re: Fluency and an Epigraphic Language

From: yochanan bitan (
Date: Tue Jun 06 2000 - 17:29:34 EDT


Many good points.

(this is the "email aorist" function, and please no laughter from lurkers)
>Can fluency ever be reached without native

Can a mountain be climbed without trying?

EGRAYA (c'est moi pour tous les francophones)
>> We want to read written texts fluently, but human beings are
>> pre-wired to function with spoken language. Most everyone who has
>> to speak a language comments on what a significant positive effect that
>> on reading. This is true for modern languages, even for old languages.
>> haven't begun to tap in on this.

>I agree. No one speaks French well from the study of french literature or
>newspapers alone. Language production or compentence in performance
>through interaction with native speakers.

While native speakers are best, no argument there, it is actually possible
to learn languages from and with 2nd language users. It happens alot in
multilingual environments.

>So I wonder whether trying to acheive internalization/fluency might be
>counter productive when it comes to actually reading and interpreting
>...We surely need certain grammatical models/understanding in order to
produce new
>instances of language.
>Once we adopt a particular model of how we think the, say, Greek
>work and begin to use that model to create our own utterances, we will
>likely begin to interpret texts with it.

Talking and thinking in English is supposed to improve the situation? That
is what everyone is already doing.
The more of a system that one learns the better they are able to interpret
from within that system.
And using a language should always be self-correcting. One makes
approximations and gets closer. Feedback comes from the ancient texts
themselves because one must keep reading more and more of them. Grammatical
models are for talking about a language and discussing how it is able to
work the way it does. We're still working on English. But use is always

>This is my problem with Greek textbooks (such as Wenham) that have an
>English->Greek section in their exercises. Can we really grade two variant
>sentences where the differences are in the case of the object or
tense-form or
>mood etc. What about word order?

The more Greek I speak/write the more sensitive I become to word order
choices and to observing word order choices in my sources. Being forced to
choose intensifies the language learning and prepares one to better absorb
examples from ancient sources.

>Now I think Randall's approach is a world away
>from this as he is interested in having his students produce and engage in
>lively discourses. But on what basis?

On ancient precedent, wherever possible,
never trusting modern output,
yet using it and mixing it with as much linguistic sense as possible. And
in class I use alot of FSI type drills that restrict students from creative
neologisms. I still need to build/write and record a plethora of materials
to get students or teacher to high levels of 'lively discourse'.
     Examples of refined learning:
Giving commands forces one to use imperatives. That means lots of simple
aorist imperatives getting internalized before some students even know a
continuative form:
DOS before DIDOU or DIDWMI and
FAGE before ESQIE.
Of course, a few commands were idiomatically continuative as a norm.
PROSECE: ('be being careful') one slowly corrects for those.
And I've become more acutely aware that aorist infinitives are the closest
thing to an abstract verb in Greek, despite 1st person present
dictionaries. ('fagei~n' is 'to eat' while esqi'ein is "to be eating" not
simple 'to eat')

This has been one of the joys of working through Greek this way. Finding
out one's ignorance and inability to say the simplest things after 30 years
of 'knowing Greek'.

>... but HOW?

While many language learning methodologies are helpful, and some extremely
efficient (like listening comprehension theory at the beginning and some
refined audio-lingual drilling in the middle, the only one guaranteed/known
to succeed is actual use of a language.

>BYW why does the indicative in Rom. 5.1 fit the context better than the
>subjunctive? Which context? Certainly a traditional theological context...
>the co-text? I'd argue that the subjunctive fits the shape of the letter
>well actually.

I'll let others answer this. My point in agreeing with Frank is that the
audience had to perceive the meaning based on sound and the sound did not
distinguish 'we have' from 'we should have'. Interestingly, both alef and B
corrected themselves here to ECOMEN 'we have'.


Randall Buth

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