What vocabulary does the NT word-list represent?

Resources and methods for teaching and learning New Testament Greek.

What vocabulary does the NT word-list represent?

Postby Stephen Hughes » March 29th, 2014, 6:02 am

RandallButh in Re: Are the Louw and Nida discussions available? wrote:Louw-Nida is lmited to NT vocabulary and forms and that artificially skews the language away from its common core. ... [They] do not provide the core vocabulary available to the audience for evaluating any communication

My question for this thread is;
    What proportion of a hypothetical Greek speaker's vocabulary does the NT represent?
I guess it would be 100% + 60% + 20%. That is:
  • 100% of the grammatical words (well represented) +
  • 60% of the core vocabulary common to average people living average lives (skewed representation - it would be good to make up the lack) +
  • 20% (or less) of the technical / specialised vocabulary that covers the areas not common to all people. (missing - but not missed till we try to read other tyes of texts)
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Re: What vocabulary does the NT word-list represent?

Postby RandallButh » March 29th, 2014, 6:59 am

Yes, the percentages may help open some eyes. They are even on the optimisitc side.
95-98% might be better on grammatical vocab. For example, there are Greek connectors that are missing in the GNT. There are occassional grammatical structures unattested.
And the 60% would depend on what is considered 'core'. If thinking of the most common 500 or 1000 core words, then the NT is probably over 60%, but if thinking of the most basic 5000 words, then the NT is probably under 60%. We might assume 15000-20000 words for most people.
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The issue of polysemy and core / specialist vocabulary.

Postby Stephen Hughes » March 29th, 2014, 7:00 am

The question of what is core is further complicated by the issue of polysemy. That is to say, a word may be core in one of its meanings, but specialised in its other meanings. That is not clearly marked in the lexica, and within the NT corpus of texts, the most common meaning may not be the core meaning.

For example, I would say that σωτηρία in the "spiritual" sense of God saving our souls is not the core meaning in the Koine, but it is the meaning in the NT. The meaning that would be included in the core vocabulary of the language would be "bodily safety" or "bodily health", as in what we would say, "Keep yourself safe", "I hope for your safe return". That is evident in the NT verbal usage however.

If one takes the many meanings of a word to be different things that need to be learnt individually in relation to their own contexts - the way I was taught to teach English - then we are looking at the New Testament having even larger figures in the core figures (as you say) more than 60% (which will affect vocabulary acquisition strategies for NT readers), and smaller specialist vocabulary representation figures in those three divisions I've made. Perhaps 10% or less (but that is not going to matter greatly for NT readers).
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Re: What vocabulary does the NT word-list represent?

Postby Stephen Hughes » March 29th, 2014, 11:13 pm

RandallButh wrote:And the 60% would depend on what is considered 'core'. If thinking of the most common 500 or 1000 core words, then the NT is probably over 60%, but if thinking of the most basic 5000 words, then the NT is probably under 60%.

In round figures, then, someone who knew all the words used in the New Testament - no mean feat - would have to supplement their vocabulary by between 300 and 2,500 words, to have their core vocabulary un-skewed.

While there are different (but similar) lists of core vocabulary for modern languages, defining what is the core vocabulary for Koine Greek hasn't received the same attention, has it?

I reckon that just extensive reading of 3 to 5 texts outside NT and noting down the "extra" words would yield quite a number of the 300. The best texts Koine Greek texts for that everyday stuff that I've read might be the Life of Aesop and the Hellenistic Novels. They are popular books that

Comparing what was said / written with what could have been said / written is a normal way of coming to an understanding. Structured vocabulary learning with a supplemented core would help there. What type of structure / groupings are helpful?

RandallButh wrote:We might assume 15000-20000 words for most people.

Not all of those would be active vocabulary items, though. And not all of them would be fully understood. I've noticed, however, that "vagueness" of meaning is a difficult thing to learn by rote.
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Re: What vocabulary does the NT word-list represent?

