Iversen wrote:The problem with the original question is that "full grasp" is a very hard thing to achieve - if not downright impossible. So we have to lower the treshold to get any meaningful answers.
Let me summarize a bit: we have tons of writings from languages that are more than two thousand years old, but they may not represent the spoken language - and they definitely don't contain every single word or expression that was in common use when those texts were written. And even though we may now something about the pronunciation it is unlikely that we know enough to say how any single person from an old culture would have sounded. Finally there is the problem with dialectal differences, sociolects and cultural things like degrees of politeness.
Even today there are languages with enormous stylistic and even grammatical differences between speech and writing - for instance French. We do have some texts by Plautus and the famed Satyricon by Petronius plus the graffitti of Pompei and Ercolano to give us a glimpse of how Romans from Rome actually spoke 2000 years ago, but if we read similar works in a presumed 'popular' style by modern authors we can not necessarily recognize the way we speak among ourselves - partly because we don't belong to the social and geographical groups whose speech those authors have tried to mimick. And in older times where writing skills were limited to a few well educated specialists the gorge between the stylish written style and common smalltalk, which rarely was written down, must have been much deeper.
The Quran has been mentioned, but how much do we know about the spoken language in Mecca or Medina in the 6. century? Did the merchants and their wifes communicate in MSA about their daily life? I know that at least one irritated wife in Ancient Egypt wrote to her absent husband and asked what the h**l he was up to since he hadn't returned home already. Lots of similar texts would be necessary to claim that we know other registers than the stuffy or poetic 'high speech' - even partially. But knowing everything? Did the last native speaker of Dalmatian know everything about his language? Probably not...
As for the pronunciations in the old cultures we often know more than you might expect, partly through the efforts of learned scholars that have been cast in iron in sound laws that indicate how something once probably was pronounced, but also through clever interpretations of small things like writing errors and random comments by contemporary writers. And I'm fairly sure that the old ones would have understood you if you used the reconstructed pronunciation. You don't need living native native speakers to get there. For example I had heard very little spoken Italian when I came to Milano in 1972 on my first interrail trip. I had learnt Italian from a textbook with the usual dubious explanations concerning the pronunciation, and nevertheless the Italians seemed to understand everything I said. And by the way - what about the dialectal differences, like where to apply closed versus open o's and e'? Appparently they they weren't that important (at my level, at least).
We probably know enough about the old pronunciations to be in principle potentially understandable in several old languages (not just Latin and Greek, but also a number of Asiatic languages), like me when I arrived in Milano in 1972 with my homebrewed Italian. But asking for a full grasp of anything just serves to make the requirements insurmountable.
thank you very much for expressing the contexts one by one each points.
to begin with, first I checked whether I have mistake in understanding the thread , and the quotation is below to recall/remember the core query:
By full grasp I mean: we understand it enough to learn it and use it as the ancient natives would have (including pronunciation). Perhaps not "complete" knowledge, but close enough.
What are some others? (either slightly younger, or not quite "full grasp," but close)
in this regard, I think arabic is sufficiently satisfying the aim to me personally. but I say it was personal because here, as you mention the phonology may be an obstacle in learning as normally some of us have variously.
for instance as one of my native language is kurdish ,and the pronunciation of these languages are similar , I really do not have so much problems on how to pronunciate it.
but normally even if we have some obstacles and such obstacles are way difficult ,this most probably should not be in the central point of check lists. because as you express (or I understand,that will reach almost or equal to impossiblity) which will allow us to reach a decision
why should I learn it, it is already impossible?
so, I do not pay attention such details. However, some language s (for instance turkish) is really has aesthetical usage ...
because ...especially when you observe the people who are using istanbul accent and are professional in their diction and expression in daily life, you will evventually see that it was not as that simple thing.
you mention egypt but to be honest although I am not still good in arabic, I think this dialect is significantly different than MSA.
maybe someone who are from madinah would be good to leave some comment(s), because as I heard they use the closest dialect to Quranic tongue.