Ancient Greek in modern Greece

lifes2good

New Member
English
Hi everyone, this is partially a cultural question as well as a language question, so I hope it's appropriate for these forums.

I was wondering about the place of the ancient Greek language in modern Greece. Is it commonly taught in schools? Is it necessary to study it as a separate language or can Modern Greek speakers read it without language study? Are classical works generally read in the original or in modern translations?

Thank you all for you help!
 
  • winegrower

    Senior Member
    Hi! Ancient Greek is taught in advanced high school (lyceum) to a certain extent, especially in Theoretical/Classical Direction, as a separate language. People of average cultural level are able to understand simple texts, but it takes advanced studies to understand everything. The educational system in Greece has changed many times through the years, passing from Katharevousa (purifying language, close to ancient principles) to Demotiki (common people’s language) with fierce debates between proponents of the two approaches. From 1976 on, Demotiki is the official language. Using classical Greek in contemporary Greece is not common, but the ancient language is widely known and it may still be used for practical purposes in certain special circumstances.
    Between Modern and Classical Greek there are discrepancies in many levels of language: in phonetics, morphology, syntax, vocabulary. But one thing that has survived in an almost unaltered condition is the writing system and, the spelling rules.
    I hope I gave you a general idea, but wait for more information from the experts!
     

    GreekNative

    Senior Member
    Greek - Greece
    Winegrower has given a pretty much accurate picture of the use of both forms of the language. I would like to specify, though, that there is no ONE form of Ancient Greek. Ancient Greek varies widely, depending on the age when the different ancient documents were written, or on the dialect that their writers used. In this way, when you read Homer (Odyssey or Iliad) you'll most probably understand nothing but a few words. It's totally incomprehensible. But you will surely track down many words as being the origin of similar words which have developped into Modern Greek. On the other hand, if you read texts of later times, i.e. Aristotle or Thucydides, you realise that the language has evolved a lot since Homer and you understand a lot more. But even though you understand many things, you still face three main difficulties: 1. the syntax is very different and makes it difficult to understand the overall meaning of a phrase, especially if it's a long one, 2. verb/noun types can be so different that you might understand the verb (i.e. the verb "to fight") but not who is fighting or whether they will fight in the future or if they have already fought, etc., and 3. some words are identical to modern Greek words but have a slightly or totally different meaning (i.e. cosmos, which nowadays means "the world", also had the meaning of "decoration", back then. On the other hand, you can still track down the meaning of "decoration" in Modern Greek, since "cosmos" is used in words, like "cosmetic"). All in all, the Attic dialect, which was spoken at the Athens area at around 500 B.C., is the closest to Modern Greek, as far as Ancient Greek is concerned.

    The evangelical language, found in Gospels, is a lot easier to understand, since the Gospels were written hundreds of years after the times when what we call "classical Greek literature" was written.

    I can tell you that I studied Ancient Greek quite a lot at school, I was able to translate an ancient Greek text of average difficulty quite easily and I could conjugate/inflect any verb or noun, or just about; and, still, 15 years later, when I look at trial examination tests for University, I understand so little that it's quite embarassing.

    One last thing, though: since Modern Greek lacks some types of some verbs, we still have to use various forms of archaic language, coming from Ancient Greek, in order to complete the missing types. And, of course, some proverbs or expressions do remain the same.

    Wrote quite a lot, didn't I...
    :)
     
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    niki1978

    Banned
    Greek
    Hi everyone, this is partially a cultural question as well as a language question, so I hope it's appropriate for these forums.

    I was wondering about the place of the ancient Greek language in modern Greece. Is it commonly taught in schools? Is it necessary to study it as a separate language or can Modern Greek speakers read it without language study? Are classical works generally read in the original or in modern translations?

    Thank you all for you help!

    Ancient Greek language is very difficult even for Greek people
     
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