Question about contract verbs (first principal part)

How can I best learn the paradigms of nouns and verbs and the other inflected parts of speech?
Thomas Dolhanty
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Re: Question about contract verbs (first principal part)

Post by Thomas Dolhanty » February 13th, 2016, 11:20 am

cwconrad wrote:As a now-long-retired teacher of Greek, I'm of two minds about this claim that it is "important to remember" these factors; I'm now inclined to think that these are matters of interest and value only to antiquarians of the language and that new learners should simply learn the paradigms as they are spelled out conventionally. My experience is that, although I am myself fascinated by the "archaeology of the Greek language", exposing beginners to these factors is more confusing than useful.
I agree. After all, I have no idea why it is "receive" but "believe" except that it is "'i' before 'e' except after 'c'". The perennial question about the ending of the 2nd person singular in the present indicative (and future, etc.) for example ("Why is 'ς' shown as the ending when it is really 'ις'?) is explained by Mounce as follows:
Mounce, BBG, 3rd Edition, Ch. 16, pg. 133, note 7. wrote:The personal ending actually is σι. The sigma dropped out and was evidently added back on to the end (λυεσι  ▸  λυει  ▸  λύεις). This is the explanation in Smyth (#463b). It seems easier to think that the sigma and iota underwent metathesis, i.e., they switched places. Just remember that the ending is sigma and the connecting vowel changes.
I can tell you for sure that neither I nor those who are studying Introductory Greek with me are all that worried about whether the sigma fell off and jumped back on, or whether it "underwent metathesis". Just remember it is "ις" in the present indicative. Contraction, on the other hand, is a bit different because you do have to understand something of the mechanics of the process in order to resolve the contracting vowels/diphthongs correctly.
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Thomas Dolhanty
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Re: Question about contract verbs (first principal part)

Post by Thomas Dolhanty » February 13th, 2016, 2:03 pm

cwconrad wrote:It also needs to be understood that this accounting for these infinitives depends upon what happened in Greek linguistic history centuries before the Hellenistic Koine era; they're sort of like explanations of why we pronounce English "enough" as if it were spelled "ee-nuff" and why we pronounce English "although" as if it were spelled "all-tho". There is a stubborn, altogether ornery inertia in traditional English orthography to preserve in written texts forms of words that were spoken centuries ago but no longer. The same is true of conventional Koine Greek orthography, which preserves the spelling in terms of the conventions established by an Athenian law of spelling reform of 403 BCE. The Greek papyri that were not written by government scribes tell a different story of commoners writing down Greek words with a spelling more representative of the way they pronounced them.
And, once again, I could not lay out a linguistic trail for many of these developments in English, even though I have quite a developed 'feel' for much of it since over the decades I've read extensively from Chaucer all the way down through the centuries. If I could not do it in my mother tongue, why would I worry about doing it in Hellenistic Greek? What one needs is guidelines which deliver one from endless rote memorization, and yet avoid getting one bogged down in the arcane ascriptions of grammarians. I think Bill Mounce has attempted to do that in his BBG, and while not always successful, his book is not without its merits in this regard. Sooner or later, I trust, there will be an intermediate grammar produced which will fulfill the same purpose for the more advanced and now-reading-Greek student. Smyth is too advanced for that purpose, and the design of his book is too yesterday. Meantime, one keeps rifling through a collection of other grammar books (Wallace, Funk, Decker, Porter, Croy, BDF, κτλ) stacked in an order that depends on the question. Too often 'the hunt is long and the catch is small'.
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cwconrad
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Re: Question about contract verbs (first principal part)

Post by cwconrad » February 13th, 2016, 4:26 pm

Thomas Dolhanty wrote:
cwconrad wrote:It also needs to be understood that this accounting for these infinitives depends upon what happened in Greek linguistic history centuries before the Hellenistic Koine era; they're sort of like explanations of why we pronounce English "enough" as if it were spelled "ee-nuff" and why we pronounce English "although" as if it were spelled "all-tho". There is a stubborn, altogether ornery inertia in traditional English orthography to preserve in written texts forms of words that were spoken centuries ago but no longer. The same is true of conventional Koine Greek orthography, which preserves the spelling in terms of the conventions established by an Athenian law of spelling reform of 403 BCE. The Greek papyri that were not written by government scribes tell a different story of commoners writing down Greek words with a spelling more representative of the way they pronounced them.
And, once again, I could not lay out a linguistic trail for many of these developments in English, even though I have quite a developed 'feel' for much of it since over the decades I've read extensively from Chaucer all the way down through the centuries. If I could not do it in my mother tongue, why would I worry about doing it in Hellenistic Greek? What one needs is guidelines which deliver one from endless rote memorization, and yet avoid getting one bogged down in the arcane ascriptions of grammarians. I think Bill Mounce has attempted to do that in his BBG, and while not always successful, his book is not without its merits in this regard. Sooner or later, I trust, there will be an intermediate grammar produced which will fulfill the same purpose for the more advanced and now-reading-Greek student. Smyth is too advanced for that purpose, and the design of his book is too yesterday. Meantime, one keeps rifling through a collection of other grammar books (Wallace, Funk, Decker, Porter, Croy, BDF, κτλ) stacked in an order that depends on the question. Too often 'the hunt is long and the catch is small'.
I don't have much confidence regarding the παρουσία of a reference grammar for Hellenistic Greek in the near future (within my lifetime). The last best hope was the project sponsored by Bob Funk to replace BDF; we've talked about this in the past; several scholars, including Micheal Palmer, were at work on it when it died on the vine (1990's?). Most of these Intermediate grammars have been disappointing; perhaps "Going Deeper" will be different? :?:
At some point in the course of the studies of a student of Biblical Koine it would be worth the effort to pore over some non-literary papyri from the NT era and study the spellings of words there with the help of some good glosses.
οὔτοι ἀπ’ ἀρχῆς πάντα θεοὶ θνητοῖς ὑπέδειξαν,
ἀλλὰ χρόνῳ ζητέοντες ἐφευρίσκουσιν ἄμεινον. (Xenophanes, Fragment 16)

Carl W. Conrad
Department of Classics, Washington University (Retired)

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