Modern Hebrew and spoken ancient languages

Modern Hebrew and spoken ancient languages

Postby Stephen Hill » October 14th, 2012, 1:21 pm

I ran across this article today (http://www.zuckermann.org/pdf/Hybridity ... bility.pdf) and would be interested to know what you all think about it.

Some relevant bits from the conclusion:

This article contributes towards recognizing that the revival of a no-longer spoken language is unlikely without cross-fertilization from the revivalists’ mother tongue(s) and towards understanding Israeli as a hybridic language


I hypothesize that the Congruence Principle is most significant to the study of Israeli: If a feature exists in more than one contributing language (or idiolect, sociolect, ethnolect etc.), it is more likely to persist in the emerging language


One of the common objections to teaching Greek (or Latin or Classical Hebrew) communicatively is that you'll end up with a hybrid language, neither fish nor fowl, that will trick students and teachers into thinking they're speaking Greek when in reality they're speaking a worthless interlanguage of sorts. Do Zuckermann's claims lend credence to this objection? Or does the analogy fail because he's addressing the widespread revival of a language in a naturalistic context, rather than spoken usage limited to students and teachers who consciously strive to emulate the ancient language? I tend to think the latter. Spoken ancient Greek shows no signs, to put it mildly, of spreading beyond the circle of students and teachers who use it for its own sake and/or for pedagogical reasons. Its being adopted on a scale comparable to that of Modern Hebrew is rather unlikely.
ἡμεῖς οὐχ Ἕλληνες• ἀνέλληνες δὲ φιλοῦμεν
τὴν οὐ καρφομένην Ἑλλάδος ἀνθοσύνην. – Headlam
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Re: Modern Hebrew and spoken ancient languages

Postby RandallButh » October 15th, 2012, 2:26 am

Stephen Hill wrote:I ran across this article today (http://www.zuckermann.org/pdf/Hybridity ... bility.pdf) and would be interested to know what you all think about it.

Some relevant bits from the conclusion:

This article contributes towards recognizing that the revival of a no-longer spoken language is unlikely without cross-fertilization from the revivalists’ mother tongue(s) and towards understanding Israeli as a hybridic language


I hypothesize that the Congruence Principle is most significant to the study of Israeli: If a feature exists in more than one contributing language (or idiolect, sociolect, ethnolect etc.), it is more likely to persist in the emerging language


One of the common objections to teaching Greek (or Latin or Classical Hebrew) communicatively is that you'll end up with a hybrid language, neither fish nor fowl, that will trick students and teachers into thinking they're speaking Greek when in reality they're speaking a worthless interlanguage of sorts. Do Zuckermann's claims lend credence to this objection? Or does the analogy fail because he's addressing the widespread revival of a language in a naturalistic context, rather than spoken usage limited to students and teachers who consciously strive to emulate the ancient language? I tend to think the latter. Spoken ancient Greek shows no signs, to put it mildly, of spreading beyond the circle of students and teachers who use it for its own sake and/or for pedagogical reasons. Its being adopted on a scale comparable to that of Modern Hebrew is rather unlikely.


There are a couple of assumptions in the above, spoken and unspoken, that could potentially confuse the discussion.

For one, every time that a monolingual person becomes a bilingual they go through a process of building an interlanguage that is neither the first language nor the second language. In addition, there is evidence and a commonly held view that a multilingual person is essentially different from a monolingual person to some degree, even in their first language. Lest this psycholinguistic situation deter someone from going down the multilingual path, it may be added that multilingualism is a common and natural human condition, something to be embraced and studied, not avoided.

As a second point, the idea that multilingualism somehow invalidates the learner's language knowledge (... a worthless interlanguage of sorts") is a strawman argument. The alternatives are worse. Imagine having no interlanguage at all. Those with such a lack would be even farther away from the language of interest. In addition, they do not have the apparatus in place for the rapid reading of the language and they would block their closest approximation to the language of interest. Multilinguals all testify that they appreciate the direct access to the second language and one does not hear of complaints that they wished that they could go back to monolingualism.

