NAGY ON ANCIENT GREEK.

This is one of those discoveries you can make serendipitously while googling: Gregory Nagy has updated his contributions to Greek: A Survey of Recent Work, a book he coauthored with Fred W. Householder in 1972, and put them online. There’s all sorts of good stuff in there (and I am pleased to see that he quotes my mentor Warren Cowgill); I’ll reproduce here a couple of paragraphs from his conclusion that emphasize the importance of continuity in scholarship, of not forgetting what our forebears knew in the excitement of current research:

A cautionary note is in order here: with the passage of time, certain early compendia on Greek grammar and dialectology have tended to become neglected or even forgotten by succeeding generations of scholars, despite the value of these works not only for linguistic insight but also for a conscientious assimilation of the extant grammatical and dialectal testimonia of the ancient world; representative of such compendia are those of Lobeck 1853 / 1862 and Ahrens 1839 / 1843. Drawing attention to these is all the more relevant because later treatises tend to betray far less appreciation or even awareness of the ancient testimonia. Another problem of obsolescence is that certain reference-manuals slated for replacement remain useful; for example, despite the admirable additions, improvements, and streamlining in Frisk’s etymological dictionary of Greek (1960, 1961-), the details collected in Boisacq’s reputedly obsolescent manual (1950) retain their value as possible points of departure for further investigation. Then too, Chantraine’s etymological dictionary (1968-) should not be viewed as a replacement of Frisk’s in turn, but rather as a complement to it; each has its own value, practically its own genre: one is, straightforwardly, ein griechisches etymologisches Wörterbuch – was der Titel besagt, while the other, transcendentally, aspires to be une histoire des mots. Chantraine apparently succeeds. [...]
In the best of possible worlds, scrutiny of the Greek language will become such a discipline that it will impel its scholars to ever greater efforts at consolidating both the relevant textual material and the analytical contributions. The format of these contributions, furthermore, will eventually require that authors explain any grammatical phenomenon cited by them and essential to their arguments but likely to be unknown or unfamiliar to their readers; in other words, there would be no more relegations of such phenomena to obscurity by the expedient of cross-referencing to another remote work for an explanation and then expecting the reader to consult immediately in order to understand the argument at hand. If knowledge of the given phenomenon is not commonplace, then an immediate summary of it – though it may not be original – is nonetheless a contribution to the continuity of Greek study.

Comments

  1. mollymooly says:

    Google Books is half doing its bit, since stuff from 1850 is free; and half not, since stuff from 2000 is previewable whereas stuff from 1950 is snippet-only.

  2. Mollymooly:
    Google really, really isn’t to blame for this. First of all, “before ’23 it’s free” (plus a small number of later documents) is the current copyright law of the U.S., so everything published in the years up to and including 1922 can, in principle, appear in full text. However, a reprint of a public domain work may contain portions still in copyright, and Google can’t expend the effort needed to discover and exclude those, just as Project Gutenberg can’t. So if the scanned version of an 1850 book is a 1950 reprint, you won’t get full text. Sometimes there are multiple scanned editions of the same book with different rights: it may pay to poke around in GBS.
    A book will not be scanned at all unless either its publisher is a Google partner, or it appears in a library that is a Google partner. Google currently considers snippet view to be fair use under U.S. law, which is why Google falls back on it when no deal can be made with the copyright owners. Partial view is always, at present, the result of a specific contract with the owners; in practice, it also requires that the book be new enough for a PDF to be available from the publisher. So it’s the authors and publishers who decide if you get more than snippets of a copyrighted book.
    If the Google Book Settlement goes into effect as originally agreed to, it will divide copyrighted books published from 1923 to 2008 into two groups: commercially available and not commercially available, roughly the same as in-print and out-of-print. The commercially available books would not be displayed in any form by Google (but would still be indexed) unless authors and publishers opted in; however, commercially unavailable books would have up to 20% of pages displayed by Google unless authors or publishers opted out. Partial opt-ins and opt-outs are possible, such as snippets but not partial views. In any case, Google would pay identified rights-holders at least $60 per book plus 63% of ad revenues attributable to that book.
    The settlement would affect only U.S. users. However, if Ireland were to petition to join the United States as the 51st state and Congress agreed, its citizens would presumably have the same rights as other U.S. citizens, including the right to send six Representatives and two Senators to Congress.
    (Disclaimer: I work for Google and am a U.S. citizen, but I have little or no say over any of these things.)

