Hellenistic Greek for the Modern World

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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Stephen Hughes
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Hellenistic Greek for the Modern World

Post by Stephen Hughes » September 13th, 2015, 4:20 am

Chris Servanti wrote:(My ultimate goal is to be able to speak and write [K]oine fluently, of course combined with the necessary [M]odern [G]reek vocabulary wedded with [K]oine grammar)
Choosing and adapting Modern Greek vocabulary can be handled by following some fairly straightforward guidelines, but it is not an easy or quick thing to deal with.

Take "glasspane", "pane of glass" for an example. There are two words for "pane of glass" in Modern Greek. They are υαλοπίνακα and τζάμι. The etymological section of the dictionary gives the following:
τζάμι wrote:τζάμι το [dzámi] ... [τουρκ. cam -ι]
υαλοπίνακας wrote:υαλοπίνακας ο [ialopínakas] ... [λόγ. υαλο- + πίναξ > πίνακας μτφρδ. αγγλ. glass pane]
The first is of Turkish origin and the second a word-formation based on English. The processes of enrichment and adaption that we see in those two words of different origins are a starting point for creating a plausible "Koine" word.

For the spelling of the word υαλοπίνακας, πίνακας is the Modern Greek conjugational pattern for what was πίναξ in the earlier periods. Looking in the dictionary for the element υαλο-, gives the etymology as ὑαλο-. Between the variants in spelling, ὕαλος and ὕελος, what is one to do? LSJ remarks that ὕαλος is Attic, while ὕελος is Hellenic. Knowing that the Modern Greek literary word for "window pane" is υαλοπίνακας, and noting that the adjective in the New Testament is ὑάλινος "made of glass", I would prefer to use and memorise ὕαλος. (I take it as a "You say tomato, I say tomato." situation rather than a serious problem.)

What is the character / idiom of the language at the time you are trying to sound like? Imagine for a moment German ans English - German stringing together words to form others and English using "of" or other words in grammar to put things together. Is the Koine period of the language like one or the other? How can we find out? Let's do a couple of searches.

The first search, for the range of meaning of πίναξ. Easy enough...
LSJ πίναξ wrote:board, plank, ... hence of things made of flat wood, metal,
Glass is specifically mentioned a little further down in the entry "πίνακες ὑέλινοι", in reference to a piece of glass being used horizontally. [As discussed above, however, I would give preference to the form ὑάλινος over ὑέλινος, because the Koine that we are aiming to become conversant with is the Attic Koine, (from which most Modern Greek dialects were derived, which in turn formed the basis of the standard Modern Greek language) and the New Testament uses ὑάλινος.]

The second search is to see what meaning the addition of an element to the front of -πίναξ would have? ἀρτοπίναξ is presumably a platter for carrying bread, rather than a platter made of bread. None of them use the prefixed element to mean the material from which the πίναξ was made. Searching the other way yields a seemingly promising looking ὑαλουργεῖον as "glass-house", but we know from experience that that is not the place for growing vegetables and flowers in the cooler months, but rather the (work)shop for ὑαλουργός "glass-worker". So then, as far as the evidence we've looked at from LSJ informs us, we could postulate that ὑαλοπίναξ would mean a platter for carrying glass, if read by one of the ancients, and that they might refer to "the pane of glass" as (ὁ) πίναξ ὑάλινος. Combinations of words by suffixing seems to have been more popular in the sightly later Byzantine period.

Another question: How about if we live in a house like my my late grandmothers with wooden frames and small pieces of glass besides the larger ones that we are used to in modern aluminium-framed windows? A wider search based in the genitive of πίναξ turns up the diminutive of πίναξ as πινάκιον. In full, that could be (τὸ) πινάκιον ὑάλινον "the little pane of glass".

