inter-intelligibility of Attic and Modern Greek

dodaive

New Member
Hypothetical Question
If Socrates was to somehow appear in Modern Greece, how well would he be understood in modern Greece? What percentage of modern Greek would he be able to understand?
 

socratidion

Civis Illustris
I don't do percentages, but speaking as someone who learned Modern Greek after learning ancient Greek, I'd say that the written language is still extraordinarily similar -- much more so than (e.g.) Italian is to Latin. No doubt this is partly to do with a consciously archaizing linguistic movement in the 19th C. Not everyone supported that, but it must have had some kind of effect, even on the more deliberately 'popular' language. Anyway: yes, there are many differences, especially the short words, but considering the thousands of years that have passed between the ancient and the modern tongue, it's quite amazing how little it has changed.

What's different is the pronunciation. Miles apart. Socrates wouldn't stand a chance.
 

dodaive

New Member
Thank you for the responses :)
In the future I actually I do plan to learn Greek. Going from the information above, I would use Attic Greek's grammar, and Modern Greek's pronunciation. The best of both worlds. I would actually learn the Attic pronunciation, if I thought I was ever going to use it.
 

Manus Correctrix

QVAE CORRIGIT
dodaive dixit:
What about if they used writing about what percent could each person understand?
If the modern person was proficient in Katharevousa then they might have a chance of communicating quite a lot of information. Modern Demotic would be too far off, as I understand.

dodaive dixit:
Thank you for the responses :)
In the future I actually I do plan to learn Greek. Going from the information above, I would use Attic Greek's grammar, and Modern Greek's pronunciation. The best of both worlds. I would actually learn the Attic pronunciation, if I thought I was ever going to use it.
That would be the worst of both worlds. You’d be incomprehensible if you tried to talk to Greeks, and you’d be mangling the ancient language. Just learn one or both languages, and use correct pronunciation.
 

Bitmap

Civis Illustris
Cursor Nictans dixit:
That would be the worst of both worlds. You’d be incomprehensible if you tried to talk to Greeks, and you’d be mangling the ancient language. Just learn one or both languages, and use correct pronunciation.
I think it's common practise in Greece to pronounce Ancient Greek in modern pronunciation.
 

socratidion

Civis Illustris
Bitmap dixit:
I think it's common practise in Greece to pronounce Ancient Greek in modern pronunciation.
Indeed, and completely daft it is too. The modern Greeks ridicule, and/or resent, the basic principles of the 'Erasmian' pronunciation system, which are that different letters represent different sounds, and that the ancients attempted to spell their language as it was spoken. The modern Greek pronunciation makes many of the old vowel sounds identical (so, notoriously, letter i, long e, u, ei, are all pronounced the same way) resulting in data loss.

...OK so we English speakers pronounce Shakespeare (and indeed rewrite it) as if it were modern English, and maybe the Greeks approach the ancient literature in the same spirit -- not wanting to make it too alien, wanting contrarily to reinforce it as part of their national culture. So maybe 'daft' is a bit strong. (But we don't do the same with Chaucer... )

To dodaive: the principle reason to learn the pronunciation system is to be able to communicate with your peers. If your teacher or fellow students are Greek, or indeed you yourself, then your proposal makes sense. But the rest of the world uses a different system, and you will meet with nothing but incomprehension the minute you open your mouth.
 

dodaive

New Member
What I was thinking was that it would be similar to speaking King James Bible English, with clear modern pronunciation. The majority of English speakers understand the King James Bible. There may be the occasional unfamiliar word here and there. Considering the number of Greeks I Meet in my life, that would be as a far as I want to study it. My hopes would be to actually meet others that speak Attic Greek, but I am thinking that there are so few speakers of Attic Greek that that it almost doesn't matter if you can speak it. My major focus is the ability to read the classic literature.
 

