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Greek Grammars

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Greek Grammars

Postby Bart » Sat Jul 12, 2014 1:39 pm

Out of curiosity: is anyone used to working with the two most important Greek grammars in German, Kühner-Gerth and Schwyzer? And if so, how do they compare to Smyth?
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Re: Greek Grammars

Postby Qimmik » Sat Jul 12, 2014 2:17 pm

They're more expensive and they take up more shelf-space--not that Smyth is cheap, but in my view it's a bargain for what it offers.

I have the 2-volume syntax part of Kühner-Gerth. It's much fatter than Smyth because it provides very extensive examples from Greek authors for every point--that's its advantage over Smyth. I think that if you were working at a professional level, you would find the wealth of examples that K-G offers indispensable: if, for example, you were editing texts yourself or writing commentaries, you would be able to find parallels to syntactic difficulties in your text from the same and other authors. The examples would also be helpful if you are very interested in studying Greek syntax in depth. However, from my non-scholarly, totally amateurish (in the worst sense) perspective, I don't think that Smyth is less comprehensive in its coverage of the fine points of Greek syntax--just fewer examples.

mwh, scribo and cb can probably speak to this much better than I.
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Re: Greek Grammars

Postby mwh » Sun Jul 13, 2014 2:24 am

Smyth is Kühner-Gerth plagiarized and condensed, so if you like Smyth (which I don’t) you’ll like K-G, but may not need it. Schwyzer takes a less synchronic approach, is more useful for historical development.
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Re: Greek Grammars

Postby jeidsath » Sun Jul 13, 2014 3:11 am

What parts of K-G are most useful for non-German speakers?
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Re: Greek Grammars

Postby cb » Sun Jul 13, 2014 3:24 pm

hi, i'm not personally used to working with them sorry, i transitioned pretty early on away from the mega grammars to using mostly author-specific grammars, like chantraine and others for homer, moorhouse for sophocles etc. cheers, chad
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Re: Greek Grammars

Postby Qimmik » Sun Jul 13, 2014 4:36 pm

mwh: What is it that you don't like about Smyth, or rather, can you give us an idea of some of the things you don't like without spending too much time writing a formal review?

From my own perspective, I've always found Smyth useful, though more for morphology than syntax. I don't have any easy access to an academic library, and I haven't been able to follow developments in ancient Greek linguistics over the past 50 or so years--I know there have been many. But I just don't have the time to devote to studying Greek syntax in the abstract in depth--what time I do have I'd prefer to use for reading.

When I offer some suggestions here in response to questions about specific passages, I sometimes try to include a link to Smyth online (a) to allow readers to read it for themselves in an authoritative source (and perhaps look at adjacent sections, too) and (b) to confirm to myself that I'm not disseminating false information on the internet, which I'm afraid I do all too often, and I sometimes wonder whether I should be posting here at all. But I'm beginning to feel that without a rigorous advanced professional training I shouldn't even be trying to engage with ancient Greek texts, let alone offer advice to others.

But are there any books that organize the material better than Smyth or that provide deeper insights into syntax, and that are not beyond the means of private individuals who don't manage hedge funds? I can manage French, German and Italian (Russian, too).

As an observation, based on my experience reading, I think that the "rules" of Greek are really not that extensive or complicated. Much of what is presented in Smyth and other grammars consists of "exceptions" to the basic rules, which are not really exceptions, but rather application of the rules in specific contexts, and interaction among the rules. Also, I think the complexities are frequently not so much syntactic principles as lexical attributes of specific words, particularly verbs and their arguments. I think you pick these things up by reading, not necessarily by studying grammar in the abstract.

But you do have to have the fundamental lines of the grammar down cold--you have to internalize it--before you can make sense of anything; otherwise you're liable to go wildly astray. And I certainly don't agree that linguistic analysis--what is wrongly, I think, dismissed as the "metalanguage"--is irrelevant: it's absolutely necessary.

