How difficult will Albanian be to learn if I already speak Modern Greek?

Yes, the vocabulary is completely different—except for the large number of Greek loanwords in Albanian, which is substantial, and the rather smaller number of Albanian loanwords in Greek.

OTOH: Balkan sprachbund. The syntax and inflections are remarkably similar: you can often translate Albanian into Greek and vice versa, word for word.

I’m reminded of what renowned linguist BRIAN D. JOSEPH once told me, when he was encouraging me to learn Macedonian. “It’ll be no trouble at all. You just swap the words.”

Are there really 10 times as many ancient texts written in Ancient Greek as there are ancient texts written in Latin?

It’s kinda true; I’ve certainly seen the number cited multiple times—it was the guess around 1900, for scholars saying there was no point even attempting a dictionary of all of Greek, to rival the Thesaurus Linguae Latinae.

I work at the Thesaurus Linguae Graecae, although it is not a dictionary per se, but an online lemmatised corpus. As I wrote in How much writing from ancient Greece is preserved? , we know how many words there are of Ancient Greek texts—our collection is reasonably complete up to Middle Byzantium.

I think the 10 times as much figure is too much: it means excluding Mediaeval Latin (which you can do), but not excluding Mediaeval Greek (which I would start as early as the Church Fathers).

Some possible reasons:

  • Lots of scientific/scholarly texts in Hellenistic Greek. Galen alone accounts for 3 million words.
  • Huge amounts of Christian theological works, which the monk copyists preserved assiduously.
  • A much longer literary tradition.
  • A lot more people writing to begin with, I suspect.

But if you let Mediaeval Latin in, the scores balance.

This is no Fun and Games, this is the Balkans!

Whenever a Greek wants to nod sagely about the mess that is and ever has been the Balkans (and to admit that they too are stuck in the mess), they’ll mutter Εδώ είναι Βαλκάνια δεν είναι παίξε–γέλασε. “This is no Fun and Games, this is the Balkans!”

I was going to cite the bon mot, and I’ve just sought to trace where the bon mot comes from. And I realise that I have am missing some critical context (like a Bachelor of Arts in Greece, or growing up in Greece in the 70s instead of the 80s) to get it. So partly, this is a plea for help. (As we say in Greek, “what is the poet trying to say?”)

The phrase originated in a poem by the Greek Surrealist poet Nikos Engonopoulos. Engonopoulos was unique for being a surrealist in a country full of magic realism. He was also unique for writing in Katharevousa, decades after Katharevousa was discredited as a literary language: he was opting out of the literary consensus.

The poem… I think I get one tenor of the poem (nationalism is bullshit), and it’s pretty daring for a poem written in 1946, right as the Greek Civil War was making the Balkans too close for comfort. But it’s surrealist, and I’m missing a lot.

Language register always matters in Modern Greek, and this poem vacillates between the detachment and ersatz classicism of Katharevousa, and the Volkisch diction and heroics of folk song. It’s like Cavafy, only more.

The bon mot was popularised in a quotation in the 1971 song Ballos (a couples dance) by Dionysis Savvopoulos. I guess the Wikipedia article hits it on the head: he’s a Greek Frank Zappa, relapsing into Greek folk instead of Doo Wop. Because Savvopoulos required a bit of sophistication to understand, I paid him no attention when I was in Greece and 8 years old, and I’m not sure I can understand him now.

I’m going to translate the song, and then the poem, for my Balkan peeps, especially Lara Novakov, Aziz Dida, and Dimitra Triantafyllidou. Who knows. They live there, they may get more out of it than I can. Μπάλλος. Dionysis Savvopoulos: Ballos. 1971.

IV. In these here Balkans. (14m20 in YouTube vid)

In these here Balkans, in this here age,
I met my friends one winter night.

They sat all silent on some rocks;
their eyes bulged as they saw me coming.

For all this time they thought me dead,
and drank sweet wine and wheaten bread.

They welcomed me; they tired of me;
they worked out my joke on them, and they denied me.

“Drop your miracles, throw off your mask.
This is the Balkans, this is no fun and games.”

I share my bread, I give you my flask.
I look you in the eyes, and I sing a song.

And the song says that I’ll take the blame,
that I’ll be the leader in this festival.

