Baby beginning to speak Greek

Pronouncing Ancient Greek

This week I have completed a major overhaul of the Alphabet page at Greek-Language.com. Now there are pronunciation examples for every letter in Modern Greek, Hellenistic Koiné, and Attic Greek. Most of these examples include an audio recording for clarity.

The audio recordings for ancient Greek use the reconstructed historical pronunciations. The Erasmian pronunciation is not included since it does not represent a well researched reconstruction of the actual pronunciation of Greek at any period.

Choose a letter below to see an example.

α β γ δ ε ζ η θ ι κ λ μ ν ξ ο π ρ σ τ υ φ χ ψ ω

Diphthongs and Digraphs

I have also added a section on diphthongs and digraphs. Where possible I have included recordings for these as well, but I do not have good recordings for all of them yet.

A diphthong is a pair of vowel sounds pronounced as a single syllable with the first sound gliding into the other.

A digraph is a pair of letters used to represent a single meaningful sound (phoneme).

Some of the pairs of letters below were true diphthongs in one historical period, but had become digraphs by another. In the case of αυ, ευ, and ηυ they were diphthongs in the classical period (Attic), but had become vowel/consonant pairs by the hellenistic era.

αι ει οι ου υι αυ ευ ηυ μπ ντ

I hope you find these materials helpful.

Smyth Greek Grammar and a diagram

Semantic Roles in the Ancient Greek Dependency Treebank

I have added the following article to the bibliography at Greek-Language.com.

While the use of the term “semantic role” in the title of this article sounds like what is discussed in posts on argument structure or Construction Grammar here at GreekLanguage.blog, the list of such roles referenced by Celano and Carne is quite different. They used Smyth’s, A Greek Grammar for Colleges to derive their list.

While this is an understandable decision, since that text is freely available online and it uses traditional categories students of Greek Grammar will readily recognized, Smyth’s grammar was written well before modern approaches to semantic roles were invented, so the names of some of the roles, and to a significant extent their definitions, will seem odd to linguists not familiar with traditional approaches to Greek Grammar.

Journal of Greek Linguistics

Verbal Semantics in Ancient Greek Possessive Constructions with eînai

In 2015 Maria Carmela Benvenuto and Flavia Pompeo published an article in the Journal of Greek Linguistics with the title above. The theoretical framework they use is Construction Grammar. The version of “Ancient Greek” they examine spans from Homer to the mid 300’s BCE, so it is prior to the era of our focus, but it fits well with work done by others on the Greek of the New Testament.

Both Simon Wong and Paul Danove have applied Construction Grammar to New Testament texts.

While I do not work within the Construction Grammar framework, I have argued elsewhere that similar information should be included in new lexica/dictionaries for ancient Greek and could be very useful in the context of language acquisition resources.

In my paper “Argument Structure in Hellenistic Greek” I used terminology intended to be understandable from the point of view of multiple theoretical frameworks, but the data are the same as those discussed by these proponents of Construction Grammar.

The value of Benevuto and Pompeo’s paper is that it demonstrates a specific difference in semantic relations correlating with a particular difference in morph-syntactic marking in Greek (genitive versus dative possessive constructions). Do their conclusions hold for the hellenistic data? Are any of you willing to take on the task of doing the research to see?

Benevuto and Ponpeo’s paper is available online. You can read it on Brill’s website or download a PDF copy there.
(They use transliterated Greek text, probably to make their work more accessible to readers who have not mastered the Greek alphabet, but it is not too much of a annoyance for those of us who have.)

Coderch, Classical Greek: A New Grammar

World News in Ancient Greek

Dr. Juan Coderch, University of St. Andrews (Scotland) maintains a website that provides world news in Ancient Greek. The site provides thoughtful discussions of some of the difficulties faced in producing current news articles in an ancient language.

In 2012 Dr. Coderch published a new reference grammar for Classical Greek. Reviews of the book have been very positive. A reference grammar is not necessary for acquiring ancient Greek, but it’s a great help for resolving difficulties you encounter in advanced texts, including his own news articles.

You can download a copy of the grammar as a PDF file for free, but at nearly 400 pages it will probably cost you as much to print it yourself as it would to order the bound copy from Amazon.com.

Acquiring Hellenistic (Koine) Greek

Donovan Nagal runs a podcast at mezzoguild.com. In this episode he discusses his ongoing experience in learning Koine Greek. He has a clear awareness of both the need to study Greek the without focussing on grammar, and the need to know the grammar well for theological studies.

Feel free to leave a comment below giving your reaction after you watch the 12 minute video.

Mark 8 in Koine Greek

Here’s chapter 8 of Mark’s Gospel from the LUMO Project, Faith Comes by Hearing, and KoineGreek.com.

As with chapter 7, there are no captions (yet) in this video, so I recommend listening with your Greek New Testament in hand and stopping the video from time to time to read what you have just heard.

Movable ν in the Communicative Greek Classroom

An astute reader pointed out that I have listed the following phrases in my “Classroom Words and Phrases for Hellenistic Greek” and raised the question of why I included the ν in the first case and why it appears as optional in the second.

  • τί ἐστι(ν) τοῦτο;
  • τί ἐστι(ν) ἐκεῖνο;

This is a great question, and it prompted me to add some usage notes in the spreadsheet.

