A Personal Word To The Teacher And Student

The aim of this grammar is to introduce the student to the structure of the Greek language in the briefest possible time. Notice that structure and Greek language are being emphasized. It is the language itself and not a grammar about that language that the student who wishes to learn to read Greek needs to confront. For that reason, the grammar itself is suppressed wherever possible. And, if modern linguistics is correct in its fundamental affirmations, the one needful thing in learning a new language is familiarity with its grammatical structure. Such familiarity need not be explicit; the learner needs to "know" the structure and structure signals only in the sense that he is able, immediately and without deliberation, to respond to them.

More recent methods of grammatical analysis and language teaching bear directly upon a chronic condition I have mused as a teacher of Greek. Although in almost daily touch with some Greek text for twenty-five years, I find that each time I teach beginning Greek from a traditional grammar, it is necessary for me to recommit portions of that grammar to memory. There seems to be little correlation between my ability to read and understand a Greek text and the ability, say, to reproduce nominal and verbal paradigms by heart. I was puzzled by this discrepancy in myself, and by the fact that students who appeared to be able to handle a Greek text with facility often did poorly on examinations over Greek "grammar." The reverse condition has also frequently caught my attention: students who appear to know the "grammar" are not always able to read a Greek text with correlative ease. In the case of the former, the difficulty may have been that the students merely lacked the technical language with which to make their functional knowledge explicit. Yet I took it to be the case that more often than not those same students aspired to a working knowledge of the language and not to a grammarian's portfolio. In the case of the latter, knowledge of the "grammar" did not appear to guarantee knowledge of the language. It then occurred to me that traditional grammar might be something apart from the ability to read Greek, in fact, might be an impediment to such ability.

It was with some reluctance that I undertook to reassess the status of traditional Greek grammar. A modest acquaintance with modern linguistics was enough to convince me that a revolution had taken place in the study and learning of language no less than in the study and learning of mathematics.

I have endeavored to indicate the implications of linguistics for the study of Greek in the Introduction (§§001-020). There the reader will find some of the basic insights afforded by linguistics as I see them in relation to Greek. I have endeavored to express them without the use of technical language and probably inadequately, by the rigorous standards of leading contemporary linguists. For those who wish to see linguistics in action, a few of the many books which may be consulted are listed in the Table of Abbreviations under modern literature. I should like to emphasize the importance of reading actual grammars rather than, or in addition to, linguistic theory.

These brief remarks invite some further practical advice about the character and organization of the grammar itself.

The first admonition concerns frame of mind. Students who have learned the grammar of some language in a traditional mode will be tempted,in the earlier stages, to assume that they are not learning grammar. They will feel uneasy that they cannot reproduce third declension paradigms or the principal parts of irregular verbs, probably because they think they know what grammar is. They have to be convinced that they can learn a language and learn it well, without first having learned traditional grammar by rote memorization. The watershed comes after the first weeks: on the other side of the divide, the skeptics become fresh converts with all the passion normally attaching thereto. By this time they have discovered that they do indeed know the system of morphological variables, and know it with an assurance not normally attained after months, if not years, of study. They will also have discovered that they can read Greek, an achievement they did not anticipate until months later.

The first admonition, therefore, is: have faith.

The grammar is constructed, in broad outline, as follows:

(1) The student is introduced to the sight and sound of the language by reading actual texts (the student is urged to have a Greek text open before him as he proceeds). He is urged to make as much of the sight and sound of the language as his instincts allow, e.g. the meanings of cognate words, the structure of sentences.

(2) The student is then taught the system of morphological variables systematically, with a minimum amount of rote memorization. He learns to recognize the forms of nouns, pronouns, verbs and the like in actual texts. He is not asked to reproduce paradigms, except for the few models he must fix in mind for reference.

