Re: A Question

From: Carl W. Conrad (
Date: Sun Sep 08 1996 - 07:31:45 EDT

At 2:42 AM -0500 9/8/96, D. Hampton wrote:
>Hello B-Greekers,
>First I suppose I should introduce myself. I'm a "little
>Greek" who has been learning a lot by just lurking here
>for the past few weeks. My name is Debbie Hampton. I'm
>32. I started studying Greek on my own from Werner's
>Programmed Primer about 10 years ago. I did an
>Introductory course with the Presbyterian Reformed
>Church's John Knox College, where we were encouraged to
>read the New Testament text itself. I've been continuing
>to learn on my own since then.

Welcome to you, Debbie; it's always nice to see "little Greeks" "coming out
of the closet," if I may phrase it so. When Jonathan Robie (I think it was
he?) started this self-deprecating "I'm just a little Greek" business, I
couldn't help thinking of the passage in Juvenal's satire on reasons for
leaving the city of Rome: he says that one type of person one runs into all
over town nowadays (later first c. A.D.) is the GRAECULUS ESURIENS, the
"little Greek who can't get enough to eat." GRAECULUS is a diminutive of
contempt here, of course, as used by an impoverished aristocratic Roman
whose only remaining pride is in his ethnic purity. Jonathan has started
the new fashion of using "little Greek" for the ambivalent figure somewhere
between the bare beginner who doesn't even know what questions to put to
the teacher, on the on hand, and on the other, the very clever but
unpretentious learner who is much farther along the way than he/she will
readily admit, and who delights in posing innocent questions which threaten
to stump the supposedly "older and wiser" teacher. It is a marvelous
pedgagical device that Jonathan has invented, one that works wonderfully to
level the playing field of grammatical discussion and to expose the fact
that we are in fact, all of us who concern ourselves with Greek, not
experts but learners, GRAECULI ESURIENTES, "little Greeks who can't get
enough to eat"--at least when it comes to grammatical understanding.

>I am unlurking because I have a question. I am doing an
>undergrad course in Education Studies and for an
>assignment I have to write a course outline, using
>Bloom's taxonomy. I want to outline a course in Basic
>My problem is that Bloom categorizes translation as a
>comprehension skill at a lower level than skills like
>application of knowledge, analysis of elements or
>relationships or synthesis of unique expressions. He
>seems to have categorized it with the view of words and
>expression in different languages having simple
>one-to-one equivalence of meaning.

This sounds awfully naive, if you're describing it accurately. I wouldn't
think that anyone who has worked seriously with languages very long
continues to think in terms of "one-to-one equivalence of meaning."

>I would like to argue in my paper that the skill of
>translation involves the elements of analysis of the
>elements of a Greek expression, applying knowledge of
>grammar, structure and usage to interpret the functions
>given to words and expression in the Greek, identifying
>these functions, generating English expressions that
>convey the same functions and synthesing a unique English
>language expression with meaning equivalence.
>Is this a justifiable view of translating Greek?

It may well be that you have entered into the discussion at precisely the
right point, although the archives (alas, poor archives, I knew them
once--but they have ceased to exist on the web where anyone can readily
access them) would show a lengthy thread a year or so ago on the whole
question of "dynamic equivalence" and whether or not it is a viable
concept. At any rate, our present discussion of tense and aspect has made
it clear that the differences between Greek and English ways of expressing
time relationships threaten (a) the task of the grammarian who seeks to
categorize and explain Greek tenses and their aspect and varied actual
usage, as well as (b) the task of the learner who would translate any given
Greek text into appropriate English (or some other language). The learner
wants to know what such and such a tense form IMPLIES in terms of mode of
action and in terms of the range of expressions available for conveying
temporal relationships in English (or whatever). It would appear that the
grammarian, unless s/he was born an ancient Greek, is looking at Greek
structures through lenses that cast upon those Greek structures images of
the structures of her or his own language: the resulting vision seems
always to be slightly out of focus. It is the old Kantian problem of the
knowing subject's inescapable imposition upon the object of knowledge the
structures of the subject's own apprehensive apparatus. To some extent we
know that we are understanding the Greek text aright because it "makes
sense," but it doesn't quite make COMPLETE sense. All of which is my way of
saying that, yes, I think that is a justifiable view of translating
Greek--so long as sufficient allowance is made for a healthy sense of humor
and the humbling awareness that we are all "little Greeks."

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

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