Classical Languages - Study Group

An area with study groups for various languages. Group members help each other, share resources and experience. Study groups are permanent but the members rotate and change.
Blue Saka
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Languages: I speak some Turkish (really rusty), I understand a fair amount of Low Saxon, and am currently learning Ossetic (Iron dialect). I learn my languages by exposure, not by studying class material (besides dictionaries and basic guides). It has been a long time since I've studied any language.
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Re: Classical Languages - Study Group

Postby Blue Saka » Wed Sep 08, 2021 8:41 pm

RyanSmallwood wrote:
Blue Saka wrote:Out of curiosity...


I have been debating taking on the... apparent migraine... that is Sumerian. This wouldn't be for a while. I think it would be fun, and because I have always been fascinated with their culture. Would any of you recommend sites or books on the language? I'm not period-specific with this one, at least not right now.


I'm no expert, but from what I understand you'd probably have to learn Akkadian as well, as I believe there's overall much more literature and materials and cultural overlap and I think stuff in Sumerian is more fragmentary and not as well preserved. I know This website has audio recordings from academics and parallel texts, which is very helpful although they're fragmentary. Doesn't say which language for each but I guess they're in Sumerian and Akkadian, but I could be mistaken.

Just an overall caution, even the really popular classical languages that have more materials available, are still fairly limited in terms of selection and could use a lot more audio recordings and learning tools to make them more manageable. With something like Sumerian, you're going to have far fewer materials and also won't have many modern language options to leverage learning some core vocab. I don't want to discourage you from trying, and I'll probably try dabbling out of curiosity some day, but I'm not sure how feasible it is to get to comfortable reading level unless you're a scholar dedicating your whole life and work to it. (Again I could be wrong if there's more materials I don't realize, but just based on how tricky it can be to learn classical languages with much better materials, I wouldn't be too optimistic).

Thank you for your response, and for those explanations.

I understand.
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Deinonysus
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Re: Classical Languages - Study Group

Postby Deinonysus » Wed Sep 08, 2021 9:31 pm

Blue Saka wrote:Out of curiosity...


I have been debating taking on the... apparent migraine... that is Sumerian. This wouldn't be for a while. I think it would be fun, and because I have always been fascinated with their culture. Would any of you recommend sites or books on the language? I'm not period-specific with this one, at least not right now.

As it just so happens, I recently spent a couple of weeks dabbling in Sumerian. Here is my log on it: https://forum.language-learners.org/vie ... 15&t=17052

I was pleasantly surprised that there are actually some very good learning resources for Sumerian, most of which are free.

Although people usually study Akkadian first and then Sumerian, my impression was that a knowledge of Sumerian would be more helpful for learning Akkadian than the reverse. They invented the writing system and logograms in Akkadian are usually transliterated using Sumerian sign names.
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Blue Saka
White Belt
Posts: 26
Joined: Fri Sep 03, 2021 5:25 am
Location: Canada
Languages: I speak some Turkish (really rusty), I understand a fair amount of Low Saxon, and am currently learning Ossetic (Iron dialect). I learn my languages by exposure, not by studying class material (besides dictionaries and basic guides). It has been a long time since I've studied any language.
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Re: Classical Languages - Study Group

Postby Blue Saka » Thu Sep 09, 2021 3:43 am

Deinonysus wrote:
Blue Saka wrote:Out of curiosity...


I have been debating taking on the... apparent migraine... that is Sumerian. This wouldn't be for a while. I think it would be fun, and because I have always been fascinated with their culture. Would any of you recommend sites or books on the language? I'm not period-specific with this one, at least not right now.

As it just so happens, I recently spent a couple of weeks dabbling in Sumerian. Here is my log on it: https://forum.language-learners.org/vie ... 15&t=17052

I was pleasantly surprised that there are actually some very good learning resources for Sumerian, most of which are free.

Although people usually study Akkadian first and then Sumerian, my impression was that a knowledge of Sumerian would be more helpful for learning Akkadian than the reverse. They invented the writing system and logograms in Akkadian are usually transliterated using Sumerian sign names.

Thank you, Deinonysus!
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einzelne
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Re: Classical Languages - Study Group

Postby einzelne » Mon Sep 13, 2021 11:04 am

I was really surprised to read the following observation in Reading Greek: “Our experience strongly suggests that it takes longer to develop a reading ability in Latin than it does in Greek” (XIII).

To me it sounds completely counterintuitive. Any thoughts?
Last edited by einzelne on Mon Sep 13, 2021 1:46 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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guyome
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Re: Classical Languages - Study Group

Postby guyome » Mon Sep 13, 2021 12:57 pm

Having studied both language to a high level (although Latin is the only one I can claim any kind of competence in nowadays), I'd say Latin starts easier than Greek (no alphabet to learn, transparent vocab, less verbal forms) but may eventually become harder, mainly because of its syntax. Greek sentences generally feel much more straightforward.

Overall, I'd say it's a tie but I can see the authors' point.
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einzelne
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Re: Classical Languages - Study Group

Postby einzelne » Mon Sep 13, 2021 1:55 pm

guyome wrote:but may eventually become harder, mainly because of its syntax.


Interesting. I read somewhere that articles in Greek, for instance, are of tremendous help but I thought that the regularity of Latin grammar and shared vocabulary with English would still give it an upper hand (and the fact that, historically, the Roman world is closer to us than Ancient Greece).
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MorkTheFiddle
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Languages: English (N). Read (only) French and Spanish. Studying Ancient Greek, aiming for mastery by 2424. Studying a bit of Latin and Japanese. Once studied Old Norse. Dabbled in Catalan, Provençal and Italian.
Language Log: https://forum.language-learners.org/vie ... 11#p133911
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Re: Classical Languages - Study Group

Postby MorkTheFiddle » Mon Sep 13, 2021 5:37 pm

einzelne wrote:
guyome wrote:but may eventually become harder, mainly because of its syntax.


