|Nativename:||Greek, Modern (1453-): Ελληνικά|
|States:||Greece, Cyprus, United States, Australia,|
Germany, Turkey, United Kingdom, Canada,
Russia, Albania, Ukraine, France, Georgia,
Italy, Bulgaria, Romania, FYR Macedonia, Armenia and the rest of the Greek diaspora.
|Speakers:||c. 15 million|
----Recognised minority language in:
Greek (Greek, Modern (1453-): ελληνικά, or Greek, Modern (1453-): ελληνική γλώσσα,) is an Indo-European language native to the southern Balkan peninsula, the language of the Greeks. It forms an independent branch within Indo-European. It has the longest documented history of any Indo-European language, spanning 34 centuries of written records. In its ancient form, it is the language of classical Ancient Greek literature and the New Testament of the Christian Bible. In its modern form, it is the official language of Greece and Cyprus, and spoken by a total of approximately 20 million people (first language for ca. 15 million), including minority and emigrant communities in numerous parts of the world. It is written in the Greek alphabet.
See main article: History of Greek. Greek has been spoken in the Balkan Peninsula 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 one of the world's oldest recorded living languages. Among the Indo-European languages, its date of earliest attestation is matched only by Vedic Sanskrit and the extinct Anatolian languages.
The later Greek alphabet (unrelated to Linear B) is derived from the Phoenician alphabet (abjad); with minor modifications, it is still used today. The Greek language is conventionally divided into the following periods:
the assumed last ancestor of all known varieties of Greek which is not recorded. Proto-Greek speakers possibly entered the Greek peninsula in the early 2nd millennium BC. Since then, Greek has been spoken uninterruptedly in Greece.
in its various dialects was the language of the Archaic and Classical periods of the ancient Greek civilization. It was widely known throughout the Roman Empire. Ancient Greek fell into disuse in western Europe in the Middle Ages, but remained officially in use in the Byzantine world, and was reintroduced to the rest of Europe with the Fall of Constantinople and Greek migration to the areas of Italy.
The fusion of various ancient Greek dialects with Attic, the dialect of Athens, resulted in the creation of the first common Greek dialect, which became a lingua franca across Eastern Mediterranean and Near East. 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 to the fringes of India. After the Roman conquest of Greece, an unofficial diglossy of Greek and Latin was established in the city of Rome and Koine Greek became a first or second language in the Roman Empire. The origin of Christianity 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 the New Testament was written in.
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 is still in use for all official purposes and in education, having incorporated features of Katharevousa and 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 daughter languages, as Latin into the Romance languages.
Greek words have been widely borrowed into the European languages, including English: mathematics, astronomy, democracy, philosophy, thespian, athletics, theater, rhetoric etc. Moreover, Greek words and word elements continue to be productive as a basis for coinages: anthropology, photography, isomer, biomechanics, cinema, physics 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.
See also: Greeks and Greek diaspora. Greek is spoken by about 14 million people, mainly in Greece and Cyprus, but also worldwide by the members of the Greek diaspora. There are traditional Greek-speaking settlements in the neighbouring countries Albania, Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, 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 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 and others.
Greek is the official language of Greece where it is spoken by about 99.5% of the population. It is also (nominally alongside Turkish), the official language of Cyprus. Because of the membership of Greece and Cyprus in the European Union, Greek is one of the 23 official languages of the European Union. Greek is officially recognized as a minority language in parts of Turkey, Italy and Albania, as well as in Armenia and Ukraine.
Like most Indo-European languages, Greek is highly inflected. Greek language morphology has come down through the ages fairly intact, though with some simplifications. For example, Modern Greek features two numbers: singular and plural. The dual number of Ancient times was abandoned at a very early stage. The instrumental case of Mycenaean Greek disappeared in the Archaic period, and the dative-locative of Ancient Greek disappeared in the late Hellenistic. Four cases, nominative, genitive, accusative and vocative, remain in Modern Greek. The three ancient gender noun categories (masculine, feminine and neuter) never fell out of use, while adjectives agree in gender, number, and case with their respective nouns, as do their articles. Greek verbs have synthetic inflectional forms for:
A great syntactical reformation took place during Hellenistic times, with the result that late Koine is already much like Modern Greek. However, since Greek syntactical relations are expressed by means of case endings, Greek word order has always been relatively free. In Attic Greek the availability of the definite article and the infinitive and participial clauses permits the construction of very long, complex yet clear sentences. This technique of Attic prose (known as periodic style) is unmatched in other European languages. Since Hellenistic times Greek has tended to be more periphrastic, but much of the syntactical and expressive power of the language has been preserved.
