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The Greek Language ebook

by Leonard Robert Palmer

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Leonard Robert Palmer (5 June 1906, Bristol – 26 August 1984, Pitney, Somerset) was author and Professor of Comparative Philology at the University of Oxford from 1952 to 1971. He was also a Fellow of Worcester College, Oxford. Palmer was educated at Cardiff High School, the University of South Wales, Trinity College Cambridge, and the University of Vienna.

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by Leonard Robert Palmer. Book by Palmer, Leonard Robert. ISBN13:9780391012035. Select Format: Hardcover. Release Date:March 1980.

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Palmer, Leonard Robert, 1906-.

Major authors and genres are discussed throughout the history, including essays on Homer, Melic poetry, tragedy, Herodotus and Thucydides. Palmer, Leonard Robert, 1906-. p. cm. - (Originally published: Atlantic Highlands, .

Leonard Robert Palmer, Mycenaeans and Minoans; Aegean prehistory in the light of the Linear B tablets.

Descriptive & Comparative Linguistics (Updated) A Critical Introduction (Studies in General Linguistics) by Leonard R. Palmer, Paperback, 430 Pages, Published 1979 by Faber & Faber. by Leonard Robert Palmer. Paperback, 372 Pages, Published 1988 by University Of Oklahoma Press. Leonard Robert Palmer, Mycenaeans and Minoans; Aegean prehistory in the light of the Linear B tablets.

In this companion volume to his earlier work, The Latin Language, Leonard R. Palmer now provides a history of The Greek Language, including an overview of the coming of the Greeks, the Linear B. Tablets, the Greek dialects, genres (in poetry and prose), and a comparative-historical grammar. Palmer discusses the transformation of the Greek language from its Indo-European roots, through the Bronze and Dark Ages, to the Classical, Hellenistic, and Roman periods and beyond. Major authors and genres are discussed throughout the history, including essays on Homer, Melic poetry, tragedy, Herodotus and Thucydides.

Thanks to the other reviewers for their knowledgeable comments.

I read this book and parts of it several times a few years ago when I was beginning my own studies, particularly the first half of the book through Herodotus. And I know I am going to go back to it. Its expected and actual readership must have been quite limited as it can't be read with any profit by anyone without at least some knowledge of ancient Greek. No one without a really deep interest would bother anyway. A classics scholar and author once told me that the book was very worthwhile but in many ways beyond her too. It was way, way beyond me, though I felt I profited by it.

It's this simple. If you love ancient Greek, this is an awe inspiring work of scholarship. If you don't, this is definitely not for you.
This book offers rare, valuable insight into and many examples of the remarkable evolution of the Greek language, which even today dominates every modern language with its irreplaceable scientific and scholarly terms. Oddly, despite the passage of 3,000 years of recorded history, the more the Greek language changes, the more it remains the same. It's been said, quite correctly in my view, that we "all have our national language and Greek."
Palmer's companion volume The Latin Language appeared as long ago as 1954. Greek is a bigger and more complex topic, but what delayed this book for 20 years was what had just made it bigger still - the decipherment of the Linear B tablets found on Crete and in mainland Greece. Their language had proved to be Greek, and Greek 500 years more ancient than the Iliad, up till then the oldest established Greek text. The great Leonard Palmer, professor of comparative philology at Oxford, put his full weight right from the start behind the amateur Michael Ventris who had achieved the decipherment, and only when he felt that the topic was nearing exhaustion barring further discoveries did he let The Greek Language see the light.

This book is no kind of primer. It assumes not only good knowledge of Greek (ancient Greek that is - modern Greek is included in this historical survey because this is a living tongue and not dead or undead like Latin, but it is a minor issue from this book's standpoint) but also familiarity with the lingo of linguistics. It is addressed mainly to students, and insofar as it speaks to a wider audience that audience probably consists mainly of Palmer's fellow academic professionals. The back cover pitches hopefully for `readers whose interest is literary rather than philological', but I'm not sure what these may find to assuage their interest here. Palmer is a linguistic scientist and a through-and-through professional at that, and while his comments in the sections on ancient Greek poetry and prose show true and obvious sensitivity and his translations exhibit the sensibility of a lover of language and not just an analyst of language nevertheless he sticks to his last. Anyone looking for lit crit had better look elsewhere.

However any reader whose interest is literary could still find some interesting perspectives here. The most startling aspect for me was how little attention was given to Demosthenes. Palmer explains quite clearly why this is so - Demosthenes may have been the greatest virtuoso of Athenian oratory but he is great for his individual artistry and not a significant figure in the history and development of the language, which is what this book is about. It surely affects my own appreciation of Greek literature to understand how such-and-such word-formations reflect traditions coming down from Homeric epic and the dithyrambs, but in that respect I am a bit of a geek whose thrill at the magical use of my own tongue in Paradise Lost or The Rime of the Ancient Mariner or The Lady of Shalott is probably more a matter of the authors' skill with English than of the subject-matter. Lovers of literature untainted by such tendencies ought certainly to read things to their advantage in Palmer's sketch of the change in the idiom of Athenian tragedy from Aeschylus to Euripides, and perhaps even more in his quiet and devastating proof that our modern romantic and sentimental focus on Demosthenes rather than on Isocrates exhibits a confusion of thought that we need not have fallen into if we had troubled to look at how the ancients, e.g. Cicero, looked at the matter.

There is no reason why anyone need read this book from cover to cover, but in the last resort it is a history and that is how one normally reads histories. You are thrown in at the deep end at the start, and rightly so, with Linear B. It is the most ancient Greek known, but if you can keep afloat among the detail you will learn one whale of a lot about not just this language but about languages generally. This is evidently a `chancellery' dialect, a formalised and artificial idiom spoken by nobody in real life but still utterly priceless in the early evidence it gives of the development of the language and not least in the antique elements it preserves. Its idiom is not alone in being artificial - so is the epic dialect to a great extent, and so though to a lesser degree are the styles of the great historians Thucydides and even Herodotus, not to mention the tragedians in more respects than one. Above all you will be kept right by an unsurpassed professional in the matter of what the definition of a `language' is. Briefly, and doing some violence to the argument, it is a matter not of vocabulary but of how words are formed - a process that can be analysed and categorised so that we can define a specific language and its relationship to other languages.

Translations are provided this time, because Palmer had been criticised for not doing this in The Latin Language. Thank God, say I, getting my Greek together again after nearly half a century. Before I made his acquaintance I was told that he had been a boxing blue at Cambridge and that his manner in academic disputation was reminiscent of this. In fact Palmer is a model of calmness and courtesy in this respect. The old-style classical textual critics, most famously Housman but going back all the way to Scaliger in the 16th century and doubtless even earlier, fought like ferrets in a bag. Palmer's way is not like this, but there is an intriguing sense, that I also felt in his lectures, that there were left hooks and right uppercuts being restrained with difficulty from use against people who might dare to argue with him.

This notice is a bit of a little memoir of someone I knew and stood in awe of. By way of envoi I might mention that on p136 part of the translation has dropped out and we need `lawless with no feasting <the inbred architect of strife> not husband-fearing'. On p110 I also had brought back one of the most entertaining lectures (by someone else) that I ever attended. Palmer ignores the textual problem with lofty indifference, but the issue remains in the Tyrtaeus fragment - if the blood was coming from Priam's privates why would have he been wounded in that region in particular; and if the blood was coming from his hands why was he holding his privates? I never thought I would see this text again. Happy days.
The Greek Language ebook
Leonard Robert Palmer
Foreign Language Study & Reference
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1966 kb
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University of Oklahoma Press (March 15, 1996)
368 pages
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