Teaching Greek to Kids

Re: Teaching Greek to Kids

Postby Devenios Doulenios » July 16th, 2011, 4:32 am

About the TPRS, I plan to put some Greek materials together at some point—first for my own use, then to share. I will be glad to pass on to you copies of what I make.

One thing that worked well with the Latin and the kids was playing "Simon Says". I taught some vocab. for some basic actions (stand up, sit down, repeat, show, touch, look at, point to, etc.), how to say "please", and body parts (accusative singular/plural) and combined them in a Simon Says game. You could also do this with other vocabulary.

Devenios Doulenios
Δεβένιος Δουλένιος
"τὴν ζωὴν καὶ τὸν θάνατον δέδωκα πρὸ προσώπου ὑμῶν τὴν εὐλογίαν καὶ τὴν κατάραν ἔκλεξαι τὴν ζωήν ἵνα ζῇς σὺ καὶ τὸ σπέρμα σου"-Dt. 30:19

"Ὁδοὶ δύο εἰσί, μία τῆς ζωῆς καὶ μία τοῦ θανάτου."--Διδαχή Α, α'
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Re: Teaching Greek to Kids

Postby Stephen Hughes » June 18th, 2013, 4:03 am

RandallButh wrote:there was virtually no age limit, even pre-schoolers for much of the material.

I realise this is an old thread, but it is an interesting one. I hope that there could be empirical evidence for some basic questions for childhood language acquistion:
Have any any early bilinguals resulted from sharing the Koine learning with their parents? Did they display the (expected) acquisition sequence? Did they initially produce the final nu at the root infinitive stage of acquisition? In what order the number cases of verbs emerge? (was it the expected 3s, 1p then the rest?). At what age / stage did the simplified demonstratives disappear and the articles/ (mature) demonstratives appear?
Stephen Hughes
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Re: Teaching Greek to Kids

Postby RandallButh » June 18th, 2013, 4:37 am

Stephen Hughes wrote:
RandallButh wrote:there was virtually no age limit, even pre-schoolers for much of the material.

I realise this is an old thread, but it is an interesting one. I hope that there could be empirical evidence for some basic questions for childhood language acquistion:
Have any any early bilinguals resulted from sharing the Koine learning with their parents? Did they display the (expected) acquisition sequence? Did they initially produce the final nu at the root infinitive stage of acquisition? In what order the number cases of verbs emerge? (was it the expected 3s, 1p then the rest?). At what age / stage did the simplified demonstratives disappear and the articles/ (mature) demonstratives appear?


It is good to ask questions about acquisition sequence, but it's probably dealing with a mismatch in magnitude by at least three and probably four. OK, let's unpack that.

First, childhood acquisition takes place in a situation where massive comprehensible input is occurring. The child is surrounded by thousands of hours of comprehensible input in years 1, 2, 3, and four. I do not know of any children in such an environment. Watching the Living Koine Greek part one pictures provides about 25-50 hours of comprehensible input. While such is qualitatively light years better than talking to them about Greek in English, it is still just a drop in the bucket.

Secondly, yes, one may expect certain orders of acquisition though I am not sure what they would be. Why would a child first produce "final nu at the root infinitive stage of acquisition", whatever exactly that would be? Wouldn't θέλω be expected over (ἐ)θελεῖν or (ἐ)θελῆσαι? Of course, θέλω becomes clear in an environment where one hears two speakers going back and forth between ἐγώ --ω and σύ --εις.
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Re: Teaching Greek to Kids

Postby Stephen Carlson » June 18th, 2013, 6:25 am

RandallButh wrote:First, childhood acquisition takes place in a situation where massive comprehensible input is occurring. The child is surrounded by thousands of hours of comprehensible input in years 1, 2, 3, and four. I do not know of any children in such an environment. Watching the Living Koine Greek part one pictures provides about 25-50 hours of comprehensible input. While such is qualitatively light years better than talking to them about Greek in English, it is still just a drop in the bucket.


I've been doing a structured 20+ hours a week in Swedish for nearly 5 months, and it's still tough going. Though my comprehension and production have greatly improved, I still have not attained the level of fluency I want.
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Re: Teaching Greek to Kids

Postby Stephen Hughes » June 18th, 2013, 7:01 am

RandallButh wrote:Secondly, yes, one may expect certain orders of acquisition though I am not sure what they would be. Why would a child first produce "final nu at the root infinitive stage of acquisition", whatever exactly that would be? Wouldn't θέλω be expected over (ἐ)θελεῖν or (ἐ)θελῆσαι? Of course, θέλω becomes clear in an environment where one hears two speakers going back and forth between ἐγώ --ω and σύ --εις.

