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MichaelArchangelos
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« on: August 23, 2011, 08:56:21 AM »

I know that it is the practice of the Orthodox Church to use the language of the people in worship. However, Koine/Liturgical Greek and Church Slavonic are no longer the vernacular languages of any countries. Why, then, does the Orthodox Church continue to use "dead" languages for worship? Is it for the same reasons that the Roman Catholic church used to use Latin for the liturgy (a practice still retained by traditional Catholics today)? If not, then why?

Also, is the Arabic used in the Antiochian Orthodox Church Modern Standard Arabic, or is it closer to Classical/Qur'anic Arabic?

I'm not being critical - having come from traditional Catholicism, I'm just interested. However, I do think that parishes that use Greek/Slavonic/Arabic/Romanian etc should have books with the liturgical language on one side and English on the other so that visitors/inquirers/converts can follow the service. A translation of the priest's sermon printed out would be good too - or the priest could give the sermon in alternating paragraphs of English and the local language (as I witnessed at an Oriental Orthodox church in Malaysia).
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« Reply #1 on: August 23, 2011, 09:11:45 AM »

I know that it is the practice of the Orthodox Church to use the language of the people in worship. However, Koine/Liturgical Greek and Church Slavonic are no longer the vernacular languages of any countries. Why, then, does the Orthodox Church continue to use "dead" languages for worship? Is it for the same reasons that the Roman Catholic church used to use Latin for the liturgy (a practice still retained by traditional Catholics today)? If not, then why?

Also, is the Arabic used in the Antiochian Orthodox Church Modern Standard Arabic, or is it closer to Classical/Qur'anic Arabic?

I'm not being critical - having come from traditional Catholicism, I'm just interested. However, I do think that parishes that use Greek/Slavonic/Arabic/Romanian etc should have books with the liturgical language on one side and English on the other so that visitors/inquirers/converts can follow the service. A translation of the priest's sermon printed out would be good too - or the priest could give the sermon in alternating paragraphs of English and the local language (as I witnessed at an Oriental Orthodox church in Malaysia).
Well, the traditional RC claim that Latin, Greek, and Hebrew are the only sacred languages is called the Trilingual Heresy by Orthodoxy.

You'll still find some who defend the reluctance/refusal of the Greek and Russian Churches to use modern language with the "only dead languages preserve the Liturgy from misinterpretation" argument, but ultimately I think the refusal just comes down to plain old demonic stubbornness (and believe me, I say this with a heavy heart).
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« Reply #2 on: August 23, 2011, 09:36:36 AM »

I know that it is the practice of the Orthodox Church to use the language of the people in worship. However, Koine/Liturgical Greek and Church Slavonic are no longer the vernacular languages of any countries. Why, then, does the Orthodox Church continue to use "dead" languages for worship? Is it for the same reasons that the Roman Catholic church used to use Latin for the liturgy (a practice still retained by traditional Catholics today)? If not, then why?

Also, is the Arabic used in the Antiochian Orthodox Church Modern Standard Arabic, or is it closer to Classical/Qur'anic Arabic?

I'm not being critical - having come from traditional Catholicism, I'm just interested. However, I do think that parishes that use Greek/Slavonic/Arabic/Romanian etc should have books with the liturgical language on one side and English on the other so that visitors/inquirers/converts can follow the service. A translation of the priest's sermon printed out would be good too - or the priest could give the sermon in alternating paragraphs of English and the local language (as I witnessed at an Oriental Orthodox church in Malaysia).
Well, the traditional RC claim that Latin, Greek, and Hebrew are the only sacred languages is called the Trilingual Heresy by Orthodoxy.

You'll still find some who defend the reluctance/refusal of the Greek and Russian Churches to use modern language with the "only dead languages preserve the Liturgy from misinterpretation" argument, but ultimately I think the refusal just comes down to plain old demonic stubbornness (and believe me, I say this with a heavy heart).

