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Month: December 2015

What does the Lord’s Prayer really say in the original Greek?

By: | Post date: 2015-12-17 | Comments: No Comments
Posted in categories: Ancient Greek, Linguistics

Like a lot of Ancient Greek verbs, aphiēmi has an impossibly broad range of meaning. Literally, it means “send from”. If you look at the range of meanings in LSJ (which is Classical Greek rather than Biblical Greek, but that helps us avoid the temptation of theologically influenced glosses), you’ll find: I. send forth II. […]

Why do some Latin borrowings of Greek words ending in -ων end in -o (like Apollo), while others end in -on (like Orion)?

By: | Post date: 2015-12-15 | Comments: No Comments
Posted in categories: Ancient Greek, Linguistics

-o, -onis is the native Latin declension. –on, -onis is not native Latin, so it is a morphological import from Greek. So if it drops the -n, the word or name has been felt to be common or salient enough to be nativised as Latin. If it does not drop the -n, it is felt […]

Why is the Parthenon of Athens not listed as one of the 7 wonders of the ancient world?

By: | Post date: 2015-12-08 | Comments: No Comments
Posted in categories: Ancient Greek, Culture

1. If the first list of the Seven Wonders was compiled by Herodotus (Seven Wonders of the Ancient World), then the Parthenon was under construction at the time he compiled it; and even if it had been built, it would have been too new to include. But that argument doesn’t work, because the Mausoleum was […]

English (language): Why do we use the past tense to show our politeness?

By: | Post date: 2015-12-08 | Comments: No Comments
Posted in categories: English, Linguistics

To give a pragmatics answer to why you would use either a conditional model or a present model in questions, to begin with: In many cultures, and English is one, indirect requests are considered more polite than direct requests. An indirect request implies a direct request, but it gives the listener the (fictional) option of […]

Does the Greek language have a variety of regional dialects?

By: | Post date: 2015-12-08 | Comments: No Comments
Posted in categories: Linguistics, Modern Greek

The outlier dialects, Tsakonian, Pontic, Cappadocian, Mariupolitan: not mutually intelligible, with Tsakonian clearly the furthest away. In terms of the Swadesh list (100 words), Tsakonian has 70% in common with Standard Greek. Cretan and Cypriot both have 89% words in the Swadesh-100. With dialect attrition, there are versions of Cypriot and Cretan that Athenians can […]

Why does the pronunciation of the letter ‘J’ vary so much throughout different languages?

By: | Post date: 2015-12-06 | Comments: No Comments
Posted in categories: English, Other Languages, Writing Systems

Because /j/ (English y) is a palatal phoneme, and palatals are historically unstable. (See for example Nick Nicholas’ answer to Linguistics: In Indo-European languages using a Latin alphabet, what’s up with these two letters “ch” that are pronounced (phonetics) so differently?) Rob Kerr’s answer is correct in principle, but the variation between German, English, French, […]

What’s the best Greek song that Stelios Kazantzidis, Greek singer, has ever made?

By: | Post date: 2015-12-04 | Comments: No Comments
Posted in categories: Modern Greek, Music

Kudos to Achilleas for his comprehensive answer, and for pointing out something unfamiliar to the contemporary Anglosphere: plenty of musical traditions, like Greece, don’t require singers to be songwriters for them to have credibility. In fact, not only songwriters, but  lyricists distinct from songwriters have a high profile—something I find cool, but which went out […]

What are the major characteristics of the poetry of Constantine P. Cavafy?

By: | Post date: 2015-12-04 | Comments: No Comments
Posted in categories: Literature, Modern Greek

A major characteristic of Cavafy which does *not* come across in the most popular translation (Sherrard & Keeley’s) is the linguistic eclectisism, which adds to the overall feeling of restraint and detachment. Especially when everyone else writing in Greek at the time was idolising the Volkisch ideal of Demotic, his playful alternation of contemporary slang […]

Is Spain the only place which has ever been de-islamized? How did they do that?

By: | Post date: 2015-12-04 | Comments: No Comments
Posted in categories: History, Mediaeval Greek

Crete and Greek Macedonia in 1923, by the Population exchange between Greece and Turkey. Done by expulsions of the kind currently frowned upon (Ethnic cleansing), but which happened quite a bit after both WWI and WWII. On the Greek side, at least, the process appears to have been relatively orderly. Well, as orderly as that […]

How widely were German, French and English each used as languages of science in the Europe of the 19th and early 20th centuries?

By: | Post date: 2015-12-04 | Comments: No Comments
Posted in categories: English, History, Linguistics, Other Languages

Greek linguists at the time mostly did German, and some did French. Of the main antagonists, Psichari only wrote in French—but then again, he lived in France. Hatzidakis mostly wrote in German, though he could write in French if he had to. When I was studying in Greece, I heard distant echoes of a “German […]

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