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|Native to|| Greece |
Albania (North Epirus)
Italy (South Italy, Sicily)
|13.4 million (2012)|
| Greek alphabet |
Official language in
Modern Greek (Νέα Ελληνικά, Néa Elliniká, [ˈne.a eliniˈka] or Κοινή Νεοελληνική Γλώσσα, Kiní Neoellinikí Glóssa), generally referred to by speakers simply as Greek (Ελληνικά, Elliniká), refers collectively to the dialects of the Greek language spoken in the modern era, including the official standardized form of the languages sometimes referred to as Standard Modern Greek. The end of the Medieval Greek period and the beginning of Modern Greek is often symbolically assigned to the fall of the Byzantine Empire in 1453, even though that date marks no clear linguistic boundary and many characteristic features of the modern language arose centuries earlier, beginning around the fourth century AD.
During most of the Modern Greek period, the language existed in a situation of diglossia, with regional spoken dialects existing side by side with learned, more archaic written forms, as with the vernacular and learned varieties ( Dimotiki and Katharevousa ) that co-existed in Greece throughout much of the 19th and 20th centuries.
Varieties of Modern Greek include Demotic, Katharevousa, Pontic, Cappadocian, Mariupolitan, Southern Italian, Yevanic, and Tsakonian.
Strictly speaking, Demotic or Dimotiki (Δημοτική), refers to all popular varieties of Modern Greek that followed a common evolutionary path from Koine and have retained a high degree of mutual intelligibility to the present. As shown in Ptochoprodromic and Acritic poems, Demotic Greek was the vernacular already before the 11th century and called the "Roman" language of the Byzantine Greeks, notably in peninsular Greece, the Greek islands, coastal Asia Minor, Constantinople, and Cyprus.
Today, a standardized variety of Demotic Greek is the official language of Greece and Cyprus, and is referred to as "Standard Modern Greek", or less strictly simply as "Greek", "Modern Greek", or "Demotic".
Demotic Greek comprises various regional varieties with minor linguistic differences, mainly in phonology and vocabulary. Due to the high degree of mutual intelligibility of these varieties, Greek linguists refer to them as "idioms" of a wider "Demotic dialect", known as "Koine Modern Greek" (Koiní Neoellinikí - 'common Neo-Hellenic'). Most English-speaking linguists however refer to them as "dialects", emphasizing degrees of variation only when necessary. Demotic Greek varieties are divided into two main groups, Northern and Southern.
The main distinguishing feature common to Northern variants is a set of standard phonological shifts in unaccented vowel phonemes: [o] becomes [u], [e] becomes [i], and [i] and [u] are dropped. The dropped vowels' existence is implicit, and may affect surrounding phonemes: for example, a dropped [i] palatalizes preceding consonants, just like an [i] that is pronounced. Southern variants do not exhibit these phonological shifts.
Examples of Northern dialects are Rumelian (Constantinople), Epirote, Macedonian,Thessalian, Thracian, Northern Euboean, Sporades, Samos, Smyrna, and Sarakatsanika. The Southern category is divided into groups that include:
Demotic Greek has officially been taught in monotonic Greek script since 1982.
Katharevousa (Καθαρεύουσα) is a semi-artificial sociolect promoted in the 19th century at the foundation of the modern Greek state, as a compromise between Classical Greek and modern Demotic. It was the official language of modern Greece until 1976.
Katharevousa is written in polytonic Greek script. Also, while Demotic Greek contains loanwords from Turkish, Italian, Latin, and other languages, these have for the most part been purged from Katharevousa. See also the Greek language question.
Pontic (Ποντιακά) was originally spoken along the mountainous Black Sea coast of Turkey, the so-called Pontus region, until most of its speakers were killed or displaced to modern Greece during the Pontic genocide (1919–1921), followed later by the population exchange between Greece and Turkey in 1923. (Small numbers of Muslim speakers of Pontic Greek escaped these events and still reside in the Pontic villages of Turkey.) It hails from Hellenistic and Medieval Koine and preserves characteristics of Ionic due to ancient colonizations of the region. Pontic evolved as a separate dialect from Demotic Greek as a result of the region's isolation from the Greek mainstream after the Fourth Crusade fragmented the Byzantine Empire into separate kingdoms (see Empire of Trebizond).
