How good is your Greek based on ancient texts?

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Stephen Hughes
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How good is your Greek based on ancient texts?

Post by Stephen Hughes » January 30th, 2016, 6:36 am

Even more difficult than Thomas' arrange the word-order game, here is a fill in the grammar game. Try to give this translation from English to Greek your best shot, then compare it to the original yourself, and if you post publicly, others will have a far shot at your effort. I have added a description of genre, and if knowing the genre helps to steer your translation in a good direction, then you have developed a degree of control over the language.

Feedback comments should be "impartial", solid, and constructive. There is very little room between the participant's back and the corner here - unlike the "4x4 Challenge" where people can roam all over the shop. I expect comments like "a subjunctive is used after ἵνα", rather than "you are weak on subjunctives".

Basic rule to be honoured to make this work - Nobody posts quotes from the original text till others have already tried without looking.

Here is an ancient text in English translation that we looked at last year. It is an explanation:
Polycarp 2:4 wrote:And in like manner also those that were condemned to the wild beasts endured fearful punishments, being made to lie on sharp shells and buffeted with other forms of manifold tortures, that the devil might, if possible, by the persistence of the punishment bring them to a denial; for he tried many wiles against them.
Here are the key words (not the grammatical words) that you may not be familiar with:
θηρίον - wild beast, κατακρίνειν - to condemn, ὑπομένειν - endure, δεινός - fearful, κόλασις - punishment, κήρυξ - conical shaped shell, ὑποστρώννυμι - spread out under, βάσανος (ἡ) - torment, torture, κολάζεσθαι - to torture, δυνηθείη - if it were possible, τύραννος - ruler, ἐπίμονος - lasting, continuous, ἄρνησις - denial, τρέπειν - turn, bring (sb.) round to, μηχανάομαι - devise, contrive

.
.
.
.
Don't look at it yet, but, the original Greek text is here. It is the last one of section II.

[If this exercise were to be made easier, then I would write hints like the voice or tense to be used, and perhaps add the grammar words, assuming that not everyone has mastered the basics of the language yet].
Γελᾷ δ' ὁ μωρός, κἄν τι μὴ γέλοιον ᾖ
(Menander, Γνῶμαι μονόστιχοι 108)

cwconrad
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Re: How good is your Greek based on ancient texts?

Post by cwconrad » January 30th, 2016, 11:40 am

As I recall, this passage was brought before this forum within the past year or two by someone who had difficulties with it. Here's a stab at it, making liberal use of the vocabulary hints supplied by Stephen. I'm not sure just how useful this sort of exercise really is -- it's sort of like doing a complex puzzle a second time, except that there's more than one way to express even rather precise content in another language (if that were not so, we wouldn't have so many translations of so many works). It's an entertaining puzzle.That said, here's my version, for what it's worth:

ὁμοίως καὶ οἱ θηρίοις κατακριθέντες δεινὰς κολάσεις ὑπέμειναν, κήρυξιν ὑποστρωννύμενοι καὶ ἄλλοις βασάνοις κολαζόμενοι, ὅπως ὁ τύραννος, εἰ δυνηθείη, κολάσει ἐπιμόνῃ μηχανᾶται αὐτοὺς πρὸς ἄρνησιν τρέπειν. ἐπειρᾶτο γὰρ πολυτρόπως κατ’ αὐτῶν.
οὔτοι ἀπ’ ἀρχῆς πάντα θεοὶ θνητοῖς ὑπέδειξαν,
ἀλλὰ χρόνῳ ζητέοντες ἐφευρίσκουσιν ἄμεινον. (Xenophanes, Fragment 16)

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

Stephen Hughes
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Re: How good is your Greek based on ancient texts?

