Judaeo-Greek Torah, Constantinople, 1547

I'd earlier mentioned in passing Dirk Hesseling's publication of the Judaeo-Greek Torah (published 1547, not 1543); so I thought I'd regale you with a passage. First, though, a lot of digression.

We don't know a lot about Judaeo-Greek at all; Julia Krivoruchko (who contributed the online description of Judaeo-Greek) has been working in the area, but there's not much to work with. To her bibliography, add another publication from Our Guy:
  • Hesseling, D.C. 1901. Le livre de Jonas. Byzantinische Zeitschrift 10: 208–217.

1263 from memory, from Crete. That is damn old. Will have to post some of that too; Jonah's short.

Also, check out the entry on Judaeo-Greek and Judaeo-Italian by Lazarus Belléli in the 1901 Jewish Encyclopaedia, with a couple of Judaeo-Greek songs.

We don't know much about Judaeo-Greek (or as it's become popular to call it, Yevanic, after the Hebrew for Greece). Noone really cared to record much in the language of the Greek-speaking Jews (the Romaniotes) until the language had died out, after the Holocaust and the Aliyah.

Fun facts from Wikipedia that aren't massively relevant, but it's my blog: Gabrielle Carteris' father was Romaniote. On Beverly Hills 90210, she was Ashkenazed to Andrea Zuckermann. Rae Dalven, who had translated Cavafy (and wrote much about the Romaniotes of Ioannina), may be a Romaniote better known to Greeks; then again, these days, perhaps not. And Hank Azaria's were Sepharad Jews from Salonica—the Sephardim were the majority of Jews in present-day Greek territory. Lazarus Belléli was from Corfu, which presumably makes him an Italian-speaking Jew—the third Jewish community of Greece.

It appears there was a distinct Judaeo-Greek accent, and the obligatory loanwords from Hebrew, but otherwise Jewish Greek wasn't that different from Christian Greek (as Belléli confirms): this wasn't like Yiddish, which changed so much en route from Alsace to Lithuania. The Judaeo-Greek Torah published in Constantinople has the shibboleths of Constantinopolitan Greek—in particular, the subjunctive διώ instead of δω for "see". Belléli thought it's Epirot, which would be consistent with Ioannina being a major Romaniote centre, but Hesseling and Chatzidakis said nay. Hesseling thinks it's a dialectal koine, and works out it's Constantinopolitan—but didn't know that διώ is a Constantinopolitanism: it was early days in Modern Greek dialectology. The text has both accusative and genitive indirect objects, with a few more genitives; so it doesn't come down either side of that isogloss.

This wouldn't be a Hellenisteukontos post if it didn't have gossipy digressions, so here's another two. First, the Ottomans did not allow initially books to be published in Greek script in the Empire—all the early modern printed books in Greek script come from Venice. The ban did not apply to Greek in Hebrew script—it was about the millet (confessional community), not the language; so this was the first book printed in Greek in the Levant. Some more stuff from Hesseling's introduction:
  • The Hebrew frontispiece says it was a translation "into the Greek language and the Foreign language, the two languages used by the people of our nation in captivity". It had only been 55 years since the Sephardim arrived in the Ottoman Empire: their language was still Foreign.
  • Belléli thinks the Torah's two centuries older (because it doesn't know about "Western European exegetes", and has no Turkish words). But given that he says the translator's command of Hebrew is pretty poor, would they have been up to date on Western European commentaries anyway? Not convinced about what the relative lack of Turkish words proves, either. Hesseling found a few Turkish words, though you might have expected more.
  • Hesseling proclaims himself unable to say anything relevant about the Jewish history and religious aspects of the translation, deferring to Belléli's papers mentioned in the Judaeo-Greek bibliography. What he said.
  • Er, eek. Just found out from linked bio that Belléli thought Hesseling's transcription of the Torah sucked ("severely criticizing"). Uhoh. Revue des Études Juives "xxxv. 132, 314" is only available on microform at MelbUni; I'm scanning the bastard and putting it online, because people aren't exactly rushing to do a new edition of the Greek Torah, so it's the only correction I'll find. Thank you, Kopelman Foundation, for making the 1901 Jewish Encyclopaedia available online, because noone in Modern Greek philology seems to have noticed this. Apparently Hesseling included a facsimile in his edition, but in my photocopy—Hebraea sunt, non leguntur :-( —the facsimile has been left out.
  • Even more infuriating, this discovery from said Jewish Encyclopaedia: there was also a 1576 Judaeo-Greek Job. Sadly, at least according to Belléli, it's vanished.
  • Ooh, Belléli was intending to do his own edition of the Torah in 1894, and had already gone to Paris to read the copy there, but got beat to the post by Hesseling. I got the impression they didn't like each other, that explains some things.
  • The few printed copies available to Hesseling differed, and Hesseling thinks they were being corrected as they were being printed (Wroclaw and London vs. Paris and Oxford copies). This happened with Shakespeare as well—a few decades later.
  • Post-World War II, there'd be fewer copies around of the original edition still; not optimistic about the Wroclaw copy. At least there were three copies in the British Museum and the Bodleian.
  • Someone else has published the Ladino translation in the '80s.
  • Sounds like this was as much a typographical extravaganza as the Complutensian Polyglot: it also included the Targum Onkelos and Rashi's commentary. 390 pp.
  • The construct genitive is rendered in Greek by nominative + nominative.
  • The infinitive absolute construction (infinitive plus finite of the same verb, for emphasis) is emulated in Greek with a nominalisation; often a made-up nominalisation. So Exodus 21:5 ειμμό να πη "to say a saying = to say indeed", where ειμμό is made up from είπα. (I thought ειπωμός does exist as a nominalisation, but it's not online or in my dictionaries.). Similarly Exodus 22:15 προικιμό να προικώση "to dower a dowering = to dower indeed". (The Septuagint and Vulgate have echoes of the Hebrew construction as well.)
  • The semantics of the words used is carbon copied from Hebrew, not just the syntax.

Second digression: obligatory anecdote lambasting lame Antisemitism. George Valetas, bless his over-excitable red socks (the bio link being to Rizospastis), was a literary scholar who edited many a Modern Greek text, including an anthology of Early Modern Greek prose:
  • Βαλέτας, Γ. (επιμ.) 1947. Ανθολογία της Δημοτικής Πεζογραφίας. Τόμος Πρώτος: Από το Μαχαιρά ως το Σολωμό (1340–1827). Αθήνα: Πέτρος Ράνος.

Like everyone in Greece at the time, Valetas was éngagé in the Great Diglossia Wars, proudly and leftistly on the Demotic side. And because he was a literature scholar and polemicist, and not a linguist, his anthology is conscripted to his polemic: to prove that Demotic Is Beautiful, and Has A History. And if his texts didn't sound Demotic enough, he'd make sure they did: he made a point of dropping the final /n/s in the texts he anthologised.
The vernacular dropped its final n's en masse; this is one aspect where Puristic did not really succeed in bringing about a reconquista of archaic features in the standard language—although there is still some debate about whether any n's can appear after masculines at all. Of course, anyone literate in Greek before 1970 was literate in a form of the language that kept its final n's; so final n's would gravitate to Greek in print, however colloquial the author was trying to be.

In volume II of the anthology, Valetas acknowledged the criticisms of those who said he really had no right to play God with the texts as they had originally been published. He acknowledged them by saying THEY WERE REVANCHIST TROGLODYTES WHO SHOULD KEEP THEIR CLAMMY HANDS OFF THE SPOTLESS PURITY OF OUR PEOPLE'S LANGUAGE. (I may be exaggerating for effect, but he does spend a full page of his introduction, vii-viii, defending stripping the nus, and comparing it to archaeologists stripping ancient statues clean. Probably not the best analogy to make, in retrospect.)

His discussion of each of the works he excerpts is just as excitable. Every text is a masterpiece of the popular spirit, pulsing with the lifeblood of Romeicity. With some unpleasant consequences when he gets to the text by the translator he chooses to call The Constantinopolitan Writer (Πολίτης Γραφικός):
Ο μεταφραστής είναι Έλληνας, που γνώριζε τα εβραϊκά, κι αυτό φαίνεται απ' τη γλωσσοπλαστική και γλωσσοδυναμική του. Υποχρεωμένος να μεταφράσει λέξη με λέξη και στη σειρά το εβραϊκό, στριμώχνει και τσακίζει το ελληνικό, κρατάει όμως το ύφος και μας δίνει την πιο ζωντανή δημοτική που γράφτηκε ως τότε.

The translator is Greek and knew Hebrew; that is apparent from his dynamic and inventive use of language. He is obligated to translate the Hebrew word for word and phrase by phrase, so he squeezes and creases the Greek; but he retains the style, and gives us the liveliest Demotic written down to date.

How very Stormfront. (Valetas is actually using stuff Hesseling said on p. vii, but that's not where Dirk was going with this.) It would not occur to Valetas of course that the reason someone might know Hebrew yet be fluent in Greek was that ROMANIOTE JEWS SPOKE GREEK. As their native language already. Why did he think the Torah was translated into Greek to begin with?! Then again, there's only so much one can expect of someone who, describing Simon Porcius/Portius (glancing mention of his 1638 grammar), writes:
Ο Πόρκιος, αν και καθολικός, ήταν μεγάλος Έλληνας, από τους πρόδρομους και θεμελιωτές του νεοελληνικού πολιτισμού, τους ζηλωτές της εθνικής λαλιάς, που στη μελέτη της αφιέρωσε τη ζωή του.

Porcius, despite being Catholic, was a Great Greek, one of the forerunners and founders of Modern Greek culture, the a zealot of the national tongue, who dedicated his life to its study.

