E.A. Sophocles

Anything related to Biblical Greek that doesn't fit into the other forums.

Re: E.A. Sophocles

Postby Stephen Hughes » November 1st, 2013, 9:34 pm

I think that perhaps "Sophocles" is the answer to my question way back in July:
Stephen Hughes wrote:Grammars of modern languages sort of assume that people communicate (write and speak) in them.

How long has it been since someone "knew" Koine (or NT) greek and wrote a grammar?

And in fact, and to my disappointment, Sophocles' grammar is much of a muchness with all the other grammars of his time. I see now that I was hoping that the individual ability of the grammarian would solve shortcomings in the grammarians art. But now I suspect that the grammarians art might be able to gloss over the rough spots in an individual grammarians knowledge.
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Re: E.A. Sophocles

Postby MAubrey » November 1st, 2013, 10:42 pm

That's a whole lot of cynicism, Stephen.

Sophocles knew the language.
Robertson knew the language.
Kuhner knew the language.
Blass knew the language.
Moulton (both of father and son) knew the language.

I can't help but wonder if your expectations have been misplaced. It isn't their fault that the research questions that were viewed as important 100 years ago aren't the ones that you're interested in. A grammar is a communicative act to a particular audience at a particular time and place. It isn't their fault that you're not their audience. But it is your fault that you do not attempt to read their work from the point of view of their audience.
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Re: E.A. Sophocles

Postby Stephen Hughes » November 2nd, 2013, 2:13 am

MAubrey wrote:Sophocles knew the language.Robertson knew the language.Kuhner knew the language.Blass knew the language.Moulton (both of father and son) knew the language.

I can't help but wonder if your expectations have been misplaced. It isn't their fault that the research questions that were viewed as important 100 years ago aren't the ones that you're interested in. A grammar is a communicative act to a particular audience at a particular time and place. It isn't their fault that you're not their audience. But it is your fault that you do not attempt to read their work from the point of view of their audience.


I have no doubt that Robertson, Blass and the Moultons knew the grammar - and Sophocles for that matter - in an analytical or descriptive way. All three of them (I am not familiar with Kuhner) speak of the Greek authours in the 3rd person "they". I was initially wondering when was the last time that someone had described the language from the point of view of being a member of the speech community, from a person or group of people who used Greek as a language of everyday communication (written and/ or spoken). I had initially hoped - with what MAubrey rightly characterised as "misplaced" "expectations", and I characterised as disappointment - that Sophocles' grammar would be more of a "welcome to my language" as his grammar of Modern Greek (still written in the third person) seems to be.

I was wondering whether E A Sophocles "knew" Greek; whether he was someone who had an ability to use Greek at the same or similar level as the authours whose works he included as examples or whether he applied a grammatical model and found data then collated it. While that collection and arrangement is a means to an end, it is not the be all and end all of grammar.
Stephen Hughes
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Re: E.A. Sophocles

Postby Jonathan Robie » November 2nd, 2013, 5:53 am

I suspect it's rather difficult for us to put Sophocles or other earlier writers to the test, all we have is their written works and their biographies. Some epistemological humility is called for.

But Sophocles did grow up in Greece, modern Greek was his native language, had a good reputation among the classicists in his native Greece, and he had contempt for the German school of Greek, at least according to this obituary in the Proceedings of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.

Whatever you think of his lexicon, I think he probably did know Greek well.
ἐξίσταντο δὲ πάντες καὶ διηποροῦντο, ἄλλος πρὸς ἄλλον λέγοντες, τί θέλει τοῦτο εἶναι;
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Re: E.A. Sophocles

Postby Jonathan Robie » November 2nd, 2013, 7:23 am

The Sophocles collection also seems to be available from the Hellenic American Union and the "Treasure of the Greek Language" Institute.

I have no details on this. I just sent them email to ask.

Anyone here in Boston or Cambridge? Anyone here ever have contact with the Greek Institute, which seems to be the same group mentioned above?
ἐξίσταντο δὲ πάντες καὶ διηποροῦντο, ἄλλος πρὸς ἄλλον λέγοντες, τί θέλει τοῦτο εἶναι;
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Re: E.A. Sophocles

Postby cwconrad » November 2nd, 2013, 7:46 am

Jonathan Robie wrote:I suspect it's rather difficult for us to put Sophocles or other earlier writers to the test, all we have is their written works and their biographies. Some epistemological humility is called for.

But Sophocles did grow up in Greece, modern Greek was his native language, had a good reputation among the classicists in his native Greece, and he had contempt for the German school of Greek, at least according to this obituary in the Proceedings of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.


That's amusing, to me at least. Sounds like a caricature of a native Greek scholar in the field of ancient Greek -- we know so few of them but we form strong and no doubt misleading impressions (I've known at least one who was a very pleasant fellow). It's hard to gauge to what extent ethnic pride impacts judgment.

This thread has also been curious. Four works by E.A. Sophocles are offered as a package; the only one really under discussion is the lexicon of Roman and Byzantine Greek. Suddenly the focus shifts to Sophocles' 1861 Greek Grammar, about which nobody has hitherto expressed anything favorable or unfavorable, but a question is asked about how well a native Greek-speaker "knows" ancient Greek, and the focus shifts to a different question, one that hadn't been asked: "Does any grammarian "know" the language the grammar of which he has written?" A challenging question, not altogether unlike, "Have you stopped beating your wife yet?" Yet we have often enough in this forum touched on the question, how well can any one who is not a native speaker of ancient/Biblical Greek know and analyze intelligently that language?

