Shifting of accents and declensions

Discussion in 'Ελληνικά (Greek)' started by panettonea, Mar 14, 2013.

  1. panettonea Senior Member

    I'm just curious--do native Greek speakers ever get confused about when to shift accents in the declension of a noun, or at least do they when they are in elementary school? Before the Internet existed, how could one determine exactly which declension pattern a particular noun belonged to, since there are so many irregularities? Did Greek dictionaries give information what about declension pattern a noun belonged to as well? Otherwise, how could one ever know for sure? Thanks for any info.
  2. Tassos

    Tassos Senior Member

    Yes, that might happen. The case which causes the biggest number of mistakes is the Genitive Plural (especially for polysyllabic words). For example, I just thought of the word περίπτερο (kiosk, newsstand) and I was wondering, is it των περίπτερων or των περιπτέρων; (you might hear both in everyday speech, although the second is the right one)

    I can't answer that, as I don't have a kid in elementary school nor I teach in one.

    You mean besides studying it in school? I guess by listening to the particular word spoken, by his parents or on TV/radio. If someone was a diligent student who paid attention to the grammatic rules taught s/he would be able to speak accurately and wouldn't need to look in a dictionary.
  3. fdb Senior Member

    Cambridge, UK
    French (France)
    Yes, grammer existed before the internet. They even had books in those days. But speakers of all languages learn grammar and vocabulary naturally by imitating their parents.
  4. Live2Learn Senior Member

    English - USA
    Actually, much more than imitation occurs in first language acquisition. Imitation cannot explain children saying, "He goed to work" or "I drawed the picture", simply because the parents would not have said it that way. The same is true for examples of negation ("I no want it!") and question formation ("What I can eat?", "What he doing?", "What does he likes?"). A lot of experimentation goes on as children gradually learn how language works.
  5. panettonea Senior Member

    OK. But how do you verify that it's the "right" one? :) Isn't there some book that would confirm this?

    How can you possibly study the declension of every single word in the Greek language in school? For instance, in English, if we're not sure of the past participle of a particular verb, we just look it up in the dictionary. (You won't learn all of them in school.) So there's never been a Greek equivalent of that in which you can look up a particular noun and find out its declension pattern or even unique declension, for special cases?

    But what about all the special cases? And how would someone find a list of all the words that belong even to the common cases? For instance, take καλόγερος, which doesn't shift the accent in the genitive plural. Would students be expected to memorize a list of all the words in the Greek language that fall into that pattern? Surely not. For instance, the link below gives you most of what you need to know, but it doesn't tell you all the words that belong to the various classes.

    Are you saying that every child is given enough information in school to figure out the declension of any given word all by himself?
    Last edited: Mar 15, 2013
  6. panettonea Senior Member

    I can understand that for common words, but how many words does the Greek language contain? How would someone know how to decline the thousands of obscure words that are rarely (if ever) used in daily life? For instance, in English, if we're not sure how to spell a word, we just look it up in a dictionary. Without a definitive source such as a dictionary, it would be very hard to know what spelling is correct.
    Last edited: Mar 15, 2013
  7. panettonea Senior Member

    That makes sense.
  8. Tassos

    Tassos Senior Member

    I don't. I live here for 39 years and I know it's the right one, because it sounds right. Just like I know that "Μου είπε ότι θα έρθει άυριο" is more natural than "Μου είπε ότι αύριο θα έρθει". You can't explain everything by looking it up at books or on the internet. If you go and live in a country for, let's say, 6 months, speaking only the language of the natives that will help you develop your language skills better that any on-line dictionary.

    You can't. That's why there are rules and exceptions. These, you can learn at school.

    Honestly, I don't know, because as a native I never needed one.

    He doesn't need to find them. He just listens to them every day or reads them in newspapers, internet sites, journals, books etc.

    I don't really know but isn't that the idea behind every school system in the world?

