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|Spoken in|| Greece,
and in the Greek diaspora
|Native speakers||13.1 million (2002 census)|
|Writing system||Greek alphabet|
|Official language in||European Union|
|Recognised minority language in||
|ISO 639-2||gre (B)
grc – Ancient Greek
ell – Modern Greek
pnt – Pontic Greek
gmy – Mycenaean Greek
gkm – Medieval Greek
cpg – Cappadocian Greek
yej – Yevanic
tsd – Tsakonian Greek
56-AAA-a (varieties:56-AAA-aa to -am)
Greek (ελληνικά IPA [eliniˈka] or ελληνική γλώσσα, IPA [eliniˈci ˈɣlosa]) is an independent branch of the Indo-European family of languages. Native to the southern Balkans Western Asia Minor and the Aegean, 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; other systems, such as Linear B and the Cypriot syllabary, were previously used. The alphabet arose from the Phoenician script, and was in turn the basis of the Latin, Cyrillic, Coptic, and many other writing systems.
The Greek language holds an important place in the histories of Europe, the more loosely defined Western world, and Christianity; the canon of ancient Greek literature includes works of monumental importance and influence for the future Western canon, such as the epic poems Iliad and Odyssey. Greek was also the language in which many of the foundational texts of Western philosophy, such as the Platonic dialogues and the works of Aristotle, were composed; the New Testament of the Christian Bible was written in Koiné Greek. Together with the Latin texts and traditions of the Roman world, the study of the Greek texts and society of antiquity constitutes the discipline of Classics.
Greek was a widely spoken lingua franca in the Mediterranean world and beyond during Classical Antiquity, and would eventually become the official parlance of the Byzantine Empire. In its modern form, it is the official language of Greece and Cyprus 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 in numerous parts of the world.
Greek roots are often used to coin new words for other languages, especially in the sciences and medicine; Greek and Latin are the predominant sources of the international scientific vocabulary. Over fifty thousand English words are derived from the Greek language.
Greek has been spoken in the Balkan Peninsula since around the late 3rd millennium BC. The earliest written evidence is found in the Linear B clay tablets in the "Room of the Chariot Tablets", an LMIII A-context (c. 1400 BC) region of Knossos, in Crete, making Greek the world's oldest recorded living languages. Among the Indo-European languages, its date of earliest written attestation is matched only by the now extinct Anatolian languages.
|History of the
(see also: Greek alphabet)
|Proto-Greek (c. 3000–1600 BC)|
|Mycenaean (c. 1600–1100 BC)|
|Ancient Greek (c. 800–330 BC)
Aeolic, Arcadocypriot, Attic-Ionic,
Doric, Locrian, Pamphylian,
|Koine Greek (c. 330 BC–330)|
|Medieval Greek (330–1453)|
|Modern Greek (from 1453)
Calabrian, Cappadocian, Cheimarriotika, Cretan,
Cypriot, Demotic, Griko, Katharevousa,
Pontic, Tsakonian, Maniot, Yevanic
The Greek language is conventionally divided into the following periods:
The tradition of diglossia, 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, the vernacular form of Modern Greek proper, and Katharevousa, 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 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 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.
Greek words have been widely borrowed into other languages, including English: mathematics, physics, astronomy, democracy, philosophy, thespian, athletics, theatre, rhetoric, baptism, evangelist etc. Moreover, Greek words and word elements continue to be productive as a basis for coinages: anthropology, photography, telephony, isomer, biomechanics, cinematography, 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, while numerous Greek words have English derivatives.
Greek is spoken by about 13.1 million people, mainly in Greece and Cyprus, but also worldwide by the large Greek diaspora. There are traditional Greek-speaking settlements in the neighbouring countries of Albania, Bulgaria and Turkey, as well as in several countries in the Black Sea area such as Ukraine, Russia, Romania, Georgia, Armenia and Azerbaijan, and around the Mediterranean Sea, Southern Italy, Israel, Egypt, Lebanon and ancient coastal towns along the Levant. The language is also spoken by Greek emigrant communities in many countries in Western Europe, especially the United Kingdom and Germany, in Canada and the United States, Australia, as well as in Argentina, Brazil, Chile and others.
Greek is the official language of Greece, where it is spoken by almost the entire population. It is also the official language of Cyprus (nominally alongside Turkish). 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 in parts of Italy and Albania, as well as in Armenia, Romania and Ukraine as a regional or minority language in the framework of the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages. Greeks are also a recognized ethnic minority in Hungary.
The phonology, morphology, syntax, and vocabulary 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.
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 for details), and included:
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.
Pronouns show distinctions in person (1st, 2nd, and 3rd), number (singular, dual, and plural in the ancient language; singular and plural alone in later stages), and gender (masculine, feminine, and neuter), and decline for case (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.
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 inflectional forms for:
Many aspects of the syntax 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.
Greek is a language distinguished by an extensive vocabulary. 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 have entered the language mainly from Latin, Venetian and Turkish. 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 and English, are typically not inflected.
Greek is an independent branch of the Indo-European language family. The ancient languages probably most closely related to it, ancient Macedonian (which some linguistic scholars suggest is a dialect of Greek itself) and Phrygian, are not well enough documented to permit detailed comparison. Some Indo-Europeanists claim that Greek seems to be most closely related to Armenian (see also Graeco-Armenian) and the Indo-Iranian languages (see Graeco-Aryan) among the living Indo-European languages.
|Archaic local variants|
|In other languages|
Linear B 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, has not been deciphered to this day). It is basically a syllabary, that was finally deciphered by Michael Ventris and John Chadwick in the 1950s.
Another similar system used to write the Greek language was the Cypriot syllabary (also a descendant of Linear A via the intermediate Cypro-Minoan syllabary), which is closely related to Linear B but uses somewhat different syllabic conventions to represent phoneme sequences. The Cypriot syllabary is attested in Cyprus from the 11th century BC until its gradual abandonment in the late Classical period, in favor of the standard Greek alphabet.
Greek has been written in the Greek alphabet since approximately the 9th century BC. It was created by modifying the Phoenician alphabet, with the innovation of adopting certain letters to represent the vowels. 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 and quill. The variant of the alphabet in use today is essentially the late Ionic variant, introduced for writing classical Attic in 403 BC.
In addition to the letters, the Greek alphabet features a number of diacritical signs: three different accent marks (acute, grave and circumflex), originally denoting different shapes of pitch accent 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 saw a rapid decline in favor of uniform usage of the acute during the late 20th century, and it has only been retained in typography.
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 (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.
Greek has occasionally been written in the Latin script in the past, especially in areas under Venetian rule or by Greek Catholics (and called Fragolevantinika or Fragochiotika), and more recently is often written in Latin script in online communications (called Greeklish).
|Wikibooks has more on the topic of|
|Standard Greek edition of Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia|
|Pontic Greek edition of Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia|
|Ancient Greek test of Wikipedia at Wikimedia Incubator|
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to: Greek language|
|Wikiquote has a collection of quotations related to: Greek language|