Bitmap

Civis Illustris
socratidion dixit:
Indeed, and completely daft it is too. The modern Greeks ridicule, and/or resent, the basic principles of the 'Erasmian' pronunciation system, which are that different letters represent different sounds, and that the ancients attempted to spell their language as it was spoken. The modern Greek pronunciation makes many of the old vowel sounds identical (so, notoriously, letter i, long e, u, ei, are all pronounced the same way) resulting in data loss.
I don't really think so to be honest. It may sound kind of funny in onomatopoeias, when for instance sheep don't go [ble:] anymore, but [vli] (< βληχάομαι = to bleat), and it may be troublesome if you're an acoustic learner and remember the words based on their pronunciation rather than their spelling. But if you're fine with that, I don't think it's any worse than, say, ecclesiastical pronunciation of Latin or mixing in habits and peculiarities of your mother tongue into the pronunciation of Greek (like Germans in the pronunciation of rho, chi or theta).

dodaive dixit:
What I was thinking was that it would be similar to speaking King James Bible English, with clear modern pronunciation. The majority of English speakers understand the King James Bible.
That's not a good comparison. The King James Bible is written in Modern English and is easily intelligible. Granted, it's Early Modern English with a slightly different idiom, but as far as pronunciation and grammar are concerned there are hardly any differences compared to the English that is spoken today. Ancient Greek and Modern Greek are essentially different languages, though. A better comparison would be a Bible translation from the 8th century in Old English, which you will hardly understand at all (unless, of course, you know OE).
 

socratidion

Civis Illustris
I'm trying to work out which part you disagree with... I'm not objecting to the fact that the modern Greeks have assigned modern vowel-sounds to the ancient letters. I'm complaining that the application of modern pronunciation to the ancient language is based on a ludicrous premise, that it's OK to ignore distinctions in between sounds which the ancients very clearly regarded as different, and indeed went to some lengths to find special symbols for.

Naturally, I speak ancient Greek with an English accent; any number of things may be wrong with it, but at least the pronununciation system is coherent, and people in my country know what word I'm saying when I say it. I think you would too.

(And of course, I speak modern Greek with a -- surprisingly good -- modern Greek accent, where it actually matters)

PS, the ecclesiastical pronunciation of Latin is a reasonable parallel: I certainly wouldn't use that system for classical Latin. In medieval literature, it would presumably be more correct.
 

dodaive

New Member
As for me, learning a perfectly phonetic language like Attic Greek sounds great, I probably will mess up the word order by latinizing it when speaking , but oh well. At least I will be able to read and pronounce it correctly. At this point my interest in modern Greek is nil.
 

Nooj

Civis Illustris
socratidion dixit:
To dodaive: the principle reason to learn the pronunciation system is to be able to communicate with your peers. If your teacher or fellow students are Greek, or indeed you yourself, then your proposal makes sense. But the rest of the world uses a different system, and you will meet with nothing but incomprehension the minute you open your mouth.
Not if you present your peers with a print out of the Greek text beforehand.
 

dodaive

New Member
When I get a chance to study Greek it is going to be 100% Attic everything. I am even going to stay away from biblical Greek. Studying Greek is a ways off for me though, Latin is presenting enough challenges for me at the moment.
 

Gregorius

Civis Illustris
socratidion dixit:
I don't do percentages, but speaking as someone who learned Modern Greek after learning ancient Greek, I'd say that the written language is still extraordinarily similar -- much more so than (e.g.) Italian is to Latin.
This sounds remarkably like me when my knowledge of Spanish makes written Portuguese virtually transparent, even though I know the pronunciation would be quite different.

As has been said, Shakespearean English isn't the best parallel. Most laymen colloquially refer to it as "old" English, but if those same people encountered true Old English, they'd probably run away screaming and beg for the Bard to come back!

Better analogy: bring the scribe who wrote down "Beowulf" to modern Britain and see how well he fares. I suspect that few bystanders would even recognize it as English, thinking it instead it be either High German or some obscure German dialect.

Of course, English is an extreme example, 'cause from what I've observed, the degree to which it has changed over the centuries is somewhat atypical. I had a Spanish-speaker comment on a Latin song translation of mine that he/she could actually understand random fragments. I'm lucky if I can parse out two or three words in the first page of "Beowulf." I love to recite the first line or so just to see how many people can guess what language it is. "Hwaet! We gardena in gear dagum, theod cyninga thrym gefrunon, hutha athelingas ellen fremedon..." Seriously, it sounds completely foreign! I can guess at "we," "dagum," and "cyninga," but that's it.
 

Effertus Meri

New Member
dodaive dixit:
When I get a chance to study Greek it is going to be 100% Attic everything. I am even going to stay away from biblical Greek. Studying Greek is a ways off for me though, Latin is presenting enough challenges for me at the moment.
Even having studied only Attic, I can more or less understand e.g. the new testament. Koine is, after all, its popular descendant. Also, for me, at least, reading modern Greek isn't too difficult, either, having an approximate understanding of its (d?)evolution.
 
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