Any guides to Greek dictionaries?

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Kurama
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Any guides to Greek dictionaries?

Post by Kurama » Thu Jan 11, 2018 6:54 pm

Are there any guides or sources that provide guidance on unabridged Greek dictionaries for beginners?

Some background: I finally finished working my way through Mastronarde (I managed to do all the exercises!) and I am now reading the Anabasis. The commentary and the vocabulary are enough for me for now, and even if I haven't really needed to consult it, I can understand more or less the entries on the abridged version of LSJ. However, I think it would be good if I started becoming familiar with the real unabridged version of LSJ to be prepared when the need arises to consult it in the future (and I am also just curious about it). Now the problem is that I am overwhelmed by the structure of the entries and I find them confusing. I also have a lot of questions about the dictionary that keep nagging me.

What I am looking for, more specifically: 1) The main thing I am looking for is something that will allow me to understand every aspect of the entries: how they are structured, what each part of the entries means and what information it provides. 2) I am also very eager to find something that will explain to me how to use a dictionary in order to use to find the words that I come across in reading. For instance, I know that I should look verbs under the first person singular of the first principal part; analogously for nouns and adjectives. But I would like more advice and tips on how to find words. 3) I would also like some information on how this sort of dictionary was made, its history, the sort of dictionary it is supposed to be, how it differs from others, the intended use it has, and 4) Any other advice or information that may be useful for students, and in particular for someone who is just starting to look inside Greek dictionaries, in order to get out as much as possible from using a dictionary like LSJ.

Are there any sources you can recommend for any of points 1-4? Are there any sources that treat of Greek dictionaries that you consider required reading or that are highly recommended?

RandyGibbons
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Re: Any guides to Greek dictionaries?

Post by RandyGibbons » Thu Jan 11, 2018 8:03 pm

Dear Kurama,

Congratulations on your enrollment among the Greek troops in Cyrus's army. You'll enjoy the march, but make sure you get paid, and be safe!

I for one don't recall ever seeing a guide for how to use LSJ (or any other dictionary). Here's a few perhaps not very helpful suggestions.
3) I would also like some information on how this sort of dictionary was made, its history, the sort of dictionary it is supposed to be, how it differs from others, the intended use it has,
I would begin by reading the authors' preface in LSJ.
2) I am also very eager to find something that will explain to me how to use a dictionary in order to use to find the words that I come across in reading. For instance, I know that I should look verbs under the first person singular of the first principal part; analogously for nouns and adjectives. But I would like more advice and tips on how to find words.
Besides the obvious (alphabetic order), I think you've mostly answered your own question, viz., verbs under the first person singular of the first principal part. If all you have is a different principal part, you have to try to deduce from it the first principal part or simply enter whatever it is you have in the Perseus Greek Word Tool. Nouns and adjectives: under the nominative singular. For 3rd declension nouns it may be a little tricky sometimes (very infrequently) deducing the first person singular from another person. Again, if necessary, use the word tool in Perseus. What else is there? (These principles of organization by the way have nothing to do with the dictionary being "unabridged.")
1) The main thing I am looking for is something that will allow me to understand every aspect of the entries: how they are structured, what each part of the entries means and what information it provides.
Again, be sure to look at the 'Aids to the Reader' in the beginning of LSJ to be sure you understand how authors and works are cited and where you can check out the abbreviations used in the dictionary articles. Beyond that, I would suggest turning this into a particular question about a specific article you're having trouble with.

mwh
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Re: Any guides to Greek dictionaries?

Post by mwh » Thu Jan 11, 2018 11:35 pm

Let me echo Randy’s congrats on successfully finishing Mastronarde. Few do. It will provide you with an excellent basis for reading classical Greek literature.

Seems to me you identify two potential problems with using LSJ:
Finding the right entry, and
understanding how the entries are structured.

I think you’ll find the first of these more problematic than the second (which you put first). You’ll be better off using one of the abridged versions. εἴληφα, for example, the perfect of λαμβάνω, is not given an entry to itself in LSJ, but is in the Intermediate. There are thousands of other such cases. If you know all your principal parts you may be able to proceed to LSJ without more ado, but unless you're superhuman (or subhuman) that’s unlikely, and there are epic and other non-Attic forms (e.g. ἔλλαχον) that Mastronarde may not have prepared you for. The Intermediate, unlike LSJ, also makes use of hyphens to break down compounds (e.g. δι-ώμοσα), which can be helpful.

