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Is Greek the most exact language?

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Is Greek the most exact language?

Postby Rocky Pyle » Mon Oct 25, 2004 9:35 pm

Greetings and Salutations:

I have often read and heard that Greek (specifically thinking of Ancient or Koine) is the most exact language ever created. I guess my questions would be as follows:

Is that true?

If it's true, then why is that statement true?

If anyone can kindly reply or at the very least point me to a website or book illustrating this notion that Greek is the most (or one of the most) exact languages known today I would greatly appreciate it.
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Postby EmptyMan » Mon Oct 25, 2004 9:57 pm

Where did you hear this from? I doubt it's true. Koine was the Greek spoken by the people, Attic was the greek of educated people. Chinese would probably be more exact than Attic or Koine, at least in it's written from.
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Postby Geoff » Mon Oct 25, 2004 10:09 pm

The answer to that question would depend on the type of material one desired to present with the given language. Some languages are horrible for considering certain topics. For example, Greek has a large vocabulary of nautical terms which are highly nuanced and descriptive. Surely other languages have subjects which they are better suited to convey than Greek. There is no doubt that precision in the Greek language is possible and that perhaps more than most other languages. I don't know if I would say most exact, but among the most exact definitely.

3 things make Greek exact, first the elegance of the grammar. Greek is highly inflected which helps avoid vagueness. Subject\verb connection is easily identifyable in even the most complex sentences. Antecedents are less difficult to trace. Modifiers will agree with the words they modify, and such like.

Second, as mentioned above, the massive, and particular vocabulary is helpful for expressing thoughts clearly without confusion.

Finally, a highly defined verb system presents another "dimension" to the reader concerning time/aspect.

Hope this is helpful. Certainly there are several here who could provide a better answer and/ or correct mine. A book you may find interesting and fun for exploring this concept is "Alpha to Omega" from Humez & Humez. Why don't you stick around and learn Greek. Download one of the Grammars and give it a shot. The people here are extremely helpful

http://www.textkit.com/greek_grammar.php
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Postby Rocky Pyle » Tue Oct 26, 2004 12:17 am

EmptyMan wrote:Where did you hear this from? I doubt it's true. Koine was the Greek spoken by the people, Attic was the greek of educated people. Chinese would probably be more exact than Attic or Koine, at least in it's written from.


I have seen people make such a statement when discussing the New Testament scriptures and I was wondering if there was any validity to that.
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Postby Rocky Pyle » Tue Oct 26, 2004 12:19 am

Geoff wrote:The answer to that question would depend on the type of material one desired to present with the given language. Some languages are horrible for considering certain topics. For example, Greek has a large vocabulary of nautical terms which are highly nuanced and descriptive. Surely other languages have subjects which they are better suited to convey than Greek. There is no doubt that precision in the Greek language is possible and that perhaps more than most other languages. I don't know if I would say most exact, but among the most exact definitely.

3 things make Greek exact, first the elegance of the grammar. Greek is highly inflected which helps avoid vagueness. Subject\verb connection is easily identifyable in even the most complex sentences. Antecedents are less difficult to trace. Modifiers will agree with the words they modify, and such like.

Second, as mentioned above, the massive, and particular vocabulary is helpful for expressing thoughts clearly without confusion.

Finally, a highly defined verb system presents another "dimension" to the reader concerning time/aspect.

Hope this is helpful. Certainly there are several here who could provide a better answer and/ or correct mine. A book you may find interesting and fun for exploring this concept is "Alpha to Omega" from Humez & Humez. Why don't you stick around and learn Greek. Download one of the Grammars and give it a shot. The people here are extremely helpful

http://www.textkit.com/greek_grammar.php


Thanks for the information. I found this web site earlier today and I think I will use the resources on here to learn Greek.
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Postby Emma_85 » Tue Oct 26, 2004 12:21 pm

I think English can be very very exact, but it is nearly impossible for a non-native speaker to understand it, because all these things that the Greek language does with optative, medium, aspect, conjuctive and particles the English language does in other ways, which are not as easy to learn as grammar. In so far, Greek can be called precise. It is much easier than English (advanced English that is).
The more grammar a language has the easier it is for some one else to learn and understand the exact meaning of. English is just as exact, but only for a native speaker, but Greek can be exact for a non-native speaker too, because of it's grammar.
So the most exact language would the that with the most grammar rules I suppose :wink: .
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Postby Geoff » Tue Oct 26, 2004 2:35 pm

I think Emma's right about English, however, ancient Greek has an advantage. It is a "dead" language. The vocabulary and Grammar is closed, especially when discussing Greek within a set body of literature such as homer, or NT. English is rapidly losing its definition. Works prior to the 1960's are much more exact. Works from 100 years ago are especially clear, whereas today people are generalizing in their language and abusing grammar for any cause. This is breaking down all but the most simple distinctions in words.

It would be interesting to examine the impact of the rise of computers on language worldwide. Which languages lend themselves to discussing computers and how many words have been added to vocabularies. Ancient Greek is obviously not suited to writing a tech manual on some software.
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Postby klewlis » Wed Oct 27, 2004 12:36 pm

Geoff wrote:It would be interesting to examine the impact of the rise of computers on language worldwide. Which languages lend themselves to discussing computers and how many words have been added to vocabularies. Ancient Greek is obviously not suited to writing a tech manual on some software.


