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Local language vs. the language of our fathers


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#41 Matthew Namee

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Posted 30 October 2008 - 04:07 PM

Greek is a "dead language"???

Obviously modern Greek isn't a dead language, but isn't modern Greek a good bit different than Byzantine, Koine, Attic, Ionic, Homeric, and other manifestations of the Greek language? I took a year of Attic Greek in college, and I was told that it wouldn't do me any good if I actually went to Greece and tried to communicate. I'm not sure how parallel this would be to modern English versus Shakespearean English, King James English, Middle (Chaucer) English, Old English, etc., but I gather that almost all languages have "living" forms and "dead" (i.e. no longer actively spoken, no longer evolving) antecedents.

#42 Herman Blaydoe

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Posted 30 October 2008 - 04:20 PM

Does that make it holy?


Can one become holy without learning a "holy" language? Is it essential or "nice to have", or even necessary?

Little incomplete thoughts from a little incomplete brain.

Herman the Pooh

#43 Nina

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Posted 30 October 2008 - 04:47 PM

Can one become holy without learning a "holy" language? Is it essential or "nice to have", or even necessary?

Little incomplete thoughts from a little incomplete brain.

Herman the Pooh


No dear Herman it does not hinder your aim to theosis not knowing a language, or another. You do not understand what I am trying to say and my point. That is the point also I was trying to make because there is no reason to classify languages as dead or alive. Because if you ask linguists they would say to you that at least one of the modern language we speak today is formed by at least one of those "dead" languages. Take English for instance (since we are communicating in English here)
English = Old German, Latin, Greek and some more. So does that make English dead also? This is why I find this idea of God being the God of "living" languages totally absurd because does not make sense. And it is even more absurd to classify languages which have been/are being used to glorify God as "dead"!!!!!!!!! That goes for more newer, or older languages. Exasperately I beg that you (all) see the point that you can not put down languages in name of patriotism. Patriotism is very good but does not have to impact our Orthodox mindset since then we may fall into the heresy of philetism. It is really just some centimeters away.

#44 Rdr Andreas

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Posted 30 October 2008 - 05:11 PM

The Greek of NT times and the Apostolic age is like water that flows in a stream. It started a long way away but it is the same water that comes to us. It is living water.

I'm not sure how parallel this would be to modern English versus Shakespearean English, King James English, Middle (Chaucer) English, Old English, etc.,


There's really not that much difference between late 16th century and early 17th century English and formal modern English; nothing like the difference between classical/koine Greek and modern demotic Greek, or between Church Slavonic and modern Russian (which got corrupted under communism). After all, kids in school in England read Shakespeare whose language can be more difficult than KJV. Chaucer I struggle with and really need a modernised text. Old English - no chance. But then church services before the Reformation were in Latin, so if we wanted to go back to 'Orthodox England' we'd have to have services in Latin!

#45 Effie Ganatsios

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Posted 30 October 2008 - 05:35 PM

Obviously modern Greek isn't a dead language, but isn't modern Greek a good bit different than Byzantine, Koine, Attic, Ionic, Homeric, and other manifestations of the Greek language? I took a year of Attic Greek in college, and I was told that it wouldn't do me any good if I actually went to Greece and tried to communicate. I'm not sure how parallel this would be to modern English versus Shakespearean English, King James English, Middle (Chaucer) English, Old English, etc., but I gather that almost all languages have "living" forms and "dead" (i.e. no longer actively spoken, no longer evolving) antecedents.


Mathew, liturgical Greek - the Greek that is used in church- is easily understood by all Greeks. Up until about 20- 30 years ago Katharevousa Greek was taught in all schools - it can be likened to High German if you will.

"Katharevousa (purified form) was set at a midpoint between Ancient Greek and the Modern Greek of the time. It stressed both a more ancient vocabulary and a simplified form of the archaic grammar. The first known use of katharevousa is in a work by the Greek polymath Nikephoros Theotokis, in 1796.[1]"

Even I understand it easily even though I started studying Greek when I was 22. When I say study I mean I taught myself.......

I have heard it said many times - especially on this forum - that Greeks do not understand the formal Greek that is used in church. This is completely erroneous. Today's young people learn a more modern form of Greek but it is still the same language.

