cwconrad wrote:You've already had several different answers to your question. I could chime in with my own experience of studying New Testament Koine in my first year of academic Greek, moving on to read the Iliad of Homer in my second year, and then to read Aristotle's Nicomachean Ethics in my third year -- but that's no help to you in understanding what you're asking, any more than reading the flawed Wikipedia account of the history of the Greek language. I think this is like asking, "What's the difference between chocolate, strawberry, and vanilla ice cream?" You can't get where you want to go by asking that kind of question. It might be a little more helpful to look at three or four pages of texts of several lines each from several eras of Greek from Mycenean or Homeric up to the modern demotic. It would be like looking at texts from Beowulf, the Magna Carta, Chaucer, Shakespeare, Milton, Whitman, Faulkner (just to list some literary texts of significance) and asking, "What's the difference between the "English" of these texts? There is no road map that will take you to distinctly segmented temporal and geographical dominions of a language; there are only the ways in which a language is spoken, heard, written (if written at all) and understood in a particular time at a particular place. You have to go there and listen to it and hear it and begin to make sense of what you hear and learn to talk to its speakers bit by bit. Historical linguists (or Linguistic historians?) can draw up lists of features and of geographical areas and time-periods in which the language in question is "more or less stable", and what they tell you is something that you may or may not find useful as an answer to your question. Such answers are abstractions based on somewhat arbitrarily-chosen criteria, approximations. But to know what Homeric Greek is you'll need to read a sizable amount of Homeric verse; to know what's Attic Greek you'll need to read some Xenophon and some Thucydides and some Sophocles and some Aeschylus. And so forth. This is a beginner's question, but I am not sure that a beginner in Greek can be given a very useful answer to the question.
I began Greek as a high school junior in 1943, reading Xenophon. Homer and Plato. In seminary I translated for required courses Luke, 1 Corinthians and Romans, and took electives kn John and James. In my Ph. D. program at Washington University (before Carl taught there) I read Pindar, 3 Greek tragedies,3 comedies and Thudydides. I had a seminary in which we read the entire Iliad the first semester, the entire Odyssey the next.
My son at Yale decided to do his degree in Ancient Greek history after a course in ancient history. Took the one semester course in Attic Greek, then a reading course in his junior year. Unhappy with his Greek ability he came home after his junior year and translated Thucydides for four to five hours a day, using the LSJ as his resource. He is now Professor ancient history and classics at Davidson College, a respected authority on Greek warfare (read his book on the Battle of Marathon).
In brief there is no shortcut to mastery of ancient Greek other than meticulously and carefully reading large quantities of text. No theory of linguistics makes it easier--though it may help an instructor develop better modes of introducing the language.