Greek language

Greek language

Overview
Greek is an independent branch of the Indo-European
Indo-European languages
The Indo-European languages are a family of several hundred related languages and dialects, including most major current languages of Europe, the Iranian plateau, and South Asia and also historically predominant in Anatolia...

 family of languages. Native to the southern Balkans
Balkans
The Balkans is a geopolitical and cultural region of southeastern Europe...

, it has the longest documented history of any Indo-European language, spanning 34 centuries of written records. Its writing system has been the Greek alphabet
Greek alphabet
The Greek alphabet is the script that has been used to write the Greek language since at least 730 BC . The alphabet in its classical and modern form consists of 24 letters ordered in sequence from alpha to omega...

 for the majority of its history; other systems, such as Linear B
Linear B
Linear B is a syllabic script that was used for writing Mycenaean Greek, an early form of Greek. It pre-dated the Greek alphabet by several centuries and seems to have died out with the fall of Mycenaean civilization...

 and the Cypriot syllabary
Cypriot syllabary
The Cypriot syllabary is a syllabic script used in Iron Age Cyprus, from ca. the 11th to the 4th centuries BCE, when it was replaced by the Greek alphabet. A pioneer of that change was king Evagoras of Salamis...

, were previously used. The alphabet arose from the Phoenician script
Phoenician alphabet
The Phoenician alphabet, called by convention the Proto-Canaanite alphabet for inscriptions older than around 1050 BC, was a non-pictographic consonantal alphabet, or abjad. It was used for the writing of Phoenician, a Northern Semitic language, used by the civilization of Phoenicia...

, and was in turn the basis of the Latin
Latin alphabet
The Latin alphabet, also called the Roman alphabet, is the most recognized alphabet used in the world today. It evolved from a western variety of the Greek alphabet called the Cumaean alphabet, which was adopted and modified by the Etruscans who ruled early Rome...

, Cyrillic
Cyrillic alphabet
The Cyrillic script or azbuka is an alphabetic writing system developed in the First Bulgarian Empire during the 10th century AD at the Preslav Literary School...

, Coptic
Coptic alphabet
The Coptic alphabet is the script used for writing the Coptic language. The repertoire of glyphs is based on the Greek alphabet augmented by letters borrowed from the Demotic and is the first alphabetic script used for the Egyptian language...

, and many other writing systems.

The Greek language holds an important place in the histories of Europe, the more loosely defined "Western" world
Western world
The Western world, also known as the West and the Occident , is a term referring to the countries of Western Europe , the countries of the Americas, as well all countries of Northern and Central Europe, Australia and New Zealand...

, and Christianity; the canon of ancient Greek literature
Ancient Greek literature
Ancient Greek literature refers to literature written in the Ancient Greek language until the 4th century.- Classical and Pre-Classical Antiquity :...

 includes works of monumental importance and influence for the future Western canon
Western literature
Western literature refers to the literature written in the languages of Europe, including the ones belonging to the Indo-European language family as well as several geographically or historically related languages such as Basque, Hungarian, and so forth...

, such as the epic poems Iliad
Iliad
The Iliad is an epic poem in dactylic hexameters, traditionally attributed to Homer. Set during the Trojan War, the ten-year siege of the city of Troy by a coalition of Greek states, it tells of the battles and events during the weeks of a quarrel between King Agamemnon and the warrior Achilles...

and Odyssey
Odyssey
The Odyssey is one of two major ancient Greek epic poems attributed to Homer. It is, in part, a sequel to the Iliad, the other work ascribed to Homer. The poem is fundamental to the modern Western canon, and is the second—the Iliad being the first—extant work of Western literature...

.
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Encyclopedia
Greek is an independent branch of the Indo-European
Indo-European languages
The Indo-European languages are a family of several hundred related languages and dialects, including most major current languages of Europe, the Iranian plateau, and South Asia and also historically predominant in Anatolia...

 family of languages. Native to the southern Balkans
Balkans
The Balkans is a geopolitical and cultural region of southeastern Europe...

, it has the longest documented history of any Indo-European language, spanning 34 centuries of written records. Its writing system has been the Greek alphabet
Greek alphabet
The Greek alphabet is the script that has been used to write the Greek language since at least 730 BC . The alphabet in its classical and modern form consists of 24 letters ordered in sequence from alpha to omega...

 for the majority of its history; other systems, such as Linear B
Linear B
Linear B is a syllabic script that was used for writing Mycenaean Greek, an early form of Greek. It pre-dated the Greek alphabet by several centuries and seems to have died out with the fall of Mycenaean civilization...

 and the Cypriot syllabary
Cypriot syllabary
The Cypriot syllabary is a syllabic script used in Iron Age Cyprus, from ca. the 11th to the 4th centuries BCE, when it was replaced by the Greek alphabet. A pioneer of that change was king Evagoras of Salamis...

, were previously used. The alphabet arose from the Phoenician script
Phoenician alphabet
The Phoenician alphabet, called by convention the Proto-Canaanite alphabet for inscriptions older than around 1050 BC, was a non-pictographic consonantal alphabet, or abjad. It was used for the writing of Phoenician, a Northern Semitic language, used by the civilization of Phoenicia...

, and was in turn the basis of the Latin
Latin alphabet
The Latin alphabet, also called the Roman alphabet, is the most recognized alphabet used in the world today. It evolved from a western variety of the Greek alphabet called the Cumaean alphabet, which was adopted and modified by the Etruscans who ruled early Rome...

, Cyrillic
Cyrillic alphabet
The Cyrillic script or azbuka is an alphabetic writing system developed in the First Bulgarian Empire during the 10th century AD at the Preslav Literary School...

, Coptic
Coptic alphabet
The Coptic alphabet is the script used for writing the Coptic language. The repertoire of glyphs is based on the Greek alphabet augmented by letters borrowed from the Demotic and is the first alphabetic script used for the Egyptian language...

, and many other writing systems.

The Greek language holds an important place in the histories of Europe, the more loosely defined "Western" world
Western world
The Western world, also known as the West and the Occident , is a term referring to the countries of Western Europe , the countries of the Americas, as well all countries of Northern and Central Europe, Australia and New Zealand...

, and Christianity; the canon of ancient Greek literature
Ancient Greek literature
Ancient Greek literature refers to literature written in the Ancient Greek language until the 4th century.- Classical and Pre-Classical Antiquity :...

 includes works of monumental importance and influence for the future Western canon
Western literature
Western literature refers to the literature written in the languages of Europe, including the ones belonging to the Indo-European language family as well as several geographically or historically related languages such as Basque, Hungarian, and so forth...

, such as the epic poems Iliad
Iliad
The Iliad is an epic poem in dactylic hexameters, traditionally attributed to Homer. Set during the Trojan War, the ten-year siege of the city of Troy by a coalition of Greek states, it tells of the battles and events during the weeks of a quarrel between King Agamemnon and the warrior Achilles...

and Odyssey
Odyssey
The Odyssey is one of two major ancient Greek epic poems attributed to Homer. It is, in part, a sequel to the Iliad, the other work ascribed to Homer. The poem is fundamental to the modern Western canon, and is the second—the Iliad being the first—extant work of Western literature...

. Greek was also the language in which many of the foundational texts of Western philosophy
Western philosophy
Western philosophy is the philosophical thought and work of the Western or Occidental world, as distinct from Eastern or Oriental philosophies and the varieties of indigenous philosophies....

, such as the Platonic dialogues and the works of Aristotle
Aristotle
Aristotle was a Greek philosopher and polymath, a student of Plato and teacher of Alexander the Great. His writings cover many subjects, including physics, metaphysics, poetry, theater, music, logic, rhetoric, linguistics, politics, government, ethics, biology, and zoology...

, were composed; The New Testament
New Testament
The New Testament is the second major division of the Christian biblical canon, the first such division being the much longer Old Testament....

 of the Christian Bible was written in Koiné Greek
Koine Greek
Koine Greek is the universal dialect of the Greek language spoken throughout post-Classical antiquity , developing from the Attic dialect, with admixture of elements especially from Ionic....

 and the liturgy continues to be celebrated in the language in various Christian denominations (particularly the Eastern Orthodox and the Greek Rite of the Catholic Church). Together with the Latin texts and traditions of the Roman world (which was profoundly influenced by ancient Greek society), the study of the Greek texts and society of antiquity constitutes the discipline of Classics
Classics
Classics is the branch of the Humanities comprising the languages, literature, philosophy, history, art, archaeology and other culture of the ancient Mediterranean world ; especially Ancient Greece and Ancient Rome during Classical Antiquity Classics (sometimes encompassing Classical Studies or...

.

Greek was a widely spoken lingua franca
Lingua franca
A lingua franca is a language systematically used to make communication possible between people not sharing a mother tongue, in particular when it is a third language, distinct from both mother tongues.-Characteristics:"Lingua franca" is a functionally defined term, independent of the linguistic...

 in the Mediterranean world and beyond during Classical Antiquity
Classical antiquity
Classical antiquity is a broad term for a long period of cultural history centered on the Mediterranean Sea, comprising the interlocking civilizations of ancient Greece and ancient Rome, collectively known as the Greco-Roman world...