Not sure that makes much sense.
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Re: Greek Grammars

Postby mwh » Mon Jul 14, 2014 3:58 am

Don’t get me wrong, I think Smyth is a very good and reliable grammar, the best in English (though I prefer Goodwin in many ways), and my dislike of it is perhaps idiosyncratic. I find it too fragmented. Take the treatment of ἄν, for instance, whether in subordinate clauses (indefinite) or in main clauses. ἐάν, ὅταν, ὅτι ἂν etc. are put each in a different section, when it makes not the slightest difference to the construction whether one says “if” or “when” or “what.” We are introduced to the apodosis of “conditional sentences” (under Conditional Clauses!) as if an apodosis (a term unjustifiably restricted to the main clause of conditions) were somehow different just because it’s attended by an if-clause, when in fact it would be just the same if attended by any other kind of subordinate clause, or by none at all. This sort of thing leads students astray for life; they and their teachers are often incapable of joining back together what Smyth has torn asunder.

I suppose this is essentially a gripe about organization, and I know there can be no single satisfactory organization. But I do think Smyth makes it excessively difficult to identify syntactically related (or identical) phenomena. And, as you suggest, he has a gift for making everything seem so complicated. I could say more, but that’s enough to give an idea.

I’m sure people are grateful to you for linking to the relevant Smyth section, and so they should be. And you must know your replies are always (ok, almost always) spot-on. I’m the redundant one here. (And I'll probably be dropping out again soon.) Others have paid tribute to you, and so do I.

As to metalanguage, yes, where would we be without it? Groping in the dark, with nothing but our individual fancies for illumination.

-----

jeidsath: The wealth of examples throughout, as noted by Qimmik.
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Re: Greek Grammars

Postby Bart » Mon Jul 14, 2014 7:23 am

I for one hope that neither of you will drop out. This forum will be the poorer for it. if nothing else, think of poor Paul, who will be left all alone to answer all those pesky questions by Huilen and myself in the Homer section :)
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Re: Greek Grammars

Postby akhnaten » Mon Jul 14, 2014 10:11 am

some novice questions that can't be answered from amazon reviews!
1) is goodwin comparable to smyth as a general grammar? does Goodwin have benefits for a beginning student over Smyth? is the standard edition of Goodwin that edited by Gulick?
2) are there dialects not supported by one or both grammars (Koine, Attic, pre-Socratics)? or styles not supported (philosophy/drama/poetry my main concerns)
3) are the benefits of author-specific grammars simply ease in finding relevant entries? or do they provide more in-depth syntactical entries, etc.
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Re: Greek Grammars

Postby Qimmik » Mon Jul 14, 2014 11:32 am

mwh: are you referring to Goodwin's Greek Grammar or his Greek Moods and Tenses? Despite its years, GMT is a very useful resource. I'm not familiar with the grammar, having used Smyth.

What parts of K-G are most useful for non-German speakers?


I think it would be very difficult to navigate K-G without German. Some of the grammatical terms are similar to English, but some are not. The main advantage of K-G over Smyth is the wealth of examples. mwh says that Smyth plagarized K-G, but it's useful for us English-speakers, even those who can .

Author-specific grammars (mostly treatment of syntax) are mostly digested in commentaries, where specific passages are discussed. Unless you're writing a commentary or editing a text or working in depth at a very advanced level of scholarship, you would probably find the materials in commentaries adequate. They're generally very expensive--you need access to a reference library. Smyth is mostly Attic, with nods in the direction of other dialects (though apart from koine and Homer and Pindar, most everything else survives only in fragments anyway. I think that the "Doric" of tragic choruses and the "Ionic" of tragic dialogue is mostly lightly Doricized or Ionicized Attic.) There's a lot of grammatical material specific to the New Testament, though I'm not familiar with it, and in any event koine is not so far removed from Attic.

The one exception is Chantraine's Homeric Grammar, in French, which is indispensable at a certain even moderately advanced level and is merely outrageously, not astronomically, expensive. It's not really well organized for those at a beginning level, though. LIttle of it is original to Chantraine (as he admitted) but it collects all the work on Homeric morphology (vol. 1) and syntax (vol. 2) through the mid-20th century. Most anything after that you would have to hunt for scattered in articles in learned journals, I think.