    In general I can understand your frustration because I experience it with each and any foreign language I try to learn. But I've come to accept the fact that you can't learn a language only by books. You'll have to either "immerse" yourself in the language (reading books in this language, watching TV in this language, talking to natives via Skype or whatever) or go and live in a country where the language is spoken. Nothing beats that.
  9. Perseas Senior Member

    first and foremost we follow our innate sense of our native language. Apart from that not everyone knows everything. Kids in elementary schools surely make more mistakes than older ones. My grandmother who didn't finish the elementary school made a lot of mistakes but she was a native Greek. You don't have to consult grammar books/dictionaries/internet (today), if you want to communicate with somebody at colloquial; I mean the everyday, oral speech. In contrary when it comes to official language, you have to look possibly to every detail. So, if you have some doubts about something, you should look at dictionaries and grammar books to find out the correct form. Of course not anyone is in position to use them rightly.

    Specifically, there are regularities in grammar that every person with an average education level is aware of. You can also see this thread for more information. Everybody knows for example that it is o πόλεμος (nomin. sing.) and οι πόλεμοι (nomin. sing.), but it is του πολέμου (gen. sing.) and των πολέμων (gen. pl.). There may be some confusion in the genitive singular and plural of the polysyllabic words: πανεπιστήμιου/πανεπιστημίου, καλόγερων/καλογέρων (I don't agree that καλογέρων is wrong). I know that both versions are used by native Greeks and I would take both as correct; the first is demotic speech and the second is influenece from katharevousa. I 'm sure also that some Greeks would wrongly say ανθρώποι (not the correct άνθρωποι), but this is a mistake made only by Greeks :).

    Just now I found this site which might be helpful. School grammars are also good enough. Triandaphyllidis "Concise Modern Greek Grammar" is the translation into English of the grammar that Greek pupils were taught for many decades until recently.
    Last edited: Mar 15, 2013
  10. panettonea Senior Member

    I agree with that. But that doesn't mean you just throw away your dictionary as well. ;)

    But this is what confuses me--how do the rules tell you what declension class an arbitrary noun belongs to? They tell you the patterns, but they don't give you a list of all the words that are declined that way. It seems to me that you should be able to look up a word in the dictionary, and also get an indication of which declension class it belongs to.

    But this would be like me saying to someone who's learning English as a foreign language, "I don't use a dictionary. So, you don't need one either." :) Truth is, even as a native English speaker, I still consult the English dictionary quite frequently, so it just seems utterly bizarre to me that all the info you need about how to decline an arbitrary Greek noun isn't available in a single book for handy reference.

    But I'm sure there are thousands of Greek words that are not used in everyday life. There certainly are in English.

    I think you may be missing my point--I'm not saying that you should try to learn a foreign language only by books. I'm just saying that you should be able to consult a reference when necessary/desired. Otherwise, why even have dictionaries at all? ;)

    Of course. Again, I'm not saying that books should be a substitute for this.
  11. panettonea Senior Member

    I'm starting to gather that. ;) So I guess it's not a crime to get the accents wrong.

    Oh, yes, not for informal, colloquial speech.

    But see, that is my question. Let's say you have an obscure Greek word called X. Where exactly would you go to find out how X is declined? Is there even an "official" way to do that? The declension pattern for X is obviously not listed in a dictionary, and what if it's not listed in a grammar book as well? Do you then just make an educated guess? :)

    Yes, I realize there are a lot of regularities in the declensions. I'm just talking about the cases where it's hard to figure out exactly what to do. For example, in English, many people get the words "lie" and "lay" confused. So how do you find out what's correct? You look in an English dictionary--that removes all the ambiguity.

    I got that straight out of this book:

    But I guess there's more than one way to skin a cat. ;)



    Thanks for the links. I'm basically getting the impression that it's not worth worrying too much about how to shift the accents, as long as you get pretty close. LOL. :)

    I have also learned French, and with French there is no ambiguity about what to do in various cases--you can easily look up what you need to know. So, you can probably imagine how strange it must seem for someone who is learning Greek as a foreign language to realize that a lot of the stuff that you need to know just isn't written down.