, and would eventually become the official parlance of the Byzantine Empire
Byzantine Empire
The Byzantine Empire was the Eastern Roman Empire during the periods of Late Antiquity and the Middle Ages, centred on the capital of Constantinople. Known simply as the Roman Empire or Romania to its inhabitants and neighbours, the Empire was the direct continuation of the Ancient Roman State...

. In its modern form, it is the official language of Greece
Greece
Greece , officially the Hellenic Republic , and historically Hellas or the Republic of Greece in English, is a country in southeastern Europe....

 and Cyprus
Cyprus
Cyprus , officially the Republic of Cyprus , is a Eurasian island country, member of the European Union, in the Eastern Mediterranean, east of Greece, south of Turkey, west of Syria and north of Egypt. It is the third largest island in the Mediterranean Sea.The earliest known human activity on the...

 and one of the 23 official languages of the European Union. The language is spoken by at least 13 million people today in Greece, Cyprus, and diaspora communities
Greek diaspora
The Greek diaspora, also known as Hellenic Diaspora or Diaspora of Hellenism, is a term used to refer to the communities of Greek people living outside the traditional Greek homelands, but more commonly in southeast Europe and Asia Minor...

 in numerous parts of the world.

Greek root
Root (linguistics)
The root word is the primary lexical unit of a word, and of a word family , which carries the most significant aspects of semantic content and cannot be reduced into smaller constituents....

s are often used to coin new words for other languages, especially in the sciences and medicine
Medicine
Medicine is the science and art of healing. It encompasses a variety of health care practices evolved to maintain and restore health by the prevention and treatment of illness....

; Greek and Latin
Latin
Latin is an Italic language originally spoken in Latium and Ancient Rome. It, along with most European languages, is a descendant of the ancient Proto-Indo-European language. Although it is considered a dead language, a number of scholars and members of the Christian clergy speak it fluently, and...

 are the predominant sources of the international scientific vocabulary
International Scientific Vocabulary
International scientific vocabulary comprises scientific and specialized words whose language of origin may or may not be certain, but which are in current use in several modern languages. The name "International Scientific Vocabulary" was first used by Philip Gove in Webster’s Third New...

. Over fifty thousand English
English language
English is a West Germanic language that arose in the Anglo-Saxon kingdoms of England and spread into what was to become south-east Scotland under the influence of the Anglian medieval kingdom of Northumbria...

 words are derived from the Greek language.

History



Greek has been spoken in the Balkan Peninsula
Balkans
The Balkans is a geopolitical and cultural region of southeastern Europe...

 since around the late 3rd millennium BC
3rd millennium BC
The 3rd millennium BC spans the Early to Middle Bronze Age.It represents a period of time in which imperialism, or the desire to conquer, grew to prominence, in the city states of the Middle East, but also throughout Eurasia, with Indo-European expansion to Anatolia, Europe and Central Asia. The...

. The earliest written evidence is found in the Linear B
Linear B
Linear B is a syllabic script that was used for writing Mycenaean Greek, an early form of Greek. It pre-dated the Greek alphabet by several centuries and seems to have died out with the fall of Mycenaean civilization...

 clay tablet
Clay tablet
In the Ancient Near East, clay tablets were used as a writing medium, especially for writing in cuneiform, throughout the Bronze Age and well into the Iron Age....

s in the "Room of the Chariot Tablets", an LMIII A
Minoan chronology
Sir Arthur Evans developed a relative dating scheme of Minoan chronology based on the excavations initiated and managed by him at the site of the ancient city of Knossos. He called the civilization that he discovered there Minoan...

-context (c. 1400 BC) region of Knossos
Knossos
Knossos , also known as Labyrinth, or Knossos Palace, is the largest Bronze Age archaeological site on Crete and probably the ceremonial and political centre of the Minoan civilization and culture. The palace appears as a maze of workrooms, living spaces, and store rooms close to a central square...

, in Crete
Crete
Crete is the largest and most populous of the Greek islands, the fifth largest island in the Mediterranean Sea, and one of the thirteen administrative regions of Greece. It forms a significant part of the economy and cultural heritage of Greece while retaining its own local cultural traits...

, making Greek one of the world's oldest recorded living languages
Modern language
A modern language is any human language that is currently in use. The term is used in language education to distinguish between languages which are used for day-to-day communication and dead classical languages such as Latin, Attic Greek, Sanskrit, and Classical Chinese, which are studied for...

. Among the Indo-European languages, its date of earliest written attestation is matched only by the now extinct Anatolian languages
Anatolian languages
The Anatolian languages comprise a group of extinct Indo-European languages that were spoken in Asia Minor, the best attested of them being the Hittite language.-Origins:...

.

The later Greek alphabet
Greek alphabet
The Greek alphabet is the script that has been used to write the Greek language since at least 730 BC . The alphabet in its classical and modern form consists of 24 letters ordered in sequence from alpha to omega...

 is derived from the Phoenician alphabet
Phoenician alphabet
The Phoenician alphabet, called by convention the Proto-Canaanite alphabet for inscriptions older than around 1050 BC, was a non-pictographic consonantal alphabet, or abjad. It was used for the writing of Phoenician, a Northern Semitic language, used by the civilization of Phoenicia...

 (abjad
Abjad
An abjad is a type of writing system in which each symbol always or usually stands for a consonant; the reader must supply the appropriate vowel....

); with minor modifications, it is still used today.

Periods


The Greek language is conventionally divided into the following periods:
  • Proto-Greek
    Proto-Greek language
    The Proto-Greek language is the assumed last common ancestor of all known varieties of Greek, including Mycenaean, the classical Greek dialects , and ultimately Koine, Byzantine and modern Greek...

    : the last unrecorded but assumed ancestor of all known varieties of Greek. Proto-Greek speakers possibly entered the Greek peninsula
    Greece
    Greece , officially the Hellenic Republic , and historically Hellas or the Republic of Greece in English, is a country in southeastern Europe....

     in the early 2nd millennium BC
    2nd millennium BC
    The 2nd millennium BC marks the transition from the Middle to the Late Bronze Age.Its first half is dominated by the Middle Kingdom of Egypt and Babylonia. The alphabet develops. Indo-Iranian migration onto the Iranian plateau and onto the Indian subcontinent propagates the use of the chariot...

    . Since then, Greek has been spoken uninterruptedly in Greece.
  • Mycenaean Greek: the language of the Mycenaean civilization
    Mycenaean Greece
    Mycenaean Greece was a cultural period of Bronze Age Greece taking its name from the archaeological site of Mycenae in northeastern Argolis, in the Peloponnese of southern Greece. Athens, Pylos, Thebes, and Tiryns are also important Mycenaean sites...

    . It is recorded in the Linear B
    Linear B
    Linear B is a syllabic script that was used for writing Mycenaean Greek, an early form of Greek. It pre-dated the Greek alphabet by several centuries and seems to have died out with the fall of Mycenaean civilization...

     script on tablets dating from the 15th
    15th century BC
    The 15th century BC is a century which lasted from 1500 BC to 1401 BC.- Events :* 1504 BC – 1492 BC: Egypt conquers Nubia and the Levant.* 1500 BC – 1400 BC: The Rigveda was composed around this time....

     or 14th century BC
    14th century BC
    The 14th century BC is a century which lasted from the year 1400 BC until 1301 BC.-Events:* 1397 BC: Pandion I, legendary King of Athens, dies after a reign of 40 years and is succeeded by his son Erechtheus II of Athens....

     onwards.
  • Ancient Greek
    Ancient Greek
    Ancient Greek is the stage of the Greek language in the periods spanning the times c. 9th–6th centuries BC, , c. 5th–4th centuries BC , and the c. 3rd century BC – 6th century AD of ancient Greece and the ancient world; being predated in the 2nd millennium BC by Mycenaean Greek...

    : in its various dialects was the language of the Archaic and Classical
    Classical Greece
    Classical Greece was a 200 year period in Greek culture lasting from the 5th through 4th centuries BC. This classical period had a powerful influence on the Roman Empire and greatly influenced the foundation of Western civilizations. Much of modern Western politics, artistic thought, such as...

     periods of the ancient Greek civilization
    Ancient Greece
    Ancient Greece is a civilization belonging to a period of Greek history that lasted from the Archaic period of the 8th to 6th centuries BC to the end of antiquity. Immediately following this period was the beginning of the Early Middle Ages and the Byzantine era. Included in Ancient Greece is the...

    . It was widely known throughout the Roman Empire
    Roman Empire
    The Roman Empire was the post-Republican period of the ancient Roman civilization, characterised by an autocratic form of government and large territorial holdings in Europe and around the Mediterranean....

    . Ancient Greek fell into disuse in western Europe in the Middle Ages
    Middle Ages
    The Middle Ages is a periodization of European history from the 5th century to the 15th century. The Middle Ages follows the fall of the Western Roman Empire in 476 and precedes the Early Modern Era. It is the middle period of a three-period division of Western history: Classic, Medieval and Modern...

