Your Learning Approach & Pronunciation

The forum for those who still struggle with morphology, syntax, and idiom, or who wish to discuss basic questions about the meaning of Greek texts, syntax, or words.
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RandallButh
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Re: Your Learning Approach & Pronunciation

Post by RandallButh » May 3rd, 2015, 2:09 am

And this is the beauty of teaching the language as a real language. It is what it is. It does what it does. Whether or not the meta-language is easy or difficult, the expression, by itself, is like any other expression.
Universal grammar rule number one "We do it like that because that's the way they do it."

On some other notes:
κεφάλιον is good for 'chapter.'

On vowel length: one must explain the Great Greek Vowel shift after Alexander, and the dropping of vowel length is the primary culprit and victim. (S. Allen is good on pre-Alexander sound, but his post-Alexander evidence was not fully digested. See his successor in the Cambridge chair G Horrocks.) Reading papyri is best done with a Koine pronunication, and if one uses that, listening to Spiros is fairly comprehensible, even if not ideal with its post-Koine imis // imis for 'we' 'you'.
I don't recommend using Chaucer's "Attic" pronunciation for Shakespeare's "Koine" (Chaucer may have had difficulty following Shakespearean vowels, at least at first), but Shakespeare's koine and modern English are close enough.
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Paul-Nitz
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Re: Your Learning Approach & Pronunciation

Post by Paul-Nitz » May 3rd, 2015, 9:48 am

dmarino wrote: I was wondering if you've heard of BibleMesh and their biblical language courses? From what I understand they put a lot more emphasis on reading the text which I've heard is the approach of most European schools use rather than the "learn to decode method" popular in the US.
D.Marino,

Yes, I had heard of Bible Mesh. It's very hard to evaluate their pedagogy since very little information is given on their website. The course overview looks to be a traditional approach with objectives stated as grammatical points. They use the Gospel of John, "In Greek Reading 1 you will learn Greek grammar and vocabulary as you translate chapters 1–3 of the Gospel of John." B-Greek members might be interested to know that Bible Mesh is offering transferable credits.

Seeing their comment about using John 1-3 makes me wonder if Bible Mesh is following the "Inductive Approach" as espoused by Rainey.* Rainey's books work through simple Biblical texts (John or Genesis) and teach whatever comes up next. E.g. the first word of Genesis 1:1 contains six letters (בְּרֵאשִׁ֖ית), so we learn those letters. With the right instructor, I could imagine a Rainey type course being an improvement on a traditional grammar-translation method. On the other hand, if Bible Mesh's use of John is simply a foil for grammar translation approach, you would be better off using a book such as Thrasymachus. In such a book, you'll find a running story, composed with the express intent that it be a teaching tool. Similar books are Athenaze and Greek Boy at Home (Rouse).

Whatever resource a learner uses, if they want to follow a more "direct method," it's necessary to find a way that works for them to learn Greek on its terms, as a language. Take content, learn at a surface level however you can. Then internalize it however you can. I need to collect my thoughts together on the many ways an autodidact might do this. I'll try to do that soon and will send you a link to the blog.


*Rainey Harper, W., & Weidner, F. (1889). An Introductory New Testament Greek Method. New York: Scribner
The byline reads: "Together with a manual containing text and vocabulary of the Gospel of John and lists of words, and the elements of New Testament Greek grammar." I have this book as a pdf, I believe from Archive.org.
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Paul D. Nitz - Lilongwe Malawi

Stephen Hughes
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Re: Your Learning Approach & Pronunciation

Post by Stephen Hughes » May 3rd, 2015, 12:48 pm

Thomas Dolhanty (in part quoting SGH) wrote:I really like the way you've said this: "Such elements can be introduced as grammatically uncontextualised forms early on and explained in their grammatical context later...."
You do something similar with semantic lexical meaning everytime you pick up a Greek to English dictionary. Rather than the word having a context in Greek with synonyms, antonyms and usual collocations, it is given outside its own Greek context with a (pseudo-)equivalence with English, or an English meaning / context explanation. There is some benefit in building up knowledge from those crutches ans scaffolds, but it is not altogether a natural approach to mastery of a language as a language in itslef.
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Γελᾷ δ' ὁ μωρός, κἄν τι μὴ γέλοιον ᾖ
(Menander, Γνῶμαι μονόστιχοι 108)

jeidsath
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Re: Your Learning Approach & Pronunciation

Post by jeidsath » May 3rd, 2015, 5:08 pm

κεφάλιον is good for 'chapter.'
The diminutive κεφάλιον as opposed to the substantivized adjective κεφάλαιον?
On vowel length: one must explain the Great Greek Vowel shift after Alexander, and the dropping of vowel length is the primary culprit and victim. (S. Allen is good on pre-Alexander sound, but his post-Alexander evidence was not fully digested. See his successor in the Cambridge chair G Horrocks.) Reading papyri is best done with a Koine pronunication, and if one uses that, listening to Spiros is fairly comprehensible, even if not ideal with its post-Koine imis // imis for 'we' 'you'.
I don't recommend using Chaucer's "Attic" pronunciation for Shakespeare's "Koine" (Chaucer may have had difficulty following Shakespearean vowels, at least at first), but Shakespeare's koine and modern English are close enough.
As it happens, I have listened to a reconstructed Chaucerian pronunciation of Canterbury Tales and enjoyed it a great deal. The vowel quality shifts aren't that difficult to deal with (for a native English speaker) after a little time. It's not too much harder, for example, than listening to Hugh MacDiarmid's reading of his "Drunk Man Looks at a Thistle," with his heavy Scots. However, if the stress placements had changed along with the vowel qualities during the English Great Vowel Shift, enjoying Shakespeare or Chaucer as aural poetry would be impossible today without special prosody.

