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Koine Greek

Koine Greek

Overview
Koine Greek is the universal dialect of the Greek language
Greek language
Greek is an independent branch of the Indo-European family of languages. Native to the southern Balkans, 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 for the majority of its history;...

 spoken throughout post-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...

 (c. 300 BC – AD 300), developing from the Attic dialect, with admixture of elements especially from 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...

.

Koine, the first supra-regional Greek dialect, came to serve as the 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...

of the 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...

 following the conquests of Alexander the Great.
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Encyclopedia
Koine Greek is the universal dialect of the Greek language
Greek language
Greek is an independent branch of the Indo-European family of languages. Native to the southern Balkans, 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 for the majority of its history;...

 spoken throughout post-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...

 (c. 300 BC – AD 300), developing from the Attic dialect, with admixture of elements especially from 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...

.

Koine, the first supra-regional Greek dialect, came to serve as the 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...

of the 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...

 following the conquests of Alexander the Great. Although superseded in the West Roman Empire
Western Roman Empire
The Western Roman Empire was the western half of the Roman Empire after its division by Diocletian in 285; the other half of the Roman Empire was the Eastern Roman Empire, commonly referred to today as the Byzantine Empire....

 by Vulgar Latin
Vulgar Latin
Vulgar Latin is any of the nonstandard forms of Latin from which the Romance languages developed. Because of its nonstandard nature, it had no official orthography. All written works used Classical Latin, with very few exceptions...

, it retained its dominance in the East
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...

, forming the basis of 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...

. By way of the latter, it is also the main ancestor of 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...

.

Koine's religious significance is exemplified by its status as the language of the Septuagint, the Greek translation of the Hebrew Bible
Hebrew Bible
The Hebrew Bible is a term used by biblical scholars outside of Judaism to refer to the Tanakh , a canonical collection of Jewish texts, and the common textual antecedent of the several canonical editions of the Christian Old Testament...

, and of the Christian 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....

. As the language of the New Testament and of the Church Fathers
Church Fathers
The Church Fathers, Early Church Fathers, Christian Fathers, or Fathers of the Church were early and influential theologians, eminent Christian teachers and great bishops. Their scholarly works were used as a precedent for centuries to come...

, Koine Greek is also known as biblical, patristic or New Testament Greek.

Name


Koinḗ , Greek for "common", is a term which had been previously applied by ancient scholars to several forms of Greek speech. A school of scholars such as Apollonius Dyscolus
Apollonius Dyscolus
Apollonius Dyscolus is considered one of the greatest of the Greek grammarians. He was born at Alexandria, son of Mnesitheus. The dates for his life are not known...

 and Aelius Herodianus
Aelius Herodianus
Aelius Herodianus or Herodian was one of the most celebrated grammarians of Greco-Roman antiquity. He is usually known as Herodian except when there is a danger of confusion with the historian also named Herodian....

 maintained the term Koine to refer to the Proto-Greek language
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...

, while others would use it to refer to any vernacular form of Greek speech which differed somewhat from the literary language. But when Koine Greek became a language of literature by the first century B.C. some people distinguished it into two forms: Hellenic (Greek) as the literary post-classical form, and vernacular as the day to day spoken form. Others chose to refer to Koine as the Alexandrian dialect or the dialect of Alexandria
Alexandria
Alexandria is the second-largest city of Egypt, with a population of 4.1 million, extending about along the coast of the Mediterranean Sea in the north central part of the country; it is also the largest city lying directly on the Mediterranean coast. It is Egypt's largest seaport, serving...

, or even the universal dialect of its time. The former was often used by modern classicists.

Origins and history


Koine Greek arose as a common dialect within the armies of Alexander the Great. Under the leadership of Macedon
Macedon
Macedonia or Macedon was an ancient kingdom, centered in the northeastern part of the Greek peninsula, bordered by Epirus to the west, Paeonia to the north, the region of Thrace to the east and Thessaly to the south....

