Which languages are Pure and which are debased?

Can somebody help me sort this matter out. According to some “experts”, there are “debased” languages. This means, of course, that there MUST be “pure” or “unsoiled” languages.

So, which languages are pure, virtuous, unsullied, unsoiled and undebased?

Which languages are debased, vile, horrid, filthy, sullied, soiled, and polluted?

That way, on our road to Human Perfection, we can cease using the vile, debased, sullied, soiled, and polluted languages and only use the pure, undebased, unpolluted tongues.

All languages, like “races”, are the mongrol spawn of earlier languages such that there is no such thing as “pure”. What language were these experts talking about?

You seem to be ranting more than wanting to debate, Dogface.

Your thread is plainly not based on my comments in another thread because I never called a language “debased.” Instead, I said that the pronunciation of Koine Greek by the Greek Orthodox Church is debased. And it is, ask any classicist. What the Church is doing is using the morphology, syntax, and vocabulary of antiquity, but bringing in this totally alien pronunciation. I think “debased” is a perfectly valid word for the pronunciation. If they were using Modern Greek along with modern Greek pronunciation, that would be fine. But it is historically inaccurate to pronounce Koine with phonetic values not found in the Greek family until a milennium later.


I did it. Sorry.

I consulted “any classicist” on the matter (specifically the head of the Classics department of Indiana University). He does not agree with the use of “debased” to describe the current “in-Church” pronunciation of the Greek used in the Orthodox Church and that the current Greek usage is likely to be no further from how it was pronounced in the Koine era than the pronunciation assigned to it in the modern day by academic Classicists. He also mentioned that many Classicists are still unaware that sound shifts were already occuring within Antiquity.

So, about that “ask any classicist” statement…

There is no such thing as a “debased” language. Modern Greek is indeed pronounced differently than Koine, but Koine itself was a demotic Greek that in its day was the language of the people and was considered by 1st century language snobs to be a “debased” form of Attic Greek.

Oooh, wow, Indiana University. There’s a school with a proud classics tradition. :rolleyes: Unless you can find someone from one of the bigger universities in Britain, you’re only making yourself look silly. American classics programmes are a joke.

Your source is wrong if he’s talking about restored prounciation. The restored pronunciation is extremely accurate. In fact, much of our understanding of Indo-European linguistics is bound up with it, and in light of the finds of the early 20th century it is pretty solid. The Modern Greek pronunciation, on the other hand, contains many innovations which occured only from the fall of the Roman Empire to 1000 A.D. Some of these changes, such as loss of initial aspiration and the change of theta to a fricative, may have occured in antiquity, but they are not major. The blurring of vowels and the change of the velar gamma to a palatal semivowel were probably not present around the time of Christ.

There are in fact nutcases who insist that the vowels were blurred around 0 A.D. (One of them writes disparaging reviews of most Greek textbooks on Amazon.com, without having even read them). This just isn’t believed by the majority of reputable scholars.

The Modern Greek pronunciation is just as bad as the old English pronunciation. It is based on nationalistic pride instead of serious philological inquiry, and ignores the fact that British scholarship of the last 150 years has undermined it. Do Greek Orthodox priests have training in IE philogy, or do they simply accept without question the pronunciation of their recent ancestors like Roman Catholic priests? It’s obviously the latter.


What about Euskera, that mysterious language of the Basque regions?

I wouldn’t go so far as to say the restored pronunciation is extremely accurate. Rather that it’s probably extremely accurate.

Hey Gobear, go back and reread the thread, thanks. Then you see that nowhere do I call a language debased. I’m calling the way the Greek Orthodox Church pronounces Koine Greek with Modern Greek phonetic values to be debased. Just like if a someone read Chaucer’s words are they are pronounced in modern English instead of the way they were pronounced in 1380 (which is necessary to enjoy the poetry).


It may not be demonstrably related to any known language, but it has stilled borrowed words from other languages-- eg, Spanish.

As for the OP, I’ve got no comment other than to say it’s one of the silliest I’ve seen in these parts in a quite awhile.

