Comprehensive Vocab Lists

Resources and methods for teaching and learning New Testament Greek.
Peter Montoro
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Joined: June 29th, 2015, 10:25 am

Comprehensive Vocab Lists

Post by Peter Montoro » June 29th, 2015, 10:36 am

I am trying to take the jump from reading only the NT to reading ancient Greek more widely. I am doing several things in pursuit of this goal, one of which is to memorize this https://quizlet.com/25270650/info vocab list that claims to constitute 80% of the vocabulary used in the the corpus of all forms of ancient Greek. Are there any lists more comprehensive than this? I know that it would be possible to create lists for the NT that were just as detailed as one would like, but what about the next thousand most common words more generally, or the next thousand most common words in Patristic Greek, or in Classical, or in Classical Historians or whatever? What I am looking for is something that has already been computerized and is reasonably accurate. I have read that once you learn 2-3 thousand words you can begin to pick up others much easier, even by context alone as I often do in English. Thanks for any help!

cwconrad
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Re: Comprehensive Vocab Lists

Post by cwconrad » June 29th, 2015, 1:54 pm

Peter Montoro wrote:I am trying to take the jump from reading only the NT to reading ancient Greek more widely. I am doing several things in pursuit of this goal, one of which is to memorize this https://quizlet.com/25270650/info vocab list that claims to constitute 80% of the vocabulary used in the the corpus of all forms of ancient Greek. Are there any lists more comprehensive than this? I know that it would be possible to create lists for the NT that were just as detailed as one would like, but what about the next thousand most common words more generally, or the next thousand most common words in Patristic Greek, or in Classical, or in Classical Historians or whatever? What I am looking for is something that has already been computerized and is reasonably accurate. I have read that once you learn 2-3 thousand words you can begin to pick up others much easier, even by context alone as I often do in English. Thanks for any help!
I just took a good look at the "quizlet" site referred to above. It might be a good source from which to begin to develop one's own list, but it seems a somewhat haphazardly-formulated list and the single-word glosses have all the subtlety and questionable utility of an interlinear. I'm inclined to think that one best learns vocabulary by groups of interrelated words, e.g. τρέχειν, δραμεῖν, τρόχος, δρόμος -- or ἀείδειν/ᾄδειν, ἀοιδός, ἀοιδή/ᾤδη, τραγῳδὸς, τραγῳδία etc. I think that the Middle Liddell (the intermediate of the three L&S formats) is probably about as inclusive of as much of Greek words of that whole time-range you've specified; I think it is readily available in a digital version, and even if its Victorian vintage (never updated to LSJ or LSJ-G) it does give information about cognates, indicates what kinds of literature particular words are characteristic of, and provides a wider range of common usages than such a list as that of the "quilzlet" site.

On the other hand, there's a lot to be said for learning vocabulary in the course of extensive and expansive reading of classic texts of each period: read twelve books of the Odyssey (take your pick) and start reading. You'll spend a fair amount of time at the outset looking up new words, but you'll be surprised at how soon you're gliding along. Read a book or two of Herodotus and you'll soon master Ionic vocabulary and narrative style. Read a couple plays of Euripides, then go on to the pseudo-Aeschylean Prometheus Bound, then on to Sophocles. Read some Lucian -- easy and impeccable Attic from the very era of the GNT -- and then go back and read some Lysias and some Plato. This may not be what you had in mind, but this way you learn words within the sort of context in which they are most likely to appear; you get not only monadic items of Greek vocabulary but whole realms of Greek thinking and expression -- and you get the vocabulary growth as a sort of bonus. Moreover, reading Herodotus and Lysias and Plato and then some Thucydides will make it a lot easier to tackle the Alexandrians Philo and Clement.
οὔτοι ἀπ’ ἀρχῆς πάντα θεοὶ θνητοῖς ὑπέδειξαν,
ἀλλὰ χρόνῳ ζητέοντες ἐφευρίσκουσιν ἄμεινον. (Xenophanes, Fragment 16)

Carl W. Conrad
Department of Classics, Washington University (Retired)

Peter Montoro
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Re: Comprehensive Vocab Lists

Post by Peter Montoro » June 29th, 2015, 2:24 pm

Hmmm. Thank you very much for your thoughtful reply!
This is what I have already done in my quest:

1. Worked through Mounce's Basics of Biblical Greek
2. Worked through Wallace's Greek Grammar Beyond the Basics (and workbook)
3. Worked through Zondervan's set of the first 1000 words in the NT (though of course I don't have all of them at the tip of my memory :-)
4. Worked through London's own Study Guide for the Subject. The exam had a set text of Mark 8-10 and John 18-21 so I worked on these till I could sight-translate and parse each word and verse
5. I listened to the GNT while following along though I don't really count this as reading
6. I am almost done with my second time through the GNT this year, using the UBS reader's. I am on track to read it four times this (calendar) year. Either the third or the fourth time I am going to switch to using a non-reader's edition and looking up the needed vocab in a lexicon
7. On track to read through Genesis, 1-4 Kingdoms in the LXX this (calendar) year.

This is what I have on the schedule for this (academic) year:

1. McLean's Hellenistic and Biblical Greek: A Graduated Reader
2. Greek Grammar -- an intensive course, by Hansen and Quinn
3. A Patristic Greek Reader by Rodney Whitacre
4. Read through Smyth's Grammar and BDF

I know that the list of vocab mentioned is simplistic and that there is much nuance that needs to be added to the glosses given—would it possibly be helpful to learn the glosses and then learn the nuance through large scale reading or does that end up being counterproductive. If I am not mistaken, I think that the list is based on TLG statistics, though I am by no means sure of this. Quizlet doesn't produce any decks themselves -- they are all user created. I have seen various breakdowns of that same basic deck in several places.