, their newly formed common dialect was spoken from Egypt
Ptolemaic Egypt
Ptolemaic Egypt began when Ptolemy I Soter invaded Egypt and declared himself Pharaoh of Egypt in 305 BC and ended with the death of queen Cleopatra VII of Egypt and the Roman conquest in 30 BC. The Ptolemaic Kingdom was a powerful Hellenistic state, extending from southern Syria in the east, to...

 to Mesopotamia
Seleucid Empire
The Seleucid Empire was a Greek-Macedonian state that was created out of the eastern conquests of Alexander the Great. At the height of its power, it included central Anatolia, the Levant, Mesopotamia, Persia, today's Turkmenistan, Pamir and parts of Pakistan.The Seleucid Empire was a major centre...

. Though elements of Koine Greek took shape during the Classical Era
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...

, the post-Classical period of Greek is defined as beginning with the death of Alexander the Great in 323 BC, when cultures under Hellenistic sway in turn began to influence the language.
The passage into the next period, known as 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...

, dates from the foundation of Constantinople
Constantinople
Constantinople was the capital of the Roman, Eastern Roman, Byzantine, Latin, and Ottoman Empires. Throughout most of the Middle Ages, Constantinople was Europe's largest and wealthiest city.-Names:...

 by Constantine I
Constantine I
Constantine the Great , also known as Constantine I or Saint Constantine, was Roman Emperor from 306 to 337. Well known for being the first Roman emperor to convert to Christianity, Constantine and co-Emperor Licinius issued the Edict of Milan in 313, which proclaimed religious tolerance of all...

 in 330. The post-Classical period of Greek thus refers to the creation and evolution of Koine Greek throughout the entire Hellenistic and Roman eras of history until the start of the Middle Ages.

The linguistic roots of the Common Greek dialect had been unclear since ancient times. During the Hellenistic age, most scholars thought of Koine as the result of the mixture of the four main 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...

 dialects, "" (the composition of the Four). This view was supported in the early 20th century by Paul Kretschmer
Paul Kretschmer
Paul Kretschmer was a German linguist who studied the earliest history and interrelations of the Indo-European languages and showed how they were influenced by non-Indo-European languages, such as Etruscan....

 in his book "Die Entstehung der Koine" (1901), while Ulrich Wilamowitz and Antoine Meillet
Antoine Meillet
Paul Jules Antoine Meillet was one of the most important French linguists of the early 20th century. Meillet began his studies at the Sorbonne, where he was influenced by Michel Bréal, Ferdinand de Saussure, and the members of the Année Sociologique. In 1890 he was part of a research trip to the...

, based on the intense Ionic elements of the Koine — such as instead of and instead of — considered Koine to be a simplified form of 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...

. The final answer which is academically accepted today was given by the Greek linguist G. N. Hatzidakis, who proved that, despite the "composition of the Four", the "stable nucleus" of Koine Greek is Attic. In other words, Koine Greek can be regarded as Attic with the admixture of elements especially from Ionic, but also from other dialects. The degree of importance of the non-Attic linguistic elements on Koine can vary depending on the region of the Hellenistic World. In that respect, the varieties of Koine spoken in the Ionia
Ionia
Ionia is an ancient region of central coastal Anatolia in present-day Turkey, the region nearest İzmir, which was historically Smyrna. It consisted of the northernmost territories of the Ionian League of Greek settlements...

n colonies of Asia Minor
Asia Minor
Asia Minor is a geographical location at the westernmost protrusion of Asia, also called Anatolia, and corresponds to the western two thirds of the Asian part of Turkey...

 (e.g. Pontus
Pontus
Pontus or Pontos is a historical Greek designation for a region on the southern coast of the Black Sea, located in modern-day northeastern Turkey. The name was applied to the coastal region in antiquity by the Greeks who colonized the area, and derived from the Greek name of the Black Sea: Πόντος...

