Native speakers among the NT authors?

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Stephen Hughes
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Native speakers among the NT authors?

Post by Stephen Hughes » January 25th, 2016, 5:40 am

For want of a better one, here is a definition of native speaker taken from Wiki:
Wikipedia - First Language wrote:One of the more widely accepted definitions of a native speaker is someone who was born in a particular country and was raised to speak the language of that country during the critical period of their development, The journal or qualifies as a "native speaker" of a language if they were born and immersed in the language during youth, in a family where the adults shared a similar language experience as the child. Native speakers are considered to be an authority on their given language due to their natural acquisition process regarding the language, versus having learned the language later in life. This is achieved through personal interaction with the language and speakers of the language. Native speakers will not necessarily be knowledgeable about every grammatical rule of the language, but will have good "intuition" of the rules through their experience with the language.

Sometimes the term mother tongue or mother language is used for the language that a person learned as a child at home (usually from their parents). Children growing up in bilingual homes can, according to this definition, have more than one mother tongue or native language.
That contains definitions ranging from language with your mothers milk right up to exposure during youth. Personally, I prefer the "first month of life" definition that is not mentioned in that quote.

Within the scope of those definitioins:
  • Who among the authours of the New Testament books could be described as a native speaker of Koine Greek?
    Is it possible that there were any mono-lingual native speakers among them?
For us who are not native speakers, is there any way to achieve that level, and/or to overcome the emotional distance and feelings of alienation between ourselves and the target language?
Γελᾷ δ' ὁ μωρός, κἄν τι μὴ γέλοιον ᾖ
(Menander, Γνῶμαι μονόστιχοι 108)

Tim Evans
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Re: Native speakers among the NT authours?

Post by Tim Evans » January 25th, 2016, 8:45 am

While someone might feel "emotional distance" I find myself wondering if its useful in this context? For example, I am 100% fluent and comfortable in Chinese when speaking with a 3 or 4 year old native Chinese speaker, and feel no "emotional distance" as such. (After a few years, I now sometimes forget, and accidentally speak Chinese to other kids). The point of my illustration is simply to illustrate that I feel no emotional distance with my second language, yet I could not hold a grown up conversation in that language.

I can't help wonder if that "emotional distance" element is removed for me not simply due to being comfortable with it, but due to the fact I am able to speak it with close family. One of my greek tutors was bringing his children up speaking koine greek, I should compare notes :)

Jonathan Robie
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Re: Native speakers among the NT authours?

Post by Jonathan Robie » January 25th, 2016, 12:18 pm

Who gets to judge, modern Americans or Hellenistic Greeks?

If Luke tells me that you speak Greek like a native, I'll believe him. If some modern American claims to speak Greek like a native, I'll question his humility.
ἐξίσταντο δὲ πάντες καὶ διηποροῦντο, ἄλλος πρὸς ἄλλον λέγοντες, τί θέλει τοῦτο εἶναι;
http://jonathanrobie.biblicalhumanities.org/

Stephen Hughes
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Re: Native speakers among the NT authours?

Post by Stephen Hughes » January 26th, 2016, 4:54 am

Near-native competencies are worth considering too.
Γελᾷ δ' ὁ μωρός, κἄν τι μὴ γέλοιον ᾖ
(Menander, Γνῶμαι μονόστιχοι 108)

Stephen Carlson
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Re: Native speakers among the NT authors?

Post by Stephen Carlson » January 27th, 2016, 12:46 am

Is there any literature on the topic? There must be. I'm sure some differences between L1 and L2 might be detectable (or might not: see Joseph Conrad), but why speculate idly if someone's already done some hard work on the question?
Stephen C. Carlson, Ph.D.
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MAubrey
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Re: Native speakers among the NT authors?

Post by MAubrey » March 25th, 2016, 9:29 pm

Stephen Carlson wrote:Is there any literature on the topic? There must be. I'm sure some differences between L1 and L2 might be detectable (or might not: see Joseph Conrad), but why speculate idly if someone's already done some hard work on the question?
Gerhard Mussies' The morphology of Koine Greek, as used in the apocalypse of St. John; a study in bilingualism is the only thing that I'm aware of. I think there are also some short articles scattered around somewhere, but I can't remember their authors for the life of me at the moment.
Mike Aubrey, Linguist
Koine-Greek.com

Stephen Hughes
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Re: Native speakers among the NT authors?

Post by Stephen Hughes » March 26th, 2016, 1:24 am

Mike, sort of on this topic of bilingualism... Has anyone give a reasoned account of the striking changes between Koine and Modern Greek as a creolisation rather than a continuity. The changes in the case system seem explicable by vowel changes and nunation for euphony rather than meaning, but the adoption of a different structure for the verbs seems to be something more.
Γελᾷ δ' ὁ μωρός, κἄν τι μὴ γέλοιον ᾖ
(Menander, Γνῶμαι μονόστιχοι 108)

MAubrey
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Re: Native speakers among the NT authors?

Post by MAubrey » March 26th, 2016, 12:17 pm

Stephen Hughes wrote:Mike, sort of on this topic of bilingualism... Has anyone give a reasoned account of the striking changes between Koine and Modern Greek as a creolisation rather than a continuity. The changes in the case system seem explicable by vowel changes and nunation for euphony rather than meaning, but the adoption of a different structure for the verbs seems to be something more.
Not that I'm aware. Still, there are two version of the continuity of the language through the centuries. The populist version is simply that the language has changed very little and the Greek of today is only a slightly different version of the old language. That's a view generally held by native Greeks who sense of nationalism or patriotism has move influence over actual data analysis. They tend to be Katharevousa advocates. I won't name names...