Or is it laziness?    It is not easy to come up with new liturgical translations that sound as good as the old.
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« Reply #3 on: August 23, 2011, 09:58:02 AM »

Here is a good article on the importance of using the traditional liturgical languages:
http://www.pravoslavie.ru/english/47599.htm

A brief excerpt:
Quote
The person who reads the services and the theological books in the Greek of the Church Fathers gets much more out of it than a straightforward translation in French, German, or English can provide. In Greek, these words and terms have a long cultural history and theological meanings that were hammered out by great saints and theologians. They have a precision, a depth of meaning, and a breadth of context that is almost impossible to capture in another language. Probably Slavonic comes the closest because the Russians, Serbs and Bulgarians have had centuries of lived Orthodoxy that fills the words with meaning. But even Slavonic is sometimes poor in comparison to Greek. It lacks articles, so words may not be as clearly defined as they are in Greek.

Counting both the ancient and modern versions, Greek has an immense vocabulary, many times the size of the English vocabulary. For example, in my limited experience of translating from modern Greek to English, I have often had problems in translating words having to do with light. Greek has many terms for the action of light, while in English we have only a few that have the dignity that would suit the church context … such as shine, radiate, or gleam. Flash, sparkle, glitter, and so on, are too common or shallow, but in Greek there is a whole range of vocabulary to speak about light and the way light acts—so when you translate it into English, the translation often sounds flat, or the same words are repeated too often. The word “joy” has the same problems. This is a very simple example, but when you try to translate theological terms, it is even more difficult. These are words that have a history, that have been used by the Church Fathers to mean specific things within a specific Orthodox theological-spiritual context. When you translate them into English, the words have a whole different context. In one language, a word has a certain circle of meaning, while in another, the closest word might have an overlapping circle of meaning, but it will never be exactly the same. It has other echoes and other connotations...  In addition, English theological terms are often shaded by centuries of use in a Roman Catholic or Protestant context.

Another important consideration is that while certain languages may be called “dead” because they are no longer commonly spoken on the street, they remain living liturgical languages that have been used in the prayers and services of the Church for many centuries.  In monasteries which use Slavonic or Greek, for instance, such liturgical languages may be spoken and heard to a much greater extent than commonly spoken languages, considering the amount of time spent in the services and the lack of time spent on ordinary communication.  

In new lands that were not historically Orthodox, the old languages continue to be used primarily where churches were first established, not as missions, but in order to serve the needs of immigrant populations.  Often priests who serve in the traditional liturgical languages in America will say that a switch to English is inevitable in the future, but that this will be driven by the composition of their parish.  For instance, if 90% of a parish is made up of Russians, many of whom may not be very comfortable yet with the English language, Slavonic will likely continue to be used until the parish is comprised of mostly English speakers who have no understanding of Russian or Slavonic.  Interestingly, our priest told us a story of a Russian lady who visited ROCOR’s Hermitage of the Holy Cross in West Virginia, which uses all English in its services.  When the priest asked the woman afterwards about her time at the monastery, she said, “The services were absolutely beautiful, but I couldn’t understand a word.”  I have been to one parish that uses mostly Slavonic, but in the services the choir director will look out to determine the relative composition of the in church on that day (whether Russian or predominantly English-speaking), and she will attempt to use a mixture of English and Slavonic depending on who is attending that service.  

For native English speaking people, and potential converts, I think it is important to read articles such as the one linked above concerning the importance of the ancient languages.  If we have the ability, we should try to learn such languages, which have been used for prayer by countless saints over many centuries.      
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« Reply #4 on: August 23, 2011, 12:00:11 PM »

The last time the Russian Church tried to update its books, there was disaster and schism.

Also, try to get Greeks to agree on an issue as sensitive as how to translate liturgical language.