Greek is a language distinguished by an extraordinarily rich vocabulary. In respect to the roots of words, ancient Greek vocabulary was essentially of Indo-European origin, but with a significant number of borrowings from the idioms 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 certain cases words have changed meanings. Words of foreign origin have entered the language mainly from Latin, Italian and Ottoman 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.
One of the most distinctive characteristics of the Greek language is its powerful compound-constructing ability. The speaker is able to combine basic or derived terms in order to construct new, yet perfectly understandable compounds that express in one word what other languages would express in an entire clause, or even an entire sentence. This linguistic flexibility is largely absent from Latin and its offspring languages. In the Homeric language, Thetis — the mother of Achilles, is described as "Greek, Ancient (to 1453): δυσαριστοτόκεια", dysaristotokeia, meaning "she who, to her own detriment, gave birth to the best"; its equivalent in pure Modern Greek is "Greek, Modern (1453-): πικρολεβεντομάνα", pikroleventomana. Some languages are able to express such a complex meaning naturally in one word, others have different mechanisms (see polysynthetic languages for extreme examples). Compound constructional capability, as is found in Greek, is frequently imitated by modern languages such as French and English in order to produce monolectic compounds; this is often done by actually using Greek roots (e.g. biology < biologie < bios + logos, Micromégas < mikros + megas) or by applying imported Greek rules to foreign words. For that reason Greek-derived words predominate in the language of science, particularly of the natural sciences, e.g. physics, chemistry, biology, geography, medicine, etc. It has been speculated by scholars that due to this specific flexibility, Greek and German (another European language famous for its compound construction) have been the languages of philosophy, and that Plato's ideas had pre-existed in Greek, in the same way that Meister Eckhart's thoughts had in German.
The development from Ancient Greek to Modern Greek has affected phonology, morphology, and, to a lesser extent, vocabulary. 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.
The main phonological changes occurred during the Hellenistic and Roman period (see Koine Greek Phonology for details), and included:
The morphological changes affected both nouns and verbs. Some of the changes to the verbs are parallel to those that affected the Romance languages as they developed from Vulgar Latin — for instance the loss of certain historic tense forms and their replacement by new constructions — but unlike Romance, Greek continues to inflect nouns for case.
Greek is an independent branch of the Indo-European language family. The ancient languages which were probably most closely related to it, ancient Macedonian (which many linguistic scholars suggest is a dialect of Greek itself) and Phrygian, are not well enough documented to permit detailed comparison. Among living languages Greek seems to be most closely related to Armenian (see also Graeco-Armenian) and the Indo-Iranian languages (see Graeco-Aryan).
See main article: Greek alphabet and Greek orthography. Greek has been written in the Greek alphabet since approximately the 9th century BC. 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.
|width=3% align="center"||Α||width=3% align="center"||Β||width=3% align="center"||Γ||width=3% align="center"||Δ||width=3% align="center"||Ε||width=3% align="center"||Ζ||width=3% align="center"||Η||width=3% align="center"||Θ||width=3% align="center"||Ι||width=3% align="center"||Κ||width=3% align="center"||Λ||width=3% align="center"||Μ||width=3% align="center"||Ν||width=3% align="center"||Ξ||width=3% align="center"||Ο||width=3% align="center"||Π||width=3% align="center"||Ρ||width=3% align="center"||Σ||width=3% align="center"||Τ||width=3% align="center"||Υ||width=3% align="center"||Φ||width=3% align="center"||Χ||width=3% align="center"||Ψ||width=3% align="center"||Ω|
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 (spiritus asper and spiritus lenis), 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 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.
In the writing reform of 1982, the use of most of them was abolished from official use in Greece. 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.