(3) After approximately twelve weeks (31 lessons),1[footnote 1 The rate at which lessons are assigned will of course vary. The important thing is to keep the pace and not be deterred by the temptation to master every morphological detail.] the student begins to read actual but selected texts for content.2[footnote 2 The texts on which this grammar is based are recommended for reading purposes: The Syntax is illustrated with words and sentences drawn from this body of material. Of course, other selections of moderate difficulty would serve equally well.] He learns the commonly recurring structures of the language and acquires vocabulary in context. By the time he has completed the Short Syntax (lessons 31-62), he will have sufficient facility to read Greek texts of moderate difficulty at sight. There will be blanks, of course, but he will have learned to fill them in by analogy (grammatical blanks) or context (lexical blanks), or by turning to the grammar and lexicon for help. The aim of the program is to achieve moderate reading proficiency at sight in one year of study or less. This aim is based on the assumption that most students, especially theological students, begin the study of Greek relatively late in their academic programs.

While the grammar is programmed to be completed in slightly more than one semester (24 weeks, 3 hours per week),3[footnote 3 The recommended rate of progress is optional. The teacher and student may find a slightly slower (or even quicker) pace more comfortable.] it is conceived as a beginning-intermediate grammar. An explanation of this conception is in order, since the actual text of the grammar may create some confusion in view of the stated purpose.

Most beginning lesson grammars are used for a year, at most two, and then discarded in favor of an intermediate or advanced grammar. The inefficiency involved in learning to use second and third grammars can be avoided, in part, by incorporating a second level grammar into the first. The present grammar serves as a beginning lesson grammar, but the material is treated exhaustively at many points, especially in connection with morphology, so that the text may also be used subsequently for reference. The difference between the two types of material is indicated in the text by marking the intermediate (and advanced) material, in the Nominal and Verbal Systems, with ↑↓ to indicate which sections may be skipped by the beginner. Several rather lengthy systematic discussions are included but clearly marked: for reading and reference only. Such sections, e.g. Introduction to the Nominal System (§§100-115), are designed to provide adequate background and rationale for what the student is learning. The student is not asked, however, to learn the content of these sections. In addition, the grammar is supplied with several appendices which both teacher and student will find useful at all levels of study. These, too, are included only for reference.

Exercises and directions for practice will appear separately as a workbook. The exercises belong integrally to the program of study represented by the lesson grammar. With a little experience, the teacher will be able to devise his own exercises, making use of those texts with which he wishes the student to become acquainted.

This personal note might well conclude with the axioms that the author has endeavored (sometimes vainly!) to keep constantly before him in both teaching Greek and writing this grammar:

(1) Since the object of the study of Greek is the use of the language rather than its mortification, the student is advised to devote his time to a mastery of the language rather than to a mastery of the grammar.

(2) The student (and teacher!) should keep a Greek text before him at all times. All learning should take place with an actual text in view.

(3) The grammar and lexicon are reference works to be consulted repeatedly rather than memorized. Keep them constantly at hand, but always above or to the right and left of the Greek text.

(4) Few things need be learned by rote memorization; where memorization is necessary, the data must be absolutely mastered.

(5) The student is advised to take every conceivable shortcut reading the signals of the language: explicit, full grammatical knowledge is no substitute for native response where reading ability and comprehension are concerned.

(6) The student is urged to believe in the linguistic "signposts," like those on a complicated Interstate, and to trust his own reading of the markers. There will be fewer traffic jams and slowups if the student allows himself to be guided by the markers he sees and here, makes a guess there.

(7) A wrong turn is no disgrace: if the student misreads a sign, the teacher will direct the way back to the highway, provided the student has not already discovered his error. A wrong turn is better than an idle wait on the shoulder studying the map.

Some indication of how this grammar was constructed may be helpful to the user. This work, like most others, has its strengths and weaknesses, and it does no harm to have some notion of them in advance.

The lexical stock represented in Bauer served as the basics for the morphology (the treatment of the nominal and verbal systems). A complete and exhaustive compilation of the data was made for this purpose. Part of the raw results of that compilation may be found in Appendices II and III, which may prove of some benefit to both student and instructor. The morphology attempts to be exhaustive wherever possible. However, there appeared to be no good reason to duplicate the advanced materials found in B1-D. Frequency counts in the New Testament are derived from Bruce Metzger's Lexical Aids.