Varlokosta et al. (1997) "Functional Projections, Markedness, and 'Root Infinitives' in Early Child Greek", of course dealing with Modern Greek, following Rizzi (1994) "Some Notes on Linguistic Theory and Language Development: The Case of Root infinitives. Language Acquisition 3:371-393. Concludes "that young children prefer that well-formed item of the verbal paradigm that allows them to use (or project) as little of the functional hierarchy as possible. In Koine that is the Infinitive (later with the accusative). The only possible information carried by the infinitive (in some languages) is aspect. So, theoretically, it seems, that aspect would have been the first acquired linguistic skill in childhood acquisition of Koine Greek (for those who spoke it as a home language).

If bilingual Koine children are producing verb+/i/ forms, they can be interpreted as infinitive (where he or she can't get their mouth around the final nu) or third singular indicative active forms, but just consider the world of the child's interaction. At home, with a (primary care-giver) mother or grand-parent, it is a first and second person singular dependent world. To my mind it is logical to not mark the difference in person too much, so the unassigned (to person or number form) is universally useful. When the child wants to talk to someone else about things (or people) then the third person singular forms are logically acquired.

I don't find it surprising that the 3rd singular and the 1st person plural are acquired at about the same time. Because they are sort of opposites. It is like, there is "me and you mommy (or other primary care-giver either permanent or from time to time)" and there is a succession of "other things" that are not "me and mommy". In my experience that is also a very clingy (emotionally demanding and attention seeking) stage of the child's socialisation.

RandallButh wrote:fortunately, the inflections that are most irregular tend to be the most common.
That is why kids eventually learn "went" in English instead of "goed".

That quote is of course in another thread Re: Speaking Greek means digging into inflections
viewtopic.php?f=28&t=1236&p=6049&hilit=goed#p6049
That is perhaps true at a later stage of the learning process, but there is an earlier step. The studies pioneered by Rodger Brown (1973) on the pseudonymous Adam, Eve, and Sarah, and then by many others following him, suggest that initially the irregular verbal forms at a stage when tense is not yet understood. That is to say that "go" and "went" are both learnt (approx age 1). Later, the research seems to suggest, there is a morphological generalisation and children produce the "go-ed" (approx age 2) form that you mentioned. Then later still, the irregular (suppletive) form is learnt (againor anew approx age 4), but this time it is learn as the past tense of "go".

Taking into account the data from studies on other languages, the age at which Koine number case inflection would be mastered (to some degree at least) would I guess be around 3 +/-6 months. And this is before prepositions are mastered. That is logical if prepositions are taken as case-meaning modifiers, but illogical if they are understood as having separate definable meaning themselves. That is to say prepositions further define the world around the child as they perceive distinctions in the world.

I was expecting to find in studies that the imperative form would be the first learnt. I am now considering that the imperative form is the first understood by children, but not the first produced - reason being that a child begins life as a passive (object) of the actions of others, and doesn't need to express him or herself in a way that changes the world, so despite the regular input of the imperative, it doesn't necessarily follow that it is produced early. So too for negatives; fully formed negatives seem to be produced quite late in language acquisition process. And perhaps negative questions are the last to be formed correctly (c. age 4;6 or 5)

The Modern Greek data doesn't really answer my questions about the future. Of course at a particular point in neurolinguistic development the child will need to acquire (start using) a form that expresses the future. But I'm not settled in my mind as to how a child would conceive of the difference between a aorist subjunctive and a future indicative.

RandallButh wrote:Watching the Living Koine Greek part one pictures provides about 25-50 hours of comprehensible input. While such is qualitatively light years better than talking to them about Greek in English, it is still just a drop in the bucket.

