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Greek

 

Καλωσόρισμα- Welcome

Greek (Eλληνικά), the language of one of the major civilizations and one of the greatest literatures of the world, forms its own independent branch of the Indo-European language family and has no close living relatives. Of all the living Indo-European languages, it is most closely related to Armenian. It has been spoken in the southern Balkans since the early part of the second millennium BC and has a documented history that goes back 3,500 years, the longest record of an Indo-European language.The earliest written evidence of Greek are Mycenaean Greek documents found on Crete and later on the Greek mainland. They were written in the Linear B syllabary.

Greece mapModern Greek is a descendant of Proto-Greek, the ancestor of the ancient Greek dialects that were spoken in different areas of Greece before the 4th century BC and which were gradually replaced by a variety of Greek called Common Greek or Koine (κοινή) based on the Attic dialect spoken around Athens.

The history of the Greek language is usually divided into several periods characterized by political and linguistic factors:

  • Mycenaean Greek, was the language of the Mycenaean civilization (16th century BC onward).
  • Classical (or Ancient) Greek, known throughout the Roman empire, was the language of the Classical period of Greek civilization. Classical Greek fell into disuse in western Europe in the Middle Ages, but remained known in the Byzantine Empire, and was reintroduced to the rest of Europe with the Fall of Constantinople and Greek migration to Italy.
  • Koine ‘common’ Greek, a fusion of of various Greek dialects with the dialect of Athens, was a common Greek dialect that became one of the world’s first lingua francas.
  • Medieval (Byzantine) Greek was the literary language of the Byzantine Empire that was used until its fall in the 15th century AD.
  • Modern Greek developed from Koine Greek which is spoken today.

 

Status


Greek is the national language of Greece, where it is spoken by about 10.7 million people, and the co-official language, along with Turkish of Cyprus, where it is spoken by 1.1 million people (Ethnologue). It is a de facto provincial language in some provinces of Albania, where it is spoken by some 15,000 people. In addition, it is spoken in many other countries where there are Greek immigrants.  Greek is one of the 23 official languages of the European Union. It is spoken by some 13 million people worldwide.

Click on the MLA Interactive Language Map to find out where Greek is spoken in the U.S.

Dialects

There are several principal forms of Greek:

  • Dhimotiki (δημοτική), the Demotic, or vernacular, language which was declared the official language of Greece in 1976.
  • Katharévusa,  an imitation of classical Greek, that was used for literary, juridic, administrative, and scientific purposes during the 19th and and first part of the 20th centuries.
  • Koine (Κοινή) is a  convergence of Dhimotikí and Katharévusa which is used for all official purposes and which serves as the medium of education in Greece today

 

Structure

Sound system

Vowels
Greek has five vowel phonemes, i.e., sounds that differentiate word meaning.

Close
i
u
Mid
e
o
Open
a

 

Consonants 
Greek has 24 consonant phonemes.

Stops
voiceless
p
t
k
voiced
b
d
g
Fricatives
voiceless
f
θ
s
ʃ
x
voiced
v
ð
z
ʒ
ɣ
Affricates
voiceless
ts
voiced
dz
Nasal
m
n
Lateral
l
Trill
r
Approximant
j
  • /p/, /t/, /k/ = not aspirated, i.e., produced without a puff of air, like English stops
  • /θ/ = th in thin
  • /ð/ = th in bathe
  • /ʃ/ = sh in shop
  • /ʒ/ = s in pleasure
  • /x/ and /ɣ/ have no equivalents in English
  • /r/ = rr in Spanish perro ‘dog’
  • /j/ = y in yet

 

Grammar


Greek is a highly inflected language. The description below pertains to modern spoken Greek

Nouns, adjectives, articles, and pronouns

Nouns are marked for gender, number, and case.

  • There are two numbers: singular and plural.
  • There are three genders: masculine, feminine, and neuter.
  • There are five cases: nominativegenitive (which also has a dative function), accusative,and vocative.
  • There are three declensions
  • Adjectives agree with the nouns they modify in gender, number, and case.
  • There are two articles: definite and indefinite that agree with the noun they modify. Both are inflected for gender and case. The definite article is also marked for number.
  • Subject personal pronouns are normally not expressed since they can be inferred from the verb endings.