According the the rules for Attic and Ionic Greek the ν should not be used in the first example, but it should in the second. It was added to words ending in a vowel when the following word began with a vowel to avoid having two vowels in successive syllables with no intervening consonant. So… according to this rule, I could have listed the questions as follows:

  • τί ἐστι τοῦτο;
  • τί ἐστιν ἐκεῖνο;

The problem is that by the hellenistic period this rule was no longer consistently followed, so we find, for example, τί ἐστιν τοῦτο; in Mark 1:27 and John 16:18, Εμμανουήλ, ὅ ἐστιν μεθερμηνευόμενον μεθ᾿ ἡμῶν ὁ θεός (Emmanuel, which being translated is “God with us”) in Matthew 1:23, θρόνος ἐστὶν τοῦ θεοῦ (It is the throne of God) in Matthew 5:34, etc., all of which violate the classical rule. Unfortunately for students of Hellenistic Greek, the rule was regularly violated by many writers.

So, the question becomes, “What should we do in class?”

Do you have opinions on the topic? I tend to think it is worth teaching the rule, but being very clear with the class that Hellenistic Greek authors frequently violated it.

If you take this option, what should we do when a student places the ν where it shouldn’t be according to the rule or leaves it out where the rule requires it? Should we ignore it? Point it out? Restate what the student said using the ‘correct’ form? What do you think?

Eirik Welo, Complex DP

Pragmatics of the Complex DP

In 2006 Eirik Welo (University of Oslo) published a brief examination of the use of the definite determiner (ὁ, ἡ, τό) in phrases that contain both a noun and an adjective in Classical Greek. Because his examination deals with pragmatics, not primarily syntax, and I am not aware of a similar treatment of determiners for the Hellenistic Period, I have decided to recommend it here.

Is anyone willing to take up the task of seeing if his conclusions apply equally to Hellenistic Greek?

  • Eirik Welo, “Pragmatics of the Complex DP in Ancient Greek”, in A Festschrift for Kjell Johan Sæbø, Ed. Torgrim Solstad, Atle Grønn, and Dag Haug, Oslo, 2006.

You can download a PDF copy of the paper here. The entire festschrift is available here.

Here’s what Welo’s abstract says:

In Classical Greek, complex determiner phrases may be formed in various ways. From a semantic point of view, the different formal patterns seem not to be associated with differences in meaning; in traditional grammars they are all claimed to be equally grammatical and equally definite. The distribution of the varieties of complex DP in discourse has not been studied in detail. In this paper I will discuss the combination of a noun with a modifying adjective. I will investigate the various patterns from semantic, pragmatic and, to a certain extent, syntactic points of view. I conclude that the possible configurations are semantically equivalent, but sensitive to information structure, both within the clause and in the larger context.

Google Doc Screenshot

Vocabulary for Teachers and Students of Hellenistic Greek

For some time now I have been working on compiling a list of useful phrases for speaking about Hellenistic Greek in Hellenistic Greek. I cannot claim originality for anything included in the list. I have consulted multiple existing lists as well as conducting my own search for practical words one is likely to need to conduct class in Greek.

The link below will allow you to view the list as well as make comments. It will not allow you to directly edit the document, but you can leave a comment on the document itself, or enter one here on the blog.

If you have suggestions of other words or phrases that you find useful in teaching Greek, please suggest them. I will check to see if I can find them in use in documents written during the hellenistic period (including the Roman Empire up to 300 CE).

Classroom Words and Phrases for Hellenistic Greek


Screenshot of bibliography

Three new dissertations

I would like to thank Matthew Longhorn for bringing three recent dissertations to my attention. All deal with the conjunction γάρ.

  • Casson dissertation coverSarah Helen Casson, Engaging with γάρ: a relevance-theoretic approach to the connective’s communicative role in Romans, King’s College London, 2017. (Read online or download at King’s College dissertation portal.)
  • Randolph dissertation coverMichael Rudolph, Reclaiming Γάρ: The Semantic Significance and Structural Implications of Γάρ as an Intersentential Conjunction in Romans through Hebrews, Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, 2014. (Read online or download at Academia.edu.)
  • Zakowski dissertation coverZakowski, Samuel. From coherence to procedures : a relevance-theoretic approach to the discourse markers δέ, γάρ and οὖν in Basil the Great’s Hexaemeron, Gregory of Nazianzus’s Invectives Against Julian and Heliodorus’s Aethiopica. Ghent University. Faculty of Arts and Philosophy, Ghent, Belgium, 2017. (Download from biblio.ugent.be.)

While this last one deals with a time slightly outside the temporal scope of the online bibliography at Greek-Language.com, I have added all three. I justify inclusion of Zakowski’s dissertation noting that all three writings he discusses date to the 300s CE, only slightly outside the scope of the bibliography, and the use of the conjunction in these works could well be of interest to anyone working with the patristic writings that preceded them.

If you are aware of books, articles, or dissertations that apply a particular form of Linguistics to a Hellenistic Greek text (the New Testament, Septuagint, or any other text written during the Hellenistic Period), please use the bibliography submission form as Matthew did to recommend it.