Greek Odhinn

This artpiece, which looks like Odhinn, is located at the workshop of Ioannis Papastafidas, a Greek folk artist living in the small village of Alevrou, in the region of Laconia in Southern Greece (near Sparta). Papastafidas is an obscure wood artisan who makes ξυλόγλυπτων [xyroglypton], a branch of Greek traditional folk art based on wood. All of the work of this unique craftsman is inspired by nature and the local fairy tales, and he transforms small daily objects into wood masterpieces.

Greek Odhinn

The Greek Language’s Compoundability

The most distinctive characteristic of the Greek language is its powerful compound-constructing ability. The speaker is able to combine basic or derived terms in order to construct new, yet perfectly understandable compounds that express in one word what other languages would express in an entire clause, or even an entire sentence. This linguistic mobility is largely absent from Latin and its offspring languages.

In the Homeric language, Thetis — the mother of Achilles, is described as “δυσαριστοτόκεια”, dysaristotokeia, meaning “she, who to her own bad fortune, gave birth to the best”, in pure Modern Greek — “πικρολεβεντομάνα”, pikroleventomana. Some languages are able to express such a complex meaning naturally in one word, others have different mechanisms (see polysynthetic languages for extreme examples).

Compound constructional capability, as is found in Greek, is frequently imitated by modern languages such as French and English in order to produce monolectic compounds; this is often done by actually using Greek roots (e.g. biology < biologie < bios + logos, Micromégas < mikros + megas ) or by applying imported Greek rules to foreign words. For that reason Greek-derived words predominate in the language of science, particularly of the natural sciences, e.g. physics, chemistry, biology, geography, medicine, etc.

It has been speculated by scholars that due to this specific flexibility, Greek and German (another European language famous for its compound construction) have been the languages of philosophy, and that Plato’s ideas had pre-existed in Greek, in the same way that Meister Eckhart’s thoughts had in German.

The Greek Language’s Compoundability