Cappadocian (Καππαδοκικά) is a Greek dialect of central Turkey of the same fate as Pontic; its speakers settled in mainland Greece after the Greek genocide (1919–1921) and the later Population exchange between Greece and Turkey in 1923. Cappadocian Greek diverged from the other Byzantine Greek dialects earlier, beginning with the Turkish conquests of central Asia Minor in the 11th and 12th centuries, and so developed several radical features, such as the loss of the gender for nouns. Having been isolated from the crusader conquests (Fourth Crusade) and the later Venetian influence of the Greek coast, it retained the Ancient Greek terms for many words that were replaced with Romance ones in Demotic Greek. The poet Rumi, whose name means "Roman", referring to his residence amongst the "Roman" Greek speakers of Cappadocia, wrote a few poems in Cappadocian Greek, one of the earliest attestations of the dialect.
Rumeíka (Ρωμαίικα) or Mariupolitan Greek is a dialect spoken in about 17 villages around the northern coast of the Sea of Azov in southern Ukraine and Russia. Mariupolitan Greek is closely related to Pontic Greek and evolved from the dialect of Greek spoken in Crimea, which was a part of the Byzantine Empire and then the Pontic Empire of Trebizond, until that latter state fell to the Ottomans in 1461. Thereafter, the Crimean Greek state continued to exist as the independent Greek Principality of Theodoro. The Greek-speaking inhabitants of Crimea were invited by Catherine the Great to resettle in the new city of Mariupol after the Russo-Turkish War (1768–74) to escape the then Muslim-dominated Crimea. Mariupolitan's main features have certain similarities with both Pontic (e.g. the lack of synizesis of -ía, éa) and the northern varieties of the core dialects (e.g. the northern vocalism).
Southern Italian or Italiot (Κατωιταλιώτικα) comprises both Calabrian and Griko varieties, spoken by around 15 villages in the regions of Calabria and Apulia. The Southern Italian dialect is the last living trace of Hellenic elements in Southern Italy that once formed Magna Graecia. Its origins can be traced to the Dorian Greek settlers who colonised the area from Sparta and Corinth in 700 BCE.
It has received significant Koine Greek influence through Byzantine Greek colonisers who re-introduced Greek language to the region, starting with Justinian's conquest of Italy in late antiquity and continuing through the Middle Ages. Griko and Demotic are mutually intelligible to some extent, but the former shares some common characteristics with Tsakonian.
Yevanic (יעואניקה, Γεβανικά) is an almost extinct language of Romaniote Jews. The language was already in decline for centuries until most of its speakers were killed in the Holocaust. Afterward, the language was mostly kept by remaining Romaniote emigrants to Israel, where it was displaced by modern Hebrew.
Tsakonian (Τσακωνικά) is spoken in its full form today only in a small number of villages around the town of Leonidio in the region of Arcadia in the Southern Peloponnese, and partially spoken further afield in the area. Tsakonian evolved directly from Laconian (ancient Spartan) and therefore descends from Doric Greek.
It has limited input from Hellenistic Koine and is significantly different from and not mutually intelligible with other Greek varieties (such as Demotic Greek and Pontic Greek). Some linguists consider it a separate language because of this.
A series of radical sound changes starting in Koine Greek has led to a phonological system in Modern Greek that is significantly different from that of Ancient Greek. Instead of the complex vowel system of Ancient Greek, with its four vowel-height levels, length distinction, and multiple diphthongs, Modern Greek has a simple system of five vowels. This came about through a series of mergers, especially towards /i/ (iotacism).
Modern Greek consonants are plain (voiceless unaspirated) stops, voiced stops, or voiced and unvoiced fricatives. Modern Greek has not preserved length in vowels or consonants.