    , but remained officially in use in the Byzantine
    Byzantine Empire
    The Byzantine Empire was the Eastern Roman Empire during the periods of Late Antiquity and the Middle Ages, centred on the capital of Constantinople. Known simply as the Roman Empire or Romania to its inhabitants and neighbours, the Empire was the direct continuation of the Ancient Roman State...

     world, and was reintroduced to the rest of Europe with the Fall of Constantinople
    Fall of Constantinople
    The Fall of Constantinople was the capture of the capital of the Byzantine Empire, which occurred after a siege by the Ottoman Empire, under the command of Ottoman Sultan Mehmed II, against the defending army commanded by Byzantine Emperor Constantine XI...

     and Greek
    Greeks
    The Greeks, also known as the Hellenes , are a nation and ethnic group native to Greece, Cyprus and neighboring regions. They also form a significant diaspora, with Greek communities established around the world....

     migration to the areas of Italy
    Italy
    Italy , officially the Italian Republic languages]] under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages. In each of these, Italy's official name is as follows:;;;;;;;;), is a unitary parliamentary republic in South-Central Europe. To the north it borders France, Switzerland, Austria and...

    .
  • Koine Greek
    Koine Greek
    Koine Greek is the universal dialect of the Greek language spoken throughout post-Classical antiquity , developing from the Attic dialect, with admixture of elements especially from Ionic....

    : The fusion of various ancient Greek dialects with Attic
    Attic Greek
    Attic Greek is the prestige dialect of Ancient Greek that was spoken in Attica, which includes Athens. Of the ancient dialects, it is the most similar to later Greek, and is the standard form of the language studied in courses of "Ancient Greek". It is sometimes included in Ionic.- Origin and range...

    , the dialect of Athens
    Classical Athens
    The city of Athens during the classical period of Ancient Greece was a notable polis of Attica, Greece, leading the Delian League in the Peloponnesian War against Sparta and the Peloponnesian League. Athenian democracy was established in 508 BC under Cleisthenes following the tyranny of Hippias...

    , resulted in the creation of the first common Greek dialect, which became a lingua franca
    Lingua franca
    A lingua franca is a language systematically used to make communication possible between people not sharing a mother tongue, in particular when it is a third language, distinct from both mother tongues.-Characteristics:"Lingua franca" is a functionally defined term, independent of the linguistic...

     across Eastern Mediterranean
    Eastern Mediterranean
    The Eastern Mediterranean is a term that denotes the countries geographically to the east of the Mediterranean Sea. This region is also known as Greater Syria or the Levant....

     and Near East
    Near East
    The Near East is a geographical term that covers different countries for geographers, archeologists, and historians, on the one hand, and for political scientists, economists, and journalists, on the other...

    . Koine Greek can be initially traced within the armies and conquered territories of Alexander the Great, but after the Hellenistic colonization of the known world, it was spoken from Egypt
    Egypt
    Egypt , officially the Arab Republic of Egypt, Arabic: , is a country mainly in North Africa, with the Sinai Peninsula forming a land bridge in Southwest Asia. Egypt is thus a transcontinental country, and a major power in Africa, the Mediterranean Basin, the Middle East and the Muslim world...

     to the fringes of India
    India
    India , officially the Republic of India , is a country in South Asia. It is the seventh-largest country by geographical area, the second-most populous country with over 1.2 billion people, and the most populous democracy in the world...

    . After the Roman
    Roman Republic
    The Roman Republic was the period of the ancient Roman civilization where the government operated as a republic. It began with the overthrow of the Roman monarchy, traditionally dated around 508 BC, and its replacement by a government headed by two consuls, elected annually by the citizens and...

     conquest of Greece, an unofficial diglossy of Greek and Latin
    Latin
    Latin is an Italic language originally spoken in Latium and Ancient Rome. It, along with most European languages, is a descendant of the ancient Proto-Indo-European language. Although it is considered a dead language, a number of scholars and members of the Christian clergy speak it fluently, and...

     was established in the city of Rome
    Rome
    Rome is the capital of Italy and the country's largest and most populated city and comune, with over 2.7 million residents in . The city is located in the central-western portion of the Italian Peninsula, on the Tiber River within the Lazio region of Italy.Rome's history spans two and a half...

     and Koine Greek became a first or second language in the Roman Empire
    Roman Empire
    The Roman Empire was the post-Republican period of the ancient Roman civilization, characterised by an autocratic form of government and large territorial holdings in Europe and around the Mediterranean....

    . The origin of Christianity
    Christianity
    Christianity is a monotheistic religion based on the life and teachings of Jesus as presented in canonical gospels and other New Testament writings...

     can also be traced through Koine Greek, as the Apostles used it to preach in Greece and the Greek-speaking world. It is also known as the Alexandrian dialect, Post-Classical Greek or even New Testament Greek, as it was the original language of the New Testament
    New Testament
    The New Testament is the second major division of the Christian biblical canon, the first such division being the much longer Old Testament....

    . Even the Old Testament
    Old Testament
    The Old Testament, of which Christians hold different views, is a Christian term for the religious writings of ancient Israel held sacred and inspired by Christians which overlaps with the 24-book canon of the Masoretic Text of Judaism...

     was translated into the same language via the Septuagint.
  • Medieval Greek
    Medieval Greek
    Medieval Greek, also known as Byzantine Greek, is the stage of the Greek language between the beginning of the Middle Ages around 600 and the Ottoman conquest of the city of Constantinople in 1453. The latter date marked the end of the Middle Ages in Southeast Europe...

    , also known as Byzantine Greek: the continuation of Koine Greek during Byzantine Greece, up to the demise of the Byzantine Empire
    Byzantine Empire
    The Byzantine Empire was the Eastern Roman Empire during the periods of Late Antiquity and the Middle Ages, centred on the capital of Constantinople. Known simply as the Roman Empire or Romania to its inhabitants and neighbours, the Empire was the direct continuation of the Ancient Roman State...

     in the 15th century. Medieval Greek is a cover term for a whole continuum of different speech and writing styles, ranging from vernacular continuations of spoken Koine that were already approaching Modern Greek
    Modern Greek
    Modern Greek refers to the varieties of the Greek language spoken in the modern era. The beginning of the "modern" period of the language 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...

     in many respects, to highly learned forms imitating classical Attic. Much of the written Greek that was used as the official language of the Byzantine Empire was an eclectic middle-ground variety based on the tradition of written Koine.
  • Modern Greek
    Modern Greek
    Modern Greek refers to the varieties of the Greek language spoken in the modern era. The beginning of the "modern" period of the language 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...

    : Stemming from Medieval Greek, Modern Greek usages can be traced in the Byzantine period, as early as the 11th century. It is the language used by modern Greeks and apart from Standard Modern Greek, there are several dialects
    Varieties of Modern Greek
    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...

     of it.

Diglossia


The tradition of diglossia
Diglossia
In linguistics, diglossia refers to a situation in which two dialects or languages are used by a single language community. In addition to the community's everyday or vernacular language variety , a second, highly codified variety is used in certain situations such as literature, formal...

, the simultaneous existence of vernacular and archaizing written forms of Greek, was renewed in the modern era in the form of a polarization between two competing varieties: Dimotiki
Dimotiki
Demotic Greek or dimotiki is the modern vernacular form of the Greek language. The term has been in use since 1818. Demotic refers particularly to the form of the language that evolved naturally from ancient Greek, in opposition to the artificially archaic Katharevousa, which was the official...

, the vernacular form of Modern Greek proper, and Katharevousa
Katharevousa
Katharevousa , is a form of the Greek language conceived in the early 19th century as a compromise between Ancient Greek and the Modern Greek of the time, with a vocabulary largely based on ancient forms, but a much-simplified grammar. Originally, it was widely used both for literary and official...

, meaning 'purified', an imitation of classical Greek, which was developed in the early 19th century and used for literary, juridic, administrative and scientific purposes in the newly formed modern Greek state. The diglossia problem
Greek language question
The Greek language question was a dispute discussing the question whether the language of the Greek people or a cultivated imitation of Ancient Greek should be the official language of the Greek nation. It was a highly controversial topic in the 19th and 20th centuries and was finally resolved...

 was brought to an end in 1976 (Law 306/1976), when Dimotikí was declared the official language of Greece and it is still in use for all official purposes and in education, having incorporated features of Katharevousa, giving birth to Standard Greek.

Historical unity


Historical unity and continuing identity between the various stages of the Greek language is often emphasised. Although Greek has undergone morphological and phonological changes comparable to those seen in other languages, there has been no time in its history since classical antiquity where its cultural, literary, and orthographic tradition was interrupted to such an extent that one can easily speak of a new language emerging. Greek speakers today still tend to regard literary works of ancient Greek as part of their own rather than a foreign language. It is also often estimated that the historical changes have been relatively slight compared with some other languages. According to one estimation, "Homeric Greek is probably closer to demotic than twelfth-century Middle English is to modern spoken English." Ancient Greek texts, especially from Biblical Koine onwards, are thus relatively easy to understand for educated modern speakers. The perception of historical unity is also strengthened by the fact that Greek has not split up into a group of separate, regional daughter languages, as happened with Latin.

Loanwords to other languages


Greek words have been widely borrowed into other languages, including English
English language
English is a West Germanic language that arose in the Anglo-Saxon kingdoms of England and spread into what was to become south-east Scotland under the influence of the Anglian medieval kingdom of Northumbria...

: mathematics
Mathematics
Mathematics is the study of quantity, space, structure, and change. Mathematicians seek out patterns and formulate new conjectures. Mathematicians resolve the truth or falsity of conjectures by mathematical proofs, which are arguments sufficient to convince other mathematicians of their validity...

