About the Language of Greece

greek-languageThe Greek language is one of the oldest and most influential languages in the world, with a history that spans over 3,400 years. It belongs to the Indo-European family of languages and has been spoken by millions of people across Greece and Cyprus.

One of the most remarkable features of this language is its alphabet, which has been used as a model for many other alphabets around the globe. The Greek script consists of 24 letters, each with its own unique sound and symbol.

Over time, the Greek language has evolved significantly from ancient times to modern-day usage. Ancient Greeks spoke various dialects such as Attic or Ionic, while Modern Greeks speak standardised forms based on Katharevousa or Demotic.

Today, learning Greek can be an enriching experience for anyone interested in exploring Mediterranean culture or delving into classical literature. As you learn more about this fascinating language’s nuances and complexities through reading classic texts like Homer’s Iliad or Odyssey and attending cultural events like traditional dances (zeibekiko), you’ll gain insight into why it remains one of humanity’s most enduring linguistic treasures!

Significance of the Greek language

The Greek language has the longest history of the European languages. This is testified by inscriptions that have been found on Greek soil and that date from the second millennium BC as well as by literary texts which are 2500 years old.

All 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 this language. The first plays, comedies and tragedies, the works of Homer, the New Testament, as well as Byzantine literary works were written in the Greek language. The first encyclopaedia was written in the Greek language.

The most remarkable fact, however, is that in 1100 BC the Greeks had the genius idea of ​​creating some written symbols each representing only one phthongal (unlike the Phoenician alphabet which was symphonic and based on any distinct sound, especially that produced by man)

This one to one ratio of letters and letters changed the course of history since the application of this idea constitutes what was called the ‘alphabet’. At first they wrote only in capital letters, without spaces between words and clockwise. But this in the 5th BC. century gave way to the left-handed way of writing. Thus, the first alphabet was presented, which was then used by the Romans, from whom it was passed to almost the entire world. All European alphabets are variations of the Greek alphabet.

The Greek language is one of the few in the world that shows a homogeneous development and is a rare phenomenon in the linguistic history of the human race because it has been spoken for thousands of years without interruption.

The modern Greek language retains 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 capacity to produce and compose new words as needed.

All languages ​​use words from other languages. The Greek language influenced the formation of the languages ​​of many peoples. The English language, for example, today uses over 50,000 words of Greek origin

Origins of Greek language

The Greek language is one of the oldest and most influential languages in the world. Its origins can be traced back to around 3,000 years ago when it was spoken by the ancient Greeks who lived in Greece and surrounding areas.

The roots of the Greek language lie in the Indo-European language family which includes many other modern-day European and South Asian languages. The earliest form of written Greek called Linear B dates back to around 1450 BC and was used by Mycenaean Greeks.

After this period, Ancient Greek became a dominant literary language across various regions such as Athens, Sparta, Macedonia, Crete etc. It evolved into three different dialects: Doric, Ionic, and Aeolic.

Later on during Alexander’s reign (336-323 BCE), Koine or Hellenistic Greek emerged as a standardized version of Ancient Greek that could be understood throughout his empire.

Today Modern Greek has its roots from these early forms but with influences from both Latin-based languages like Italian & French as well as Slavic-based ones like Bulgarian & Serbian due to centuries-long interactions between people living near Greece’s borders.

From about 1500 BC to the present day, Greek λανγθαγε 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.

Classic or Ancient Greek language

The Classic Greek language, also known as Ancient Greek, is the form of the Greek language used during the period from around 800 BC to 300 BC. It was spoken in ancient Greece and other areas of the Mediterranean world where Hellenic culture flourished.

The origins of Classic Greek can be traced back to the Aegean civilization in approximately 3000 BC. The Greeks developed their language from Mycenaean, a form of early Greek spoken between 1600 BC and 1100 BC.

Classic Greek was then split into three different forms: Attic or Athenian Greek (the most widely known), Ionic Greek (used mainly on the coast of Asia Minor), and Doric Greek (spoken by Spartans).

This language has a rich history and an extensive vocabulary that makes it unique among other languages. Its alphabet consists of 24 letters, with each letter having its own distinct sound. The grammar structure is complex but very precise, allowing for nuanced expressions and meanings.

There are several different dialects of Classic Greek including Attic, Ionic, Doric and Aeolic. Each dialect has its own distinctive features such as pronunciation or certain grammatical forms.

One reason why this language remains important today is because many works of literature written in Classical Greek have survived over time. These include epic poems like Homer’s Iliad and Odyssey as well as plays by playwrights such as Sophocles and Euripides.