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Modern Greek is written in the Greek alphabet, which has 24 letters, each with a capital and lowercase (small) form. The letter sigma additionally has a special final form. There are two diacritical symbols, the acute accent which indicates stress and the diaeresis marking a vowel letter as not being part of a digraph. Greek has a mixed historical and phonemic orthography, where historical spellings are used if their pronunciation matches modern usage. The correspondence between consonant phonemes and graphemes is largely unique, but several of the vowels can be spelt in multiple ways.Thus reading is easy but spelling is difficult.
A number of diacritical signs were used until 1982, when they were officially dropped from Greek spelling as no longer corresponding to the modern pronunciation of the language. Monotonic orthography is today used in official usage, in schools and for most purposes of everyday writing in Greece. Polytonic orthography, besides being used for older varieties of Greek, is still used in book printing, especially for academic and belletristic purposes, and in everyday use by some conservative writers and elderly people. The Greek Orthodox Church continues to use polytonic and the late Christodoulos of Athensand the Holy Synod of the Church of Greece have requested the reintroduction of polytonic as the official script.
The Greek vowel letters and digraphs with their pronunciations are: ⟨α⟩/a/, ⟨ε, αι⟩/e/, ⟨η, ι, υ, ει, οι, υι⟩/i/, ⟨ο, ω⟩/o/, and ⟨ου⟩/u/. The digraphs ⟨αυ⟩, ⟨ευ⟩ and ⟨ηυ⟩ are pronounced /av/, /ev/, and /iv/ respectively before vowels and voiced consonants, and /af/, /ef/ and /if/ respectively before voiceless consonants.
The Greek letters ⟨φ⟩, ⟨β⟩, ⟨θ⟩, and ⟨δ⟩ are pronounced /f/, /v/, /θ/, and /ð/ respectively. The letters ⟨γ⟩ and ⟨χ⟩ are pronounced /ɣ/ and /x/, respectively. All those letters represent fricatives in Modern Greek, but they were used for occlusives with the same (or with a similar) articulation point in Ancient Greek. Before mid or close front vowels (/e/ and /i/), they are fronted, becoming [ ʝ ] and [ ç ], respectively, which, in some dialects, notably those of Crete and the Mani, are further fronted to [ ʑ ] or [ ʒ ] and [ ɕ ] or [ ʃ ], respectively. Μoreover, before mid or close back vowels (/o/ and /u/), ⟨γ⟩ tends to be pronounced further back than a prototypical velar, between a velar [ ɣ ] and an uvular [ ʁ ] (transcribed ɣ̄). The letter ⟨ξ⟩ stands for the sequence /ks/ and ⟨ψ⟩ for /ps/.
The digraphs ⟨γγ⟩ and ⟨γκ⟩ are generally pronounced [ ɡ ], but are fronted to [ ɟ ] before front vowels (/e/ and /i/) and tend to be pronounced [ɡ̄] before the back vowels (/o/ and /u/). When these digraphs are preceded by a vowel, they are pronounced [ŋɡ] and [ɲɟ] before front vowels (/e/ and /i/) and [ŋ̄ɡ̄] before the back (/o/ and /u/). The digraph ⟨γγ⟩ may be pronounced [ŋɣ] in some words ([ɲʝ] before front vowels and [ŋ̄ɣ̄] before back ones). The pronunciation [ŋk] for the digraph ⟨γκ⟩ is extremely rare, but could be heard in literary and scholarly words or when reading ancient texts (by a few readers); normally it retains its "original" pronunciation [ŋk] only in the trigraph ⟨γκτ⟩, where ⟨τ⟩ prevents the sonorization of ⟨κ⟩ by ⟨γ⟩ (hence [ŋkt]).
Modern Greek is largely a synthetic language. Modern Greek and Albanian are the only two modern Indo-European languages that retain a synthetic passive (the North Germanic passive is a recent innovation based on a grammaticalized reflexive pronoun).