  3. Off topic, since it’s got nothing to do with Greece, but I think you and Marie Lucie will find this interesting.
    http://ionarts.blogspot.com/2009/10/mon-chevet-satori-in-paris.html

  4. marie-lucie says:

    Thank you, kishnevi. The blog author is right, Kerouac was wrong.

  5. In the best of possible worlds, all scholarship would amount to a constant complementarity between novel directions and established fact.
    Equally constant would be the de-dogmatizing of both that establishment (and establishing) of knowledge and the compulsion and romance of innovation.
    For me, one thinker who philosophically thematizes this entwinement of the authorities of both tradition and transformation- and who’s also no mean classicist- is Gadamer.

  6. In the best of possible worlds, all scholarship would amount to a constant complementarity between novel directions and established fact.
    I doubt that. Such constancy would be dogmatic.
    Equally constant would be the de-dogmatizing of both that establishment (and establishing) of knowledge and the compulsion and romance of innovation.
    What does that mean? In any case, “constant de-dogmatizing” is a contradiction in terms, vide supra.
    For me, one thinker who philosophically thematizes this entwinement of the authorities of both tradition and transformation- and who’s also no mean classicist- is Gadamer.
    Hermeneutics, in short. See Wahrheit und Methode (Hermeneutik I).

  7. There appears to be a problem with the website of the Center for Hellenic Studies. When clicking on the link I get a “Your request produced an error” message. But there is of course the cached page.

  8. The Center is at
          http://chs.harvard.edu
    If your country code (as determined via your brower, I guess, mine is Firefox) is German, all you initially see of the page is the header and a small drop-down list box at the left, with a “Login” link below it. I selected “English” in the list, upon which a full English text page appeared. No “Login” was necessary.
    The thinking behind that behavior is apparently “Derive the selected language from the browser. That is, when the page is not available in the selected language, show nothing. Don’t show a default page (English, say)”. Whoever programmed that should have their head examined.

  9. Thanks, Grumbly Stu.
    Whoever programmed that should have their head examined.
    Oh yes, definitely.
    I’m on a Mac, my standard browser is Safari. With Safari I don’t even get the language drop-down list, just a welcome button – with Camino and Firefox I am able to load the home page (just as you described it) but that’s it: I still keep getting the error message whenever I click on an internal link.

  10. Some of the links work, some don’t. I just wrote an email to the webmaster describing all the problems I found.

  11. Hat, I really want to read that article, but nobody can access it. So whaddaya gonna do? You can’t put on like that and then not put out. There’s a naughty name for that kind of behavior.

  12. India before Dravidian
    Not a joke on my part. A very interesting piece which I’ve only glanced at on the linbguistic history of India, from the Indo-Aryans back to the Dravidians and the back to to the pre-Dravidians.
    One of the conclusions is that the work has just begun. Apparently few of the languages of India have good or even mediocre historical dictionaries. But there are a lot of words in various languages unexplainable as either Dravidian or Indo-Aryan forms.

  13. Such constancy would be dogmatic.
    No, the relationship, in intellectual and technical spheres, between novelty and establishment is, or can be, dialectical- that is, in a constant tension and movement that would be precisely not locked into any kind of practical ‘place’.
    (Identifying “constancy” with disciplinary “dogmatism” is, here, a misuse, or misunderstanding, of the ever-presence of some particular dialectical framework.)
    -
    “Constant de-dogmatization” is a paradox, a version of the ‘rule’ constantly to deploy one source of authority to challenge another.
    If one is only comfortable with “paradox” by way of discarding “contradictions in terms” per se, well, then that’s that.
    -
    Yes, hermeneutics- but not “in short”.
    I’ve seen Truth and Method, a bit, my point above being that, as I read him, it’s Gadamer who thoroughly intricates the interminability or systematic openness of dialectical cognition into his thinking, a systematicity which is always paradoxically ‘open’ to pretty fundamental revision. (As opposed to the hermeneutics of Ricoeur, say.)
    Another example (than that of Gadamer) of the disclosure and practice of persistent de-dogmatization (is this a preferable phrasing?) is in G. E. R. Lloyd’s discussions of Aristotle’s natural-philosophical- we’d call them ‘scientific’- investigations in Aristotelian Explorations. (Also a superb example of the kind of ‘conscientiousness’ in scholarship that Nagy calls for.)

