of ire, I mean serious complaints. (You can watch on Youtube but you'll need Greek: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UwRaAFlGROE ). Anyway all that good stuff is in Greek, we want English.

So to answer your question you CAN find this stuff in Horrocks, naturally. But as I said Horrocks is meant to be a lengthy over view, not detailed on any particular area, so if you've already identified the era you want (and you have, modern) and don't necessarily want philological (you don't, you want socio-linguistic) you had best go to a more specific source. One of the best starting points is Peter Mackridge's article "The Heritages of the Modern Greeks". If you Google title + name it takes you to one of his websites where you can download it, so I've saved you that hassle. In general his work is good.

Also when it comes to the war of independence, bear in mind there was a large difference between the indigenous Greeks - hardy, hardcore, heirs of Constantine and the diaspora - foppish, weak-wristed fools. It was the latter who really pushed the "Ancient Hellenic" viewpoint. I think Mackridge talks more about this but in somewhat more dulcet terms. There's a lot of work to be done in these areas, too.

Also I think this thread was actually interesting, however "whimsical" it may have been, these things always tighten up during discussion anyway. Which is the point.
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Re: What Language Was Latin For The Greeks?

Postby Victor » Tue Apr 01, 2014 5:51 pm

Jefferson Cicero wrote:As should have been obvious, the title was meant to be purely whimsical, as are many titles of many posts by many posters on this forum. I would have thought you could have figured that out. After all, this is an informal forum, not a journal of scholarly research, and in any case I am no scholar and thus I am very unlikely to pollute the scholarly world with nonsense. Therefore I don't need that lecture. I'm not sure why you even wish to argue about it, as I have better things to do, and any more posts of this nature from you will be ignored.

Even internet forums very rarely provide an absolutely smooth bed for our vanity to lie down in. If your own vanity is as easily offended as this then there's not much hope for you anywhere. I'd consider it a blessing if you did ignore me; overreactions as disproportionate as yours betoken a level of insecurity that may be unsafe to get too close to.
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Re: What Language Was Latin For The Greeks?

Postby Markos » Tue Apr 01, 2014 7:28 pm

Scribo wrote:Tsakonion, living Doric, has...η pronounced like ε (contra modern Greek ι)...


That bit of data, Sribo, I did not know. εὐχαριστῶ. Interesting. Some British Erasmians also conflate η and ε, and many continental Erasmians do this only in closed syllables. Purists of various sorts (including some Native Greeks :D ) tend to object strongly, but it interesting to note the case of Tsakonion shows that this is only selectively "inauthentic."
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Re: What Language Was Latin For The Greeks?

Postby Paul Derouda » Tue Apr 01, 2014 8:03 pm

Is the Tsakonian - Doric connection firmly established? I'm not skeptical, just asking, since I don't know anything about this. I remember I've read about this before from an extremely unreliable source (probably a tourist guide to the Peloponnese or Wikipedia or both), and they said it's just a theory among others.
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Re: What Language Was Latin For The Greeks?

Postby Scribo » Tue Apr 01, 2014 10:29 pm

Amicitia concordiaque!

Paul Derouda wrote:Is the Tsakonian - Doric connection firmly established? I'm not skeptical, just asking, since I don't know anything about this. I remember I've read about this before from an extremely unreliable source (probably a tourist guide to the Peloponnese or Wikipedia or both), and they said it's just a theory among others.


You know I'm not sure? I can well believe that people got over excited given that it has α where others have η (one of the Doric features EVERYONE remembers) and is found in Peloponessos. But I think there are some other correspondences with later Doric (θ>Σ, for example) which make it likely. I think despite only having a few thousand speakers the language is reasonably well documented. Well not really, but even people have studied/wrote that we know that it used to spoken in a much wider area even until the 20's and that a few dialects exist within Tsakonian. It's better off than a lot of early modern dialects (those which come from Koine) that we know next to nothing about lol. For all I know though people have stopped thinking of it as Doric.
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Re: What Language Was Latin For The Greeks?

Postby Jefferson Cicero » Wed Apr 02, 2014 5:08 pm

Miguel, this is an issue that I read about a long time ago, and I cannot now give you a good source. I wish I could.

It has always been interesting to me how, all these centuries after 1453, when a Greek meets another Greek somewhere outside of Greece, he will (at least some of them will, anyway) identify himself as a fellow Greek by asking the other one if he is 'Romaoi'. There is also the fact that Constantine XI Palailogos, the last East Roman emperor, serves as a kind of national hero for modern Greeks. They were identified with the empire for a long time, and they dont seem to have gotten over their Romanity.

