Course outline: Levels 2 and 2.5

Byzantine Greek Summer School 2014

Centre for Byzantine, Ottoman and Modern Greek Studies
Department of Classics, Ancient History and Archaeology
University of Birmingham

This course follows on from the Summer School Level-1 course, and assumes that students have successfully completed the Level-1 course or acquired an equivalent level of competence in Greek. Through 60 hours of teaching over a two-week period, Level-2 introduces them to remaining morphology and syntax of Byzantine Greek, while continuing to revise and reinforce the material covered by the Level-1 course. By “Byzantine Greek” we mean the dominant form of Greek written during the period of the Byzantine Empire (AD 330–1453). The spoken language continued to develop throughout the Byzantine period, and when the vernacular becomes visible to us in the twelfth century as a language for new forms of literature it is already recognizably Modern Greek. However most Byzantine historical, theological, rhetorical and  literary writers, both before and after the twelfth century, use a conservative and almost static form of Greek based directly or indirectly on the established idea of Attic Greek of the fifth century BC, but influenced by the Hellenistic Koine and Biblical Greek, with additional Latin-derived vocabulary, particularly in matters of administration and law.

The purpose of the course is to enable students to develop their ability  to read Greek texts of the Byzantine period, through exposure to writing in various genres. However, as with the Level-1 course, since the morphology and syntax which is taught is not, for the most part, distinguishable from that of Classical Greek, this course is also a suitable preparation for reading Classical texts. In this course, though, we may introduce students to samples of late Byzantine vernacular literature, which exhibit elements of the morphology and syntax of Modern Greek. Texts studied usually include selections from a historical chronicle (the Chronographia of Theophanes) and excerpts from the Liturgy of John Chrysostom, and from a Saint’s Life, as well as examples of Biblical and Classical Greek. While some of the vocabulary students acquire is specific to the period, the greater part of it is equally useful in approaching pre-Byzantine Greek texts, including the New Testament. By the end of the course students should be equipped to continue their study of Greek texts and to enlarge the necessarily limited vocabulary they will have acquired in this short but intensive course.

Morphology. 

This course involves constant review and revision of the basic morphology covered in Level 1, and covers more thoroughly the future and perfect tenses and the subjunctive mood, which are merely introduced in the earlier course; reference is made to the optative mood, though its use is infrequent in Byzantine texts.

Syntax. 

In this course we assume knowledge of basic syntax taught in Level 1 and concentrate on principles of sentence construction, the uses of conjunctions and particles, and the subtleties and complexities of the participial system. We try to lead students towards an appreciation of the differences in style of the various texts studied.

Dictionaries.

Students are encourage to bring with them their own copy of the Liddell and Scott Intermediate Greek-English Lexicon. For those unable to do so, we have a limited number of copies that may be borrowed for the duration of the course. Please note that a paperback edition is now available. It is currently priced at 22.50 GBP on www.amazon.co.uk.

Pronunciation. 

As in the Level-1 course, we use modern Greek pronunciation, since all the evidence indicates that this is closer to the pronunciation of Greek in the Byzantine period than is the Erasmian pronunciation (in any of its variants) generally used in the teaching of Classical Greek. However, students who wish to go on to further study in contexts where Erasmian pronunciation is in use can be introduced to that system towards the end of the course. Students get constant practice in reading Greek aloud. Having learned modern pronunciation they have a head start if they wish at some stage to learn the modern form of the language. For those starting at Level 2 and unfamiliar with Modern Greek pronunciation, there will be additional pronunciation sessions in the first two days of the course.

Teaching. 

The principle is for two teachers to be involved, one teaching the morning sessions which concentrate on formal grammar and the learning and revision of paradigms, and the other teaching the afternoon sessions where we work on Byzantine texts. In practice, all of the teachers involved in the Summer School will make some contribution to Level 2.

Assessment. 

There are frequent short written tests, which are corrected by the teachers and returned to the students, throughout the course. At the end of the course there is written exam paper (three hours) and students who pass this are given a certificate to say that they have successfully completed the course.

Level-2.5 (Higher Intermediate)

This course is not offered as a confirmed option in advance, but if the number of Level-2/2.5 applicants warrants it, as it did in 2012 and 2013, we will divide them into two groups. Those who were beginners at the beginning of Level-1 and are continuing to Level-2, together with others starting at Level-2 with roughly the same existing knowledge of Greek, will be constitute Level-2. Those with a more advanced knowledge of Greek but not sufficient for Level-3 will be assigned to Level 2.5. Level 2.5 covers some of the same types of material as Level 2 (Theophanes, the Liturgy) but at greater speed and with additional texts of greater complexity. All applicants to Levels 2/2.5 (other than those applying to Levels 1 and 2) and all applicants to Level 3 will take a diagnostic translation test on the first morning of the course. The results of this test will be the basis for final allocations to Levels 2, 2.5 (if available), and Level 3. The application of the test results is not rigid; if your result is on the borderline between levels, a decision will be made in consultation with you.