And Valetas has an odd notion of what "style" means. What's actually happened is that the phonetics and morphology of the Judaeo-Greek Torah are surprisingly colloquial sounding, precisely because they were written in a script where Classical Greek had no purchase, by Greek-speakers not all that beholden to Plato. (Um, Greeks, actually; but not in the way Valetas meant the word.) But the syntax is unreadable, precisely because it is a word for word translation. (Jonah was the same.) This was after all intended as a crutch for Romaniotes and Sephardim to better read the Hebrew.

They're not completely un-beholden to Plato, it must be said. What happened with relativisation, in both translations, is pretty revealing. The Hebrew relativiser is asher, which like the Greek που originated in a locative:
  • Givón, T. 1991. The Evolution of Dependant Clause Morpho-syntax in Biblical Hebrew. In Traugott, E.C. & Heine, B. (eds), Aproaches to Grammaticalization: Volume II Focus on Types of Grammatical Markers. Amsterdam: John Benjamins. 257–310.

So it would be nice if asher, which originally meant "where", were translated by οπού, which also originally meant "where". It isn't. [EDIT: Or rather, it isn't often enough.] It's translated by an indeclinable ὅς: the Classical relativiser, which would have been already dead no small number of centuries ago. The indeclinability, they got from the inflexible literalness of the translation; the ὅς, they got from Learnèd Greek. That Jonah does it too suggests this had become a convention for translations of the Bible in Judaeo-Greek (or that the Torah translation is as old as Jonah; but ὅς was dead in 1263, too.) But it's too cold in my garage for me to go check against the even earlier translation fragments from the Cairo Genizah
  • de Lange, N. 1996. Greek Jewish Texts from the Cairo Genizah. Tübingen: J.C.B. Mohr (Paul Siebeck).

[EDIT: Checked. The Genizah Ecclesiastes translation, dating from "earlier than the 11th century, perhaps much earlier", also has ὅς. So it looks like this had become a conventional feature of late Jewish translations of scripture into Greek.]
Oh, and wouldn't you know it. In his reprinting of Genesis 9, Valetas emended ὅς to οπού. Because No True Greek would write ὅς, or something...
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Michael Deffner, scoundrel

In what little you get about Tsakonian online, you will on occasion see reverent references of Michael Deffner (1848-1934), renowned Tsakonologist, who so loved Tsakonia that he made his home in Leonidion, who wrote the renowned 1881 Grammar of Tsakonian and the renowned 1923 Dictionary of Tsakonian.

The problem with what little you get about Tsakonian is, it hasn't been written by linguists. So no, Michael Deffner is not renowned among linguists: he was a clunky amateur, and anyone who mentions his name before Hubert Pernot either knows nothing about the linguistic study of Tsakonian, or is giving their patriotism precedence over their science. Costakis long superseded his dictionary. Pernot says about the phonetics of the grammar and the dictionary that "Mr Deffner, as the Greeks would say, has 'made a sea' of the phonology of the language"; and those Greek-speakers among you who have just mentally translated τα 'κανε θάλασσα know how contemptuous Hubert is being. And as for his impassioned defence of the Doric heritage of Tsakonian, those fascinated by the Spartans (and not by what is truly interesting about Tsakonian—how much it has been restructured away from the mainstream of Greek) owe a far greater debt to Pernot than to Deffner. Deffner never saw a connection too tenuous to Doric. Pernot on the other hand started out in the 1890s a Doric skeptic, and if he admits any Doric in his 1934 grammar, it's because it really is uncontroversial and tested.

Now that isn't reason enough to castigate Deffner. He was early on the scene (though hardly the first—Deville's thesis on Tsakonian is 1866); he was an archaeologist and not a linguist; and well, he cared. I find the anecdote relayed on YouTube about him creepy and not praiseworthy, but it does demonstrate commitment. (Deffner's song son died in Prastos. When Deffner went up from Leonidion, he stopped outside, transfixed by the Tsakonian laments, and started transcribing them.)

No, two little episodes have made me resent Νιχάλη Δέφνερ. The first was what he did when Dirk Hesseling suggested Tsakonian might be a creole. Dirk Hesseling is someone who does not get enough appreciation in either fields he worked on. He was a hellenist by trade; his most important contributions to Modern Greek linguistics have been his publication in 1897 of the 1543 Torah in Judaeo-Greek, and his publishing with Pernot of the Ptochoprodromos poems in 1910.

Hesseling was interested, as a Hellenist, in how the Hellenistic Koine came about from the dialects of Greek; this led him to study creoles, and made him one of the first to do so. He doesn't get enough love in creolistics either, because he was a generation too early, and he published in Dutch. Peter Muysken and Guus Meijer, Dutch creolists who publish in English, has written a couple of appreciations of his work, which can be retrieved from Radboud University's repository (whose cafeteria I have dismissed elsewhere): "On the beginnings of Pidgin and Creole Studies: Schuhardt and Hesseling", and their introduction to a volume of Hesseling's work (D. C. Hesseling, On the Origin and Formation of Creoles, Story-Scienta, 1979.)

The Radboud U caf is not the closest I've gotten to Muysken. In my historical linguistics lectures, I'd namechecked his work on mixed languages. A couple of years later, I was crawling under a desk trying to find an IP for him as a visiting scholar. But my professional disgruntlements are for another post.)

So Dirk Hesseling was one of the first people to invent a hammer; and it was only natural for him to look for other nails in the history of Greek. One such nail that his friend Pernot had identified was the oddball development of Tsakonian, a language that both morphologically and phonologically looked a lot simpler than Standard Greek. Mightn't creolisation have taken place here too? The Peloponnese has had many a stranger walk in over the centuries; Hesseling pinpointed the Avars as a likely candidate, and went to press:

  • Hesseling, D. C. 1906. De Koine en de Oude Dialekten van Griekland. (Comptes rendus de l'Academie d'Amsterdam, Afdeeling Letterkunde, 4th series, part 8.) Amsterdam. 37 pp.

Deffner's response was to call a town meeting of Leonidion, to condemn the anthellenic outrage. As Pernot sniffed years later, "That's not the proper way to conduct linguistic scholarship." But whether Hesseling was right or not (and creolisation isn't the only reason for grammatical structures to melt down), what Deffner did was not scholarship.

Even that, you might give a pass on; Deffner was engagé, virtually a local; and this was hardly the last time that Greek scholars reacted to external debate with a vote of condemnation. What he did in 1921, however, was a sin against the Holy Spirit. You know, the unforgivable type.

Laographia, the journal of the Greek Folklore Society, has been the main place where Greek dialect texts have been published. The folklorists weren't doing so to be linguists; but because the linguists of the time deemed linguistics to end at the word boundary, the folklorists were the only Greek scholars to publish sentences longer than four words until well after the Second World War. And since Laographia was a Greek folklore journal, you'd expect what it published to reflect, well, Greek folklore.

Which brings us to:

  • Deffner, M. [Δέφνερ, Μ.] 1921a. Δείγματα Τσακωνικής (Samples of Tsakonian.) Λαογραφία 8. 159-180.

This publication was reprinted in the same year as the self-published Α πεντάμορφο του κόσμου. Παρανύθι για τα καμπζία Τhα Τσακώνικα γρούσσα. (The Five-time Most Beautiful in the World. A fairy tale for children. In the Tsakonian language). Athens; and again in 1926 included in Επτά Ωραία Παραμύθια (Seven Beautiful Fairy Tales.) Athens. It was also submitted to the Philological Society of Constantinople as ms. 495. (The Philological Society collected dialect data, and had lent some manuscripts to the Historical Dictionary in Athens. When 1922 happened, Athens held on to what it had. I have no idea what happened to the rest of the manuscripts; I wouldn't automatically assume they were destroyed, but they haven't turned up to my knowledge.)

Now, when you read Deffner's text, the Tsakonian strikes you as somewhat odd, compared to the rest of the Tsakonian corpus. I was of course looking for relativisers, being an opoudjis; it struck me that this text did not use πφη, like every other Tsakonian text, but πφου—which looked like πφου(ρ) "how". And which also looked a lot like Standard Greek που. And the content was Snow White; of course the Grimm tales were common currency throughout Europe, but this version seemed a lot closer to Disney than I'd have expected this far south.

You've worked out what's happened, right? I don't even know if Deffner intended this as deliberate fraud; he didn't outright say "I collected this in the field" instead of "I cooked this at my desk in St Lenid, with the mixed Tsakonian of the learnèd St Lenidians around me". But if you're submitting the translation to the Philological Society of Constantinople and Laographia, what the hell were you expecting people to think?

Something for Deffner to ponder in the hereafter.

Don't worry, I'm sure I'll end up lower down still than him. If I'm to judge from reactions to the Klingon Hamlet such as this (screw you, Christie St Martin), or this (screw you, Fark commenters), or this, or.... blah blah. Whatever. Btw, however ideologically unsympatico I may find Jonah Goldberg, I found his analysis of Klingon fandom pretty insightful. But all that is a topic for a non–Greek-linguistics blog...
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Rumi and Sultan Walad, linguistic notes

The Greek of Rumi and Walad, like the Greek of the Proto-Bulgarian inscrptions, the Judaeo-Greek scripture translations, and the Latin-Greek phrasebooks, should be a more accurate reflection of the spoken language of the time than what we have in Greek script, inevitably influenced by diglossia. In fact, given where it was written, Rumi and Walad should preserve the earliest attestation of Cappadocian Greek.

Well they're hardly preserving Cretan Greek, are they. And once Sophocleanisms like δοκάση are expunged from the redaction, the text does not look noticeably learnèd in the flavour of its Greek. It doesn't look like the Cappadocian that Dawkins recorded in 1910 either, but that shouldn't come as a surprise: the prodigious language mixing that moved Dawkins to say "the flesh is Greek, but the soul is Turkish" was centuries in the making, and Cappadocia would only recently have been cut off from contact with the rest of the Greek-speaking world. So their Greek looks like what Early Modern Greek from elsewhere looks like. In fact, the main value of these texts linguistically is to confirm that Cappadocian hadn't really diverged yet from the rest of Greek. Grégoire did go through Dawkins when offering his suggestions on the text, and drew up a list of Cappadocianisms from the texts which is not overwhelming.

