Re: Etymology, Koine Dialects, and BAGD

Carl W. Conrad (
Fri, 31 May 1996 07:05:12 -0500

At 4:06 PM -0500 5/30/96, Edgar M. Krentz wrote:

>If students learn more of what Albert DeBrunner described in his
>*Griechische Wortbildungslehre*--that is get some basic knowledge of the
>sgnification of suffixes, infixes, and prefixes--and learn to distinguish
>the elements of compound words, then the learning of Greek vocabulary
>becomes much simpler--especially if students are made to learn the
>principal parts of so-called irregular verbs.

I agree wholeheartedly with this; it's far more valuable to the student of
Greek than a study of what is often a pseudo-science of etymology is likely
to be. I would be the first to say that etymology is not my forte, but
rather something I have a weakness for.

>It would be good for the rest of us on b-greek if Carl would supply us with
>a good, up-to-date introductory bibliography of etymological dictionaries
>of Greek and Latin [the two do have some affinities]. I for one would be
>interested. Any chance, Carl? I don't know if Frisk or Boisacq are still
>regarded as authoritative. What later works would you recommend?

No chance, and would that I could! Boisacq I have and I find useful, though
hardly for anything that ever affects usage of a word in the NT. The most
useful learning about words I've done has always come through fascination
with usage noticed in a text followed by a careful, reflective study of
LSJ's entry on the word in question, what authors used the word when and in
what senses, and checking cognates.

BAGD: Which brings me to the second point: although not a perfect tool (it
ain't no wheel or hammer) and one whose authority ought to be respected but
not worshipped, BAGD is a very valuable tool. Unfortunately, my
conversation with Fred Danker last night yielded what HE deemed very
hopeful news: the new edition of BAGD (1100-1200 pp.) just may be published
about the end of 1997! Was it two summers ago that he turned the MS over to
UChicagoPress? I could not conceal my disappointment; his consolation to me
was to urge meto get after the library authorities at Washington U. and
urge them with all my avoirdupois (which is considerably greater than any
authority it is supposed to symbolize) to keep up the subscription to
volume general encyclopedia of antiquity that has been a work in progress
now for over 100 years! Isn't it nice to look at the passing of time with
the perspective of a sequoia in a protected forest? One must only hope that
the proverbial mills of God really do grind as finely as they grind slowly.
I'm now beginning to wonder even whether the new edition of LSJ which OUP
promised to publish in April is likely to come out this year!

KOINE DIALECTS: This was my primary reason for contacting Fred after
Carlton and I puzzled over apparent Doric forms of FAINW in the NT. Yes
indeed, there were dialectal differences in Koine and Doric was
represented, he said. Although there were some standard formulae used by
scribes in official correspondence, dialect differences depended in part,
he said, upon the intended recipient's dialectal affinities. If I
understood him rightly, there WERE significant differences between the
Greek written and spoken in Macedonia, Syria, Anatolia, and Egypt, just as
one might expect, and he says that the inscriptions recorded in the SIG
show this variety very well. He said too that there is a continuing impact
of literary sources upon common language even when the user of phrases is
not aware of the source: he pointed to phrases deriving from Homer--which
made me think of phrases from Shakespeare showing up in the speech of
cowpokes on our own western frontier in the 19th century.

I don't know how long he's been retired now, but Fred keeps busy with his
lexicology--and tells me that when he's finished with it a couple years
hence (I suppose he means when the last proofs of BAGD#x have been sent
back to the publisher), he would like to teach a course in our department!
I hope that may come to pass--I'll be he first to register for it, if I
haven't retired and left town by then myself.

Carl W. Conrad
Department of Classics, Washington University
One Brookings Drive, St. Louis, MO, USA 63130
(314) 935-4018 OR