The Dead Languages of the Classic World, Ancient Greek and Latin | Chat with Luke of @polýMATHY (1)
Hello, Steve here again and today I have a special treat.
Uh, I'm not going to talk sort of about learning modern languages.
I'm gonna talk about to some extent ancient languages and learning
and have a very interesting guest, Luke Ranieri of polýMATHY.
And remember, before we get into this, if you enjoy my videos, please subscribe,
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So Luke, I was watching your videos yesterday.
Really enjoyed them.
The first thing that I think is interesting is the term polymathy.
A lot of people think that math, math has in mathematics, means numbers.
Please explain a, the term polymathy and b, your interest in ancient languages.
Oh, Steve, you're asking me about the etymology one of my favorite topics
and something I do like to talk about on my polýMATHY channel from time
to time, the Greek word, Monthano or Montano for an even ancient more ancient
pronunciation it means "I learn".
So, uh, that the root of it, which is that M A T H math is about learning.
in modern Greek pronunciation is "a student".
And uh, so the, uh, so a polymath is a student of many things and my background
isn't exclusively in languages.
In fact, that's what I've mostly done until more recently, I'd say,
as a hobby on the side that I've been teaching languages for years.
Um, uh, but also I have background in science and I have
uh, done uh military aviation.
So I have these different interests that I've, um, coalesced together
essentially into one or two channels.
My other channel being, um, Latin and Greek, which is ScorpioMartianus.
First of all, I will leave a link to Luke's channel polýMATHY
in the description box.
The quality of your videos Luke is tremendous.
The video quality, the audio quality of the content, it's all excellent.
And, uh, I was enjoying, uh, I also saw a video by the way, where you went
around in Italy, I think it was in Rome, asking Italians if they spoke Latin
and that they, some of them thought they did, but in fact, didn't, um...
we have Latin that LingQ.
Uh, I haven't studied Latin at LingQ, one of the issues is pronunciation.
How confident are we about how Latin was pronounced?
Oh, that that is a fascinating, important question.
Um, because we have essentially more than one standard.
There are two very big standards of Latin pronunciation and one that is probably in
some ways, uh, better known to the layman would be the ecclesiastical pronunciation
or the traditional, national pronunciation of Latin in Italy, which, uh, for
about 115 years has been the standard pronunciation of Latin in the church.
However, even before that was really codafide and standardized the classical
pronunciation that is an attempt to reconstruct that ancient pronunciation.
What's interesting too, is that Latin has never, has never, um,
gone out of fashion completely.
That is, there's always, there's always been fluent speakers
in the world and writers.
Uh, so whatever pronunciation these people have used has been after the
end of the language, being a living language, which happens about a thousand
or so years ago, um, Latin is pronounced in all kinds of different ways.
So, uh, not super prescriptive to say that this is...
you should pronounce Latin this way, especially if they're using the great
content which is on LingQ and another friend and colleague who's contributing
a lot to LingQ, Carla Hurt from Found in Antiquity, she's been putting a
lot of stuff there and I'm really...
Oh, I got to go there and do it some time.
But it is true, you know, central Europeans say ... Italians
say ... uh, whereas presumably it's...
Right, which is...
you're absolutely right.
And most people are familiar with in school with the classical
over-stored classical pronunciation.
And that's because the C and the G uh, were pronounced cut and go until
about the fifth or sixth century AD.
So when those specific pronunciation changes came.
But we're really confident.
And we know about the pronunciation from essentially three great sources.
One is ancient grammarians.
Ancient grammarians talk in great detail about pronunciation, but they
don't always get everything right.
They weren't linguists in the modern sense, really didn't
exist until the past century.
Uh, thanks uh, to linguistic understanding, we can see how languages
evolve in general and therefore understand how the pronunciation was,
how it was an old, Latin pre-classical at that is, and then late Latin
so we can understand quite a lot.
And then the last thing would be just to look at the romance languages,
where languages, um, where, uh, how Latin actually changed and evolved,
and then understand regular processes.
And another thing that's, uh, you know, I, I speak Italian, not very well, but I
speak Italian and I had Latin at school.
You speak very well.
I've enjoyed seeing you speak Italian.
And Latin a couple of years of school.
Uh, I remember we, in order to remember the declensions, we would have contests
who could, who could decline bellum.
The teacher would use a stop, stop watch.
Blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah.
I can't remember anymore, but that was Latin.
uh, I did study Greek, uh, at LingQ.
So tell me the difference between the say ancient Greek and,
and are we less sure about the pronunciation of ancient Greek or not.
And say ancient...
ancient Greek versus modern Greek, Latin versus say Italian, which
presumably is the closest to, or maybe it isn't, I don't know the
relationship between these ancient languages and their modern successors.
Another one of my favorite topics.
