Scholia Reviews ns 14 (2005) 44.

Wendy Moleas, The Development of the Greek Language. London: Bristol Classical Press, 2004[2], pp. ix +134. ISBN 1-85399-675-0. UKú10.99.

Stephen Evans,
University of Turku, Finland

This book can most usefully be seen as a potted version of Horrocks, Clogg, and Polites, though at its best it traces the cultural and literary history of Greece.[[1]] Both in schools and universities throughout the world the gulf between the study of Ancient Greek and Modern Greek is as wide as a church door. Wendy Moleas originally wrote her first edition of this book in 1989 to bridge this gap for those A level Greek students who wanted to learn more about the later development of the language. This second edition incidentally also maps the progress of scholarship within the last fifteen years. The Departments of Byzantine and Modern Greek studies at Birmingham, Oxford, Cambridge and London (King's College) have consistently broadened their scope and increased their publications.[[2]]

In the second edition, Wendy Moleas has conscientiously taken heed of George Sheets' criticisms,[[3]] in adding an appendix summarizing the grammar of Standard Modern Greek and correcting mistakes in the first edition. The bibliography has been further expanded and updated though with mainly English-language sourcebooks. In her preface to the second edition Moleas stresses the synthesis of old and new in current modern Greek developments, which lend the language new vigour. In the last fifteen years the monotonic system of accentuation has been well run in; newspaper editors are now at home with its usage. Moleas thus adopts this practice in quotations from Chaper Four onwards, except for ancient Greek words. She acknowledges her debt to Peter Mackridge's The Modern Greek Language (1985) and to Robert Browning's Medieval and Modern Greek (1983) which have been her particular joy and inspiration from their first publication.

Since her emphasis is on the modern language and its literature, Moleas' first chapter, entitled 'Prehistoric and Ancient Greek' (pp. 1-14) is relatively short. Moleas attempts to sketch the development of Linear A and B through Homeric and Classical Greek. This inevitably leads to some oversimplifications and generalisations. Moleas could at least have referred to standard works on these subjects.[[4]]

The second chapter on 'The Beginnings of Modern Greek -- the Common Dialect, Third Century BC - Eleventh Century AD' (pp. 15-38), again covers an enormous span of time. Moleas lays stress on the enormous geographical spread of Greek and on the main changes in pronunciation. She cites textual examples from Egyptian papyri, from the New Testament, from religious poetry, from chronicles and stories and from the writings of Emperor Constantine VII Porphyrogenitus (AD 908-959) to illustrate the gradual change in language. These texts together with Moleas' literal English translations of them form a valuable selection of later Koine Greek for the non- university student, for whom they would otherwise be inaccessible.

Chaper Three covers 'Greece under Frankish, Venetian and Turkish Domination, Twelfth Century to Eighteenth Century', pp. 39-71, a very substantial chapter, including accounts of Digenes Akrites, the Sacrifice of Abraham, and the 14th century Chronicle of the Morea. To these are added detailed descriptions of the development of the Greek language throughout this period.

Chapter Four is entitled 'Independence and the Formation of a National Language, Nineteenth and Twentieth Centuries' (pp. 73-93), covering Rhigas Pheraios, the Phanariots, the Friendly Society, Adamantios Kora´s, Dionysios Solomos, Alexandros Papadiamantis, Ioannis Psycharis, and Andreas Karkavitsas together with the independent development of katharevousa and demotic. This development culminated in the establishment of Common or Standard Modern Greek. Moleas is at her best in these last two chapters, a factor ignored by a recent reviewer.[[5]]]

The fifth chapter (pp. 95-116), contains a selection of readings from Kostis Palamas, C.P. Cavafy, Ilias Venezis, Nikos Kazantzakis, accompanied as they are by useful, literal English translations, would be of great benefit to both sixth-formers and university students of modern Greek literature.

Appendix One (pp. 121f.) gives a skeletal outline of Linear B, Appendix Two (pp. 123f.) of the Greek alphabet. Appendix Three (pp. 125f.) covers the pronunciation of Standard Modern Greek. Appendix Four (pp. 127-30) displays a summary of the grammar of Standard Modern Greek.

If this little book is allowed to be what it sets out to be -- an elementary introduction to the development of Greek language (and I would add, history, literature and culture) -- then it can be seen as an excellent introduction to these topics. Moleas is particularly to be commended on the selection and explication of texts and their translation.


[[1]] Clogg, R., A concise history of Greece (Cambridge 2002[2]); Polites, L., A History of Modern Greek Literature (Oxford 1973); Horrocks, G.C, Greek: A History of the Language and its Speakers (London and New York 1977).

[[2]] Holton, D., Mackridge, P., and Philippakki- Warburton, I, Greek: a Comprehensive Grammar of the Modern Language (London and New York 1997); Beaton, R., An Introduction to Modern Greek Literature (Oxford 1999).

[[3]] Sheets, G. A., Review of Moleas in Modern Greek Studies Yearbook 6 (1990) 562f.

[[4]] Pisani, Vittore, Manuale storico della lingua greca (Brescia 1973[2]); Meillet, A., Apercu d'une histoire de la language grecque (Paris 1965[7]); Anlauf, G, Standard Late Greek oder Attizismus (Diss. Cologne 1960); Fr÷sÚn, J., Prolegomena to a Study of the Greek Language in the First Centuries AD: the Problems of KoinÚ and Atticism (Helsinki 1974).

[[5]] Hinge, G., Review of Moleas in BMCR,