The Syntax rests, to a large degree, on a fresh analysis of a selected body of texts. In defining a body of texts for the purpose of the Syntax, it seemed wise to make a selection that would introduce students to the contours of the New Testament as well as to the rudiments of Greek. This double function accounts for the character of the selection (the list may be found pp xxif.[In the Selected Texts section]).

In accordance with the aims of descriptive analysis, it was determined to proceed empirically insofar as possible. Although the body of selected texts was relatively small, the hand manipulation of 2,000 sentences, although parsed on cards, proved to be slow and highly inefficient. Nevertheless, segments of the Syntax reflect the effort to read the grammatical signals occurring in a specific compendium of actual Greek sentences without prejudice. When time and strength ran out, it was necessary to fall back on the more conventional use of lexicon and concordance. As a consequence, the grammatical tradition reasserts itself at certain points in the Syntax. The user will doubtless be able to discern which sections represent original analysis, and which traditional categories. In my own defense, I can only say that I finally decided it the better part of wisdom to publish the fruit of ten years of labor rather than wait upon additional years of work. Such a compromise, now that the first complete edition is appearing, seems fairly modest in retrospect. The present sense of relief at having come to a preliminary conclusion does not relieve the necessity of pushing on to further editions, based on further compilations of data.

It had been my original intention to draw far more on texts outside the New Testament and Apostolic Fathers than has in fact been the case. If it proves possible to reduce a significant number of Greek sentences to a code that can be manipulated by a computer, it will be easily possible to work with a much larger body of data. In that case, the promise of the title (hellenistic Greek) will come to fulfillment; as it stands, it is more promise than achievement.There is, of course, a great risk in attempting a new organization of Greek grammar, based on a fresh collection of data. Those who are gracious enough to share the risk will hopefully make suggestions for improvement, note errors of all proportions, and contribute materially to the further editions which will hopefully follow.

The numbering system devised for this Grammar requires comment. It is basically a three digit system (§§001-999) with the possibility of infinite expansion: each major section has been assigned unused numbers, and indefinite subdivision is possible. In addition to the convenience in numbering the first edition, the system will permit subsequent editions to retain the same span of numbers for the same sections (e.g. Nominal Word Clusters will always be treated in §§680-779). Sections may be added or deleted without having to renumber the entire Grammar.

The rationale underlying the system is simple. Introductory paragraphs are indicated by 0 prefixed to a three digit number (e.g. §0335). Paragraphs that are subsidiary to a preceding paragraph or paragraphs, or which constitute notes or advanced materials, are indicated by numbers suffixed to the three basic digits before the point (e.g. §§3360, 3371). In addition, sections may be further divided by numbers following the point (e.g. §409.1, §4080.3). A note to a subsection is indicated by a second number following the point (e.g. §929.70).

A Fellowship awarded by the American Council of Learned Societies made it possible to bring this first complete edition to a conclusion prior to taking up the next stage of the work; computer and parsing code will occupy me during the balance of the Fellowship period as I collect data for a further edition.

To Lola LaRue, Carol Durant, and Joann Armour, who typed dauntlessly through one version after another, go my undying thanks. Joann Armour produced the final copy for the camera with unusual skill.

Robert W. Funk

Missoula, Montana
18 July 1973

Corrected Edition

For courteous and substantial help with the corrections in this printing, I am especially indebted to Rod Whitacre (Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary), Clarence B. Hale (International Linguistic Center, Dallas), William G. Doty (University of Massachusetts), Marrilla Hasseries (University of Montana), Judy Hubbard (University of Waterloo), and my colleague, Lane C. McGaughy. Without the help of these and other persons, many a deceptive and deceiving mistake would have been overlooked.

Many promising suggestions have been made for a revised edition. While it was not possible to undertake a revision at this time, eventually a thoroughly revised and augmented edition will be issued, together with an abbreviated student edition. Meanwhile, the patrons of this grammar are invited to share further in its improvement.

Robert W. Funk

Missoula, Montana
24 May 1977