I don't consider this a serious question, so instead of responding to the correspondent's arguments, I am sending you a summary of the terms used in LC cataloging for different forms of Greek.  It is a slight modification of a summary sent November 7, 2008, in response to a message from Joan Spanne about a request to create a code in Part 3 for medieval Greek (http://www.sil.org/iso639-3/chg_detail.asp?id=2006-084).




The term "Classical Greek" is not used in the Library of Congress Subject Headings (LCSH).  It does appear in an appendix to the Anglo-American Cataloging Rules, 2nd edition (AACR2), but I have recommended that "Ancient Greek" be substituted for it in the descriptive cataloging rules that will replace AACR2.  Strictly speaking, "Classical Greek" refers only to the language of Athens in the fifth and fourth centuries B.C.


The current ALA-LC romanization tables for Greek were developed by me.  One covers ancient and medieval Greek (before 1454); the other covers modern Greek (after 1453).  The division is based on the date of the fall of Constantinople and the end of the Byzantine Empire, May 29, 1453.  Previously, a single table covered both forms of the language, but the same date was used as the dividing point.


In notes and uniform titles, we normally just use "Greek" instead of the MARC code list forms "Attic Greek," "Greek, Ancient," and "Greek, Modern."  But if the item we have is a translation from one form of the language into another (generally into modern Greek) or contains text in two different forms (one of which generally is modern Greek), we use the following terms:


Ancient Greek [before 300 B.C.]

Hellenistic Greek [300 B.C.-A.D. 600]

Biblical Greek [for the Septuagint and the New Testament; obviously, Biblical Greek is a subset of Hellenistic Greek]

Medieval Greek [600-1453]

Modern Greek [1453-present]


Why is 300 B.C. used as the beginning date for Hellenistic Greek?  After the death of Alexander in 323 B.C., several of his generals divided his empire among them and proceeded to make war against each other.  Meanwhile, Greek culture spread throughout that part of the world, and the Greek language became the lingua franca.


Why is A.D. 600 used as the beginning date for medieval Greek?  Not long thereafter, the emperor Heraclius (reigned 610-641) replaced Latin with Greek as the official language of the Eastern Roman (Byzantine) Empire, giving the empire a definitely Greek character.  The Western Roman Empire had fallen in 476.


Aside from headings for dialects (Aeolic Greek dialect, Attic Greek dialect, Doric Greek dialect, Ionic Greek dialect), LCSH uses:


Greek language

Greek language, Hellenistic (300 B.C.-600 A.D.) [cross-reference from Greek language (Koine)]

Greek language, Biblical [for works on the language of the Septuagint and the New Testament]

Greek language, Medieval and late [ca. 600-1821; note that the year of Greek independence from the Ottoman Empire is used as the end of the date range; cross-reference from Greek language, Byzantine]

Greek language, Modern [no scope note specifying dates]




Lucas Graves ([log in to unmask])

Cooperative Cataloging Program Specialist

Data Integrity Section

Policy and Standards Division

Library of Congress

Washington, DC 20540


(Nothing in this message is to be taken as a statement of official LC policy, etc.)



From: ISO 639 Joint Advisory Committee [mailto:[log in to unmask]] On Behalf Of Håvard Hjulstad
Sent: Thursday, August 12, 2010 5:59 AM
To: [log in to unmask]
Subject: SV: Very broad "ancient Greek"


There are other cases that are parallel, e.g. Sanskrit, which has considerable variation over time. And the issue is by no means straight-forward. I see two possible ways to go: (1) grc is re-classified as a macrolanguage, and individual “sub-languages” are given separate identifiers; (2) grc is retained as an individual language, and “sub-languages” are encoded in 639-6.


One thing is clear: There exists no objective definition of “individual language” that states clearly which way we need to go, including how large variation is “permitted” within an individual language. When it comes to variation over time, we in addition have the problem that the notion of mutual intelligibility is even less clear than for modern languages.





Håvard Hjulstad

  (prosjektleder / Project Manager)

  Standard Norge / Standards Norway

  [log in to unmask]



Fra: ISO 639 Joint Advisory Committee [mailto:[log in to unmask]] På vegne av Guenther, Rebecca
Sendt: 11. august 2010 21:26
Til: [log in to unmask]
Emne: FW: Very broad "ancient Greek"


Any comments on this request?



From: Henri de Solages [mailto:[log in to unmask]]
Sent: Friday, August 06, 2010 6:08 AM
To: [log in to unmask]
Subject: Very broad "ancient Greek"



I'm very surprised that ancient Greek is considered as one language, covering 2 millennia, having been an international language during several centuries, having undergone serious phonetic modifications (to such a point that I doubt a late ancient Greek would have understood at all an audio record in early ancient Greek), and having lost not only at least one tense (the anterior future) but even a grammatical number (the dual).

If you really want to regard it as one language, then we need another standard to codify things like "Homeric Greek", "Egyptian Greek", "Cappadocian Greek", "Byzantine Greek" etc..

Yours sincerely.