Sequence of complexity

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Sequence of complexity

Post by jeffreyrequadt » March 27th, 2012, 11:55 pm

Hello friends,

As some may be aware, a few of us are working on a project entailing a system of leveling texts and creating leveled texts. I'm curious to those of you who have spent some time thinking about this, and especially people who teach actively (involving more of their students' minds than just rote memorization or automatic parsing and declining of every word in sight), if you have thoughts on the complexity levels of various Koine Greek features. What kinds of grammatical structures should be seen and be familiarized with first? What kinds of sentence structures are most common (in real Greek, not contrived textbook Greek)? What kinds of particles are more common and/or easily recognizable/comprehensible? Where do idioms fit in? I'm looking for a broad range of items. I'm also looking for general principles that make sense, rather than what sequence a certain textbook prescribes. I'm not trying to get nitpicky.

For example, here is an excerpt from a description of a leveling system for English books by Fountas and Pinnell:
A: Characteristics of Texts at Level A:
• Text and concepts highly supported by pictures
• One line of text on each page
• Familiar, easy content
• Repeating language patterns (3‐6 words per page)
• Short, predictable sentences
B: Characteristics of Texts at Level B:
• Text and concepts highly supported by pictures
• Two or more lines of text on each page
• Repeating language patterns (3‐7 words per page)
• Very familiar themes and ideas
• Short, predictable sentences
C: Characteristics of Texts at Level C:
• Familiar, easy content
• Introduction of dialogue (assigned by said in most cases)
• Many sentences with prepositional phrases and adjectives
• Some simple contractions and possessives (words with apostrophes)
• Two to five lines of text on each page
• Some bolded words
• Some ellipses, commas, quotation marks, question marks, and exclamation points
D: Characteristics of Texts at Level D:
• Familiar, easy content, themes, and ideas
• Simple dialogue (some split dialogue)
• Many sentences with prepositional phrases and adjectives
• Some longer sentences (some with more than six words)
• Some simple contractions and possessives (words with apostrophes)
• Two to six lines of text on each page
• Some sentences turn over to the next line
• Some words with –s and –ing endings
• Fewer repetitive language patterns
E: Characteristics of Texts at Level E:
• Familiar content that expands beyond home, neighborhood, and school
• Most concepts supported by pictures
• More literary stories and language
• Concrete, easy‐to‐understand ideas
• Some longer sentences – more than ten words
• Some three‐syllable words
• Some sentences with verb preceding subject
• Variation of words to assign dialogue in some texts (said, cried, shouted)
• Easy contractions
• Mostly words with easy, predictable spelling patterns
• Two to eight lines of print per page
This goes on to levels Y/Z:
Y/Z: Characteristics of Texts at Levels Y/Z:
• Many texts with the complex structure of adult reading
• Unusual text organizations (flashback, flash forward, time lapses)
• Many new vocabulary words that readers must derive meaning from context or use glossaries or dictionaries
• Many texts presenting multiple themes that may be understood in many layers
• Long stretches of descriptive language that are important to understanding setting and characters Full range of literary devices (for example, flashback, stories within stories, symbolism, and figurative language)
• Some switching from setting to setting, including time change (often unsignaled, or signaled only by dialogue)
• Some very long sentences (more than thirty words)
• Words that offer decoding challenges because they are archaic, come from regional dialect, or from languages other than English
These are very basic principles. What suggestions would you have for Koine Greek?
Jeffrey T. Requadt
Tucson, AZ

Posts: 413
Joined: June 1st, 2011, 4:19 am
Location: Lilongwe, Malawi

Re: Sequence of complexity

Post by Paul-Nitz » March 28th, 2012, 7:40 am

The list you provided is interesting and could be helpful, but it's very general, isn't it?

