About the Language of Greece

greek-languageThe Greek language has the longest history of European languages. This is evidenced by inscriptions that have been found on Greek soil and dating from the second millennium BC as well as by literary texts which are 2500 years old. All the arts and sciences were born and developed using this language. The first texts of Mathematics, Physics, Astronomy, Law, Medicine, History, Gastronomy etc. were written in that language. The first plays, comedies and tragedies, the works of Homer, the New Testament, as well as Byzantine literary works have been written in the Greek language. The first encyclopedia was written in Greek.

The most remarkable fact, however, is that in 1100 BC. The Greeks had the genius idea to create some written symbols, each of which represented only one phthong (in contrast to the Phoenician alphabet which was symphonic – phonographic). This one-to-one ratio of letters and tones changed the course of history as the application of this idea constitutes what has been called the ‘alphabet’. At first they wrote only in capital letters, with no spaces between the words and clockwise. But this in the 5th BC. century gave way to counterclockwise writing. Thus, the first alphabet was introduced, which was later used by the Romans and passed on to almost the whole world. All European alphabets are variations of the Greek alphabet.

The Greek language (both ancient and modern) forms a separate branch of the Indo-European family of languages. The historical evolution of Greek reveals a unity paralleled only in Chinese, and the major changes can be charted in an unbroken literary tradition.


From about 1500 BC to the present day, Greek has gone through a slow, organic, and uninterrupted growth, with four major stages of evolution: prehistoric, classical, Byzantine, and modern. Prehistoric Greek was introduced into the Aegean by a series of immigrations throughout the 2d millennium BC.

The language can be reconstructed in outline from a comparison of ancient dialects and from Mycenaean inscriptions, such as Linear B, now generally agreed to be an early form of Greek.

Ancient Greek includes classical Greek, recorded in inscriptions and literary works from the 7th century BC to the death of Alexander the Great in 323 BC, and Hellenistic Greek.

Ancient Greek

Ancient Greek was spoken in Greece, on Crete and Cyprus, in parts of the eastern Mediterranean and western and northern Anatolia, on Sicily and in southern Italy, on the northern Black Sea coast, and sporadically along the African coast and the French Riviera (see Greece, ancient). Modern Greek is the official language of Greece (the Hellenic Republic) and of the Greek population of the Republic of Cyprus; it is also spoken in isolated villages of Turkey, Sicily, and southern Italy, and in many areas throughout the world to which Greeks have immigrated, notably Australia and North America.

Classical Greek

Classical Greek is known in four main dialect groupsÑAttic-Ionic, Arcado-Cyprian, Aeolic, and DoricÑspoken in independent city-states and creatively adapted for particular genres in the great works of classical literature.

Homeric Greek was a traditional literary language, comprising elements from several dialects, but was never the spoken language of any one people.

The Hellenistic koine, or common tongue, was based on a late form of Attic, and became the official language of the unified Greek-speaking world, later extending to peoples whose native language was not Greek. Invaluable evidence of its spoken form exists in papyrus letters: its best-known literary expression is in the New Testament of the Bible.

Byzantine Greek

Byzantine Greek is notable mainly for its heterogeneity. The koine remained the basis of the language of the early church and of the spoken tongue. Learned writers, however, adhered to an obsolete form of Attic, revived in the aftermath of the Roman conquest in opposition to the koine. Their archaizing Greek replaced Latin as the official language of the Byzantine Empire in the 6th century.

Modern Greek

Modern Greek appears in verse from the 12th century and was creatively adapted in Cretan Renaissance literature. The question of a national language did not arise, however, until the 19th century with the emergence of the newly independent Greek state. Katharevousa (“purifying” Greek), an artificial compromise between the archaizing and the spoken forms, was imposed as the official language from 1834 until 1976.

After 1976, demotiki, the language used in speech and creative literature, became the officially taught language. The division between demotiki and katharevousa has its roots in the first centuries of the present era and presents a series of ever-changing oppositions that affect both speech and writing.

The four major dialect groups, Peloponnesian, Northern Greek, Cretan, and Dodecanesian-Cypriot, all derive from the Hellenistic koine. Only the small Tsakonian dialect directly continues a non-koine dialect.