Interesting. I read somewhere that articles in Greek, for instance, are of tremendous help but I thought that the regularity of Latin grammar and shared vocabulary with English would still give it an upper hand (and the fact that, historically, the Roman world is closer to us than Ancient Greece).

I remember reading Green's (?) remark myself and being surprised at first. Thinking it over, I thought he had a point, but now, not really.
My formal language learning consisted of two years of Spanish in high school, four semesters each of German and French in college, a semester of Old French in college, and a a semester of Caesar and another of Aeneid in college. Later, I took up Ancient Greek on my own.
Nothing in French or Spanish prepared me for Thomas Mann's Tonio Kröger the fourth semester of German. And Old French was harder than that, and then finally The Aeneid hardest of all, and Virgil's not being the most difficult of Latin.
And yet, the language of Thucydides, for me, has no match, and he is hands down the most difficult writer for me to understand, if I can even be said to understand him.
It would be good to hear just what was meant by saying Latin is more difficult than Ancient Greek, and I for one cannot agree.
To all of this, of course, I must add that I at any rate am talking about reading and not about speaking, listening or writing.
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guyome
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Re: Classical Languages - Study Group

Postby guyome » Mon Sep 13, 2021 8:03 pm

MorkTheFiddle wrote:
einzelne wrote:
guyome wrote:but may eventually become harder, mainly because of its syntax.


Interesting. I read somewhere that articles in Greek, for instance, are of tremendous help but I thought that the regularity of Latin grammar and shared vocabulary with English would still give it an upper hand (and the fact that, historically, the Roman world is closer to us than Ancient Greece).

I remember reading Green's (?) remark myself and being surprised at first. Thinking it over, I thought he had a point, but now, not really.
My formal language learning consisted of two years of Spanish in high school, four semesters each of German and French in college, a semester of Old French in college, and a a semester of Caesar and another of Aeneid in college. Later, I took up Ancient Greek on my own.
Nothing in French or Spanish prepared me for Thomas Mann's Tonio Kröger the fourth semester of German. And Old French was harder than that, and then finally The Aeneid hardest of all, and Virgil's not being the most difficult of Latin.
And yet, the language of Thucydides, for me, has no match, and he is hands down the most difficult writer for me to understand, if I can even be said to understand him.
It would be good to hear just what was meant by saying Latin is more difficult than Ancient Greek, and I for one cannot agree.
To all of this, of course, I must add that I at any rate am talking about reading and not about speaking, listening or writing.
Ah, but Thucydides is notoriously difficult :) it may not be the best author to use to compare the average difficulty of Latin vs. Greek.

And anyway, even if I can see why the authors of Reading Greek wrote what they did, I don't think it matters much in the end, which language is harder or whether one is indeed harder than the other. Whether you reach a point where you can actually read either one confortably (and I mean really read, not what passes for "reading" in most Latin/Greek classes), and how long it takes you to reach that point, will depend on many other, more important, factors, than one language being easier than the other.
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einzelne
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Re: Classical Languages - Study Group

Postby einzelne » Mon Sep 13, 2021 10:25 pm

guyome wrote:Whether you reach a point where you can actually read either one confortably (and I mean really read, not what passes for "reading" in most Latin/Greek classes), and how long it takes you to reach that point, will depend on many other, more important, factors, than one language being easier than the other.


Yes, one of the things (of many things, honestly) that stopped me to learn Greek is the lack of easy intermediate level content. It requires a lot of discipline and mental effort. Martin Heidegger said that he read Greek writers at least 1 hour every single day and, I think, in one of his interviews Peter Handke stated that he starts his mornings with Greek and Latin 'while his mind is still fresh'). I don't have such discipline and, in contrast to modern languages, Greek doesn't have a large archive of authentic intermediate texts I can rely on when my mind is fried.
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guyome
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Re: Classical Languages - Study Group

Postby guyome » Tue Sep 14, 2021 7:32 am

einzelne wrote:Martin Heidegger said that he read Greek writers at least 1 hour every single day and, I think, in one of his interviews Peter Handke stated that he starts his mornings with Greek and Latin 'while his mind is still fresh'). I don't have such discipline and, in contrast to modern languages, Greek doesn't have a large archive of authentic intermediate texts I can rely on when my mind is fried.
This reminds me of something I noticed long ago: I need to do much more with Latin to keep it fresh than with any other language. This is mostly due, I think, to the lack of audio material and the reinforcement it offers, but I wonder if this may also have something to do with the complexity of the average Latin sentence. Syntax-wise, Yiddish/Occitan/Ladino just don't even come close to Latin.

As for Ancient Greek intermediate texts, I agree. At least Latin has many readers designed to bridge the gap to authentic texts. They are not authentic texts but they can be of great help. Also, and I think I've written about this elsewhere, to me the real game changer was discovering Medieval Latin. Suddenly I had thousands of very interesting texts, with plenty of them easier to read than the average Classical author. I'm not sure I would have come this far without the motivation boost these offered.

Maybe Patristic/Byzantine Greek could play a similar role for some people. There are some easy texts like the Sayings of the Desert Fathers (and other similar works) or Joseph and Aseneth (and other Biblical fan fictions).
Less easy but maybe good to maintain motivation if you find them interesting: historians like Procopius or Anna Comnena (see the Corpus Scriptorum Historiae Byzantinae for other titles).
Finally, there are some interesting tools, like Theodorus of Gaza's Attic paraphrasis of the Iliad.
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