) would have more intense 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...

 characteristics than others and those of Laconia and Cyprus would preserve some Doric
Doric dialect
Doric dialect can refer to:*The Doric dialect of Greek*The Doric dialect of Scots...

 and Arcado-Cypriot characteristics, respectively etc. The literary Koine of the Hellenistic age resembles Attic in such a degree that it is often mentioned as Common Attic.

Sources


The first scholars who studied Koine, both in Alexandrian and contemporary times, were classicists whose prototype had been the literary 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...

 language of the Classical period, and would frown upon any other kind of Hellenic
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...

 speech. Koine Greek was therefore considered a decayed form of Greek which was not worthy of attention. The reconsideration on the historical and linguistic importance of Koine Greek began only in the early 19th century, where renowned scholars conducted a series of studies on the evolution of Koine throughout the entire Hellenistic and Roman period which it covered. The sources used on the studies of Koine have been numerous and of unequal reliability. The most significant ones are the inscriptions of the post-Classical periods and the papyri
Papyrus
Papyrus is a thick paper-like material produced from the pith of the papyrus plant, Cyperus papyrus, a wetland sedge that was once abundant in the Nile Delta of Egypt....

, for being two kinds of texts which have authentic content and can be studied directly. Other significant sources are the Septuagint, the somewhat literal Greek translation of 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...

, and 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....

. The teaching of the Testaments was aimed at the most common people, and for that reason they use the most popular language of the era. Information can also be derived from some Atticist
Atticism
Atticism was a rhetorical movement that began in the first quarter of the 1st century BC; it may also refer to the wordings and phrasings typical of this movement, in contrast with spoken Greek, which continued to evolve in directions guided by the common usages of Hellenistic Greek.Atticism was...

 scholars of the Hellenistic and Roman periods, who, in order to fight the evolution of the language, published works which compared the supposedly "correct" 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...

 against the "wrong" Koine by citing examples. For example, Phrynichus Arabius
Phrynichus Arabius
Phrynichus Arabius or Phrynichus of Bithynia was a Greek grammarian who flourished in 2nd century Bithynia, writing works on proper Attic usage...

 during the 2nd century AD wrote:
Other sources can be based on random findings such as inscriptions on vases written by popular painters, mistakes made by Atticists
Atticism
Atticism was a rhetorical movement that began in the first quarter of the 1st century BC; it may also refer to the wordings and phrasings typical of this movement, in contrast with spoken Greek, which continued to evolve in directions guided by the common usages of Hellenistic Greek.Atticism was...

 due to their imperfect knowledge of pure 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...

, or even some surviving Greco-Latin glossaries of the Roman period, e.g.:
Finally, a very important source of information on the ancient Koine is the 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...

 language with all its dialects and its own Koine form, which have preserved some of the ancient language's oral linguistic details which the written tradition has lost. For example the Pontic
Pontic language
Pontic Greek is a form of the Greek language originally spoken in the Pontus area on the southern shores of the Black Sea, northeastern Anatolia, Eastern Turkish/Caucasus province of Kars, southern Georgia, and today mainly in northern Greece...

 and Cappadocian
Cappadocian Greek language
Cappadocian , also known as Cappadocian Greek or Asia Minor Greek, is a mixed language formerly spoken in Cappadocia . In the population exchange between Greece and Turkey in the 1920s, Cappadocian speakers were forced to emigrate to Greece, where they were resettled in various locations,...

 dialects preserved the ancient pronunciation of etc.), while the Tsakonic preserved the long α instead of η ( etc.) and the other local characteristics of Laconic
Doric Greek
Doric or Dorian was a dialect of ancient Greek. Its variants were spoken in the southern and eastern Peloponnese, Crete, Rhodes, some islands in the southern Aegean Sea, some cities on the coasts of Asia Minor, Southern Italy, Sicily, Epirus and Macedon. Together with Northwest Greek, it forms the...

. Dialects from the Southern part of the Greek-speaking regions (Dodecanese
Dodecanese
The Dodecanese are a group of 12 larger plus 150 smaller Greek islands in the Aegean Sea, of which 26 are inhabited. Τhis island group generally defines the eastern limit of the Sea of Crete. They belong to the Southern Sporades island group...