The transition from ancient to modern Greek was gradual and uneven, beginning in the 5th century BC and completed by the 10th century AD. Hellenistic Greek is closer to modern Greek than it is to prehistoric Greek. The differences between classical and modern Greek are scarcely greater than those between middle English and modern English.

Phonology and Morphology

Ancient Greek had an accentual system based on pitch with three tones: rising, falling, and rising/falling. Its phonology was characterized by a tendency to move vowels forward from the back to the front of the mouth  and weakening of final consonants.

Its inflectional system was highly developed, with five cases (nominative, vocative, accusative, genitive, dative), three genders (masculine, feminine, neuter), three numbers (singular, plural, dual), four moods (indicative, imperative, subjunctive, optative), and a verbal distinction in oblique moods between tense (time) and aspect (mode of action).

The principal changes that distinguish modern Greek are superseding of pitch-accent by stress; further iotacism of vowels transforming the voiced plosives b and d to the voiced fricatives v and dh; loss of modal particles; and less variable word order because of replacement of pitch-accent by stress. Morphological groups that were originally distinct have become unified, with a consequent reduction in the number of inflections,  its vocabulary remains basically Greek.


Greek is pronounced quite differently from other languages. Reading this page won’t make your spoken Greek perfect, but it will hopefully give you an idea of how to pronounce those strange looking words. The main thing here is where to put the emphasis. As you will see, putting the emphasis on the wrong syllable might change the meaning of the word entirely, making it quite rude or just incomprihensible.

Greek spelling

The Greek spelling is also very difficult, even for the Greeks, and even though the words below often are spelt differentely, they sound the same with only the emphasis on a different syllable
These are just a few examples on how the pronounciation can alter the meaning of a word. The little accent makes a huge difference, so once you start reading Greek keep an eye out for its position. Unfortunately, words written in capitals do not have accent.

When you start learning Greek you’ll also soon learn more about your own language. The amazing thing about most Greek words is that they are self explanatory. For example, if you are British, Swedish or German and you hear the word “psychology” for the first time, it doesn’t mean anything to you. The Greek will immediately
understand it, though, because it consists of the two words “psycho”, soul or mind, and “logy”, learning or explaining. So even if it is the first time a Greek hears it, he will understand that it means “the learning of the mind”.

The Greek language is one of the few in the world that presents a homogeneous evolution and is a rare phenomenon in the linguistic history of the human race because it is spoken for thousands of years without interruption. The modern Greek language preserves the ancient writing and spelling of words and 75% of its vocabulary is based on the ancient Greek language. It is a language with unique virtues: it has expressiveness, flexibility, synthetic power and productive ability to produce and compose new words according to needs.

The first Christian hymns and all the books of the New Testament and the Gospels, Apostle Paul’s “Letters” and the first encyclopedia of Gutenberg, were written in Greek. 
The history of lexicography dates back to 2000 years ago in Ancient Greece. In the 5th century BC. Protagoras was the first to compile a glossary containing the rare words found in Homer’s works.
The first philosophical works on the birth of language were written by Plato (427-347 BC).
The first Grammar, the Grammar of the Greek Language was the work of Dionysios Thrace in 100 BC.

The masterpieces of Homer, Aristotle, Pindar, Euripides, Sophocles, Aeschylus, Thales, Aristophanes, Menander, Roman emperors, such as Marcus Aurelius, various Roman orators and others were written in Greek.
All languages ​​use words from other languages. The Greek language influenced the formation of the languages ​​of many peoples. The English language, for example, currently uses over 50,000 words of Greek origin.

During antiquity, Greek was the main language of the Mediterranean world. It later became the official language of the Byzantine Empire and evolved into Medieval Greek.In its modern form, Greek is the official language of Greece and Cyprus and one of the 24 official languages ​​of the European Union. It is spoken as a mother tongue by at least 13.5 million people in Greece, Cyprus, Italy, Albania, Turkey and the Greek Diaspora. Also millions of people know Greek, either its ancient form or modern Greek.
Greek roots have been used for centuries and continue to be widely used to form new words in other languages. Greek and Latin, as language reservoirs, are the main sources of international scientific and technological vocabulary.