Postby Paul-Nitz » April 2nd, 2014, 1:21 pm

Stephen Hughes wrote:While there are different (but similar) lists of core vocabulary for modern languages, defining what is the core vocabulary for Koine Greek hasn't received the same attention, has it?


It has received some attention by Helma Dik and the people at Dickinson

    The DCC Greek List

    "This list contains about 500 of the most common words in ancient Greek. These are the lemmas or dictionary headwords that generate approximately 65% of the word forms in a typical Greek text."

Unfortunately, someone has moved Major's essay about his original 50% and 80% word lists, so I can't point you there. What you'll find at the site above is a description of the most recently revised list of 500 words and a link to the list itself.

I've taken this list, compared it with NT Frequency vocabulary, added some words that I needed for teaching via communicative methods, and use the resulting list as my target vocabulary for teaching beginning Biblical Greek. Core Vocabulary – Dickinson/Major – NT – Nitz
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Re: What vocabulary does the NT word-list represent?

Postby RandallButh » April 2nd, 2014, 2:50 pm

Paul,
Don't you run the risk of having people trying to think through rules rather than with words if you give them all of those artificial forms in -αω -οω instead of -ᾱν -οῦν, not to mention needing to signal which voice is preferred?
ερρωσο
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Re: What vocabulary does the NT word-list represent?

Postby Paul-Nitz » April 2nd, 2014, 4:17 pm

RandallButh wrote:Don't you run the risk of having people trying to think through rules rather than with words if you give them all of those artificial forms in -αω -οω instead of -ᾱν -οῦν, not to mention needing to signal which voice is preferred?


I'm not sure what you mean by "needing to signal which voice is preferred." But as for using contracted forms, I follow your lead there. We use the authentic ποιῶ, πειρῶμαι, σαρῶ, κτλ.. The lists (Common Creat License) I took these words had the uncontracted forms and I didn't bother to change it because this is really a list for me, the teacher, not for them. We don't "do" lists of vocs.

The primary purpose of this list for me as teacher is to limit vocabulary, as I go full out on structure. I have structures I want to teach, through a TPRS story or other means. I start creating the story or drill and refer to this core list, trying to stay within its borders. Inevitably, there will be 1-3 words (not more) in a story that are new, or that we have used infrequently. These won't create any interference in communication / comprehensible input. I'll just make them clear (demonstration, explanation in Greek, or translation). It will be easy to retain their meaning during one learning session.

Another benefit of limiting vocabulary is promoting safety in the classroom. I have occasionally gotten too free with using new words when making side remarks. And I've had a couple of stories in class which used too many new words. The result is becoming predictable. I see that look on several faces that tells me they feel dumb. Whether in Greek class or other classes, I've found that lack of safety is a sure-fire way of making sure students don't learn.

In a recent story used to practice ωστε + infinitive/Accus. the only new word I used was οξυς. I was delighted to find that it also means 'sharp-minded' in Greek. I think all the rest of the words are from the core list I use.


ὁ μὲν Σίμων πειρᾶται γενέσθαι ισχυρός. ὁ δὲ ἐποίησεν αγῶνα τοῦ ἄραντος μέγαν λίθον.
ὁ μὲν Ἕλλην θέλει γενέσθαι πλούσιος. ὁ δὲ ἠγόρασεν τὸν οἶκον ἵνα πωλήσῃ αὐτὸν.
ὁ μὲν Ἄκακος λέγει ὅτι θέλει γενέσθαι ὀξύς. ὁ δὲ βουλεύεται εὕρειν τὴν σοφίαν πρός ἄλλην χώραν.
ὁ Σίμων αἴρων τὸν μέγαν λίθον εὗρεν πολύν ἄργύρον ὥστε γενέσθαι αὐτόν πλούσιον.
ὁ Ἕλλην ἀγόρασας τὸν οἶκον εὗρεν πολλά καλά βιβλία ὥστε γενέσθαι αὐτόν σοφόν.
ὁ Ἄκακος περιπατῶν μακράν πρός ἄλλην χώραν εὕρειν τὴν σοφίαν καὶ ἐγένετο ἰσχυρός.