Post by Stephen Hughes » January 30th, 2016, 12:07 pm

cwconrad wrote:I'm not sure just how useful this sort of exercise really is -- it's sort of like doing a complex puzzle a second time, except that there's more than one way to express even rather precise content in another language (if that were not so, we wouldn't have so many translations of so many works).
One would have to make an informed, or at least intelligent guess as to whether a divergence from what was would have been okay.
Stephen Hughes wrote:Here is an ancient text in English translation that we looked at last year.
cwconrad wrote:As I recall, this passage was brought before this forum within the past year or two by someone who had difficulties with it.
If that one was too familiar, how about another one:
Polycarp 9:1 wrote:But as Polycarp entered into the stadium, a voice came to him from heaven; 'Be strong, Polycarp, and play the man.' And no one saw the speaker, but those of our people who were present heard the voice. And at length, when he was brought up, there was a great tumult, for they heard that Polycarp had been apprehended.
εἰσεῖναι - to go in, στάδιον - stadium, ἴσχυειν - to be strong, ἀνδρίζεσθαι - to man up, παρεῖναι - to be present, λοιπὸν - finally, προσαγειν - bring up, θόρυβος - tumult, συλλαμβάνω - seize, apprehend.

Greek text to self correct.
Γελᾷ δ' ὁ μωρός, κἄν τι μὴ γέλοιον ᾖ
(Menander, Γνῶμαι μονόστιχοι 108)

cwconrad
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Re: How good is your Greek based on ancient texts?

Post by cwconrad » January 30th, 2016, 1:42 pm

Stephen Hughes wrote:
cwconrad wrote:I'm not sure just how useful this sort of exercise really is -- it's sort of like doing a complex puzzle a second time, except that there's more than one way to express even rather precise content in another language (if that were not so, we wouldn't have so many translations of so many works).
One would have to make an informed, or at least intelligent guess as to whether a divergence from what was would have been okay.
Okay, but it's no fair asking the original author to rule on the adequacy of our versions. :D And yes, if we can't make an informed guess, we should at least guess intelligently. What constitutes an "informed guess" in this instance is open to question. Must one write in the style of the original author? I am, of course, being facetious.
οὔτοι ἀπ’ ἀρχῆς πάντα θεοὶ θνητοῖς ὑπέδειξαν,
ἀλλὰ χρόνῳ ζητέοντες ἐφευρίσκουσιν ἄμεινον. (Xenophanes, Fragment 16)

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

Stephen Hughes
Posts: 3323
Joined: February 26th, 2013, 7:12 am

Re: How good is your Greek based on ancient texts?

Post by Stephen Hughes » January 30th, 2016, 10:43 pm

cwconrad wrote:Okay, but it's no fair asking the original author to rule on the adequacy of our versions. :D And yes, if we can't make an informed guess, we should at least guess intelligently. What constitutes an "informed guess" in this instance is open to question. Must one write in the style of the original author? I am, of course, being facetious.
It is really about the adequacy of one's grammar. Things like whether an authour used ἵνα, ὥστε or the articular infinitive, or whether καί or δέ? The order of phrases within a sentence or words within a phrase are all things that we can gloss over in translation, but our ignorance shows up in back-translation.

Facetiousness aside, various authours had different styles to write in and there were different registers and genres / style-sheets too. I expect more than just the correct style. You should choose the correct vocabulary too, according to style, register and genre, and that would be best understood by the target audience. :shock:
Γελᾷ δ' ὁ μωρός, κἄν τι μὴ γέλοιον ᾖ
(Menander, Γνῶμαι μονόστιχοι 108)

Stephen Hughes
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Joined: February 26th, 2013, 7:12 am

Re: How good is your Greek based on ancient texts?

Post by Stephen Hughes » January 30th, 2016, 11:43 pm

I'm not sure if this concept is going to take off, and I'd like to do one myself.

Let me randomly choose a verse; Luke 18:14. Now, to the Blue Letter Bible. There is some version there called the HNV, I'm not familiar with it, but anyway:
Luke 18:14 HNV wrote:I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other; for everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but he who humbles himself will be exalted.
Now my first attempt from memory without aids:

λέγω ὑμῖν, ὁ δὲ κατέβην εἰς τὴν οἰκία αὐτοῦ δεδικαιωμένος πλὴν ὁ ἄλλος, πᾶς γὰρ ὃς ἂν ὑψώσηται ἑαυτὸν ταπεινωθήσεται, ἀλλὰ ὃςἂν ταπεινώσηται ἑαυτὸν ὑψωθήσεται.

