Meeting Times: Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays 3:00-3:50 pm CT, Tuesdays 8:00 to 9:15 am
Meeting Places: Language Learning Center
Office Hours: I am generally on campus from 8:00 a.m. until 6:00 pm. My scheduled office hours this semester will be on Mondays from 9:00 to 10:00 am; Tuesdays from 11:00 to 12:00 pm; and Wednesday from 11:00 am to 12:00 pm. I am also happy to schedule a meeting at our mutual convenience. You may assume that I am available for consultation whenever I am in my office with the door open. If you find my door closed, I am either not in my office, or I am in my office but in a videoconference. Please do not knock.
Telephone: 202-257-6269. Feel free to call or text between the hours of 6:00 am. and 12:00 midnight central time.
Electronic communication: firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com
This course aims to develop your ability to read, understand, and respond to texts written in Greek during the classical period of ancient Greece, which began in the six century BCE and came to a close with the rise of Macedonian power in the Mediterranean during the last half of the fourth century. The skills you develop will also allow you to understand the earliest ancient Greek texts, including Homer and archaic lyric poetry, and texts that appeared during the Hellenistic period and the Roman Empire, including the New Testament. As a rich and dynamic medium of expression, ancient Greek can also serve as a means for oral and verbal communication among the members of the course both in and outside of classroom. Because language is a cultural artifact, acquiring ancient Greek will lead to a basic familiarity with various aspects of Greek civilization.
Using a variety of online resources and discussions, we are developing an approach that brings instruction in ancient Greek more closely in line with recent advances in the study of how human beings acquire languages. It is part of a larger initiative focusing on the works of Xenophon, in particular the Cyropaedia. The approach draws on the work of W. H. D. Rouse who developed A Greek Boy at Home, a reader that accompanied his First Greek Course in 1909. The readings consist primarily of passaged adapted from a variety of sources including:
Colloquia of the Hermeneumata Pseudodositheana
Herodotus, Histories 1
Ctesias, Persian History
Homeric Hymn to Aphrodite
Lysias, 1 and 12
Our approach to acquiring ancient Greek in this class will be rigorously inductive, requiring you to play an active, conscious role in the process. You must pay close attention to what you understand, what you do not understand, and reasons why you both comprehend and do not comprehend certain words and passages. Furthermore, you must demonstrate your level of understanding during the class meetings and pose questions about what you do not understand. Those observations and questions combined with responses from the instructors and other members of the class will constitute the primary activity of the class meetings. We will not use a textbook with a sequenced introduction to grammatical phenomena, and explanations about morphology and syntax. We will address the morphology and syntax of the language as we encounter them in the readings. So, in effect, you will construct your own textbook, reference grammar, and lexicon over the course of the semester. You may, of course, use one or more textbooks, grammars, and lexica, if you wish, to supplement your observations, but they are not required. To grammars are available in the resources on this worksite:
You should bear in mind that the materials and methodology are in a state of evolution. From time to time we will try new ways of experiencing and using the language. Comments and feedback about their experiences are most welcome.
Fundamentals of acquiring a second language
You must engage with the language in ways that make it comprehensible. In other words, you can live around the speakers of a foreign language but never acquire it unless you understand at least some of what others say. Unfortunately, the forms of language one is likely to encounter in those environments (television broadcasts, radio programs, conversations) are not aimed at facilitating comprehension by non-speakers.
The more frequently you engage with the “target” language in comprehensible forms, the faster you will acquire the language. Exposure to sufficient amounts of comprehensible language (or “input”) will automatically and unavoidably lead to your acquiring the language. In fact, you could not completely prevent this process, even if you so desired.
Because it is impossible to immerse yourself completely in an optimized environment for acquiring the language to the exclusion of other academic activities, the next best approach is for you to gain exposure to the language (for example, working through the text and assignments) on a regular, daily basis. Devoting six hours to acquiring Greek on Saturday but spending no further time to acquiring the language during the rest of the week will not be as efficient and productive as spending a hour each day for six days. You should plan to spend time every day studying the language. Furthermore, you do not need large, continuous blocks of time. Acquiring any language is a process that you can conveniently and effectively fit into modest amounts of time between other activities and commitments as long as one concentrates and focuses on the task.
You might think of acquiring a language like the operation of an electric motor. Your ability to use the language is the motor itself, and comprehensible input is the electrical current. If the motor is in good functioning condition (and, incidentally, being able to engage in scholarly activities at the collegiate level suggests that your motor functions very well), the only factor that can impede the operation of this system is anxiety, which is the functional equivalent of friction. The more nervous and hesitant you are about working with the language, the slower the process of acquisition.
Documenting your work
To make the study of ancient Greek more effective and to document your work in this course you must keep a journal. The information you record will serve three crucial functions. First, it will help structure your sessions and make the time you spend with the language more productive. Second, it will provide crucial documentation about your interaction with the language, which will partially form the basis of your grade. Finally, your work in your journals will guide the conversations and discussions in class and help identify aspects of the language that require further explanation and practice. You may organize your journals as you find most convenient and helpful. However, because the information in the journals is so important, the journals should be durable and withstand heavy use during the semester. They should also be in a form that you can share with your
Journals should contain the following information in the entries:
The date and time when you begin a session of study and the time when you finish. Recording information about the date and time of study is part of the active, conscious process of acquiring the language. Classes will constitute one type of those study sessions, and you should take notes and emend your past observations, if necessary, during class meetings.
