Ancient Greek Language Learning Reviews

Learn Ancient Greek – product reviews, ratings & recommendations.

Score: 6/10

pros: well formatted & organized for ease of search; covers a good number of Greek words; on par with other Classical Greek dictionaries; first to offer English-Greek translations!; a few extras including a brief irregular verb table & even briefer pronunciation guide

cons: the English-Greek section is invaluable for learners, but it’s too meager at this point; word lists/translations only list a few translations without examples or help choosing between them (like any other Greek lexicon at this point)

The Pocket Oxford Classical Greek Dictionary presents students with English translations of tens of thousands of Ancient Greek words, along with a few extras. Uniquely, it also includes an English-to-Greek section, a feature Ancient Greek dictionaries have lagged behind even Latin dictionaries in implementing.

The Greek-English section is nothing new, as it shares its source word list with Langenscheidt’s Pocket Classical Greek Dictionary, although the formatting here is attractive. Greek terms are presented in bold, the letter of the alphabet is written in a tab on the side of each page, and the first and last word on the page appear at the top of each page. All of this makes the dictionary easy to search.

Ancient Greek nouns are listed in the nominative, with the genitive singular ending and article, as is custom. Basic irregular verbs are marked (you can look up their principal parts in a table at the end of the dictionary). Regular verbs are only given in the first person singular (present indicative active… whew!), but their other principal parts are hidden from you.

As with other lexicons/dictionaries, a relative few English translations are listed for most words. When meanings of Classical Greek words vary, no extra info is included to help you choose the best translation. Additionally, entries aren’t expanded or clarified with examples, sample sentences or phrases in which they routinely occur, and any indications as to dialects, registers or nuances (slang, formal, jargon, social situations, etc.). The best dictionaries for more commonly taught modern languages routinely include all of this helpful information.

Where this dictionary stands out is its first-of-its-kind (and, as far as I know, only-of-its-kind) English-Greek translations. This section allow students to search for a word in English and find its Ancient Greek translation, which is ideal if you translate between English and Greek (or if you’re curious how to say something in Ancient Greek). Language learners are used to having this kind of tool and it’s been a long time coming for Greek. Unfortunately, as the fates would have it, the section is far too thin and cursory at this point.

I’ll join the chorus and praise Liddel-Scott’s Intermediate Greek-English Lexicon over this one. That dictionary includes far more terms, examples from ancient authors for many terms, and far more grammatical information than other dictionaries, including this one.

As dictionaries go, this smallish volume (which won’t fit in my pocket, by the way) is on par with other Classical Greek dictionaries. Your textbook or lesson course will likely have a better pronunciation guide and verb tables, so the extras don’t amount to much. The main potential draw is the diminutive English-Greek section. Hopefully, Oxford or someone else will take that, run with it, and expand it to the English-speaking Ancient Greek learner’s great benefit.

Score: 9/10

pros: a great reference for getting into the nitty-gritty of Ancient Greek pronunciation; explains what can be known about Ancient Greek pronunciation through linguistic/phonological analysis; proposes a way for dedicated learners to understand what Greek sounded like; discusses in detail many of the minutiae that pronunciation guides & lesson courses leave out

cons: requires a solid head for linguistics, specifically phonology, including IPA & historical understanding of Indo-European sound patterns; technical & explanatory – expect an on-the-shelf reference rather than a lesson course

In Vox Graeca (Latin for “The Greek Voice”, in case you’re not a dual-language classicist), Sydney Allen presents a thorough and technical linguistic treatment of Ancient Greek pronunciation. In fact, since this is a linguistics text, I should say more properly that it deals with the phonology of Ancient Greek and its dialects. Like Palmer’s Greek Language, which I just reviewed, this volume takes on the entire breadth of historical Ancient Greek, from Mycenaean down to the late Koine.

The book analyzes a variety of forms of Greek spanning a long period and constrains this analysis through sections that deal with common phonetic topics. It starts with an overview of consonants, vowels and IPA, then dives into the specifics of pronunciation (plosives, nasals, the aspirate, simple vowels, diphthongs, length and accent). The body of the book amounts to 140 pages of close examination of the above topics, nearly always leaving you satisfied that there’s some way of applying this information to pronounce the Greek language.

The first appendix discusses the history of pronouncing Greek in England and the history of Greek pronunciation in Greece itself from the Middle Ages to the present. Other appendices list Greek quotations from grammarians and writers, the pronunciation and history of the names of the letters of the Greek alphabet, an index of Greek grammar terms and a light pronunciation guide with recommended pronunciation (including references to page numbers for further discussion).

Quite unfortunate is the lack of an index, which makes the book less usable and searchable as a go-to resource.

As a reference resource for historical linguists, Greek phonologists and determined classicists, Allen’s Vox Graeca opens up the world of Greek phonology and champions a way of determining how to pronounce, read and speak Ancient Greek aloud. Some students will certainly find it technical, but learners looking to fill their reference shelf with a deep, handy guide to Greek pronunciation can mine this text for years to come. Once you grow into it, Vox Graeca is one of those books that will grow with you.

Score: 8/10

pros: a strong linguistic overview of the whole of Ancient Greek; wide and deep coverage of the major forms of the Ancient Greek language, from prehistory to the koine; surveys phonology, lexis & morphology of a variety of dialects & ancient authors; gives derivations of words & structures from Proto-Indo-European & older Greek/Proto-Hellenic

cons: technical & dense for the average student; too wordy to be used as lessons or read straight through (also since it lacks focus on any single form of the language); historical Indo-European linguistics has newer, better insights and more updated reconstructions that make the data found here look a bit dated

Palmer’s The Greek Language summarizes the sounds, words and grammar of the Greek language and its many dialects as they changed over time from Proto-Indo-European to Classical Greek. Since it takes a historical view, the book will teach you about many forms of Greek, and how those forms developed. Also, as a linguistic resource, the book’s language and subject matter are technical, often too challenging for casual learners while at the same time too wordy and unfocused to be used as a lesson text.

Given that caveat emptor, the author provides a strong survey of the language from prehistoric to koine Greek, with loads of examples, readings and word derivations/etymologies along the way. The scope is broad, examining the phonology, morphology and lexis of Mycenaean Greek, the ancient dialects, literary prose & poetry (delving into the language of individual writers like Homer, Hesiod, Herodotus & Thucydides) and the development of the Koine, or popular Greek.

After considering all those forms of Ancient Greek, Palmer spends another 100 pages discussing the evolution of Greek sounds, word formation (including inflexion) and grammar from Indo-European, including consistent reference to Indo-European root words and structure. The shape of the Proto-Greek and Indo-European reconstructions will strike current linguists as a bit dated, but the approach is on key.

The book ends with a subject index, an index of Greek words, and a further index of Greek Linear B words. The table of contents is also detailed and pleasantly organized, like the rest of the work.

The Greek Language represents one of the greatest compromises between breadth and depth I’ve found in an overview of the whole of Ancient Greek. I recommend this as a reference resource for Greek students with a love of grammar, language change, language history, or, especially, historical linguistics. Linguist-types or Greek grammar & vocabulary nuts demanding healthier, more up-to-date etymologies should look into Sihler’s hefty New Comparative Grammar of Greek and Latin.