[b-greek] Re: Learning Greek: How Far To Go?

From: Carl W. Conrad (cwconrad@artsci.wustl.edu)
Date: Tue May 15 2001 - 17:05:38 EDT

At 12:52 PM -0700 5/15/01, c stirling bartholomew wrote:
>Very interesting, however . . .
>on 5/15/01 11:36 AM, YalieFan@aol.com wrote:
>> I used to feel the same way about Latin- it's a dead language; no one speaks
>> it anymore....that is until my graduation from Yale College. One of the
>> professors gave an address in Latin, complete with jokes, that many others
>> laughed at and obviously understood.
>I wonder if Virgil or Julius Caesar would have understood the jokes? School
>Latin is not the same as classical Latin. You can find comments (often
>derogatory) in the scholars of the Renaissance (e.g., Erasmus) about the
>school Latin being spoken and written by scholars of that era. If we can
>take these comments seriously then the Latin of the Renaissance scholar
>might not have been very intelligible to Virgil or Julius Caesar. So is it
>really the same language? This is most likely a moot question, depends on
>how you define your terminology.

I suspect that they WOULD have understood the jokes. Medieval Latin is a
different animal, to be sure, from the Latin of the Ciceronian and Augustan
era, but the Latin of Erasmus and that of Florentine scholars of the
Renaissance is essentially Ciceronian, and it is intelligible indeed.

>Let's say there is a group of people who meet twice a month for dinner at
>the King David Hotel (JUC picks up the tab!) and during dinner they all
>speak and tell jokes in Hellenistic Greek. Would the Apostle Paul
>understand the jokes? I doubt it.

It's a matter of the pronunciation being used. Obviously a solitary guy out
in Puget Sound might not find this very useful, but I think that a class of
students learning Greek with a common pronunciation would find the
reinforcement of thinking, asking questions and answering them in the Greek
would considerably assist the learning process. One method of teaching
Classical Attic, that of Carl Ruck (still in print, I think) was based on
just this procedure. And that, of course, is what Randall Buth proposes to
do in Jerusalem, even if he can interest nobody else in the world. I say:
more power to him!

Carl W. Conrad
Department of Classics/Washington University
Home: 7222 Colgate Ave./St. Louis, MO 63130/(314) 726-5649
WWW: http://www.artsci.wustl.edu/~cwconrad/

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