You should take notes on morphology, syntax, and vocabulary. As you becomes more fluent in the language, you will spend less and less time taking notes and looking up words. Nevertheless, taking notes about the phenomena you encounters and vocabulary items, particularly those not included among the core vocabulary, can help improve reading comprehension as your review passages and work with new material. Notes should should include observations and questions about grammatical constructions or passages that prove problematic even when you are confident about the level of your comprehension.
At the end of each session, you should write a summary of the passage. Often you will spend so much time working through individual passages that you loose a sense of what is happening in the narrative. Writing a summary will help ensure that you are reaching an appropriate level of comprehension.
When there are written assignments, you should do the work in your journal. Reviewing the assignments will take place in class, so you can add notes and corrections. You will not get credit for assignments unless they are in your journal.
With regard to the process of reading itself, here are some tips:
Before engaging with a new passage, you should take time to establish the context by going back and reviewing the material that you read in the previous sessions. The readings relate to each other and all contribute to a larger narrative concerning the life of Cyrus before his identity as the grandson of the king emerges. In addition to going back and rereading the passages themselves, going through and reviewing previous entries in your journal, including the summaries, will help you recall grammatical constructions, contextual information, and vocabulary, making your session more productive.
You should skim over the passage and look for proper nouns. While making mental notes about the persons and places you encounter, you should observe the case of the proper nouns, which will provide clues about the roles of the people or places. Proper nouns represent a significant percentage of most authentic texts you will read.
You should be conscious of the differences between English and ancient Greek. For example, you must remember that the position of a word in a sentence of ancient Greek does not convey the same grammatical information as it does in English. Recognizing and comprehending every ending, which provides information you would normally gain from the location of the word in an English sentence. You should resist looking in the lexicon or notes each time you encounters a word that looks unfamiliar. First, you should determine as much as possible about the function of the word by studying the ending and relating that word and the role it plays to the other words and phrases you already understand. This is what native speakers do when they encounter something unfamiliar. The LAD (“language acquisition device”) will help in the process of determining the meaning of such words from the contexts of repeated encounters. In language–as in archaeology–nothing (neither words nor material artifacts) has meaning independent of its context.
As noted above, it is vital to take time and record observations and questions. For example, notes about unusual vocabulary items you are not likely to encounter very often will often provide the best reminders about the context.
You should work through a selection two or three times, at least, before writing out a summary. The second and third times through the text are ultimately more important, because the “input” will be more comprehensible, and the internal process of acquiring the language will work more efficiently. The course is designed to read through passages as many as twenty times. Remember, you are not reading the passages simply to know learn what happens but to provide your LAD with comprehensible input, and the more input, the better the LAD functions.
The grade you receive at the end of the semester will constitute both an assessment of your progress in acquiring ancient Greek and the work you put into the process.
Journals: As noted above, your journals will constitute both a record of your engagement with the language but also resource for your ongoing study and acquisition of ancient Greek. At the end of the semester, you will hand in your journal for evaluation. The criteria will correspond to the categories of information that your journal should contain: data about your study sessions, notes about the morphology, syntax, and vocabulary, summaries (or translations) of the reading selections, and written assignments. Your score will account for twenty percent (20%) of your final grade.
Attendance: You will be expected to attend every class meeting and come prepared to play an active role in the activities of the class. Your time in class contributes to your progress in the language as much as the time you spend in careful individual or group study. All of the classes will be archived on the YouTube channel for Zētēsis Courses. If you are not able to attend class, you will be responsible for viewing the recording of the class on YouTube. Bear in mind that there is no “textbook” for this class. You will construct your own grammar and lexicon in your journal through your engagement with the readings and our discussions in class. Consequently, coming unprepared, not participating, and missing classes will significantly impede your improvement in the language. Attendance, as measured by your journal, videos, and a time clock application will account for ten percent (10%) of your final grade.
Assignments: Acquiring a foreign language is different than learning about history or any other subject, so the way you study should also be different. Because the emphasis will be on regular, consistent exposure to the language, you will be expected to devote the majority of your time to working through the assigned readings carefully, attentively, and repeatedly with the eventual goal of complete comprehension. At the beginning of the course you will be expected to encounter, typically in the form of reading or listening, at least 500 words of comprehensible input every day. You will document this engagement through entries in a spreadsheet. There are 108 days in the semester (including holidays but not the days after the last day of classes and before the end of examination period). I will divide the number of days you reach the target number of words (which will increase during the semester) by 100. That score will account for twenty percent (20%) of your final grade. Written exercises will help your professor track your engagement with the language and gauge how well you are comprehending the readings. You will receive a maximum of five points for each assignment. Your should complete your assignments in your journal (unless otherwise directed) and follow the directions for each assignment about documenting your work, which will generally call for you to photograph or scan your work and submit an image to your professor. These written assignments will account for ten percent (10%) of your final grade.
Examinations: There will be two examinations during the semester. The examinations will follow the same model as the reading assignments with the exception that you will not have access to the online resources. They will also include a dictation. Each examination will account for twenty percent (20%) of your final grade.
Here is a summary of the graded components of the course:
Daily Exposure to Input: 20%
Written Assignments: 10%
Examination 1: 20%
Examination 2: 20%