Judaeo-Greek Torah: Comment from Krivoruchko

By: | Post date: 2009-05-27 | Comments: No Comments
Posted in categories: Linguistics, Literature, Mediaeval Greek
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Julia Krivoruchko, from the Greek Bible in Byzantine Judaism project at Cambridge, has just responded extensively on my post on the Judaeo-Greek Torah and the controversy between Hesseling and Belleli on publishing it. (Matters which, as I already knew, she knows a lot more about than I do.) Because it’s not clear to me that Google is paying enough attention to Blogspot comments, I’m reproducing it here, with gratitude.


In rather random order:

A. Peri tis ousias:

  1. The bibliography which I put on the “Jewish languages research site” never aimed to be complete, it is just a small sample.
  2. Both versions of Jonah will be on line soon as a part of the GBBJ project. In fact, they already are on line in beta-version, password protected, with all their vocabulary, cross-referencing etc. We cannot publish the images because of the copyright issues. And of course, Hesseling has never published the facsimile.
  3. “Sephardim arrived in the Ottoman Empire: their language was still Foreign”, etc. This traditional manner of referring to (non-Hebrew) languages has nothing to do with knowing or not knowing a language, its being new or old or whatever. And why capitalize?

    My article “The Constantinople Pentateuch within the context of Septuagint Studies”, in XIII Congress of the International Organization for Septuagint and Cognate Studies, Ljubljana, 2007; ed. Melvin K. H. Peters, Atlanta: Society of Biblical Literature, 2008, pp. 255-276, touches upon the issue.

  4. The style of the Constantinopolitan and other JG translations is discussed in the introductory chapter to my edition of the JG glossary to the Prophets, to appear soon. The new book of N. de Lange, to appear in Mohr-Siebeck, should be also useful. As I am in hurry to finish the book before the project ends, I would rather postpone the discussion to the moment when it appears.
  5. I cannot recall who wrote about the dialect feature that you have mentioned as a Constantinopolitan feature. Could you please drop me a reference? Not urgent.
  6. It is nice to see you have discovered parts of B-H story yourself. However, it is not new. I gave a short talk on the VIII EAJS, mostly about the variant readings of Constantinopolitan Pentateuch, and a longer one on the Joint Seminar of the IOSCS Hexapla Project and GBBJ. The later included also extensive materials about the history of Belleli–Hesseling dialog and their perceptions of the text. This longer version will be published soon.

    I have in my plans a biographical article on Belleli in Greek and I have already collected some material for it.

  7. It seems strange that you do not seem to take into consideration that the connector you are interested in may well be ὡς.

B: Peri ton allon:

  1. Why use the artificial and ideologically burdened term “Yevanic”? JG is bad, but tolerable; still better “sociolect”, “dialect”, “variant”, etc.
  2. Why use the ideologically loaded term Aliyah? What is wrong with “immigration” or “emigration”? Are you a Zionist?
  3. I have not read Valetas, but I do not see what is wrong in the quotation you adduce, and I do not understand your commentary. Perhaps I misunderstand the whole context. I’d get the book and read it.

    “It would not occur to Valetas of course that the reason someone might know Hebrew yet be fluent in Greek was that Romaniote Jews spoke Greek.” Why would it not occur to him? This looks to me precisely what he thought. The existence of Romaniotes was a fact of common knowledge. The man wrote quite plainly that Ο μεταφραστής είναι Έλληνας, που γνώριζε τα εβραϊκά. Or you believe that Ellinas and Evraios were mutually exclusive for Valetas and he meant a Christian? If he was a true man of the left, as you have written, he could be quite uninterested in distinguishing the Greek-speakers as to their religion.

Once again, my thanks again to Julia for the clarifications and further information. Brief reax:

