Teaching Modern Greek to Classicists

Taking Advantage of Continuity


  • Jerneja Kavčič University of Ljubljana, Faculty of Arts, Slovenia
  • Brian Daniel Joseph The Ohio State University, Columbus, OH, United States
  • Christopher Brown The Ohio State University, Columbus, OH, United States




Ancient Greek, Modern Greek, vocabulary, language teaching, language change


The ideology of decline is a part of the history of the study and characterization of the Greek language from the Hellenistic period and the Roman Atticist movement right up to the emergence of katharevousa in the 19th century and the resulting modern diglossia. It is also clear, however, that there is an overwhelming presence of Ancient Greek vocabulary and forms in the modern language. Our position is that the recognition of such phenomena can provide a tool for introducing classicists to the modern language, a view that has various intellectual predecessors (e.g., Albert Thumb, Nicholas Bachtin, George Thomson, and Robert Browning). We thus propose a model for the teaching of Modern Greek to classicists that starts with words that we refer to as carry-overs. These are words that can be used in the modern language without requiring any explanation of pronunciation rules concerning Modern Greek spelling or of differences in meaning in comparison to their ancient predecessors (e.g., κακός ‘bad’, μικρός ‘small’, νέος ‘new’, μέλι ‘honey’, πίνετε ‘you drink’). Our data show that a beginners’ textbook of Ancient Greek may contain as many as a few hundred carry-over words, their exact number depending on the variety of the Erasmian pronunciation that is adopted in the teaching practice. However, the teaching of Modern Greek to classicists should also take into account lexical phenomena such as Ancient-Modern Greek false friends, as well as Modern Greek words that correspond to their ancient Greek predecessors only in terms of their written forms and meanings.


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