Modern Greek has changed from Classical Greek in morphology and syntax, losing some features and gaining others.
Modern Greek has developed a simpler system of grammatical prefixes marking tense and aspect of a verb, such as augmentation and reduplication, and has lost some patterns of noun declension and some distinct forms in the declensions.
Most of these features are shared with other languages spoken in the Balkan peninsula (see Balkan sprachbund), although Greek does not show all typical Balkan areal features, such as the postposed article.
Because of the influence of Katharevousa, however, Demotic is not commonly used in its purest form. Archaisms are still widely used, especially in writing and in more formal speech, as well as in some everyday expressions, such as the dative εντάξει ('okay', literally 'in order') or the third person imperative ζήτω! ('long live!').
The following is a sample text in Modern Greek of the Article 1 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (by the United Nations):
Άρθρο 1: Όλοι οι άνθρωποι γεννιούνται ελεύθεροι και ίσοι στην αξιοπρέπεια και τα δικαιώματα. Είναι προικισμένοι με λογική και συνείδηση, και οφείλουν να συμπεριφέρονται μεταξύ τους με πνεύμα αδελφοσύνης.— Modern Greek in Greek alphabet
Arthro 1: Oloi oi anthropoi genniountai eleutheroi kai isoi stin axioprepeia kai ta dikaiomata. Einai proikismenoi me logiki kai syneidisi, kai ofeiloun na symperiferontai metaxy tous me pneuma adelfosynis.— Modern Greek in Roman Transliteration, faithful to script
Árthro 1: Óli i ánthropi yeniúnde eléftheri ke ísi stin aksioprépia ke ta dhikeómata. Íne prikizméni me loyikí ke sinídhisi, ke ofílun na simberiféronde metaksí tus me pnévma adhelfosínis.— Modern Greek in Transcription, faithful to pronunciation
[ˈarθro ˈena ‖ ˈoli i ˈanθropi ʝeˈɲunde eˈlefθeri ce ˈisi stin aksioˈprepia ce ta ðiceˈomata ‖ ˈine priciˈzmeni me loʝiˈci ce siˈniðisi | ce oˈfilun na simberiˈferonde metaˈksi tuz me ˈpnevma aðelfoˈsinis]— Modern Greek in IPA
Article 1: All the human beings are born free and equal in the dignity and the rights. Are endowed with reason and conscience, and have to behave between them with spirit of brotherhood.— Gloss, word-for-word
Article 1: All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood.— Translation, grammatical
Greek is an independent branch of the Indo-European family of languages, native to Greece, Cyprus, Albania, other parts of the Eastern Mediterranean and the Black Sea. It has the longest documented history of any living Indo-European language, spanning at least 3,500 years of written records. Its writing system has been the Greek alphabet for the major part of its history; other systems, such as Linear B and the Cypriot syllabary, were used previously. The alphabet arose from the Phoenician script and was in turn the basis of the Latin, Cyrillic, Armenian, Coptic, Gothic, and many other writing systems.
Ancient Greek includes the forms of the Greek language used in ancient Greece and the ancient world from around the 9th century BC to the 6th century AD. It is often roughly divided into the Archaic period, Classical period, and Hellenistic period.
Katharevousa is a conservative form of the Modern Greek language conceived in the late 18th century as a compromise between Ancient Greek and the contemporary vernacular, Demotic Greek. Originally, it was widely used for both literary and official purposes, though sparingly in daily language. In the 20th century, it was increasingly adopted for official and formal purposes, until minister of education Georgios Rallis made Demotic Greek the official language of Greece in 1976, and in 1982 Prime Minister Andreas Papandreou abolished the polytonic system of writing for both Demotic and Katharevousa.