It is not only input that is needed, it is also necessary for a young learner to have someone to bounce the new things off. It seems that in many cases young children learn by seeing what reactions their attempts at language have on others, and what responses they elicit. They need someone to be interactive with them. Studies seem to suggest that it doesn't need to be really much, but it best in a mutually trusting relationship.
Stephen Hughes
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Re: Teaching Greek to Kids

Postby RandallButh » June 18th, 2013, 7:36 am

Stephen Hughes wrote:
RandallButh wrote:Secondly, yes, one may expect certain orders of acquisition though I am not sure what they would be. Why would a child first produce "final nu at the root infinitive stage of acquisition", whatever exactly that would be? Wouldn't θέλω be expected over (ἐ)θελεῖν or (ἐ)θελῆσαι? Of course, θέλω becomes clear in an environment where one hears two speakers going back and forth between ἐγώ --ω and σύ --εις.

Varlokosta et al. (1997) "Functional Projections, Markedness, and 'Root Infinitives' in Early Child Greek", of course dealing with Modern Greek, following Rizzi (1994) "Some Notes on Linguistic Theory and Language Development: The Case of Root infinitives. Language Acquisition 3:371-393. Concludes "that young children prefer that well-formed item of the verbal paradigm that allows them to use (or project) as little of the functional hierarchy as possible. In Koine that is the Infinitive (later with the accusative). The only possible information carried by the infinitive (in some languages) is aspect. So, theoretically, it seems, that aspect would have been the first acquired linguistic skill in childhood acquisition of Koine Greek (for those who spoke it as a home language).


It would help to hear what Varlokosta found. Modern Greek doesn't have an infinitive. On another point, your comment on aspect has been confirmed in several child development studies as well as creolization studies. See Bickerton, Roots of Language. It is only as the mental architecture matures that tense distinctions enter a language. these are fused into the aspect if a morphology is not available. Hense tense-aspects where things like bibHebrew *yiqtol maHar do not occur, not to mention Greek *ἐποίει αὔριον.

. . .

The Modern Greek data doesn't really answer my questions about the future. Of course at a particular point in neurolinguistic development the child will need to acquire (start using) a form that expresses the future. But I'm not settled in my mind as to how a child would conceive of the difference between a aorist subjunctive and a future indicative.


See above. Time is later than aspect in general devlopment, but now your topic is restricting things to doubly subordinate complications in Greek.
θα γραψω vs. θα γράφω
and να γράψω vs. να γράφω.

RandallButh wrote:Watching the Living Koine Greek part one pictures provides about 25-50 hours of comprehensible input. While such is qualitatively light years better than talking to them about Greek in English, it is still just a drop in the bucket.


It is not only input that is needed, it is also necessary for a young learner to have someone to bounce the new things off. It seems that in many cases young children learn by seeing what reactions their attempts at language have on others, and what responses they elicit. They need someone to be interactive with them. Studies seem to suggest that it doesn't need to be really much, but it best in a mutually trusting relationship.


Absolutely. Children need real people for language learning.
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Re: Teaching Greek to Kids

Postby Paul-Nitz » June 19th, 2013, 7:30 am

About a year ago, I was very keen to figure out a default order of acquisition. After a good deal of searching, I came up with very little. More recently, after a little more experience in teaching via a communicative approach, and after reading some excellent articles by TPRS guru Susan Gross, I have come the conclusion that even if we could suss out a default order of acquisition for any language, it would do little to guide teaching. The basics are clear. We start with simple language and leave longer and more complex language for later. Nearly all else is determined by the learners. What are they understanding? What do they need to know in order to communicate what they want?

In response to the original question of two years ago, "How to teach kids?" I'd recommend the "Where Are Your Keys" language game.

Search whereareyourkeys.org and languagehunters.org
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Re: Teaching Greek to Kids

Postby Stephen Hughes » June 22nd, 2013, 1:24 am

RandallButh wrote:
Stephen Hughes wrote:
RandallButh wrote: Children need real people for language learning.


I came across this some time ago on page 22-23 (Part of Chapter 1 – Learning languages in early childhood) of Lightbrown and Spada, How Languages are Learnt (Oxford, Third Edition, 2009)

"The importance of interaction
The role of interaction between a language-learning child and an INTEROLOCUTOR who responds in some way to the child is illuminated by cases where such interaction is missing. Jacqueline Sachs and her colleagues (1981) studied the language development of a child they called Jim. He was a hearing child of deaf parents, and his only contact with oral language was through television, which he watched frequently. The family was unusual in that the parents did not use sign language with Jim. Thus, although in other respects he was cared for, Jim did not begin his linguistic development in a normal environment in which a parent communicated with him in either oral or sign language. A language assessment at 3 years and 9 months indicated that he was well below age level in all aspects of language. Although he tried to express ideas appropriate to his age, he used unusual, ungrammatical word order.