I have read Horrocks' summary of Koine pronunciation research in chapter 6 of his "Language and its Speakers." His postulate of a such an early vowel quantity shift in vulgar Attic seems unlikely to me, though certainly the loss of pitch accent and loss of quantity were intertwined. Just compare Finnish and Estonian for an example of how long vowel quantity can persist after loss of a pitch accent. Regardless, I'd be curious how to read Babrius (2nd century AD) without postulating vowel length distinctions. West, I believe, points out Babrius' mix of accent and metre as an example of iambic verse after the switch to the stress accent.
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Joel Eidsath

RandallButh
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Re: Your Learning Approach & Pronunciation

Post by RandallButh » May 4th, 2015, 12:34 am

As it happens, I have listened to a reconstructed Chaucerian pronunciation of Canterbury Tales and enjoyed it a great deal.
Exactly. This is natural language. Later people read and understand older written material as well as spoken material. But the reverse doesn't work.
Chaucerians would not understand Shakespeare similarly to the difficulty of an atticist listening to modern, but a modern will understand the old because they know the spelling. That is what allows us to listen to the funky reading of Chaucerian.

As for poetry, the patterns of meter were fixed and continued to be used long after the sounds that generated them had changed in the spoken language. For example, in the fifth century CE we have Nonnus writing Homeric dactylic hexameter. In antiquity all schooled children learned to read and understand Homer, though it is not clear "how" they read him. The French "shan-tuh" their songs still today [Fr:shant , spelled chante]. But how do people read Chaucer today, most of the time? I suspect that Josephus read his Thucydides using his own first-century pronunciation. We have some nice Greek papyri from the Judean desert that make the phonemic outlines of that pronunciation quite clear. (An introduction with a few examples is provided on BiblicalLanguageCenter.com in the paper on Greek pronunciation.)

PS: "if the stress placements had changed "
You are correct about this. Stress was preserved thoughout the ages and will be corrected today on the streets in Greece if and when a word is misaccented.
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jeidsath
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Re: Your Learning Approach & Pronunciation

Post by jeidsath » May 14th, 2015, 1:29 pm

Later people read and understand older written material as well as spoken material. But the reverse doesn't work...a modern will understand the old because they know the spelling.
The first time that I heard Chaucer read aloud, I was surprised at how much easier it was for me to understand him when spoken. As far as I know, it's the custom of most modern editors not to modernize Chaucer's spelling. But I do understand your point about the inherent conservativism of writing and spelling in the face of language change.
Stress was preserved thoughout the ages and will be corrected today on the streets in Greece if and when a word is misaccented.
The pitch accent, which became a stress accent, is still present in modern Greek. However it was not a stress accent earlier than the first or second century A.D., where it begins to interfere with poetry. Before that period, the metre is carried entirely by vowel quantity, and accent does not interact with it at all, being entirely tonal.

For example, from Babrius, 2nd century AD, Syria:

Γενεὴ δικαίων ἦν τὸ πρῶτον ἀνθρώπων,
ὦ Βράγχε τέκνον, ἣν καλοῦσι χρυσείην,
μεθ᾿ ἣν γενέσθαι φασὶν ἀργυρῆν ἄλλην·
τρίτη δ᾿ ἀπ᾿ αὐτῶν ἐσμεν ἡ σιδηρείη.

Notice the paroxytone at the end of every line. That doesn't happen in classical poetry. The Seikilos epitaph (near Ephesus, dated from around the time of Christ) seems to respond to both vowel length and pitch accent in its melody. How did Paul's letter to the Ephesians sound when first read aloud to that congregation?

But the real question (for most of those on this board, I think) is whether vowel quantity was completely absent from the rhythm of natural speech across all the lands where the New Testament was written. All I can say is that Luke's Magnificat and Romans 1 both strike me as being strikingly aware of quantity. It's an aesthetic judgement, and I could well be wrong. I still know less about the papyrological evidence than I would like -- though I have read your paper, Horrocks, Allen, and others. To my understanding, while there is an abundance of evidence about the nature of vowel quality change, there is comparatively little evidence about quantity. Poetry is evidence, but it may all be pastiche like Nonnus, as you say.
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Joel Eidsath

RandallButh
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Re: Your Learning Approach & Pronunciation

Post by RandallButh » May 14th, 2015, 4:13 pm

If you look carefully at the evidence for 'quality' collapse, you will find quantity collapse, too.

As for the Magnificat, it was translated from Hebrew, fairly literally. I've got a 30-year old article on this "Hebrew Poetic Tenses and the Magnificat"
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Paul-Nitz
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Re: Your Learning Approach & Pronunciation

Post by Paul-Nitz » May 15th, 2015, 8:15 am

jeidsath wrote:But the real question (for most of those on this board, I think) is whether vowel quantity was completely absent from the rhythm of natural speech across all the lands where the New Testament was written.
Perhaps most on this board would be interested in whether vowel quantity was present in NT times. This thread was started for the benefit of those who are beginning to learn Greek. I'm not sure most beginners would be primarily interested in historical authenticity when choosing a pronunciation scheme.

As a pragmatic learner and instructor of Koine, my question would be, "Does learning a Restored Attic pronunciation (Vox Graece) have practical payoff for the effort?"

As far as I know, learning a tonal based pronunciation system does not help in understanding Koine better. For English speakers, learning to hear and produce tone is an exceedingly difficult task.

I again recommend Restored Koine as the best pronunciation scheme to learn for a beginner.
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Paul D. Nitz - Lilongwe Malawi

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