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Having a hard time with Greek composition (using Sidgwick)

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Having a hard time with Greek composition (using Sidgwick)

Postby dubmdell » Sun Nov 07, 2010 11:10 pm

I've been working with Crosby's "An Introduction to Greek" and I picked up Sidgwick's "A First Greek Writer" plus key from this site. Feeling fairly confident that I could probably make it through the first exercise or two without excessive errors, I tried Sidgwick's first exercise (the one on swans). When I checked my translation with the key, I was terribly wrong from start to finish, and I can't help thinking that I just don't have adequate preparation.

I consider myself a very capable student, but I cannot find for the life of me any real guidelines to composition. In Latin, beginning students know at least to start by putting the verb last! In Greek, I find no such helps. I've posted my composition and the key's composition side-by-side so that, hopefully, someone can see where I'm going wrong in general and nudge me in the correct direction.

Ηere's my Sidgwick exercise 1:
νῦν ἐστί μεσημβρία, καὶ ἣλιος ἐστί σφόδρα θερμός. ἡ σκιά τῶν δενδρών ἐστί ψυχρά, καί ἡ λίμνη ἐστί καλή. ὁρῶ πολλούς κύκνους, οἳ εἰσί λαμπρούς καί λευκούς. ὁ τράχηλοςἐκεῖνος τοῦ κύκνου ἐστί μακρός ἀλλά τὸ ὁ ἀριστερός πτερόν δοκεῖ εἶναι μικρόν. οὐκ αἶδα τήν αἰτίαν οὗ του. ἴσως ἐστί ἡ κακή ωόσος ἐν τοῦ τῷ πτερῷ. ἴσως ὀστέον τῷ οὗτῳ κύκνῳ διερράγη λίθῳ. ἐστί ὁ μικρον πλοῖον ἐπί τῃ λίμνῃ.

Here's the key's corrections (green = wrong placement, red = needs omission, blue = error in form):
μεσημβρία νῦν ἐστί, καὶ ἣλιος σφόδρα θερμός ἐστί. ἡ σκιά τῶν δενδρών ψυχρά ἐστί, καί ἡ λίμνη ἐστί καλή. ὁρῶ πολλούς κύκνους, οἳ λαμπροί εἰσί καί λευκοί. ὁ τράχηλοςἐκεῖνος τοῦ κύκνου μακρός ἐστί ἀλλά τὸ ἀριστερόν πτερόν δοκεῖ μικρόν εἶναι. οὐκ αἶδα τήν αἰτίαν τούτου. ἴσως κακή ἐστί ωόσος ἐν τοῦ τῷ πτερῷ. ἴσως τούτοῦ τoῦ κύκνου ὀστέον λίθῳ διερράγη. ἐπί της λίμνης ἐστί μικρον πλοῖον.

By my analysis, I have ten different words or phrases placed incorrectly (according to the key), nine incorrect forms, and four words requiring omission. The incorrect forms is attributable to lack of attention, but the incorrect placements and unnecessary words, I think, echo the need for some further instructions. Any help would be greatly appreciated.
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Re: Having a hard time with Greek composition (using Sidgwick)

Postby modus.irrealis » Mon Nov 08, 2010 2:24 pm

It's important to keep in mind that there's not one correct answer so for example not dropping the verb in καί ἡ λίμνη ἐστί καλή, although it's better as ἡ λίμνη καλή ἐστι, is fine, even though it's likely that in Greek the verb would be dropped here, and I think your initial νῦν ἐστι μεσημβρία is correct (except for the accent). But word order in Greek is harder to describe and really the best way is to expose yourself to a lot of Greek and develop a feel for it.

Also, εἰμί is worse than your typical verb. First there's the accentuation with you have some errors with, because some of its forms are enclitic so it should be e.g. θερμός ἐστι with no accent. But with position there's a strong tendency for this verb to come second (unless it means "there is" or it's "emphatic"), but second here means second in its phrase, so you see something like θερμός ἐστι much more often than ἐστὶ θερμός for "is hot". That explains a number of the differences between your translation and the key.

About ἐπί it's different from the other prepositions with respect to the acc = motion towards, dat = location, gen = motion from scheme and in a lot of cases it uses the genitive where you would expect the dative according to that scheme, but again, I think the best way to pick this up is from reading more Greek.

