The Greek language reference article from the English Wikipedia on 24-Jul-2004
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Greek language

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The Greek language, called Hellenic or Ellenika (Ελληνικά) by the people who speak and write it, is an Indo-European language, born in Greece and once spoken also along the coast of Asia Minor and in southern Italy. In classical times there were a variety of spoken dialects, most notably Ionic, Doric, and Attic.

Modern Greek (Ελληνικά) (Ellinika)
Spoken in: Greece, Cyprus
Region: --
Total speakers: 14 million
Ranking: 74
Genetic
classification:
Indo-European
 Greek
  Attic
   Modern Greek
Official status
Official language of: Greece, Cyprus
Regulated by: Greek Language Academy
Language codes
ISO 639-1 el
ISO 639-2(B) gre
ISO 639-2(T) ell
SIL GRK

Modern Greek is a living tongue and one of the richest surviving languages today, with more than 600,000 words. Some scholars have overly stressed similarity to millennia-old Greek languages. Its interintelligibility with ancient Greek is a matter of debate. It is claimed that a "reasonably well educated" speaker of the modern tongue can read the ancient language, but it is not made plain how much of that education consists of exposure to vocabulary and grammar obsolete in normal communication. From 1834 to 1976 there was an attempt to impose Katharevousa ("purified" language—an attempt to "correct" centuries of natural linguistic changes) as the only acceptable form of Greek in Greece. After 1976, Demotiki (speech of the people) was finally accepted by the Greek government as both the de facto and de jure forms of the language. A large number of words and expressions have remained unchanged through the centuries, and have found their way into a number of other languages, including Latin, German, French, and English. Typical examples of such words include mostly terminology names, like astronomy, philosophy, thespian, anthropology etc. See also 'Zolotas' Speech' below.

There are many theories about the origins of the Greek language. One theory suggests that it originated with a migration of proto-Greek speakers into Greece, which is dated to any period between 3200 BC to 1900 BC Another theory maintains that Greek evolved in Greece itself out of an early Indo-European language.

The first known script for writing Greek was the Linear B syllabary, used for the archaic Mycenaean dialect. Linear B was not deciphered until 1953. After the fall of the Mycenaean civilization, there was a period of about five hundred years when writing was either not used, or nothing has survived to the present day. Since early classical times, Greek has been written in the Greek alphabet, said to be derived from Phoenician. This happened about the time of Homer, and there is one obscure, fleeting reference in Homer's poetry suggesting that he might have been aware of writing.

Attic Greek was the language of Athens; most of the surviving classical Greek literature is in Attic Greek. Alexander the Great was instrumental in combining these dialects to form Koine Greek (from the Greek word for "common") (sometimes called New Testament Greek after its most famous work of literature). This allowed his combined army to communicate and was also taught to the inhabitants of the regions that he conquered, turning it into a "world language". The language evolved during the Hellenistic period, and for many centuries was the "Lingua Franca" of the Roman Empire. From this descended the Greek that was the official language of the Eastern Roman Empire (or Byzantine Empire) and finally the Modern Greek of today. The decline of reading and writing during the Ottoman domination of most Greek-speaking areas caused the language to change considerably during this time. Modern Greek has a somewhat artificial, conservative form called Katharevousa, which includes numerous Ancient Greek words pronounced in a modern way, and the spoken form Dhimotiki, which since 1976 is the official language of Greece, instead of Katharevousa.

Greek, like all of the older Indo-European languages, is highly inflected—for example, nouns have five cases, three genders, and three numbers, verbs have three moods, three voices, as well as three persons and three numbers and various other forms. Modern Greek is one of the few Indo-European languages that has retained a synthetic passive.

Here is the definite article of Ancient Greek declined:

SINGULARPLURAL
Masc.Fem.NeuterMasc.Fem.Neuter
Nominative (subject)hotohoihaita
Genitive (possessive)toutêstoutôntôntôn
Dative (indirect object+)toistaistois
Accusative (direct object)tontêntotoustasta
Vocative (address sb)ôôôôôô

Modern Greek has lost the dative (except in a few expressions like en taxei OK), and some of the other forms have changed phonetically. In the following table the left-hand side uses a phonetic form suitable for Modern Greek only, while the right-hand side is the same thing written in the transcription for Ancient Greek, for easier comparison with the table above:

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Modern | Ancient
SINGULARPLURAL | SINGULARPLURAL
MFN MFN | MFN MFN
Nominative oito iita | oêto oioita
Genitive tutistu tontonton | toutêstou tôntôntôn
Accusative to(n)ti(n)to tustista | to(n)tê(n)to toustista

Other noticeable changes in the Greek grammar include the loss of the infinitive and the simplification of the system of grammatical prefixes, like augment and reduplication.

The main phonetic changes between Ancient and Modern Greek are a simplification in the vowel system and a change of some consonants to fricative values. Ancient Greek had five short vowels, seven long vowels, and numerous diphthongs. This has been reduced to a simple five-vowel system. Most noticeably, the sounds i, ê, y, ei, oi have all become i.

The consonants b, d, g became v, dh, gh (dh as in English this). The aspirated consonants ph, th, kh became f, th, h—where the new pronunciation of th is /T/ as in English thin.

Greek has sandhi rules, some written, some not. ν before bilabials and velars is pronounced "m" and "ng" respectively, and is written μ (συμπαθεια) and γ (συγχρονιζω) when this happens within a word. The word εστι "is" in Ancient Greek gains ν, and the accusative articles τον and την in Modern Greek lose it, depending on the start of the next word; this is called "movable nu". In τον πατερα "the father" the first word is pronounced "tom", and in Modern Greek (but not Ancient Greek, which had an independent "b" sound) the second word is pronounced "batera" because "mp" is pronounced as "mb".

Table of contents
1 Zolotas' Speech
2 See also
3 External links

Zolotas' Speech

in 1954 Professor Xenophon Zolotas made a speech in Harvard University. The speech was of course in English but full of words derived by Greek. However he was understood by all!

Kyrie,

I eulogize the archons of the Panethnic Numismatic Thesaurus and the Ecumenical Trapeza for the orthodoxy of their axioms, methods and policies, although there is an episode of cacophony of the Trapeza with Hellas. With enthusiasm we dialogue and synagonize at the synods of our didymous Organizations in which polymorphous economic ideas and dogmas are analyzed and synthesized. Our critical problems such as the numismatic plethora generate some agony and melancholy. This phenomenon is characteristic of our epoch. But, to my thesis, we have the dynamism to program therapeutic practices as a prophylaxis from chaos and catastrophe. In parallel, a panethnic unhypocritical economic synergy and harmonization in a democratic climate is basic. I apologize for my eccentric monologue. I emphasize my eucharistia to you Kyrie, to the eugenic and generous American Ethnos and to the organizers and protagonists of this Amphictyony and the gastronomic symposia.

Mr Xenophon Zolotas

See also

External links

Dictionaries to/from other languages