Simon tries to be strong. He makes a contest of lifting a big stone.
Hellane (the Greek man) wants to be rich. He buys a house in order to sell it.
Innocent says that he wants to be smart. He intends to find wisdom in a another country.
Simon, as he lifts the big stone finds much money so that he becomes rich.
Hellane buys a house and finds many good books so that he becomes wise.
Innocent walks far to another country to find wisdom and became strong.
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Perseus search results for Koine authours

Postby Stephen Hughes » May 7th, 2014, 12:09 am

I realise that more capable people have probably done more interesting things with the data, but according to the Perseus vocabulary tool...

In the contemporary works listed below, there are 32,149 individual words in a total word-count of 2,688,531 words, with 6,644 (0.25% of the total word count) occurring once, (but still presumably being understandable by the audience reading that work).

Important as it is to classical scholarship, I'm inclined to (but didn't) leave out The Deipnosophists of Athenaeus, because its many quotations of classical authours probably skew the data a bit. Not including that work reduces the number of lexical items to 27,559 individual words. In fact, that work alone contributes 2,178 (!!) words occurring once to the total of words occurring once, so without including it, the number of words occurring once comes down to 4,466. (For the sake of comparison, there are 1,119 words (0.8% of the word count) which occur once within the New Testament corpus of texts).

Including The Deipnosophists of Athenaeus goes against the general idea that the more extensively one reads, the less likely one us to come across a word for the first time.