Church Slavonic (I heard Patriarch Nikon Russified much of it) and Church Greek and Classical Armenian and Ge'ez and whatever Arabic my brethren use are still  the languages of the people, being linguistic antecedents. It's not like they're praying in Klingon. The liturgical books do not exist on their own in a vacuum, but are tied to chant, are used in study, etc. When you're used to standardized, metrical texts, it becomes difficult to throw that away and try  to make something new. A translation not done by someone other than one or more saints is never ideal, I find, and may not be accepted. The logistics in changing are overwhelming for churches already taxed with a lot of work to do.
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« Reply #5 on: August 23, 2011, 12:15:57 PM »

Church Slavonic (I heard Patriarch Nikon Russified much of it) and Church Greek and Classical Armenian and Ge'ez and whatever Arabic my brethren use are still  the languages of the people, being linguistic antecedents. It's not like they're praying in Klingon.

I am not so sure about the Church Slavonic. I'd say, it is somewhat like Esperanto. Stt. Cyril and Methodios *CREATED* it, based on their reminiscences about how the Slavic people spoke in their home city (Thessaloniki) at the time when the two missionaries were in their adolescence. Themselves, they were Greek speakers (regardless of what their exact ethnic background was).

Today, of course, it's a completely dead language. No one speaks it and no one actually understands it without some special training/ instruction.
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« Reply #6 on: August 23, 2011, 12:24:02 PM »

I know that it is the practice of the Orthodox Church to use the language of the people in worship. However, Koine/Liturgical Greek and Church Slavonic are no longer the vernacular languages of any countries. Why, then, does the Orthodox Church continue to use "dead" languages for worship? Is it for the same reasons that the Roman Catholic church used to use Latin for the liturgy (a practice still retained by traditional Catholics today)? If not, then why?

Also, is the Arabic used in the Antiochian Orthodox Church Modern Standard Arabic, or is it closer to Classical/Qur'anic Arabic?

I'm not being critical - having come from traditional Catholicism, I'm just interested. However, I do think that parishes that use Greek/Slavonic/Arabic/Romanian etc should have books with the liturgical language on one side and English on the other so that visitors/inquirers/converts can follow the service. A translation of the priest's sermon printed out would be good too - or the priest could give the sermon in alternating paragraphs of English and the local language (as I witnessed at an Oriental Orthodox church in Malaysia).
Well, the traditional RC claim that Latin, Greek, and Hebrew are the only sacred languages is called the Trilingual Heresy by Orthodoxy.

You'll still find some who defend the reluctance/refusal of the Greek and Russian Churches to use modern language with the "only dead languages preserve the Liturgy from misinterpretation" argument, but ultimately I think the refusal just comes down to plain old demonic stubbornness (and believe me, I say this with a heavy heart).

Or is it laziness?    It is not easy to come up with new liturgical translations that sound as good as the old.

when you don't understand the language, nothing sounds as good as the old, as you didn't understand the old.
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« Reply #7 on: August 23, 2011, 12:28:21 PM »


I am sometimes jealous of the Churches that have long time standard liturgical texts. I hear a Psalm read at one service, and when I hear that same Psalm read at another, it is sometimes hard to recognize the readings to be the same.   

Modern liturgical texts need to be standardized.    The Church Slavonic, even though I don’t understand it, sounds the same all the time.  I would like a language that I understand, to sound the same at least most of the time.
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« Reply #8 on: August 23, 2011, 01:17:27 PM »


I am sometimes jealous of the Churches that have long time standard liturgical texts. I hear a Psalm read at one service, and when I hear that same Psalm read at another, it is sometimes hard to recognize the readings to be the same.   

Modern liturgical texts need to be standardized.    The Church Slavonic, even though I don’t understand it, sounds the same all the time.  I would like a language that I understand, to sound the same at least most of the time.


I would like standardized English liturgical texts, too, just so long as we don't use THAT subpar English used by THOSE people.
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« Reply #9 on: August 23, 2011, 01:35:27 PM »

I would like standardized English liturgical texts, too, just so long as we don't use THAT subpar English used by THOSE people.