, 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...

 etc.), preserve the pronunciation of the double similar consonants , while others pronounce in many words υ as ου or preserve ancient double forms ( etc.). Linguistic phenomena like the above imply that those characteristics survived within Koine, which in turn had countless variations in the Greek-speaking world.

Biblical Koine


"Biblical Koine" refers to the varieties of Koine Greek used in the Christian Bible and related texts. Its main sources are:
  • the Septuagint, a 3rd century BC Greek translation of the Hebrew Bible
    Hebrew Bible
    The Hebrew Bible is a term used by biblical scholars outside of Judaism to refer to the Tanakh , a canonical collection of Jewish texts, and the common textual antecedent of the several canonical editions of the Christian Old Testament...

     which included the Deuterocanon. Most of the texts are translations, but there are some portions and texts composed in Greek
    Greek language
    Greek is an independent branch of the Indo-European family of languages. Native to the southern Balkans, 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 for the majority of its history;...

    . Sirach
    Ben Sira
    Jesus ben Sirach , commonly known simply as ben Sirach or Sirach and also rendered "Jesus son of Sirach" or "Jesus Siracides", was the author of the deuterocanonical Wisdom of Sirach and possibly the rabbinical Alphabet of Sirach...

    , for instance, has not been found in Hebrew;
  • 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....

    , compiled originally in Greek according to the dominant theory of Greek primacy
    Greek Primacy
    Greek primacy is a scholarly term in general use for the dominance of Hellenism at certain periods of history. In the context of the language of the New Testament, "Greek primacy" is a Wikipedia neologism for the majority view that the New Testament or its sources were originally written in Koine...

     (although some books may have had a Hebrew-Aramaic substrate and contain some Semitic influence on the language, see also Aramaic of Jesus
    Aramaic of Jesus
    It is generally agreed that the historical Jesus primarily spoke Aramaic, perhaps along with some Hebrew and Greek . The towns of Nazareth and Capernaum, where Jesus lived, were primarily Aramaic-speaking communities, although Greek was widely spoken in the major cities of the Eastern Mediterranean...

    ).

Septuagint Greek


There has been some debate to what degree biblical Greek represents the mainstream of contemporary spoken Koine and to what extent it contains specifically Semitic
Semitic languages
The Semitic languages are a group of related languages whose living representatives are spoken by more than 270 million people across much of the Middle East, North Africa and the Horn of Africa...

 substratum
Substratum
In linguistics, a stratum or strate is a language that influences, or is influenced by another through contact. A substratum is a language which has lower power or prestige than another, while a superstratum is the language that has higher power or prestige. Both substratum and superstratum...

 features (cf. Aramaic primacy
Aramaic primacy
The hypothesis of Aramaic primacy holds that the original text of the New Testament was not written in Greek, as held by the majority of scholars, but in the Aramaic language, which was the primary language of Jesus and his Twelve Apostles....

). These could have been induced either through the practice of translating closely from Hebrew
Biblical Hebrew language
Biblical Hebrew , also called Classical Hebrew , is the archaic form of the Hebrew language, a Canaanite Semitic language spoken in the area known as Canaan between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea. Biblical Hebrew is attested from about the 10th century BCE, and persisted through...

 or Aramaic
Aramaic language
Aramaic is a group of languages belonging to the Afroasiatic language phylum. The name of the language is based on the name of Aram, an ancient region in central Syria. Within this family, Aramaic belongs to the Semitic family, and more specifically, is a part of the Northwest Semitic subfamily,...

 originals, or through the influence of the regional non-standard Greek spoken by the originally Aramaic-speaking Jews
Hellenistic Judaism
Hellenistic Judaism was a movement which existed in the Jewish diaspora that sought to establish a Hebraic-Jewish religious tradition within the culture and language of Hellenism...

