The foundations of Koine Greek

M.M.Carter
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Joined: September 19th, 2015, 11:03 am

The foundations of Koine Greek

Post by M.M.Carter » September 21st, 2015, 2:30 pm

When it comes to teaching, students are more likely to succeed when they have a solid foundation in what they are learning. For example: when it comes to teaching English to children, they must have a solid foundation in phonemes, decoding, and letter recognition (to name a few). However what are the steps Greek students must take in order to have a solid foundation? Even more importantly, how much time should the students have in order to fully understand those foundational steps?
I realize that there is a lot of debate today over what should be taught first to Greek students, but I want the focus to be on a foundation that keeps the students focused on what they are learning without jumping ahead to what they do not yet know. It is my belief that that if they have a more solid foundation, than they will be more likely to pay attention to what they are being taught and less focused on what they don't know. Ultimately leading them to feel less overwhelmed and confident when new topics arise.
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Stephen Hughes
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Re: The foundations of Koine Greek

Post by Stephen Hughes » September 22nd, 2015, 2:21 am

In addition what is needed to learn English, there are some patterns to be learnt too. The grammar books make a good deal out being able to correctly identify and decode the elements of a word to recognise its grammatical function in the language. What is not covered so well are the similar segments of words which may or may not be (directly) related to meaning. An alphabet is an alphabet, but we recognise and read syllables (or even syllable groups) not letters.

Look at these two sets of words:
  • ἀνείλατο, ἀνετείλατο, ἀνηγγείλατο, ἀντανείλατο, ἀπεστείλατο, ἀπηγγείλατο, ἀφείλατο, διείλατο, διεστείλατο, διηγγείλατο, εἴλατο, ἐνετείλατο, ἐξανετείλατο, ἐξαπεστείλατο, ἐξείλατο, ἐξηγγείλατο, ἐπεκείλατο, ἐπεστείλατο, ἐπηγγείλατο, ἐπωκείλατο, ἐστείλατο, καθείλατο, κατεστείλατο, κατηγγείλατο, παρηγγείλατο, περιείλατο, προείλατο, προεπηγγείλατο, προκατηγγείλατο, συναπεστείλατο, συνεστείλατο, ὑπεστείλατο
vs.
  • ἀνείλετο, ἀντανείλετο, ἀφείλετο, διείλετο, εἴλετο, ἐξείλετο, καθείλετο, περιείλετο, προείλετο, προσωφείλετο, ὠφείλετο
To get to the situation you are describing, what needs to be known here? Obviously (in this example) the two terminating trisyllabic units - είλατο and είλετο, and in addition to that there are the (usually) monosyllabic initial syllables - the full or ellided prepositions (for the most part). Both of those "elements" should be fully familiar - seen as one unit, like to be able to be glanced at and written down with your eyes shut, etc.

Morphology and pattern-recognition only slightly interact with each other. The gap between patterns in the words and analytical morphology is something that natural language processing can deal with. Restricting pattern recognition to the morphology of the language has initially higher success in letting students parse, but contains so much (redundant) information that everything gets slowed down. Larger recognisable chunks - that may break morphemes or include more than one piece of information, are workable.

The declensions of number-case endings and in particular the article are usually set for learning outside of their natural patterns. I mean, we are never going to see ὁ τὸν τοῦ τῷ in a text, nor εἷς, μία, ἓν just listed together like that (Ephesians 4:5 has nouns with them). What we see are patterns of endings within nominal phrases. In this phrase πάσας τὰς βασιλείας the most important thing is not the endings that give us the parsing, it is the πάσ- and the βασιλεί- which gives us meaning. The other part, the xxxας τὰς xxxxxας should be processed as pattern-recognition - a lower-order brain function, while the "meaning" of πάσ- and βασιλεί- can be processed in working memory. Being able to spot patterns in sentences sub-consciously would be the known in this case - which you are saying that students should become familiar and comfortable with, and the πάσ- and βασιλεί- are the new information.

