Review of the Pocket Oxford Classical Greek Dictionary for General Users & for Researchers in Mycenaean Linear B


Review of the Pocket Oxford Classical Greek Dictionary for General Users & for Researchers in Mycenaean Linear B: Click cover to order

pocket-oxford-classical-greek-dictionary

Morwood, James & Taylor, John, eds. Pocket Oxford Classical Greek Dictionary. Oxford, New York etc.: Oxford University Press, © 2002. xii, 449 pp. ISBN 13:978-0-19-860512-6

I just bought the Pocket Oxford Classical Greek Dictionary yesterday, and I can tell you I am fairly pleased with it. It has its drawbacks. The most notable of these is found in the paucity of vocabulary in the English-Greek section, pp. 357-431, which contains only about 5,000 words. Such a lexicon is probably more than adequate for beginners in ancient Greek, at whom this dictionary appears to be mainly aimed, though I cannot say that for sure. On the other hand, the English-Greek section is prefaced with a glossary of proper names, pp. 357-365, which is quite useful to Graecophiles, whether they be beginners or not. The pronunciation guide for the ancient Greek alphabet, pp. ix-xii, is the one of the best I have ever encountered, as it takes into consideration not only Classical Attic, but also early Homeric pronunciation. This feature has real implications for theoretical considerations, as well as practical applications of pronunciation, for not only the Mycenaean Linear B syllabary, but the Arcado-Cypriot syllabary as well, as you shall soon discover for yourselves on upcoming posts on our blog relevant to Mycenaean Linear B and Arcado-Cypriot orthography, considerations that have to date been largely overlooked by linguists, translators and researchers in the field of the archaic Greek dialects, Mycenaean and Arcado-Cypriot. 

The dictionary also features an appendix of Numerals (pp. 433-435), although it is very basic, as well as appendix of the elementary conjugational paradigms for the “Top 101 irregular verbs ” (pp. 436-447), as arbitrary yet as eminently useful as any other so-called basic table of the top ancient Greek verbs. While persons at the intermediate or advanced level in ancient Greek will find this table inadequate, it is more than adequate for beginners. The dictionary also has a generic map of ancient Greece on pp. 448 & 449, which once again serves its purpose well enough for beginners, but is less than adequate for persons more familiar with ancient Greek. This, however, is understandable for an introductory dictionary for ancient Greek, which we can be sure is all it claims to be, especially in light of the fact that Oxford University Press has had the prescience to co-publish both An Intermediate Greek-English Lexicon and an Abridged Greek-English Lexicon, the latter presumably aimed at scholars proficient in ancient Greek. I look forward to reviewing the latter two dictionaries later on, once I have come up with the resources to purchase them.

Of course, this dictionary also has its strengths, which the editors were careful to make the most of. These are:

(1) The Greek-English section, the first in the dictionary, is much more comprehensive than the English-Greek, containing far in excess of 5,000 words and phrases. The editors have even taken into account early Homeric Greek vocabulary to complement the Classical Attic. While the entries in the Greek-English section are not as heavily annotated as they otherwise are in an advanced ancient Greek dictionary such as the Greek-English Lexicon, by Liddell & Scott (1986), I would argue that too much lexical, grammatical and etymological information would amount to nothing less than overkill in a basic ancient Greek dictionary such as this one. Aficionados with advanced knowledge of ancient Greek, being perfectly aware of this, always have recourse to more sophisticated tools for translation and research, including Liddell and Scott, as well as the numerous online lexical resources available at the Perseus Catalog, here:

perseus catalog
    
(2a) The font is quite large and eminently readable. This is an extremely important consideration in the compilation of any Greek dictionary, ancient or modern, given that Greek accents (acute, grave & circumflex) and especially the initial breathings, soft or unaspirated () and aspirated (), as well as the numerous compound accents, are so annoyingly difficult to see in small font. The editors of this dictionary are to be congratulated for having the foresight to realize this. If there is anything I cannot stand, it is the use of fonts which are too small to adequately display (ancient) Greek accents. Sadly, most editors of ancient Greek dictionaries and lexicons blithely ignore this most paramount of considerations in the format and presentation of entries. Even the eminently renowned Greek-English Lexicon (1986) by Liddell and Scott, the very last Greek dictionary which should be guilty of this practice, makes use of a font far too small for readers to easily read accents, even those with good reading vision. To my mind, this falls just short of being unforgivable, unless the editors of any such dictionary or lexicon passed over the issue of adequate font size by sheer oversight – something I find quite difficult to swallow. So a word to the wise. If the editors of an inexpensive paperback dictionary could make a real effort to make certain the entries would be readable off the top, why wouldn’t – or shall we say, shouldn’t – the editors of top-end hard-cover dictionaries and lexicons take the same trouble? This is even more obvious when the publisher of the inexpensive editions is the same one as the one for the expensive, hard-bound ones – by which I mean Oxford University Press, in this particular instance.

(2b) In the Greek-English section, the Greek entries are in bold, set in Greek 486 Polytonic, while in the English-Greek section the English entries are in Monotype Arial bold, so that they stand out very clearly on the page. Once again, kudos to the editors.

(3) Likewise, the layout of the entries, at 1.5 line spacing, in both the Greek-English and the English-Greek sections is very attractive. 

(4) Throughout the dictionary, the alphabetical entries are flagged with gray tags running vertically down the page, from left to right from alpha to omega in the Greek-English section, and from a to z in the English-Greek. Once again, a big plus.

To summarize, this Greek-English, English-Greek dictionary of ancient Greek, in its physical layout and format, including all font formatting, is very pleasing to the eyes, hence, much easier to consult than practically any other ancient Greek dictionary I have ever encountered in print. The English-Greek section is woefully inadequate for anything but the most basic of ancient Greek vocabulary, so that even beginners are bound to outstrip its usefulness very quickly.