. Some of the features discussed in this context are the Septuagint's normative absence of the particles μέν and δέ, and the use of ἐγένετο to denote "it came to pass." Some features of biblical Greek which are thought to have originally been non-standard elements eventually found their way into the main of the Greek language.

New Testament Greek


The Greek of the New Testament is less distinctively Semitic than that of the Septuagint, partly because it appeared 300 years later and partly because it is largely a de novo composition in Greek, not primarily a translation from biblical Hebrew and biblical Aramaic
Biblical Aramaic
Biblical Aramaic is the form of the Aramaic language that is used in the books of Daniel, Ezra and a few other places in the Hebrew Bible and should not be confused with the Aramaic translations of the Hebrew Bible known as targumim....

.

Patristic Greek


The term patristic Greek is sometimes used for the Greek written by the Church Fathers
Church Fathers
The Church Fathers, Early Church Fathers, Christian Fathers, or Fathers of the Church were early and influential theologians, eminent Christian teachers and great bishops. Their scholarly works were used as a precedent for centuries to come...

, the Early Christian theologians in late antiquity. Christian writers in the earliest time tended to use a simple register of Koiné, relatively close to the spoken language of their time, following the model of the Bible. After the 4th century, when Christianity became the official state religion of the Roman Empire
State church of the Roman Empire
The state church of the Roman Empire was a Christian institution organized within the Roman Empire during the 4th century that came to represent the Empire's sole authorized religion. Both the Roman Catholic Church and the Eastern Orthodox churches claim to be the historical continuation of this...

, more learned registers of Koiné also came to be used.

Differences between Attic and Koine Greek


The study of all sources from the six centuries which are symbolically covered by Koine reveals linguistic changes from 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...

 on elements of the spoken language including:
  • grammar
    Grammar
    In linguistics, grammar is the set of structural rules that govern the composition of clauses, phrases, and words in any given natural language. The term refers also to the study of such rules, and this field includes morphology, syntax, and phonology, often complemented by phonetics, semantics,...

     - accidence and syntax,
  • 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...

     - word formation
  • 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...

  • 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...

     - pronunciation

Most new forms start off as rare and gradually become more frequent until they are established. As most of the changes between modern and ancient Greek were introduced via Koine, Koine is largely familiar though still unintelligible to most writers and speakers of Modern Greek.

Phonology



During the period generally designated as "Koine" Greek, a great deal of phonological change occurred: at the start of the period, the pronunciation was virtually identical to Ancient Greek phonology
Ancient Greek phonology
Ancient Greek phonology is the study of the phonology, or pronunciation, of Ancient Greek. Because of the passage of time, the original pronunciation of Ancient Greek, like that of all ancient languages, can never be known with absolute certainty...

, whereas in the end it had much more in common with Modern Greek phonology
Modern Greek phonology
This page presents a sketch of the phonology of Standard Modern Greek.-Consonants:The consonantal system of Greek is difficult to describe, as there is considerable debate about which sounds to describe as separate phonemes and which to analyse as conditional allophones...

.

The three most significant changes were the loss of vowel length distinction, the replacement of the pitch accent system by a stress accent system, and the monophthongization of several diphthongs:
  • The ancient distinction between long and short vowels was gradually lost, and from the 2nd century BC all vowels were isochronic.

  • Since the 2nd century BC, the means of accenting words changed from pitch
    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...

     to stress, meaning that the accented syllable is not pronounced in a musical tone but louder and/or stronger.

  • The aspirate breathing
    Spiritus asper
    In the polytonic orthography of Ancient Greek, the rough breathing , is a diacritical mark used to indicate the presence of an sound before a vowel, diphthong, or rho. It remained in the polytonic orthography even after the Hellenistic period, when the sound disappeared from the Greek language...

     (aspiration
    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 ...

