[B-Greek] English translation – or what?

George F Somsel gfsomsel at yahoo.com
Mon Jun 8 12:02:21 EDT 2009

I see that in the Suda we encounter good-ole "George the Sinner."  :-)  I shouldn't think I'd have been known at that time.

That was simply an aside, now oOn to the next paragraph.

Conversation is something which requires more than one individual.  Somehow a classroom isn't overly conducive to such a practice.  It is difficult enough to get students together outside of a classroom situation on any regular basis to do something such as attempt to converse in Greek.  One therefore ends up with solitary scholars attempting to acquire a skill in a language which they've never heard spoken.  Even worse perhaps is when one is attempting to learn the language on one's own using internet resources.  Then even the very limited classroom experience is absent.  Perhaps that is what was meant when some speak of it as a dead language which one cannot use conversationally.  Of course it is POSSIBLE, but sometimes it simply isn't practical for any particular individual.  Randall's efforts show that it is possible, but not everyone has both the time and the resources to be able to participate in such a program.

… search for truth, hear truth, 
learn truth, love truth, speak the truth, hold the truth, 
defend the truth till death.

- Jan Hus

From: Carl Conrad <cwconrad2 at mac.com>
To: B-Greek <b-greek at lists.ibiblio.org>
Sent: Monday, June 8, 2009 5:44:07 AM
Subject: [B-Greek] English translation – or what?

One will very likely need to consult a  
lexicon when one encounters words that aren’t clear in their context  
or that one needs to learn more about in order to understand the  
context better. But that’s what we do when we’re reading material in  
our native language that deal with matters that go beyond our  
comfortable range of experience.  For Greek we happen to depend upon  
LSJ and BDAG, both of which offer definitions of Greek words in  
English. But I would call attention to something that surprised me  
when I studied Greek at the University of Munich many years ago: the  
ancient Greek lexicon being used by German students and scholars was  
LSJ! But, of course, educated German students and scholars read  
English as a matter of course. Moreover, we can readily conceive of a  
lexicon for Classical Greek or Koine Greek with definitions in Greek;  
such a lexicon will probably not be produced within my lifetime, but I  
suspect that it will be developed eventually. There’s a vast amount of  
material in the Suda (see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Suda and http://www.stoa.org/sol/) 
, the great Byzantine 10th-century lexicon and encyclopedia: guess  
what language it’ in! And it’s certainly true that when an advanced  
student or scholar comes to discuss a Greek text with others, either  
conversationally or in an internet forum such as B-Greek, then we  
almost always offer an English version of the text or of the key part  
of the text in order to demonstrate how we understand that text, what  
we believe that it is communicating. If we were conducting the  
discussion among French- or German-speakers, we’d offer a French or a  
German version. That doesn’t mean that the Greek text wasn’t first  
understood on its own terms, as a Greek text.

Perhaps this message is superfluous, but when I read messages that  
seem to imply that, since Koine Greek is a dead language, it really  
isn’t possible to speak it  conversationally, or write it, or think in  
it, or that when we read an ancient Greek text of any considerable  
length, we must necessarily convert it, while we read, into an English  
equivalent, I can’t help but think that either I haven’t understood  
what others are saying, or they haven’t understood what I’ve been  
saying, or maybe neither of us has understood the other. I would hope  
that’s not really the case.

Carl W. Conrad
Department of Classics, Washington University (Retired)

B-Greek home page: http://www.ibiblio.org/bgreek
B-Greek mailing list
B-Greek at lists.ibiblio.org


More information about the B-Greek mailing list