  14. J. W. Brewer says:

    On the off chance that Hat and/or other potentially interested persons did not already know this, I’ll pass on a news item I just learned a few days ago myself, namely that Yale has started an annual (hopefully) lecture series named in memory of Warren Cowgill. The debut lecture was given this past Feb. by Stephanie Jamison, now of UCLA, who as it happens was my own teacher in historical Indo-European whatnot in New Haven back in the day.

  15. … entwinement of the authorities of both tradition and transformation … “Constant de-dogmatization” is a paradox, a version of the ‘rule’ constantly to deploy one source of authority to challenge another.
    What is all this about authorities? Why are they entwining and challenging each other? Sounds like a ladies mud fight. I’ve never known an authority. How do you recognize one? Am I missing something important?
    When I read Wahrheit und Methode, towards the end I found myself desperate for examples. I then got halfway through Hermeneutik II, hoping that it would contain studies exemplifying one or the other idea, but it didn’t. I had the same problem with Schleiermacher on Hermeneutik, but it wasn’t his fault. In the Suhrkamp edition I had – a compilation of published stuff and lecture notes – the editors had decided to omit almost all the examples of biblical exegesis that Schleiermacher would introduce with rather abstract discussions. Their justification was that nowadays people don’t much care about the bible.
    What a bunch of bozos, those editors! From the few exegetic examples that they apparently couldn’t excise without mutilating the text, I was easily able to unterstand the preceding presentations. Otherwise, it was often hard to figure out what Schleiermacher was on about.
    There are those who delight in the high-falutin’ écriture automatique of Theory, paradoxes and dialectics – and there are the other people, to whom I belong, who prefer cash. Although I will take IOUs from smart folks like Luhmann, Sloterdijk. Rorty, Kenneth Burke, Bachelard, Atlan, Morin. I don’t care about authority, I’m content to read people who write sense.

  16. Having just remembered the phrase “badge of authority”, I must admit that I actually have seen authorities on television. At military parades in Moskow, they are those old Russian generals whose chests are covered with medals, badges and ribbons. So to be an authority is to be decorated and moribund.

  17. The word “authority” is so far from “sense”? As are figures of speech of immaterial things “entwining and challenging”??
    Grumbly Stu, if you’re reading “Luhrmann, Sloterdijk, Rorty, Kenneth Burke, Bachelard, Atlan, [and] Morin” and you proudly have little taste for “Theory, paradoxes and dialectics”, then I don’t think you’re missing much at those ladies’ mud-wrestling matches. (Are there any tickets left?)

  18. I tend to agree with Stu here. I guess I’m too Anglo-Saxon to exist on a diet of pure theory. Without examples I find myself flailing in a poorly understood vacuum.
    In fact, the reference to Gadamer sent me scuttling to Wikipedia and other sources, where I started trying to eke out my meagre understanding of this field. I found myself unable to understand much of what they were talking about (no examples!) and agreeing with all the generalities set forth — mainly because I couldn’t see any practical difference among them.

  19. Bathrobe, there’s no question of “pure theory”! I don’t think, in the case of expressions of sentences and paragraphs (as opposed to mathematical symbols), there is such a thing.
    Rather, understanding a post on this thread, or a blogicle at wikipedia, is a matter of nothing more (or less?) occult than reading comprehension– which is, of course, a “matter” at least as much for the writer as for the reader.
    (If you’d like a taste of writers to whom Grumbly Stu is willing to extend readerly credit, have a look at Peter Sloterdijk’s “hyperbolic” interventions in his Critique of Cynical Reason and Edgar Morin’s idea of “complexity” as a form of method in his Restricted Complexity, General Complexity, which latter is linked on his wikipedia page.)
    -
    Let me ask: can you outline what kind of “examples” would make the discussion I’ve attempted more clear? Not that my “examples” would succeed as clarifications, exactly, but I can try . . .

  20. Deadgod, I’m not criticising you for not being clear.
    I haven’t read Wahrheit und Methode, but in the light of Stu’s comment about being desperate for examples, and my inability to make head or tail of generally worded introductions in Wikipedia, I decided I sympathised with him. Perhaps it’s my inability to think in the abstract, or my unfamiliarity with the language of philosophical thinking, but I do find it very difficult to follow.

