Paul Nitz’ review of M. Diaz Avila’s Alexandros.

In volume 8, issue 1 of Teaching Classical Languages, Paul Nitz has written a very helpful review of M. Díaz Avila’s Alexandros, Nitz considers the possible suitability of Avila’s book for a text-based introduction to Ancient Greek using a Communicative Model. The review is well worth reading.

Because Avila’s book, based on the earlier work of W.H.D. Rouse (1909), is a clear example of Applied Linguistics (use of a linguistically informed, research-based model to support language acquisition), I am adding the review to the Comprehensive Bibliography of Hellenistic Greek Linguistics.

Thank you, Paul!

Καλά Χριστούγεννα 2017

I wish you all a wonderful Christmas.

Here is how the Greek Phrase for “Merry Christmas” would have sounded between the time of Jesus’ birth and about 250 CE. It is doubtful that anyone actually uttered this greeting in the first century after Jesus was born, but if they had, here’s how it would have sounded!

I’ve provided the recording in three popular formats so that you can hear it even if you are using an outdated browser. At least one of the formats should work for you.

Three versions of the recording




Why is it likely no one used this saying before 100CE? Well, we just have no evidence that Christmas was celebrated at all before that date. The invention of the holiday came a bit later. Still, feel free to use the greeting now that we do celebrate Christmas!

A note on spelling
There is one small difference in spelling of the Christmas greeting between 300 CE and the present: the system of written accents has been simplified. Contrast the following spellings. Can you see the difference?
Modern: Καλά Χριστούγεννα
Hellenistic: Καλὰ Χριστούγεννα


Updates to and and are now fully identical, and both have a cheery new look. I’ve also put a great deal of time in over the past few days to enhancing the security of the sites. I hope you enjoy the changes.

New look at and (12/20/2017)

Note added December 29, 2017: I may from time to time vary the aesthetics of the site depending on which URL is used to access it, but the content will remain identical.

Changes in complement structure from Classical to Byzantine Greek

Journal of Greek Linguistics

In the first issue of the Journal of Greek Linguistics this year (2017), Klaas Bentein examined changes in the way verbal complements were formed between the Classical and Byzantine periods. Here’s what the abstract of his paper says:

While Classical Greek has a particularly rich complementation system, in later times there is a tendency towards the use of finite complementation. In this context, Cristofaro (1996) has claimed that the Classical opposition whereby the accusative and infinitive is used for non-factive complements, and ὅτι with the indicative and the accusative and participle for factive ones, is disappearing, ὅτι being used as a ‘generic’ complementiser. In this article, I investigate to what extent Cristofaro’s (1996) claim of the pragmatic neutralisation of complementation patterns can be upheld, and whether it could be claimed that a new pragmatic opposition, in terms of ‘register’, is being established. For this purpose, I turn towards documentary papyri, a corpus which is particularly fruitful for socio-historical investigations.

You can read this paper here. I have added it to the Comprehensive Bibliography of Hellenistic Greek Linguistics.

A Computational study on preverbal and postverbal accusative object nouns and pronouns in Ancient Greek

I have added Giuseppe Celano’s 2014 paper, “A Computational study on preverbal and postverbal accusative object nouns and pronouns in Ancient Greek,” (The Prague Bulletin of Mathematical Linguistics, no. 101, April 2014, pp. 97–110) to the Comprehensive Bibliography of Hellenistic Greek Linguistics.

Drawing on data from Homer to the New Testament, Celano argues for a gradual shift from OV to VO constituent order. You can view or download a pdf copy here.

οὐ μέντοι πολλοῦ γε χρόνου καὶ ἅπασιν ἐκνικῆσαι and the scope of Ancient Greek negation

I received a question on Facebook about a comment Thucidides made in the first book of his ὁ πολέμος τῶν Πελοποννησίων καὶ Ἀθηναίων. Discussing the question of when the Greek people came to be called Hellens (the name that gets translated into English as “Greeks”), Thucidides commented that it was not until after the Trojan war, and that even then it was not immediate. The term Hellens, taken from Hellen, king of Phthia, took time to spread.

His comments about this end with this statement:

  • οὐ μέντοι πολλοῦ γε χρόνου [ἐδύνατο] καὶ ἅπασιν ἐκνικῆσαι.

