[B-Greek] Analysis and Fluency (was "Narkinsky on obtaining fluency ")

Carl Conrad cwconrad2 at mac.com
Sun Apr 11 07:05:56 EDT 2010

There is already so much interlacing that reading what's newest is like trying to make sense of a deponent's deponent (akin to a Second Passive twice-removed). I'm going to delete ad nauseam and address only what I've really got something to say (ad nauseam) on the matter.

On Apr 10, 2010, at 10:34 AM, Patrick Narkinsky wrote:
> On Sat, Apr 10, 2010 at 9:32 AM, Mark Lightman <lightmanmark at yahoo.com> wrote:
>> <First, focusing on the New Testament to the exclusion
>>  of the larger world of Koine doesn't work for me. I think
>>  that to develop fluency you've got to develop a feel for
>>  the contextual meaning of words, and the New Testament
>>  just isn't big enough for that to happen, especially when
>>  so many of the most significant words are of less frequency.>
>> One of Carl's Ad Nauseams indeed this is.  Top Five things
>> you should read outside the Greek NT. 1.  Apostolic Fathers
>> 2. Homer (not because it will help your NT Greek but because
>> he is the greatest writer in human history. 3. Plato (see #2 above.)
>> 4. The Greek Old Testament. 5  After  #4, all bets are off.  There
>> are dozens, maybe hundreds of works that could make #5.
>> My vote as of today would be Chariton's Callirhoe.  The Greek
>> is nothing special and it won't teach you anything important about
>> life.  But what I like about it, is that it is pure Koine in the good
>> sense of that word.  The syntax is super-simplified.  There are
>> very few particles.  Word order seems to be more natural
>> and less for effect.  There is lots of conversational stuff.
>> Chariton's Greek strikes me as very similar to John's on a good day.

I haven't read Chariton, but maybe I should pick it up. It sounds to me pretty much like the same sort of Greek in the much shorter work I've been recommending for years, namely Pseudo-Lucian's  LOUKIOS H ONOS -- it was apparently the model for Apuleius'ccelebrated Latin romance known in Latin as "Metamorphoses" and in English as "The Golden As.s." I would also very much urge, as has Louis Sorenson, reading Epictetus. The moral instruction offered by Epictetus belongs to the same realm of discourse as Paul's moral parenesis; moreover, although Paul is a generation earlier than Epictetus, their lives overlapped and it's not inconceivable that they could have crossed each other's paths.

>> You, Patrick, have made a distinction between "Analysis"
>> and "Fluency."  I think you are on to something here.
>> "Fluency Precedes Analysis" may be one of Carl's
>> Ad Nauseams, but I'm not sure.  One of my Ad Nauseams
>> is: "Analysis should not Precede Fluency but It May
>> Have To."  If you chart Textbooks on an Analysis-Fluency
>> scale, with Machen being on one end and Buth being on
>> the other, where would you place Mounce?  Somewhere in
>> the middle, I think, but closer to Analysis.  Mounce does
>> have stuff on his website that inches the other way.

Actually this business of "Analysis" and "Fluency" is something I have pondered a lot recently and reached deeper convictions about than I thought I was capable of in my skeptical dotage.

I do believe that one must understand what a Greek (English, Swahili, Urdu -- you name it) expression, phrase, construction MEANS before you can ANALYZE it. Otherwise the linkage between elements of the expression/construction must seem as arbitrary as the sequence of phone numbers in a telephone directory.

I really believe that analysis is altogether secondary to understanding what another is saying in a language or what one is reading in a text. I think too that the "metalanguage" that we use to discuss the elements and functional aspects of language -- semantics, lexiocology, syntax, etc., etc. -- is a theoretical construct that is nowhere near as precise as mathematical representation and much more difficult to understand and follow the logic of.

If I may draw upon Elizabeth Kline's freshly-communicated experience of reading Hoyle and Luraghi without giving her offense, the academic linguist's endeavor to formulate an
intelligible accounting for an aspect of the functioning of a language is heavily fraught with terminologically confusing and intellectual maneuvering through a thicket of absrtactions. Elizabeth's most recent note on Hoyle and the genitive absolute in Mark 5:1-2 illustrates (I think) my point. She tells us (you can check the whole messsage for yourself; I won't reproduce it here):

On Apr 10, 2010, at 4:51 PM, Elizabeth Kline wrote:
> R.Hoyle suggests that "so-called Genitive Absolutes" indicate an event that "belongs in the Main Verb’s scenario and has a prototypical relationship with the Main Verb". 
> I would argue that in Mk 5:1-2  KAI EXELQONTOS AUTOU EK TOU PLOIOU is an event that belongs to the "travel by boat" or "arrival by boat" scenario and that it marks a transitions between an old scenario and a new one. 
> To really understand this question you need to read enough of Hoyle to get a grip on what he means by scenario. 

I'm not really sure that what traditional grammar has to say about the Genitive Absolute construction in ancient Greek is significantly easier to understand or significantly more helpful to a first-year student. I am, however, altogether convinced that one who does not know what Mk 5:1-2 or any other snippet that includes a genitive abasolute MEANS will not be able to make sense of an explanation of HOW the construction functions.

Grammatical explanation or analysis is altogether secondary to grasping the meaning of what we are told or what we read in any language, I am convinced. It is useful only to those who have already succeeded in understanding the meaning of what they have been told or what they have read. And I think that is just as true of traditional grammatical lore that has evolved over the centuries as it is of the relatively-recently constructed academic Linguistic metalanguages and accounts which aim (wildly KINDUNEUOUSAI) at the precision and unfailing certainty of mathematical logic.

> <Further deponent sayeth naught,  since I've never gotten the courage to try it>
>> Okay, there is a joke here, but I don't get it.
>> Explain, please.  One of Carl's Ad Nauseam's
>> is "If the term "deponent" did not exist, it would
>> NOT be necessary to invent it."
> Deponent is a legal term which means "one who makes a deposition".
> Traditionally, depositions ended with the phrase "further deponent
> sayeth naught", meaning "I've got no more to say."  Not sure what
> Carl's Ad Nauseam might refer to, but that's how I was using it.  (For
> the record, I'm not an attorney so I may have mangled that.)

To be perfectly honest, I can readily understand what "deponent" means as "one who makes a legal deposition." I have never yet understood what "deponent" means as (so it is actually written and said by those who claim to know) "a verb that has laid aside its active form"-- as if the verb in question had at some time been fully clothed with all the "voices" of a competent and self-respecting verb like LUW, but has stripped off a vest or perhaps something more essential like underwear.

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

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