[B-Greek] When Dead Tongues Speak

Mark Lightman lightmanmark at yahoo.com
Sun Apr 11 12:15:04 EDT 2010

Randall egrapse:
<[Mark L is probably aware that Greeks
don't really appreciate listening to 'Rasmian.]>
Hi, Randall.  How's the wine there in Cana?  How's the
Yes, I was aware of this, but it is good to remind
everyone of this fact.  I have said from day one that
every Erasmian should learn how to speak and understand
Koine with a Modern or Near-Modern pronunciation.
Our three member Koine coffee klatch meets at Starbucks
in Boulder where we are all Erasmians, but whenever
a native Greek walks in, we switch without breaking a sweat.
List-Member Benjamin Griffiths made me a video where
he spoke to me with a Modern accent and I understood
100% of what he said.  I have sent him audios with
my Erasmian and he understands me 100%.
Most Buthians are former Erasmians.  Many
Baptists used to be Presbyterians.  What happens
when a Red Sox fan moves to New York?
When I go to San Diego, I don't bring my Broncos
shirt.  Same thing.   

Mark L


--- On Sun, 4/11/10, Randall Buth <randallbuth at gmail.com> wrote:

From: Randall Buth <randallbuth at gmail.com>
Subject: Re: [B-Greek] When Dead Tongues Speak
To: "Carl Conrad" <cwconrad2 at mac.com>
Cc: b-greek at lists.ibiblio.org
Date: Sunday, April 11, 2010, 8:39 AM

On Sun, Apr 11, 2010 at 4:00 PM, Carl Conrad <cwconrad2 at mac.com> wrote:
> On Apr 11, 2010, at 8:37 AM, Nichael Cramer wrote:
>> This is a bit off-topic, but this thread touches on a fantasy I've
>> had for some time.
>> In short, I'm on a journey somewhere far away and I find myself with a stranger
>> (say, as a seat partner on a long flight).  However we soon discover
>> that I know
>> none of the half-dozen languages that my new companion speaks (fluently), nor
>> does s/he know the single language (English) which I speak.
>> However, we then discover, somewhat to our surprise, that we both know
>> NT greek (or at least "enough") and are able to carry on a, albeit
>> somewhat stilted,
>> conversation.
>> Has anyone ever had an experience like this?
>> http://www.sover.net/~nichael/
> I can't put my finger on the message after a few minutes of searching,
> but I recollect vividly Randall Buth's account of one of his spring trips
> with a group of his Koine-speaking adepts to Crete or Cyprus or Cos
> -- one of those Aegean islands -- and communicating with people
> speaking Modern Greek while Randall's group spoke Koine; as he
> described it, it was similar to a conversation conducting by people
> speaking dialects of the same language, e.g. American Texas drawl
> and Canadian-Tidewater diphthongese -- or perhaps better, American
> midwestern standard English and Australian English. Randall's report
> was that it was pretty successful. I'm cc'ing him with this reply:
> perhaps he'll elaborate.
> Carl W. Conrad
> Department of Classics, Washington University (Retired)


I think the best description is that communication CAN be successful
when both sides want it to be and are patient. It helps if the Greeks
have read ancient Greek in school and if the KOINH speaker knows
something of the structure of modern.
Some cross-dialect/language communications just happened again this

We needed permission to have a fish barbeque in Kefar-NAOYM for
the coming Sunday. I went over to the Greek compound and church at
Kefar-naHum and looked up an acquaintance of a friend, one of the
fathers there. The father was pleased to carry on the conversation
where I was speaking KOINH and he replied in some kind of mix of
modern. He was very intrigued to hear that 19 people had gathered
across the lake to speak only KOINH Greek for 10 days. He was also
pleasantly surprised to hear 'academics' speak Greek in a way that
a Greek could follow. [Mark L is probably aware that Greeks
don't really appreciate listening to 'Rasmian.] He warned us
that the Greek compound would be overrun with visitors on
Resurrection Sunday, but that if we were flexible he would see
that something would work out.
That Sunday we ended up having nice OPSARIA EPI ANQRAKIAS,
and a long cement picnic table that accompanied all of us.

While on the compound that day the group read and discussed
Luke 5 and John 21, sitting on some grass overlooking the lake.
Several visitors from Cyrus and Thessalonica stopped
and asked what we were doing. They heard us speaking Greek,
understood what we were saying and asked why everything was
being done in ARXAIA 'old Greek'? While the group continued
reading and discussing I talked with them on the side in 'old
Greek' explaining some of the motivations of people to learn to
read the old language and the need to use the language and
speak the language if we really wanted it to take root inside
us. They readily agreed that what we were doing was necessary
and always seemed to choose the word 'bravo' for describing
our efforts. I've heard that word and reaction enough so that I
sure hope it means what I think and isn't a faux-ami for
'crazy' [joke -- it isn't a faux-ami, the smiles have been
appreciative and supportive.]

Having said the above, one needs to balance with the other
side. Breakdowns in communication are common and
patience is necessary. And the Greeks need to hear a
clue about why or what one is about in using the old
language. And one acquaintance told me on the last visit
that I've come often enough that I should be speaking
modern Greek. It's hard for them to figure out what I'm
saying when I use the ARXAIA.

A very simple note as illustration,
once at two am on an Olympic flight a
stewardess asked me what I would like to drink.
something like TI QELEIS NA PI-IS?
( it helps to wear a leather Greek cap)
(they still offer complementary food services overseas)
Groggily I said something like QELW INA PIW YDWR,
The stewardess looked at me puzzled and asked
QELEIS OYISKEI? [This was a perceptive answer since
my request probably sounded as clear as asking for a
'hydro' in English]
I came to my senses to realize what
had happened and said QELW NERO [modern Greek
for water] without wasting her time to explain what I had
just been doing in her country speaking only ancient Greek.


Randall Buth, PhD
randallbuth at gmail.com
Biblical Language Center
Learn Easily - Progress Further - Remember for Life
B-Greek home page: http://www.ibiblio.org/bgreek
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