In addition to literature, there were also many philosophers who wrote in Classical Greek including Plato and Aristotle whose ideas continue to shape our modern understanding of ethics, politics and metaphysics.

Classic Greek language continues to fascinate scholars today due to its complexity but also due to its enduring influence on Western civilization through art, philosophy and literature that still resonate with us thousands of years later.

The Classic Greek language is not a monolithic entity, but rather it encompasses several dialects across various regions of ancient Greece. Three main types or dialects are recognized in Classical Greek: Attic, Ionic and Doric.

Attic was spoken in Athens and the surrounding area, considered the literary standard for the language. It has been used extensively in various philosophical texts such as Plato’s dialogues and Aristotle’s works.

Ionic was spoken on the Aegean islands, western Asia Minor coastal areas and some parts of eastern Peloponnese. This dialect saw extensive use throughout Ionia (modern-day Turkey) which included cities such as Miletus and Ephesus.

Doric was spoken on mainland Greece including Sparta, Corinth, Crete etc., with notable differences from both Attic and Ionic. It was primarily used for epic poetry like Homer’s Iliad.

Each type has its own distinctive characteristics that make them unique from one another despite being part of a larger family of languages.

Byzantine Greek language

The Byzantine language, also known as Medieval Greek or Middle Greek, was the language spoken in the Byzantine Empire. It was a continuation of Ancient Greek but with some significant differences. The Byzantine era saw an evolution of Ancient Greek into what we now call Byzantine Greek.

One key difference between ancient and Byzantine Greek is that the latter has a simplified system of grammar and syntax which made it easier to learn for non-native speakers. This simplicity allowed for more widespread use and adoption beyond just Greece.

Despite being a form of ancient greek, there were still some unique features that set it apart from other forms such as Koine or Attic. For instance, it had its own distinct vocabulary that reflected the influence of Latin and Slavic languages due to trade relations with neighboring countries.

The language remained in use until the fall of Constantinople in 1453 when it gradually faded away as Turkish became the dominant language in Turkey. Today, scholars continue to study this fascinating language to better understand its legacy on modern-day linguistics and culture alike.

The origins of this language can be traced back to ancient Greece itself. During the Hellenistic period, Greek became the lingua franca of much of the Eastern Mediterranean region due to Alexander’s spread into Persia and Egypt. This allowed for a great deal of cultural exchange and cross-pollination between different regions.

Over time, however, various dialects began to emerge within Greek-speaking communities across different parts of Greece. These dialects would eventually coalesce into what we now know as Byzantine Greek.

During its heyday in the 10th-12th centuries AD, Byzantium saw an explosion in literature and scholarship that helped solidify Byzantine Greek’s place as a distinct form of the language. Even after Constantinople fell to Ottoman Turks in 1453 AD, scholars continued to use it extensively throughout Eastern Europe until at least the early modern era.

Today, while some elements have been lost over time – such as Classical-era grammar rules – many words and phrases from this fascinating language still live on in modern-day Greek vocabulary.

Modern Greek language

Despite the fact that modern Greek was written in verse since the 12th century, the question of a national language did not arise until the 19th century, when the newly independent Greek state emerged. Between 1834 and 1976, “Katharevousa” was imposed as the official language, a compromise between archaizing and modern spoken Greek.

Demotiki, a language used for speech and creative writing, became the official language of instruction after 1976. There has been a series of ever-changing oppositions between demotiki and katharevousa since the first centuries of the present era.

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

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

Phonology and Morphology

There were three tones in Ancient Greek accents: 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 to weaken final consonants.

There were five cases (nominative, vocative, accusative, genitive, dative), three genders (masculine, feminine, neuter), three numbers (singular, plural, dual), four moods (indicate, imperative, subjunctive, optative), and verbal distinctions between tense (time) and aspect (mode of action) in oblique moods.

The principal changes that distinguish modern Greek are the superseding of pitch-accent by stress; further iotacism of vowels, transforming the voiced plosives b and d into the voiced fricatives v and dh; loss of modal particles; and less variable word order due to the replacement of pitch-accent by stress. A number of distinct morphological groups have been unified, resulting in fewer inflections, but its vocabulary remains essentially Greek.


Greek Pronunciation

Greek is a beautiful language that has been in existence for thousands of years. The way it rolls off the tongue and the history behind it makes learning Greek an exciting adventure. However, one aspect of this ancient language that can be challenging to grasp is its pronunciation.