The question I'd raise -- although I don't know whether there's an adequate answer to be expected -- is why these other works of E.A. Sophocles are being offered in a collection? When it's clearly the Lexicon of Roman and Byzantine Greek that's wanted, why is it thought that the other works are worth digitizing?
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Re: E.A. Sophocles

Postby RandallButh » November 2nd, 2013, 7:50 am

Jonathan Robie wrote:I suspect it's rather difficult for us to put Sophocles or other earlier writers to the test, all we have is their written works and their biographies. Some epistemological humility is called for.

But Sophocles did grow up in Greece, modern Greek was his native language, had a good reputation among the classicists in his native Greece, and he had contempt for the German school of Greek, at least according to this obituary in the Proceedings of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.



This is getting interesting. And was he impressed with American scholarship, when living/working in the US?

There is a definitional problem in saying that people were 'skilled in whichever language' or that someone 'knew the language'.
From what Jonathan mentions it would not be difficult to guess that 'Sophocles knew the language' and 'Robertson knew the language' are not equivalents. (And how did Duck Dynasty get into BGreek? [Just keeping everyone on their toes :D ]) [Without ruffling too many feathers or mentioning names, I can illustrate with anecdotal evidence. One person received a suggestion to do a complicated dissertation in Israel. The student asked the advisor why a particular Greek work needed a reanalysis of its language background since commentaries and published research had already covered the subject in minutiae. The answer, 'because it needs to be done be someone who knows the [whole] language [Hebrew].' Such an advisor was not saying that previous works were not erudite or done by well-respected, trained scholars. But the advisor had obviously detected a kind of woodenness and mishandling of the Hebrew data in previous discussions. Yes, this still happens. More to home, Classicist Paula Safire in When Dead Tongues Talk (or something close) said that she recognises that she does not control Greek the way that her colleagues in modern literature control their languages. She even mentioned that she could speak French much better than Greek.] Stephen is correct that there is a difference between having an expert control of the grammar of a language with wide reading [without rapidly communicating in the language], and knowing the warp and woof of the language. Of course, netiher one will guarantee good scholarship or penetrating analysis, but the 'warp and woof' is a different level of knowing.
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Re: E.A. Sophocles

Postby MAubrey » November 2nd, 2013, 8:33 am

cwconrad wrote:That's amusing, to me at least. Sounds like a caricature of a native Greek scholar in the field of ancient Greek -- we know so few of them but we form strong and no doubt misleading impressions (I've known at least one who was a very pleasant fellow). It's hard to gauge to what extent ethnic pride impacts judgment.

I can't find the reference, but Sophocles also had a good amount of frustration with the Demotic/Katharevousa debates in his native Greece as well.
cwconrad wrote:The question I'd raise -- although I don't know whether there's an adequate answer to be expected -- is why these other works of E.A. Sophocles are being offered in a collection? When it's clearly the Lexicon of Roman and Byzantine Greek that's wanted, why is it thought that the other works are worth digitizing?

The short answer is that Logos has been working on sorts of "collected works" collection. There's also one for Blass, Moulton, and a few others.

Stephen Hughes wrote:While that collection and arrangement is a means to an end, it is not the be all and end all of grammar.

Perhaps we should start a new thread here in the linguistics/grammar subforum that asks that as a question:

What do you view as purpose or goal of a grammar?

That might be useful for all of us in understanding what expectations each of us bring to the task of grammar.
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Re: E.A. Sophocles

Postby Stephen Hughes » November 2nd, 2013, 8:48 am

RandallButh wrote:Stephen is correct that there is a difference between having an expert control of the grammar of a language with wide reading [without rapidly communicating in the language], and knowing the warp and woof of the language. Of course, netiher one will guarantee good scholarship or penetrating analysis, but the 'warp and woof' is a different level of knowing.
Forgive my ignorance of weaving... By warp and woof you mean it comes to you off the cuff? Right? Or is it the other way around "warp and woof" means deep grammatical knowledge.

There are many, many native speakers, but very few scholars (in whatever language). Being both would seem to be an advantage. I think that E A Sophocles has something of that advantage.
Stephen Hughes
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Re: E.A. Sophocles

Postby Stephen Hughes » November 2nd, 2013, 8:50 am

RandallButh wrote:More to home, Classicist Paula Safire in When Dead Tongues Talk (or something close) said that she recognises that she does not control Greek the way that her colleagues in modern literature control their languages. She even mentioned that she could speak French much better than Greek.]


With all due respect to PS... If I said, "I know Chinese", you would expect that I could communicate, interact etc in a Chinese speaking environment and with Chinese people, listen to the radio or perhaps watch a movie. I can do all those things, so i feel okay to say, "I know Chinese". I learnt by immersion in the midst of my daily life and interactions over the past decade. I ahve colleagues and friends who "learnt" Chinese from some course or private tutor, but really have the ear for the language and have no really mastery of it, but they can explain grammar adn they know which words are nouns or verbs and can explain various sort of grammar things that I don't even know about. I'm only a speaker / user of the language not a grammarian. I could never "teach" Chinese, beyond saying, "You should say something something something in such and so situation, because that is what people do".

But if one says, "I know Greek" it doesn't mean anything like what my "I knwo Chinese" does. In fact, if somebody asks me if I know NTG, I usually say, "Not very much." (I can read and listen okay, but only write haltingly and have never even tried speaking. I have an okay vocabulary of which I can use most of it okay.) I can use 1/10 of what I can understand in Chinese, but I can use like 1/2 of what I understand in Greek - I don't know why. I guess that is because it is a "learned" language rather than an acquired one. I don't know.
Stephen Hughes
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