, physics
Physics
Physics is a natural science that involves the study of matter and its motion through spacetime, along with related concepts such as energy and force. More broadly, it is the general analysis of nature, conducted in order to understand how the universe behaves.Physics is one of the oldest academic...

, astronomy
Astronomy
Astronomy is a natural science that deals with the study of celestial objects and phenomena that originate outside the atmosphere of Earth...

, democracy
Democracy
Democracy is generally defined as a form of government in which all adult citizens have an equal say in the decisions that affect their lives. Ideally, this includes equal participation in the proposal, development and passage of legislation into law...

, philosophy
Philosophy
Philosophy is the study of general and fundamental problems, such as those connected with existence, knowledge, values, reason, mind, and language. Philosophy is distinguished from other ways of addressing such problems by its critical, generally systematic approach and its reliance on rational...

, thespian, athletics, theatre
Theatre
Theatre is a collaborative form of fine art that uses live performers to present the experience of a real or imagined event before a live audience in a specific place. The performers may communicate this experience to the audience through combinations of gesture, speech, song, music or dance...

, rhetoric
Rhetoric
Rhetoric is the art of discourse, an art that aims to improve the facility of speakers or writers who attempt to inform, persuade, or motivate particular audiences in specific situations. As a subject of formal study and a productive civic practice, rhetoric has played a central role in the Western...

, baptism
Baptism
In Christianity, baptism is for the majority the rite of admission , almost invariably with the use of water, into the Christian Church generally and also membership of a particular church tradition...

, evangelist
Evangelist
-Religion:*one of the Four Evangelists, the authors of the canonical Christian Gospels in the New Testament*a Christian who explains his or her beliefs to a non-Christian and thereby participates in Evangelism...

etc. Moreover, Greek words and word elements
Morpheme
In linguistics, a morpheme is the smallest semantically meaningful unit in a language. The field of study dedicated to morphemes is called morphology. A morpheme is not identical to a word, and the principal difference between the two is that a morpheme may or may not stand alone, whereas a word,...

 continue to be productive as a basis for coinages: anthropology
Anthropology
Anthropology is the study of humanity. It has origins in the humanities, the natural sciences, and the social sciences. The term "anthropology" is from the Greek anthrōpos , "man", understood to mean mankind or humanity, and -logia , "discourse" or "study", and was first used in 1501 by German...

, photography
Photography
Photography is the art, science and practice of creating durable images by recording light or other electromagnetic radiation, either electronically by means of an image sensor or chemically by means of a light-sensitive material such as photographic film...

, telephony
Telephony
In telecommunications, telephony encompasses the general use of equipment to provide communication over distances, specifically by connecting telephones to each other....

, isomer
Isomer
In chemistry, isomers are compounds with the same molecular formula but different structural formulas. Isomers do not necessarily share similar properties, unless they also have the same functional groups. There are many different classes of isomers, like stereoisomers, enantiomers, geometrical...

, biomechanics
Biomechanics
Biomechanics is the application of mechanical principles to biological systems, such as humans, animals, plants, organs, and cells. Perhaps one of the best definitions was provided by Herbert Hatze in 1974: "Biomechanics is the study of the structure and function of biological systems by means of...

, cinematography
Cinematography
Cinematography is the making of lighting and camera choices when recording photographic images for cinema. It is closely related to the art of still photography...

, etc. and form, with Latin words, the foundation of international scientific and technical vocabulary, e.g. all words ending with –logy ("discourse"). An estimated 12% of the English vocabulary has Greek origin
English words of Greek origin
The Greek language has contributed to the English vocabulary in three ways:#directly as an immediate donor,#indirectly through other intermediate language, as an original donor , and#modern coinages using Greek roots....

, while numerous Greek words have English derivatives.

Geographic distribution



Greek is spoken by about 13.1 million people, mainly in Greece
Greece
Greece , officially the Hellenic Republic , and historically Hellas or the Republic of Greece in English, is a country in southeastern Europe....

 and Cyprus
Cyprus
Cyprus , officially the Republic of Cyprus , is a Eurasian island country, member of the European Union, in the Eastern Mediterranean, east of Greece, south of Turkey, west of Syria and north of Egypt. It is the third largest island in the Mediterranean Sea.The earliest known human activity on the...

, but also worldwide by the large Greek diaspora
Greek diaspora
The Greek diaspora, also known as Hellenic Diaspora or Diaspora of Hellenism, is a term used to refer to the communities of Greek people living outside the traditional Greek homelands, but more commonly in southeast Europe and Asia Minor...

. There are traditional Greek-speaking settlements in the neighbouring countries of Albania
Albania
Albania , officially known as the Republic of Albania , is a country in Southeastern Europe, in the Balkans region. It is bordered by Montenegro to the northwest, Kosovo to the northeast, the Republic of Macedonia to the east and Greece to the south and southeast. It has a coast on the Adriatic Sea...

, the Republic of Macedonia
Republic of Macedonia
Macedonia , officially the Republic of Macedonia , is a country located in the central Balkan peninsula in Southeast Europe. It is one of the successor states of the former Yugoslavia, from which it declared independence in 1991...

, Bulgaria
Bulgaria
Bulgaria , officially the Republic of Bulgaria , is a parliamentary democracy within a unitary constitutional republic in Southeast Europe. The country borders Romania to the north, Serbia and Macedonia to the west, Greece and Turkey to the south, as well as the Black Sea to the east...

 and Turkey
Turkey
Turkey , known officially as the Republic of Turkey , is a Eurasian country located in Western Asia and in East Thrace in Southeastern Europe...

, as well as in several countries in the Black Sea
Black Sea
The Black Sea is bounded by Europe, Anatolia and the Caucasus and is ultimately connected to the Atlantic Ocean via the Mediterranean and the Aegean seas and various straits. The Bosphorus strait connects it to the Sea of Marmara, and the strait of the Dardanelles connects that sea to the Aegean...

 area such as Ukraine
Ukraine
Ukraine is a country in Eastern Europe. It has an area of 603,628 km², making it the second largest contiguous country on the European continent, after Russia...

, Russia
Russia
Russia or , officially known as both Russia and the Russian Federation , is a country in northern Eurasia. It is a federal semi-presidential republic, comprising 83 federal subjects...

, Romania
Romania
Romania is a country located at the crossroads of Central and Southeastern Europe, on the Lower Danube, within and outside the Carpathian arch, bordering on the Black Sea...

, Georgia
Georgia (country)
Georgia is a sovereign state in the Caucasus region of Eurasia. Located at the crossroads of Western Asia and Eastern Europe, it is bounded to the west by the Black Sea, to the north by Russia, to the southwest by Turkey, to the south by Armenia, and to the southeast by Azerbaijan. The capital of...

, Armenia
Armenia
Armenia , officially the Republic of Armenia , is a landlocked mountainous country in the Caucasus region of Eurasia...

 and Azerbaijan
Azerbaijan
Azerbaijan , officially the Republic of Azerbaijan is the largest country in the Caucasus region of Eurasia. Located at the crossroads of Western Asia and Eastern Europe, it is bounded by the Caspian Sea to the east, Russia to the north, Georgia to the northwest, Armenia to the west, and Iran to...

, the Republic of Macedonia
Republic of Macedonia
Macedonia , officially the Republic of Macedonia , is a country located in the central Balkan peninsula in Southeast Europe. It is one of the successor states of the former Yugoslavia, from which it declared independence in 1991...

, and around the Mediterranean Sea
Mediterranean Sea
The Mediterranean Sea is a sea connected to the Atlantic Ocean surrounded by the Mediterranean region and almost completely enclosed by land: on the north by Anatolia and Europe, on the south by North Africa, and on the east by the Levant...

, Southern Italy, Israel
Israel
The State of Israel is a parliamentary republic located in the Middle East, along the eastern shore of the Mediterranean Sea...

, Egypt
Egypt
Egypt , officially the Arab Republic of Egypt, Arabic: , is a country mainly in North Africa, with the Sinai Peninsula forming a land bridge in Southwest Asia. Egypt is thus a transcontinental country, and a major power in Africa, the Mediterranean Basin, the Middle East and the Muslim world...

, Lebanon
Lebanon
Lebanon , officially the Republic of LebanonRepublic of Lebanon is the most common term used by Lebanese government agencies. The term Lebanese Republic, a literal translation of the official Arabic and French names that is not used in today's world. Arabic is the most common language spoken among...

 and ancient coastal towns along the Levant
Levant
The Levant or ) is the geographic region and culture zone of the "eastern Mediterranean littoral between Anatolia and Egypt" . The Levant includes most of modern Lebanon, Syria, Jordan, Israel, the Palestinian territories, and sometimes parts of Turkey and Iraq, and corresponds roughly to the...

. The language is also spoken by Greek emigrant communities in many countries in Western Europe
Western Europe
Western Europe is a loose term for the collection of countries in the western most region of the European continents, though this definition is context-dependent and carries cultural and political connotations. One definition describes Western Europe as a geographic entity—the region lying in the...

, especially the United Kingdom
United Kingdom
The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern IrelandIn the United Kingdom and Dependencies, other languages have been officially recognised as legitimate autochthonous languages under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages...

 and Germany
Germany
Germany , officially the Federal Republic of Germany , is a federal parliamentary republic in Europe. The country consists of 16 states while the capital and largest city is Berlin. Germany covers an area of 357,021 km2 and has a largely temperate seasonal climate...

