Two new items for the bibliography

I’ve added the following two works by Christina Sevdali to my Comprehensive Bibliography of Hellenistic Greek Linguistics. Both address Classical Greek, but I have been unable to find similar works addressing the Hellenistic period. If you know of works that use a similar method to address control and infinitival constructions in the Hellenistic period, I would love to hear about them.

Sevdali, Christina. ‘Control into CPs: when finiteness does not matter’. In C. Halpert, J. Hartman and D. Hill (eds.) Proceedings of the 2007 Workshop in Greek syntax and semantics at MIT. MIT Working Papers in linguistics 57 (2009), 251 – 266.

Sevdali, Christina. ‘‘Infinitival clauses in Ancient Greek: overt and null subjects, the role of Case and Focus’’ Ph.D. dissertation, Cambridge University, supervised by Professor Ian Roberts, 2007.

If you are interested in following Dr. Sevdali’s work, you can find more information here: University of Ulster – Linguistics Research.

Usage of καί

Earlier today, Eric Rasmusen posted the following comment in the Punctuation in Ancient Greek Texts discussion. While it is related to that topic, it raises a question more specific to the usage of the word καί, and I would like to invite other comments more particular to that topic than to punctuation.

Here’s what Eric had to say:

I don’t know Greek. I have a question about Biblical Greek, which often strikes me as ugly in literal translation. I was just reading Colossians in English and wondered whether most of the “and”‘s in it ought to be translated by periods. In other words: is the Greek word kai actually mean NEW SENTENCE?

3:13 Forbearing one another, and forgiving one another, if any man have aquarrel against any: even as Christ forgave you, so also do ye.
3:14 And above all these things put on charity, which is the bond of perfectness.
3:15 And let the peace of God rule in your hearts, to the which also ye are called in one body; and be ye thankful.

And here’s my response, to which you can feel free to add:

I agree that overly literal translations sound “ugly.” That’s because they try to make English sound like Greek, and that’s just not normal English usage!

As to the meaning of καί…
No. Καί is not equivalent to a verbal punctuation mark. It can be used in all of the ways that the English word “and” can be, plus a few others. I’ll stick to ways that have a parallel in English to make the discussion below easy to follow.

Καί can be used to link two or more simple words in a list:

χρυσὸν καὶ λίβανον καὶ σμύρναν
gold and frankincense and myrrh (Matthew 2:11)

Σίμωνος καὶ Ἀνδρέου
Simon and Andrew (Mark 1:29)

Καί can be used to link two or more phrases:

γῆ Ζαβουλὼν καὶ γῆ Νεφθαλίμ
The land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali (Matthew 4:15)

It can be used to link entire clauses:

τέξεται. . . υἱόν, καὶ καλέσεις τὸ ὄνομα αὐτοῦ Ἰησοῦν
She will bear a son, and you will name him “Jesus” (Matthew 1:21)

In English we often omit “and” when it would sound repetitive. For example, in the first example above (Matthew 2:11), a more natural English translation would be “gold, frankincense, and myrrh” rather than “gold and frankincense and myrrh.” In a list of three or more items, we tend to use “and” only between the last two in English. In ancient Greek texts, however, it is quite common to find καί between each set of items in the list. While including “and” in all of these places in the English translation would sound “ugly” as you put it, including και´in Greek sounds quite normal.

Because Ancient Greek had a much more developed system of grammatical endings (for verbs, nouns, pronouns, adjectives, etc.), it was possible to write sentences that were considerably longer than what would be understandable in English. Often the parts of such long sentences were held together by conjunctions like καί. There were, of course, many other such conjunctions, but καί was among the most common. Overly literal translations attempt to make English work like Greek and include all of those conjunctions rather than breaking the long sentences down into the smaller units that English usage requires. This results both in “ugly” sounding sentences and a significant loss of comprehensibility.


Updated Manuscripts Page

A few minutes ago I uploaded a new version of the Manuscripts page at A few links needed repair, and some new resources have become available since the last time I updated that page.

I hope you like the new version.

Michael W Halcomb's Koine Greek Videos

I discovered Michael W Halcomb’s series of videos on Koine Greek today and would like to recommend them to anyone beginning the process of learning to speak biblical Greek. I’ve only watch a few of the videos so far, but can tell that Michael’s method is well founded in language acquisition theory.

The videos should work very well for creating fluency. Each one is only a few minutes long and is focussed clearly on a single lesson objective.

Here’s the link: Michael W Halcomb’s Koine Greek Videos

Reading the Future Middle and Passive

Today I finished reading all of the instances in the New Testament of what has traditionally been called the future passive (296 instances) and started reading the 485 instances of the future middle. I hope to have something insightful to say about them when I finish, but it’s a daunting task.