I could not agree more.
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« Reply #10 on: August 23, 2011, 04:10:02 PM »

2 standardized English versions: one contemporary, one archaic. Both translated from the original Greek.
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« Reply #11 on: August 23, 2011, 10:04:44 PM »

I know that it is the practice of the Orthodox Church to use the language of the people in worship. However, Koine/Liturgical Greek and Church Slavonic are no longer the vernacular languages of any countries. Why, then, does the Orthodox Church continue to use "dead" languages for worship? Is it for the same reasons that the Roman Catholic church used to use Latin for the liturgy (a practice still retained by traditional Catholics today)? If not, then why?

Also, is the Arabic used in the Antiochian Orthodox Church Modern Standard Arabic, or is it closer to Classical/Qur'anic Arabic?

I'm not being critical - having come from traditional Catholicism, I'm just interested. However, I do think that parishes that use Greek/Slavonic/Arabic/Romanian etc should have books with the liturgical language on one side and English on the other so that visitors/inquirers/converts can follow the service. A translation of the priest's sermon printed out would be good too - or the priest could give the sermon in alternating paragraphs of English and the local language (as I witnessed at an Oriental Orthodox church in Malaysia).
Well, the traditional RC claim that Latin, Greek, and Hebrew are the only sacred languages is called the Trilingual Heresy by Orthodoxy.

You'll still find some who defend the reluctance/refusal of the Greek and Russian Churches to use modern language with the "only dead languages preserve the Liturgy from misinterpretation" argument, but ultimately I think the refusal just comes down to plain old demonic stubbornness (and believe me, I say this with a heavy heart).

Or is it laziness?    It is not easy to come up with new liturgical translations that sound as good as the old.

That could be too. All I know is when the MP calls off evangelization of a Siberian tribe because they don't speak Russian well enough, let alone Slavonic, there's a serious spiritual problem. But perhaps I digress.


I'd rather see a clunky YLT-style translation than nothing. Beauty is important but secondary to bare comprehension, or am I thinking too Protestant?
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« Reply #12 on: August 23, 2011, 10:12:02 PM »

I would think there are a few good translations out there, and it's nice if you can get one of the spiffy ones, but there may be more than one which could be suitable. I would pray that the Holy Spirit would provide the inspiration necessary when the time came to lead the flock.  Smiley
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« Reply #13 on: August 23, 2011, 10:16:02 PM »

I know that it is the practice of the Orthodox Church to use the language of the people in worship. However, Koine/Liturgical Greek and Church Slavonic are no longer the vernacular languages of any countries. Why, then, does the Orthodox Church continue to use "dead" languages for worship? Is it for the same reasons that the Roman Catholic church used to use Latin for the liturgy (a practice still retained by traditional Catholics today)? If not, then why?

Also, is the Arabic used in the Antiochian Orthodox Church Modern Standard Arabic, or is it closer to Classical/Qur'anic Arabic?

I'm not being critical - having come from traditional Catholicism, I'm just interested. However, I do think that parishes that use Greek/Slavonic/Arabic/Romanian etc should have books with the liturgical language on one side and English on the other so that visitors/inquirers/converts can follow the service. A translation of the priest's sermon printed out would be good too - or the priest could give the sermon in alternating paragraphs of English and the local language (as I witnessed at an Oriental Orthodox church in Malaysia).
Well, the traditional RC claim that Latin, Greek, and Hebrew are the only sacred languages is called the Trilingual Heresy by Orthodoxy.

You'll still find some who defend the reluctance/refusal of the Greek and Russian Churches to use modern language with the "only dead languages preserve the Liturgy from misinterpretation" argument, but ultimately I think the refusal just comes down to plain old demonic stubbornness (and believe me, I say this with a heavy heart).