  • δικιέσαι (Dedes δοικάσαι) "manage";
  • the ancient possessive (what ancient possessive? Is he referring to the archaic placement of clitics?);
  • θέκνω for θέτω and Meyer and Dedes' θέτνω (the mss vary between the two);
  • τζακώνω meaning "smash" and not "ambush" (as Meyer already correctly guessed);
  • θύρα (but that's an archaism, so counts for less).

The other caution (which also applies to at least the Judaeo-Greek translations) is that you're not getting normal Greek. For the Judaeo-Greek, it's because the translations were word-to-word from the Hebrew, so they tell you very little about Greek syntax. For Rumi and Walad, the Greek is clearly second-language Greek. (Fourth-language, in fact.) Dedes says we can't be sure about the level of Rumi's Greek, since there's so little of it, but Walad's may have even been perfect, as he was born and bred in Anatolia. That's not the impression I got: Wikipedia reports Turkish scholars saying Walad's Turkish was halting, and his Greek is too. It's probably not fair to point out the absence of definite articles; at least some of that will be because of the absence of vowel pointing, and some more is awkwardness brought on from rhyme. (Btw, Rumi is probably the first poem to consciously rhyme in Greek; Sachlikis was over a century later.)

But Walad clearly uses way too many full pronouns, in phrases like ηύρα κείνον τον εγύρευγα εγώ "I found the one I was looking for", or Εσύ φιλείς εμένα για τη ζωή <τού>τη "you kiss me for this life". And the first verse of the Rababname excerpt, Με τους άγιους πώς δοικάσαι λάλησε, is forced even by the standards of Greek verse.

εγώ το θέλω έγινεν, κανείς να μη το είπην does look odd enough to resemble Modern Cappadocian; but in between the fourth-language Greek and the poetic licenses of the syntax, I won't read much into it.

If Rumi wrote Καλή μέρα λιγερέ, πώς <εί>στεν, καλά 'στεν;, then we'd have the first instance in Greek of a politeness plural (by five centuries), and an early attestation of πώς είσαι "how are you?" as a salutation. (That'd be news, because it ain't a salutation in Standard Modern Greek, and Pontic has the same salutation as the Standard: τι κάνεις/ντο φτεάς "what are you doing?"—yes, that's Wikipedia orthography for φτα̈ς). Both the plural You and "How are you" are unlikely, so I wouldn't count them as evidence.

I derided Mertzios' emendation to καλή μέρα, λιγυρή, πού 'στην, καλώς την "Good day, slender girl, where had you been? Welcome"—but at least that reading had not required a politeness plural. The original reading is, کالیمیرا لییری پو ستن کالا ستن kalymyra lyyry pw stn kala stn. In these texts waw can transcribe /o/ (کالویروس kalwyrws καλόγερος) and yeh can transcribe /e/ (اِرتمِی airtimy ήρτε με); so we could still read λυγερέ, πώς 'στεν, and καλά 'στεν. But Burguière & Mantran's πώς 'στεν as an elision is implausible, so there's problems with this passage anyway. There is an είσταιν infinitive, used for example in Mediaeval Cypriot; but how does the infinitive fit here? I'm tempted to go with a modified Mertzios—πού 'σταιν; καλώς τον "where to be? welcome", if only it made grammatical sense...

Oh, and if any wags are thinking of reading pw stn as πούστην, (a) shut up, and (b) that'd be pwshtn. And (c) shut up.
"Huh?" says everyone non-Greek reading this far. πούστης (from Persian pusht "arse".) Derogatory. Passive homosexual.

Note also:
  • the archaic preposition αχ for εκ (which earlier translators mistook for "ah!"),
  • όγιον as an archaic form of σαν (Ancient οἷον),
  • more surprisingly the survival of τις,
  • the clear use of να as a future marker (as was the norm before 1400),
  • που fully developed not just as a relativiser, but an indefinite pronoun,
  • Dedes' proposed ση for στη, as in Pontic,
  • common redundant nu after subjunctives—hybridising them with infinitives, at least in Dedes' reading (να με βρην, να έρθην)

Surprisingly early instances of the analogical /n/ in ναν, first verse of Gazal 885 (نادفیلو nadfylw ναν το φιλώ)—if we accept that [na do filo] could already reflect underlying /nan to filo/.

Accusative indirect objects, of course; always striking to see them with nouns and not just pronouns, as in το πωρικό το πικρό δώσ' το άλλους.

That's all that comes to mind right now. Comments as always welcome.
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Rumi and Sultan Walad, literary notes

I'll get into linguistic observations separately, but some literary notes here, including comments on the restoration of the text, and on its cultural particularities.

  • The use of the Greek theological term σκήνωμα "hut, tabernacle" for the mortal body is noticeable, and establishes that Walad had been talking about Christianity with the local Greeks, and didn't just speak market Greek.
  • Dunno anything about Sufiism, but the language of the poems strikes me as homoerotic. I'm seeing a lot of denunciations of any such interpretation online, and I'm not particularly interested in getting into an argument on it. I will note though that this has affected the editing of the poem. In particular, the adjective λυγερός "slender" is commonly used in ballads and romances to praise the physique of women—it ends up a mere conventional reference. Seeing that kind of physical praise in the masculine gender gave me a start. It also gave Mertzios a start, which is why he emended καλή μέρα, λιγυρέ! πώς (εί)στε; καλά 'στε; "Good day, slender (man)! How are you? Are you well?" to καλή μέρα, λιγυρή, πού 'στην, καλώς την "Good day, slender (girl), where had you been? Welcome." Since the very next verse addresses τσελεμπή çelebi, "gentleman", the emendation's pretty pointless. And the reading αγά, πού 'σαι "where are you, agha" (probably severely anachronistic—would the Seljuks have had aghas at all?) looks pretty silly, once Dedes gives the much more straightforward (male–to–make) αγαπώ σε "I love you".
  • The history of how the text was reconstructed is a lot of fun, and I tried to capture that by putting the different redactions side to side. It's like sense slowly emerges out von Hammer's morass, emendation by emendation. (Or sense dissolves away, if you read it the other way.) This may have made the page unreadable, for which my half-hearted apologies.

  • Mertzios' emendations are sometimes brilliant, sometimes dumb. Making up "Bisna" as a Seljuk province in Gazal 81 (and hoping it might be Turkish for Bithynia) was pretty lame. And the emendation of ταφή "burial" to θανή "death" in the Rababnama is the wrong aesthetic: Mertzios wants to avoid two lines rhyming with the same word, but Persian poetry does that all the time. On the other hand, the turnout of pussy and dick in the same Gazal—ok, ok, that's prurient ("très licentieux", Mertzios admits), but it leads to a marvellous reading by Dedes. And there's no way Gazal 885 would have had παντοδαπά "from all places": much too learned for this text.
  • The earliest editions are much too inclined to read Classical words into the text in general (when they're not referring to Saint Augustin). δοκάση "to wait" proposed for the Rababnama is Sophocles, it has no place here.
  • Dedes is at times more reluctant to intervene with the vocalisation than I'd have been. Gazal 81's η ψιλή μου "my thin one" for ﺁبسیلیمو âbsylymw will make any Greek-speaker think η ψωλή μου "my dick", and that's what Mertzios had suggested. I'd have dropped the extra yeh. Gazal 504 κείτην may reflect the manuscript's کیتن kytn, but it's not Greek; and by spelling it like that instead of κοίτην "bed", Dedes is admitting what is obvious from context: this must be κείνην "her", which would read کینن kynn (one dot's difference from kytn) or کینین kynyn.
  • The emendation of Gazal 81 by Dedes, after little hints from Mertzios, is brilliant, especially given how the previous editors had no idea what to make of it. Three elemental human urges—food, warmth, sex—gently chided by Walad, and contrasted with the spiritual urge to have a clean soul. The problem is, the emendation πείνασα εγώ θέλω φαγί "I'm hungry, I want food" corrects فنی fny to فغی fghy, and in so doing breaks the assonance: /ˈroðini ˈfeni faˈɣi ɣoˈni muˈni ˈluni/. I'm sure Dedes is right about πείνασα /pinasa/ "I have grown hungry" for بینسا bynsa, but if ghayn and nun have been confused, as Dedes suggests, they'd have to be confused by Walad himself. Do I have an alternative for fny? φαγίν or φαΐν [faˈʝin, faˈin] for "food" isn't quite the right assonance as fny, and has the yeh in the wrong place—it's fyn. Maybe Walad really did just confuse this one.
  • The poets ignore accent in their rhymes, which makes them sound like they don't really rhyme in Greek. (That's why I dismissed it as assonance just then.) But the Rababnama has the Cole-Porteresque (and typically Persian) χείλη εκεί ~ χίλιοι εκεί "lips there ~ thousands there".
  • Dedes reports that the image of a drop becoming the sea, representing Man dissolving into God, is a commonplace of Persian poetry, since Saadi.
  • The smashed glass of Rumi is, again copying from Dedes, a recurring motive of Persian poetry, particularly the legendary Cup of Jamshid, used as a crystal ball. (So why smash it? Is this some "If you meet the Buddha on the road, kill him" thing?)
  • Dedes doesn't know whether Rumi's Arabic is quoting the Koran or just imitating it: "O people, we came to you meaning to be sacrificed for your love. Since we have seen you our desires have become clear". Assembled Wisdom Of The Interwebs? The only hits for یا قوم اتیناکم are to Rumi online, so it presumably is indeed an imitation.
  • The image I liked the best? "I see the sea, and others see mud." Note the Early Modern Greek false friend: πηλός in the contemporary language only means "clay". I don't know what "You give no joy: give the wind" alludes to, so I may be more impressed by it than I should be.
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Rumi and Sultan Walad, Konya, mid-1200s

I've just put online the various transcriptions available of the Greek verses written by Mawlana Jalal ad-Din Rumi (1207-1273) (yeah, *that* Rumi), and Rumi's son, Sultan Walad (1226-1312). I'm going to comment on the editions and the linguistics in the next couple of postings.

