The Beginning

Greek belongs to the Indo-European language family. Proto-Greek speakers possibly came to the Greek peninsula in the 3rd millennium BC and Proto-Greek is assumed to be the ancestor to all known varieties of Greek. Since the 3rd millennium BC, Greek has been spoken uninterruptedly in Greece. Although scholars tend to emphasize the antiquity, the Greek language does not end with the classical period or the Hellenistic Koine. On the contrary, it shows a remarkable continuity through the Roman, Byzantine, and Ottoman Empires down to the present. Continue reading The Beginning

Hellenistic Koine

The convergence of the common dialects towards the Attic continued to such a degree that, when the Macedonians united all the Greeks under their banners and declared the Attic dialect as the official language of their state, this was easily accepted by all. Out of this linguistic unity emerges a new common language: the Koine (koine=shared, common), firmly based in the Attic dialect. Continue reading Hellenistic Koine

Byzantine Period

In the 4th century, the Roman Empire was divided and the Eastern Roman Empire arose with Constantinople as the capital city. The official language of the Eastern Roman Empire was Latin, but Greek was the language spoken, the language of the Church and education. Latin is slowly displaced from every aspect of public life. Gradually, the word Romans came to mean ‘the Greeks of the Eastern Roman Empire’ and Romania was Byzantium. Continue reading Byzantine Period

Modern Greek

The year 1453 as the end of the medieval period and the start of the Modern Greek period is only a conventional one. The historical periods in the development of the Greek language cannot be clearly defined, because the rate of internal renewal has been very conservative and the transitions between changes have been very smooth. Many elements in the Greek language are still unchanged from Ancient Greek. Continue reading Modern Greek

The Language Issue

Diglossia, which started in Byzantine times, the vast difference between the spoken language of the people, which was the descendant of the Koine, and the archaic language of scholars, education, and the Church, continued well into the modern era.

At the end of the 18th century and the beginning of Greek Enlightenment, there were two different camps of Greek scholars: a. those who cultivated archaism and pinned on it their hopes for the nation’s cultural renaissance, and b. those fighting archaism and suggesting the establishment of the people’s language – or as close to it as possible – as the medium of education and literature. Those latter ones believed that archaism was actually an obstacle for the education of the people, since they could not understand the language of instruction. Continue reading The Language Issue