I’ve spent the last week dutifully writing out some Greek every day. I aim for around 100 words. The format I have chosen is to take a text and play “Questions and Answers” with it. The main topic of interest at this point is grammatical information, supplemented by questions of the order “who is doing what to whom?” These are patterns which will be helpful in discussing Greek texts in Greek with myself, or in the context of teaching. Here is a sample. The text under discussion is from LXX Gen 2.15:
α΄Καὶ ἔλαβεν κύριος ὁ θεὸς τὸν ἄνθρωπον, β΄ὃν ἔπλασεν, γ΄καὶ ἔθετο αὐτὸν ἐν τῷ παραδείσῳ δ΄ἐργάζεσθαι αὐτὸν καὶ φυλάσσειν.
ἐρώτημα· τί ἐστιν τὸ ὑποκείμενον;
ἀπόκρισις· τὸ κύριος ὁ θεός ἐστιν τὸ ὑποκείμενον.
ἐρώτημα· τί ἐστι τὸ ῥῆμα;
ἀπόκρισις· τὸ ἔλαβέν ἐστι τὸ ῥῆμα.
ἐρώτημα· τί ἐστι τὸ διατιθέμενον;
ἀπόκρισις· τὸ τὸν ἄνθρωπόν ἐστι τὸ διατιθέμενον.
ἐρώτημα· ποῖον μέρος λόγου ἐστιν τὸ ὁ θεός;
ἀπόκρισις· ὄνομά ἐστιν τὸ ὁ θεός.
Nothing glamorous or particularly complicated (It will be helpful to know that in Greek you use the neuter article τό to point a word/phrase out as what you are talking about). It gets better and more complicated as I keep working on it, but the point is to stay simple and clear. Basically at this point I am aiming to learn the major grammatical vocabulary to be able to discuss and parse Greek texts in Ancient Greek. There are loads of grammatical terms available to learn—sometimes too many, as there are multiple possible words for the same thing. For example, should you call the object διατιθέμενον, or how about ἐνεργούμενος or ἀντικείμενον or κατηγόρημα? All are attested. Is the nominative case ἡ ὀνομαστικὴ πτῶσις, ἡ εὐθεῖα πτῶσις or ἡ ὀρθή? Should you call an intransitive verb a ῥῆμα ἀμετάβατον or a ῥῆμα αὐτοτελές? The Ancient Greek grammarians were apparently an inventive lot and used a variety of different words to describe the same thing, probably for many of the same reasons that scholars of language still do that today. Plus, the works we cull terms from span centuries, so terminological variation is sensible. I have (currently) little interest in just learning everything, as there is a lot to learn, so I am just sticking with one name per category.
Where to get grammatical terms from?
A lot of the work collecting the various terms has already been done. Some key instantiations which I am aware of can be found in Randall Buth’s A Greek Morphologyand Christoph Rico’s Speaking Ancient Greek as a Living Language, which also has helpful questions and grammatical statements to use when talking about Greek sentences. Another helpful source is Halcomb’s A Handbook of Ancient Greek Grammatical Terms, or Dickey’s Ancient Greek Scholarship: A Guide to Finding, Reading, and Understanding Scholia, Commentaries, Lexica, and Grammatical Treatises, from their Beginnings to the Byzantine Period (as evident from the title, this book is dripping with scholarship). Aside from these book length works, there are lots of smaller collections of terms put together and accessible for free in various places online. Here is a discussion thread from the B-Greek forum which contains a variety of helpful ones interspersed within interesting discussion about grammatical terms in Greek. Lastly, here is a collection of grammatical terms as well as other useful classroom vocabulary (this one was mainly put together by Paul Nitz who formerly taught Greek in Malawi; it is drawing from most of the aforementioned sources). A really fun source is the appendix from James Clyde’s Greek Syntax, an old grammar where the author wrote up a basic description of Greek grammar in Greek!
My basic strategy for Greek writing
I’m currently pursuing running the Q and A format into the ground as a way to solidify the vocab. When I can reproduce the desired words without effort after a few days of not using them, that is a good sign. Repetition, repetition, repetition. The Q and A format also highlights some major weaknesses in my own Greek in that, when learning how to passively intake Greek, you don’t really have to pay attention to how to form questions. This exercise provides lots of good work on question words, which are crucial for talking and teaching in Greek.
I’m trying to stay as close to authentic Greek as possible at the time, though aware that I will goof lots up. To help with this, I have been searching through various grammatical and rhetorical texts, as well as scholia, using Diogenes (which has tons of useful texts). I’ve discovered that asking ποῖον μέρος τοῦ λόγου is exactly what one rhetorician had to say for the question, “Which part of speech is…?” and that at least some scholiasts discussed the case a word was in simply by writing τὸ ὁ λόγος ἐστὶ ἡ όνομαστικὴ πτῶσις (lit., “the word “word” is the nominative case”; BTW, another way to talk about the case a word is in is to use ἐπί + gen. of the case). Looking through these sources gives me some confidence that the questions I am forming are thoroughly adequate Greek, even if not spectacular or elegant. My approach is, in a word, aim small. Add a few new words here, check on how to talk about a new concept there, and so on.
So far this has been a fun adventure. Lots left to learn. Following this daily Q and A format, I should able to intelligently discuss the grammar and syntax of Greek sentences all in Greek after spending a few minutes a day for a few months. That is an exciting prospect.