Demotic Greek or Dimotiki is a term used in contrast with Katharevousa to describe the colloquial vernacular form of Modern Greek which had evolved naturally from Koine Greek and was spoken by the vast majority of Greeks in Greece during the time of diglossia in the modern Greek state from the time of its founding in 1821 until the resolution of the Greek language question in 1976. In this context Dimotiki describes the specific non-standardized vernacular forms of Greek used by the vast majority of Greeks throughout the 19th and 20th centuries. During this long period of diglossia Katharevousa and Dimotiki complemented and influenced each other, as is typical of diglossic situations. Dimotiki became standardized over time and it was this standardized form of Dimotiki which in 1976 was made the official language of Greece. This standardized form of Dimotiki is today known formally as Standard Modern Greek. The term demotic Greek is also a term used generally to refer to any variety of the Greek language which has evolved naturally from Ancient Greek and is popularly spoken.
The Greek alphabet has been used to write the Greek language since the late ninth or early eighth century BC. It is derived from the earlier Phoenician alphabet, which had consonants letters only. So the greek alphabet became the first script in known history to include distinct letters for vowels. In Archaic and early Classical times, the Greek alphabet existed in many local variants, but, by the end of the fourth century BC, the Euclidean alphabet, with twenty-four letters, ordered from alpha to omega, had become standard and it is this version that is still used to write Greek today. These twenty-four letters are: Α α, Β β, Γ γ, Δ δ, Ε ε, Ζ ζ, Η η, Θ θ, Ι ι, Κ κ, Λ λ, Μ μ, Ν ν, Ξ ξ, Ο ο, Π π, Ρ ρ, Σ σ/ς, Τ τ, Υ υ, Φ φ, Χ χ, Ψ ψ, and Ω ω.
Cypriot Greek is the variety of Modern Greek that is spoken by the majority of the Cypriot populace and Greek Cypriot diaspora. It is considered a divergent variety as it differs from Standard Modern Greek in various aspects of its lexicon, phonetics, phonology, morphology, syntax and even pragmatics, not only for historical reasons, but also because of geographical isolation, different settlement patterns, and extensive contact with typologically distinct languages.
Pontic Greek is a variety of Modern Greek originally spoken in the Pontus area on the southern shores of the Black Sea, northeastern Anatolia, the Eastern Turkish/Caucasus province of Kars, southern Georgia and today mainly in northern Greece. Its speakers are referred to as Pontic Greeks or Pontian Greeks.
Cappadocian, also known as Cappadocian Greek or Asia Minor Greek, is a mixed language spoken in Cappadocia. The language originally diverged from the Medieval Greek of the Byzantine Empire following the Seljuq Turk victory at the Battle of Manzikert in 1071. As a result of the population exchange between Greece and Turkey in the 1920s, all Cappadocian Greeks were forced to emigrate to Greece where they were resettled in various locations, primarily to Central and Northern Greece. The Cappadocians rapidly shifted to Standard Modern Greek and their language was thought to be extinct since the 1960s. In June 2005, Mark Janse and Dimitris Papazachariou discovered Cappadocians in Central and Northern Greece who could still speak their ancestral language fluently. Many are middle-aged, third-generation speakers who take a very positive attitude towards the language, as opposed to their parents and grandparents. The latter are much less inclined to speak Cappadocian and more often than not switch to Standard Modern Greek.
Ancient Greek in classical antiquity, before the development of the common Koine Greek of the Hellenistic period, was divided into several varieties.
Tsakonian is a modern Hellenic language which is both highly divergent from other spoken varieties of Modern Greek and, from a philological standpoint, linguistically classified separately from them. It is spoken in the Tsakonian region of the Peloponnese, Greece. Tsakonian descends from Doric, which was an Ancient Greek language on the Western branch of the Hellenic languages, and it is its only living descendant. Although Tsakonian is treated as a dialect of Modern Standard Greek, some compendia treat it as a separate language, since Modern Standard Greek descends from Ionic and Attic which are on the Eastern branch of the Hellenic languages, while Tsakonian is the sole surviving member of the Western branch.