I've been looking at a related subject in second language acquisition material, the "natural order" of learning grammar (or "acquisition order"). The idea is that in any language, there is a predictable progression in which people pick up grammar. Much of the literature is specific to learning English, but there are some interesting charts comparing learning different languages. See Krashen et al. ... le/112/110

Interesting stuff, but in the end, I haven't found any neat universal list that would shed light on how to come up with a sequence for learning Greek grammar. But from all my hunting, I have come away with three conclusions, for what they're worth...

a) Teach what is immediately useful and meaningful for communication.
  • I'd say that means we should build naturally by predicting what students would WANT to be able to say next. Present and Aorist Indicatives, both thematic and athematic are needed right away. All cases and all declensions are needed. Some imperatives. I'm thinking M/P voice can wait. Because there is such a withering number of variations in the Indicatives and it would take so long to learn, I think students would appreciate sprinklings of less description and more volition. But maybe this can be just a part of the "automatic" speech we memorize (see next point)..

b) A teacher should distinguish between what he will teach as a new building block of the whole language and what he teaches as "automatic speech."
  • The automatic speech is for classroom directions, greetings, exclamations, and talking about the language. These phrases are memorized and used with understanding, but not necessarily with understanding of the grammar. For example, I might learn and use ασπαζομαι long before I would ever know that it is a M/P.

c) When the student approaches the language in the right way (Krashen calls it "monitoring"), he will be developing the same parts of the brain and adding to his understanding of the language NO MATTER whether he is learning from hearing, speaking, reading, or writing.
  • That was a surprise to me, but I think it makes sense. The key is to get the brain to approach Greek as communication. Once it's in that mode, any input/output method will add to his learning. But I'd still say, I can't imagine any average person getting into the right mode of approaching Greek without at least STARTING with the auditory/ oral. (Or, be doomed to fight VERY hard later in life to relearn Greek with the right approach... sigh...).
Paul D. Nitz - Lilongwe Malawi

Posts: 810
Joined: May 13th, 2011, 4:01 am

Re: Sequence of complexity

Post by RandallButh » March 29th, 2012, 4:30 am


That is an excellent post and moves in the right direction.
I'm thinking M/P voice can wait.
Actually, these middles [like πορεύομαι AND ἐπορεύθην ] are needed at the very beginning. You already mentioned ἀσπάζεσθαι. Maybe you could leave off the active? [Just kidding.]

And Krashen's 'monitor' refers to reflection on language. Monitoring isn't right or wrong, but it is not exactly the way one approaches a language. It is a level removed from actual communication but is a focus on the 'how' of communication. It is what we do in slow speech, in teaching, and frequently in writing when we have time to double-think what we write.

Posts: 57
Joined: May 30th, 2011, 11:20 pm

Re: Sequence of complexity

Post by jeffreyrequadt » March 31st, 2012, 2:13 am

All that makes sense. I don't disagree with any of it. I guess what I'm looking for is a slightly different angle. Rather than think about what sequence to teach things in (which is what textbooks and teachers do), I'm thinking as a reader. If I come to the text, what sort of things are going to be trickier for me than others? For example, as a native English speaker, my brain is used to thinking Subject-Verb-Object (unless it's a question, or poetry, etc.), so when I read Greek, the different word order can be challenging until I re-train my brain to not make that the default order of communication. And this is with the understanding that a text is only as easy or challenging as the person reading it. Every text is different because every person is different. Same thing with listening. What spoken language is trickier to understand (in general, assuming the person is speaking clearly and conventionally, etc.) than others? Are there some things that make more sense if the student waits until later to deal with it, even in a very active class with 95% Greek immersion? Are there other things that the learner needs to hear/read right away in order to make sense out of other things? For example, my two year old obviously understands a great deal more than she can say, but she still started out with certain words that made sense to her, and added on from there. Now she says "I need milk please" instead of "Milk!" I would describe this in my own non-linguistic way as her starting to use the name of the object she wanted, and later learning to put it at the end of a sentence that starts with "I need." Before she would just say "glove"; now she says "my glove." I hope this makes sense. I'm not looking for a sequence to TEACH as much as a sequence of what is generally easier to understand/learn vs. harder to understand/learn. What kinds of things do Greek learners have the most success with (in general)?
Jeffrey T. Requadt
Tucson, AZ

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