Εγγονόπουλος – Ορνεο 1748. Nikos Engonopoulos. Vulture 1748. 1946.

Vulture 1748. (Interpretation of the painters.)

Was it a yearning good or ill that has led
the gloaming of the young shield-bearers
onto the untrod forests of the night,
amidst the wild woods of Orthodoxy,
the thick clumps of cypress trees of panic,
the moral projection
of a harsh Fate through colonnades of daybreak and lethargy?

Who might have been the frontman
of the rebellion?
Of the rumour?
Of the lust?
The orator?
Were they faithful to the demands of—
who else?—the demanders:
fine parricides and pedophiles,
with only the syllabary of necrophilia
to justify them
against the successive, incredibly fierce attacks
of eulogists?

Might perchance the metaphysical city—as you hearken, O ye youths—
of the industrious painters lie hidden in the hanged paintings?

And as the warlike adzes
fall upon heads,
and the ravines buzz
with the ruin of war
and the hymns
of warrior saints,
a voice is head.

“Kral Mirko, what do you want?
This is no fun and games:
This is the Balkans.”

How can Novak Djokovic speaks so many languages?

I think you’re asking the wrong question.

Historical Dictionary of Tennis:

One interesting aspect of the international quality of the sport is the fact that most of its top players are bilingual as a minimum and often multilingual. Serbian Novak Djoković, for example, upon winning a tournament in Italy, addressed the crowd in fluent Italian and then switched to near-perfect English for a television interview. Djoković, in addition  to his native Serbian, is also fluent in German and Croatian. In fact, virtually the only players who are not multilingual are the American and British native-English speakers.

Emphasis added. With extreme prejudice.

Djoka the polyglot:

Djoka en Français:

Djoka auf Deutsch:

Djoka en Español:

Does Australia have regional accents, like in Canada or the USA?

As others have said, Australian regional variation is nowhere near as great as even the US, let alone Britain.

(You mean Canada has regional accents?)

The main variation in Australia historically has been class-based (Cultivated, General, Broad), with less well-studied variation between rural and urban, and with an interesting in-group variant among 2nd generation immigrants (Barbara Horvath had studied it in the 80s (Variation in Australian English), and a bunch of Greek-Australian comedians made a career of it in the 90s; impressionistically, it was more about centralisation of vowels than nasalisation.)

People keep saying there is a Queenslander accent (a drawl), but I don’t hang around enough Queenslanders to know if that is something different from the urban–rural split, ay.

(OK, that was a joke: the “ay” is a Queenslander thing, but it’s not an accent thing.)

There *is* a regional phonetic difference that has crept up in the past twenty years: Victoria has a celery–salary merger, although you’ll find no Victorian admitting that New Zealand had it first. So celery here is pronounced /sæləri/, and Melbourne is pronounced /mælbɪn/. Bizarrely when linguists noticed it, they called it Melbourne raising, even though it’s always sounded to me like the /ɛ/ lowering, not the /æ/ raising.

Why did you decide to learn Esperanto?

Curiosity piqued by books about language, which mentioned it in passing. Starting with the three-paragraph article on Esperanto in World Book Encyclopedia. Then finding a couple of textbooks in my local public library, at the age of 13.

The same reason I went on to learn Lojban and Klingon, I have to say.

What is the etymology of Limassol, the English version of the Cypriot city ‘Lemesos’?

I don’t know.

I’ll build on Sid Kemp’s answer, and to use what online resources tell me.

Nemesos is used by Sophronius of Jerusalem (7th century), Anna Komnene (11th century), and the Byzantine lists of bishops.

Lemesos is used by Leontios Machairas (15th century), and the vernacular Byzantine chronicles (15th century).

The Turkish forms are Limasol or Leymosun; the Armenian is Limasol.