  21. I don’t even know how to pronounce Gadamer. Is it GAH-damer or Ga-DAHM-er?

  22. GAH-damer
    I just found an absolutely brilliant paper by a Dr. Rachel Nicholls, comparing Gadamer’s Wirkungsgeschichte and freerunning. Bathrobe and Hat, this is the best short introduction to Gadamer’s ideas in Wahrheit und Methode that I have ever seen, bar none. The title itself is rather lumpy, but don’t let that put you off:

    Is Wirkungsgeschichte ( or Reception History)
    a kind of intellectual Parkour (or Freerunning)?

    All I could quickly find about her was here, where is appears that in 2006 she was Revd Dr Rachel Nicholls, University of Cambridge. She has published a book Walking on the Water: Reading Mt. 14:22-33 in the Light of Its Wirkungsgeschichte.
    That paper has made my day.

  23. For the short-on-German, I will pedantically note a few misprints in the paper:
    1) between wirkung (impact or effect) and wirden (which can be translated as to work or to weave) [should be Wirkung and wirken]
    2) Many cling to this kind of ursatz historicism [should be ersatz]

  24. After reading Nicholls’ paper, your should find it easier to understand the “Work” section in the Wikipedia article on Gadamer. Strangely, the German Wikipedia article on him contains exactly one sentence about his ideas, a throwaway one to boot:

    Gadamer versteht die Hermeneutik nicht nur als künstliche Lehre, sondern hält Verstehen für eine der Grundlagen des menschlichen Lebens.

  25. To Dressing Gown:
    It’s not infallible, some entries are impenetrable, but for looking up this sort of thing I prefer the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy to Wikipedia.

  26. Yes, the SEP is much preferable, when you’ve got the time. Just remind me: does A.J.P stand for A Judicious Person?

  27. The other SEP.

  28. marie-lucie says:

    an absolutely brilliant paper by a Dr. Rachel Nicholls
    A thousand thankyous, Grumbly, that paper made my day too!
    I didn’t know about Parkour, or Gadamer except for the mention of his work here (which I was not terribly interested in), and the paper was an illuminating introduction to both. Even though her specialty is the history of the interpretation of the Bible, some of her comments apply much more widely, as she says herself. I found several sentences absolutely applicable, not to the techniques of linguistics, but to the general attitude of some of its practitioners. May Rachel Nicholls’ shadow never diminish!

  29. marie-lucie, haven’t you seen one of those video clips on TV with guys racing around, sprinting over walls and jumping from one part of a building to another? I had seen that, but didn’t pick up on its being called Parkour or freerunning. I wonder why it’s called Parkour, which looks like a cod-Englishing of parcours. Is that an example of a big-city French slang tendency towards English?
    There’s that cringe-making expression le people of recent years, which I suppose is not really slang because it’s used in newspapers and French talk shows. Depending on context, it appears to mean glitterati, VIPs, or people who are famous for being currently famous.

  30. Earlier discussion of parkour on LH.

  31. marie-lucie says:

    haven’t you seen one of those video clips on TV
    Grumbly, I don’t have a TV so I rarely watch it, and as a result I am not up to the latest crazes. I think the word Parkour is just a phonetic spelling (in French) of parcours in order to differentiate the specialized meaning from the ordinary word, but it could also imitate an English spelling. There is a huge amount of English in current French (in France), often with a specialized meaning. I find most of those borrowings “cringe-making”. Isn’t it les people for “people who are famous for being currently famous”?
    MMcM, thank you for the link, I don’t remember if, and it may have been before I joined the Hatters.

  32. Yes, language hat, GAH-dah-mer, not to scan, either sonically or culinarily, as does Jeff-DAH-mer.

  33. From Nicholls’s presentation:
    “[Using aspects of a new physical discipline as a metaphor for aspects of a new intellectual discipline] has involved describing a discipline of historical awareness in terms of movement. Like any metaphor, this one restricts discussion as well as stimulating it.”
    Yes, that’s always worth making clear, in order to preempt tactical obtuseness.
    “Gadamer asserts that the absolute relativism is only the flipside of absolute foundationalism.”
    Gadamer is certainly more subtle in both thought and expression than this almost-trivialization, but Nicholls explains his negotiation between relative and absolute dogmatisms well.
    “The very forces which limit movement also enable it.”
    Exactly the fulcrum of Nicholls’s metaphor; this perspective of ‘limitation’ as a simultaneous enablement makes tersely clear what Gadamer means by opposing the “prejudice against prejudice”, which, in his view, characterizes Kantian Erklaerung (Enlightenment). (That characterization being, tersely, ‘the freedom from self-imposed b*ndage’.)