I just wanted to add that there is a big difference between Shakespeare and Chaucer. Shakespeare is easily read by all English speaking people whereas the English Chaucer uses is quite difficult. I gave an example of Middle English in my last post.


An example of "Shakespeare's English" which term has come to mean, as you know, both the state of English around 1600 and Shakespeare's use of it.

"For that our kingdomes earth should not be soild
With that deare blood which it hath fostered: "


Now Chaucer's :

"is this the verray mede of youre byheeste?
Is al this paynted proces seyd - allas! -
Right for this fyn? O lady myn, Pallas!

It's understandable of course, but more difficult than Shakespeare's English.

Attic Greek is Ancient Greek and even though many words are the same, someone would need to have studied it to understand it fully.

This is probably why you were told that no-one would understand you in Greece. If I started speaking as Chaucer wrote I doubt anyone would understand me in England.

As I have already said, perhaps comparisons between languages are not helpful but I made them in order to make it easier to understand the evolution of the Greek language.



As you have already studied Ancient Greek, why not decide to study liturgical Greek. It would be very easy for you and it might open a doorway to a unique experience when you hear the liturgy in Greek and are able to understand it.

I confess that on Sunday I usually use my little book with English on the left and Greek on the right...... but sometimes I just listen and surrender to the beauty.....

Effie

#46 Herman Blaydoe

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Posted 30 October 2008 - 05:38 PM

Before people start becoming apoplectic, I think it worth noting that a "dead language" is simply a term used to describe a language or dialect which is no longer spoken by anyone as their main language. Perhaps some might prefer to strongly object to the term "extinct language" which, according to Wikipedia at least, is the more correct term applied to language which remains in use for scientific, legal, or ecclesiastical functions. Old Church Slavonic, Avestan, Coptic, Old Tibetan and Ge'ez are among the many extinct languages used as sacred languages according to this useage.

Take it up with the linguists if you feel strongly about it, these are their terms.

We certainly must not forget our past. It is important to bring the past into the present to help us move into the future. I think we need to make sure that we are not simply trying to drag the present into the past, however. That doesn't get you anywhere at all.

Just a little thought from a little brain, don't get too worked up over it. Feel free to disregard if it disturbs your concepts of reality.

GENIAL IMPULSE
THUS roll I, never taking ease,
My tub, like Saint Diogenes,
Now serious am, now seek to please;
Now love and hate in turn one sees;
The motives now are those, now these;
Now nothings, now realities.
Thus roll I, never taking ease,
My tub, like Saint Diogenes.
Goethe 1810


Herman the troublesome Pooh

Edited by Herman Blaydoe, 30 October 2008 - 05:49 PM.
typo correction


#47 Kris

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Posted 30 October 2008 - 05:59 PM

I'm sure most of us are familiar with the story of the three monks on the little island, whose only prayer was "three are we, three are Ye, have mercy upon us" and nevertheless attained great holiness. Indeed, very little is needed (at least for some) to attain salvation, but that doesn't mean everything else is superfluous.

Greek is the language of the Church's Old Testament, the New Testament, our Liturgy, our hymns, the Fathers, etc. and while it makes sense to make use of local languages to bring people to the faith, it seems rather silly, if not dangerous to completely ignore the original language.

Countless non-Greek saints and elders (St. Nikolai Velimirovich for example) stressed the importance of returning to the original Greek for those wishing to have a better understanding of the faith. Andreas mentioned Elder Sophrony - he certainly approved of English, but also noted the 'superiority' of Greek (I'm afraid I don't have a reference. This was related to me by someone who knew him), and even wrote one of his works in Greek.

Personally, while I am in favour of using the local language (where needed) for the sake of comprehension, I think Christians should regard the Greek language as being part of their religious heritage and not simply dismiss it as something cultural.

#48 Anthony

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Posted 30 October 2008 - 06:12 PM

Before people start becoming apoplectic, I think it worth noting that a "dead language" is simply a term used to describe a language or dialect which is no longer spoken by anyone as their main language. Perhaps some might prefer to strongly object to the term "extinct language" which, according to Wikipedia at least, is the more correct term applied to language which remains in use for scientific, legal, or ecclesiastical functions. Old Church Slavonic, Avestan, Coptic, Old Tibetan and Ge'ez are among the many extinct languages used as sacred languages according to this useage.