Going through Excerpta cypria; materials for a history of Cyprus : Cobham, Claude Delaval, 1842-1915, tr : Free Download & Streaming : Internet Archive , we have:

  • Limeszun (1180s-1190s)
  • Lamezis (1211)
  • Limeso (1395)
  • Lymiso (1484)
  • Lymesson (ca 1500)
  • Limechon (1518)
  • Nimesso (1533)
  • Minesse, Minesson (1534)
  • Limisso (1553; 1570; 1589; 1598; 1609; 1626)
  • Lemiso (1656)
  • Lemisco (1683)
  • Lumesol (1757)
  • Limesol (1758)
  • Lemissol (1745) (saying the Greek form is Nemeson)
  • Llimaso (before 1790)

Based on all this:

My initial assumption was that is was an Old French contortion of the name Lemesos, just as Nicosia is Old French trying to deal with Lefkosia. But what few old instances of the name I find in the Excerpta Cypria don’t mention a form ending in -l until well after the Ottoman conquest. So I suspect it’s Turkish.

But I don’t know, and will ask further.

How and why does religiosity vary among Greek immigrant communities?

Question comes from my contrasting the attitude to religiosity among Greek-Australians and Greek-Americans.

In the 1990s, Greeks were only coming up to second generation in Australia. The attitude to religion was akin to what it was in the home country: more about group identity and tradition than about a (how do Evangelicals put it?) personal relationship with Jesus. Bilingual services only started in the 1990s, and at least in my parish, not much of it was in English: Bible readings, Nicene Creed, Lord’s Prayer. As in Greece, Easter Midnight Mass emptied out at 12:30, because adhering to tradition (going home for tripe soup and dyed egg) took priority over the church. An elderly core of parishioners took communion weekly; the bulk took communion twice a year, as in Greece.

So the experience of religiosity in Australia was pretty close to that in Greece.

In the States, well, let me recycle my comment from….

(Yes, I’m answering my own question based on something I commented elsewhere. Why do you ask?)

My naive guess would have been that European immigrant Christians’ churches would have been more about ethnic identity than about actual faith, and that they would have been immune to the fervour of the Great Awakening.

My limited exposure to Greek Orthodoxy in the US tells me I am wrong. They can be just as fervent, because they are Americans, and influenced by the Great Awakening by osmosis.

Every year in Easter Midnight Greek Orthodox Mass, in Greece and Australia, after Christ is proclaimed risen, the priest says around 12:30 AM, “Do stay! It’s a lovely mass!”

And it is a lovely mass. Starting with John Damascene’s boppy “It is the day of resurrection! Let us be bright, ye peoples!”

Chanted to a mostly empty church. Screw that; there’s tripe soup to be eaten at home, and dyed eggs to crack. The parishioners are in church because of tradition, and they’re going home now because of tradition.

I spent one Orthodox Easter Mass in Dayton, Ohio. Female choristers (including my great-aunt) and an organ, and a Polish priest, so I was clearly not in Kansas any more (or Melbourne). But that’s fine, I’m here to follow in the tradition of my ancestors.

12:30. Noone moved.

1:00. Noone moved.

The entire parish stayed put all the way til 3 AM. Like they were Ukrainians or something. (They weren’t.)

They were Greek American Orthodox. They were there for the mass.

tl;dr Australian Greeks are closer in timeframe to Greek Greeks, their religiosity is more about group identity. American Greeks have been influenced by their more religious environment, their religiosity is more personal and overt.

Why were there (apparently) more homosexual men in Ancient Greece than today?

In traditional Modern Greek society, there was a stigmatised group of gay men: poustides.

In traditional Ancient Greek society, there was a stigmatised group of gay men: kinaidoi.

The stigma in antiquity was more about being a bottom (i.e. about power) than about having sex with males per se.  What was not stigmatised was homosexual activity with boys (which did not necessarily include full-on intercourse), as part of a mentor-like arrangement.

The stigma in Ottoman Greece was certainly etymologically about being a bottom: πούστης < Turkish puşt was a bottom, κωλομπαράς “arse-fancier” (Greek–Persian blend) was a top. Quite possible that in traditional Greek society both roles were stigmatised, haven’t studied it in depth.

But there were homosexual men in Ancient and in Modern Greece, and I don’t see a particular reason to think there were more gays in antiquity. A particular, quite regimented set of behaviours, which was as much about mentoring and social alliances as it was about sex, was licensed. That didn’t mean Ancient Athens was Big Gay Al’s Big Gay Animal Sanctuary. 

To my amusement: Greeks in the 60s were convinced London was Big Gay Al’s Big Gay Animal Sanctuary. Because Britain moved early to decriminalise gay sex.