I would almost say that it's kind of like a hangover for them, but perhaps that would be facetious. To put it in serious terms, their memory of the old empire, the Turkish conquest, and the fall of Constantinople is somewhat akin to the experience of American Southerners with the fall of the Confederacy (Gone With The Wind), or what the Deluge was for Poland (Henryk Sienkiewicz). It left a big mark on their national psyche and therefore their identity.
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Re: What Language Was Latin For The Greeks?

Postby Qimmik » Wed Apr 02, 2014 8:12 pm

"the changes that were introduced into . . . Norwegian in the early 20th century . . . seem to have been attempts to make . . . Norwegian more different from Swedish,"

In the case of Norwegian, the idea was to make it less like Danish. Norway was under the Danish crown until 1814, and Iceland until 1944, and there was a certain amount of resentment of the Danes in both cases. As a result of Norway's long history of Danish rule, the standard varieties of Norwegian are heavily influenced by Danish, except that (1) the spelling is somewhat more consistent with Norwegian pronounciation, and (2) Norwegian is intelligible, which Danish is not.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=s-mOy8VUEBk

"Danish has always been impossible to understand for other Scandinavians. But recently it's also become impossible for us Danes."

In the 19th century, in Norway, an atempt was made to create an alternative form of official written and spoken Norwegian based on west Norwegian dialects (thought to be more "pure") known as "Nynorsk."
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Re: What Language Was Latin For The Greeks?

Postby Paul Derouda » Wed Apr 02, 2014 9:07 pm

Qimmik wrote:In the case of Norwegian, the idea was to make it less like Danish. Norway was under the Danish crown until 1814, and Iceland until 1944, and there was a certain amount of resentment of the Danes in both cases. As a result of Norway's long history of Danish rule, the standard varieties of Norwegian are heavily influenced by Danish, except that (1) the spelling is somewhat more consistent with Norwegian pronounciation, and (2) Norwegian is intelligible, which Danish is not.

It's funny that Norwegians joke that Danish is unintelligible. Swedish is compulsory in Finnish schools, because we have Swedish minority. For us, the" axis of unintelligibility" of Scandinavian languagues is longer: Finland Swedish > Sweden Swedish > Norwegian > Danish. So Norwegian is only marginally more intellible than Danish ;)

(Incidentally, quite a few people in Finland wonder why we are taught a marginal dialect spoken by only 200000 people in the world, which isn't very useful even in Sweden... but the real reason is that until recently, the ruling class were all Swedish. A very delicate subject here. If you want to have a good argument or good fight in Finland, depending on your company, pick your side and go for it!)

But the idea is, I think, that the Scandinavian languages are not really so clearly defined, but rather form a spectrum of mutually intelligible languages that extends roughly from North to South. They say that some Southern dialects of Swedish are more like Norwegian or Danish, though I couldn't tell. (Finland Swedish is probably a special case here.)

I don't know much about Norwegian, but I don't think Nynorsk was a completely artificial creation, I think it was just an attempt to make standard the dialects that were felt to be less "contaminated" by Danish.
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Re: What Language Was Latin For The Greeks?

Postby Jefferson Cicero » Thu Apr 03, 2014 3:35 pm

Miguel,

Just by happenstance, I am listening to a podcast series called 'History of Byzantium', and episode 41, which I just got around to listening to last night, is entitled 'Who Is A Byzantine'. It gives some detail that will help you understand how the whole Classical Greek-Byzantine Roman identity issue came into existence in the first place, and so it sheds some light on the identity issue the Greeks had when they were fighting for independence and establishing the modern republic.

In short, although of course the Greeks had a cultural, ethnic and linguistic sense of themselves from the beginning, there was no political identity at all, and certainly no national identity in the modern, nationalist sense that demands an ethnically based nation state. After they became part of the Roman empire, eventually the empire gave them a new sense of Roman identity that developed throughout the empire and among all the peoples in the empire. The idea of nationalism and ethnically based nation states developed in Europe much later, after the empire was gone. So when the Greeks fought for and gained independence from the Turks, they had to create a modern national identity from scratch.

And then, after all that effort at national identity making, they imported a German king of all things, and then, to top that off, they imported a Danish king, all of which seems rather contradictory to the whole national identity making exercise.

Anyway, the podcast is here: http://www.thetvcritic.org/historypodca ... ve&cat=all
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Re: What Language Was Latin For The Greeks?

Postby Jefferson Cicero » Thu Apr 03, 2014 3:56 pm

To Qimmik,

Yes, that's right, it was Danish. I wrote rather hastily and got it wrong. I remember reading about Norwegian students going through the countryside during the early 19th century and studying the speech of remote Norwegian peasants in order to recover the Norwegian language and develop a grammar and orthography, since Norwegian had disappeared from the cities and from writing generations before, but I was not aware of Nynorsk.

