Tuesday, November 22, 2011

2 Greek 2 Quit

Thank you Prof. Major. I didn't know these documents existed, but now I do.

The 50% list is really short. English needs just over 100 lemmata to hit the 50% of text mark. Greek needs 65 (according to Major, and I have no reason to doubt him). Greek hauls in at about 1,200 words for the 80% list. English doesn't get to 80% until about 2,000. No matter how you slice that, Ancient Greek is easier than English on the vocabulary front. I had suspected this, but wasn't sure. 

Not that 80% is all that hot: you need to be at about 95% coverage in a text to be able to guess successfully what the unknown word might mean. This video is an excellent demonstration. Jump to 19:00 or so for the sickening demonstration he performs. The 90% coverage paragraph has words in it that I can't guess, and I'm a native English speaker. It's really shocking.

Next: Major provides a paper on pedagogy. He seems to be saying that a lot of what we do in teaching Ancient Greek is colored by two things. First, we expect that we can go from zero to grad school in about two semesters. Second, Latin's idiosyncrasies color how we teach Greek. Ut triggers subjunctive and the vast mess that subjunctive involves in Latin, so ἵνα must merit the same attention. Right? Major says not so much. He seems to be on the verge of making some general rules for learning Ancient Greek, but stops short. Too bad. Even so, it provides some context for what I found over the summer.