Or is it laziness?    It is not easy to come up with new liturgical translations that sound as good as the old.

That could be too. All I know is when the MP calls off evangelization of a Siberian tribe because they don't speak Russian well enough, let alone Slavonic, there's a serious spiritual problem. But perhaps I digress.


I'd rather see a clunky YLT-style translation than nothing. Beauty is important but secondary to bare comprehension, or am I thinking too Protestant?

I think the problem isn't so much even making a "beautiful" translation (which is actually quite important liturgically) but making an Orthodox translation. We have to make sure we're expounding the faith properly in the new language, which means we have to find ways to properly convey Orthodox theology in a language in which it has never been expressed (in the case of evangelization) or in a language significantly different than before (in the case of "updating" to a more modern tongue).

We have to remember that when we change the way we're speaking, we're re-packaging the Gospel. We have to make sure we do it correctly. Accurately transmitting the Orthodox Faith once-delivered to the saints is an important task, to say the least.
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« Reply #14 on: August 23, 2011, 10:22:21 PM »

Church Slavonic (I heard Patriarch Nikon Russified much of it) and Church Greek and Classical Armenian and Ge'ez and whatever Arabic my brethren use are still  the languages of the people, being linguistic antecedents. It's not like they're praying in Klingon.

I am not so sure about the Church Slavonic. I'd say, it is somewhat like Esperanto. Stt. Cyril and Methodios *CREATED* it, based on their reminiscences about how the Slavic people spoke in their home city (Thessaloniki) at the time when the two missionaries were in their adolescence. Themselves, they were Greek speakers (regardless of what their exact ethnic background was).

Today, of course, it's a completely dead language. No one speaks it and no one actually understands it without some special training/ instruction.
No, SS. Cyril and Methodius simply used the Slavonic that they learned in Thessalonica/Salon.  This is shown by, for instance, the word for "I" азъ and the endings "-аго/-его/-ого/-яго" which are South Slavic.  Successive generations of scribes adapted the texts of SS. Cyril and Methodios to the copyists' vernacular, yielding various recensions, which gave way to the Russian (itself an adoption of the Ukrainian/Kievan recension) with printing (which Russia could, in contrast to the other Slav countries, mass produce).
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« Reply #15 on: September 07, 2011, 02:15:10 PM »

2 standardized English versions: one contemporary, one archaic. Both translated from the original Greek.

I would tend to agree with this (although I'd probably use the term "Elizabethan" instead of "archaic"). Both can sound really good and flow very well.
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« Reply #16 on: September 07, 2011, 02:52:38 PM »

2 standardized English versions: one contemporary, one archaic. Both translated from the original Greek.

I would tend to agree with this (although I'd probably use the term "Elizabethan" instead of "archaic"). Both can sound really good and flow very well.

Actually, what you are probably referring to as "Elizabethan" is archaic and was at the time when in use to a certain degree as well.
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« Reply #17 on: September 07, 2011, 03:10:49 PM »

Here is a good article on the importance of using the traditional liturgical languages:
http://www.pravoslavie.ru/english/47599.htm

A brief excerpt:
Quote
The person who reads the services and the theological books in the Greek of the Church Fathers gets much more out of it than a straightforward translation in French, German, or English can provide. In Greek, these words and terms have a long cultural history and theological meanings that were hammered out by great saints and theologians. They have a precision, a depth of meaning, and a breadth of context that is almost impossible to capture in another language. Probably Slavonic comes the closest because the Russians, Serbs and Bulgarians have had centuries of lived Orthodoxy that fills the words with meaning. But even Slavonic is sometimes poor in comparison to Greek. It lacks articles, so words may not be as clearly defined as they are in Greek.