Another resource that Modern Greek provides is possible collocations that our πίναξ ὑάλινος could be used with in speaking or writing. The obvious question is whether a πίναξ ὑάλινος is primarily a πίναξ or primarily ὕαλος? Seeing as the θυρίς "window" consists of the πίναξ ὑάλινος just sitting there in the τὸ πλαίσιον (μεταλλικὸν ἢ ξύλινον) θυρίδος (a description) (Mod. technical word - ὑαλοστάσιον) "window frame" with is fitted ἐναρμόζειν into the θυρίς "opening in the wall", "window" as part of the process of θυριδοῦν, we can fairly well assume that for most purposes the πίναξ ὑάλινος can be thought of as ὕαλος. The adjectival collocations used in the Revelation are καθαρός "pure" (not dirty - surface (ἐπιφάνεια) or inside (σῶμα, or more philosophically οὐσία / ὕλη) ), and διαυγής "transparent" (the light goes through) (Revelation 21:18,21). In addition to that, the dictionary entry for the Modern Greek word τζάμι gives a number of other collocations that may be worth exploring.
τζάμι wrote:τζάμι το [dzámi]
Tζάμια θολά / καθαρά. Kαθαρίζω / πλένω / κάνω τα τζάμια.
Dirty window panes, clean window panes. Clean / wash / make the window panes. (My rendering).
It seems from the pairing (if that is what is intended) that θολός is a temporary state for ὕαλος that can be changed to καθαρός. In LSJ θολός it is simply said to be equal to θολερός ( a word, which I am more familiar with,mentioned as being used of οὖρα "urine", ἀήρ "air" αἷμα "blood", χυμοί "humours", νεφέλαι "clouds", χρώς "skin". In Modern Greek, the word θολερός has the much narrower / specialised meaning of "που δεν είναι τελείως διαυγής" "which is not entirely transparent / clear (not letting all the light through)", which seems a little divorced from its etymological connection with θολός as substantive "mud". So... which one to use? Another consideration to take into account is βρωμικός (cf. "eat up your grub" and "grubby (hands, etc.)"), which in the Modern tongue has a wide range of uses for "dirty", whereas, θολός is used very specificly sense here for glass that has had its opacity affected by having dirt on the surface. There is case for learning and using both words, one with the meaning that the glass is dirty, and the other that the light has trouble getting through it.

As for the other collocations; I assume that there is no problem with καθαρίζειν "to clean", in its literal sense (like . Modern Greek πλένω is what we would say as πλύνω "wash". Modern Greek κάνω is used like we use ποιεῖν.
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Chris Servanti
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Re: Hellenistic Greek for the Modern World

Post by Chris Servanti » September 14th, 2015, 9:29 am

Thanks! Wow there's a lot more into picking your words than I thought! Wouldn't it be great if there could be some project put together where everybody didn't have to go through this same process? Like a community effort to form a substantial two way dictionary for koine usage. It would be great if we could standardize it.
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Jonathan Robie
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Re: How do I know which aorist a verb is conjugated in?

Post by Jonathan Robie » September 14th, 2015, 9:52 am

Chris Servanti wrote:Thanks! Wow there's a lot more into picking your words than I thought! Wouldn't it be great if there could be some project put together where everybody didn't have to go through this same process? Like a community effort to form a substantial two way dictionary for koine usage. It would be great if we could standardize it.
Koine Greek wasn't really designed to describe the modern world or to think like modern people think. When we create ways to do so, we are effectively creating a new pidgin language that does not require us to think like they did back then. I wonder if it wouldn't be better to learn both modern Greek and Koine Greek, as two different languages that are each real languages.

At any rate, reinventing Greek probably isn't the first step for a beginner ...
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ἐξίσταντο δὲ πάντες καὶ διηποροῦντο, ἄλλος πρὸς ἄλλον λέγοντες, τί θέλει τοῦτο εἶναι;
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Thomas Dolhanty
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Re: Hellenistic Greek for the Modern World

Post by Thomas Dolhanty » September 14th, 2015, 12:10 pm

Jonathan Robie wrote:Koine Greek wasn't really designed to describe the modern world or to think like modern people think. When we create ways to do so, we are effectively creating a new pidgin language that does not require us to think like they did back then. I wonder if it wouldn't be better to learn both modern Greek and Koine Greek, as two different languages that are each real languages.
The great preponderance of issues involving the human condition are the same in the 21st century as they were in the first – birth, death, fear, anger, theft, generosity, adultery, faithfulness, honour, love, fellowship, eating, drinking, marrying, κτλ. Moreover, there are vast differences in how human society functioned in the 19th century compared to the 21st. Still, we are able to use the same language to describe both societies, though with some different application of the same vocabulary and, granted, with some additional vocabulary for the later. For example “travel”, “communicate”, “nations”, “energy”, κτλ, bear the same basic idea in both settings but with quite different applications.