What about the accusative? Is it remarkable? What level of conscious processing needs to go into that? It should be so fully expected, that it becomes unremarkable. Habituation should let us expect that δείκνυσιν should be expressed together with a dative (in this case αὐτῷ) and an accusative (which we are discussing). It is the same with prepositions, there is not surprise to see a genitive following ἀπό.That expectation is something that should be known by habit. That is what happens when the verb occurs before the nouns.

In the other case, when a verb is held back to the end, there are a finite (but much larger) number of situations that are possible if a phrase started with simply an αὐτῷ, for example, the number of possibilities gets less and less (both in terms of possible structures and possible patters within various units) as the sentence goes on. That narrowing of possibilities is another skill that needs to be acquired. The overall pattern is not set up for us to follow, it becomes apparent later on as we have gotten through it. There is a lot more higher order thinking to be done in these situations.

Taking that further, the inconsistent nunnation (of the accusative) that apparently accompanied the gradual loss (merging in form) of the dative sometimes seems to force the unambiguous element forward so that the one that could be construed either way when heard is clearly what it is, but that is more for analysis than teaching.

Reading with minimal analysis and maximal pattern recognition better suits children's learning styles.

Building speed is not so much about doing minute (small) things faster, but about chunking and ignoring the obvious (things that a learning process should make so obvious that they are felt that they can be ignored in the higher order processing). Cf. Speed to Read.
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Γελᾷ δ' ὁ μωρός, κἄν τι μὴ γέλοιον ᾖ
(Menander, Γνῶμαι μονόστιχοι 108)

RandallButh
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Joined: May 13th, 2011, 4:01 am

Re: The foundations of Koine Greek

Post by RandallButh » September 22nd, 2015, 3:01 am

Children need comprehensible input in real communication situations. They will learn if that is achieved.

They will be teenagers before they can learn what a phoneme is and how to decode sentences.

(This partially overlaps and agrees with what Stephen has said above.)

Keep it real, keep it understandable, in the language itself.
(Do not hold up a baby and say, "βρέφος singular neuter animate noun," just like mothers do not point to themselves and say ῾[ἐγὼ] μήτηρ, noun, feminine singular.῾)

.
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M.M.Carter
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Joined: September 19th, 2015, 11:03 am

Re: The foundations of Koine Greek

Post by M.M.Carter » September 22nd, 2015, 1:58 pm

Gentleman, I wanted to ask for your forgiveness for sounding more as if I was asserting something rather than asking a question. What I said at the beginning of my first post was to be used as an example for my question. However, my error was using an example that I knew hardly nothing about. I am gratefully humbled by your responses and by the reproofing of my professor and only wish to understand these things better.
To start all over, I want to learn what foundations you guys use for your Greek classes? What have you found to be the best things to start out with for first year students? And lastly, because of those things was your students more focused on what you were teaching or did they often wander into areas you had not yet gone over (or is it just the nature of learning Greek that students do this)?
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Stephen Hughes
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Re: The foundations of Koine Greek

Post by Stephen Hughes » September 23rd, 2015, 1:22 am

Let me start with some background:
I have taught Greek. Randall is a Greek teacher. I'm an English teacher, and I have had a few thoughts about Greek from time to time over the years.

In all my (language) teaching experience, I find that I am more naturally a tutor, involved in the dynamics of individuals' learning and acquisition, rather than as a "teacher" an organiser and presenter of material to large groups. In any case, my fundamental idea about teaching is press on and let the details work themselves out later, or as they arise in questions.

Now, about your question specifically:
My comments were made in the context of your statement about English. In addition to the things that you would use to teach English, which you listed, I think that there are other things, such as those I listed, which are needed to effectively teach Greek.

That being said, you need to be in touch with your dean of studies to ascertain what just what the goals of your Greek programme should be. If you are privately tutoring someone, then they or their parents should be consulted. My answer to what question you raised rested on the assumption that success in language learning means that the student succeeds in learning the language. In this case the language is Greek, and success would mean that the student can handle the language to be able to achieve their goals in it - as opposed to achieving their goals without actually learning the language.