Counting both the ancient and modern versions, Greek has an immense vocabulary, many times the size of the English vocabulary. For example, in my limited experience of translating from modern Greek to English, I have often had problems in translating words having to do with light. Greek has many terms for the action of light, while in English we have only a few that have the dignity that would suit the church context … such as shine, radiate, or gleam. Flash, sparkle, glitter, and so on, are too common or shallow, but in Greek there is a whole range of vocabulary to speak about light and the way light acts—so when you translate it into English, the translation often sounds flat, or the same words are repeated too often. The word “joy” has the same problems. This is a very simple example, but when you try to translate theological terms, it is even more difficult. These are words that have a history, that have been used by the Church Fathers to mean specific things within a specific Orthodox theological-spiritual context. When you translate them into English, the words have a whole different context. In one language, a word has a certain circle of meaning, while in another, the closest word might have an overlapping circle of meaning, but it will never be exactly the same. It has other echoes and other connotations...  In addition, English theological terms are often shaded by centuries of use in a Roman Catholic or Protestant context.
all very nice, but it does assUme that one is going to master the intricacies of another language (and, btw, that goes for Modern Greeks reading the Greek Fathers).  And yes, English is up to the task, although many of the translators, mourning over the original language, haven't produced a decent translation.

Another important consideration is that while certain languages may be called “dead” because they are no longer commonly spoken on the street, they remain living liturgical languages that have been used in the prayers and services of the Church for many centuries.  In monasteries which use Slavonic or Greek, for instance, such liturgical languages may be spoken and heard to a much greater extent than commonly spoken languages, considering the amount of time spent in the services and the lack of time spent on ordinary communication.
 
That does assUme that the chanters understand what they are chanting.  I know for a fact that that can't be taken as a matter of course.

In new lands that were not historically Orthodox, the old languages continue to be used primarily where churches were first established, not as missions, but in order to serve the needs of immigrant populations.  Often priests who serve in the traditional liturgical languages in America will say that a switch to English is inevitable in the future, but that this will be driven by the composition of their parish.  For instance, if 90% of a parish is made up of Russians, many of whom may not be very comfortable yet with the English language, Slavonic will likely continue to be used until the parish is comprised of mostly English speakers who have no understanding of Russian or Slavonic.  Interestingly, our priest told us a story of a Russian lady who visited ROCOR’s Hermitage of the Holy Cross in West Virginia, which uses all English in its services.  When the priest asked the woman afterwards about her time at the monastery, she said, “The services were absolutely beautiful, but I couldn’t understand a word.”  I have been to one parish that uses mostly Slavonic, but in the services the choir director will look out to determine the relative composition of the in church on that day (whether Russian or predominantly English-speaking), and she will attempt to use a mixture of English and Slavonic depending on who is attending that service.  

For native English speaking people, and potential converts, I think it is important to read articles such as the one linked above concerning the importance of the ancient languages.  If we have the ability, we should try to learn such languages, which have been used for prayer by countless saints over many centuries.
   
we should be worried about producing saints for centuries to come, in the native tonuge.

Btw, how many learn Aramaic/Syriac, the language of the Lord, His mother, His Apostles and the Earliest Church?
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« Reply #18 on: September 07, 2011, 03:23:28 PM »

2 standardized English versions: one contemporary, one archaic. Both translated from the original Greek.

I would tend to agree with this (although I'd probably use the term "Elizabethan" instead of "archaic"). Both can sound really good and flow very well.

Actually, what you are probably referring to as "Elizabethan" is archaic and was at the time when in use to a certain degree as well.

Yes, archaism is a deliberate and often respectable literary device. It seems to have fallen out of favor in recent English literature but it is pretty unavoidable in the classic poets.
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« Reply #19 on: September 07, 2011, 08:16:44 PM »

2 standardized English versions: one contemporary, one archaic. Both translated from the original Greek.

I would tend to agree with this (although I'd probably use the term "Elizabethan" instead of "archaic"). Both can sound really good and flow very well.

Actually, what you are probably referring to as "Elizabethan" is archaic and was at the time when in use to a certain degree as well.