The structure of the entries aims to be fairly transparent, and with use you'll find it straightforward enough. In verbs, as you can see, the various forms come first, organized by tense, then the various senses and uses, variously subdivided and sub-subdivided, transitive and intransitive uses distinguished, middle uses treated after active if sufficiently distinct, etc.etc. I don’t anticipate you'll have too much difficulty here, except perhaps in one or two particulars.

Randy makes some good suggestions. (When speaking of 3rd declension nouns I think he means not first person singular but nominative singular. Even experts sometimes misspeak, expertus dico.)

It’s great you want to come to grips with LSJ, but for most ordinary purposes at your current level one of the Oxford abridgements is perfectly adequate for everyday use, and will hold you up far less. I recommend the Intermediate, aka the Middle Liddell, with or without the big LSJ in addition.

Enjoy!
Michael

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Re: Any guides to Greek dictionaries?

Post by ἑκηβόλος » Fri Jan 12, 2018 3:40 am

Understanding the structure of the entries becomes a lot more obvious when you understand the Greek examples in them. If you read the Great Scott, but only see the English, it may be no more useful than an abridged dictionary. You may need to take the time (perhaps with a simpler dictionary) to "translate" or decode the Greek examples given. While it might be difficult at the beginning, once your own vocabulary goes over about three or five thousand words, it will be easy to read about sixty percent of the examples with the possible need to look up one (or perhaps two) other unknown words. At nine or ten thousand things become instantaneously rewarding, with the word whose entry it is being the unknown (newly known) word, which you can see in various contexts and collocations. The English translations of examples given in the entries is inconsistent. Sometimes only potentially confusing or unexpected phrases are translated, sometimes even very simple ones are, sometimes proverbs or idioms are given in functiinal equivalency and at other times meanings are obscured by the use of Latin. In any case, be prepared to bring your own understanding of the Greek to bear.

The information contained in the unabridged lexicon, requires some background knowledge of chronology and genres. If you have the background knowledge to be able to place an authour in a century and in a genre, you will get more from the entries. If you are not sure whether Hesiod and Procopius are contemporaries or not, it is probably worth investing a few hours looking at a timeline of authours. There are a number of literary traditions within the wider body of Greek literature. Authours copied the style of others within their genre. That includes the choice of words, and which meanings words can have. During your Anabasis with Xenophon, you will be encountering words (and some forms) that may have been heard in Athens, where recognisably not part of the Attic idiom. Taking the effort to at least know what literary traditions there were in Greek literature is worthwhile. Generally speaking, the length of the name in abbreviation is hierarchical, with those single-letter abbreviations being most important within the canon of Greek literature.

Meanings are structured according to scientific principles - based on both grammar (voice and tense) and sense.

If you are reading an authour from a particular time period in a particular literary tradition, then if you find contemporary authours, or works with similar style, that might be the part of the unabridged entry that you could pay the most attention to. Reading an unabridged lexicon is going to give you potential access to a condensed version of a very large volume of knowledge.

As noted in the above posts, keeping up the momentum in your Greek reading is important. It is great to know minutiae in detail, and that is best done in conjunction with broad exposure to the language. The gods of this information age are those who can deal well with the plethora of data served up to them. Before the digital age, the unabridged lexicon sat open on the lecturers' (researchers') desks or in the reference section of the library. Students carried more accessible tomes. The lexical works were produced with - both the size and content - needs of those groups in mind.

Beyond the lexicon, you may find commentaries by learned persons a great help to understanding words too. One of the sources of the lexicon are the works of scholars, who have published commentaries. In some instances there are discussions of the meaning and history of words among the many other helps offered by the notes.
Thou wast not born for death, immortal Bird!
No hungry generations tread thee down;
The voice I hear this passing night was heard
In ancient days by emperor and clown:
(Keats, Ode to a nightingale, 1819).

Kurama
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Re: Any guides to Greek dictionaries?

Post by Kurama » Mon Jan 15, 2018 10:26 pm

Thank you everyone. All this is extremely helpful.

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