    So, if you're not sure exactly what to do?

    Don't worry--be happy. ;)
    Last edited: Mar 16, 2013
  12. Perseas Senior Member

    Here's an online dictionary:

    Find "ΠΙΝΑΚΕΣ ΚΛΙΤΙΚΩΝ ΠΑΡΑΔΕΙΓΜΑΤΩΝ". It's the third to last bullet. The contents are: Το Ονοματικό Σύστημα , Το Ρηματικό Σύστημα.
    The first one has tables with declension patterns of verbs and the second one of nouns, articles, participles/adjectives and pronouns.

    For example: next to βιβλίο there is the number "039". This number stands for the declension pattern, according to which "βιβλίο" is declined. In this page in Nr "039" there is "πεύκο" and its declension. "βιβλίο" is declined like "πεύκο".
  13. panettonea Senior Member

    Cool! Thanks, Perseas. So why didn't anyone just tell me that in the first place? ;) That's all I was saying--that this stuff should be documented somewhere. :)

    I clicked on your links. I'm able to see the entry for βιβλίο just fine. However, I can't find ΠΙΝΑΚΕΣ ΚΛΙΤΙΚΩΝ ΠΑΡΑΔΕΙΓΜΑΤΩΝ. Just about everything on the page is in English. Also, on your final link, where did you enter 039 to get "πεύκο" to come up? I'm not seeing anything like that. Thanks.

    Oh, also, concerning what I wrote about καλόγερος, the book does mention that the categories are not absolute, and that shifting the accent would give a more learned tone, whereas leaving it as is would make the tone more informal, which backs up what you said.
    Last edited: Mar 17, 2013
  14. Perseas Senior Member

    Ok. Then, you have to shift from English to Greek. Click on the Greek flag on top right and this page will show up. To the bottom of the page (3rd to the last bullet) has ΠΙΝΑΚΕΣ ΚΛΙΤΙΚΩΝ ΠΑΡΑΔΕΙΓΜΑΤΩΝ. If you click on "Ρηματικό Σύστημα" you get this page: P1, P2, P2.2, P2.3, P3...They stand for verbal patterns. Click on them to see how they work. To see the rest click on the arrow. If you click on "Ονοματικό Σύστημα" you get this page: here are declension patterns of nouns, adjectives/participles, articles, pronouns. Click also on each of them to see how it works.
  15. 涼宮

    涼宮 Senior Member

    Sbaeneg/Castellano (Venezuela)
    However, saying that something ''sounds'' right is not really an argument to determine whether something is correct or not. Because if we heard everybody saying the same mistake and we believed it's the correct form when it's actually bad you'll think the bad form sounds right whereas the correct form sounds bad or weird. It's only by studying one's own language and using a dictionary that we can really say when something is right or not without relying on those 'hunches'. :)

    I think you should study some Generativism by Noam Chomsky. He explains those doubts you have about how languages work at a psychological level, why native speakers know how to naturally say something and all those patterns. Basically he says that everybody has the linguistic capacity to use a language, it's an ability everybody is born with; we associate patterns when we're kids and learn the exceptions thru repetition and correction. Although it's more complicated than that. :D
    Last edited: Mar 18, 2013
  16. panettonea Senior Member

    OK, great. Merci beaucoup, monsieur--oops, I mean Ευχαριστώ πάρα πολύ, Πέρσεα! ;)
  17. panettonea Senior Member

    OK, so I'm not crazy for believing that after all. :)

    Interesting. Thanks, 涼宮--I'll have to check it out.
  18. Eltheza

    Eltheza Senior Member

    Worcestershire, UK
    English - England (Midlands)
    Hi panettonea:)!

    Just to mention my own experience: I lived in Greece for 20 years, where I first worked as a tour guide and then taught English at two private language schools (frontistiria xenon glosson) in Athens. (Note: the underline indicates the stress!)