Simply because its not emphasized as greatly as in Britain does not mean that its “a joke”.

In any event, my U’s Classics department was hardly a great and powerful academic society, but it was involved in cutting edge research. For example, one young professor had just returned from digging up an ancient shipwreck, and was working to place its contents so as to learn more about Mycanean trade.

Unomondo, instead of simply asserting your superior position, give us some evidence. Of course, it would be nice if the professor in question had been able to talk to us directly; I’m always suspicious of secondhand academic information.

The answerto the original question is easy: the languages that are pure are the ones no one speaks any more. The ones that have been debased and bastardized are the ones still alive and widely spoken.

Ah, I see, so now It’s no longer “any classicist”. Lemme guess, if I get one from “one of the bigger universities in Britain” who disagrees with you, then THAT program will turn out to be “a joke”, and it’ll have to be from a DIFFERENT university.

No, I’m not a chump. I don’t play the sliding standards game. It is both dishonest and unethical of you to tell me to consult “any classicist” and then turn around and disparage me for so doing.

You are no longer worth considering.

What you must realize here is that Eastern Orthodoxy views itself as the product of an organically developed tradition, and is not really concerned with “going back to the original sources,” as seems to be so common in the West. The current pronunciation is used because it is what has developed over the centuries, and Orthodox can understandably be a bit defensive when some Western classicist comes in and starts going “no, no, you’re saying it all wrong!”

There is a difference between pronouncing Chaucer’s words using modern pronunciation out of ignorance, and using a pronunciation of a liturgical language that has developed over two thousand years. I’m sure many Greek Orthodox clergy are perfectly aware of what modern scholarship says about how Greek was pronounced at the time of Christ. I know that the Russians are aware of the original pronunciation of Slavonic, because my copy of the standard textbook on Slavonic grammar goes into detail on the sounds that have been lost, such as the nasalized vowels and the pronunciation of the hard and soft signs as vowels. The thing is, we don’t care. There are at least three distinct traditions of Slavonic pronuncation, and none of them bear much resemblance to how it originally sounded, but they have all developed over a millenium of constant use, and calling them debased would be like saying English is debased because we no longer pronounce yoghs even though we write them (as digraphs).

In one of the only ways I can interpret this question so as to get an intelligable answer, there are some languages which are more conservative than other related languages, i.e. retain a closer adherance to the proto-language from which two independent languages sprang, (however all evaluative judgments that proceed from this are completely subjective).

An example of the above is Lithuanian. Lithuanian is a very conservative Indo-European language and shows more evident traces of the proto-Indo-European (as currently reconstructed by most linguists) speak than any other language that I know of.

However, even in this extreme case, Lithuanian is far more divergent from the ur language than Hittite, the earliest known written Indo-European language, from Anatolia, which is unfortunately extinct.

Of course the word debased implies inferiority which is a complete myth, all languages survive in their own particular environment and have changed or adapted to meet the needs of that environment. If the language has stayed relatively stable that is a strong example of a successful language.

However, even supposedly scholarly tongues like Latin and Hebrew are debased in the loose sense in being by necessity transformed from their classical roots to meet the needs of today’s society, i.e. needing a new latin word to describe skateboarding or the internet for use in Catholic communications. So there is obviously no truly pure language.

Saying a language that has changed is “debased” is like saying humans are “debased” monkeys.

Isn’t it claimed that Icelandic has changed so little, that hypothetical time travellers to 1000 AD. Iceland, would be able to communicate with natives?

I’ll raise you a thousand: the Old Testament - “sealed” (that is - text has remained completely unchanged ever since) 2000 years ago - is still easily read and understood by an Israeli speaking only Modern Hebrew.

'Course having been “on ice” for 1800 years or so helps keep a language “well preserved”

Well, the Mongols have spawned languages that include Kalmuk, Buryat, Monguor, and the best-known one, Khalkha (otherwise called Mongolian). The Mongolian languages are classified as a branch of the Altaic language family.