, in Canada
Canada
Canada is a North American country consisting of ten provinces and three territories. Located in the northern part of the continent, it extends from the Atlantic Ocean in the east to the Pacific Ocean in the west, and northward into the Arctic Ocean...

 and the United States
United States
The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...

, Australia
Australia
Australia , officially the Commonwealth of Australia, is a country in the Southern Hemisphere comprising the mainland of the Australian continent, the island of Tasmania, and numerous smaller islands in the Indian and Pacific Oceans. It is the world's sixth-largest country by total area...

, as well as in Argentina
Argentina
Argentina , officially the Argentine Republic , is the second largest country in South America by land area, after Brazil. It is constituted as a federation of 23 provinces and an autonomous city, Buenos Aires...

, Brazil
Brazil
Brazil , officially the Federative Republic of Brazil , is the largest country in South America. It is the world's fifth largest country, both by geographical area and by population with over 192 million people...

, Chile
Chile
Chile ,officially the Republic of Chile , is a country in South America occupying a long, narrow coastal strip between the Andes mountains to the east and the Pacific Ocean to the west. It borders Peru to the north, Bolivia to the northeast, Argentina to the east, and the Drake Passage in the far...

 and others.

Official status


Greek is the official language
Official language
An official language is a language that is given a special legal status in a particular country, state, or other jurisdiction. Typically a nation's official language will be the one used in that nation's courts, parliament and administration. However, official status can also be used to give a...

 of Greece, where it is spoken by almost the entire population. It is also the official language of Cyprus (nominally alongside Turkish
Turkish language
Turkish is a language spoken as a native language by over 83 million people worldwide, making it the most commonly spoken of the Turkic languages. Its speakers are located predominantly in Turkey and Northern Cyprus with smaller groups in Iraq, Greece, Bulgaria, the Republic of Macedonia, Kosovo,...

). Because of the membership of Greece and Cyprus in the European Union, Greek is one of the organization's 23 official languages. Furthermore, Greek is officially recognized as a minority language
Minority language
A minority language is a language spoken by a minority of the population of a territory. Such people are termed linguistic minorities or language minorities.-International politics:...

 in parts of Italy
Italy
Italy , officially the Italian Republic languages]] under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages. In each of these, Italy's official name is as follows:;;;;;;;;), is a unitary parliamentary republic in South-Central Europe. To the north it borders France, Switzerland, Austria and...

 and Albania
Albania
Albania , officially known as the Republic of Albania , is a country in Southeastern Europe, in the Balkans region. It is bordered by Montenegro to the northwest, Kosovo to the northeast, the Republic of Macedonia to the east and Greece to the south and southeast. It has a coast on the Adriatic Sea...

, as well as in Armenia
Armenia
Armenia , officially the Republic of Armenia , is a landlocked mountainous country in the Caucasus region of Eurasia...

, Romania
Romania
Romania is a country located at the crossroads of Central and Southeastern Europe, on the Lower Danube, within and outside the Carpathian arch, bordering on the Black Sea...

 and Ukraine
Ukraine
Ukraine is a country in Eastern Europe. It has an area of 603,628 km², making it the second largest contiguous country on the European continent, after Russia...

 as a regional or minority language in the framework of the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages
European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages
The European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages is a European treaty adopted in 1992 under the auspices of the Council of Europe to protect and promote historical regional and minority languages in Europe...

. Greeks are also a recognized ethnic minority
Greeks in Hungary
Greeks in Hungary constitute one of the thirteen officially recognized ethnic minorities in Hungary since The Rights of National and Ethnic Minorities Act was enacted by the Hungarian parliament on July 7, 1993....

 in Hungary
Hungary
Hungary , officially the Republic of Hungary , is a landlocked country in Central Europe. It is situated in the Carpathian Basin and is bordered by Slovakia to the north, Ukraine and Romania to the east, Serbia and Croatia to the south, Slovenia to the southwest and Austria to the west. The...

.

Characteristics


The phonology
Phonology
Phonology is, broadly speaking, the subdiscipline of linguistics concerned with the sounds of language. That is, it is the systematic use of sound to encode meaning in any spoken human language, or the field of linguistics studying this use...

, morphology
Morphology (linguistics)
In linguistics, morphology is the identification, analysis and description, in a language, of the structure of morphemes and other linguistic units, such as words, affixes, parts of speech, intonation/stress, or implied context...

, syntax
Syntax
In linguistics, syntax is the study of the principles and rules for constructing phrases and sentences in natural languages....

, and vocabulary
Vocabulary
A person's vocabulary is the set of words within a language that are familiar to that person. A vocabulary usually develops with age, and serves as a useful and fundamental tool for communication and acquiring knowledge...

 of the language show both conservative and innovative tendencies across the entire attestation of the language from the ancient to the modern period. The division into conventional periods is, as with all such periodisations, relatively arbitrary, especially since at all periods, Ancient Greek has enjoyed high prestige, and the literate borrowed heavily from it.

Phonology


Across its history, the syllabic structure of Greek has varied little: Greek shows a mixed syllable structure, permitting complex syllabic onsets, but very restricted codas. It has only oral vowels, and a fairly stable set of consonantal contrasts. The main phonological changes occurred during the Hellenistic and Roman period (see Koine Greek phonology
Koine Greek phonology
Koine Greek is phonologically a transition period: at the start of the period, the language was generally virtually identical to Classical Ancient Greek, whereas in the end the language had phonologically a lot more in common with Modern Greek than Ancient Greek....

 for details), and included:
  • replacement of the pitch accent
    Pitch accent
    Pitch accent is a linguistic term of convenience for a variety of restricted tone systems that use variations in pitch to give prominence to a syllable or mora within a word. The placement of this tone or the way it is realized can give different meanings to otherwise similar words...

     with a stress accent
  • simplification of the system of vowel
    Vowel
    In phonetics, a vowel is a sound in spoken language, such as English ah! or oh! , pronounced with an open vocal tract so that there is no build-up of air pressure at any point above the glottis. This contrasts with consonants, such as English sh! , where there is a constriction or closure at some...

    s and diphthong
    Diphthong
    A diphthong , also known as a gliding vowel, refers to two adjacent vowel sounds occurring within the same syllable. Technically, a diphthong is a vowel with two different targets: That is, the tongue moves during the pronunciation of the vowel...

    s: loss of vowel length distinction, monophthongization of most diphthongs, and several steps in a chain shift
    Chain shift
    In phonology, a chain shift is a phenomenon in which several sounds move stepwise along a phonetic scale. The sounds involved in a chain shift can be ordered into a "chain" in such a way that, after the change is complete, each phoneme ends up sounding like what the phoneme before it in the chain...

     of vowels towards /i/ (iotacism
    Iotacism
    Iotacism is the process by which a number of vowels and diphthongs in Ancient Greek converged in pronunciation so that they all sound like iota in Modern Greek....

    )
  • development of the voiceless
    Voiceless
    In linguistics, voicelessness is the property of sounds being pronounced without the larynx vibrating. Phonologically, this is a type of phonation, which contrasts with other states of the larynx, but some object that the word "phonation" implies voicing, and that voicelessness is the lack of...

     aspirated
    Aspiration (phonetics)
    In phonetics, aspiration is the strong burst of air that accompanies either the release or, in the case of preaspiration, the closure of some obstruents. To feel or see the difference between aspirated and unaspirated sounds, one can put a hand or a lit candle in front of one's mouth, and say pin ...

     stop consonant
    Stop consonant
    In phonetics, a plosive, also known as an occlusive or an oral stop, is a stop consonant in which the vocal tract is blocked so that all airflow ceases. The occlusion may be done with the tongue , lips , and &...

    s /pʰ/ and /tʰ/ to the voiceless fricatives /f/ and /θ/, respectively; the similar development of /kʰ/ to /x/ may have taken place later (these phonological changes are not reflected in the orthography: both the earlier and later phonemes are written with φ
    Phi (letter)
    Phi , pronounced or sometimes in English, and in modern Greek, is the 21st letter of the Greek alphabet. In modern Greek, it represents , a voiceless labiodental fricative. In Ancient Greek it represented , an aspirated voiceless bilabial plosive...

    , θ
    Theta
    Theta is the eighth letter of the Greek alphabet, derived from the Phoenician letter Teth...

    , and χ
    Chi (letter)
    Chi is the 22nd letter of the Greek alphabet, pronounced as in English.-Greek:-Ancient Greek:Its value in Ancient Greek was an aspirated velar stop .-Koine Greek:...

    )
  • development of the voiced
    Voice (phonetics)
    Voice or voicing is a term used in phonetics and phonology to characterize speech sounds, with sounds described as either voiceless or voiced. The term, however, is used to refer to two separate concepts. Voicing can refer to the articulatory process in which the vocal cords vibrate...

     stop consonants /b/, /d/, /ɡ/ to their voiced fricative counterparts /β/ (later /v/), /ð/, /ɣ/

Morphology


In all its stages, the morphology of Greek shows an extensive set of productive derivational affixes, a limited but productive system of compounding, and a rich inflectional system. While its morphological categories have been fairly stable over time, morphological changes are present throughout, particularly in the nominal and verbal systems. The major change in nominal morphology was the loss of the dative case (its functions being largely taken over by the genitive); in the verb, the major change was the loss of the infinitive, with a concomitant rise in new periphrastic forms.