 

Verbs
 Verbs agree with their subjects in person and number. They have the following features:

  • three persons: 1st, 2nd, 3rd
  • three numbers: singular, dual, plural
  • two conjugations
  • four moods: indicativeimperativesubjunctive, and optative
  • two voices: active, medio-passive (combination of middle and passive voice)
  • two aspects: imperfective, and perfective which are distinguished by separate verb stems
  • two tenses: non-past and past
  • Aspect + tense combinations produce the following forms: imperfective non-past, imperfective past, perfective non-past, perfective past.
  • Present/non-past forms can be combined with the Future particle θα (similar to English want to) to create imperfective and perfective future.

 

Word order
The predominant word order in Greek is Subject-Verb-Object. However, other orders are also possible since case endings indicate the role of words in sentences. Adjectives normally precede nouns, while possessors follow it, but this order can also vary.

Vocabulary


The bulk of Greek vocabulary evolved from Proto-Greek, the ancestor of all Greek dialects. Modern Greek has also borrowed words from other languages such as FrenchGerman, and most recently from English.

Below is a list of common Greek words and phrases with their approximate transliterations.

Hello γεια geia
Good bye αντίο antío
Please παρακαλώ  parakaló̱
Thank you ευχαριστώ ef̱charistó̱
Yes ναι nai
No

όχι

ochi
Man άνθρωπος ánthro̱pos
Woman γυναίκα gynaíka

 

Below are the Greek numerals 1-10.

1
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
9
10
ενα
δυo
Τρία
τέσσερα
πέντε

έξι

επτά
oκτώ
εννέα
δέκα

 

Writing

The first known script for writing Greek was the Linear B syllabary deciphered in 1953 by Michael Ventris. It was used for writing Mycenaean, an early form of Greek. After the fall of the Mycenaean civilization, there is no surviving evidence that writing was used until the invention of the Greek alphabet which is not related to Linear B. It was probably derived from a Semitic script, but there ino general agreement as to exactly which one. It is also possible that it was derived from the Phoenician alphabet. The modern Greek alphabet consists of the following letters which are used today in mathematics and science, as well as for many other purposes.

A α
B β
Γ γ
Δ δ
E ε
Z ζ
H η
Θ θ
I ι
K κ
Λ λ
M μ
alpha
beta
gamma
delta
epsilon
zeta
eta
theta
iota
kappa
lamda
mu
N v
Ξ ξ
O o
Π π
P p
Σ σ ς
Τ τ
Y υ
Φ φ
X x
Ψ ψ
Ω ω
nu
xi
omikron
pi
rho
sigma
tau
upsilon
phi
chi
psi
omega

 

For historical reasons,several phonemes of modern Greek have multiple orthographic representations:

  • /i/ is represented by η, ι, ει, oι, and υι
  • /e/ is represented by ει and αι
  • /o/ is represented by and ω

 

Take a look at Article 1 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in Greek.

OIKOYMENIKH ΔIAKHPYΞH ΓIA TA ANΘPΩΠINA ΔIKAIΩMATA
APΘPO 1

Transliteration
Óli i ánthropi yeniúnde eléftheri ke ísi stin axioprépia kai ta dikeómata. Íne prikizméni me loyikí ke sinídisi, ke ofilun na simberiféronde metaksí tus me pnévma adelfosínis.
Universal Declaration of Human Rights
Article 1
All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood.

Did You Know?

Greek influence on English vocabulary
Many modern scientific and technical words in English and other Western languages are derived from Greek. It has been estimated that over 10% of English vocabulary is of Greek origin. Greek borrowings are too numerous to list here. Below are just a few examples of English words and roots borrowed from Greek.