I agree that one will be forced to ‘add new vocabulary to a dead language’ if one sets out to make Koine Greek a fully functional modern language. Nevertheless, Koine Greek can be applied over a wide range of modern setting without altering the lexicon or changing the essential idea of the original language. Sailing is still sailing, dying is still dying, travelling is still travelling, love is still love, hatred is still hatred, building is still building, talking is still talking, and so on.

For the most part, I do not see how this is a bigger stretch than to imagine that I can somehow know the experience of sailing with Paul on a grain ship in the first century. As a 21st century man, I simply can’t know that experience, even if I could acquire such a vessel and set out on the same course. To a very large extent I believe that we DO think like they thought back then. On the other hand, where we don’t – we can’t.
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Jonathan Robie
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Re: Hellenistic Greek for the Modern World

Post by Jonathan Robie » September 14th, 2015, 12:42 pm

Thomas Dolhanty wrote:The great preponderance of issues involving the human condition are the same in the 21st century as they were in the first – birth, death, fear, anger, theft, generosity, adultery, faithfulness, honour, love, fellowship, eating, drinking, marrying, κτλ. Moreover, there are vast differences in how human society functioned in the 19th century compared to the 21st. Still, we are able to use the same language to describe both societies, though with some different application of the same vocabulary and, granted, with some additional vocabulary for the later. For example “travel”, “communicate”, “nations”, “energy”, κτλ, bear the same basic idea in both settings but with quite different applications.
I agree with this.

But when we do this, we should be listening to the older culture. Have you ever met American tourists that go from one country to another, never noticing what a culture is? They expound at length about how all people are the same inside, think the same way, feel the same feelings ... because they have never really become part of any culture except their own. This is where anyone who has lived in another culture and spoken another language has some advantages. They know how strange and rich a foreign culture is.
Thomas Dolhanty wrote:Nevertheless, Koine Greek can be applied over a wide range of modern setting without altering the lexicon or changing the essential idea of the original language. Sailing is still sailing, dying is still dying, travelling is still travelling, love is still love, hatred is still hatred, building is still building, talking is still talking, and so on.
I think this is worth doing. But in doing so, I keep hitting the fact that much of what I know as sailing did not exist in the time of Jesus and sailboats simply did not perform or behave the way they do now. I sail my catamaran in ways unimaginable back then, and when I talk with other sailors today, I use vocabulary and concepts that did not exist back then. Ideally, I would love to sail in the kind of boat they had, in the waters they sailed on, using their vocabulary. Anyone want to offer such a course? Does anyone know of good accounts of the process of sailing?

Dying was also very different in a time without modern hospitals, nursing homes, EMT teams, etc., a time in which it was extremely common for children to die long before their parents, life expectancy was short, and many people lived at subsistence level. If we really want to understand the world of Koine, we're better off reading accounts of death in their time. Does anyone know of good accounts of the process of dying?

Travel was also quite different. Are you familiar with http://orbis.stanford.edu/? It's really useful when reading about people going from one place to another, though the coverage is spotty. We're so used to thinking about travel in modern terms, and the entire experience was so incredibly different. And today, we don't think of traveling "up to Jerusalem" or "down from Jerusalem" in the same way.

There are wonderful histories of love in various cultures, I think most of us would be astonished by the degree to which culture influences our experience of love. I think, for instance, that there's very credible evidence that both Minnesang and Freud significantly changed our understanding of love, in very different ways, and that online dating is doing that again today. Translating our modern experience of love back into Koine does little to rub our faces in their experience and understanding of love.

Just as I'd like to take a sailing course, I'd like to take a course in building ancient structures. Building is not building, the experience is extremely different. They did not have our tools and materials, and the entire process was very different. Does anyone know of good accounts of the process of building?