Yes, archaism is a deliberate and often respectable literary device. It seems to have fallen out of favor in recent English literature but it is pretty unavoidable in the classic poets.

Indeed.

Certainly, even in Koine times many intellectuals wrote in an Atticised/Atticising Greek which was already then-archaic. I believe many of the Fathers wrote in this fashion.
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« Reply #20 on: December 05, 2011, 01:21:34 AM »

Here is a good article on the importance of using the traditional liturgical languages:
http://www.pravoslavie.ru/english/47599.htm

A brief excerpt:
Quote

Counting both the ancient and modern versions, Greek has an immense vocabulary, many times the size of the English vocabulary.


Point of information: the good sister is mistaken on this matter.

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« Reply #21 on: December 06, 2011, 07:13:06 AM »

Mistaken as in?
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« Reply #22 on: December 06, 2011, 08:16:09 AM »

Mistaken as in?

Mistaken as in English is a language of loan-words, and so, by virtue of having borrowed words from pretty much everywhere, it is often said to have the largest vocabulary of any language.

That does not mean it is capable of accurately expressing the meaning of the text with the same precision and character of the original Greek. So I think the original point still stands.
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« Reply #23 on: December 06, 2011, 11:28:16 AM »

Though I don't know anything about which language has the largest vocabulary (this seems like a fool's errand), I feel compelled to point out that all languages are languages of loan words to a greater or lesser degree, and that more loan words do not necessarily lead to a larger overall vocabulary (in fact, the fight against loan words in many language planning/policing situations is often tied to a fear that they will replace perfectly good native words, because that does happen).

Anyway...if Albuquerque's small church is anything to go by, the Coptic church has largely become a church of the vernacular, at least in the USA (I have read that in Europe there are more problems in this area). A typical liturgy here at St. Bishoy C.O.C. will be 75-80% English, but usually repeated in Coptic and Arabic (for the people's responses and some of the litanies, anyway). And at all times there are trilingual translations available, as you have to be able to switch between the three quite quickly and anticipate (from the language being used by the deacons at a given point) which will be used in the response. It takes some getting used to, but it also helps to internalize the Coptic parts and for me the Arabic parts as well. If we do any kind of paraliturgical hymns (e.g., Tasbeha), those are more reliably in Arabic, but even then there is generally some English used, and the translations are available.

I like this system. It apparently works well as we have had an influx lately of non-Egyptians coming to visit (hey, when you're a church of ~40 people, getting 7 visitors over the past two weeks counts as an influx), and none of them seemed put off by it. The only time I have personally struggled with the language was when I had to try to sing "Efrahi ya Mariam" from a photocopy of very small, hand-printed Arabic (with no diacritics, of course) with my Ethiopian friend trying to follow me, since he knew no Arabic. What a disaster that was.

The poetic quality of the English translations (particularly in the Agpeya) is sometimes lower than I think possible, but never obscures the Orthodox teachings. It is at least much better than the translations of HH's books. Sad I do wonder, though, if perhaps the British Orthodox Church (under the Coptic Orthodox Patriarchate) might produce a better translation into English, being mostly native Britons and hence not having to rely on Egyptian bilinguals as seems to be the case elsewhere. 
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« Reply #24 on: December 07, 2011, 11:18:12 AM »

Well, the traditional RC claim that Latin, Greek, and Hebrew are the only sacred languages...

Come on, really?
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« Reply #25 on: December 07, 2011, 11:28:45 AM »

Well, the traditional RC claim that Latin, Greek, and Hebrew are the only sacred languages...

Come on, really?

Our sometime interlocutor "Hopeful Faithful" has made similar claims, although he adds OCS into the mix.
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« Reply #26 on: December 07, 2011, 02:57:16 PM »

But is it really a "traditional RC claim"?
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« Reply #27 on: December 07, 2011, 03:37:17 PM »

Greetings in that Divine and Most Precious Name of Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ!