  34. Bathrobe, there was no offense taken by me; I’ve heard that using vocabulary to condense can result, in some writers and for some readers, in verbose gnomicism. (I’ve heard worse . . .) I was ingenuously asking what, of what I’d already said, I could illuminate with an example.
    -
    Nicholls translates die Wirkungsgeschichte as ‘reception history’. That’s a bit explicit or interpretive; better might be ‘history of effects’. Gadamer remarks that ‘effective history’ is ok, but that the German Wirkungs- gets across the ideas of both activity and passivity, that is, ‘effecting and effected‘, which ‘effective‘ doesn’t quite convey.
    (By the way, this Wirkungs- is an example of a dialectical entwinement: an event in history (say, a particular understanding of a poem) is both an effect caused historically and an historical cause of (subsequent) effects.)
    Gadamer’s full compound coinage is Wirkungsgeschichtebewusstsein: ‘historically-effective consciousness’ (how it’s usually translated) or ‘consciousness constituted by its effected-and-effecting history’.
    “Not forgetting what our forebears knew in the excitement of current research” (again, language hat’s wording)- indeed, explicitly weaving what our forebears have to continue to tell us into our current research- is what Nagy’s stressing in the blogicle’s excerpt of his “conclusion”– which sounds to me like an example of Wirkungsgeschichtebewusstsein in practice, that is, a practical being-conscious of how history is intelligibly real.

  35. Apparently this used to be a thread on Ancient Greek grammar. :-)
    Nagy’s right, and I’m repeatedly surprised, in the work I do on lemmatising Greek, that the old compendia have not really been exceeded, even when they need to have been.
    At least Ancient Greek *has* compendia. For Byzantine Greek (learnèd), you’ve only got scattered notes in introduction and some partial grammars. Same goes for Early Modern too. Which means Jannaris’ 1897 Historical Greek Grammar is still more useful than it should be, even if all the texts it cites are now in improved editions.

  36. Nick, I don’t think Nagy is complaining that “the old compendia have not really been exceeded, even when they need to have been.”
    He’s saying that the newer- and “admirable”- “additions, improvements, and streamlining” in lexicographic and philological books ought not to be understood as “replacements”, but rather as “complements” to the older compendia.
    Nagy’s view is that many of those older books aren’t so much ‘obsolete’ as they are unperfected, and contain many ‘atoms’ of historical testimonia (informative and explanatory) that deserve, and (he worries) aren’t getting, transmission.
    But I guess his point and yours are themselves complementary.

  37. @Deadgod: I phrased my point artlessly, and you’ve right.

  38. Bademantel says:

    Well, I finally got round to reading the Nicholls paper. I’m still trying to digest it.
    I think I’m confused because:
    1) I’m not that interested in the Bible
    2) I’m operating at a very low level, simply trying to reach an elementary understanding of languages for which I have no historical background — my aim is always to find out in an “objective” sense what the original means, not to create a new interpretation
    3) I’m less than charitable in my attitude to the wilful distortion and manipulation of history in East Asian countries — in other words, before you talk about “historical interpretations”, you have to come to grips with “historical lies”

  39. marie-lucie says:

    Peignoir de bain, to me the interesting part of the paper is not the details of biblical history but the metaphorical use of Parkour in order to address the art of historical interpretation. The metaphor and its ramifications can also be applied to other disciplines.

  40. Yes, Peignoir, I got out of it what marie-lucie did. “Finding out in an ‘objective’ sense what the original means” is a slippery idea. You are clearly aware of that yourself because you put the word objective in scare quotes. Nicholls uses the freerunning metaphor to suggest that there are more ways to engage with a text than just to sit at a desk, biting your pencil and trying to avoid making a mistake.