  • Α.3. The way I read the frontispiece, Ladino was being named as Foreign in distinction to Greek, and not just Hebrew, which to me sounded like it was “extra-foreign”, and not merely a conventional reference. (Translation “into the Greek language and the Foreign language, the two languages used by the people of our nation in captivity”.) So the capitalisation was my trick to emphasise the “Other”-ing, as it seemed to me, of the newly arrived language.
  • A.5. Constantinopolitan never got enough attention in Greek dialectology (it looked too boringly standard), but διω is all over Psichari, and that’s why I associate it with Constantinople. I find it does extend through to Macedonia though: Kontossopoulos (2000:100): “In Macedonia, Thrace and Tinos one hears the form να δι̯ω for the subjunctive of the verb βλέπω, while in Central Greece and Thessaly one hears να ιδώ and in some regions, like Trikeri in Thessaly, να ιδού.” p. 113 In Eastern Thrace, “the subjunctive να ιδής is pronounced να δγης. as in all Northern Greece and Asia Minor.” The argument is not to disprove say Serres, so much as that the twofer of southern vowels and δι̯ω points to Constantinople, and not the Aegean as was initially guessed.
  • A.6. It’d be foolish of me to claim I discovered the controversy (just as well I didn’t 🙂 What incensed me enough to post though, was that as far as I can tell, Early Modern Greek scholarship has not been aware enough of the issue. Belleli’s review is not in either the Kriaras dictionary bibliography or in Apostolopoulos’ (1994), and they are both meant to be exhaustive. I decided to at least let Google know about it; and now you’re letting Google know about good information about it. 🙂
  • A.7. ὡς is intriguing as a possibility, and it had not occurred to me at all (because of course I’m taking both Hesseling and Belleli’s transcriptions uncritically). I still think ὅς is likelier, but it’s hard to rule ὡς out. I’ll expand below.
  • B.1. I’m not using “Yevanic”; but that’s the term both Wikipedia and Ethnologue happen to use, and part of the point of the post is to be Googlable with terms at least some people do use. That the relation of Judaeo-Greek to Greek is nothing like that of Yiddish to German is obvious if you’ve seen any Judaeo-Greek texts, but casually using the term does not make that obvious, I agree.
  • B.2. If I was a gung-ho Zionist, I don’t know if I’d have even provided a Wikipedia link to Aliyah, I would have assumed it’s obvious! 🙂 But the death of Judaeo-Greek was itself an ideological matter as much as anything else: Israeli Romaniotes chose to go to Israel and speak Hebrew, and that to them was Aliyah. I don’t think “migration” is the right kind of neutral here.
  • There’s not much more context to Valetas than I gave, and yes, I may have maliciously misread him. I certainly misremembered his “troglodyte” attack against those who thought he shouldn’t be interfering in the final nus of texts. (He did use the word on the same page, but it was against those disputing the authenticity of Makriyannis’ Memoirs.) And there were plenty of communists who made a point of ignoring ethnic differences, including instances from the Greek Civil War underway at the time.

    But—bearing in mind what he said about Simon Portius, “a great Greek *despite* being Catholic”, and the overall Herderian defensiveness of the text, I’m disinclined to give him the benefit of the doubt. If Valetas accepted Jews were Greeks, why even say the “Polites Graphikos” was Greek at all (and go to the trouble of inventing a Greek name for him)? He didn’t feel the need to specify an ethnicity for the Greek Orthodox writers. The phrasing “A Greek familiar with Hebrew” doesn’t sound like “Romaniote who used Hebrew regularly in liturgical practice” to me either, but I could be overreading there.

As to the relativiser (A.3): the propensity of translating Hebrew asher ~ she with an indeclinable /os/ starts in the Cairo Genizah, and is absent in Symmachus and Aquila; so some time between 300 and 1200. The conclusion that both Hesseling and Belleli came to was that this was the Classical relativiser ὅς, indeclinable. A surprisingly inflexible thing to do, especially as ὅς was already retreating from the spoken language even at the time of the New Testament. The alternative is that it is the generic connective ὡς.

Now, ὡς was way generic. It could mean “as”, “because”, “that”, “when”, “where”. asher had a similar range of meanings; so would που. In fact, Monteil (1963:405) mused that, if you were learning Greek in a hurry in Classical Athens, you could do worse than to just say ὡς all the time. Karin Hult also did research on the syntax of 5th century AD Greek, and from what I remember established that ὡς must still have been a going concern. My hesitation with seeing ὡς underlying the biblical translations is, while asher was still primarily a relativiser, the only sense ὡς was not used as in Greek was as a relativiser. (Unlike as in dialectal English!) So if ὅς is too simple-minded a rendering of asher, ὡς seems to me too sophisticated, ignoring by far the most salient meaning of asher. But that’s a hunch, not a proof.

  • Apostolopoulos, Ph. 1994. Inventaire Méthodique de Linguistique Byzantine (Grec Médiéval). Salonique: Vanias.
  • Kontossopoulos, Nikolaos G. 2000. Διάλεκτοι και ιδιώματα της Νέας Ελληνικής 3rd ed. Athens: Γρηγόρης.
  • Monteil, P. 1963. La Phrase Relative en Grec Ancien. (Etudes et Commentaires XLVII) Paris: Klincksieck.
  • Hult, K. 1990. Syntactic Variation in Greek of the 5th Century AD. (Studia Græca et Latina Gothoburgensia LII) Gothenburg: Acta Universitatis Gothoburgensis.

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