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difference between modern and ancient greek

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difference between modern and ancient greek

Postby svaens » Wed Oct 08, 2008 7:06 pm

Hi guys,

I'm just starting to look into learning Greek, with particular interest in the comprehension of the writings of the ancient Greeks.

Question: Ignoring pronunciation, how different is ancient or classical Greek, to that which is written in modern Greece today?

Any short example would also be appreciated!

Thanks for all replies!
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Postby IreneY » Wed Oct 08, 2008 8:33 pm

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So learn Modern Greek first?

Postby svaens » Thu Oct 09, 2008 6:38 am

Thanks for your reply, IreneY!

I of course asked this question (which must be quite popularly asked?) not simply out of curiosity, but as beginning for myself in understanding just where I should begin in my quest to learn classical Greek.

So it almost sounds like, if you can read and speak and understand modern Greek, you should be able to 'get the gist' of an old classical text?

I myself am interested in both Latin and Greek, and I have already embarked on my journey with Latin (and find it quite enjoyable) I have not yet actively begun my journey with Greek, beyond starting to collect some resources, and post on this forum.

With Latin, to my knowledge, there seem to be fewer changes in the language we all call Latin. There were some minor changes I've been made aware of dating to around the reign of Augustus, however not so many. And that is about all the 'classical Latin' readers need to be aware of, unless you are trying to translate some older 'texts' , of which there aren't as many.

In Latin, there are also two main ways to pronounce; according to ecclesiastic methods, and the classical, as one would learn at school (i think). However, this is independent from any actual change in the language itself.

Then of course there are the many derivative languages of Latin, the romance languages; French, Spanish, Italian etc.

However, my intention in learning Latin was, besides the fun of doing so, to be able to read classical Latin texts, to be able read the words of Caesar, to be able to read some of the words one finds on many old ruins next time I visit the roman forum ;) And while I don't exclude myself from learning a 'romance language' with which I can actually talk to a large population of people who live today (in fact, i'm learning spanish on the side), that is not my purpose in learning 'Latin'.

Question:

Here are my questions after a much to long winded introduction:

In my quest to learn some classical Greek, which is in order to read and understand classical texts such as those written by Socrates (for example):

1. would it be advisable to learn modern Greek first?

2. Having then learned and become reasonably proficient in modern Greek would the classical texts already be comprehensible?

3. If a time machine were to be a scientific fact, and we were to beam Socrates to the present time, would HE be able to understand the written modern Greek language?

4. Can anyone suggest some good beginning texts?
I have heard these JACT books are good?


Thanks and kind regards to all you friendly readers out there!
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Re: So learn Modern Greek first?

Postby Swth\r » Thu Oct 09, 2008 8:44 am

svaens wrote:Question:

Here are my questions after a much to long winded introduction:

In my quest to learn some classical Greek, which is in order to read and understand classical texts such as those written by Socrates (for example):

1. would it be advisable to learn modern Greek first?

2. Having then learned and become reasonably proficient in modern Greek would the classical texts already be comprehensible?

3. If a time machine were to be a scientific fact, and we were to beam Socrates to the present time, would HE be able to understand the written modern Greek language?

4. Can anyone suggest some good beginning texts?
I have heard these JACT books are good?


Thanks and kind regards to all you friendly readers out there!


Socrates has written himself nothing. Everything we know about his life and ideas comes from Plato, Xenophon, Aristofanes, and "minor" sources.

Now as for your questions... As both a native speaker of modern Greek and teacher of ancient Greek, I have the following answers for you:

1. Not at all. It would be nice to learn another language, but not for the purpose you already have in mind...

2. Not at all (again, and unfortunately!:cry:). The pronunciation is very different in most situations, even though many words are spelled exactly the same. Also, some words have different meaning in ancient and in modern Greek. Further, declination and syntax are very different. It happens for me to be a teacher of ancient Greek language to young students in Greek high school (Gymnasium-Lyceum). I have to inform you that my task is very, very difficult!

3. Again unfortunately no :cry:. Some words perhaps. Even written communication would be a major problem, because in his time writing was taking place only in capitals, without spaces between words, so syllable cutting, no aspiration or accenting marks... (All those things are later innovations, from Hellenistic to medieval period).

4. Sorry, not me :oops: :(

Have a good start, at whatever you decide to do!

Cheers, and any time available to give you any other relative information!
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Postby IreneY » Thu Oct 09, 2008 6:00 pm

Hello svaens :)

First of all, the journey is always easier from the more coplex to the more simplified, so if you want to learn both ancient Greek and modern start with the older :)

The second question is actually where I really differ from Swthr. If you were really proficient in modern Greek, you would need to study ancient Greek for a while as I said before but it would help you understand a lot of things. Since up to the recent past I was a teacher myself, the main problem Greek kids have (apart from lack of interest) is that they don't know modern Greek well enough if you ask me (which you haven't and you are probably not interested in).

As for Socrates: Apart from the technical stuff (learn about lower case and whatnot) I think he'd need no more than a few pointers before he'd been able to get the gist of the texts. Of course, for Socrates to be able to really understand modern Greek he'd need a few months to larn the new words that have been incorporated in our vocabulary and the differences in grammar.

In a nutshell, I do believe that you should start with ancient Greek. Now if only we could get mingshey to answer in this thread!
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Postby svaens » Thu Oct 09, 2008 9:52 pm

Hey! Thanks both for your replies!

