Oskar Gudlaugsson wrote:

[snip lots of ranting]

>It's fairly accurate, though
>in the pronunciation guide it described Greek [k] as a normal 'k', but
>[k^h] as "k-h (as in kit; emphatically pronounced)"; which annoyed the
>nitpicker me, who hates pseudo-phonetic terms like "emphatic"
>and "soft/hard", not to mention that there's no [k] in standard English,
>just [k^h].

English does indeed have [k]: every time /k/ is preceded by /s/ it is not
aspirated, and it generally is not word finally either.

>So, Greek's weird; some points:
>* the stress pattern seems so horribly chaotic to me; 3-4 syllable words
>could have the stress just about anywhere, first and ultimate syllables
>included. Reading two long words in a row with their stresses on opposing
>ends feels really spooky to me.

Why do you want a stress pattern? There are plenty of languages that don't
have one. English is not even predictable in all cases.

>* what's with the bulky diphthong endings?

What's wrong with them?

>* what's with initial [ps] and [ts]? Even worse, initial [zd]!

Apparently you've never looked at a "real" language. Just the other day I
heard a Pima word [shm}:gam]. Note that [sh] is not [S], it is the sequence
[s] plus [h]. Or there is the cluster in [SontSkwItS]. And what do you have
to say about the Dakota word [xn]? These clusters in Greek are not that odd.

>* Those initials are nothing compared to the [p^ht^h], or later [fT], in
>words like 'phthong'. That word has in fact become a fashion word among me
>and my linguistic friends, for being the most ridiculous syllable we know
>of (though with heavy competition from Icelandic [vErmstl^0]).

See above.

>* indeed, the vowel system is rather void of back vowels, supposedly
>because Attic Greek was in a transition stage.
>* languages with a flair for the middle or passive voices aren't
>necessarily strange, but Attic Greek's really taking it far, IMO! After the
>book introduced the middle voice and deponent verbs, I've hardly seen a
>single new active verb. Just about any verbal concept seems to have its
>deponent verb; wonder what this love of passiveness says about the Greek

Nothing People tried to draw correlations about this kind of thing for a
long time, and they never made any sense at all.

>* just like Icelandic (which I wouldn't claim to be any more "normal"),
>Greek likes to have verbs taking dative and genitive for no apparent
>reason. Well, of course there's an explanation, but it's still a silly use
>of cases.

You must be joking! Greek and Icelandic are incrediblly "normal". They go
into my definition of what "normal" is for a language. You need to find
some real languages t
to look at.

>Okay, so today I read through a course for Modern Greek, hoping to get to
>know some juicy sound changes and simplifications of morphology. Well, now
>it really got spooky! Apparently, 2500 years of sound changes seemed to
>yield only this, in my quick glance:
>* all diphthongs simplified, a record number merging with /i/ (I read 11
>somewhere, probably including vowel length).

No surprise.

>* vowel length distinction dropped.

No surprise.

>* vowel system stabilized to a boringly standard 5 cardinal triangle.

No surprise.

>* only one row of stops retained, /p t k/; voiced and aspirated rows
>becoming voiced and unvoiced fricatives.

No surprise.

>* a few final n's dropped.

Too bad, I liked the final n's.

>* the infamous initials mentioned above were miraculously retained,
>according to this Teach Yourself course (which I mistrusted heavily).

Why is that miraculous? There's nothing so strange about them.

>* orthographic initials <mp> <nt> <gk> pronounced [b d g]...I haven't seen
>any initial [mp]'s or such in my book of Ancient Greek, so I'm presuming
>the nasals are just a spelling trick; the sample words given were all loan-
>words, so I thought voiced stops could be an import to accommodate the new
>words. Or just old voiced stops preserved by some environmental factor; I
>don't know why, but in any case Modern Greek does seem to have two rows of
>stops after all. Experts here will tell me the answer.
>* chaotic stress pattern remains; perhaps I just fail to see the pattern in

Again, why do you want a pattern? They aren't necessary.

>In any case, to explain my ranting on bad language courses above, I really
>didn't trust that Modern Greek book's representation. 'When it just doesn't
>seem realistic', I think to myself, 'the book's gotta be lying'.

You seem to have a naive sense of what is realistic as far as language
goes. In your entire rant, there was not one unrealistic thing.

Marcus Smith
AIM:  Anaakoot
"When you lose a language, it's like
dropping a bomb on a museum."
   -- Kenneth Hale