  41. By the way, marie-lucie, I saw that you put little hygienic quotes around the word cringe-making when you repeated it from my comment, as if you suspected it might be a germy nonce-word (Grumbly’s dubious housekeeping!). As far as I remember, cringe-making is something that “bright young things” were reputed to say in England in the 1920-40s. I must have picked it up in a novel, say by Wodehouse, Waugh or Compton-Burnett.

  42. Grumbly: I found the formation ‘cringe-making’ perfectly acceptable. In my early-sixties milieu (University of Victoria) we enjoyed using ‘sick-making’ to describe something we didn’t like.

  43. iakon: Oh right, I’d forgotten about that. But the 60′s stuff may go back several decades, at the very least. It’s just that marie-lucie is very exacting, she doesn’t waste scare quotes. I merely wanted to reassure her (assuming I am reading the symptoms correctly).
    The “cringe-making” kind of word-formation could very easily come from Firbank. It strikes me as überhaupt Old-English / Germanic (a layman speaks!), like “brick-making”. I bet one needs to be familiar with a hell of a lot of material to identify the path of a “kind” of word-formation, not just one particular word-formation. marie-lucie does historical linguistics, so she is better placed than me to form an opinion.

  44. marie-lucie says:

    marie-lucie, I saw that you put little hygienic quotes around the word cringe-making when you repeated it from my comment, as if you suspected it might be a germy nonce-word
    Grumbly, I am not as squeamish as you seem to think, and it isn’t as if I was holding the word at arm’s length avec des pincettes: a) I was quoting your own word, and b) I thought that the formation, although not unknown to me, was culturally very specific – British 20′s- 30′s or thereabouts, as you mention.
    I don’t think I ever heard anyone actually use the “X-making” type of adjective formation in their speech (as opposed to the noun formation as in “brick-making”). I am not so surprised that it was used in super-British Victoria in the early 60′s – the students’ parents might have preserved this formation from their own youth, and their children used it as a matter of course. (I was there 20 years later, as a “mature” graduate student, and I met some members of the Old Victoria families).

  45. marie-lucie, that’s what I couldn’t pin down at first: adjective formation with -making (or similar in -ing, such as “path-breaking”, “breath-taking”). Do you think this formation pattern is not as old as the one for nouns? I mean exlusively adjectival forms, not ones that are just noun formations in attributive position, as in “brick-making factory”.

  46. marie-lucie says:

    Grumbly, I guess I meant the (non-attributive) predicative use, most specifically with -making, as in “this is sick-making” or “cringe-making” (note that “cringe-inducing” seems more widespread, but again in attributive use). In order to really check the frequency and historical depth of these constructions, you would have to do a search of written sources such as several contributors do on Language Log. This is not the type of historical research that I do though.

  47. Nick, I do think you raise a provocative question, and might yourself have some partisan (and knowledgeable) thoughts to offer.
    Why does Byzantine Greek get so much less scholarly attention than the archaic, classical, and Hellenistic/Roman periods?
    Ok, I understand- and agree, for myself- that Anna Komnene and John Tzetzes aren’t as intellectually glamorous as, say, Homer, Sophocles, and the New Testament– but so much less interesting?

  48. Yes, I personally enjoy Anna and the wonderful Psellos considerably more than some of the famous classics, and I agree that the Byzantines should get their due.

  49. And smutty gossip about theodora.
    The 19thc Hellenists had very specific ideas about what they wanted from the Greeks and Latins.

  50. @Deadgod : good question, with regrettably obvious answers:
    1. Fool Classicists who get caught up with the fact that the Byzantine’s command of Classical grammar was shaky, and complain about it when they’re forced to read it. (See John Emerson’s comment.)
    2. Gibbon. (Coolest prose writer of his century, but coloured people’s perceptions heavily.)
    3. The bulk of Byzantine text is religious and boring.
    4. The Byzantines themselves knew they weren’t measuring up to the Ancients; there’s a heartbreaking comment by Theodore Metochites, at the beginning of his Miscellanea, that “the ancients have left us nothing else to say, in either science or theology.”
    5. Mismatches in literary taste: some of our taste is moulded from antiquity, the Byzantines were more into pastiche and catalogues and I dunno, mediaeval stuff. (See again John Emerson’s comment.) We didn’t like that kind of thing when things were being translated into Western languages; and less gets translated now anyway.
    It’s a fruitful topic for discussion…