Rumi and Walad wrote bits of Turkish and Greek among their Persian poems, as part of their ecumenical outlook. There is a reason Rumi was called "the Roman" after all. (See rant on "the Roman" below.) As a result, the macaronic poems are caught between two traditions, Turco-Persian and Greek, so they get treated poorly in both sides. There are several online queries by people reading Persian, asking what the hell the Greek means. Standard editions of the poems do apparently include translations of the Greek (and if anyone has access to them, please send them in so I can add them). But given how problematic the texts are—second language Greek, from the Middle Ages, mostly written without vowels, copied by scribes who didn't know Greek—I can't imagine those readings are unproblematic. On the other hand, the editions of the verses in Greek needed someone conversant with both mediaeval Greek and Persian literary convention; until the latest edition, we really didn't have both. (I don't know anything about Persian literature apart from a month of trying to learn Persian, one read-through of the Shahnameh, and some Rubaiyat via Esperanto—and all that 15 years ago; but I think I can catch some misconstruals already.)

But first, shout-outs to the people who actually edited these texts, and took the brunt of their difficulty. Or rather, the three of those people that I know something about.

  • Joseph von Hammer was one of the Original Gangsta orientalists, one of the guys Edward Said was supposed to have groused about but didn't (because he didn't really talk about German academia. Where, you know, Orientalism as an academic discipline actually happened first). Von Hammer published as much of Evliya Çelebi as there has been in a Western language for quite some time; I made use of his translation in the Quadrupeds, to make sense of some of the Quadrupeds' references to wild cats via Çelebi's descriptions of the Ottoman fur trader guilds. (Çelebi also transcribed the first words of Tsakonian we know of, but not in Hammer's selection. His travel diaries are ginormous.) With the Rababname, Von Hammer was clearly not really trying, and his oddball spellings of Greek show that. But even so, I don't know what the hell he was thinking by inserting the reading "Sant Augustin"...
  • Gustav Meyer's was the first halfway decent reading of the text. Meyer is a figure you notice on the margins of Modern Greek historical linguistics: he studied under Psichari, edited and commentaried Simon Portius' Grammar of Greek (downloadable), and did pioneering work in Greek etymology (including being the first to point out several Balkan loanwords). He was also the first to recognise Albanian as an independent branch of Indo-European. Despite the confusion I've nourished for the past decade, he is not the same person as Wilhelm Meyer-Lübke.
  • And for the last, an anecdote. (I do this quite a bit, I know. I'll blog about that one day, too.)

It was the winter of 1995 into 1996. I was in Greece for my doctoral research, which consisted of three months at the offices of the Historical Dictionary of Modern Greek in the Academy of Athens, home to every stray cat in Agios Sostis. (They've moved since. The dictionary, I mean; dunno about the cats.) I was there typing out every single index card on που on file, because I wasn't allowed to photocopy them. I then spent another two months in Salonica, photocopying the entire Early Modern Greek holdings of the university library. And I made contact in Salonica with George Baloglou (no stranger to the comments thread here), with whom I'd already started working on translating the Quadrupeds. The latest editor of the Quadrupeds, Vasiliki Tsiouni(-Fatsi), was in Athens, we were told; so before leaving Athens, I rang her up to make contact, and talk about what we were doing. When I called her, and she enquired what I'd been up to, I told her about being at the Academy.

Funny thing that, because Tsiouni also worked at the Academy. In the Folklore Section. In the Agios Sostis offices. ONE FLOOR UP THE STAIRS from where I'd spent the last three months.

That was the first coincidink. The second coincidink was when George and I paid her a visit late February, at her place nudged up against Lycabettus Hill. Tsiouni's cousin was in town visiting when we came over; a somewhat melancholy intellectual, who was now living in a village in Boeotia. It turned out he had tutored in Modern Greek at Melbourne University in the late '80s, but we'd never overlapped, because I'd never had much to do with the Modern Greek department at Melbourne Uni, and I was never really going to get the chance to. (That was as a result of underlying trends I've sketched in a very depressing paper elsewhere.)

Oh, that's not the coincidink. The melancholy intellectual left a calling card with us fellow intellectual when he left. The coincidink is, the melancholy intellectual was Dimitris Dedes, and the calling card was his recent edition of Rumi and Walad. Because I'd been assembling my mediaeval vernacular corpus for some time, I immediately knew what I'd just been handed.

Part of my concern with putting this online was, the journal looked quite local to Greece, and probably didn't have much of a print run; it wouldn't be anywhere near as accessible (particularly to Persianists or, dare I say, Orientalists) as the older editions in Byzantinische Zeitschrift or Byzantion, big Western journals. I certainly wouldn't have found it had I not come to Greece. And this edition deserved exposure: Dedes clearly knew something about Persian literature, and his reconstructions were in several instances better informed than his predecessors'.

Oh, and here comes the rant. Every year or so, the BYZANS-L Byzantine Studies mailing list gets derailed from its placid inactivity by a flamewar between, erm, "interested outsiders" who take issue with Byzantinists' non-construction of ethnic identities, and the few Byzantinists who can be bothered flaming back. (Most just hide and wait for it to pass.) I got involved in this year's round, more fool I: I ended up with private email plastered on the mailing list and everything. (Oh, and Anna K? Linguolabial trill right back atcha.)

One of the sillier detours of the flamewar was when Rumi got dragged in. Not only should Byzantium be referred to as Eastern Roman, and how dare you hegemoniacal Westerners claim Romanity for yourselves, just because Rome is actually in Western Europe (Ooh, I can see the flames now. I reserve the right to doink comments, people; it's my blog). But "Rumi" should also be translated as "Roman"; and when one of the academics pointed out that it is more useful to translate Perso-Arabic "Rumi" into English in a variety of ways, including just plain "Anatolian", he got yelled at for subterfuge.

Well I'm sorry, but unless Mevlana wore a toga and went to the Colosseum, had a rosary and ate fish on Fridays, or used fijo instead of figlio in his Italian, then I dare say it's not particularly useful to translate Rumi as "the Roman" without scare quotes and a lot of background explanation. We know why a 13th century Persian would call Rumi "the Roman" (because—background explanation—he lived in the Seljuk Sultanate of Rum, which was land that used to belong to the [Eastern] Roman Empire, and where Romeic, now Modern Greek, was still widely spoken). But to insist that Rumi should be translated as "Roman", when "Roman" doesn't mean anything like what the target audience understands by "Roman"... well, you're not doing translation into English any more; you're doing something else.

Right. Philology coming up.
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Dictionary coverage of Greek

There's three and a half millenia of Greek lexicon out there. Of course, that's three and a half millennia if you accept that Mycenaean is the same language as is spoken on Greece's Got Talent—which demands a bit of looseness in when you deem a language to have become a different language. (And the distinction of course is ideologically informed: two centuries ago everyone differentiated Hellenic from Romeic.)

But given those three and half millenia, it'd be a bit much to expect one dictionary to cover the lot. And indeed, one dictionary does not cover the lot. Dimitrakos' dictionary from the 1950s claimed to, but really, it fooled noone, and just ended up doing neither Ancient nor Modern Greek properly. (The link is to someone who's put all 15 volumes of the bally thing online. In DjVu, but that's still damn impressive.)

The problem with Greek lexicography is, there are a lot of quite disparate scholarly communities interested in the various stages of Greek; so its lexical coverage ends up more fragmented than it might. Which means that if you're trying to lemmatise the whole lot (as I do), you've got a lot of partly overlapping sources of lexicon. (Lemmatising the whole lot is a pretty fraught exercise; but given that you already have Homeric, Doric, and Attic Greek to deal with Ancient drama anyway, lemmatising even Classical Greek is an exercise in multilingualism.)

I'll start explaining the mess that is the lexicography of Greek by drawing a grid:

The first thing that's wrong with this grid is that each century is equally wide. The proportion of surviving text from different centuries varies prodigiously, but I'll just ignore that here.

There has always (well, almost always) been a distinction in Greek between a literary and a vernacular language. At the start, it's because the literary language was a convetionalised mix of dialects. That's true of the way Homer's work ended up put together, and it's also true of the literary conventions around poetry, including drama. The dialects of Greek as they were actually spoken are more closely reflected in the inscriptions, although they aren't immune from conventionalisation either.

Attic prose may have initially been pretty much the spoken language of Athens; but when the spoken language had evolved far enough away from Attic, diglossia kicked in: literary writing kept trying to move away from the spoken language, and closer to Attic (or later Koine) for the next couple of millennia. If you want evidence of what the spoken language was like, your main evidence becomes the papyri, which contain a lot of disposable (and disposed) Greek. Once the papyri stop a little after the Arabisation of Egypt, direct evidence of the vernacular dries up too—and there was never all that much evidence outside of Egypt; it resumes in the 12th century with the beginning of early modern literature. The early modern evidence is not unproblematic, and there's not exactly no evidence at all in the lead-up to it; but the gap in the grid is there for a reason.

A further split happens between Judaeo-Christian and Pagan writing. The split in the beginning is to some extent linguistic: the Septuagint is to some extent vernacular Koine, but also to a significant extent translationese. The New Testament is quite heterogeneous linguistically, but can also in places be quite vernacular. But once the Patristic period kicks in, the distinction is mainly in the scholarship surrounding the two traditions. Classicists are still involved in the study of late antiquity, and pagan authors usually made a real effort to conform to the rules of Classical Greek.