I hope that mwh can stay at least occasionally involved despite other commitments. I personally feel much more comfortable giving suggestions knowing that a grown-up is looking over my shoulder and will jump in whenever I disseminate misinformation.
Last edited by Qimmik on Mon Jul 14, 2014 3:04 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Greek Grammars

Postby Bart » Mon Jul 14, 2014 1:25 pm

With regard to Chantraine's Grammaire Homérique: volume I was recently reprinted, volume II is scheduled for this fall.
http://www.amazon.fr/gp/product/2252035 ... Chantrinae + http://www.amazon.fr/gp/product/2252039 ... FK5RDHNB96
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Re: Greek Grammars

Postby akhnaten » Tue Jul 15, 2014 6:45 am

i do have access to a nice academic library system when i get to a stage to begin looking at commentaries--i am all too aware of the expenses of academic publishing. my only enemy will be non-circulating reference designations (which applies to the local uni's smyth and liddell-scott).

it is a relief to know that it won't be necessary to purchase specific grammars/lexicons for individual works/writers before engaging with a text--especially if i have a student commentary at hand. the market is full of these subject-specific grammars and lexicons (esp. for Koine). for any language, a reference grammar and dictionary will need a permanent place on the shelf. i have been very appreciative for assistance on this forum for helping make these purchases.
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Re: Greek Grammars

Postby cb » Tue Jul 15, 2014 9:35 am

hi, just to add, there are different ways to use a grammar: the obvious one is to look up things in it when you don't understand a particular word or sentence, and for that a mega grammar has its advantages.

but you can also use grammars another way, by reading them all the way through in one go -- this really helped me a lot early on -- it gives you an overview of the whole, and it would be much harder with a mega grammar to do that, and the focus on one author helps here too, because here you don't want to be muddled with all the different structures that have been used over the centuries, but instead you can quickly upskill in one author to then just get reading him without relying too much on anything outside the clean original text, less interruptions and stopping-and-starting, if you can bring yourself to put aside a chunk of time to read through the grammar beforehand, it's not too painful really.

i've said before here (http://www.textkit.com/greek-latin-foru ... hp?t=11778) how important i think it is to read shorter whole works all the way through to get the full overview rather than taking the most authoritative mega work and only getting through a little bit.

so e.g. for homer if you can't get chantraine (which is readable), if you wanted to try reading a grammar once, you could try a shorter homeric grammar online, like thompson: https://archive.org/stream/homericgramm ... 0/mode/2up.

cheers, chad
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Re: Greek Grammars

Postby Scribo » Tue Jul 15, 2014 10:21 am

I think Qimmik and MWH have said really all there is to be said about the grammars tbh, I use both K-G and Smyth quite a bit and...yeah that's pretty much it. It also depends what you want out of a grammar. For me the most consulted grammars over the past 2-3 years have been Sihler's Comparative Grammar and some Dutch guy's book on Mycenaean grammar. The first allows me to no longer have to keep several dozen morphological paradigms and phonological rules across several languages in my head all the time. It is an excellent revision aid and one of the best purchases I've made to date. The latter is...well not so good but it's something at least and better than the highly speculative tosh one finds elsewhere.

So you can see from those two examples that the reasons for consulting a grammar can be varied. If someone just wants the basics of accidence and syntax there is nothing wrong with the little Oxford grammar. I used that and Oikonomou's school grammar for like a year almost exclusively (only turning to Smyth when in need) and I turned out fine. Smyth is a good intermediary but I often find that I need a lot of usage examples. That's where K-G or specific books on authors and styles come into play. Nowadays for a standard grammar K-G or Smyth tends to be it but I rarely check those.

Generally the rule is if you're not sure if you need it, you probably don't.
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Re: Greek Grammars

Postby C. S. Bartholomew » Tue Jul 15, 2014 4:40 pm

Qimmik wrote:mwh:

As an observation, based on my experience reading, I think that the "rules" of Greek are really not that extensive or complicated. Much of what is presented in Smyth and other grammars consists of "exceptions" to the basic rules, which are not really exceptions, but rather application of the rules in specific contexts, and interaction among the rules. Also, I think the complexities are frequently not so much syntactic principles as lexical attributes of specific words, particularly verbs and their arguments. I think you pick these things up by reading, not necessarily by studying grammar in the abstract.

But you do have to have the fundamental lines of the grammar down cold--you have to internalize it--before you can make sense of anything; otherwise you're liable to go wildly astray. And I certainly don't agree that linguistic analysis--what is wrongly, I think, dismissed as the "metalanguage"--is irrelevant: it's absolutely necessary.

Not sure that makes much sense.


