Greek: An Updating of a Survey of Recent Work

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Part III: Conclusions

III§1. For an understanding of the Greek language as the complex and variegated system that it is, the surest approach remains simply the mastery of such synoptic and exhaustive treatments as have been surveyed. The texts needed for further analysis are generally accessible. For an example, let us consider the Greek dialectal inscriptions; not only are the publications of epigraphically-attested dialectal material thoroughly listed in the Handbuch of Thumb and Kieckers (1932:27–33), but there is also a conveniently compact one-volume collection of practically all dialect-inscriptions of any significance (Schwyzer and Cauer 1923). There are also such invaluable specialized collections as that of Olivier Masson (1961; with incisive commentary) on the Cypriote inscriptions; unfortunately in this particular case, however, Masson’s reference-work is incomplete, for reasons beyond the control of the editor, and it has to be supplemented with Mitford’s publication of additional material (1961). In fact, such anomalies of progress are a frequent problem, and an important desideratum is the orderly and unified supplementation of textual collections ; this of course holds not only for the Cypriote collection (cf. Szemerényi’s comments, 1968b) but also for textual collections in general—literary as well as epigraphical. As for exemplary treatments of dialectal inscriptions in a highly specialized context, I cite Nehrbass on the Iamata of Epidauros (1935) and Willetts on the Law Code of Gortyn (1967).

III§2. There are abundant analytical tools available for the study of Greek, ranging all the way from such generally useful reference-volumes as the reverse indices of Buck and Petersen (1944; a list covering nouns and adjectives, with chronology and commentary) and Kretschmer and Locker (1963; a simple list covering all parts of speech) to such specific collections as Thompson’s glossaries on birds (1936) and fish (1947). A cautionary note is in order here: with the passage of time, certain early compendia on Greek grammar and dialectology have tended to become neglected or even forgotten by succeeding generations of scholars, despite the value of these works not only for linguistic insight but also for a conscientious assimilation of the extant grammatical and dialectal testimonia of the ancient world; representative of such compendia are those of Lobeck 1853 / 1862 and Ahrens 1839 / 1843. Drawing attention {71|72} to these is all the more relevant because later treatises tend to betray far less appreciation or even awareness of the ancient testimonia. Another problem of obsolescence is that certain reference-manuals slated for replacement remain useful; for example, despite the admirable additions, improvements, and streamlining in Frisk’s etymological dictionary of Greek (1960, 1961–), the details collected in Boisacq’s reputedly obsolescent manual (1950) retain their value as possible points of departure for further investigation. Then too, Chantraine’s etymological dictionary (1968–) should not be viewed as a replacement of Frisk’s in turn, but rather as a complement to it; each has its own value, practically its own genre: one is, straightforwardly, ein griechisches etymologisches Wörterbuchwas der Titel besagt, [1] while the other, transcendentally, aspires to be une histoire des mots. [2] Chantraine apparently succeeds.

III§3. Finally, for the purpose of acquiring increasingly greater skill in the analysis of Greek, we must consider the propaedeutic importance of sharing in the understanding of those who have cultivated a sweeping and profound mastery of the Greek language. I single out the collected writings of Meillet ( 1921, 1936), of Wackernagel (1953), of Schulze ( 1966). Few exercises are more instructive than reading confrontations of these scholars’ knowledge and analytical techniques with specific problems discovered in their study of Greek.

III§4. In the best of possible worlds, scrutiny of the Greek language will become such a discipline that it will impel its scholars to ever greater efforts at consolidating both the relevant textual material and the analytical contributions. The format of these contributions, furthermore, will eventually require that authors explain any grammatical phenomenon cited by them and essential to their arguments but likely to be unknown or unfamiliar to their readers; in other words, there would be no more relegations of such phenomena to obscurity by the expedient of cross-referencing to another remote work for an explanation and then expecting the reader to consult immediately in order to understand the argument at hand. If knowledge of the given phenomenon is not commonplace, then an immediate summary of it—though it may not be original—is nonetheless a contribution to the continuity of Greek study.


[ back ] 1. Frisk 1960:v.

[ back ] 2. Chantraine 1968:vii.

[ back ] 3. Kuhn 1962:136–137; cf. Thorne 1965:74.