On the other hand, though we have a lot of activity in new editions of Church Fathers, the corpus is huge, and for a lot of texts we still only have the slapdash Migne editions to rely on. And while a lot of the oddities of their language can be chalked up to how those editions were copy-pasted from 16th century editions, there's still a sense that the Church Fathers are taking more liberties with the language than an Atticist would tolerate: not just in the direction of the vernacular (indeed, not even primarily in the direction of the vernacular), but boldly stepping into linguistic phantasy. This gets more pronounced in time, up to the eccentricities of Theodore of Studium, or the impenetrability of Eustathius of Thessalonica.

But what's important about the Church Fathers is not just that their editions need revising or that their language is odd. It's that the classicists don't go near them. Christian late antiquity is done by different scholars than pagan late antiquity; so there is not going to be one dictionary spanning the two. The height of absurdity in this is in LSJ (and thankfully they at least admit that it's absurd.) Nonnus of Panopolis, in his pagan youth, wrote a turgid Homeric retelling of the exploits of Dionysus. This is about the last pagan literary work there is, and it's the endpost of the Classical canon; so its coinages are duly included in LSJ. In his dotage, Nonnus had good enough survival instincts to become not just a Christian, but a bishop. And Nonnus (or at least someone claimed to be Nonnus) wrote a no less turgid Homeric retelling of the Gospel of John. Which LSJ excludes. So, the dictionaries list the words the young Nonnus made up; and because of his switch, they don't list the words the old Nonnus made up.

And the imbalance is reflected in the attention paid to the texts themselves—which, to be fair, is not the Pagan Classicists' fault. The Dionysiaca may be turgid, but they preserve information about Greek Mythology not otherwise attested, and they continue to attract grudging interest (Google Nonnus+Dionysiaca: 8930 hits). John... well, we already have the original of that, so noone particularly cares about Nonnus' retelling: (Google Nonnus+"St John": 2870 hits. Surprised it's that much actually.)

So, we have a split between vernacular and literary Greek, and an added split between pagan and Judaeo-Christian Greek. Let's see how the dictionaries stack up.

The LSJ (Liddell–Scott–Jones–Mackenzie, plus 1996 Supplement) is the authoritative English-language dictionary of Classical Greek. It includes inscriptions and at least some papyri under its purview. It samples the Septuagint and the New Testament (though not at all exhaustively); everything Christian after that is out of bounds, and indeed successive 19th century editions kept eliminating references to "Ecclesiastical" Greek, to make way for more papyrological finds and more comprehensive Classical citations. Coverage of late antiquity peters off even for pagan authors, from what I've seen with the Neoplatonists. After a long period of hesitation about whether this Ventris business would really stand up, LSJ now includes Mycenaean in the 1996 Supplement. I have drawn the following work of fantasy to represent my construal of LSJ coverage:

The DGE (Diccionario Griego-Español) has been going since 1980, and intends to supersede LSJ: when finished, it should be two or three times bigger. *When* finished; as it stands, it's up to ἐκπελεκάω at Vol. VI (2002), and has just gone back and redone Vol. I (2008). (Those of you following my comments already know what I think of this.) DGE does not shy away from either early Church Fathers or late antiquity, and aims to be comprehensive; they go through the TLG CD ROM indexes exhaustively to that end. An artist's impression of what the finished DGE might cover is as follows:

Once the Classicists are out of the way, Everything Else ensues.

  • The Septuagint is a stepchild text in general, because of the many untranslated Hebrew words in it. A modern dictionary of the Septuagint has been a very long time coming, but we now have Lust, Eynikel & Hauspie. The Hebrew words are in there, though the letters of the Hebrew alphabet (which show up in Psalms) are not. The proper names aren't; then again, proper names are usually a no-go for lexicographers anyway.
  • The New Testament and early Christian literature are covered comprehensively by Bauer's Lexicon, updated as BDAG (Bauer Danker Arndt Gingrich). For once, this includes all proper names.
  • GHW Lampe's Patristic Greek Lexicon (which is on BitTorrent. Wow. Just... wow. Google it yourselves...) covers the Apocrypha and the Church Fathers, up to around ix AD. The dictionary is theological, so goes into much semantic detail about common words; but it also has a lot of novel vocabulary. Not quite exhaustive (and anything not church-related is out of bounds), but very good breadth.
  • EA Sophocles' Greek Lexicon of the Roman and Byzantine Periods goes up to 1100. It's old and relatively small, considering; but unlike other lexica, at least it goes all the way up to omega.
  • E. Trapp's Lexikon zur byzantinischen Gräzität, now up to προσπεφυκώς in 6 vols, theoretically covers learnèd ix-xii AD Greek, so it picks up after Lampe. In practice, it's lenient about going forward in time and language: it slips in nonliterary vernacular, and after the lag in Kriaras, it's started sneaking in literary vernacular too. It also goes back in time, and fills in some of the gaps of LSJ—there are a couple of lemmata from Plutarch here that had otherwise slipped through. It is extremely comprehensive, although looking up words gets complicated by the variety of spelling in the texts.
  • E. Kriaras' Λεξικό της Μεσαιωνικής Ελληνικής Δημώδους Γραμματείας, now up to πνεύμονας in 16 vols, covers vernacular Greek from 1100 to 1669. It's recently resumed publication after a ten year gap; the gap included preparing the Abridgement of vols 1-14, which is online. Again, comprehensive, though there are a few gaps in coverage—notably astrological texts. Looking up words is also complicated both by the lack of standard orthography in editions, and by Kriaras' own linguistic activism, which led to prescriptive spelling (so the entries are not just monotonic, but won't acknowledge the orthographic diversity of the words as found in texts.)

After Kriaras, things fall apart a bit. Modern Greek lexicography starts in the 17th century, with dictionaries by Meursius (Glossarium Graeco-Barbarum, 1614) and Somavera (Tesoro della lingua greca-volgare ed italiana, 1709). The Puristic of the new Greek State is covered in Skarlatos Byzantios (Λεξικόν της καθ' ημάς ελληνικής διαλέκτου, μεθηρμηνευμένης εις το αρχαίον ελληνικόν και το γαλλικόν, first ed. 1835), and more intriguingly Koumanoudis (1883 and 1900, Συναγωγή νέων λέξεων υπό των λογίων πλασθεισών): Puristic was in a frenzy of neologism, and Koumanoudis tracked the first appearance of neologisms back to 1453.

Greek dialect is covered in the Historical Dictionary of Modern Greek (5 vols, up to δαχτυλωτός)—a long story, to take up elsewhere. Of the dialects of Modern Greek different enough from the standard to make note of, there are (complete) large Academy dictionaries for Pontic, Italiot, and Tsakonian (Papadopoulos, Karanastasis, Costakis); a scholarly dictionary for Western Cretan (but not Eastern) (Xanthinakis); and several (not so large) dictionaries of Cypriot. Cappadocian and Mariupolitan have missed out. Mainstream dialects have a lot of little glossaries; but as far as I can recall, it's been over a century since any of them were written by a professional linguist. There were several dictionaries of Modern Greek in the 20th century, but properly modern dictionaries did not happen until the very end of the century, with the dictionaries of Babiniotis, the Triandafyllidis Institute, and Kriaras.

Now, if we superimpose LSJ on Everything Else, we get the following:

This tells us where our major gaps are:

  • After the Fall of Candia, with which Kriaras delimits his dictionary, there is nothing systematic of literary use of the vernacular up to the 20th century. There wasn't a massive amount going on in the following hundred years, but there were some things (and Knös' history of Greek literature seems to have listed much of it). The literary histories tells you Crete passed the literary torch on to the Ionian Islands; but noone reads what they did in the early 18th century either. Editorial activity around 17th into 18th century literature has lagged too. By the Greek Enlightenment there was a lot going on, from both the Ionian Islands and the Phanariotes of Constantinople and Romania; but there's no dictionary for them.
  • Even less attention gets paid to learnèd Greek in Ottoman times, and that's to a significant extent ideological: both because learnèd Greek was on the wrong side of the diglossia controversy, and because it was by then a well and truly artificial language. Still, it's Greek, and as Koumanoudis found, they kept making words up. Outside Koumanoudis, no dictionary for them either.
    • If you're Gennadius Scholarius, you're particularly unlucky: being the first Ottoman Patriarch of Constantinople, noone's going to put your vocabulary in a dictionary, because you're just outside the Byzantine period. As my colleague of two months Andreas Rhoby recently published (Rhoby, A. 2007. Varia lexicographica. Jahrbuch Österreichischer Byzantinistik 57:1–16)—and as I found independently the following year—that means the first known instances of ἀτομικός "individual" and ἀτομίζω "individuate" don't end up in the dictionaries: Trapp only has the adverb ἀτομικῶς, and Koumanoudis only refers it to recent dictionaries. (Oh, and that's "individual", not "atomic": people were indivisible before submolecular particles were.)

  • The papyri look gapped in the diagram, but that's because I've never set eyes on Preisigke's Wörterbuch der griechischen Papyruskunden. The TLG has only a small number of papyri represented, so it hasn't been a real issue.
  • The real problem gap is secular writing, from say the fourth century to the eighth. Sophocles provides some coverage of the period, but not nearly enough. The literature of the period does not have a good rep, and without theologians involved, it just hasn't been covered properly. This visibly affects the Neoplatonists (though at least Plotinus got his own dictionary—hey, is that Russian site allowed to put a 1980 book online? Wonder how long that link lasts). But the ones who really suffer are the medical authors, certainly Galen (who has a huge corpus, too much of it still in an 1820s edition), but also his successors like Oribasius or Paul of Aegina. DGE will probably do some to breach that gap (they've certainly done a lot with the herbalist Pedanius Dioscorides, though he is much earlier); but some medicos will still be too late for it.
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Μετά χαράς: supplemental

Philip points out that ípeto in the Dittamondo excerpt is also Greek: of course! And here, the commentary:
Είπε το(ν) "He told him". Obvious error for Είπα το(ν) "I told him". I'm going to take the clitic on face value as accusative, confirming that whoever told degli Uberti about how a Macedonian peasant might speak was from the north of Greece. (The proto-Bulgarian inscriptions has accusatives replacing datives, and the xi AD church deeds of Southern Italy have genitives, so we know the isogloss between accusative and genitive indirect objects was already in place.)