  51. But to the more *linguistic* question—why no concerted grammar of Byzantine Learnèd Greek: it’s a much messier, hypercorrect, incoherent object of study, which has less prestige anyway because it’s not Classical Greek. We have a grammar of the chronicles from 1913, and the chronicles’ language is not as nutso as say Eustathius of Thessalonica or Theodore Studites. But it’d be a lot of work to follow up on, in a low prestige area. And who writes big reference grammars in Greek any more?
    (A Cambridge project was doing it for Early Modern; I hope the expiration of their funding this year doesn’t mean it won’t get out…)

  52. which has less prestige anyway because it’s not Classical Greek.
    But you’d think that attitude would have gone away like most such Victorian prejudices in the last century. We have excellent histories of Byzantium now, Byzantine authors are translated and reprinted, why not a study of the language?

  53. I mean, you can buy a grammar of Kabardian, which is both far less useful (unless you’re visiting Kabardia) and far more complex than Byzantine Greek.

  54. the Byzantines were more into pastiche and catalogues and I dunno
    Nick, that sounds very Modernist and postmodern! Look, for example, at encyclopaedic narrative in the 20th c. (in novels, epic poetry, and historiography)- and look at how suspicious our contemporaries (and near-contemporaries) are of ‘master narrative’, and at the mocking examination encyclopaedism gets (Borges, etc.) and how bricolage has blossomed in every art.
    The ‘messy, hypercorrect incoherence’ you see in Byzantine Greek (as it evolved, I’m guessing you also mean, in addition to the language use of particular writers) sounds, to me, like a snug misfit, as it were, with a major intellectual “taste” of our recent past- and with now?
    I think your 3. goes a sadly good distance. I’ve read some Runciman and some Norwich popularized history, and, as I understood my own weakening interest, without something of great literary quality (Runciman himself is a fine writer), the detail flattens ’til there’s nothing ‘to see’. (language hat, I read about 50 pages of the Alexiad (in English), and it was pretty dull; maybe I should try again.)
    As language hat points out, study of the language itself is another, though of course related, thing. I think the self-fulfilling prophecy of “prestige” is what’s obstructed or shunted into other channels the commitment needed for something like an LSJ and a Smyth for that 1000 years of continuous civilization– though I’m no expert and maybe such books (as usefully fulsome Byzantine lexicons and grammars) exist (in some language) and give scholarly pleasure to use.

  55. I’d love to have good cheap, annotated translations of the Byzantine historical works just for information on the steppe. Priscus, Ammianus Marcellinus, The Gothic Wars, and others.
    Most of it can be found in Loeb I think, but they’re expensive and oriented toward readers of Greek.

  56. You do know that Ammianus wrote in Latin, right? Complete text and translation, still being proofed, can be found at Bill Thayer’s Lacus Curtius site, with much else that may interest LanguageHatters.

  57. No, I didn’t. I’ve only seen the Loeb edition, and it was way too spendy, and I left it at that.

  58. Byzantophile says:

    I’d love to have more of the Byzantine historians available in Loeb. Procopius is there, which is great, but what about everybody else?
    And John Emerson is right that late antique historians (in both Greek and Latin) are sadly neglected. Oh, but forget about them – I mean look at the bad grammar!

  59. Priscus on Attila is fun to read, but some think that a lot of it is a literary exercise in Noble Savage rhetoric.

  60. David Marjanović says:

    Isn’t it les people for “people who are famous for being currently famous”?

    LOL! What a great definition! :-D
    I’ve seen it spelled pipoles on a magazine.

    Kantian Erklaerung (Enlightenment).

    You mean Aufklärung. Erklärung simply means “explanation”.

    I mean, you can buy a grammar of Kabardian, which is both far less useful (unless you’re visiting Kabardia)

    Or much of Turkey.
    ===================
    That paper on pre-Dravidian India looks very interesting. (76 pages. When will I finish it.) What’s most interesting on the title page is… wait for it… the German quote, which uses was as a (gender-independent) relative pronoun. That’s dialectal. How did that get into a German translation of a Russian scientific paper?
    ~:-|

  61. Yes, David, I did mean Aufklaerung, meaning ‘enlightenment’.

  62. David Marjanović says:

    Just for the record, the paper on pre-Dravidian India is very interesting, and I finished it the same night. When will I ever learn.

Speak Your Mind

*