I think then I probably will start looking into ancient Greek.
Gee, it is too bad there seems to be no great natural learning book like 'Lingua Latina' is for Latin. I have read in another thread here that there is one similar, but only the Italian version, and it sounds like there seems to be enough Italian content (translations etc) to make it necessary to know Italian, or have a good book handy. And there's only so many dictionaries one can carry around!!
But I guess that is what I'm looking for. An Ancient Greek equivalent to 'Lingua Latina'.

IreneY, Just out of curiosity, just what would you expect 'mingshey' to contribute to this thread?
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Postby IreneY » Fri Oct 10, 2008 2:08 am

Mingshey studied ancient Greek and then moved on to modern. He is not a native speaker of Greek so his take on the matter is quite interesting (to me at least :) )
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Postby svaens » Fri Oct 10, 2008 5:13 am

ahhh, so exactly what I plan to attempt. Good! Then he/she would be the perfect person to hear from! Seconded!
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Postby Swth\r » Fri Oct 10, 2008 8:39 am

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Postby IreneY » Fri Oct 10, 2008 6:45 pm

Swthr (this keyboard is Korean and I swear they have hidden away the right slash!) that is not what I mean really. I am not talking about grammatical rules and whatnot.
I am talking about very poor language skills, or in other words, limited vocabulary, the most basic syntactical forms in speech, problematic reading comprehension as evidenced by text analysis/summary etc etc

As I have said before, ancient Greek is a more complicated form of the Greek language. When most of the students' skills in modern Greek are such that allow them to communicate with each others for everyday means and only get the gist of anything more complex, well, then these students are bound to have trouble understanding ancient Greek.
Of course the way many teach ancient Greek by putting aside modern Greek doesn't help either, and there are other issues of course (I mentioned one I find major already: lack of interest in studying modern or ancient Greek).

Anyway, this is, of course, too general and everything but I think we should better continue this discussion by PMs since I am sure the rest are not interested in all this and we are hijacking svaens' thread.
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Postby svaens » Fri Oct 10, 2008 7:32 pm

I am, as always, happy to sit back and listen to (read) healthy debate ;)
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Postby Swth\r » Fri Oct 10, 2008 9:14 pm

IreneY,
then it seems that basically we agree here...

My friend svaens, that was my last reply (to IreneY)... Sorry for interruption.
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Postby mingshey » Sat Oct 11, 2008 12:20 am

IreneY wrote:Swthr (this keyboard is Korean and I swear they have hidden away the right slash!)


Korean keyboard uses the back-slash for the Korean currency unit(Won) symbol which looks like a capital W with a dash over it. It's the same key with the vertical bar(|). How come are you using a Korean keyboard? Anyway, too bad for you. It's annoying when dealing with windows file paths and TeX commands, etc.
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Postby IreneY » Sat Oct 11, 2008 6:59 am

Thanks! My husband speaks Korean and lived there for a while and he brought it back with him since western keyboards are not good for typing in Korean (or Chinese I suppose).

By the way what about what we're discussing here? What's your take?
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Postby PeterD » Sun Oct 12, 2008 1:03 am

IreneY wrote:Since up to the recent past I was a teacher myself, the main problem Greek kids have (apart from lack of interest) is that they don't know modern Greek well enough if you ask me (which you haven't and you are probably not interested in).


You nailed it, Irene. As a Canadian of Greek heritage, I have visited Greece numerous times, and I have this to say about today's Greeks (of Greece): They're stupid. They know d-ck. Sorry, Irene, but Greeks like yourself are in the minority. Pity.
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Postby IreneY » Mon Oct 13, 2008 12:54 am

(Further hijacking but...)
Swth\r too I presume (and any other Greek members) ? And at least my family and friends are, I hope, part of this minority? :wink:
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Postby Swth\r » Mon Oct 13, 2008 7:33 am

PeterD wrote:You nailed it, Irene. As a Canadian of Greek heritage, I have visited Greece numerous times, and I have this to say about today's Greeks (of Greece): They're stupid. They know d-ck. Sorry, Irene, but Greeks like yourself are in the minority. Pity.


Even though I should feel insulted by your opinion, I will say that some times I say exactly the same (or even worse things) by the time I have returned in Greece from a trip to other countries, especially Western Europe... 8)

But I think you shoot wide of the mark when you accuse ALL us Greeks for a situation established in Greece because of a part of us (either minority or majority)... And may I ask you, have you reached this conclusion by having social contacts with specific Greek persons, or just by judging and seeing it from the angle of Modern Greek civilization (:lol:) as a whole?
Dives qui sapiens est...
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Postby mingshey » Tue Oct 14, 2008 6:23 am

IreneY wrote:By the way what about what we're discussing here? What's your take?


Well, I didn't get into Ancient Greek deep enough. And I have only begun to learn Modern Greek. I didn't get the glimpse of the grammar of it yet. So I'm not in a good position to compare the two dialects. I just hoped, by learning the living dialect I could get in touch with many roots and stems of the Greek vocabulary which changed little throughout the evolution of the language. Then it could help me back to acquire the ancient vocab, too.

Well, the more I try to say what I felt while learning the two dialects, I feel I'm going to say what I don't really know much. I'd rather recommend just learning both; one at a time, though. And look into them yourself. Well, anyway, it's fun to taste both of them. 8)
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Postby svaens » Tue Oct 14, 2008 6:34 am

Thank you mingshey
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