    Achilles Tatius, Leucippe et Clitophon (ed. Rudolf Hercher)
    Aelian, Epistulae Rusticae (ed. Rudolf Hercher)
    Aelian, Varia Historia (ed. Rudolf Hercher)
    Antiphon, Speeches (ed. K. J. Maidment)
    Appian, The Civil Wars (ed. L. Mendelssohn)
    Appian, The Foreign Wars (ed. L. Mendelssohn)
    Aretaeus, The Extant Works of Aretaeus, The Cappadocian. (ed. Francis Adams LL.D.)
    Arrian, Acies Contra Alanos (ed. Rudolf Hercher, Alfred Eberhard)
    Arrian, Anabasis (ed. A.G. Roos)
    Arrian, Cynegeticus (ed. Rudolf Hercher, Alfred Eberhard)
    Arrian, Indica (ed. Rudolf Hercher, Alfred Eberhard)
    Arrian, Periplus Ponti Euxini (ed. Rudolf Hercher, Alfred Eberhard)
    Arrian, Tactica (ed. Rudolf Hercher, Alfred Eberhard)
    Asclepiodotus, Tactica (ed. William Abbott Oldfather)
    Athenaeus, The Deipnosophists (ed. Charles Burton Gulick)
    Marcus Aurelius, M. Antonius Imperator Ad Se Ipsum (ed. Jan Hendrik Leopold)
    Barnabas, Barnabae Epistula (ed. Kirsopp Lake)
    Chariton, De Chaerea et Callirhoe (ed. Rudolf Hercher)
    Clement of Alexandria, Protrepticus (ed. G.W. Butterworth)
    Clement of Alexandria, Exhortation to Endurance, or to the Newly Baptized (ed. G.W. Butterworth)
    Clement of Alexandria, Quis Dis Salvetur (ed. G.W. Butterworth)
    Cassius Dio Cocceianus, Historiae Romanae (ed. Earnest Cary, Herbert Baldwin Foster)
    Dio Chrysostom, Orationes (ed. J. de Arnim)
    Diodorus Siculus, Bibliotheca Historica, Books I-V (ed. Immanuel Bekker, Ludwig Dindorf, Friedrich Vogel, Immanel Bekker)
    Diodorus Siculus, Bibliotheca Historica, Books XVIII-XX (ed. Immanuel Bekker, Ludwig Dindorf, Friedrich Vogel, Kurt Theodor Fischer, Immanel Bekker)
    Diodorus Siculus, Library
    Diogenes Laertius, Lives of Eminent Philosophers (ed. R.D. Hicks)
    Dionysius of Halicarnassus, De Isaeo (ed. Hermann Usener)
    Dionysius of Halicarnassus, De Isocrate (ed. Hermann Usener)
    Dionysius of Halicarnassus, Libri secundi de antiquis oratoribus reliquiae (ed. Hermann Usener)
    Dionysius of Halicarnassus, Ad Ammaeum (ed. Hermann Usener)
    Dionysius of Halicarnassus, De Dinarcho (ed. Hermann Usener)
    Dionysius of Halicarnassus, De Thucydide (ed. Hermann Usener)
    Dionysius of Halicarnassus, De Thucydidis idiomatibus (epistula ad Ammaeum) (ed. Hermann Usener)
    Dionysius of Halicarnassus, De Compositione Verborum (ed. Ludwig Radermacher)
    Dionysius of Halicarnassus, Epistula ad Pompeium Geminum (ed. Ludwig Radermacher)
    Dionysius of Halicarnassus, De Demosthene (ed. Hermann Usener)
    Dionysius of Halicarnassus, Antiquitates Romanae, Books I-XX (ed. Karl Jacoby)
    Dionysius of Halicarnassus, De antiquis oratoribus (ed. Hermann Usener)
    Dionysius of Halicarnassus, De Lysia (ed. Hermann Usener)
    Epictetus, Works
    Galen, On the Natural Faculties. (ed. A.J. Brock)
    Harpocration, Valerius, Lexicon in decem oratores Atticos (ed. Wilhelm Dindorf)
    Flavius Josephus, De bello Judaico libri vii (ed. B. Niese)
    Flavius Josephus, Josephi vita (ed. B. Niese)
    Longus, Daphnis & Chloe (ed. Rudolf Hercher)
    Lucian, Abdicatus (ed. A. M. Harmon)
    Lucian, Adversus indoctum et libros multos ementem (ed. A. M. Harmon)
    Lucian, Alexander (ed. A. M. Harmon)
    Lucian, Anacharsis (ed. A. M. Harmon)
    Lucian, Apologia (ed. Karl Jacobitz)
    Lucian, Bacchus (ed. A. M. Harmon)
    Lucian, Bis accusatus sive tribunalia (ed. A. M. Harmon)
    Lucian, Calumniae non temere credundum (ed. A. M. Harmon)
    Lucian, Cataplus (ed. A. M. Harmon)
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Re: What vocabulary does the NT word-list represent?

Postby Stephen Hughes » May 7th, 2014, 3:55 am

On reflection, I think a better name for this thread would be;
To what extent is the wider Koine vocabulary represented by the New Testament vocabulary, and what are the implications of that for learning and teaching vocabulary.

But that wouldn't fit on the line.
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Re: Perseus search results for Koine authours

Postby cwconrad » May 7th, 2014, 6:34 am

Stephen Hughes wrote:I realise that more capable people have probably done more interesting things with the data, but according to the Perseus vocabulary tool...

In the contemporary works listed below, there are 32,149 individual words in a total word-count of 2,688,531 words, with 6,644 (0.25% of the total word count) occurring once, (but still presumably being understandable by the audience reading that work).

I'm wondering whether the works of Dionysius of Halicarnassus and Lucian should really be included in this list of "Koine authors", inasmuch as they are decided Atticists. I have no idea what percentage of their vocabularies might lie outside of whatever might be considered a "standard" Koine vocabulary, but the whole question of registers of administrative, literary, mercantile, vernacular, etc. Greek comes into play here, does it not?
Carl W. Conrad
Department of Classics, Washington University (Retired)
ὁ ἀναγινώσκων νοείτω
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