In the Ethiopian Orthodox we have a liturgical language, but not in the strictly linguistic sense so much as the sense of musical tone.

Quote
Saint Yared
The Deggua or hymnary is attributed to Saint Yared, a scholar who lived in Aksum in the 6th century. During the course of the centuries Hymns have been added by various composers. He was caught up into paradise and there received the precepts that were to guide him. These precepts are contained in the Mezegeba Deggua (Treasury of Plainsongs). It is he who invented the three modes of chanting used in the church and known respectively as geeze, ezil and ararai.

 

Deggua is the general name for church song. Besides the Deggua there are other collections of hymns. We have the “Praise of Mary” and the “Organ of the Virgin” or “organ of Praises”. Both of these are collections of hymns in honour of the Virgin arranged for different days of the week. The “Psalter of Christ” is another similar collection.

 

The Antiphony of the church is known as the Mawaset (Answers). It consists of anthems for special festivals through out the year. The “Meraf” also has hymns and chants for the festivals of the year.

 

Certain types of hymns or poems have become particularly popular, and the Qene is one of them. There were short hymns often extemporized, which were sung after certain verses of the Psalter. Another well-known type was the “Salam.” The “Malkea” was a special favourite. In this type the poem consists of numerous stanzas. In each stanza one member of the saint’s body is greeted, e.g. the hair, the head, face, eyebrows, eyes, ears, cheeks, nose etc. chanting by priests is accompanied by the beat of drums and the silvery tones of sistrum-cymbals. The gold-embroidered star-ornaments on the velvet priestly robes and brilliant coloured ceremonial umbrellas gleam as the priests sway to the measured rhythm of David’s ancient priest dance.

 

The instruments used in the music include the tsenatsil, a type of sistrum, the kebero, a large drum, and a hand-bell. The three modes mentioned are used as follows: Geeze is used for feriae (ordinary days); Ezel is used on fast days and during Lent; and Ararai is used for principal feasts.

 

In summary antiphonal chanting or singing, called “Deggua”, forms the basic body of the music; in addition, zemaria is used when poetry is sung as in the psalms of David, Mawaset corresponds to some extent with the congregational responses used in western churches and Meraf is used without the drums for ordinary daily services. These four types of singing may employ any of three types of zema (modes of tones). The music is Middle Eastern in style and Arabic in derivation; it is restrained, strophic, ametric and sung at very slow tempos and organized antiphonal at a leisurely pace.

 

A notable feature of this music is antiphony, sometimes between two voices or between a solo voice and a chorus. The chorus sings in unison. On some occasions there is true polyphony within the chorus and between the chorus and a leader.

Ethiopian church music is most expressive in its praise of the creator and thus a worthy means for the soul to elevate itself to God.

 

Notational signs of the Ethiopian Church music

http://www.ethiopianorthodox.org

The Ethiopian Fathers have exclusively preserved Ge'ez as the liturgical language of the Church because the musical notation does not translate syllabically into other languages, either Ethiopic or English.  

For example:

The first prayers of the Liturgy are prayed by the priest:

"A-ha-du A-be Ki-du-se" ( 8 ) in the Ge'ez, which in Amharic translates to "A-ne-de Ki-du-se A-be ne-wo" (10) and in the English "One is the Holy Father (or more correctly "Being One, the Father is Holy")

As you can see, the syllables do not match in either langauge, and so the Fathers have preserved the Divine Liturgy in the original Ge'ez language in order to match the according musical notation of Saint Yared which defines the mode and tones of the chanted prayers.  Those prayers and petitions which are recited and not chanted or sung are said in vernaculars such as Amharic and even English, however all the sung and chanted prayers are preserved strictly in Ge'ez, in order to preserve the musical notations.  While by ear we can surely improvise and sing the tones in any language, the notation does not strictly match and so the Fathers have decided not to attempt to adapt the musical score to different languages.

stay blessed,
habte selassie
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