    ), which was already lost in the 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...

     varieties of Asia Minor
    Asia Minor
    Asia Minor is a geographical location at the westernmost protrusion of Asia, also called Anatolia, and corresponds to the western two thirds of the Asian part of Turkey...

     and the Aeolic
    Aeolic Greek
    Aeolic Greek is a linguistic term used to describe a set of dialects of Ancient Greek spoken mainly in Boeotia , Thessaly, and in the Aegean island of Lesbos and the Greek colonies of Asia Minor ....

     of Lesbos
    Lesbos Island
    Lesbos is a Greek island located in the northeastern Aegean Sea. It has an area of with 320 kilometres of coastline, making it the third largest Greek island. It is separated from Turkey by the narrow Mytilini Strait....

    , stopped being pronounced and written in popular texts.

  • The ι in long diphthongs (those with the long vowels: ᾱͅ, ῃ, ῳ) stopped being pronounced and written in popular texts.

  • The diphthongs αι, ει, and οι became single vowels. In this manner 'αι', which had already been converted by the Boeotians into a long ε since the 4th century BC and written η (e.g. ), became in Koine, too, first a long ε and then short. The diphthong 'ει' had already merged with ι in the 5th century BC in regions such as Argos
    Argos
    Argos is a city and a former municipality in Argolis, Peloponnese, Greece. Since the 2011 local government reform it is part of the municipality Argos-Mykines, of which it is a municipal unit. It is 11 kilometres from Nafplion, which was its historic harbour...

     or in the 4th c. BC in Corinth
    Corinth
    Corinth is a city and former municipality in Corinthia, Peloponnese, Greece. Since the 2011 local government reform it is part of the municipality Corinth, of which it is the seat and a municipal unit...

     (e.g. ), and it acquired this pronunciation also in Koine. The diphthong 'οι' acquired the pronunciation of the modern 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...

     'U' (y), which lasted until the 10th century AD. The diphthong 'υι' came to be pronounced [yj], and remained pronounced as a diphthong. The diphthong 'ου' had already acquired the pronunciation of 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...

     'U' since the 6th century BC and preserved it in modern times.

  • The diphthongs αυ and ευ came to be pronounced [av] and [ev] (via [aβ], [eβ]), but are partly assimilated
    Assimilation (linguistics)
    Assimilation is a common phonological process by which the sound of the ending of one word blends into the sound of the beginning of the following word. This occurs when the parts of the mouth and vocal cords start to form the beginning sounds of the next word before the last sound has been...

     to [af], [ef] before the voiceless consonants θ, κ, ξ, π, σ, τ, φ, χ, and ψ.

  • Simple vowels have preserved their ancient pronunciations, except η which is pronounced as ι, and υ, which retained the pronunciation [y] of modern 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...

     'U' only until the 10th c. AD, and was later also pronounced as ι. With those changes in phonology there were common spelling mistakes between υ and οι, while the sound of ι was multiplied (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....

    ).

  • The consonants also preserved their ancient pronunciations to a great extent, except β, γ, δ, φ, θ, χ and ζ. Β, Γ, Δ (Beta, Gamma, Delta), which were originally pronounced [b, ɡ, d], acquired the sounds of v, gh, and dh ([v] (via β), ɣ, ð), which they still have today, except when preceded by a nasal consonant (μ, ν); in that case, they retain their ancient sounds (e.g. [ɣambros], [andras], [aŋɡelos]). The latter three (Φ, Θ, Χ), which were initially pronounced as aspirates (/pʰ/, /tʰ/ and /kʰ/ respectively), developed into the fricatives [f] (via [ɸ]), [θ], and [x]. Finally the letter Ζ, which is still categorised as a double consonant with ξ and ψ, because it was initially pronounced as σδ (sd), later acquired the sound of Z as it appears in Modern English
    Modern English
    Modern English is the form of the English language spoken since the Great Vowel Shift in England, completed in roughly 1550.Despite some differences in vocabulary, texts from the early 17th century, such as the works of William Shakespeare and the King James Bible, are considered to be in Modern...

     and 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...

    .