I have taught Greek in a number of ways according to how I've been asked to:
  1. Greek by grammar tables and explanations.
    On three or four occasions I taught by a grammaticisation method, all were quite disappointing. Grammar tables and simplistic rules are prisons for the mind that stop students seeing what beauty lies beyond them. Those who learn by them slowly lose the spark of interest in their eyes, and once they have learnt to stay within the tables, rarely feel comfortable to step beyond the confines of the table, even when released into the vastness of the language.
    1. The goal of learning was parsing and translation.
    2. The skill was matching the forms in a text with the correct table.
    3. Success would be the correct parsing and translation
    4. Elementary things would be rote learning of the tables
  2. Greek by historical-linguistic reconstruction.
    Basically following the presentation of BW Powers, to explain (how to decode) verbs, with the modification that I separated his morph 7 into aspect and mood parts, which he analysed together, and that I broke-down the way he lumped numbercase endings together in his morpheme 9. Very good for dealing with verbs from their details up, but quite lacking for dealing with the overall syntactic and discourse structures.
    1. The goal of learning in this way was to break Greek into morphemes and the construct the constituent elements together into an understanding of the Greek.
    2. The skill required was minute analysis according to Power's method.
    3. Perhaps "success" would be defined as mastery of the morphemic system and its application to reading.
    4. The elementary things to be covered were morphemic elements.
  3. Greek for exegetical purposes.
    Actually no Greek needed to be learnt (as a language). Words (in transliteration) could be pronounced, meanings could be gotten from the interlinear, and then looked up to find the true meaning of the text. I laid the heaviest stress on the dangers of the process rather than the benefits.
    1. The goal of learning was to find meaning in the Greek that was not in the translations.
    2. The desired skill was to go beyond the limits of translation.
    3. "Success" is difficult to define here in terms of language.
    4. There were no elementary things to learn. Everything could be done without any Greek.
  4. Greek beyond translating (by questioning).
    I sat with my little brother for a few hours every week when he was in Bible College, going through verses and passages asking what and why questions to help him go beyond translation.
    1. The goal was to read as a language rather than analyse and to see the connectedness of the text rather than its component parts.
    2. I'm not sure what skills were required.
    3. "Success" could perhaps be measured by fluency of meaning and correct identification of the relationship between elements (rather than fudging).
    4. The elementary things were to indicate the relationships within a phrase.
  5. Greek by interaction.
    Recently, I tried interacting with the learners in Greek, rather than teaching to impart knowledge. It was popular and exciting, but learning was slower than I had anticipated. This way allowed me to programme pair and group activities into the classes. Some of the words and phrases became part of the students' everyday conversation with each other. I did test them at the end of the study period, and I was amazed that their level of retention, both orally and in writing. I was also surprised at their poor spelling.
    1. There were no real "goals" as such.
    2. I don't think any special skills were needed.
    3. I'm not sure how to quantify "success" in this case.
    4. The elementary things covered were classroom commands and ways to praise and berate each other, and how to tell people what to do, and how to describe what others (or animals) were doing.
Do any of those approaches come close to what you have in mind doing? We could go on discussing which one fits the requirements of your teaching situation.
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Γελᾷ δ' ὁ μωρός, κἄν τι μὴ γέλοιον ᾖ
(Menander, Γνῶμαι μονόστιχοι 108)

Paul-Nitz
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Re: The foundations of Koine Greek

Post by Paul-Nitz » September 23rd, 2015, 5:52 am

That was a particularly good post, Stephen. I like the way you identified and defined the different methods.

MM Carter, if you want to use some sort of interactive, communicative method, setting down a course outline will be difficult and perhaps hinder learning. You start with something, then you react to your students and explore language. That said, I do think that the forms and functions of the cases is a big and early topic to explore. Case based language is a pretty foreign concept for most learners. It takes a lot of work to get to the point of thinking in cases. In general, when new structures are presented, they should not be offered in isolation. The Present indicative is understood and defined in contrast to the Aorist Indicative. Very quickly, they should be used alternately, rather than the organization of most primers that want to exhaust one topic before moving on to another.
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Paul D. Nitz - Lilongwe Malawi

M.M.Carter
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Joined: September 19th, 2015, 11:03 am