This might instead be "He said the [following]", with the το an article introducing the following clause. But while articles can introduce nominalised quotations (Το πολύ το Κύριε Ελέησον κι ο παπάς το βαριέται "Even a priest gets sick of too much 'Lord have mercy'"), that would be pretty forced here.

George adduces ηξεύρω from Cappadocia, for which my thanks. I remember my own Cypriot grandmother saying δεν ηξέρω γιέ μου, and I've only just clicked their initial /i/ is likely related.

I think my argument that μετά χαράς is contemporary diglossia and not a fossil is weakened by the fact that we clearly do have such prepositional genitive fossils elsewhere. I'm thinking of από σπέρας "since last night, overnight" and από βδομάδας "from next week". Morphologically they are entirely vernacular (Ancient Greek would have had ἀφ’ ἑσπέρας and ἀφ’ ἑβδομάδος), but they just as clearly have a prepositional genitive; and their vernacular phonology makes it clear they can't have been borrowed from archaic Greek, either in 1300 or 1800. (There's a whole family around the former expression in Early Modern Greek—Kriaras s.v.—showing people trying to grapple with it: αποσπέρα αποσπερί αποσπερίς αποσπερού αποσπερής).

My argument for μετά χαράς being diglossic boils down to intuition over it being a politeness formula—something that archaic Greek speakers would have kept using. But there's no elided vowels as in από σπέρας to confirm how nativised μετά χαράς was.

Trust George to do the relevant TLG search, and that does in fact weigh more towards it being just vernacular, and thus just a fossil: Cantacuzene's letters to the sultan were in Demotic, and the Saints' Lives did indeed make concessions to the vernacular. My lame response is, any spoken form of High Greek would have been closer to Koine than the fake Thucydides of the historians, so μετά χαράς could well still have been learnèd. But I'm not sure, given the distribution George reports.

The similar expression George mentions is μετά βίας "perforce", again with a prepositional genitive. Kriaras s.v. βία 4a gives quotations in Early Modern Greek of both the archaic μετά βίας and the partly updated με βίας (in Libistros); the latter is a nativisation of the preposition, which like από σπέρας suggests productive spoken use. Btw George, why'd you think it less likely to have been colloquial?

I have no recollection of the examples of μετά χαράς, although I recall I was on the lookout after discovering Dittamondo. Given how half-baked my conclusion about μετά χαράς was in the previous post, I'm not sure I should have published anything on it. :-) At any rate, for better or worse (and it is for worse in most ways, except for googlability), this is where I publish now...
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Tsakonian on YouTube

User kepleon has uploaded this past month four vids of someone telling primary school kids in Lenidi about Tsakonian, with examples, and singing in Tsakonian. Must follow up.

I don't agree with everything the guy says, but the nitpicking is not relevant. (But no, they don't still speak Tsakonian in Turkey, and Costakis' dictionary was just 3 vols, not 6.) Nice to know a kid in class knows about the dictionary too!

And damn me if fronted /k/ doesn't sound just like /dzʰ/. Like Haralambopoulos said. Maybe that τχ wasn't such a good idea after all. :-( I'll keep it for now though.

Also, the sounds that are supposed to be /ɲ/ and /n/ sound to me the other way round. Eek. [EDIT: I heard right, and got the rule wrong. /ni/ > /ɲi/. /ne/ > /ni/. But /mi/ > /ɲi/, not /ni/.]

So some transcriptions from the lessons. I'm sure I'm mishearing bits, and my Tsakonian was never that crash hot; I'll fix it as I get time.

  • Τχ' έσι ποίου;
  • [cut?]
  • Εζβαΐκατε καμπρζία;
  • Εζβαΐαμε.
  • Έσι ζβαΐχου Νικόα;
  • Φίλε.
  • Τσ' έννι ποίου ο φίλε ντι;
  • Έννι κα.
  • 'Εννι μορζούα α χέρα σι ακόνη.
  • Α τηλεόραση.
  • Οράτσερε τθαν τηλεόραση τον Ολυμπιακό πφ' ήγκαϊ παίζουντε;
  • Οράκα. Τσ' έκι;
  • Δράγκε, τσ΄έσι κασήμενε;
  • Κια έσι; Κια οράτχερε;
  • Σάμερε εκάνα από ταν Αμεριτχή.
  • Τσ' έσι ποίου; Ένι κα.
  • Εζβαΐερε; Νι εμαθήτσερε το μάθημα;
  • Σάμερε εκινάκα.

  • Άφε νι, νι αφήτσωμε.
  • Άφε νι, όννι καλέ.
  • Όνι πλερούκχου.
  • Μάτη, κάτσε ορεγί, τχ' άμα ντι το τηλέφωνε, θα νίερε ότσι όνι ορεγί ο Νιχάλη. Έννι ζατέ τθον Άη Λήδη να ψωνίσει.
  • Όννι ορεγί ο Νιχάλη.
  • Όννι ορεγί σι επέκα.
  • Αφού όσι νίντα, νι εκατσούκα τχ' εζού τα τσουφά.
  • Όκη νίντα.

  • Πουάτσα πφ΄ έτθε έκχουντε ...
  • να δήτε χαιρεκίσματα ότσ' έμε τθο Τχιβέρι.
  • Τα σύνταχα θα φύτσωμε θα ζάμε τθο Δερβένι
  • να πολεμήμε μέκουντε (?) του Δράμαλη τ' αζέρι
  • πουρτέσ' ένε ο Νιτχηταρά κίσω ο Κολοκοτρώνη
  • τχαι παρακίσω οι Τσάκωνες.
  • Έα να ζα τθά βρύση να κρίσωμ' άχανα
  • να ντι μοσχοϊθυλύου τα δύ ντι μάγουα
  • Έα πέρα όι περούα γιατσι μ' έσ' πετσχοβοούα
  • Θα περάε θα περάε τχαι το τσχέρβουλε θα χάε
...Read more

Μετά χαράς: archaisms in spoken Greek, 1350

When I was researching the background to the Entertaining Tale of Quadrupeds in 1999, I came across Charles Gidel's 1864 Imitations faites en grec depuis le douzième siècle, de nos anciens poèmes de chevalerie, which was the first mention of the Quadrupeds in scholarly literature. Early Modern Greek studies officially kicked off in 1870, with Wilhelm Wagner and Émile Legrand's simultaneous publication of editions of literary texts; Gidel is pretty early, and as the title gives away, not a terribly objective literary critic.

I kept reading to see what else Gidel knew about. Gidel mentioned that the poem Dittamondo by Fazio degli Uberti, started in 1346, has some bits of Greek in it, in an imaginary conversation with a peasant (2.23. 28-45). Pasting from the online edition:

E giunto a lui, de la bocca m’uscio 
“Jiá su” e fu greco il saluto, 
perché l’abito suo greco scoprio. 30 
Ed ello, come accorto e proveduto, 
Calós írtes allora mi rispose, 
allegro piú che non l’avea veduto. 
Cosí parlato insieme molte cose, 
ípeto: xéuris franchicá? Ed esso: 35 
Ime roméos e xéuro plus glose. 
E io: Paracaló se, fíle mu; apresso 
mílise franchicá ancor gli dissi. 
Metá charás, fu sua risposta adesso. 
Udito il suo parlar, cosí m’affissi, 40 
dicendo: “Questo è me’ ch’io non pensava”; 
e gli occhi miei dentro al suo volto fissi. 
Poi il dimandai lá dov’ello andava; 
rispuosemi: “Qui presso a una chora
dove il re Pirro anticamente stava”. 45 

This looks like the earliest attestation of γεια σου "health to you = hello". For that reason, I passed the finding on to Nikos Sarantakos, who among his many linguistic interests was tracking down the history of common expressions in Greek. Ten years later, he's blogged about it (in Greek).

Let's get the quick observations out of the way before I talk about "Metá charás":

  • From the metre, “Jiá su” is still three syllables, and not two: [ʝi.ˈa su]. On the other hand "roméos" is probably two syllables already, though the verse is garbled. (Sarantakos sees πολλούς in "plus", and I don't know what else it would be.)
  • "Paracaló se" has the old order of clitics after the verb. In modern times, there's a mainland Greece–to–Anatolia gradient of clitic placement (which Dawkins had written up quite neatly back in the day). Of course, the peasant is supposed to be in Macedonia, which now would only have σι παρακαλώ; but we have no idea where degli Uberti picked up his Greek from, and the word order of clitics looks to have been pretty unstable at the time, judging from the literary texts.
  • The stress on "franchicá" is as it should be, on the ultima; many vernacular ethnic adjectives ended up accented on the antepenult, so the Modern language has φράγκικα (when it deigns to use the word at all). So τούρκικος/τουρκικός is now a colloquial/formal doublet. Φραγκικός is impossible in Modern Greek, because "Frankish" cannot have a formal form: the word's ideology ("we are not Western Europeans") is all wrong for that.
  • Ξεύρω is no longer εξεύρω, but is not yet ξέρω. Ξεύρω did survive in dialect; Smyrna, right?


