The writers of the κοινὴ have not lost entirely the sense for effect. So they choose their words, and even seem to lay down definite principles for themselves as to their mode of selection. They have studied, and know the great masterpieces of earlier times. The influence of these cannot be disregarded.
They are aware that literary prose has reached a definite level in the past. Accordingly, the standard once attained will have, in any case, an unconscious effect on their work. But to counterbalance their culture and education, and even their innate feeling for literature (for it may be presumed that in this they surpass their contemporaries), stands a long array of unfavourable conditions. They cannot escape their environment. They are surrounded by mixed populations, whose dialects comprise words and phrases and forms borrowed from every variety of Greek.
The separate provinces in which they were born and brought up have each its peculiar type of language. Local colouring prevails all round. And common to all of them is the original corrupted Attic which forms the basis of the new cosmopolitan Greek. Besides, vigorous national life, that life which kept the earlier Attic pure and forcible, and which afforded so keen a stimulus to thought that only a refined and subtle tongue could express the conceptions of the great thinkers, that life bas given place to a spurious, relaxed existence which calls forth a corresponding artificial language. And so the striking fact comes to light that these writers, although they are acquainted with the wide and expressive and pure vocabulary of the Golden Age, are really unfit to use it.
The great, fruitful ideas of the past, nourished by the pride and glory of Athens, have made room for meagre, thin conceptions which reflect themselves in the language. Therefore we find that the writers of the κοινὴ use only an excerpt from the Attic vocabulary. This they supplement by recent formations, sometimes due to the general tendencies underlying the speech of the time, sometimes the result of special local idiosyncrasies. After all, however, their dialect, which in its main features is common to them all, stands high above the speech of popular intercourse. It is therefore artificial, with a real effort after literary effect. …
It seems to us impossible to speak of a development, in the strict sense, being found, either in a downward or upward direction, in the language employed by the leading writers from the time of the LXX to that of the New Testament. What we do meet with is rather a more or less stable basis of words which supports, so to speak, a constantly shifting surface. In other words, the earlier literary tradition, modified by the mixture of dialects and the weakened sense for language, has fixed, though not within rigid limits, a type of language distinct from the current popular speech, which becomes the standard for literature. This vocabulary is diversified by individual writers through personal predilections, local peculiarities, and the particular bias given by their own cast of thought.