When Jim began conversational sessions with an adult, his expressive abilities began to improve. By the age of 4 years and 2 months most of his unusual speech patterns had disappeared, replaced by structures more typical of his age. Jim’s younger brother Glenn did not display the same type of language delay. Glenn’s linguistic environment was different in that he had his older brother as a conversation partner.

Jim showed very rapid acquisition of the structures of English once he began to interact with an adult on a one-to-one basis. The fact that he had failed to acquire language normally prior to this experience suggests that impersonal sources of language such as television or radio alone are not sufficient. One-to-one interaction gives the child access to language that is adjusted to his or her level of comprehension. When a child does not understand, the adult may repeat or rephrase. The response of the adult may also allow children to find out when their own utterances are understood. Television for obvious reasons, does not provide such interaction. Even in children’s programmes, where simpler language is used and topic are relevant to younger viewers, no immediate adjustment is made for the needs of an individual child. Once children have acquired some language, however, television can be a source of language and cultural information."

Paul-Nitz wrote: keen to figure out a default order of acquisition. After a good deal of searching, I came up with very little.

There are studies that give default orders of acquisition for various modern languages, now mostly based on the speech samples in the CHILDES (Child language data exchange system). The problem with making a default acquisition order for Koine Greek is that it is virtually untestable. Theoretical linguistics DOES provide sound ways of making predictions about what can be expected in a Koine Greek "native speaker", then it is up to the applied linguists to find out if the predictions are valid. I realise that the idiom of the article in Modern Greek compared to the earlier language has become more standardised and overall the study doesn't have direct bearing on this dicussion, but you could see the interplay between prediction and data in Theodore Marinis, The acquisition of expl. def. articles in MG (1998). That paper uses a mixture of Hallidayan and Chomskyan terminology, which you can more or less gloss over and still follow the method (more or less). In recommending the article, let me mention that I have an issue with example (15) on the top of page 180, where "ti kukja" is taken as a genitive ("tis kuklas"), but it seems to me to be more grammatical to take it that Maria does not add the preposition to the accusative (yet) (giving "sti kukla").

All that being said, even if there are predictions, they are nothing more than that. If some linguistic pundit or guru were to make the predictions, and they seemed reasonable, then they would be more or less accepted, but would be basically on name alone. That is what prompted my initial question to Randall. There seems to be an order of social and personal needs that children follow, and real physical constrains on what a child can produce (preferred and dispreferred sound). There are also similar languages with observable data, but it would be better if there were actual data for Koine speaking children. Early learners would be those who have had exposure to the language from the first month of life. Perhaps those children might be the offspring of living Koine participants who have adopted Koine Greek as a home language. Without data, one could not do more than take educated guesses and postulate. Such a study is sort of non-academic and can never be more than something for personal interest.

According to my experience, I don't think languages are "taught" in early childhood, I think that the children just learn. Knowing a reasonable order of acquisition is useful to be able to choose what they will have a chance to be able to respond to. They won't use the same language back until much later, but they will get what you are saying and respond (mostly) appropriately. The infinitive mood and the accusative case seem fundamental. There will also most likely be a sort of simplified generic demonstrative (which will be chosen individually by the child and used for everything - until gender distinctions are noticed then expressed) as you can see a bit in the data in the Marinis article. The order of how verbs become complex seems to be aspect, mood and then tense. Adverbs of time are rarely used (and perhaps understood in a different way, I think maybe as adverbs of aspect). It seems to be that things are noticed and dealt with (passively) then later they are expressed. It seems that the term in the literature "acquisition" is meant in the sense of acquire mastery of form and expression, not in the sense of acquire an understanding of the form or feature. For "teaching", it would suggest that parents shouldn't overly simplify the language and start speaking at the same level as the child, but speak at the level that the child can comprehend. I haven't found a lot said about that hysteresis in acquisition doesn't seem to be well discussed in the books and papers I've been over. I think, however, that it does have great bearing on the presentation of material.

RandallButh wrote:Modern Greek doesn't have an infinitive.