On first reading it might seem that what is being negated is πολλοῦ χρόνου, and that we should read οὐ μέντοι πολλοῦ γε χρόνου along the lines of “after not much time”, “after a short time”, or “not long thereafter”. Check the translations of this work into English, though, and you’ll find it read in the opposite sense: “after considerable time” or “though a long time elapsed” (This last one is from Richard Crawley (1840-1893). C.F. Smith (Loeb edition) has, “though it was a long time before the name could prevail among them all.”

What’s going on?

The issue has to do with the scope of negation. What is οὐ negating? 

Reading the clause as “After not much time, the name was able to also prevail among them all” implies a semantic structure like this:

[[οὐ μέντοι πολλοῦ γε χρόνου] ἐδύνατο καὶ ἅπασιν ἐκνικῆσαι.]

Crawley and Smith, though, read it this way:

[οὐ μέντοι [πολλοῦ γε χρόνου] ἐδύνατο καὶ ἅπασιν ἐκνικῆσαι.]

That is, οὐ is taken to negate ἐδύνατο or ἐδύνατο καὶ ἅπασιν ἐκνικῆσαι. “For a long time, the name was not able to prevail among them all.”

What might suggest that this is the better reading?

For this we should pay attention to the little words μέντοι and γε. While these words often go untranslated in English, they held meaning as discourse markers for Ancient Greek speakers. 

οὐ μέντοι was often used to negate a possible implication from the immediately preceding discourse: Indeed not!, Not however…. In the present case Thucydides has just stated that the name grew in acceptance until it was accepted by all Greeks. οὐ μέντοι implies that he is now going to place some kind of limit on that idea, negate some possible implication.  He says that the name was not immediately accepted. The negation in the current clause strengthens or extends that negation. Indeed not! 

Here’s the entire sentence/paragraph (complete with links to Pereus in case you need help with vocabulary):

δοκεῖ δέ μοιοὐδὲ τοὔνομα 

τοῦτο ξύμπασά πω εἶχενἀλλὰ τὰ μὲν πρὸ Ἕλληνος τοῦ

Δευκαλίωνος καὶ πάνυ οὐδὲ εἶναι  ἐπίκλησις αὕτηκατὰ 

ἔθνη δὲ ἄλλα τε καὶ τὸ Πελασγικὸν ἐπὶ πλεῖστον ἀφ᾽ ἑαυτῶν 

τὴν ἐπωνυμίαν παρέχεσθαιἝλληνος δὲκαὶ τῶν παίδων 

αὐτοῦ ἐν τῇ Φθιώτιδι ἰσχυσάντωνκαὶ ἐπαγομένων αὐτοὺς 

ἐπ᾽ὠφελίᾳ ἐς τὰς ἄλλας πόλειςκαθ᾽ ἑκάστους μὲν ἤδη 

τῇ ὁμιλίᾳ μᾶλλον καλεῖσθαιἝλληναςοὐ μέντοι πολλοῦ 

γε χρόνου [ἐδύνατο] καὶ ἅπασιν ἐκνικῆσαι.


Christopher Fresch’s Dissertation

Tyndale Bulletin has published the abstract of Christopher Fresch’s dissertation, “Discourse Markers in the Septuagint and Early Koine Greek with Special Reference to The Twelve.” Christopher has also uploaded a copy of the abstract to

Since Dr. Fresch’s dissertation clearly meets the criteria for inclusion in “A Comprehensive Bibliography of Hellenistic Greek Linguistics” I have added it there.


First Lesson from Πόλις: Speaking Ancient Greek as a Living Language

Yesterday I recommended Christophe Rico’s book, Speaking Ancient Greek as a Living Language. I thought some of you might like to see the method in action. Here’s a video of the first lesson.

Πόλις, a borrowed book

Polis: Speaking Ancient Greek as a Living LanguageToday I borrowed a copy of Πόλις, Speaking Ancient Greek as a Living Language from a friend. Obviously I haven’t completed reading it yet, but I’ve read enough to know that I can recommend it. The forward alone is worth the price of the book. It gives the best argument I have seen in print for beginning your study of Ancient Greek with the koine dialect. It also gives a very well written explanation for why learning koine Greek as a spoken language is the correct path to learning to read texts written in that language.

I’m ordering my own copy tonight!