Check out some of Neil Postman's stuff. I'm thinking specifically of Amusing Ourselves to Death and Technopoly. Good stuff. The focus isn't specifically on language, although that is definitely a part of it.
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Postby Democritus » Fri Oct 29, 2004 2:35 am

Geoff wrote:It would be interesting to examine the impact of the rise of computers on language worldwide. Which languages lend themselves to discussing computers and how many words have been added to vocabularies. Ancient Greek is obviously not suited to writing a tech manual on some software.


English is full of certain classes of metaphors, which we don't always notice as metaphors. For example, English uses a lot of words related to travel by ship ("my project is sinking," "keep the company afloat"), and given the history of English speaking people, it's obvious why this is so. American English has a lot of metaphors related to sports and military operations, and air and space lingo.

One legacy of computers, in language, will be to leave behind a long list of terms that will be used metaphorically, in ways that are not related to the original technical sense. Words like download, reprogram, hardware, software, debug, "directory tree." Ever heard the term "wetware" ? In meetings I hear people say "let's talk offline" when they really mean "let's talk later" or "let's talk privately."
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Postby Emma_85 » Sat Oct 30, 2004 4:06 pm

Democritus wrote: Ever heard the term "wetware" ? In meetings I hear people say "let's talk offline" when they really mean "let's talk later" or "let's talk privately."


Eh... that sounds sort of sad to me. :?
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Postby yadfothgildloc » Sun Oct 31, 2004 1:16 am

I've read "wetware" in sci-fi contexts.

And I gotta agree with Emma de re "offline."
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Postby annis » Sun Oct 31, 2004 1:43 pm

Democritus wrote:One legacy of computers, in language, will be to leave behind a long list of terms that will be used metaphorically, in ways that are not related to the original technical sense.


Including all that amusing talk about serial vs. parallel monogamy.
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Postby cweb255 » Thu Nov 04, 2004 12:58 pm

Binary is the most exact language ever. Then assembly. Then C.

As for evolved languages, the main problem with English is it's use of one word to convey several meanings. Love in English could mean eros, philos, etc... But this is a problem in every language, including Chinese, when words can mean more than one thing.
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Re: Is Greek the most exact language?

Postby cole » Fri Dec 10, 2004 2:54 pm

Rocky Pyle wrote:Greetings and Salutations:

I have often read and heard that Greek (specifically thinking of Ancient or Koine) is the most exact language ever created. {snip}



I heard that many times too. I now know that it's untrue, and it's based on a poor understanding of linguistics. And many times people believe it because of it's "feel good" factor: "God chose Greek to convey the message of the NT because it was the most exact language."

A good book to read might be Exegetical Fallacies by D. A. Carson.
Or better still, Linguistics for Students of New Testament Greek by David Black.

P.S. cweb255: binary, assembly, and C are all equally exact, IMO. You mean there are ambiguities in C?
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Re: Is Greek the most exact language?

Postby klewlis » Fri Dec 10, 2004 4:16 pm

[quote="coleA good book to read might be Exegetical Fallacies by D. A. Carson.[/quote]

excellent book.
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Postby JauneFlammee » Fri Dec 10, 2004 10:58 pm

I would say that greek is extremely exact in the area of ideas. Take a look at some of the early church controversies (for example the monothelite controversy). You can't even hardly discuss the issues in english without using transliterated greek words.
I would also say a significant advantage to greek is the ability to stack existing words together into one new word (There must be a technical term for this?). This allows one to discuss complex things without being wordy, among other things.
(Also, I wouldn't describe the Koine version as the most exact language ever - look at the whole objective vs subjective genitive controversy regarding (faith in/of jesus) in galations 2:20, and large portions of Romans chapter 3. )
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Postby cweb255 » Sat Dec 11, 2004 10:24 am

If that were the case, Sanskrit is far more precise than Greek, well, maybe not far, but close to it. I don't know, there really isn't a totally precise language that is a lingua natural...
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Postby installer_swan » Sat Dec 11, 2004 10:47 am

If that were the case, Sanskrit is far more precise than Greek,


I don't know much about greek but I would agree that in terms of grammar Sanskrit is precise(I don't know whether more or less), but it has its own share of ambiguities, the biggest being that its vocabulary is highly ambiguous/metaphorical, in the sense that verses often have (literally) dozens of meanings and interpretations. In fact I still keep finding newer interpretations of shlokas I've heard since my childhood and I consider this to be an important part of the language's and composition's beauty. This is due to the fact that all ancient compositions in Sanskrit followed very strict meters, in order to fit into which several words were contracted.

I think you can never talk of the exact language. It's just a matter of what is the most appropriate language for expressing what you want. And nearly all ancient languages (which were luckily not butchered by the internet) have a fairly consistent set of syntactical rules, thus being more or less equally exact. And then it's just a matter of what fields of philosophy/relegion/science etc. was can be better explained in which language.

The only alternative is more mathematical artificial/constructed languages see Lojban, for example.

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