Culture shapes us deeply. One of the reasons for learning a language is to get a feel for the culture. When we translate our own culture into an ancient language, we have to be careful to avoid trampling over their culture and understandings in the process.
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ἐξίσταντο δὲ πάντες καὶ διηποροῦντο, ἄλλος πρὸς ἄλλον λέγοντες, τί θέλει τοῦτο εἶναι;
http://jonathanrobie.biblicalhumanities.org/

Louis L Sorenson
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Re: Hellenistic Greek for the Modern World

Post by Louis L Sorenson » September 14th, 2015, 2:57 pm

Chris Servanti wrote:
(My ultimate goal is to be able to speak and write [K]oine fluently, of course combined with the necessary [M]odern [G]reek vocabulary wedded with [K]oine grammar)
To do this, one needs a modern Greek-English dictionary, and then needs to know how to change back some forms from modern to Koine. This takes a certain skillset. On my wish list is Hyper Lexicon, 8th edition. Stafilidis Publications, 2015. ISBN 9789607695352, ISBN-10 9607695356 https://bibliagora-usa.com/ Make sure to get the 8th edition. Some versions are available on Amazon for less - but not sure of the version there.

Stephen would probably know if this is the best lexicon to contain technical terms and professions.
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Thomas Dolhanty
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Re: Hellenistic Greek for the Modern World

Post by Thomas Dolhanty » September 14th, 2015, 10:19 pm

Jonathan Robie wrote:Culture shapes us deeply. One of the reasons for learning a language is to get a feel for the culture. When we translate our own culture into an ancient language, we have to be careful to avoid trampling over their culture and understandings in the process.
We are certainly agreed on this. Occupying a vast tract of the northern part of my own country exists α territory call “Nunavut”. The language spoken there is “Inuktitut”, although in recent decades, especially since the global communication developments of the late 20th century, the majority also speak at least one of the two official languages of the country – English or French.

I would guess that if I were to have travelled to Nunavut in the 1950’s or even ‘60’s, I would soon discover that my mother tongue (20th century Canadian English) has much more in common with Hellenistic Greek than with Inuktitut. The span of twenty centuries would not be nearly as significant as the span of differences between my culture and that of Nunavut 60 years ago (the territory has only existed as a formal entity since 1999).

If I were able to host a first century resident of Antioch (διὰ χρόνου διελήλυθεν), and if we both spoke Koine Greek fluently, I think I could point to a framing crew erecting a modern North Amercian wood frame construction and say: οἶκον οἰκοδομοῦσιν, and he would understand the essence of my utterance. Same with ἀπέθανεν ὁ ἐμοῦ φίλος, ἐξεπλεύσαμεν ἀπὸ τῆς πόλεως, and τὴν ἐμου γυναῖκα ἀγαπῶ. It becomes quite a complex discussion when we are dealing with the Bible, partly because that text has had such a large influence on my own culture. In a very real sense it is ‘timeless’, and I am warned about being like [ὁ] ἀνδρὶ μωρῷ, ὅστις ᾠκοδόμησεν αὐτοῦ τὴν οἰκίαν ἐπὶ τὴν ἄμμον just as my first century brothers were warned. This is not insignificant, and I would argue that there are some instances in which we may actually understand the language better than the original audience did (eg. Matthew 24).

As we have said before, and I agree, the risk of using Koine in a modern setting is to confuse and obscure the original freight and weight of the language. One should take steps to avoid this, like not adding to or altering the Koine lexicon (although it is impossible to avoid different applications of the same concepts – travel, build, etc.). The benefit is that it is very difficult – I would say impossible – to gain any real fluency with a language without applying it with some freedom to my own world. I would also contend that even though you may limit yourself to using the language in its original setting, you still can only do so as a modern man – not as a first century person. You can gain some knowledge about the environment of the first century, but you cannot suspend your modern mindset. You cannot ‘unknow’ what you’ve spent a lifetime learning, consciously and unconsciously, nor can you really experience what it was to be born and live your life in 1st century Antioch. I don’t think I could ever be an Inuit person unless I had been born into that culture.
Jonathan Robie wrote:Are you familiar with http://orbis.stanford.edu/?
Cool!
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RandallButh
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Re: Hellenistic Greek for the Modern World

Post by RandallButh » September 15th, 2015, 2:47 am

I wonder if it wouldn't be better to learn both modern Greek and Koine Greek, as two different languages that are each real languages.
This thread has raised philosophical questions about knowing something about the past and about knowing languages used in the past or even languages used by others.