Makes sense to me. I not sure I could make up a list of the "fundamental lines of the grammar" , i.e., what one absolutely cannot survive without. For people who speak a language like English in culture where you can get by speaking only one language, Greek is very different. There was a new participant who arrived in another greek forum several months ago from a culture like that. His posts were interesting in that they demonstrated the ability to use certain aspects of Greek grammar but a failure to grasp certain fundamentals which made his thinking and his methods unsound. The moderators tried to steer him in the right direction but it wasn't very successful.

One of the things that I don't like about the traditional grammar translation model is that the text books start you with memorization of paradigms. I think that is backwards. I would start out teaching basic syntax and have student learn morphology as it is needed to read sentences. This is a functional approach. You see how the morphology is used in a clause. You never just learn a paradigm in the abstract. You learn it as a means to read sentences. Eventually you learn the paradigms but all the time you are reading real Greek sentences of a gradually increasing complexity. E. V. N. Goetchius was an alternative to Machen half a century ago. Goetchius taught you how to read. Goetchius approach to morphology was a little to theoretical for some people. But his treatment of syntax started you out thinking about how the Greek sentence was put together, an important "fundamental" which could be missed in other approaches.
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Re: Greek Grammars

Postby mwh » Thu Jul 17, 2014 2:15 am

My apologies not answering all the questions. Much as I enjoy the interactions on these boards (most of them, at least), I’m afraid I have to drop out now. I may look in now and again.
Best wishes to all, and thanks for the ride.
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Re: Greek Grammars

Postby Victor » Mon Jul 21, 2014 10:49 pm

C. S. Bartholomew wrote:One of the things that I don't like about the traditional grammar translation model is that the text books start you with memorization of paradigms. I think that is backwards.

One of the things I like about the traditional approach is that it does start you off with serried ranks of paradigms. It's often objected that this is not the way you learn your mother tongue. No-one would argue with this, but then you're not learning your mother tongue; you're learning a heavily inflected corpus language, the efficient reading of which depends fundamentally on good mental cataloguing and recall of its paradigms. Until you do learn the paradigms, your reading will be perpetually hampered by the tedious task of identifying what form of the verb or case of the noun etc. you happen to be looking at. Get the elementary necessity of having good recall of these forms out of the way as quickly as possible, and although at the very outset you'll make slower progress in your reading than the learn-the-inflections-as-you-go-along brigade, you'll pretty soon be leaving these learners behind in your more confident wake.

Starting out with basic syntax and learning morphology only as it is needed to understand a clause is fine if that is what you prefer, but it strikes me as more logical and far less time-consuming in the long run to take a combined approach and learn the paradigms alongside your learning of syntax; in other words to do it the way it's been done for donkey's years.
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Re: Greek Grammars

Postby Scribo » Tue Jul 22, 2014 8:34 am

Victor wrote:
C. S. Bartholomew wrote:One of the things that I don't like about the traditional grammar translation model is that the text books start you with memorization of paradigms. I think that is backwards.

One of the things I like about the traditional approach is that it does start you off with serried ranks of paradigms. It's often objected that this is not the way you learn your mother tongue. No-one would argue with this, but then you're not learning your mother tongue; you're learning a heavily inflected corpus language, the efficient reading of which depends fundamentally on good mental cataloguing and recall of its paradigms. Until you do learn the paradigms, your reading will be perpetually hampered by the tedious task of identifying what form of the verb or case of the noun etc. you happen to be looking at. Get the elementary necessity of having good recall of these forms out of the way as quickly as possible, and although at the very outset you'll make slower progress in your reading than the learn-the-inflections-as-you-go-along brigade, you'll pretty soon be leaving these learners behind in your more confident wake.

Starting out with basic syntax and learning morphology only as it is needed to understand a clause is fine if that is what you prefer, but it strikes me as more logical and far less time-consuming in the long run to take a combined approach and learn the paradigms alongside your learning of syntax; in other words to do it the way it's been done for donkey's years.


Though I find the prospect of yet another debate breaking out over pedagogical methodology oh so tedious...I'm going to have to +1 this.
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Re: Greek Grammars

Postby Qimmik » Tue Jul 22, 2014 4:34 pm

Though I find the prospect of yet another debate breaking out over pedagogical methodology oh so tedious...I'm going to have to +1 this.


Me too.
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