On the other hand, the Greek-English section is more than sufficient for the needs of beginners, and adequate for those scholars at the intermediate level in ancient Greek studies and literature. Given its reasonable price, $17.95 USD, I would recommend it for students who are also beginners in Mycenaean Linear B or Arcado-Cypriot Linear C, given the very restricted lexical base of both these archaic Greek dialects. On the other hand, it is readily apparent that this dictionary alone cannot possibly serve as the sole resource for researchers in Mycenaean and Arcado-Cypriot Greek. It must be complemented by other resources, such as:
1. Chris Tselentis’ thorough Lexicon of Linear B, available free online in PDF.
2. Chadwick, John. The Decipherment of Linear B (second edition). Cambridge University Press, © 1970 x, 164 pp.
3. Palmer, R.L. & Chadwick, John, eds. The Proceedings of the Cambridge Colloquium on Mycenaean Studies. Cambridge University Press, © 1966. 309 (310) pp. First paperback edition, © 2011. ISBN 978-1-107-40246-1 (pbk.)
4. A Companion to Linear B: Mycenaean Greek Texts and their World. Volume 3. Peeters: Louvain-La-Neuve: Bibliothèque des cahiers de l’institut de linguistique de Louvain. © 2014. 292+ pp. ISBN 978-2-7584-0192-6 (France)   

I leave aside any comparison with online dictionaries and lexicons in the same class, preferring not to compare apples with oranges.

Overall Rating: 3.75/5


Richard Vallance Janke
April 2015


Just released & a Must Read! A Companion to the Ancient Greek Language by Egbert J. Bakker (ed.) © 2014


Just released & a Must Read! A Companion to the Ancient Greek Language by Egbert J. Bakker (ed.) © 2014

A Companion to the Ancient Greek Language Paperback – January 28, 2014, by Egbert J. Bakker (Editor) ISBN-13: 978-1118782910 (hard cover) ISBN-10: 1118782917 (paperback) Edition: 1st $50! Click to ENLARGE:

ebook_k

with an extensive review in: Bryn Mawr Classical Review. Click the banner to read the review:

BCMR

Here is an extract from that review to whet your appetite:But whatever one might think of companion volumes, this is a useful book. It boasts a wide range of generally high-quality essays by a parade of eminent scholars. Perhaps its most praiseworthy feature is the clarity and accessibility of many of its contributions, which makes them ideal starting points for the non-specialist. We will no doubt be assigning several of these chapters in our classes.”

The Significance of A Companion to the Ancient Greek Language in Contemporary Research into Ancient Greek Linguistics: 

This new book, representative of the latest linguistic research into the ancient Greek language, may very well become a definitive classic in its own right. It is all the more relevant as it contains an entire chapter on Mycenaean Greek and Linear B & Arcado-Cypriot and Linear C, confirming beyond a shadow of a doubt my own firm contention that Arcado-Cypriot as a Greek dialect is intimately allied with its slightly older cousin, Mycenaean Greek. What Egbert J. Bakker to say about the close bond between the Mycenaean and Arcado-Cypriot dialects deserves to be quoted verbatim:Mycenaean is clearly, therefore, an East Greek dialect, along with Attic-Ionic and Arcado-Cypriot...” (pg. 198) and again, “Mycenaean is therefore a dialect related to Arcado-Cypriot - not unexpected, given the geography - but not necessarily to be identified as the direct ancestor of either Arcadian and Cypriot. The precise relationship between the three is difficult to determine. Presumably the Arcadians were the descendents of speakers of a Mycenaean-like (page 199) dialect who took to the hills when the Dorians invade the Peloponnese, while the Cypriots were émigré cousins.”

Recall what C.D. Buck had to say about the Mycenaean & Arcado-Cypriot dialects way back in 1955, in his equally impressive, then cutting-edge, linguistic study of ancient Greek, The Greek Dialects:The most fundamental division of the Greek dialects is that into the West Greek and the East Greek dialects, the terms referring to their location prior to the great migrations. The East Greek are the “the old Hellenic” dialects, that is, those employed by the peoples who held the stage almost exclusively in the period represented by the Homeric poems, when the West Greek peoples remained in obscurity in the northwest. To the East Greek belong the Attic and Aeolic groups... passim... And to the East Greek (dialects) also belong the Arcado-Cyprian.”

And, of course, just to be certain we have the whole picture clearly in focus, we must also include Mycenaean Greek and early Arcadian as proto-Ionic, both of which dialects held sway “prior to the great migrations” (of the Dorians)...

and you can easily see that not much has changed in the past 50 or so years since its publication and the release of A Companion to the Ancient Greek Language by Egbert J. Bakker, in our overall perspectives on the intimate relationship between the East Greek dialects, Mycenaean and Arcado-Cypriot dialects, as I was at great pains to stress in a post on this very same issue just a few days ago, when I myself echoed the opinions of both these esteemed scholars, as follows:Astonishingly (and for my purposes, very conveniently) these two proto-Ionic dialects are as closely allied as their natural descendents, Ionic and Attic Greek, which rose to prominence some 5 centuries after Linear C first popped up out of the clear blue.”

Need I say more?  - except to assert unequivocally that my own research into the intimate bond between the Mycenaean and Arcado-Cypriots will go far beyond merely this consideration, as I shall soon delve deeply into the close relationship between (at least some) Mycenaean vocabulary in Linear B and Arado-Cypriot in Linear C, the implications of which should prove profound for a greater understanding of Mycenaean Greek per se.  Keep posted.

Richard