Zuntz revisited

I’ve been spending more time with Zuntz’s textbooks, and I thought I would write some follow up thoughts (subsequent to this earlier post)

Firstly, over on this post from 2016 in Textkit (a surprisingly active forum, given how terrible its interface is. In fact, most forums should have gone the way of usenet. Much better architectures for discussion around. #sorry #sidetracked), are a very useful and interesting set of links. They include

  • PDFs of the 3 volume German edition of the Griechsicher Lehrgang
  • Some articles about Zuntz
  • A few articles by Zuntz about other textbooks.

Reading these is very insightful. In particular, the obituary by Hengel linked at the top of the page is fascinating, and Zuntz’s comments in his article on Chase and Phillips. The picture that emerges in relation to his own text is dominated (in my perception) by (a) his commitment to original text, not made-up Greek, and (b) the very long gestation period it had. The text really did have a long period of development, the culmination of both his own considerable classics experience, and explicitly teaching. It is somewhat ironic that it had to come out in Germany first, given his life as a scholar in England.

I have mixed feelings about the insistence upon ‘original’ Greek. On the one hand, this is commendable because Greek students (and in particular Greek students, I would say, compared to other languages I work with) often have a tough time transitioning from ‘textbook’ Greek to real texts. So, exposure to real ‘artefacts’ of the language, early, with minimal adaption, is fantastic.

On the other, there is nothing wrong with Greek written by those who weren’t, e.g., 5th century BCE Athenians. And there’s no linguistic reason ipso facto that contemporary speakers/writers couldn’t/can’t write ‘genuine’ Greek, if we mean Greek texts free from solecisms and barbarisms. Indeed, if a comprehensible input approach is to be taken, this is absolutely necessary.

Which is one reason why that textkit poster, rmedinap, has really hit upon something in suggesting Zuntz and Italian Athenaze as a paired resource. They don’t seem like a natural pair, but they are the two best resources for Greek students ‘on the market’, even though they are not really on most people’s ‘market’ at all.

Zuntz in English is very difficult to obtain, except through libraries. One can use the German text, but not without (a) German, or (b) help. Similarly, It. Athenaze must be ordered from Italy (at least easier these days), and also requires either (c) Italian, or (d) help. For English language monoglots, it’s difficult to access one, let alone both, of these resources.

A few more comments about Zuntz in particular. Zuntz has some other features that are commendable:

  • Zuntz provides a philologist’s cornucopia of information about how forms derive. This includes the presence of digamma, and how its loss affected word formation. It also includes a lot of other ‘letter dropped out’ changes. This in particular helps students go from Attic to Homeric, because Homeric is so often the uncontracted forms.
  • Zuntz’s exercise section is frustratingly brilliant. Exercises for each lesson include both the skeleton structure of oral Q&A work, as well as oral drills, adaptable for a communicative approach, and old-school parse the heck out of this, write out some paradigms, and re-translate sentences back into Greek.
  • Zuntz also includes an anthology of easy texts for use later in the course/after the lessons.
  • Zuntz doesn’t neglect poetry, and includes poetic texts throughout the lessons.

Less helpful, perhaps:

  • That in the print versions, the vocabulary is in the same volume as the text. Since the text is not graded to inculcate vocabulary, either a lot of page-turning needs to be done, or else some other work around.

So, yes, get Zuntz. Get the German and work around that difficulty if you must. It is well worth the effort.

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