English words
from Greek
academy Akademeia ‘grove of Akademos’, a legendary Athenian of the Trojan War tales on whose estate Plato taught his school.
alphabet alphabetos, from alpha + beta, first two letters of the Greek alphabet
athlete athletes ‘contestant in the games’, from athlein ‘to contest for a prize’
bishop episkopos ‘watcher, overseer’, a title for government officials, later taken over in a Church sense, from epi– ‘over’ + skopos ‘watcher’
catholic katholikos, from kata ‘about’ + genitive case of holos ‘whole’
cosmos kosmos ‘orderly arrangement’
dinosaur deinos ‘terrible’ + sauros ‘lizard’
diploma diploma ‘license, chart’
drama drama (genitive of dramatos) ‘play, action’ from dram ‘to act, perform’
exodus exodus ‘ going out’, from ex– ‘out’ + hodos ‘way’
genesis genesis ‘origin, creation’
method methodus ‘scientific method of inquiry’ from meta– ‘after’ + hodos ‘way’
metropolis metropolis ‘mother city’ from meter ‘mother’ + polis ‘city’
monarchy monarkhia ‘absolute rule’ from monos ‘alone’ + arkhein ‘to rule’
psalm psalmos ‘song sung to a harp,’
rhythm rhythmos ‘measured flow, movement’
syntax syntaxis ‘a putting together’ from syn– ‘together’ + tassein ‘arrange’
thesaurus thesauros ‘treasury, storehouse’
hemi- hemi ‘half’
hetero- heteros ‘the other, another, different’
homo- homos ‘same’
-logy logos ‘study of’
macro- makros ‘long, large’
mega- megas ‘great, large, mighty’
micro- mikros ‘small’
ortho- orthos ‘straight, true, correct, regular’
-philia philia ‘affection’, from philos ‘loving’
-phobia phobia, from phobos ‘fear’
photo- photos ‘light’
tele- tele ‘far off’

Difficulty

Language Difficulty
questionHow difficult is it to learn Greek?
Greek is considered to be a Category II language in terms of difficulty for speakers of English.

9 Responses to Greek

  1. Alexandros Minousis

    Nice article, but I have some corrections: in the pronounciation of consonants, you have referred the sounds ʃ and ʒ. These sounds, although found in certain dialects, are not found in standard Greek. The Grammar department describes Classic Ancient Greek, whereas the pronounciation part is Modern Greek. You should at least state it; both pronounciation and grammar have changed considerably over the centuries. Furthermore, there seem to be some problems with the greek final s. You have written γειά σαζ and άνθρωποσ, whereas the correct is γειά σας and άνθρωπος. The ς is found on the w key on a greek keyboard

     
  2. Jonathan Mark

    My web site has information on Bart Jordan, who has deciphered advanced measures from Hellenic Greek, and assisted NASA and other scientific projects. More too on him is here: http://flybynews.wordpress.com/2011/04/25/evidence-of-technologically-advanced-ancient-civilizations/

     
  3. Foivos

    Dhimotiki (not dhimoti), just to correct the typo

     
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  5. Adrian Sakellaris

    Hi Irene,
    There’s just a few things that I would like to suggest to be changed or added alongside what you have, but most of these are things that are either misspelled or using letters incorrectly.

    #1: You’ve spelled the word for “Three” as «Τρεσ». Firstly, you are to only use the variant of Sigma depicted as «σ» at the beginning of words or in the middle, never at the end, that is when you would use the variant «ς» instead. «Τρεσ» is also spelled «Τρία» (“Tría”) which is the correct spelling, not «Τρεσ» or «Τρες».

    #2: You’ve spelled the word “Six” as «Εζι», it’s actually spelled «Έξι» (“Éksi”).

    #3: As-well-as the letter ‘Ypsilon’ (Ύψιλον) and ‘Iota’ (Ιώτα) together (I guess) will still make the elongated ‘I’ sound. But on top of that, the letter «Ύψιλον» will still make the elongated ‘I’ sounds just like a ‘Y’ and also an “OO” sound after an ‘O’ (eg. “-ου”). But also in many cases this letter will also make an ‘F’ and ‘V’ sound like in the words «Αυτό» (“Aftó”) = “This”, «Ρύζι» (“Rýzi”) = “Rice”, and «Μενού» (“Menóó”) = “Menu”.

    #4: The word for “No” in Greek is «Όχι» (“Óĥi”). The word you’ve used, «Δεν» (“Ðen”) is more used as the word for “Not”, not “No”

    #5: The word «Άνθροπως» is indeed a word for “Man”, it is also a more formal word and also a synonym for “Guy”, and “Folk” as well whereas the word «Άνδρας» (“Ánðras”) is the more direct and well-used word for “Man” instead.

    #6: and lastly the word “Welcome” in Greek is «Καλωσόρισμα» (“Kalōsórisma”), the in Greek the word “Katharéṿousa” is spelled «Καθαρεύουσα» and the Greek word for “Koine” is «Κοινή» pronounced as (or close to): “Kîní”.

    Cheers.

     
    • Irene Thompson

      Thanks for the helpful input. We will get to work on the Greek page shortly.

       

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