BMCR 2005.08.27

Response: Moleas on Hinge on Moleas

Response to 2004.12.13

In order to convey to non-specialist readers not only the history of the Greek language from Mycenaean times to the present day but also the context in which the changes occurred, my book, The Development of the Greek Language, contains historical background and extracts from literature as well as explanations of linguistic developments. It is unfortunate that my book was given for review to a scholar who took only the viewpoint of the linguistic specialist and who ignored large sections of it.

Nobody doubts the continuity of the Greek language, but specific definitions at specific points in time are a matter of constant debate, into which I am not qualified to enter. That is why my chapters cover broader periods of time than the reviewer wished. George Hinge (GH) was correct to say “the author is no linguist”, although the phrasing of this observation strikes me as unnecessarily rude. I believe that this review will have prejudiced its readers against looking at the book and discovering its positive features.

There are few favourable comments; the only wholly positive one is hidden away in the final paragraph of the main section of the review: “It must be emphasized that the book has many interesting pages and points, and it gives a fine glimpse into Medieval and Modern Greek literature”.

GH has been highly selective in his review. There is little reference to the content of the book beyond Chapter Two. Almost the whole of pages 39-116 has been ignored, apart from certain criticisms of grammatical points (pp. 58, 62, 68, 70, 78, 88, 89). I am sorry that BMCR chose a reviewer who had so little interest in the post-Hellenistic period.

Apart from the comment that “to judge from the bibliography, she relies exclusively on handbooks written in English” (a faulty assumption, in any case), no reference has been made to the wide range of books in my bibliography, which has received particular praise in another review (The Journal of Classics Teaching, Vol. 4).

Although destructive (and I do not use that term lightly), Hinge’s review has undoubtedly helped me. Any criticism is to be welcomed and I have followed through all the points made, sometimes to reach agreement, sometimes to reject the point made, and sometimes to admit my limitations.

I wrote the book because it was needed. I should be only too happy for a further “monograph for the general public” to be produced, as Hinge suggests. It was my own idea, in my first edition of 1989 (not 1980, as Hinge states), to use a format that linked an account of the development of the Greek language to the historical background, with illustrative extracts from literature. Of course I owed a huge debt to Robert Browning’s Medieval and Modern Greek, 2nd edition (1983), but I wanted to expand the scope of such an analysis. Geoffrey Horrocks’ excellent Greek: A History of the Language and Its Speakers (1997), which is in a much more scholarly category, nevertheless used a similar format to mine. The ideal book on this topic would be that of an author or a group of authors who could make their specialized studies accessible to a wide audience in a concise and readable format, while remaining true to their own scholarly standards.