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Aiming for αλφα

Day one of the season of Lent and so I’ve begun digging into my copy of Wenham’s Elements of New Testament Greek (purchased, according to my ex libris inscription, about 21 years ago). The starting point is to revisit the alphabet:  alpha (αλφα) is easy but a letter like psi (ψι) is much less often borrowed in English and so sits further back in my cortex!

My plan had been to simply type out the Greek alphabet a few times using Vim. I recently discovered how to enter all manner of symbols beyond the latin alphabet (from αλφα βετα, the first two letters of the Greek alphabet of course!) in the form of digraphs. Hitting control-K followed by a two character sequence pops out something funky. However, I was puzzled to discover that it wasn’t working and entering the command :digraphs only gave 256 options not including what I was after. Of course, I’m working on Windows at the moment while the testing I did the other day was on my virtual Linux machine. It seems that the windows version of gVim that I have installed doesn’t have multibyte support.

So, the result of my first day of Lenten language studies has not greatly pushed forward my understanding of Greek but at least I’ve learned something.


  1. You could always write out the alphabet by hand instead! Personally, I rather enjoy writing in Greek.

    Incidentally, I’m also working through Wenham (I got my copy 20 years ago this October) to refresh my Greek this Lent. Since I’ve already got the alphabet down pretty well, I skipped forward to start at chapter 3 (and did a couple of chapters yesterday), with a view to doing a chapter per day and reaching the end of the book (or close to it) by Easter. I’m hoping then to build on my freshly-revived knowledge of Greek and keep using it regularly after that, as well as perhaps having another go at Hebrew.

    • Indeed but I was quite keen to keep digital notes on my progress for future reference. I might try a couple more options before I break out the pencils!

      • How about using a Greek keyboard map? It’s as easy as π to set up multiple keyboard maps on Linux and Windows boxes and enables you to work with different software, rather than being tied to Vim. You’d probably want a polytonic keyboard, in order to get the breathings (and accents, if you want to use those – though Wenham doesn’t generally bother with them). By and large, the Greek letters map to the keys you’d expect, e.g. α->a, β->b, γ->g, though you may want to construct a cheat-sheet for some of the foibles (such as where to find the breathings or final-sigma (ς, which maps to w as it happens). [NB the mappings I mentioned are all wrt a polytonic Greek keyboard map to a UK keyboard on Windows 8]

  2. You have to check out the work Jacob Cerone did on our New Testament Greek Portal. His font/typing tutorials are priceless!




    • That is some useful reading material. I’ve decided to make use of the Greek polytonic keyboard, although the lexilogos link below is a quick easy way to plug in a word or two if I don’t want to look at a keyboard map to remind me what goes where (most are obvious but I was a bit puzzled by y for υ and u for θ).