Greek pronunciation can be tricky for those who are not familiar with the language. Unlike English, which has 26 letters in the alphabet, Greek has 24 letters. Some of these letters have similar sounds to their English counterparts, such as alpha (Α) and beta (Β), while others may sound completely foreign.

One key aspect of mastering Greek pronunciation is understanding the accents used in the language. There are three accents – acute, grave, and circumflex – that can change how a word is pronounced entirely.

It’s also important to note that some letter combinations create distinct sounds in Greek pronunciation. For instance, when two vowels appear together like αι or ευ they form a diphthong where both vowel sounds blend into one unique sound.

The Greek language has its own set of sounds and combinations, which can take some time to get used to.

One of the most noticeable differences in Greek pronunciation is the emphasis placed on certain syllables. Unlike in English where stress can vary depending on context, in Greek, there are specific rules for emphasizing certain syllables in words.

Another important aspect of Greek pronunciation is the use of accent marks. These marks indicate where the emphasis should fall within a word and can change the meaning if they are not applied correctly.

In addition to these differences, there are also unique sounds in the Greek language that don’t exist in English such as “ξ” (pronounced like “ks”) and “χ” (similar to a guttural “h”).

Learning proper Greek pronunciation takes practice and patience but by paying attention to accents, emphasis and unique sounds you’ll be well on your way!

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.

Historical continuity of the Greek Language

Greek is the only language in the world that has been spoken and written continuously for at least 4,000 consecutive years, as Arthur Evans distinguished three phases in the history of Minoan writing, of which the first from 2000 BC. until 1650 BC
One may argue and say that Ancient and Modern Greek are different languages, but of course such a thing is completely untrue.

Odysseus Elytis himself said “I do not know that there is but one language, the single Greek language. For the Greek poet to say, even today, the sky, the sea, the sun, the moon, the wind, as Sappho and Archilochus used to say, is no small thing. It is very great. We communicate every moment by talking to the roots that are there. In Ancient”.

The great teacher of the genus Adamantios Korais had said: “Whoever without the knowledge of the Archaia attempts to study and interpret the Nean, is either deceived or deceived.”
Although thousands of years have passed, all Homeric words have survived to this day. They may not have survived atofifs, but they have remained in our language through their derivatives.
We may say water instead of water, but we say aqueduct, aqueduct and dehydration. We may not use the verb derkomai (to see) but we do use the word perceptive. We may not use the word aude (voice) but we still say stunned and stunned.

Also, today we don’t call clothes lops, but we say the word “lobodytes” which means “the one who dips (dips) his hand into your clothes (lopi) to steal you”.

Linear B is also purely Greek, a genuine ancestor of Ancient Greek. English architect Michael Ventris, based on some findings, deciphered this writing and proved its Greekness. Until then, of course, everyone stubbornly ignored even the possibility that she was Greek.

This fact is of enormous importance as it takes Greek several centuries even further back in the depths of history. This writing is certainly strange, as the symbols it uses are very different from the present-day Alphabet.
Nevertheless, the pronunciation is very similar, even with New Greek. For example the word “TOKOSOTA” means “Sagittarius” (callative). It is known that “k” and “s” in Greek make us “x” and with a simple distributive property, as we do in mathematics, we see that this word has not changed at all for so many millennia.

Even closer to Modern Greek, “wind”, which in Linear B is written “ANEMO”, as well as “tailor”, “desert” and “mosque” which are respectively in Linear B “RAPTE”, “EREMO”, ” TEMENO’, and many other examples.
However, calculating even with the conventional dates, which place Homer around 1,000 BC, we have the right to ask: How many millennia did our language take from the time when the people of the caves of the Greek area first articulated it with monosyllabic phthongs until it reaches the astonishing perfection of the Homeric epic dialect, with words like “rhodactylus,” white-collared,” “ocymorous,” etc.?

Plutarch in “On Socrates the Demon” informs us that Agesilaus discovered in Aliartos the tomb of Alcmene, the mother of Herakles, which tomb had as a dedication “copper tablets with many wonderful, ancient letters…” Imagine how old this writing is, since the ancient Greeks themselves call it “ancient”!!!

Today, Greek is spoken by over 13 million people worldwide and continues to be a significant influence on many Western languages. It remains an official language of Greece and Cyprus and is recognized as a minority language in several other countries.

The  Greek language reflects the rich cultural heritage of Greece and its impact on civilization throughout time. As we continue to study this fascinating subject, we can appreciate how much it has evolved while still retaining its unique identity that makes it one of humanity’s most enduring treasures.