Stephen Hughes
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Re: Comprehensive Vocab Lists

Post by Stephen Hughes » June 29th, 2015, 3:18 pm

Peter Montoro wrote:Are there any lists more comprehensive than this? I know that it would be possible to create lists for the NT that were just as detailed as one would like, but what about the next thousand most common words more generally, or the next thousand most common words in Patristic Greek, or in Classical, or in Classical Historians or whatever? What I am looking for is something that has already been computerized and is reasonably accurate.
cwconrad wrote:On the other hand, there's a lot to be said for learning vocabulary in the course of extensive and expansive reading of classic texts of each period
If you learn from alphabetically arranged lists, you will experience something along the lines of Benford's law (but with alpha substituted for 1, beta for 2, and so on). Arranging words to be learnt by criteria other than alphabeticality may allow you to work around that bias in the learning process. Learning words in the order that the words occur in the texts, rather than extracting and otherwise ordering them is one option open to you.
Γελᾷ δ' ὁ μωρός, κἄν τι μὴ γέλοιον ᾖ
(Menander, Γνῶμαι μονόστιχοι 108)

Peter Montoro
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Re: Comprehensive Vocab Lists

Post by Peter Montoro » June 29th, 2015, 3:30 pm

I wouldn't be studying the list in order. Using spaced repetition with a flashcard app with new cards being added in random order.

Wes Wood
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Re: Comprehensive Vocab Lists

Post by Wes Wood » June 29th, 2015, 10:03 pm

Ἀσπάζομαι μὲν καὶ φιλῶ, πείσομαι δὲ μᾶλλον τῷ θεῷ ἢ ὑμῖν.-Ἀπολογία Σωκράτους 29δ

Peter Montoro
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Re: Comprehensive Vocab Lists

Post by Peter Montoro » June 29th, 2015, 11:07 pm

I hadn't seen it --- but it seems identical or almost so to the list I am working on. The explanation was helpful. I learned the nt vocab down to 10 occurrences (more or less) and then used that as a foundation to begin large scale reading, leaving the vocab cards behind. I think if I can master this list and work through Hansen and Quinn I should be able to at least stumble through Greek Narrative right?

Barry Hofstetter
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Re: Comprehensive Vocab Lists

Post by Barry Hofstetter » June 30th, 2015, 6:35 am

Peter, while I won't tell you not to read through grammars, I will suggest that your time is much better spent reading Greek. Reading grammars doesn't help you read Greek better -- it just helps you get better at finding facts about Greek in the grammars. Sit down with actual texts and read them. Make up your own vocabulary lists as you go along. Eventually forget the vocabulary lists, wean yourself from them, and just concentrate on reading and enjoying whatever Greek author is before you.
N.E. Barry Hofstetter
Instructor of Latin
Jack M. Barrack Hebrew Academy
ἐγὼ δὲ διδάσκω τε καὶ γράφω ἵνα τὰ ἀξιώτερα μανθάνω

cwconrad
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Re: Comprehensive Vocab Lists

Post by cwconrad » June 30th, 2015, 6:59 am

Barry Hofstetter wrote:Peter, while I won't tell you not to read through grammars, I will suggest that your time is much better spent reading Greek. Reading grammars doesn't help you read Greek better -- it just helps you get better at finding facts about Greek in the grammars. Sit down with actual texts and read them. Make up your own vocabulary lists as you go along. Eventually forget the vocabulary lists, wean yourself from them, and just concentrate on reading and enjoying whatever Greek author is before you.
Barry has stated much more simply and elegantly what I was trying to tell you earlier. Perhaps I'm misunderstanding, but what you've told us of your strategies seems almost to reflect a notion that a language is a quantity of facts to be committed to memory rather than a medium of communication -- as if learning to swim better were primarily a matter of finding out all you can about the nature of water. Some of what you'd learn that way might be helpful, but there's no substitute for working your "wheels" in the water.
οὔτοι ἀπ’ ἀρχῆς πάντα θεοὶ θνητοῖς ὑπέδειξαν,
ἀλλὰ χρόνῳ ζητέοντες ἐφευρίσκουσιν ἄμεινον. (Xenophanes, Fragment 16)

Carl W. Conrad
Department of Classics, Washington University (Retired)

Peter Montoro
Posts: 11
Joined: June 29th, 2015, 10:25 am

Re: Comprehensive Vocab Lists

Post by Peter Montoro » June 30th, 2015, 9:10 am

@cwconrad and @Barry Hofstetter -- (btw is that the correct way to reference specific previous commenters or is there another convention?). As far as true language acquisition only coming through large scale reading I agree entirely -- though I can see how you may not have gotten that from my list. I hope that reading through the NT four times in a year shows a desire to at least wade :). As per your advice I am going to skip reading BDF and Smyth for now and replace it with reading through some actual classical texts. I am fairly sure that there are reader's editions available for Xenophon and Herodotus at least. It still seems beneficial though to learn a core vocabulary before attempting extensive reading. Of course "learning" a flashcard is no substitute for learning the way that a given word is used by a given author. On the other hand though, it can take decades to understand the full semantic patina of a word, even in one's own native tongue, and that patina can only be developed if you can stumble through texts quickly enough to come across it enough times to begin to understand... Hope that makes a little more sense. I appreciate the feedback and correction!

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