The actual history is that the relatively stable Koine Greek branched off in a variety of directions after the Byzantine period. We don't have a lot of research on Medieval Greek (though there is a grammar in the works that will likely fill in the gap), but we do know that the breaking up of the Byzantine Empire resulted in a splintering of the language regionally (with a variety of dialects arising, including: Pontic, Cappadocian, Cypriotic, Griko, Tsakonian). And there were already complex issues of diglossia and the rise and regular influence of atticism, which fed an ongoing separation of the spoken language from the script used to write it (similar to, but not quite like, French today).

But creolization would be something different. You'd need a pidgin Greek first before you could have a creole. And there was never that. Language change is always happening, but it also can be dramatically sped up by dramatic events in the language region. Greece has a seen a lot of those following the fall of the Byzantine Empire.

If you're interested in *some* of that history, especially the more recent stuff, the best study I've read is Peter Mackridge's Language and National Identity in Greece, 1766-1976.
Mike Aubrey, Linguist
Koine-Greek.com

Stephen Carlson
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Re: Native speakers among the NT authors?

Post by Stephen Carlson » March 26th, 2016, 10:38 pm

Stephen Hughes wrote:Mike, sort of on this topic of bilingualism... Has anyone give a reasoned account of the striking changes between Koine and Modern Greek as a creolisation rather than a continuity. The changes in the case system seem explicable by vowel changes and nunation for euphony rather than meaning, but the adoption of a different structure for the verbs seems to be something more.
It's not creolization or else we'd see a much larger loss of inflections. There's something less severe called "koineization" where dialectal mixing and L2 learning lead to a morphosyntactically "simpler" language. Peter Trudgill is one of the experts on this, and it and contact-induced changes more generally have been used to explain the development of English. See https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Koiné_language for more information and additional references.
Stephen C. Carlson, Ph.D.
Melbourne, Australia

Stephen Hughes
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Re: Native speakers among the NT authors?

Post by Stephen Hughes » March 28th, 2016, 3:18 am

Stephen Carlson wrote:
Stephen Hughes wrote:Mike, sort of on this topic of bilingualism... Has anyone give a reasoned account of the striking changes between Koine and Modern Greek as a creolisation rather than a continuity. The changes in the case system seem explicable by vowel changes and nunation for euphony rather than meaning, but the adoption of a different structure for the verbs seems to be something more.
It's not creolization or else we'd see a much larger loss of inflections. There's something less severe called "koineization" where dialectal mixing and L2 learning lead to a morphosyntactically "simpler" language. Peter Trudgill is one of the experts on this, and it and contact-induced changes more generally have been used to explain the development of English. See https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Koiné_language for more information and additional references.
I think that is true of the dialect mixing that occurred on a larger scale in the post-Ottoman period than when Turkish was the Lingua Franca of the Balkans, the dialect levelling that followed the introduction of education and mass media - beginning with various forms of print media and the simplification (standardisation) of both spelling and inflections - reducing the number of irregular and dialect specific forms and also reduction of regional vocabulary - specifically the deTurkification of the language (in terms of both grammatical effects and loan-words that had changed Greek over the period of Ottoman dominance). I agree that that process occurring in different, sometimes non-progressive steps from eighteen twenty-one till the mid nineteen seventies can be described as a Koineisation resulting in the Modern Greek Koineisation, and the survival of the various dialects, it was not actually that period that I was asking about.

I'm not sure when the verbal forms with έχω plus infinitive became conjugational all rather than syntactical, but it was that sort of change that I was wondering about. It is similar to the discourse marker "despite that" being verbalised, and used in an imaginary example like, "The chair suggested that we could despite the problems with the first three points, and still deal with the fourth". The most logical explanation is bilingual influence from (a) romance language(s). If that is indeed the case, then the most logical periods in which that may have occurred would be Roman Empire (administration of various Eastern regions in Greek), the Eastern Roman Empire during the period when the Law and administration in Constantinople was as it had been in Ravens and was then changed to Greek (with law being in Latin for some time afterwards), the period of the Mediaeval Crusader states, the mixing and eventually assimilation of Romanian (Wallacian) goatherds with the local population, or the literary influence of intellectuals who studied abroad during the period of the emergence of national consciousness. The most likely scenario in which bilingualism could have had a profound and far-reaching effect on the structure and grammar of the language would be by population mixing. To elaborate on Mike's allusion to nationalist sentiments, the idea of implying that the Modern Greeks were anything other than the direct descents of the Ancient Greeks is really not popular, and to suggest that the language is not a direct continuity is to infer that the bloodline is not either. Political considerations aside, the existence of the infinitive in the present dialects of northern Turkey and southern Italy suggest that a population influx into the Balkans by a population that was too big to be simply assimilated, and too small to be the dominant language in the formation of a creole is plausible. Another alternative that seems to be plausible is that the development of Modern Greek literature in the crusader states, by retelling and translating stories in the Romance languages of elite of those states filtered down to the level of the illiterate villagers.

One of the significance for exploring this option for the study of New Testament Greek is to give a theoretical basis for the consensus that more-or-less was reached in the twentieth century that the aspect and voice systems of Modern Greek could not be mapped onto our understanding of Koine Greek in the way that might seem that they obviously would do, if there was a simply continuity. Creolisation could account for a widespread and rapid shift in the verbal system at some point from our Koine to the modern Koine.

It could be noted too, that the description of Modern Greek dialects that I have seen, pay more attention to the influence of Turkish on their declensional systems, than that on there conjugational systems or tense structures within the verbals system as a whole.
Γελᾷ δ' ὁ μωρός, κἄν τι μὴ γέλοιον ᾖ
(Menander, Γνῶμαι μονόστιχοι 108)

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