Nouns and adjectives


Pronouns show distinctions in person
Grammatical person
Grammatical person, in linguistics, is deictic reference to a participant in an event; such as the speaker, the addressee, or others. Grammatical person typically defines a language's set of personal pronouns...

 (1st, 2nd, and 3rd), number
Grammatical number
In linguistics, grammatical number is a grammatical category of nouns, pronouns, and adjective and verb agreement that expresses count distinctions ....

 (singular, dual, and plural in the ancient language; singular and plural alone in later stages), and gender
Grammatical gender
Grammatical gender is defined linguistically as a system of classes of nouns which trigger specific types of inflections in associated words, such as adjectives, verbs and others. For a system of noun classes to be a gender system, every noun must belong to one of the classes and there should be...

 (masculine, feminine, and neuter), and decline for case
Grammatical case
In grammar, the case of a noun or pronoun is an inflectional form that indicates its grammatical function in a phrase, clause, or sentence. For example, a pronoun may play the role of subject , of direct object , or of possessor...

 (from six cases in the earliest forms attested to four in the modern language). Nouns, articles, and adjectives show all these distinctions but person. Both attributive and predicative adjectives agree with the noun.

Verbs


The inflectional categories of the Greek verb have likewise remained largely the same over the course of the language's history, though with significant changes in the number of distinctions within each category and their morphological expression. Greek verbs have synthetic
Synthetic language
In linguistic typology, a synthetic language is a language with a high morpheme-per-word ratio, as opposed to a low morpheme-per-word ratio in what is described as an isolating language...

 inflectional forms for:
  • person
    Grammatical person
    Grammatical person, in linguistics, is deictic reference to a participant in an event; such as the speaker, the addressee, or others. Grammatical person typically defines a language's set of personal pronouns...

     — first, second, third;
    Modern Greek: also second person formal
  • number
    Grammatical number
    In linguistics, grammatical number is a grammatical category of nouns, pronouns, and adjective and verb agreement that expresses count distinctions ....

     — singular, plural;
    Ancient Greek: dual
    Dual (grammatical number)
    Dual is a grammatical number that some languages use in addition to singular and plural. When a noun or pronoun appears in dual form, it is interpreted as referring to precisely two of the entities identified by the noun or pronoun...

     (rare)
  • tense
    Grammatical tense
    A tense is a grammatical category that locates a situation in time, to indicate when the situation takes place.Bernard Comrie, Aspect, 1976:6:...

     — Ancient Greek: present
    Present tense
    The present tense is a grammatical tense that locates a situation or event in present time. This linguistic definition refers to a concept that indicates a feature of the meaning of a verb...

    , past
    Past tense
    The past tense is a grammatical tense that places an action or situation in the past of the current moment , or prior to some specified time that may be in the speaker's past, present, or future...

    , future
    Future tense
    In grammar, a future tense is a verb form that marks the event described by the verb as not having happened yet, but expected to happen in the future , or to happen subsequent to some other event, whether that is past, present, or future .-Expressions of future tense:The concept of the future,...

    ;
    Modern Greek: past and non-past (future is expressed by a periphrastic construction)
  • aspect
    Grammatical aspect
    In linguistics, the grammatical aspect of a verb is a grammatical category that defines the temporal flow in a given action, event, or state, from the point of view of the speaker...

     — Ancient Greek: imperfective
    Imperfective aspect
    The imperfective is a grammatical aspect used to describe a situation viewed with internal structure, such as ongoing, habitual, repeated, and similar semantic roles, whether that situation occurs in the past, present, or future...

    , perfective
    Perfective aspect
    The perfective aspect , sometimes called the aoristic aspect, is a grammatical aspect used to describe a situation viewed as a simple whole, whether that situation occurs in the past, present, or future. The perfective aspect is equivalent to the aspectual component of past perfective forms...

     (traditionally called aorist
    Aorist
    Aorist is a philological term originally from Indo-European studies, referring to verb forms of various languages that are not necessarily related or similar in meaning...

    ), perfect (sometimes also called perfective; see note about terminology);
    Modern Greek: perfective and imperfective
  • mood
    Grammatical mood
    In linguistics, grammatical mood is a grammatical feature of verbs, used to signal modality. That is, it is the use of verbal inflections that allow speakers to express their attitude toward what they are saying...

     — Ancient Greek: indicative, subjunctive
    Subjunctive mood
    In grammar, the subjunctive mood is a verb mood typically used in subordinate clauses to express various states of irreality such as wish, emotion, possibility, judgment, opinion, necessity, or action that has not yet occurred....

    , imperative
    Imperative mood
    The imperative mood expresses commands or requests as a grammatical mood. These commands or requests urge the audience to act a certain way. It also may signal a prohibition, permission, or any other kind of exhortation.- Morphology :...

    , and optative
    Optative mood
    The optative mood is a grammatical mood that indicates a wish or hope. It is similar to the cohortative mood, and closely related to the subjunctive mood....

    ;
    Modern Greek: indicative, subjunctive, and imperative (other modal functions are expressed by periphrastic constructions)
  • voice — Ancient Greek: active, middle, and passive;
    Modern Greek: active and medio-passive

Syntax


Many aspects of the syntax
Syntax
In linguistics, syntax is the study of the principles and rules for constructing phrases and sentences in natural languages....

 of Greek have remained constant: verbs agree with their subject only, the use of the surviving cases is largely intact (nominative for subjects and predicates, accusative for objects of most verbs and many prepositions, genitive for possessors), articles precede nouns, adpositions are largely prepositional, relative clauses follow the noun they modify, relative pronouns are clause-initial. But the morphological changes also have their counterparts in the syntax, and there are also significant differences between the syntax of the ancient and that of the modern form of the language. Ancient Greek made great use of participial constructions and of constructions involving the infinitive, while the modern variety lacks the infinitive entirely (instead having a raft of new periphrastic constructions) and uses participles more restrictedly. The loss of the dative led to a rise of prepositional indirect objects (and the use of the genitive to directly mark these as well). Ancient Greek tended to be verb-final, while neutral word order in the modern language is VSO or SVO.

Vocabulary


Greek is a language distinguished by an extensive vocabulary
Vocabulary
A person's vocabulary is the set of words within a language that are familiar to that person. A vocabulary usually develops with age, and serves as a useful and fundamental tool for communication and acquiring knowledge...

. The majority of the vocabulary of ancient Greek was inherited, but it does include a number of borrowings from the languages of the populations that inhabited Greece before the arrival of Proto-Greeks. Words of non-Indo-European origin can be traced into Greek from as early as Mycenaean times; they include a large number of Greek toponyms. The vast majority of Modern Greek vocabulary is directly inherited from ancient Greek, although in some cases words have changed meanings. Words of foreign origin
Loanword
A loanword is a word borrowed from a donor language and incorporated into a recipient language. By contrast, a calque or loan translation is a related concept where the meaning or idiom is borrowed rather than the lexical item itself. The word loanword is itself a calque of the German Lehnwort,...

 have entered the language mainly from Latin, Venetian and Turkish
Turkish language
Turkish is a language spoken as a native language by over 83 million people worldwide, making it the most commonly spoken of the Turkic languages. Its speakers are located predominantly in Turkey and Northern Cyprus with smaller groups in Iraq, Greece, Bulgaria, the Republic of Macedonia, Kosovo,...

. During older periods of the Greek language, loan words into Greek acquired Greek inflections, leaving thus only a foreign root word. Modern borrowings (from the 20th century on), especially from French
French language
French is a Romance language spoken as a first language in France, the Romandy region in Switzerland, Wallonia and Brussels in Belgium, Monaco, the regions of Quebec and Acadia in Canada, and by various communities elsewhere. Second-language speakers of French are distributed throughout many parts...

 and English
English language
English is a West Germanic language that arose in the Anglo-Saxon kingdoms of England and spread into what was to become south-east Scotland under the influence of the Anglian medieval kingdom of Northumbria...

, are typically not inflected.

Classification


Greek is an independent branch of the Indo-European
Indo-European languages
The Indo-European languages are a family of several hundred related languages and dialects, including most major current languages of Europe, the Iranian plateau, and South Asia and also historically predominant in Anatolia...

 language family
Language family
A language family is a group of languages related through descent from a common ancestor, called the proto-language of that family. The term 'family' comes from the tree model of language origination in historical linguistics, which makes use of a metaphor comparing languages to people in a...

. The ancient languages which were probably most closely related to it, ancient Macedonian
Ancient Macedonian language
Ancient Macedonian was the language of the ancient Macedonians. It was spoken in the kingdom of Macedon during the 1st millennium BCE and it belongs to the Indo-European group of languages...

 (which some linguistic scholars suggest is a dialect
Dialect
The term dialect is used in two distinct ways, even by linguists. One usage refers to a variety of a language that is a characteristic of a particular group of the language's speakers. The term is applied most often to regional speech patterns, but a dialect may also be defined by other factors,...

 of Greek itself) and Phrygian
Phrygian language
The Phrygian language was the Indo-European language of the Phrygians, spoken in Asia Minor during Classical Antiquity .Phrygian is considered to have been closely related to Greek....