Take it up with the linguists if you feel strongly about it, these are their terms.


But first please pick your linguists. This is not any standard terminology that I am aware of.

#49 Nina

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Posted 30 October 2008 - 07:11 PM

But first please pick your linguists. This is not any standard terminology that I am aware of.


I second this.

Time for some acknowledgment: Our dear Anthony is a Dr. in Linguistics and a very accomplished one and I guess that makes him our monachos' expert in Linguistics. :)

P.S To Herman in regards to the private comment: Do not worry, I am as calm as a lamb, but a perplexed one since you called Greek "my holy language". Is my English this bad? Or am I murdering English as you "murder Greek" (as you commented) that you do not understand me? Poor I! I guess I should repeat: there are no languages holy for me, only people are holy. There are no dead and alive languages. If Latin is not used as widely as during the Roman Empire it maybe served its purpose God intended it to and retired. But that does not mean we should discard the Vulgate!!!!!!!! As it does not mean that a person after retiring looses value! Anyway... There are so many more arguments I can bring in the discussion (I think I just hired myself to defend the languages of the world) but just for some relief, have you by any chance youtubed the song that is blasting Friday nights from the clubs in my neighborhood? It is the song Ayer by Flo-Rida or something like that. They really do party until the AM, but I just hope we do not have to adjust our Liturgical language for this type of outreach... or I hope that our Vigils' name is not changed into 'pray until the AM'.

P.P.S Kris, yes! The story from Tolstoy's book with the three holy men! I have laughed and cried at the same time when I first read that story. The humility of those men!!! This is one of my favorite fiction pieces in the world, but as much as I try to replicate 0.0000000001% of that humility, I understand that I am in the minus area and the 0 is far away.

#50 Eric Peterson

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Posted 30 October 2008 - 07:19 PM

You can pry my liturgical English from my cold, dead fingers.

#51 Nina

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Posted 30 October 2008 - 07:50 PM

You can pry my liturgical English from my cold, dead fingers.


:) No need to be martyred for languages. :)

But really, your (and mine) liturgical English is already outdated (Att. I am not using dead) for the people we need to missionarize in my neighborhood.

#52 Michael Stickles

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Posted 31 October 2008 - 12:59 AM

But really, your (and mine) liturgical English is already outdated (Att. I am not using dead) for the people we need to missionarize in my neighborhood.


I just hope that doesn't mean we'll eventually have the liturgy in chat-speak:

Deacon: A&A n peace pray 2 Lord
People: LHM
Deacon: Help/save/HMOU & keep us Lord BTG
People: LHM
... etc ...

In Christ,
Michael

P.S. - NII (No irreverence intended)

#53 Olga

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Posted 31 October 2008 - 04:46 AM

I have heard it said many times - especially on this forum - that Greeks do not understand the formal Greek that is used in church. This is completely erroneous.


With all respect and love, Effie, this is quite untrue in my experience, both with regard to liturgical Greek among Greeks, and to Church Slavonic among Russians and other Slavs. The situation would well be as you describe it in Greece or Russia, but it is certainly not so where Greeks and Slavs have emigrated and set up their churches using their traditional languages.

It is not only the children of emigrants who have problems with liturgical languages, as, all too often, they have had only a basic education in their ancestral vernacular language (often only from absorbing the language from their parents), let alone any teaching of liturgical forms of these languages. In my experience, I have also come across many good and pious emigrant Greeks and Slavs now in their fifties, sixties and seventies who have the same problem, where, for many years, they have simply stood or sat in church during vigils and in Liturgy, and tried to let the service "wash over" them, even though it was largely unintelligible to them. Can this be right or tolerated?

I know also of church singers and readers who are fluent in their ease of singing and reading the words, yet their level of comprehension is, by their own admission, quite lacking. One fellow in particular, who has been singing and reading for nearly 30 years, freely admits to being "a parrot". Beautiful, rich voice, fluid and clear intonation, yet he struggles to understand what he reads and sings. This man is not an isolated example.

#54 Olga

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Posted 31 October 2008 - 06:17 AM

Regarding the view that liturgical Greek and Church Slavonic are “holy” languages:

Do not think for a moment that I wish to denigrate or diminish these languages, or that I am advocating their abolition. God forbid! These are the liturgical languages with which I am most familiar, and I truly love their majesty, beauty and brilliance. However, the notion that these are somehow “blessed” languages, “set apart” from all others, and the only ones capable of fully expressing and transmitting the truths of the Orthodox faith is not only absurd, but bordering on heretical and contrary to the Apostolic tradition.