Stephen is correct that the interest in teachers and students in continually using the ancient written texts as the standard for evaluating any language use also protects it from a denigration of being merely a 'hybrid'. In fact it is a window into the ancient language and the greater the fluency and processing ability of the learner the greater their ability to enjoy the literature. Linguistic analysis, of course, is a different matter altogether, as is seen in modern linguistics and English. Modern linguistics is an endeavor to understand how human language works and how any one language works. It is a theoretical battleground at times. But general linguistics is not the analysis or appreciation of a literature, nor is it the primary tool today for literary studies. For that, one wants widespread, rapid reading, as well as a close pedantic reading of a text against itself, wider literary contexts, and culture. For this endeavor, there is no substitute for a fluent control of a language, even if it is a second language.
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Re: Modern Hebrew and spoken ancient languages

Postby Stephen Carlson » October 15th, 2012, 5:57 am

Stephen Hill wrote:One of the common objections to teaching Greek (or Latin or Classical Hebrew) communicatively is that you'll end up with a hybrid language, neither fish nor fowl, that will trick students and teachers into thinking they're speaking Greek when in reality they're speaking a worthless interlanguage of sorts.


I've never heard this objection and it seems ill-founded. Who actually makes this claim?
Stephen C. Carlson, Ph.D. (Duke)
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Re: Modern Hebrew and spoken ancient languages

Postby Stephen Hill » October 15th, 2012, 10:12 am

Stephen C., I've run across it on the internet a few times, most recently on the classics listserv. "Common" may have been overstating it. For example, from the comments at http://bltnotjustasandwich.com/2011/09/25/response-to-daniel-street-why-it-is-a-pipe-dream/:

My concern is that an interlanguage would be created for ancient Greek composed of the misreadings and misrepresentations that are found in lexicons, and they are many. I am then concerned that this interlanguage would be generated by instructors, and maintained by students and become a permanent and seriously flawed relative of the original language. But it would carry the conviction of truth. People would believe, as they aready do, that κλῆσις meant “calling” rather than “invitation” or “summons.” I find this excruciating, that certain fictions about ancient Greek would simply take on greater gravitas.


That's what I have in mind.

Randall, I agree that having an interlanguage is better than having none at all. I certainly wouldn't want to go back to my purely grammar-translation experience of Greek.
ἡμεῖς οὐχ Ἕλληνες• ἀνέλληνες δὲ φιλοῦμεν
τὴν οὐ καρφομένην Ἑλλάδος ἀνθοσύνην. – Headlam
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Re: Modern Hebrew and spoken ancient languages

Postby Stephen Carlson » October 15th, 2012, 10:28 am

Thanks, Stephen. Not having read the comments on the classics listserv about an "interlanguage" (with Google not finding anything), I can't really speak to that. In the thread you cited, it appears to be a bit of a nonce-objection in the course of a heated debate I don't want to go into but the basic premise of the objection seems to be that most teachers of Koine Greek aren't already fluent in it and so can't be expected to competently teach fluency.
Stephen C. Carlson, Ph.D. (Duke)
Post-Doctoral Fellow, Faculty of Theology, Uppsala
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Re: Modern Hebrew and spoken ancient languages

Postby Stephen Hill » October 15th, 2012, 10:57 am

The Classics-L thread was from July, titled "Conversational Greek." A quick google search doesn't yield anything for me, but it should come up in a search of the archives at http://lsv.uky.edu/scripts/wa.exe?S1=classics-l. If I remember correctly, someone made the objection that communicative methods for ancient languages result in the perpetuation of barbarisms.

Right, my earlier example was not the focus of that particular debate, but I think it's worth considering. From an SLA perspective, of course, the development of an interlanguage is no reason to stop teaching communicatively; if it were, the modern language folks would be in for a rude awakening. But from a classics perspective, I can see why it would be a concern. I brought up the original article because it seemed to offer ammunition to those who would object to teaching ancient languages communicatively based on interlanguage (whether the term "interlanguage" is used or not).
ἡμεῖς οὐχ Ἕλληνες• ἀνέλληνες δὲ φιλοῦμεν
τὴν οὐ καρφομένην Ἑλλάδος ἀνθοσύνην. – Headlam
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Re: Modern Hebrew and spoken ancient languages

Postby RandallButh » October 16th, 2012, 5:03 am

Stephen Carlson wrote:Thanks, Stephen. ...
most teachers of Koine Greek aren't already fluent in it and so can't be expected to competently teach fluency.


maybe this can change.
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