“Jiá su”
Γειά σου "hello".
“xéuris franchicá?”
Ξεύρειες φραγκικά; "Do you know Frankish?" (i.e. Western European, which includes Italian. The Greeks of Corsica actually distinguished Φρανǧία "Italy" from Φράντσα "France".)
"Ime roméos e xéuro plus glose."
Είμαι ρωμαίος (κ)αι ξεύρω π(ο)λλούς [sic: πολλές] γλώσσε(ς). "I am a Rhomaios [Greek], and know many languages.
"Paracaló se, fíle mu, mílise franchicá"
Παρακαλώ σε, φίλε μου, μίλησε φραγκικά "I pray you, my friend, speak Frankish."
"Metá charás"
Μετά χαράς "With pleasure"
Χώρα "Country, town"

The intrigue here is μετά χαράς. The phrase is commonly used to this day; but it's clearly not vernacular: it has the ancient form of "with", and a preposition taking the genitive. The vernacular way of saying it was already με χαρά.

Now, Modern Greek is dotted with archaic phrases, lifted from the Church (Δόξα σοι ο Θεός "Glory to Thee, God" with a dative), or from Puristic (Εντάξει "In order = OK" with a dative, here a calque of German in Ordnung). The romantic perception of the history of diglossia was that cassocks and suits were the only sources contaminating the pure vernacular with antiquarian must; left to their own devices, the simple folk spoke a pure Demotic, that has never since been recaptured. The early literary texts don't reflect that, but the literary texts are themselves written by people schooled in Ancient Greek.

The romantic perception is pretty widespread; the Concordance> of Makryiannis' Memoirs (one of the few works held to have escaped the miasma of antiquarianism) was subtitled "How Greeks used to speak before Our Language was Raped by Puristic Greek". But it is romantic: studies have pointed out that while Makriyannis' syntax is very much vernacular (which is why he is so important stylistically), his morphology was influenced by Puristic, as would the morphology of any public figure in 1840 Athens. Diglossia has deep roots in Greece.

And what this fragment *may* suggest is that even in 1350, they were deeper than the romantic perception allows. We don't know much at all about what Greek diglossia looked like in the Middle Ages. We know from people like Filelfo that the aristocracy of Mystras and Constantinople spoke a more "refined" language than the common herd, so some archaic forms were used orally as well as in writing; we don't know how much. Sylvester Syropoulos' diary of the Council of Florence, conversely, suggests that the emperor and the patriarch did not speak pure Ancient Greek; but we don't know how much Ancient Greek he's adding in, and how much he's transcribing faithfully (particularly as it looks like he was reconstructing events later).

We know that the Byzantine scholars wrote in Ancient Greek, and some of their texts had to be translated (metaphrases), not into the vernacular, but at least into less recondite Koine. We know that archaic phrases from the Church would circulate (because they still do), but often enough they were not well understood; witness the fate of τα καλά και τα συμφέροντα in Modern Greek, liturgically a prayer for God to grant our souls what is good and appropriate spiritually, but now a castigation of self-interest. (There are better examples of misunderstandings than this, I just can't think of them right now.)

Now, degli Uberti probably never met a Macedonian peasant; he probably learnt his Greek from some pedant or other (though it was a century before the Italian countryside was thick with them). But there is a good chance that μετά χαράς was already in as common usage as γειά σου, with neither cassock nor suit to blame for it. It could have just survived in spoken use, unparsed, as a formula. But the common folk were not insulated from the pedants; and I suspect this was not a recollection from 700 AD (or whenever the prepositional genitive died). Rather, I think this was a 1300 AD learnèd (or, more to the point aristocratic) formula, that percolated synchronically down to the common herd. The common herd may well have been the expression of the Romeic native genius in their everyday talk; but they were not above imitating their betters (especially in a politeness formula).

This has consequences for the analysis of how oral the Early Modern poems are. Early Modern Greek poems are pretty formulaic, like a lot of oral poetry is. But unlike oral poetry, the formulas are (a) pretty boring, and (b) often archaic. Which, given the romantic perception that the spoken language was very different from the written, suggests to people that the formulas were artificial, and the oral-like construction of the poems was fake: these poems were written by learnèd poets, and made to sound like ballads by using formulas; but those weren't the real formulas that an untutored bard would use.

I think the conclusion is correct; it remedies the even more unrealistically romantic perception that the Early Modern poems are verbatim transcriptions of untutored bards. But not all ancient-looking clichés in Early Modern poems are fake formulas. They can quite well real clichés that the tutored—and even the untutored—used in real life. I used Dittamondo to argue this in our translation of the Quadrupeds (although I still thought then that this was an oral survival, and not an instance of diglossia):

One should be careful in applying this theory, however. Mohay (1974–75:178–9), for instance, concludes μετὰ χαρᾶς μεγάλης must be literary in origin since it uses the outdated genitive after "with" (though he allows that the form μετά itself could have survived as a variant of its Modern reflex με—particularly as traces of μετά are still to be found in Modern Greek dialect). But the fourteenth century Italian poet Fazio dgli Uberti uses the phrase μετὰ χαρᾶς "with pleasure" in an imaginary conversation with a peasant in Macedonia—the remainder of the onset of which is in impeccable Modern Greek (Dittamondo 3.23.49; degli Uberti 1952:249). This formula uses the genitive, and in fact survives to this day. There is good reason to believe that formulaic phrases of everyday conversation retain grammatical archaisms that have died out in productive use; and the verse formula μετὰ χαρᾶς μεγάλης could have been merely an elaboration of a surviving vernacular μετὰ χαρᾶς. So the formula would be archaic not being used by bards of old (whose existence is hard to pin down, anyway), but being used conversationally of old.
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News in Tsakonia, 1895

When Thanasis Costakis, fresh out of high school, sat down in 1930 with Hubert Pernot to give him language data, Tsakonian was still quite different from Standard Greek, not just in morphology, but syntax as well. The phrase I keep coming back to is αρχίνηε κχαούντα "he started barking": participles could still be the complements to verbs in Tsakonian, as with Ancient Greek (and English); but that's long been impossible in Standard Greek, which can only use the subjunctive:  άρχισε να γαυγίζει.

That difference did not last. Costakis started collecting texts himself in the mid '40s, and nothing he collected since has any such surprises. By the time Dimitris Houpis was writing his bilingual works in the '80s and '90s, the Tsakonian read like a word for word translation from the Standard Greek on the opposite page. (And it may well have been.)

So any Tsakonian text we can get from before 1930 is most welcome. There isn't a lot. The Lord's Prayer got picked up by Thiersch in 1831, but that's not the kind of text you'd trust the most. There are a couple of letters from the 1820s, some poems and songs that Oikonomou published in 1846 and 1870, and some folk tales that Scutt published in 1912. There's Stratigis' novella Τσουράννα, published posthumously in 1943. And that's almost it.

Except that in 1895, a D.M. Latsis published a "Tsakonian Calendar". And this Tsakonian Calendar clearly had Tsakonian prose in it. It certainly had enough jokes to pop into issues of Chronicles of Tsakonia for at least two issues; and Manolis Triantafyllidis quoted text from it for his Historical Introduction to his Grammar of Modern Greek—which for a fair while was as good a history of Modern Greek as we had.

So when I was in Greece in 1995—and 2000—I went looking for this book. It wasn't in the National Library; it wasn't in the Linguistics Departmental Library in Athens U; it wasn't in the Departmental Library in Thessalonica U either (although we know Triantafyllidis had a copy, so it likely is somewhere on campus). I gave up the search eventually...

until Crete U digitised it and popped it online. It never would have occurred to me to look for it in Rethymnon; more fool I.

So. Now that we have access to the text, what does it tell us about Tsakonia and Tsakonian in 1895?

Well, I won't be doing a linguistic analysis at 1 AM on a school night. I'll just cherry pick the interesting stuff, and sociolinguistics will be easier this time of night than straight linguistics.

  • 51 pp; the thing starts with a calendar, so the actual content starts on p. 15.
  • It starts with a rather gossipy account of life in Lenidi in Puristic Greek. The highlights:

    • The steamship started coming to Lenidi around 1883. Getting into port was perilous, and porters would have to wade in and lift passengers out to terra firma for half a drachma.
    • Lenidi serviced not just Tsakonian villages, but Greek-speaking villages to its south, like Tsitalia (where Costakis was actually from.)
    • Big coffee drinkers; the author attributes this to the number of Lenidians in Turkey.
    • Not big café dwellers, being simple farmers; mostly fruit.
    • Lament singers would show up before the person actually died. One woman actually smirked εκάναϊ να μι βάτσωι "they're here to cry over me."
    • Pernot gets mentioned several times, and he obviously made quite an impression—although he's only ever called The French Professor. So p. 22: "In 1892 a funeral in Leonidion was attended by the French professor, who had just arrived to learn the Tsakonian dialect; during the whole duration he kept wiping his eyes full of tears, which as he said did not cry as much under similar circumstances in his country in Paris, at the death of not an old man as here, but of someone in the flower of youth." p. 23, Father Kleanthis Oikonomou was Pernot's "interpreter, so to speak".
    • They held funeral dinners.
    • Just like the Maniots, the Tsakonians called outsiders Vlachs. A quarter of the houses in Lenidi were owned by "strangers from the surrounding villages." The Greek-speakers in turn called Tsakonian men κουφά ("deaf things"?), and Tsakonian women Μαρούας "Marys".
    • No illiterates in Lenidi town under 50, apart from shepherds.
    • Six churches, two chapels by the sea: the Holy Apostles, and St Leonidas (Άγιε Λήδη), after whom the town was named. Lots more in the surrounding region.
    • Many Tsakonians had already emigrated, to Athens and Peiraeus, Constantinople and the Ottoman Empire, as well as Romania.
    • The Tsakonians in Athens and Constantnople were mostly winemakers: 3/4 of the wineries in Constantinople. This, although there were no vineyards in Tsakonia.
    • Lame antisemitic joke at the end: Jew flees Greek commercial competition, goes to the middle of Anatolia to set up shop, a Peloponnesian turns even there; Jew dies of envy. "That Greek must have been a Tsakonian!" Latsis exults. And you're a shmuck, Latsis.

