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Learning Greek

    Elpenor's Lessons in Ancient Greek

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The Original Greek New Testament

LESSON 3
HADES - From Homer's Odyssey

by George Valsamis

 

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Page 6

What's the use of inflection? 


Y
OU MIGHT have heard that Greek is "a highly inflected language", and you've seen already some occasions of inflection - in verb endings indicating the person (λέλυκ
α, λέλυκας, etc), pronouns (μου, μοι, με, etc), articles (τοῦ, τόν, etc), etc. What's the use of inflection?  

We saw that in a verb inflection is meant to keep a person united with a person's action. That doesn't mean that Greeks decided to do it so - it just happened! They said ἀπωλόμεθα (just a single word to express that we suffered great casualties), because, as their language was being brought forth, it reflected their seeing a person only after its proper action and united with that action. Since action made a being essential, they couldn't see anything before it was involved in some action. They couldn't give birth to a language in which, instead of ἀπωλόμεθα, they would have to say "We were wiped out", placing, thus, the person first, isolated, divided from the action and from the time in which the action happened. Even rocks, soulless beings, in English "They exist", in Greek ὑφίστανται, because rocks' activity is to participate in being, it is this participation that makes them what they are and they can not be seen before it has been realised how they are.

The ancient way of writing was perfectly fit to the inflectional and unifying character of the language. Greek was written with all the words united and all letters in capital forms, like:

 

THISISHOWANCIENTGREEKSWROTE

 

Greek was written in this way also in Byzantium until the 9th century, when small letters with accents started to replace it - a change that some did not accept, and continued to write as before in capital and united letters, until the Fall of Constantinople (1453).

Suppose that you add to the sentence above a second one and then another one, all united, until you have a complete page. Would you still be able to read it easily? Only after Alexander's exodus, when a lot of non Greeks wanted to know Greek and found it difficult, words were separated, small versions of the letters were formed, accents were placed above vowels…

Greek language sees and loves closeness, oneness, intimacy, involvement. If we find it now difficult, when words are separate, let us just imagine how it would be for us to read and write like this: 

 

 

 

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Cf. The Complete Iliad * The Complete Odyssey
Greek Grammar * Basic New Testament Words * Greek - English Interlinear Iliad
Greek accentuation * Greek pronunciation

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Reference address : https://www.ellopos.net/elpenor/lessons/lesson3.asp?pg=6