Updates to lessons 22 and 23

I have updated lessons 22 and 23 (Present and Imperfect Middle/Passive). The changes to lesson 22 are very minor—just a few wording changes. The main change to lesson 23, though, is the deletion of the discussion on transitivity. I will introduce that topic in a later lesson with much better examples. This change helps unnecessary complication, tightening the focus on the issue of voice.

I also made a few changes to the course lexicon (cumulative vocabulary list) to improve entries for some of the verbs presented in these lessons.

Using Pinax and Django for Collaborative Corpus Linguistics (Greek)

If you are interested in web design and the possibilities it presents for collaborative work in Ancient Greek Linguistics, you must see James Tauber’s BibleTech2010 talk (embedded below). It’s almost an hour long, but well worth the time.

James begins by explaining Django, a core tool for managing basic functionality on a website. He then explains Pinax, a product that runs on top of Django to power much of the functionality of social networking sites. He finishes this discussion, though by presenting the possibilities of using this combination to power collaborative work in corpus linguistics, using Biblical Greek as his example.

He is developing precisely the kind of tools needed to do the lexicon project I have in mind. Here’s the talk. Feel free to comment on its implications for Greek Linguistics.

Using Pinax and Django For Collaborative Corpus Linguistics from James Tauber on Vimeo.

Randall Buth on Greek Lexicography

Today I had the pleasure of reading Randall Buth’s article, “Verbs Perception and Aspect: Greek Lexicography and Grammar.” It’s refreshing to read a Biblical Scholar talking about the work of Stephen Krashen on language acquisition.

While I did not find Buth’s argument about the aspect of Greek perfects convincing, his arguments for using the infinitival forms as the lemma in a lexicon is well informed and well presented. He argues for listing both the aorist and present infinitives, giving the aorist first place.

In the early part of the article he gives an insightful and challenging account of what happens in Biblical Greek classrooms and an honest acknowledgment of the results. This account forms the background for his proposal of a different type of lexicon. I would like to propose, though, that his critique has more far reaching implications. For the good of the field, we need major changes in the way Hellenistic Greek is taught. The methods currently employed do not produce fluent readers who can “think in Greek.”

I’ll try to find time later to write a post on the implications of Krashen’s work for the way we teach Greek. I have struggled with this issue for many years.

Database Design and the Hellenistic Greek Lexicon

Over the last few days I have had some interesting conversations with people who design databases (including my eldest son) regarding what would be involved in designing a database to allow lexical information for Ancient Greek to be presented in an extremely flexible manner so that the user of the lexicon could use any form of a given Greek word as the lemma under which to organize the lexicon.

If you are familiar with database design, I would love to hear your comments on this issue. If you are not, I’d be glad to address any questions I’m competent to answer.

How do you think the database should be structured to support the kind of lexicon I have proposed?

What should a lexicon include?

Carl Conrad has raised a valid objection to calling the cumulative vocabulary list for my online grammar a “lexicon,” and I would like to address the reasons he is right. That will also give me the opportunity to lay out my long range plan for what I have called my “online lexicon.”

What is listed in the table of contents of my online grammar as the “lexicon” is not yet truly a lexicon in the correct sense of the word. This is true for at least two reasons. First, it is merely the cumulative list of the words presented in the vocabulary lists for the lessons in my grammar. It is nowhere near a complete presentation of Hellenistic Greek vocabulary. Second, what is given for each entry in the “lexicon” is not what should be included in a work that properly deserves that title. What I have included so far is nothing more than a list of English glosses for each Greek word—a list of possible ways to translate the word into English. A proper lexicon would include discussions of the meanings of each Greek word. Traditionally, Greek lexica for English speakers have also included citations of the literature upon which the lexicon is based, and I have not done this yet.

So why have I called it a “lexicon.” Well… the truth is that I have given it an ambitious title based on what I intend for it to become over time. I didn’t want to call it a “glossary” or “word list”—which might better describe its present state—because I would have to change the title later and possibly some file names, which would complicate links within the grammar. Looking back, I realize I could have made the file names conform to the “lexicon” designation while not calling it that in my blog posts, but I didn’t think of that at the time.

Here’s what I envision the “lexicon” becoming over the next few years. First, it will become a more complete list of Hellenistic vocabulary as the grammar expands. When the last chapter of the introductory grammar is uploaded, I will not stop expanding the “lexicon.” I will begin to add words not included in the grammar.

Second, I will add proper definitions—explanations of the various meanings of each word—over time, but I will not introduce these into the current document until I have completed all or virtually all of them. Writing proper lexical entries takes time and much reading of Hellenistic Greek texts. I do not want the definitions to appear piecemeal.

Third, I will add descriptions of the argument structure of all verbs, prepositions, and deverbal nouns. By “argument structure” I mean the semantic roles these words necessitate in their complements, and the relationships between those roles.

If and when that process is completed, I hope to move on to discussions of the syntactic and semantic properties of other word types.

This will likely be a life-long project. If you have input you would like to offer on particular words or on the structure of an appropriate lexicon, I would love to hear it.

I want the lexicon, eventually, to serve the interests of beginning students, readers of ancient Greek texts who need to quickly find the meaning of a particular word that has them stumped, and exegetes engaged in serious study of Hellenistic Greek vocabulary. It clearly does not meet these goals now. They are targets for the future.

Please offer feedback. I would love to hear it.

Online Lexicon

The lexicon accompanying my online Hellenistic Greek Grammar is limited in certain ways because of its purpose. Here’s what I have to say in the introduction to the lexicon:

This brief lexicon is designed to accompany my Introduction to Hellenistic Greek course. It is not intended as a complete dictionary. It does not offer definitions of the Greek words, for example. Instead, it offers example translations, comments on English words derived from a given Greek word, and occasional comments on usage. For serious study of specific Greek texts, you should invest in a more complete lexicon.

The numbers on the left indicate the number of times the accompanying word appears in the Greek New Testament. The numbers on the right indicate the lesson(s) in whose vocabulary list the word appears in this course.

For each word, I give a variety of English glosses (translation hints) that correlate loosely with the variety of meanings that would need to be defined in a more complete work. It is my goal to one day add such definitions, but I simply don’t have the time right now. Perhaps I’ll get started on that next Summer.