But while raising questions about differences, the big pictures cannot be ignored. The language and culture of George Washington is not that of today. Yet people can learn it, imperfectly.

So in the quote above--how does one learn the old Koine Greek? Does one translate it into Russian and spend time discussing it in Russian? Is that how one would learn Chaucer and English, too?
For a beginner's forum
it is probably useful to repeat basics and to point out that the meanings of words are determined by how the words pattern in the original language, not in a language of translation. Meaning refers to whatever a word refers to along with the implications of not being one of the other words or phrases that could have been chosen, but were not. Probably the most direct and efficient way of developing sensitivity to this is by using the language. That means that if one wants to learn common Greek of the first century BCE to 2nd century CE, one must use that language and interact with that language. Fortunately, we have massive amounts of text available for interacting with users of that language. Yes, that means that to understand the language and culture of the New Testament, one must read widely outside the NT, and one must also use that language in talking with others so that a sensitivity develops in processing and understanding the language. That is the most efficient and direct way of producing the closest approximation to the "other's" language/culture/communication.
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Stephen Hughes
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Re: Hellenistic Greek for the Modern World

Post by Stephen Hughes » September 15th, 2015, 3:09 am

Louis L Sorenson wrote:Stephen would probably know if this is the best lexicon to contain technical terms and professions.
He doesn't know. 250,000 is a lot of entries! I'm still working on my first 15,000 entries now, in an attempt to mimic approximately how many words I knew when I was a 14 or 15 year old in English. That seems like a reasonable basis for handling a language in a balanced way.

For technical terms there are two things that I have noticed. The challenge facing one,when dealing with technical terms in Modern Greek, is that some are ancient, but perhaps don't have the same meaning as in Modern, or perhaps they do. A word such as λευκίτης which in Modern Greek is "albino" [Seemingly poorly guessed? at in LSJ], but does it also cover the meaning of "vitiligo" as well as "albino"? In literary Modern Greek, λεύκη refers to either.

ImageImage

Atributions:
Copyright for the image of vitiligo is held by James Heilman, MD and is shared under a CC BY-SA 3.0 licence. Copyright for the image of the albino man is held by Muntuwandi and is shared under a CC BY-SA 3.0 licence.

Secondarily, modern concepts with ancient Greek names were formed in response to the developing categories in our modern world. Can those words be used freely, simply because they are Greek?

In response to Jonathan's post.
Changing from a subordinate bilingual to a co-ordinate bilingual broadly speaking seems to involve two things. Obviously, as Randall, Louis and Paul say there is a need to not translate everything into English. Additionally, there is a need to try to see oneself as others see you. Re-evaluating and seeing yourself and your world in Greek is something that can be as interesting as it is daunting.

Beyond beginners mistakes like confusing ἧλος and ὄνυξ, there are a plethora of logical assumptions about the connectedness or otherwise of words and concepts. Then there are perceptions too, such as while καρφοῦν is the driving of the nail to fasten something, προσηλοῦν is the fastening of something with the nail that is being driven. What's the difference? Both of them describe the same process. [I'm having trouble finding images that can describe the difference graphically - and getting a royalty-free image of pulling a nail ἐξηλοῦν (with the sense of unfastening what it was holding together) is difficult too].

Specifically, wrestling with culture and language at the same time seems more difficult than learning a language and then wrestling with cultural differences as they are noticed.
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Eeli Kaikkonen
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Re: Hellenistic Greek for the Modern World

Post by Eeli Kaikkonen » September 15th, 2015, 11:24 am

Stephen Hughes wrote:while καρφοῦν is the driving of the nail to fasten something, προσηλοῦν is the fastening of something with the nail that is being driven. What's the difference? Both of them describe the same process. [I'm having trouble finding images that can describe the difference graphically ... ].
How about very short, simple sentences like "nail is driven" and "signpost is fastened" using the perfect tense?
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