With the two articles that the key omitted it's hard to say what's going on without knowing the English -- but I'm guessing with the boat it's "there is a boat on the lake" and so here's it not a non-specific boat and won't take the article, although I would expect the accent to be ἔστι. Also I would have thought ἥλιος would have the article but again it's hard to say without knowing the English.

Anyway I hope that helps somewhat.
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Re: Having a hard time with Greek composition (using Sidgwick)

Postby NateD26 » Mon Nov 08, 2010 8:11 pm

Just as an addition, you have not copied the key's lines correctly.

Here's the English text:
It is now midday, and the sun is very hot, The shade of the trees is cool, and the lake is beautiful.
I see many swans, which are bright and white. The neck of that swan is long, but the left wing seems
to be small. I do not know the cause of this. Perhaps there is a bad disease in this wing. Perhaps a
bone of this swan was broken by a stone. There is a small boat on* the lake.

* From the vocabulary. on, ἐπί, g. or d.

Here's the key's Greek rendition:
μεσημβρία νῦν ἐστί *, καὶ ὁ ἣλιος σφόδρα θερμός ἐστιν. ἡ σκιὰ τῶν δένδρων ψυχρά ἐστι, καί ἡ λίμνη καλή.*
ὁρῶ πολλοὺς κύκνους, οἳ λαμπροί εἰσι καί λευκοί. ὁ τράχηλος ἐκείνου τοῦ κύκνου μακρός ἐστιν,
ἀλλὰ τὸ πτερὸν τὸ ἀριστερὸν * δοκεῖ μικρόν εἶναι.* οὐκ οἶδα τήν αἰτίαν τούτου. ἴσως κακή ἐστι * νόσος
ἐν τούτῳ τῷ πτερῷ. ἴσως τούτου τoῦ κύκνου ὀστοῦν * λίθῳ διερράγη. ἐπὶ τῆς λίμνης ἐστὶ μικρὸν πλοῖον.

* I think it should be νῦν ἐστι, as modus said.
* I'm not sure but I think the second ἐστί(ν) was omitted not because it's common in this type of sentence (it is the first
exercise after all) but to show that it's not common to find the same verb repeated in the same sentence. The order here could
have been just as well καλὴ ἡ λίμνη, but maybe it's a parallel order to the first clause.
* τὸ ἀριστερὸν πτερὸν is just as acceptable with the same meaning.
* There's very little experience under my belt, but I've seen similar examples of both δοκεῖ μικρὸν εἶναι and δοκεῖ εἶναι μικρόν.
Best to go with what the key has for now. :)
* In p.66 of the book, there doesn't seem to be any difference between he/she/it is and there is;
they are both written in the same line of ἐστί(ν). I think it's important to know, as modus noted, that the existential copula,
there is, often appears at the beginning of a clause/sentence and is accented ἔστι(ν), though I don't think this means
that if it appears in other part of the sentence, (and thus accented as 'regular' copula,) it cannot have that meaning.
* The book follows the Attic dialect, which contracts (τὸ) ὀστέον to ὀστοῦν.
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Re: Having a hard time with Greek composition (using Sidgwic

Postby refe » Mon Apr 18, 2011 7:55 pm

I have been having somewhat similar trouble with the exercises, although I have been able to get by with things like word order and verb/pronoun omission because I read a whole lot of Greek. Some of my struggles have been due to a lack of familiarity with the Attic dialect - I am primarily a student of Koine. For example, the contraction of osteon to ostoun was a complete mystery to me until I read Nate's comment. My knowledge of the declensions is embarrassingly limited as well because I learned Greek from Mounce's Basics of Biblical Greek where I was taught to recognize forms, not reproduce them.

Fortunately I am finding that after a few days of consistent practice, and redoing each exercise a few times to try to correct my mistakes and internalize the correct forms, my compositions are much better than they started out. So hang in there if you can - practice really will improve your compositions and the ability to write better compositions really will improve your reading and understanding of Greek.

Nevertheless, First Greek Writer leaves quite a bit to be desired in the explanation department. It would be much more helpful if the author gave notes along with his answer key, at least for the first few exercises. But I suppose it was written in a time when Greek education was much more common and I taught differently than in the post-Mounce world.
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