[b-hebrew] What language?

Harold Holmyard hholmyard3 at earthlink.net
Sat Apr 14 17:56:02 EDT 2007

Peter Kirk wrote:
> On 14/04/2007 21:22, Yohanan bin-Dawidh wrote:
>> Dear Harold,
>> Note that this cited text from Wikipedia refers to Koine Greek as
>> Alexandrian, Hellenistic, Common or New Testament, and states that it is the
>> Greek dialect that arose within the Meditteranean, i.e. mainly Semitic
>> lands, where Semitic language was spoken, and thus a dialect of
>> Greek/Semitic language arose. This reminds of the perversions of Yiddish and
>> Ladino that my people speak, which are dialects of Hebrew mixed with other
>> languages.  It is likewise reported that Koine while taking from Semitic
>> languages also carries Latin variants within. Basically, it is trash talk,
>> as testified to by those who spokeAttic Greek.
> Yohanan, do you actually know any Koine Greek? Can you read it? Do you 
> know what proportion of Semitic, or Latin, words are found in typical 
> texts? Do you really have any evidence to suggest that it is a mixed 
> language of the time you claim? It was indeed a mixture of Greek 
> dialects, but not of Greek and Semitic, except for a rather small number 
> of Semitic loan words. Yes, the intellectual snobs who still tried to 
> speak Attic, rather like some people today who claim to speak 
> Shakespearean English but don't, looked down on the common people who 
> spoke a less literary dialect.

HH: Yes, the Koine Greek replaced Attic Greek. Koine Greek was standard 
Greek, not just street Greek but standard Greek:

Attic Greek persisted until the 4th century BCE, when it is replaced by 
its similar but more universal offspring, koine, or "the Common Dialect" 
(? ????? ?????????). The cultural dominance of the Athenian Empire and 
the later adoption of Attic Greek by king Philip II of Macedon (382-336 
BCE), father of the conqueror Alexander the Great, were the two keys 
that ensured the eventual victory of Attic over other Greek dialects and 
the spread of its descendant, koine Greek, throughout Alexander's 
Hellenic empire. The rise of koine is conventionally marked by the 
accession in 285 BCE of (Greek-speaking) Ptolemy II, who ruled from 
Alexandria, Egypt and launched the "Alexandrian period", when the city 
of Alexandria and its expatriate Greek-medium scholars flourished.

HH: Here is a nice chart of the history of the Greek language, also from 

History of the
Greek language
(see also: Greek alphabet)
Proto-Greek (c. 2000 BC)

Mycenaean (c. 1600--1100 BC)

Ancient Greek (c. 800--300 BC)
Aeolic, Arcadocypriot, Attic-Ionic,
Doric, Pamphylian; Homeric Greek.
Possible dialect: Macedonian.

Koine Greek (from c. 300 BC)

Medieval Greek (c. A.D. 330--1453)

Modern Greek (from A.D. 1453)
Cappadocian, Cretan, Cypriot,
Demotic, Griko, Katharevousa,
Pontic, Tsakonian, Yevanic

Harold Holmyard

More information about the b-hebrew mailing list