  • p. 31. Standard Greek ballad.
  • p. 32. Shaggy Dog story in Tsakonian: "Maroua's Wedding"
  • p. 34. Lament on migration in Tsakonian, rhyming, and clearly originally in Tsakonian (unlike a lot of later song transcriptions).
  • p. 36. Shaggy Dog story in Tsakonian: "Macaroons in Athens", on the mishaps of two old monolingual Tsakonian women in a patisserie in Athens. (They don't understand Standard Greek, but they do know that one drachma a macaroon is much too much.) Oh, proof of monolingual Tsakonians.
  • p. 39. Lament on the Death of John Charamis in Tsakonian. Also rhyming.
  • p. 41. Jokes in Tsakonian.

    • In Vatsina (a shepherd community, and the most isolated of all Tsakonian settlements—in fact, the only place Charalambopoulos could get a young native speaker for his PhD in the 1970s.) Mother [in standard Greek]: George, come, let me give you bread and cheese.—Och you, I dinna want "bread" and "cheese"; 'tis breid an' tjees I want!" [sorry]
    • "I won't set foot in water again, unless I learn to swim first!"
    • "You're sick? What ails you? ... You can't answer me? Well, if I get sick, and you come see me, I won't answer you!
    • Crows are said to live 200 years. Man from Vatsina puts a crow in a cage. And waits to see if it's true.

  • p. 42. Tsakonian translation of the "Letter of Jesus Christ": a piece of "neoapocrypha" that was doing the rounds at the time in many a language, and mostly was about insisting on taking Sundays off.
  • p. 49. List of subscribers. Four times as many in Athens as in Lenidi, and several also in Constanţa, Romania.
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Tsakonian orthographic reform

If you're Hubert Pernot, the great hellenist whose grammar of Tsakonian is a Neogrammarian masterwork, Tsakonian gets written in some bizarre adaptation of a bizzare French dialectological alphabet (Gillieron-Rousselot, which seems to have evolved into the French Romance transcription.)

If you're Agathocles Haralambopoulos, former prof at Aristotle Uni who did his doctorate on Tsakonian phonology, you use the IPA, and call Nick's favourite phoneme /tsʰ/ instead of /tɕ/, thereby not making Nick your fan.

If you're any other Greek linguist, and particularly the native speaker Thanasis Costakis (who was Pernot's main informant), you use historical Greek orthography, with any diacritics your printer allows (as is normal Greek dialectological practice)—and different printers will allow different diacritics. So it'll be κ̔ τ̔ π̔, σ̌, ρ̌, λ̣ ν̣, λ̑ ν̑, and τσ̕ or τσ̑.

If you are Michael Deffner, enthusiast who stayed in Tsakonia for fifty years but did not become any better as a linguist as a result (Pernot has some gallically charming things to say about his phonology), you have even more diacritics than you actually need, because you haven't quite grasped that whole phoneme concept.

If you're a lay Tsakonian—as happened in the few times in the 19th and early 20th century when Tsakonians wrote Tsakonian—you just use the 24 letters of the Greek alphabet, and a *lot* of digraphs. The system is pretty much laid out in Wikipedia (citing me, and with my corrections). So σχ is /ʃ/; ρζ is /r̝/ or /ʒ/ (socially conditioned); πφ τθ κχ is /pʰ tʰ kʰ/; λλ and νν are /l/ and /n/ before front vowels, where you'd expect /ʎ ɲ/. (That one's subtle, and much less often complied with. In Tsakonian /ne/ goes to /ni/, and /ni/ goes to /ɲi/.) [c] is just κ, which occurs before front vowels as in standard Greek (but is in fact a reflex of palatalised /p/ or /t/: κίνω /cino/ < πίνω /pino/).

The reflex of palatalised /k/ is not [c] in Tsakonian, but what Haralambopoulos transcribed as /tsʰ/, and what I'd like to think is closer to /tɕ/. (Alas, even though Pernot actually did some pioneering instrumental phonetics, and Haralambopoulos did spectrograms too, it's hard to tell.) Lay practice was to render this as τζ. So κήπος [cipos] went to τζήπε [tɕipe].

The problem with τζ is, Modern Greek speakers will read it as /dz/, and there are already /dz/ in Tsakonian. (Admittedly they're overwhelmingly /ndz/, but a couple of Turkish loan words are all you need to throw that off.) I've long thought that, if Tsakonian keeps getting written in lay transcription, that τχ [tç] would be a less problematic rendering of /tɕ/. And by its resemblance to the digraph tx, it would finally establish a connection between Basque and Tsakonian! :-)

So τχήπε instead of τζήπε. There, I've said it, now I just wait for the Googlers to find it...

How to teach historical linguistics

It was 1991, and I was an engineering student who was not interested in engineering, and for whom the joy of mathematics had recently been killed by the "Shut Up And Learn The Formula" approach to the proof of Fourier Transforms. I met a girl at a party, and followed her into a linguistics course. It was Historical Linguistics, taught at the time by Ilia Pejros. Twelve years later, I would lecture that course. Sixteen years later, the University of Melbourne would cease offering that course. Aber alles Irdische ist übel, selbst das Geld geht in Verwesung über.

But it was 1991, and I just grinned through the entire course. The linguistics undergrads, leery of the loud engineering student who suddenly turned up among them, assumed that I was grinning at Ilia's accent. I was in fact grinning because I didn't believe a word of it. Historical reconstruction is a special kind of magic, and when you convince yourself it works, it's breezy and amazing. But you need to be convinced that it works first, and I wasn't being convinced by Ilia's assertions that it was obvious.

I convinced myself a couple of years later, but you need some special circumstances to be convinced.

  • You need to take a proto-language that you know reasonably well.
  • And a daughter language that you know at least somewhat.
  • And the daughter language must in at least some ways look nothing like the proto-language.
  • Yet the phonological changes from the proto-language to the daughter language need to be reasonably regular,
  • So that, finding out about one rule, you unlock a whole suite of correspondences where you did not expect them.

For me, the stars lined up with Tsakonian, which is one of the reasons I ended up liking Tsakonian so much.

  • The proto-language is not quite Doric, as the enthusiasts will tell you; there's bits of Doric in there, but most Tsakonian words, you can reconstruct armed just with v AD Koine Greek; and you can usually get to v AD Koine Greek straightforwardly from the historical spelling of xxi AD Modern Greek.
  • Tsakonian has dictionaries and grammars, so you can see the words in action.
  • Tsakonian really looks nothing like Greek should—not just morphologically, but phonologically as well: the clusters have melted away, and the language is pretty much CV syllables (as long as you allow aspirated stops and affricates to be a single C).
  • But the rules for how the phonological meltdown happened are pretty regular, and in fact continued in productive use into the 19th century: ειρηνοδίκης [irinoðicis] "justice of the peace", a calque from German, ended up quite regularly as ρζινοδίτχι [r̝inoðitɕi], and γραμματική [ɣramatici] "grammar" as γραμμακιτχή [ɣramacitɕi].
  • And once you know the phonological rules, a lot of opaque words suddenly make sense: /tʰuma/ is /stoma/, /ʎuke/ is /lykos/, /atʃe/ is /aðros/, and so forth.

(Btw, I've snuck in there an orthographic reform I'd like to see if Tsakonian does go online with the wikipedia and what-not. Posting on that separately.)

For students in Europe, the stars traditionally lined about around Romance. Everyone knew Latin; everyone knew French (and could be convinced about Portuguese); neither particularly look like Latin in their core vocabulary; but explain the core changes, and suddenly chère does connect to carus, and hui to hodie. In fact, one of my students at the time—who's now my colleague in my day job—told me at the time that his stars-lining-up moment was realising in my final lecture, through a combination of Grimm's Law and velarisation, that French peau was cognate to English fell "the skin or hide of an animal; pelt."

Now, if you're teaching historical linguistics in the University of the South Pacific, as the late Terry Crowley used to, French and Portuguese aren't going to convince your students about the validity of the comparative method. Moreover, given how close the Polynesian languages are to each other, Fijian and Tongan and Maori will convince your students, because after all, you are at the University of the South Pacific. Which means that Terry Crowley writing a historical linguistics textbook based on Polynesian examples was an entirely appropriate and sensible thing to do.

I would also like to suggest that using a textbook based on Polynesian examples in Australia, for students who don't know any Fijian or Tongan or Maori—but a lot of whom have had high school French or German—is paedagogically lame, and deserves all the grins that loudmouth engineering students can muster. Because Tongan will not convince people who know neither Tongan nor Hawaiian that the comparative method works. Sorry, OUP, you got no sales from me; the also late Larry Trask did instead. (I thought it was a bit on the easy side, myself; but apparently my course was the hardest one some of my students ever took in linguistics, so one should err on the side of caution.)

And I can only shake my head at the prof whose very first page of lecture notes on historical linguistics illustrated a phonetic change (I think it was lenition)... with the development of an Australian proto-language into an Australian daughter language. Dude, noone in the room knows Pitjantjara (except for you—we ain't in Bachelor College), and certainly noone in the room knows proto-Pama-Nyungan. INCLUDING YOU. That's just circular reasoning, and its risible to put it in your first lecture. Prove to me lenition happens with languages someone else in the room can nod along to; then get back to me with proto-whatever.

(It's liberating to be able to say this kind of thing, now that I'm no longer anywhere near trying to get a linguistics job...)

That, incidentally, is why dialects are really helpful for convincing yourself of the validity of phonetic change: they're close enough that the cognates are obvious, but still have all the range of phonetic change that languages display. Unfortunately English dialect does more vowel change than consonant change; but its not like you can't find plenty of palatalisation, or cluster reduction, or analogical change...