We are not Moslems who insist only Arabic be used for their scripture, as, according to their clear espousal, it is the only language which can properly express their faith and doctrines. We are not Roman Catholics of the pre-Second Vatican Council era, who, for centuries, insisted only Latin was suitable and worthy, even centuries after it had ceased to be the lingua franca of western Europe. No. We are Orthodox Christians, who should be continuing the Apostolic tradition of that first Pentecost, of proclaiming the Gospel in every language to the ends of the earth.

From the Vigil for Pentecost:

When you sent down Your Spirit, Lord, to the Apostles as they were sitting, then the children of the Hebrews saw it and were beside themselves with amazement; for they were hearing them speaking in other, strange tongues, as the Spirit gave them; for though simple men, they had been made wise; and having caught the nations for the faith, were preaching things divine; and we also cry out to You: You appeared on earth and saved us; Lord, glory to You.

When from on high the mighty, living wind of the All-holy Spirit came to the fishermen with sound in the form of fiery tongues, they began with eloquence to proclaim the mighty works of God: All you works of the Lord, praise the Lord, and highly exalt Him to all the ages.

A strange thing, outside the law of nature, has been heard: for when the one voice of the Disciples rang out, by the grace of the Spirit peoples, tribes and tongues were diversely instructed in the mighty works of God and were initiated into knowledge of the Trinity.

The “logic” of a “holy language” simply fails me. What of the works of so many missionaries to non-Christian lands, many of whom rightly are glorified as saints? Of Sts Cyril and Methodius (Greeks), Nicholas of Japan, Herman of Alaska (both Russians)? All these made the great effort to learn the local language, then carefully translate and transmit scripture and liturgy. In more recent years, the great St John of Shanghai and San Francisco soon learned to serve in several languages, all quite alien to his ancestral Church Slavonic. There is encouraging missionary work being done in Indonesia, the most populous Moslem nation in the world. This fledgling Church uses Bahasa as its liturgical language. These are but a few examples which expose the absurdity of this notion.

It is imperative that anyone who is charged with preaching or proclaiming the Orthodox faith, or with translating scripture or liturgical texts to be as scrupulous and as accurate as possible.

#55 Effie Ganatsios

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Posted 31 October 2008 - 06:18 AM

With all respect and love, Effie, this is quite untrue in my experience, both with regard to liturgical Greek among Greeks, and to Church Slavonic among Russians and other Slavs. The situation would well be as you describe it in Greece or Russia, but it is certainly not so where Greeks and Slavs have emigrated and set up their churches using their traditional languages.

It is not only the children of emigrants who have problems with liturgical languages, as, all too often, they have had only a basic education in their ancestral vernacular language (often only from absorbing the language from their parents), let alone any teaching of liturgical forms of these languages. In my experience, I have also come across many good and pious emigrant Greeks and Slavs now in their fifties, sixties and seventies who have the same problem, where, for many years, they have simply stood or sat in church during vigils and in Liturgy, and tried to let the service "wash over" them, even though it was largely unintelligible to them. Can this be right or tolerated?

I know also of church singers and readers who are fluent in their ease of singing and reading the words, yet their level of comprehension is, by their own admission, quite lacking. One fellow in particular, who has been singing and reading for nearly 30 years, freely admits to being "a parrot". Beautiful, rich voice, fluid and clear intonation, yet he struggles to understand what he reads and sings. This man is not an isolated example.


Olga, I was referring to Greeks here in Greece. You are absolutely right concerning those of Greek descent who live in other countries and for whom Greek is really a second language.

I had to come here to realize that I did not know Greek - in Australia I thought I knew Greek. The bank I was working for also had this totally erroneous belief and sent me to an area with a high Greek population. I still cringe when I remember the absolutely embarrassing situations I sometimes found myself in. (smile) One concerned a giant Greek from Crete (he was also young and extremely good looking - don't know if that helped or made my pitiful Greek even worse!!!) who stormed out of the bank and left me crying. (Thank God I couldn't understand what he was shouting as he left............). The Bank Manager ended up patting me on the back and telling me not to worry - the man would be back because his money was in our bank......... I should explain here that Cretans have their own special accent that even normal Greeks have difficulty understanding sometimes.