Well, that is just a matter of teminology and grammatical definition. Grammars that work from a sort of a continuity understanding of Greek - that we see the Greek language expressed in Homer, in Plato, in the NT and now in the national language of the Hellenic Republic use the term infinitive - at different times, different expressions of the same Greek. They say that the old infinitive that we are familiar with in the Koine is now used in the synthetic construction 'exo verb+i. If, after 15 years, my memory serves me, during the Venetian period (Erotokritos) the form of the "infinitive" was still written (at least) with the final nu. Those who look at Modern Greek as a language in and of itself call the form a participle. They say, it can not be called infinitive any longer because it no longer carries most of the functions that are generally associated with the infinitive in other languages, those functions still exist in the Modern Greek language though.
Stephen Hughes
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Re: Teaching Greek to Kids

Postby RandallButh » June 22nd, 2013, 2:23 am

Well, that is just a matter of teminology and grammatical definition. Grammars that work from a sort of a continuity understanding of Greek - that we see the Greek language expressed in Homer, in Plato, in the NT and now in the national language of the Hellenic Republic use the term infinitive - at different times, different expressions of the same Greek. They say that the old infinitive that we are familiar with in the Koine is now used in the synthetic construction 'exo verb+i. If, after 15 years, my memory serves me, during the Venetian period (Erotokritos) the form of the "infinitive" was still written (at least) with the final nu. Those who look at Modern Greek as a language in and of itself call the form a participle. They say, it can not be called infinitive any longer because it no longer carries most of the functions that are generally associated with the infinitive in other languages, those functions still exist in the Modern Greek language though.


It would still help to hear/see what the actual modern Greek acquisition structures were. Their metalanguage name is less interesting, whether functional or etymological. Seeing the structures themselves and the order of acquision is what is important.
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Re: Teaching Greek to Kids

Postby Stephen Hughes » June 22nd, 2013, 7:00 am

RandallButh wrote:Seeing the structures themselves and the order of acquision is what is important.

That doesn't seem to be all together in one article (or within one school of thought). When my linguistic-experiments were younger, they were sent to a Saturday community school to learn a community language (for others it was a heritage language) with almost the complete PIE case system intact. To my (then) surprise they initially spoke without the case endings that I had hoped they would master. Of course they did eventually at least function linguistically in the group reaching primary school educational level, but unfortunately (as I later read to be the normal case) with a lack of an attachment feeling to the community whose heritage the language represented. I'm not sure if they are going to send my grand-linguistic-experiments out on such venture.

The point in bringing this up (and sending them to the community school), is that the way we teach Greek is basically designed for those who are proficient in Latin. We are using a third language teaching strategy to teach a second language.

For all second and further languages, the basis of the learning seems to be that a skill that is learnt in one language is transferable to the next language. In the literature it is referred to as the degree of similarity. Greek is presented in its declensions and conjugations that would be familiar to a Roman wanting to master Greek from his tutor / slave. The earliest Greek grammar, that of Constantine Lascaris, is really just like when you get two Romance language speakers together who compare their languages. They run through a couple of conjugations, and then get the hang of the new variety (more or less). The current debate about aspect, I think, traces its initial cause back to the difference between Greek and Latin aspect that was left unexplicated in the (now) "traditional" grammar system. The lack of aspect distinction was passed on to the grammars we now use in English to base or textual interactions on. So much for the Romans (and schoolboys down to WWI), but for a native speaker of English, the structure of the language is different.

When something doesn't have a simple correspondence in the target language, then the learner either relies on translation (including grammatical gymnastics) or the language has be be built up in a different way.

The basic acquisition is from the least marked forms to the most marked (those that carry the most information). It seems that the order is unmarked- marked (differentiated) for aspect - marked for mood - marked for tense. The limitation that you might like to consider in the Modern Greek system is that the "unmarked" form is going to be the choice between the two aspects, and that is probably going to be chosen by the individual child and then used with the over-generalisation that we would expect from babytalk. The one form will contain all meaning that the child needs to use in their life.

It is tempting to look at the Slavonic aspect system, and see how that is acquired, but that might not be as productive it at first promised to be. In addition, at some point number is differentiated then person. The case system in Modern Greek is probably not the best one to look at for how case acquisition happened in the Greek of our period, but better a Baltic or Slavonic language. The future particle θα goes way beyond the future that we know, and I think that the forms θα έγραφε 'he would write' and θα έγραψε 'he probably wrote' are forms that would be understood in the teens.
Stephen Hughes
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