How much of a text by Aristotle or Procopius would speakers of modern Greek get?

By: | Post date: 2016-12-16 | Comments: No Comments
Posted in categories: Ancient Greek, Linguistics, Mediaeval Greek, Modern Greek

Nick, what are you doing responding to this question?! You’re a PhD in Greek linguistics, with 18 years of working at the Thesaurus Linguae Graecae!

Yes, but I never did formally study Ancient Greek. And I know enough linguistics that I can filter out stuff about Ancient Greek that I’m not supposed to know.

Aristotle:

About that poetics and its kinds, whatever power each kind has, and how myths should be put together if poetry is to have (?) well, and moreover how many particles and of what sort it is made of, and similarly about everything else this is of that method: let us speak of these, starting as is natural with first things first.

[I deliberately missed “poetry per se” in ποιητικῆς αὐτῆς, left “myth” as a faux ami, and ignored “have well” = “turn out well” (and you’d need high school Ancient Greek to know the future tense of “have” at all).]

There’ll be a couple of words to trip over, but an educated Modern Greek speaker will understand the essence of it unaided. I’m deliberately not polishing it further.

Procopius: Justinian was greedy for money, and was so inappropriately (?) a lover of other people’s things (wives?), that all of the gold that was subject to him he would sell to the administrators of the authorities, to those who elect (?) taxes, and to those who wish to stitch together evil designs towards people for no good reason.

[ἐραστής is begging to be misconstrued as “sexual lover”. ἐκλέγουσι is actually obscure to me in this context, and I’m not heading to a dictionary. The “gold subject to him”, the Latin tells me, really is “the gold of his subjects”.]

Slightly more obscure, but again, an educated Modern Greek speaker will understand the essence of it.

Now. Ask me what a peasant would have made of this 200 years ago, and you’d have a very different answer.

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