Now, I can get the list from the BLB site. What I see is basically what I expected to. It seems that I know all the vocabulary, but have the grammar words wrong (inaccurately chosen). I don't really believe the σύ in the BLB list, and I assume that Strongs G4771 includes both singular and plural.

Using the information from the word list in the BLB, I can now rework my composition:

λέγω ὑμῖν, οὗτος κατέβην εἰς τὸν οἶκον αὐτοῦ δεδικαιωμένος παρὰ ἐκεῖνον, ὅτι πᾶς ὑψώσεται ἑαυτὸν ταπεινωθήσεται, ὁ δὲ ταπεινώσεται ἑαυτὸν ὑψωθήσεται.

Now, here is the original Greek:
λέγω ὑμῖν κατέβη οὗτος δεδικαιωμένος εἰς τὸν οἶκον αὐτοῦ παρ’ ἐκεῖνον ὅτι πᾶς ὁ ὑψῶν ἑαυτὸν ταπεινωθήσεται ὁ δὲ ταπεινῶν ἑαυτὸν ὑψωθήσεται
Comparing the two - one point for the correct word, one point for the correct case or form, one word for the correct order:
λέγω (3) ὑμῖν (3), οὗτος (2) κατέβην (2) εἰς (3) τὸν (3) οἶκον (3) αὐτοῦ (3) δεδικαιωμένος (2) παρὰ (2) ἐκεῖνον (3), ὅτι (3) πᾶς (3) ὑψώσεται (2) ἑαυτὸν (3) ταπεινωθήσεται (3), ὁ (3) δὲ (3) ταπεινώσεται (2) ἑαυτὸν (3) ὑψωθήσεται (3).

Total score (57/63)

Scoring the first attempt now:
λέγω (3) ὑμῖνn(3), ὁ δὲ κατέβην (1) εἰς (3) τὴν οἰκία αὐτοῦ (3) δεδικαιωμένος (2) πλὴν ὁ ἄλλος, πᾶς (3) γὰρ ὃς ἂν ὑψώσηται (2) ἑαυτὸν (3) ταπεινωθήσεται (3), ἀλλὰ ὃςἂν ταπεινώσηται (2) ἑαυτὸν (3) ὑψωθήσεται (3).

Sub-total (34/63)

[I wonder how Alan's lining up software would have scored me for word order.]

I seems I need to work on my πᾶς ὁ + participle constructions and something about voice.

This is a genuine attempt, and a demonstration of one way that this can be done.

This is a form of self-teaching, that can be done here on this thread or privately in your own comfort.
Γελᾷ δ' ὁ μωρός, κἄν τι μὴ γέλοιον ᾖ
(Menander, Γνῶμαι μονόστιχοι 108)

cwconrad
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Re: How good is your Greek based on ancient texts?

Post by cwconrad » January 31st, 2016, 8:04 am

Stephen Hughes wrote:
Polycarp 9:1 wrote:But as Polycarp entered into the stadium, a voice came to him from heaven; 'Be strong, Polycarp, and play the man.' And no one saw the speaker, but those of our people who were present heard the voice. And at length, when he was brought up, there was a great tumult, for they heard that Polycarp had been apprehended.
εἰσεῖναι - to go in,[/color]
εἰσιέναι perhaps?
οὔτοι ἀπ’ ἀρχῆς πάντα θεοὶ θνητοῖς ὑπέδειξαν,
ἀλλὰ χρόνῳ ζητέοντες ἐφευρίσκουσιν ἄμεινον. (Xenophanes, Fragment 16)

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

Barry Hofstetter
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Re: How good is your Greek based on ancient texts?