Just a light note.

Thanks for the clarification Olga.

Love
Effie

#56 Paul Cowan

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Posted 31 October 2008 - 01:26 PM

Olga, I was referring to Greeks here in Greece. You are absolutely right concerning those of Greek descent who live in other countries and for whom Greek is really a second language.

I had to come here to realize that I did not know Greek - in Australia I thought I knew Greek. The bank I was working for also had this totally erroneous belief and sent me to an area with a high Greek population. I still cringe when I remember the absolutely embarrassing situations I sometimes found myself in. (smile) One concerned a giant Greek from Crete (he was also young and extremely good looking - don't know if that helped or made my pitiful Greek even worse!!!) who stormed out of the bank and left me crying. (Thank God I couldn't understand what he was shouting as he left............). The Bank Manager ended up patting me on the back and telling me not to worry - the man would be back because his money was in our bank......... I should explain here that Cretans have their own special accent that even normal Greeks have difficulty understanding sometimes.

Just a light note.

Thanks for the clarification Olga.

Love
Effie


Dear Effie,

In America, to be called a Cretan is to be mildly insulted. So for a whole population to be Cretans (yes, I know they are from Crete) They must all be jerks.

#57 Olga

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Posted 31 October 2008 - 01:54 PM

Dear Effie,

In America, to be called a Cretan is to be mildly insulted. So for a whole population to be Cretans (yes, I know they are from Crete) They must all be jerks.


Cretans, or cretins, Paul? :D

... and I wouldn't recommend calling a Cretan a cretin. Could get rather messy. :o

#58 Effie Ganatsios

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Posted 31 October 2008 - 01:57 PM

Dear Effie,

In America, to be called a Cretan is to be mildly insulted. So for a whole population to be Cretans (yes, I know they are from Crete) They must all be jerks.


Paul, the word you are thinking of is "cretin".

And the origin of this Swiss word is very interesting.

"Cretinism is a condition of severely stunted physical and mental growth due to untreated congenital deficiency of thyroid hormones (hypothyroidism).

The term cretin was brought into medical use in the 18th century from an Alpine French dialect prevalent in a region where persons with such a condition were especially common . It was used widely as a medical term in the 19th and early 20th centuries, but in recent decades has spread more widely in popular English as a markedly derogatory term for a person who exhibits stupid behaviour.

The etymology of the word cretin is not known with certainty. Several hypotheses have been proposed. The most common derivation provided in English dictionaries is from the Alpine French dialect pronunciation of the word Chrétien - (a) Christian, which functioned as a form of greeting in those parts. According to the Oxford English Dictionary, the translation of the Latin term into "human creature" implies that the label "Christian" is a reminder of the humanity of the afflicted, in contrast to brute beasts.[1] Other sources have suggested "Christian" refers to the "Christ-like" inability of such a person to commit sin, because of an incapacity to distinguish right from wrong.[2]"

Paul, Cretans are famous for their manner of "correcting" anyone who insults them. Their blood feuds continue for generations. Somewhat similar to the Hatfields and the McCoys! Just thought you should know...................

Effie

#59 Effie Ganatsios

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Posted 31 October 2008 - 01:59 PM

Cretans, or cretins, Paul? :D

... and I wouldn't recommend calling a Cretan a cretin. Could get rather messy. :o



Olga, we think alike! Your post wasn't here when I started writing my reply.

Effie

#60 Rdr Andreas

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Posted 31 October 2008 - 03:30 PM

There are several questions here. The first concerns the language to be used in Russia and Greece. I'm not aware of strong opinions there in favour of using modern Russian/Greek but as is well known, modern versions are not permitted anyway. Secondly, there is the issue of Greek/Russian emigrants. This is complex because there may be both first and thrid generation emigrants in the same community with differing wishes. Then there are the converts in any given country. So far as English is concerned, there is the further problem of deciding which type of English to use. I can't see any solution answering all these questions. In what way can Church Slavonic and Greek continue outside Russian and Greece if the local language is to be used? What about parishes being left to decide for themselves which language to use? They may decide to alternate languages or mix them.




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