New Testament Greek Phonology
The Koine Greek in the table represents a reconstruction of New Testament Koine Greek, deriving to some degree from the dialect spoken in Judaea and Galilaea during the 1st century and similar to the dialect spoken in Alexandria, Egypt. Note the realizations of certain phonemes differ from the more standard Attic dialect of Koine. Note the soft fricative "β" in intervocalic position, the  preservation of the aspirated plosive value of "ph", "th" and "kh", the preservation of a distinction between the four front vowels "i", "ē", "e", and "y" (which is still rounded), and other features.
letter Greek Transliteration IPA
International Phonetic Alphabet
The International Phonetic Alphabet "The acronym 'IPA' strictly refers [...] to the 'International Phonetic Association'. But it is now such a common practice to use the acronym also to refer to the alphabet itself that resistance seems pedantic...

Alpha α a ɑ
Beta β (-β-) b b (-β-)
Gamma γ g ɣ
Delta δ d d
Epsilon ε e ɛ
Zeta ζ z
Eta η ē e
Theta θ th
Iota ι i i
Kappa κ k k
Lambda λ l l
Mu μ m m
Nu ν n n
Xi ξ x ks
Omicron ο o o
Pi π p p
Rho ρ r ɾ
Sigma σ (-σ-/-σσ-) s (-s-/-ss-) s (-z-/-sː-)
Tau τ t t
Upsilon υ y y
Phi φ ph
Chi χ ch
Psi ψ ps ps
Omega ω ō o
. αι ai ɛ
. ει ei i
. οι oi y
. αυ au ɑw
. ευ eu ɛw
. ηυ ēu ew
. ου ou u

Sample Koine texts


The following texts show differences from Attic Greek in all aspects - grammar, morphology, vocabulary and can be inferred to show differences in phonology.

The following comments illustrate the phonological development within the period of Koine. The phonetic transcriptions are tentative, and are intended to illustrate two different stages in the reconstructed development, an early conservative variety still relatively close to Classical Attic, and a somewhat later, more progressive variety approaching Modern Greek in some respects.

Sample 1 - A Roman Decree


The following excerpt, from a decree of the Roman Senate to the town of Thisbae in Boeotia
Boeotia
Boeotia, also spelled Beotia and Bœotia , is one of the regional units of Greece. It is part of the region of Central Greece. It was also a region of ancient Greece. Its capital is Livadeia, the second largest city being Thebes.-Geography:...

 in 170 BC, is rendered in a reconstructed pronunciation representing a hypothetical conservative variety of mainland Greek Koiné in the early Hellenistic era. The transcription shows partial, but not yet completed raising of η and ει  to /i/, retention of pitch accent, fricativization of γ to /j/ but no fricativisation of the other stops as yet, and retention of word-initial /h/.

Sample 2 - Greek New Testament


The following excerpt, the beginning of the Gospel of St John, is rendered in a reconstructed pronunciation representing a progressive popular variety of Koiné in the early Christian era, with vowels approaching those of Modern Greek.

Sample 3 - Greek Old Testament


This is from the LXX version of Joshua
Book of Joshua
The Book of Joshua is the sixth book in the Hebrew Bible and of the Old Testament. Its 24 chapters tell of the entry of the Israelites into Canaan, their conquest and division of the land under the leadership of Joshua, and of serving God in the land....

, dating to c. 150 BC. This Greek is the "biblical Greek" discussed above. Note that because of literalness this text in many ways does not fit the Hellenistic Greek of the time, full of semiticisms.

Further reading

  • Stevens, Gerald L. New Testament Greek Primer. ISBN 0-7188-9206-2
  • Stevens, Gerald L. New Testament Greek Intermediate. From Morphology to Translation. ISBN 0-7188-9200-3
  • Easterling, P & Handley, C. Greek Scripts: An illustrated introduction. London: Society for the Promotion of Hellenic Studies
    Society for the Promotion of Hellenic Studies
    The Society for the Promotion of Hellenic Studies, known as the Hellenic Society, was founded in 1879 to advance the study of Greek language, literature, history, art and archaeology in the Ancient, Byzantine and Modern periods....

    , 2001. ISBN 0-902984-17-9

External links