To Paul Derouda,

I have wondered about that as well, why make the language of such a small minority mandatory? So it was that fact that the Swedes were the ruling class for a long time. I suspected that but had no way of knowing for sure.

Paul Derouda wrote:But the idea is, I think, that the Scandinavian languages are not really so clearly defined, but rather form a spectrum of mutually intelligible languages that extends roughly from North to South. They say that some Southern dialects of Swedish are more like Norwegian or Danish, though I couldn't tell.


Probably a lot like Low, Middle, and High German, where Low German is closer to English than to High German, with Middle German sandwiched in between as either a language or as a linguistic area where the two other German tongues blend (take your pick). Since there is one government, not three, they are 'dialects', even though Low and High German differ from each other more than the three Scandinavian tongues do. If only we could separate language study from politics!
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Re: What Language Was Latin For The Greeks?

Postby Qimmik » Thu Apr 03, 2014 6:29 pm

I'm not sure that the Bavarian and Danish kings were imported by the Greeks, though they may have been welcomed by some segments of the Greek population (i.e., powerful landowners). The kings from Northern Europe were to some degree forced on the Greeks by the European powers, Great Britain, France and Russia, which were suspicious of democracy and were concerned about instability in the Eastern Mediterranean created by the disintegration of the Ottoman empire. France, like Great Britain and Russia, was a monarchy in 1832 when Otto was installed (though an unstable one--there was a Republican rebellion in 1832) , and again in 1862, under Napoleon III, when Otto was deposed and George was installed. Both kings were from smaller European monarchies (Bavaria and Denmark), so that neither would be too closely allied with one of the three great powers. The eastern Mediterranean was of interest to Britain and to France, as the route to their colonial possessions in India and the Levant, respectively, lay in that direction. Russian had designs on the Balkans and Asia Minor. So Greece was strategically situated for the imperialist and expansionist goals of the "Great Powers."
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Re: What Language Was Latin For The Greeks?

Postby Paul Derouda » Thu Apr 03, 2014 6:51 pm

Jefferson Cicero wrote:I have wondered about that as well, why make the language of such a small minority mandatory? So it was that fact that the Swedes were the ruling class for a long time. I suspected that but had no way of knowing for sure.

This is, of course, just one side of it. I wouldn't like to oversimplify things. There's so much in it, the way minorities are treated, their rights to services in their own language etc. Like you say, you can't separate language and politics!
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Re: What Language Was Latin For The Greeks?

Postby demetri » Sun Apr 06, 2014 10:45 am

Jefferson Cicero wrote:Miguel,

Just by happenstance, I am listening to a podcast series called 'History of Byzantium', and episode 41, which I just got around to listening to last night, is entitled 'Who Is A Byzantine'. It gives some detail that will help you understand how the whole Classical Greek-Byzantine Roman identity issue came into existence in the first place, and so it sheds some light on the identity issue the Greeks had when they were fighting for independence and establishing the modern republic.

In short, although of course the Greeks had a cultural, ethnic and linguistic sense of themselves from the beginning, there was no political identity at all, and certainly no national identity in the modern, nationalist sense that demands an ethnically based nation state. After they became part of the Roman empire, eventually the empire gave them a new sense of Roman identity that developed throughout the empire and among all the peoples in the empire. The idea of nationalism and ethnically based nation states developed in Europe much later, after the empire was gone. So when the Greeks fought for and gained independence from the Turks, they had to create a modern national identity from scratch.

And then, after all that effort at national identity making, they imported a German king of all things, and then, to top that off, they imported a Danish king, all of which seems rather contradictory to the whole national identity making exercise.

Anyway, the podcast is here: http://www.thetvcritic.org/historypodca ... ve&cat=all


I am working my way slowly through those podcasts but what you describe above seems very consistent with what I have read in the past.
For a good preparatory read I recommend from the Rutger's Byzantine Series Origins of the Greek Nation - The Byzantine Period, 1204-1461, by Apostolos Vacalopoulos
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Re: What Language Was Latin For The Greeks?

Postby daivid » Wed Apr 23, 2014 4:27 pm

I really doubt if any one has ever learnt a language in order to learn grammar.
The reason to learn grammar is to better learn a foreign language and learning a second foreign language is usually helped by the understanding of grammar gained in learning the first. However to learn two languages when you only want to learn one is not really a sensible strategy.
However, people are very good at finding new reasons for doing things they are already doing for other reasons so I can well believe that Romans who had already decided to learn Greek for other reasons would tell themselves that they were gaining an understanding of gramar in order to bolster their motivation.

What is the earliest attested case of someone advocating the learning of a foreign language in order to improve your understanding of grammar?

Even though I'm skeptical of the premise of the question I do think it is an excellent question so thanks to Jefferson Cicero for posting it. (And sorry for not checking this section of the forum so long that I am only posting now)
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