[B-Greek] To Diagram or not to Diagram

Carl W. Conrad cwconrad at artsci.wustl.edu
Tue Mar 14 06:50:41 EST 2006

On Mar 13, 2006, at 10:45 PM, Alan Calcutt wrote:

> Hello,
> I have just completed my second year of Greek. Most of the grammar was
> self-taught, together with two others who were working through the  
> same
> books. We have worked through Machen's _New Testament Greek for
> Beginners_; and Dana and Mantey's _A Manual Grammar of the Greek New
> Testament_. In the near future I will be moving and will be continuing
> my studies on my own.
> I would like to get the opinion of the group regarding my next step.
> Should I continue to work with the grammar that I have and increase my
> vocabulary . . . maybe for another year? Or should I proceed to  
> work on
> diagramming? Will diagramming assist me with my understanding of the
> Greek language?
> Thank you in advance for your input.

I've read and agree with all that Randall Buth has said in reply to  
this. Let me just reiterate some of it in my own words.

Diagramming belongs most properly, I think, to the "decoding"  
approach to reading an alien-language text (if you were not around,  
you might look at my message of two weeks ago (February 27) with  
subject-header, "Re: [B-Greek] Ancient Greek-Grammar war?" I learned  
diagramming and found it most useful in a High School class analyzing  
Shakespearean and Elizabeth Barrett Browning's sonnets; if, at first  
hearing or first reading, the pieces of the discourse don't  
immeditely and naturally fall into place, then it's useful to lay out  
those pieces in a "flow-chart" to show how they relate to each other.  
I have found it useful occasionally to do that in reading the GNT,  
but the times that I've hoped it would be most useful have been most  
disappointing: I can't diagram Eph 1:3-13 because I can't be  
confident about whether some clauses construe more properly with what  
comes before or with what comes after.

I would say: as far as you can, simply read (making generous use of  
the lexicon, as Randall says) straight ahead. Read chapters or whole  
works at a time as much as possible; don't restrict yourself to  
single verses or paragraphs. You need to familiarize yourself with  
each author's style and distinctive vocabulary, which is to say: you  
need to acquire a familiarity with the way that author "talks," just  
as you do when you meet new persons and must familiarize yourself  
with their ways. Use the diagramming process when you come to  
passages that seem to be tied in knots; it sometimes makes it easier  
to untie the knots; but don't bind yourself to diagramming as a  
discipline that has some inherent value. You certainly don't use  
diagramming if you're learning French and you're trying to understand  
what a French-speaker is saying to you; rather you acquire a  
readiness to appreciate the cumulative impact of each word or phrase  
spoken as it is spoken -- and you should think of written discourse  
the same way: try to grasp the sequence of words and phrases from  
beginning to end of each sentence; don't go hunting for subject and  
verb and rearrange the elements to make them fit your English- 
speaking expectations any sooner than you have to.

Carl W. Conrad
Department of Classics, Washington University (Emeritus)
1989 Grindstaff Road/Burnsville, NC 28714/(828) 675-4243
cwconrad2 at mac.com
WWW: http://www.ioa.com/~cwconrad/

More information about the B-Greek mailing list