Ancient Greek phonology is the reconstructed phonology or pronunciation of Ancient Greek. This article mostly deals with the pronunciation of the standard Attic dialect of the fifth century BC, used by Plato and other Classical Greek writers, and touches on other dialects spoken at the same time or earlier. The pronunciation of Ancient Greek is not known from direct observation, but determined from other types of evidence. Some details regarding the pronunciation of Attic Greek and other Ancient Greek dialects are unknown, but it is generally agreed that Attic Greek had certain features not present in English or Modern Greek, such as a three-way distinction between voiced, voiceless, and aspirated stops ; a distinction between single and double consonants and short and long vowels in most positions in a word; and a word accent that involved pitch.
The orthography of the Greek language ultimately has its roots in the adoption of the Greek alphabet in the 9th century BC. Some time prior to that, one early form of Greek, Mycenaean, was written in Linear B, although there was a lapse of several centuries between the time Mycenaean stopped being written and the time when the Greek alphabet came into use.
The linguistic varieties of Modern Greek can be classified along two principal dimensions. First, there is a long tradition of sociolectal variation between the natural, popular spoken language on the one hand and archaizing, learned written forms on the other. Second, there is regional variation between dialects. The competition between the popular and the learned registers, culminated in the struggle between Dimotiki and Katharevousa during the 19th and 20th centuries. As for regional dialects, variation within the bulk of dialects of present-day Greece is not particularly strong, except for a number of outlying, highly divergent dialects spoken by isolated communities.
The Greek language underwent pronunciation changes during the Koine Greek period, from about 300 BC to 300 AD. At the beginning of the period, the pronunciation was almost identical to Classical Greek, while at the end it was closer to Modern Greek.
The official language of Greece is Greek, spoken by 99% of the population. In addition, a number of non-official, minority languages and some Greek dialects are spoken as well. The most common foreign languages learned by Greeks are English, German, French and Italian.
Greek orthography has used a variety of diacritics starting in the Hellenistic period. The more complex polytonic orthography, which includes five diacritics, notates Ancient Greek phonology. The simpler monotonic orthography, introduced in 1982, corresponds to Modern Greek phonology, and requires only two diacritics.
Medieval Greek, also known as Byzantine Greek, is the stage of the Greek language between the end of Classical antiquity in the 5th–6th centuries and the end of the Middle Ages, conventionally dated to the Ottoman conquest of Constantinople in 1453.
Psilosis is the sound change in which Greek lost the consonant sound /h/ during antiquity. The term comes from the Greek ψίλωσις psílōsis and is related to the name of the smooth breathing, the sign for the absence of initial in a word. Dialects that have lost are called psilotic.
Koine Greek, also known as Alexandrian dialect, common Attic, Hellenistic or Biblical Greek, was the common supra-regional form of Greek spoken and written during the Hellenistic period, the Roman Empire, and the early Byzantine Empire, or late antiquity. It evolved from the spread of Greek following the conquests of Alexander the Great in the fourth century BC, and served as the lingua franca of much of the Mediterranean region and the Middle East during the following centuries. It was based mainly on Attic and related Ionic speech forms, with various admixtures brought about through dialect levelling with other varieties.
The Istanbul Greek dialect is the endangered Greek dialect spoken by the millennia-old Greek community in Istanbul, which has now shrunk to a couple thousand individuals. It is differentiated from Standard Greek due to a number of internal divergent developments, preservation of characteristics of Ancient Greek that are absent from Standard Greek, and Language contact, most notably with Turkish, French, Italian and Armenian. Various characteristics of Istanbul Greek are said to have parallels in Old Athenian Greek, as well as Tsakonian.
The Greek Italian community numbers some 30,000 and is concentrated mainly in central Italy. The age-old presence in Italy of Italians of Greek descent – dating back to Byzantine and Classical times – is attested to by the Griko dialect, which is still spoken in the Magna Graecia region. This historically Greek-speaking villages are Condofuri, Galliciano, Roccaforte del Greco, Roghudi, Bova and Bova Marina, which are in the Calabria region (the capital of which is Reggio). The Grecanic region, including Reggio, has a population of some 200,000, while speakers of the Griko dialect number fewer that 1,000 persons.
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