Post by Barry Hofstetter » January 31st, 2016, 8:06 am

This was, BTW, how the professor for my Greek Prose Composition course in grad school ran the course. He gave us texts in translation from original authors which we then retroverted. It was valuable on several levels, not the least of which was a good lesson in what Carl observed, that there are many different ways to say something in any language. While he didn't expect us to write in the style of the original author, he did observe that he could often identify which ancient Greek authors we had spent the most time studying (mine, oddly enough, was the NT).That led to good discussions on style and usage which, with some of the terminology updated, was a good intro to discourse analysis.
N.E. Barry Hofstetter
Instructor of Latin
Jack M. Barrack Hebrew Academy
Χαίρετε ἐν κυρίῳ πάντοτε· πάλιν ἐρῶ, χαίρετε

cwconrad
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Re: How good is your Greek based on ancient texts?

Post by cwconrad » January 31st, 2016, 8:21 am

Stephen Hughes wrote:
cwconrad wrote:Okay, but it's no fair asking the original author to rule on the adequacy of our versions. :D And yes, if we can't make an informed guess, we should at least guess intelligently. What constitutes an "informed guess" in this instance is open to question. Must one write in the style of the original author? I am, of course, being facetious.
It is really about the adequacy of one's grammar. Things like whether an authour used ἵνα, ὥστε or the articular infinitive, or whether καί or δέ? The order of phrases within a sentence or words within a phrase are all things that we can gloss over in translation, but our ignorance shows up in back-translation.

Facetiousness aside, various authours had different styles to write in and there were different registers and genres / style-sheets too. I expect more than just the correct style. You should choose the correct vocabulary too, according to style, register and genre, and that would be best understood by the target audience. :shock:
Although you say "It is really about the adequacy of one's grammar", it appears to me that you are judging the adequacy of one's grammar in terms of the degree to which one observes and reproduces the style of the original author. And your subsequent testing of yourself in back-translation of a Lucan passage indicates that you are evaluating adequacy in terms of reproducing the ipsissima verba of the original text.

I realize the this is nit-picking, but if that's the case, this is much more than a test of one's competence in Greek; it's a test of one's intimate familiarity with the diction and style of the original author. I'm reminded of composition exercises in graduate school: in the fall of 1960 my Latin composition class was set the task of rendering the NYT endorsement of John Kennedy for President into Ciceronian Latin; in the fall of 1961 my Greek composition class was set the task of rendering a passage from Nabokov's Lolita in the style of Plato's Symposium. Need I say that these were daunting challenges? I think the challenge of back-translating Polykarp into the ipsissima verba of the original text of Polykarp is a daunting challenge; I think that production of a grammatically sound Greek formulation of the translation of an original text of Polykarp is a more useful test of "how good one's Greek is."
οὔτοι ἀπ’ ἀρχῆς πάντα θεοὶ θνητοῖς ὑπέδειξαν,
ἀλλὰ χρόνῳ ζητέοντες ἐφευρίσκουσιν ἄμεινον. (Xenophanes, Fragment 16)

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

Stephen Hughes
Posts: 3323
Joined: February 26th, 2013, 7:12 am

Re: How good is your Greek based on ancient texts?

Post by Stephen Hughes » January 31st, 2016, 8:52 am

cwconrad wrote:I think the challenge of back-translating Polykarp into the ipsissima verba of the original text of Polykarp is a daunting challenge; I think that production of a grammatically sound Greek formulation of the translation of an original text of Polykarp is a more useful test of "how good one's Greek is."
Let me say that in other words.

To be reasonable, retelling the words of NYT endorsement from your own thinking - even of sentence by sentence - would produce some variantion. You can make an informed decision as to whether you thought your Greek was wrong or just different, based on the original. Think of it as an attempt to put the thoughts of the English into Greek - that both languages conveyed the same thoughts.

To go further, you could try changing to the first person of the one doing the torture. I mean change the Greek directly, rather than rewrite the English then compose the Greek again.
Γελᾷ δ' ὁ μωρός, κἄν τι μὴ γέλοιον ᾖ
(Menander, Γνῶμαι μονόστιχοι 108)

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