From: Paul R Zellmer (
Date: Sat Nov 02 1996 - 11:38:08 EST

On Fri, 1 Nov 1996 20:14:22 -0600 Carl writes:

> I think that what we have in
>Greek, and particularly in Koine Greek, is what we have in English and in
>fact in many a modern language that we can point to: North Americans,
>all their differences between tidewater Virginia, Ozarks Missouri &
>Arkansas, and standard midwestern radio speech, can understand each
>spoken English quite well; we have difficulty sometimes in following
>British, Irish, or Scottish English if it is spoken too quickly; we have
>much greaer difficulty in following (I should say rather that I myself
>Australian English; the written language of any of these folks presents
>problem to any of these far-flung English speakers in the world. I think
>then that this is probably the way we should understand these words in
>Greek: the GLWTTA/GLWSSA tends to be the term for the language as
>and understood by Greek-speakers everywhere--certainly in the
>era by all educated Greek-speakers, while DIALEKTOS signals the
>speech of different ethnic Greeks in different areas. My impression too
>that Koine is the name of a DIALEKTOS: hH KOINH DIALEKTOS, and I suspect
>that the reason Koine is a eminine adjective is precisely because the
>GLWTTA/GLWSSA is the noun understood implicitly with hH KOINE DIALEKTOS:
>means "the VERNACULAR language." I would guess too that its development
>rather akin to the standardized British accent developed in the "public"
>schools as the standard pronunciation all over England, and akin also to
>the standardized midwestern American accent that seems to be the vehicle
>radio and television broadcasting all over North America. Admittedly
>are pretty broad generalizations, but shouldn't we probably understand
>GLWTTA/GLWSSA as the general word for "language," DIALEKTOS for the
>forms of SPOKEN language?

Ah, but, Carl, are not the reasons why written English is understood
throughout the world because 1) it's grammar and vocabulary is
*prescribed* as opposed to *described* (i.e., passively observed), and 2) being in written form, we have time to slow down and think about the
meaning of those differences which _do_ creep in? Actually, your
English example better demonstrates that we English speakers tend to
communicate in one dialect and speak in another. Think about the
comments made by hearers when one speaks as one writes formally, that
that one is "educated" or "stilted" or "putting on airs." Of course,
there are also pronunciation differences between dialects which hinder
the comprehension for the uninitiated or unfamiliar, pronunciation
differences which do not show up in the written word because of
prescribed spellings. The written word is, after all, a mere representation of the sounds which make up words. Look, for example, at the number
of different languages (GLWSSA?) which use Chinese characters as a common
script. When a message is read in each of those languages, (e.g.,
Mandarin and Cantonese), the sounds are not even similar, yet the
meaning come across because the idea is commonly defined for those

I would not disagree with your summary that GLWTTA/GLWSSA became to be a
general word for language or a language and DIALEKTOS is a distinct
subgroup of a language. However, I felt your comparisons were weak. I have yet to find that there was a prescriptive grammar or dictionary in the ancient Greek world which would lead to a Greek equivalent of "King's
English" or "American English."

Just putting in my two-bits,

Paul Zellmer
Southern Methodist Missions

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