Re: thinking Greek

From: Mark Beatty (
Date: Mon May 15 2000 - 20:27:52 EDT

yochanan bitan wrote:

> Craig brought up some issues that are of a continual concern to me,
> [at least until this forum is run in Greek :-) ]
> Craig egrapsen:
> > That kind of immersion just cannot be obtained in a language that no one
> speaks as a
> >living language.

Is this really the case that "Greek" is not a living language? I have been wondering
about the relationship between Modern and Koine Greek and the value of studying Modern
Greek to get insights into Koine.

First let me state that I have concluded that the differences are linguistically
(though not communicatively) rather minor. For example as for phonology the stops B,
D, G are pronounced as fricatives [f, th, gh/y]. In certain contexts the U is
pronounced as an [f]. A bunch of the vowels and diphthongs are pronounced as [i].

As to morphology, there is no more dative, the infinitive is inflected for person and
number, and there is a whole set of "auxiliary verbs" to mark for infinitive,
subjective, etc.

Yes, there are differences in some word meanings, but during a recent stay in Athens I
was asked "POU MEVETE?" which is the same thing the disciples asked Jesus in John 1:28
(except our friend used the plural since she was addressing my wife and I). And when
you answer the phone you use NAI just like Peter answered Jesus in John 21:15.

As for what I call syntax, I think the differences are almost non existent.

So, having stated my opinion that the differences between Koine and Modern are
linguistically trivial, does anyone know of any research being done that uses the
insights of Modern Greek to understand Koine?


Mark Beatty
University of Hawaii

(Clarification: Though a Koine Greek speaker would probably be incomprehensible to a
Modern Greek speaker, we might call this communicatively different. This does not
necessarily contradict with my statement that the diachronic stages of the language
are only linguistically different in trivial ways.)

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