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New student. Ancient or Modern?
by Guest User - Sunday, 2 May 2010, 02:38 PM
  Which one should I learn first if I'd like to know both? Modern and when I get a grasp then learn the roots? Or start at the beginning then go into modern Greek?

How much different are they from each other?
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Re: New student. Ancient or Modern?
by Christophe Grandsire-Koevoets - Monday, 3 May 2010, 07:23 AM
  That depends on what your goal is. What is the reason you want to learn Ancient and Modern Greek?

If you want to actually speak to Greek people, then I suggest you learn Modern Greek directly. Learning Ancient Greek would not give you much of a head start for learning Modern Greek (although it can help somewhat). Moreover, Ancient Greek is much more complicated than Modern Greek. All that complication will make learning much slower, and it won't help eventually to learn Modern Greek. Actually, it might be more advantageous to learn Modern Greek first, and use that knowledge to learn Ancient Greek faster. Modern Greek is much simpler, but looks enough like Ancient Greek to be helpful for the basics.

However, if your goal is purely academic or for your own edification, rather than actually communicating with others, then the order in which you learn the two languages won't matter much. Just choose one and run with it. I'd still advise starting with Modern Greek, because it's so much simpler, but that's just my personal opinion.

How much different the two languages are from each other is relative. It's true that, despite being separated by 2000 years of evolution, Ancient and Modern Greek are strikingly similar, much more than, say, Latin and Spanish, despite being separated by the same amount of time. Modern Greek has kept quite a bit of grammar from Ancient Greek (the three genders, four cases, the past tense augment on verbs, the synthetic passive voice), and a lot of vocabulary has changed little in form (and more has been reintroduced from the Ancient language to the Modern one via the Puristic language).
However, once you start looking at the details, you'll see that the differences are bigger than what a simple cursory look would discover. Not only have quite a few categories disappeared (the dual number, the dative case, the athematic conjugations, a middle voice separate from the passive voice), others have survived but in a completely different form (the Modern Greek future tense, for instance, is unrelated to the Ancient Greek one. In the same way, the perfect aspect exists for both languages, but it is expressed using completely different constructions), many things have been regularised (a lot of the consonant-stem nouns of Ancient Greek saw their endings reorganised to look more like vowel-stem nouns, the Ancient Greek "to be" verb was reanalysed as a deponent verb in Modern Greek, despite not being originally so) and the words, even the ones of Ancient origin, have often changed meaning (not to mention the wealth of words borrowed from Turkish, French, Italian, Latin and English).

In my experience, one could say that the difference between Modern Greek and Ancient Greek is similar to the difference between Dutch and German: obviously related, knowing one will help learning the other, but they are not mutually intelligible, and knowing how one does things will not necessarily be a hint for how the other does the same things. And they sound very different too wink.
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Re: New student. Ancient or Modern?
by Szabolcs Horvát - Monday, 3 May 2010, 08:36 AM
  Do you know some Ancient Greek, Christophe? Just curious (I don't).
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Re: New student. Ancient or Modern?
by Christophe Grandsire-Koevoets - Monday, 3 May 2010, 11:11 AM
  I don't know Ancient Greek (never learned it at least), but I've read a lot about it, mostly grammars. It's a fiendish language! big grin Compared to it, Latin (the other Classic, which I did learn, and found already difficult enough) is a haven of regularity and simplicity!
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Re: New student. Ancient or Modern?
by Szabolcs Horvát - Monday, 3 May 2010, 01:31 PM
  At least with Indo-European languages, it seems that they're getting simpler and simpler in time. MG is said to be simpler than Ancient Greek, modern Romance languages are said to be simpler than Latin, continental Scandinavian languages are simpler than Old Norse ... I always wondered why that is.

Perhaps it is just an illusion that they're getting simpler, in other ways they might be getting more complex. Vocabularies certainly expand. There's much more to a language than different grammatical forms.

Perhaps it's tied to cultural and technical evolution (an effect of writing, homogenization--dialects give way to more standard forms--, and the ever faster ways of communication).

Perhaps it's just because Indo-European languages are evolving from inflecting to analytic. If I remember right, I read it somewhere that languages tend to evolve in a cycle of analytic -> agglutinative -> inflecting -> analytic again. It's easy to understand why a more analytic language might seem easier to get started with (mastering any language is very difficult). If this is indeed the explanation of the phenomenon, then agglutinative languages should be becoming more complex. Although my mother tongue is agglutinative, there isn't enough written material of its early form so I could tell if this is indeed the case.

This is getting a little off-topic in this forum, but I'm curious what others think about this.
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Re: New student. Ancient or Modern?
by Linas V. - Sunday, 27 June 2010, 06:14 PM
  The reasons have indeed to do with writing, standardization and also the fact that there are increasing numbers of speakers and especially increasing numbers of second language speakers who make the language simpler.