Uh, so it's, um, for all intents and purposes, modern Greek and ancient Greek
are different languages in the sense that Italian and Latin are different languages.
Uh, Greeks, don't like to hear that because they have a very strong
affinity with their, their past.
And they're very proud of that, which is great.
Um, and the fact that both of them are called Greek leads to an
inherent semantic confusion, which is interesting how, in general words...
how important they really can be.
Um, there are definitely, there are about as many differences between
modern Greek and ancient Greek, as there are say between at least
Sardinian, which is a little bit more conservative than Italian and Latin...
they just simply don't work grammatically in the same way though
there are a lot of similarities.
Um, as far as the pronunciation how certain are we about the pronunciation?
Oh my gosh.
Well, pick a century and then I can tell you a bit more specifically,
but, um, a lot of people focus, if they're interested in restoring some
kind of ancient Greek pronunciation, they're interested in the fifth century
pronunciation specifically of...
Fifth century BC?
Fifth century, BC, Athens.
Sorry, I'm already like...
Glad you clarified.
Fifth century BC Athens when we have a, we have Plato and Socrates and
we have, uh, Sophocles or Stephanus.
Authors that people like to read.
And that's sort of the, the motivation: I want to pronounce the
language like these authors did.
It's not necessary.
One can use the modern Greek pronunciation.
just as one can use the ecclesiastical pronunciation of
Latin to access the ancient texts.
You can use any pronunciation under these languages.
Like we access Shakespeare by means of our modern North American pronunciation of
English, a modern Englishman, or Scotsmen or Irishman, New Zealander or Australian
can all use whatever pronunciation.
If, I mean, I like to reconstruct Shakespearian pronunciation.
I've had a few videos, where I've done that, but, um, it's, it's not
necessary, not necessary for the most part, unless we really want to
understand the rhymes and other things.
And I do think that's important, um, to a certain extent,
but it's also not practical.
Not everyone out there is a 20 language polyglot.
Are there just the way...
Just to interrupt briefly, are there sort of, uh, presentations
of Shakespeare in the ancient, with the ancient pronunciation?
Yes, the Crystal, father-son team David Crystal and Ben Crystal
have a lot of great recordings.
Um, I, uh, have, uh, a couple of his books, actually.
David Crystal, the father.
Who's done a lot of great work.
And at the new Globe Theater in London, I believe it's called, they do performances
regularly, or they did I dunno how it has been during the pandemic years, in
Shakespearian pronunciation of the 1600s.
So it was just fascinating and it sounds something like a mix
between North American and Irish, Northern England pronunciation.
It's really great.
I like it a lot.
Uh, because whenever as you talk, I get all these questions in my mind.
So I'm going to interrupt you.
The other question is so much of the Bible was written in Greek.
Uh, the Byzantine empire was Greek or at least the ministration
of it was largely Greek.
So how much evolution was there, say between the Greek of the fifth
century of Sophocles, the Greek of, uh, Paul or whatever the Bible.
The Greek of the Byzantine empire, like it...
has there been a gradual process of evolution or did they maintain sort
of an ancient form while the people in the villages and the towns spoken
different Greek that became modern Greek, what's kind of the history there?
What, uh, that is a very astute question.
And it's also a difficult one to answer because a lot of the things you just
said are essentially true, um, in the sense that it's been a slow evolution
of de-evolving the language at almost every turn, but not ever succeeding
completely in the sense that there's always in almost every single epic of
Greek literature, a conservative trying to restore, retain things from the past.
Now that's not untrue of even the romance languages, which brought in
a huge amount of words from Latin.
Uh, almost anytime you see an AU in say Italian or Spanish or something,
that's not a natural sound, that should just be an O, but if it's an AU in
one of those languages, it means it's been taken from Latin literature.
Now, Greek was doing that, not just from say the, uh, the early Renaissance
or late medieval period as happened and say Italian and the other romance
languages, but it's constantly been going on even from the times of antiquity.
So the, uh, the...
the Koine language, which is the common language of, uh, from Alexander
the great all through the end of antiquity, which is itself changing
and developing shows um, admiration and, um, utilization of the models of
that fifth century BC classical Greek.
So there's, in the literature we have this, this class, this classicising
movements, which are already going on in antiquity in the time of say Cicero.
And then 200 years later at the time of the author, uh, Lucian, a very,
very famous Attic style um, but Koine era like 700 years after that fifth
century BC classical era writing in almost perfect classical Attic.
And then you have, um, Anna Komnene of the Komnenos family.
She also wrote in very, very good prose, which was very, in very good
imitation of that classical style.
So it's really interesting how much the language has
been kept from, from evolving.
And then there's the Katharevousa which happened after the...
cause the medieval, which was already highly archaizing wasn't classical enough.
So they tried to do that again.
And then there was amazing period of diglossia where there was modern
Greek, two kinds of modern Greek.