, are not well enough documented to permit detailed comparison. Some Indo-Europeanists claim that Greek seems to be most closely related to Armenian
Armenian language
The Armenian language is an Indo-European language spoken by the Armenian people. It is the official language of the Republic of Armenia as well as in the region of Nagorno-Karabakh. The language is also widely spoken by Armenian communities in the Armenian diaspora...

 (see also Graeco-Armenian
Graeco-Armenian
Graeco-Armenian is the hypothetical common ancestor of the Greek and Armenian languages which postdates the Proto-Indo-European...

) and the Indo-Iranian languages
Indo-Iranian languages
The Indo-Iranian language group constitutes the easternmost extant branch of the Indo-European family of languages. It consists of three language groups: the Indo-Aryan, Iranian and Nuristani...

 (see Graeco-Aryan) among the living Indo-European languages.

Linear B



Linear B
Linear B
Linear B is a syllabic script that was used for writing Mycenaean Greek, an early form of Greek. It pre-dated the Greek alphabet by several centuries and seems to have died out with the fall of Mycenaean civilization...

 was the first script used to write Mycenaean Greek. Attested as early as the late 15th century BC, it is the earliest known form of Greek (its precursor, Linear A
Linear A
Linear A is one of two scripts used in ancient Crete before Mycenaean Greek Linear B; Cretan hieroglyphs is the second script. In Minoan times, before the Mycenaean Greek dominion, Linear A was the official script for the palaces and religious activities, and hieroglyphs were mainly used on seals....

, has not been deciphered to this day). It is basically a syllabary, that was finally deciphered by Michael Ventris
Michael Ventris
Michael George Francis Ventris, OBE was an English architect and classical scholar who, along with John Chadwick, was responsible for the decipherment of Linear B.Ventris was educated in Switzerland and at Stowe School...

 and John Chadwick
John Chadwick
John Chadwick was an English linguist and classical scholar most famous for his role in deciphering Linear B, along with Michael Ventris.-Early life and education:...

 in the 1950s.

Cypriot syllabary



Another similar system used to write the Greek language was the Cypriot syllabary
Cypriot syllabary
The Cypriot syllabary is a syllabic script used in Iron Age Cyprus, from ca. the 11th to the 4th centuries BCE, when it was replaced by the Greek alphabet. A pioneer of that change was king Evagoras of Salamis...

 (also a descendant of Linear A
Linear A
Linear A is one of two scripts used in ancient Crete before Mycenaean Greek Linear B; Cretan hieroglyphs is the second script. In Minoan times, before the Mycenaean Greek dominion, Linear A was the official script for the palaces and religious activities, and hieroglyphs were mainly used on seals....

 via the intermediate Cypro-Minoan syllabary
Cypro-Minoan syllabary
The Cypro-Minoan syllabary is an undeciphered syllabic script used on the island of Cyprus during the Late Bronze Age . The term "Cypro-Minoan" was coined by Sir Arthur Evans in 1909 based on its visual similarity to Linear A on Minoan Crete, which CM is thought to be derived from...

), which is closely related to Linear B but uses somewhat different syllabic conventions to represent phoneme sequences. The Cypriot syllabary is attested in Cyprus
Cyprus
Cyprus , officially the Republic of Cyprus , is a Eurasian island country, member of the European Union, in the Eastern Mediterranean, east of Greece, south of Turkey, west of Syria and north of Egypt. It is the third largest island in the Mediterranean Sea.The earliest known human activity on the...

 from the 11th century BC until its gradual abandonment in the late Classical period, in favor of the standard Greek alphabet.

Greek alphabet


Greek has been written in the Greek alphabet since approximately the 9th century BC. It was created by modifying the phonemic Phoenician alphabet
Phoenician alphabet
The Phoenician alphabet, called by convention the Proto-Canaanite alphabet for inscriptions older than around 1050 BC, was a non-pictographic consonantal alphabet, or abjad. It was used for the writing of Phoenician, a Northern Semitic language, used by the civilization of Phoenicia...

, albeit with the innovation of adopting certain letters to represent the vowel
Vowel
In phonetics, a vowel is a sound in spoken language, such as English ah! or oh! , pronounced with an open vocal tract so that there is no build-up of air pressure at any point above the glottis. This contrasts with consonants, such as English sh! , where there is a constriction or closure at some...

s. In classical Greek, as in classical Latin, only upper-case letters existed. The lower-case Greek letters were developed much later by medieval scribes to permit a faster, more convenient cursive writing style with the use of ink
Ink
Ink is a liquid or paste that contains pigments and/or dyes and is used to color a surface to produce an image, text, or design. Ink is used for drawing and/or writing with a pen, brush, or quill...

 and quill
Quill
A quill pen is a writing implement made from a flight feather of a large bird. Quills were used for writing with ink before the invention of the dip pen, metal-nibbed pens, the fountain pen, and, eventually, the ballpoint pen...

. The variant of the alphabet in use today is essentially the late Ionic
Ionic Greek
Ionic Greek was a subdialect of the Attic–Ionic dialect group of Ancient Greek .-History:Ionic dialect appears to have spread originally from the Greek mainland across the Aegean at the time of the Dorian invasions, around the 11th Century B.C.By the end of the Greek Dark Ages in the 5th Century...

 variant, introduced for writing classical Attic
Attic Greek
Attic Greek is the prestige dialect of Ancient Greek that was spoken in Attica, which includes Athens. Of the ancient dialects, it is the most similar to later Greek, and is the standard form of the language studied in courses of "Ancient Greek". It is sometimes included in Ionic.- Origin and range...

 in 403 BC.

The modern Greek alphabet consists of 24 letters, each with a capital (majuscule) and lowercase (minuscule) form. The letter sigma
Sigma
Sigma is the eighteenth letter of the Greek alphabet, and carries the 'S' sound. In the system of Greek numerals it has a value of 200. When used at the end of a word, and the word is not all upper case, the final form is used, e.g...

 has an additional lowercase form (ς) used in the final position:
capital
Α
Alpha
Alpha is the first letter of the Greek alphabet. Alpha or ALPHA may also refer to:-Science:*Alpha , the highest ranking individuals in a community of social animals...

Β
Beta
Beta is the second letter of the Greek alphabet. Beta or BETA may also refer to:-Biology:*Beta , a genus of flowering plants, mostly referred to as beets*Beta, a rank in a community of social animals...

Γ
Gamma
Gamma is the third letter of the Greek alphabet. In the system of Greek numerals it has a value of 3. It was derived from the Phoenician letter Gimel . Letters that arose from Gamma include the Roman C and G and the Cyrillic letters Ge Г and Ghe Ґ.-Greek:In Ancient Greek, gamma represented a...

Δ
Delta (letter)
Delta is the fourth letter of the Greek alphabet. In the system of Greek numerals it has a value of 4. It was derived from the Phoenician letter Dalet...

Ε
Epsilon
Epsilon is the fifth letter of the Greek alphabet, corresponding phonetically to a close-mid front unrounded vowel . In the system of Greek numerals it has a value of 5. It was derived from the Phoenician letter He...

Ζ
Zeta
-Science:* Zeta functions, in mathematics** Riemann zeta function* Zeta potential, the electrokinetic potential of a colloidal system* Tropical Storm Zeta , formed in December 2005 and lasting through January 2006* Z-pinch, in fusion power...

Η
ETA
ETA , an acronym for Euskadi Ta Askatasuna is an armed Basque nationalist and separatist organization. The group was founded in 1959 and has since evolved from a group promoting traditional Basque culture to a paramilitary group with the goal of gaining independence for the Greater Basque Country...

Θ
Theta
Theta is the eighth letter of the Greek alphabet, derived from the Phoenician letter Teth...

Ι
Iota
Iota is the ninth letter of the Greek alphabet. In the system of Greek numerals it has a value of 10. It was derived from the Phoenician letter Yodh . Letters that arose from this letter include the Roman I and J and the Cyrillic І , Yi , Je , and iotified letters .Iota represents...

Κ
Kappa
Kappa is the 10th letter of the Greek alphabet, used to represent the voiceless velar stop, or "k", sound in Ancient and Modern Greek. In the system of Greek numerals it has a value of 20. It was derived from the Phoenician letter Kaph...

Λ
Lambda
Lambda is the 11th letter of the Greek alphabet. In the system of Greek numerals lambda has a value of 30. Lambda is related to the Phoenician letter Lamed . Letters in other alphabets that stemmed from lambda include the Roman L and the Cyrillic letter El...

Μ
Mu (letter)
Carlos Alberto Vives Restrepo is a Grammy Award and three-time Latin Grammy Award winning-Colombian singer, composer and actor.-Biography:...

Ν
Nu (letter)
Nu , is the 13th letter of the Greek alphabet. In the system of Greek numerals it has a value of 50...

Ξ Ο
Omicron
Omicron is the 15th letter of the Greek alphabet. In the system of Greek numerals it has a value of 70. It is rarely used in mathematics because it is indistinguishable from the Latin letter O and easily confused with the digit 0...

Π
Pi (letter)
Pi is the sixteenth letter of the Greek alphabet, representing . In the system of Greek numerals it has a value of 80. Letters that arose from pi include Cyrillic Pe , Coptic pi , and Gothic pairthra .The upper-case letter Π is used as a symbol for:...

Ρ
Rho
Rho is the 17th letter of the Greek alphabet. In the system of Greek numerals, it has a value of 100. It is derived from Semitic resh "head"...