Re: The foundations of Koine Greek

Post by M.M.Carter » September 25th, 2015, 3:41 pm

Stephen Hughes wrote:
Do any of those approaches come close to what you have in mind doing? We could go on discussing which one fits the requirements of your teaching situation.
Thank you very much for all of that Stephen! Right now I am mostly doing research into Greek Pedagogy, but I am very interested in knowing how to teach it in the future. Right now I am a tutor for a first year class and I have been taking quite a few mental notes on how everybody is learning and responding. The Professor has changed up the way he has taught Greek and now the class is more immersion based. So I am very interested in the those types of approaches. We are actually incorporating some of Paul-Nitz videos, using a lot of pictures to help with internalizing the language, using Croy(so the students learn the verb early) instead of Mounce, among some of the other ideas found in this forum (as far as I know). In my previous couple years of learning Greek it was based on a couple of those methods that you spoke about such as: Greek by grammar tables and explanations and Greek for exegetical purposes. However comparatively to teaching it by interaction and immersion (as he is teaching it this year) I can see that the first year students are starting to do quite a bit better than I did my first year, but as we know that doesn't always mean everyone is not going to have questions.
What are some ideas you gents have on teaching Greek by immersion? Also, we are only in the Present Active Indicative and infinitive and I wanted to ask, when the students start to learn the up coming moods, what kind of ways do you incorporate learning those using an immersion based method? Or do you just have to flat out memorize the case ending as I was taught?
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M.M.Carter
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Joined: September 19th, 2015, 11:03 am

Re: The foundations of Koine Greek

Post by M.M.Carter » September 25th, 2015, 3:47 pm

Paul-Nitz wrote: Case based language is a pretty foreign concept for most learners. It takes a lot of work to get to the point of thinking in cases. In general, when new structures are presented, they should not be offered in isolation. The Present indicative is understood and defined in contrast to the Aorist Indicative. Very quickly, they should be used alternately, rather than the organization of most primers that want to exhaust one topic before moving on to another.
So do you think that instead of learning just the Present indicative at first, the students should also be learning the Aorist Indicative at the same time, or should the Aorist come after? But I do agree that the case "system" should be one of the first things they should get to know. Exactly how is the best way to start learning that, I don't have a clue (aside from how the professor is teaching the students this year though). Are there different ways to teach the case "system"?
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RandallButh
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Re: The foundations of Koine Greek

Post by RandallButh » September 26th, 2015, 2:03 am

Are there different ways to teach the case "system"?
Well, to point out the obvious,
1. someone could talk about them in English at length.
2. someone could use them in Greek in comprehensible contexts. Maybe after a few hundred have been used a summary could be provided in English, because there would not be enough Greek to do this in Greek yet.
3. someone could talk about the history of the IndoEuropean case system in English and place Greek within it. (Doubly unrecommended.)

The advantage of #2 is that a person would not be programmed to overthink them in English or to leave a Greek mode of thinking every other moment. LivingKoineGreek part 1 introduces many words in multiple cases, many of them in more than one case. At the end of 1000 pictures there is a brief summary in English the describes the broadstrokes of the system. TotalPhysicalResponse (in the language of course) in class is also able to do this effectively through judicious questions about who is doing what.
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Paul-Nitz
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Re: The foundations of Koine Greek

Post by Paul-Nitz » September 26th, 2015, 2:38 pm

M.M.Carter wrote:So do you think that instead of learning just the Present indicative at first, the students should also be learning the Aorist Indicative at the same time, or should the Aorist come after?
It is necessary to build up, so you might teach the Present for a bit, but then quickly bring in the Aorist and other tenses to contrast and define the παρατατική ἐν τοῦτο τὸ χρόνῳ tense.

I had promised this video for Jonathan Robie (on some thread I cannot find). I just made a newer version of a video I had done about "gesturing" the cases. Gesturing the cases works a charm in my context. Here's the link. https://youtu.be/K7S8kb8meYw

(Maybe someone could tell me how to embed a video in a post. This code doesn't seem to work)
[youtube]<iframe width="560" height="315" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/K7S8kb8meYw" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen></iframe>[/youtube]
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Paul D. Nitz - Lilongwe Malawi

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