    I studied French and Italian at university and I fell in love with both Greece and the Greek language. Learning Greek, more or less on my own, was my main pastime. I acquired a whole library of 'Teach Yourself' books, grammars and dictionaries and was lucky enough to make Greek friends with a similar interest in language who helped me a lot.

    I found that after some years, as regards accent-shifting, I began to get a feel for what was correct and what wasn't. I even began to notice when native speakers made mistakes. Learning a foreign language as an adult is just a slow process and it obviously helps if you're in the country and are exposed to the language constantly.

    Good luck and keep on truckin';)!

    To fellow forum members - thanks very much indeed for all the useful links:thumbsup:!

    P.S. Sorry, I'm on a College computer which doesn't speak Greek!
  19. Tassos

    Tassos Senior Member

    It isn't. But I am not a professional language teacher, translator, linguist or philologist so I never felt the need to use a dictionary for anything. I rely on my knowledge of the gammatical rules and my pretty good memory to resolve any doubts I might have. And anyway, do I really need a dictionary when I am talking to somebody? What should I do, stop talking, check the internet on my phone to find the correct word and then continue the discussion? I just go with what sounds natural, is all.

    That actually happens all the time, in all the languages. In Greek we have two set phrases "εντελώς δωρεάν" and "από ανέκαθεν" which are wrong but are so extensively used in the vernacular that everybody thinks they are right. Sometimes I have mentioned to friends and acquaintances that these are wrong but almost like a curiosity. I don't do it everytime and I do not insist because people would think of me as "know-it-all" or "smartass". Believe me, it's very difficult to change something that is used by thousands.

    First I disagreee with the term "hunches". You hear something a thousand times, next time you'll use it, it a simple process of the human brain, not a hunch. And second, it all depends on what you are using the language for.

    And finally, panettonea as you've probably gathered from what is mentioned in all these posts, we don't really give this much attention to how anybody uses the accents and if s/he makes mistakes on the accent shifts because, well, we make them too! To me, a learner of the greek language has to tackle more important problems before beginning to seriously consider accent shifts. It should be the last item on his/her list :) !!
    Last edited: Mar 18, 2013
  20. panettonea Senior Member

    Incidentally, is the world's slowest Web site? I've been clicking on the links trying to view the various pages, and you might as well just go to lunch and then come back and hope they've loaded. :eek: Maybe they work OK if you live near Greece, but it's rare for me to encounter a site that's so slow as to be almost unusable. Perhaps they need to add one or two (thousand) more Web servers. ;)
  21. panettonea Senior Member

    Hi, Eltheza. :)

    That must have been a very interesting experience for you.

    That's neat.


    Thanks--same to you. :)
  22. panettonea Senior Member

    I am none of those either, but I consult the English dictionary all the time. However, most Americans probably do not. Once you consult the dictionary, you start to realize real quick how much you really don't know about your own native language, even though you've spoken it all your life. I would guess that at least 60% of the words in a normal English dictionary are not encountered in everyday life. And even those words whose primary meanings are familiar often have secondary definitions that are not.

    Yes, it's good to know that. :)

    That may be true, but if someone is simply curious about that information, they should be told where they can find it at least. Otherwise, they'll start to wonder why a language that is over 2,000 years old has so many attributes that nobody ever bothered to write down. ;)
  23. panettonea Senior Member

    At the moment, that Web site I mentioned earlier is running a lot faster. But no matter what URL enter, I always get the same page with 5 bullets on it. :confused:

    But I finally figured out how to see the real pages. I go to Google and paste in a URL such as:

    Then I run the search. On the first link in the search results, I click on the "Cached" link, which actually gives the correct page. And for each succeeding link, I have to do the same thing. Kinda bizarre, huh? Clicking on the main link or the links in the cached pages won't work.

    Anyway, doing that gives me all the information I was looking for--declension patterns, conjugation patterns, etc. Maybe that Web site wants foreign visitors to have to work for their information. ;)

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