Σ
Sigma
Sigma is the eighteenth letter of the Greek alphabet, and carries the 'S' sound. In the system of Greek numerals it has a value of 200. When used at the end of a word, and the word is not all upper case, the final form is used, e.g...

Τ
Tau
Tau is the 19th letter of the Greek alphabet. In the system of Greek numerals it has a value of 300.The name in English is pronounced , but in modern Greek it is...

Υ
Upsilon
Upsilon is the 20th letter of the Greek alphabet.  In the system of Greek numerals it has a value of 400. It is derived from the Phoenician waw. The name of the letter is pronounced in Modern Greek, and in English , , or...

Φ
Phi
Phi may refer to:In language:*Phi, the Greek letter Φ,φ, the symbol for voiceless bilabial fricativeIn mathematics:*The Golden ratio*Euler's totient function*A statistical measure of association reported with the chi-squared test...

Χ
Chi (letter)
Chi is the 22nd letter of the Greek alphabet, pronounced as in English.-Greek:-Ancient Greek:Its value in Ancient Greek was an aspirated velar stop .-Koine Greek:...

Ψ
Psi (letter)
Psi is the 23rd letter of the Greek alphabet and has a numeric value of 700. In both Classical and Modern Greek, the letter indicates the combination /ps/ . The letter was adopted into the Old Italic alphabet, and its shape is continued into the Algiz rune of the Elder Futhark...

Ω
Omega
Omega is the 24th and last letter of the Greek alphabet. In the Greek numeric system, it has a value of 800. The word literally means "great O" , as opposed to omicron, which means "little O"...

lower case
α β γ δ ε ζ η θ ι κ λ μ ν ξ ο π ρ σ/
ς
τ υ φ χ ψ ω

Diacritics



In addition to the letters, the Greek alphabet features a number of diacritical signs
Diacritic
A diacritic is a glyph added to a letter, or basic glyph. The term derives from the Greek διακριτικός . Diacritic is both an adjective and a noun, whereas diacritical is only an adjective. Some diacritical marks, such as the acute and grave are often called accents...

: three different accent marks (acute
Acute accent
The acute accent is a diacritic used in many modern written languages with alphabets based on the Latin, Cyrillic, and Greek scripts.-Apex:An early precursor of the acute accent was the apex, used in Latin inscriptions to mark long vowels.-Greek:...

, grave
Grave accent
The grave accent is a diacritical mark used in written Breton, Catalan, Corsican, Dutch, French, Greek , Italian, Mohawk, Norwegian, Occitan, Portuguese, Scottish Gaelic, Vietnamese, Welsh, Romansh, and other languages.-Greek:The grave accent was first used in the polytonic orthography of Ancient...

 and circumflex
Circumflex
The circumflex is a diacritic used in the written forms of many languages, and is also commonly used in various romanization and transcription schemes. It received its English name from Latin circumflexus —a translation of the Greek περισπωμένη...

), originally denoting different shapes of pitch accent
Pitch accent
Pitch accent is a linguistic term of convenience for a variety of restricted tone systems that use variations in pitch to give prominence to a syllable or mora within a word. The placement of this tone or the way it is realized can give different meanings to otherwise similar words...

 on the stressed vowel; the so-called breathing marks (rough and smooth breathing), originally used to signal presence or absence of word-initial /h/; and the diaeresis, used to mark full syllabic value of a vowel that would otherwise be read as part of a diphthong. These marks were introduced during the course of the Hellenistic period. Actual usage of the grave in handwriting
Penmanship
Penmanship is the technique of writing with the hand using a writing instrument. The various generic and formal historical styles of writing are called hands, whilst an individual personal style of penmanship is referred to as handwriting....

 had seen a rapid decline in favor of uniform usage of the acute during the late 20th century, and it had only been retained in typography
Typography
Typography is the art and technique of arranging type in order to make language visible. The arrangement of type involves the selection of typefaces, point size, line length, leading , adjusting the spaces between groups of letters and adjusting the space between pairs of letters...

.

After the writing reform of 1982, most diacritics are no longer used. Since then, Modern Greek has been written mostly in the simplified monotonic orthography
Greek diacritics
Greek orthography has used a variety of diacritics starting in the Hellenistic period. The complex polytonic orthography notates Ancient Greek phonology...

 (or monotonic system), which employs only the acute accent and the diaeresis. The traditional system, now called the polytonic orthography (or polytonic system), is still used internationally for the writing of Ancient Greek
Ancient Greek
Ancient Greek is the stage of the Greek language in the periods spanning the times c. 9th–6th centuries BC, , c. 5th–4th centuries BC , and the c. 3rd century BC – 6th century AD of ancient Greece and the ancient world; being predated in the 2nd millennium BC by Mycenaean Greek...

.

Latin alphabet


Greek has occasionally been written in the Latin alphabet
Latin alphabet
The Latin alphabet, also called the Roman alphabet, is the most recognized alphabet used in the world today. It evolved from a western variety of the Greek alphabet called the Cumaean alphabet, which was adopted and modified by the Etruscans who ruled early Rome...

 in the past, especially in areas under Venetian rule
Stato da Màr
The Stato da Màr or Domini da Màr was the name given to the Republic of Venice's maritime and overseas possessions, including Istria, Dalmatia, Negroponte, the Morea , the Aegean islands of the Duchy of the Archipelago, and the islands of Crete and Cyprus...

 or by Greek Catholics
Roman Catholicism in Greece
The Catholic Church in Greece is part of the worldwide Catholic Church, under the spiritual leadership of the Pope and Curia in Rome.Indigenous Catholic Greeks number about 50,000 and are a religious and not an ethnic minority...

 (and called Fragolevantinika or Fragochiotika), and more recently is often written in the Latin alphabet in online communications (called Greeklish
Greeklish
Greeklish, a portmanteau of the words Greek and English, also known as Grenglish, Latinoellinika/Λατινοελληνικά or ASCII Greek, is the Greek language written using the Latin alphabet...

).

See also

  • American Foundation for Greek Language and Culture
    American Foundation for Greek Language and Culture
    The American Foundation for Greek Language and Culture is a nonprofit 501 corporation, incorporated in the State of Florida, whose mission it is to foster the creation of at institutions of higher learning...

  • Varieties of Modern Greek
    Varieties of Modern Greek
    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...


Sources

  • W. Sidney Allen, Vox Graeca - a guide to the pronunciation of classical Greek. Cambridge University Press, 1968-74. ISBN 0-521-20626-X
  • Robert Browning, Medieval and Modern Greek, Cambridge University Press, 2nd edition 1983, ISBN 0-521-29978-0. An excellent and concise historical account of the development of modern Greek from the ancient language.
  • Crosby and Schaeffer, An Introduction to Greek, Allyn and Bacon, Inc. 1928. A school grammar of ancient Greek
  • Dionysius of Thrace, "Art of Grammar", "", c.100 BC
  • David Holton, Peter Mackridge, and Irene Philippaki-Warburton, Greek: A Comprehensive Grammar of the Modern Language, Routledge
    Routledge
    Routledge is a British publishing house which has operated under a succession of company names and latterly as an academic imprint. Its origins may be traced back to the 19th-century London bookseller George Routledge...

    , 1997, ISBN 0-415-10002-X. A reference grammar of modern Greek.
  • Geoffrey Horrocks, Greek: A History of the Language and Its Speakers (Longman Linguistics Library). Addison-Wesley
    Addison-Wesley
    Addison-Wesley was a book publisher in Boston, Massachusetts, best known for its textbooks and computer literature. As well as publishing books, Addison-Wesley also distributed its technical titles through the Safari Books Online e-reference service...

    , 1997. ISBN 0-582-30709-0. From Mycenean to modern.
  • Brian Newton, The Generative Interpretation of Dialect: A Study of Modern Greek Phonology, Cambridge University Press, 1972, ISBN 0-521-08497-0.
  • Andrew Sihler
    Andrew Sihler
    Andrew Littleton Sihler is an American linguist and comparative Indo-Europeanist.Sihler received his Bachelor of Arts cum laude in 1962 from Harvard College, where he studied Germanic languages, literature, and linguistics. He earned his Master of Arts from Yale in 1965...

    , "A New Comparative Grammar of Greek and Latin", Oxford University Press, 1996. An historical grammar of ancient Greek from its Indo-European origins. Some eccentricities and no bibliography but a useful handbook to the earliest stages of Greek's development.
  • Herbert Weir Smyth, Greek Grammar, Harvard University Press
    Harvard University Press
    Harvard University Press is a publishing house established on January 13, 1913, as a division of Harvard University, and focused on academic publishing. In 2005, it published 220 new titles. It is a member of the Association of American University Presses. Its current director is William P...

    , 1956 (revised edition), ISBN 0-674-36250-0. The standard grammar of classical Greek. Focuses primarily on the Attic
    Attic Greek
    Attic Greek is the prestige dialect of Ancient Greek that was spoken in Attica, which includes Athens. Of the ancient dialects, it is the most similar to later Greek, and is the standard form of the language studied in courses of "Ancient Greek". It is sometimes included in Ionic.- Origin and range...

     dialect, with comparatively weak treatment of the other dialects and the Homeric .

General background



Language learning



Dictionaries


Literature