Modern Greek (Νέα Ελληνικά [ˈnea eliniˈka] or
Νεοελληνική Γλώσσα [neoeliniˈci ˈɣlosa]
"Neo-Hellenic", historically and colloquially also known as
Ρωμαίικα "Romaic" or "Roman", and Γραικικά "Greek")
refers to the dialects and varieties of the
Greek language spoken in
the modern era.
The end of the
Medieval Greek period and the beginning of Modern Greek
is often symbolically assigned to the fall of the
Byzantine Empire in
1453, even though that date marks no clear linguistic boundary and
many characteristic modern features of the language arose centuries
earlier, between the fourth and the fifteenth centuries AD.
During most of the period, the language existed in a situation of
diglossia, with regional spoken dialects existing side by side with
learned, more archaic written forms, as with the demotic and learned
Dimotiki and Katharevousa) that co-existed throughout much
of the 19th and 20th centuries.
1.6 Southern Italian
2 Phonology and orthography
Syntax and morphology
3.1 Differences from Classical Greek
4 Sample text
6 Further reading
7 External links
Main article: Varieties of Modern Greek
Varieties of Modern Greek
Varieties of Modern Greek include several varieties, including
Demotic, Katharevousa, Pontic, Cappadocian, Mariupolitan, Southern
Italian, Yevanic and Tsakonian.
Main article: Demotic Greek
Strictly speaking, Demotic (Δημοτική) refers to all popular
Modern Greek that followed a common evolutionary path
from Koine and have retained a high degree of mutual intelligibility
to the present. As shown in Ptochoprodromic and Acritic poems, Demotic
Greek was the vernacular already before the 11th century and called
the "Roman" language of the Byzantine Greeks, notably in peninsular
Greece, the Greek islands, coastal Asia Minor, Constantinople, and
The distribution of major modern Greek dialect areas.
Today, a standardised variety of
Demotic Greek is the official
language of the Hellenic Republic (Greece) and Cyprus, and is referred
to as "Standard Modern Greek", or less strictly simply as "Modern
Greek" or "Demotic".
Demotic Greek comprises various regional varieties with minor
linguistic differences, mainly in phonology and vocabulary. Due to the
high degree of mutual intelligibility of these varieties, Greek
linguists refer to them as "idioms" of a wider "Demotic dialect",
known as "Koine Modern Greek" (Koini Neoelliniki - 'common
Neo-Hellenic'). Most English-speaking linguists however refer to them
as "dialects", emphasising degrees of variation only when necessary.
Demotic Greek varieties are divided into two main groups, Northern and
The main distinguishing feature common to Northern variants is a set
of standard phonological shifts in unaccented vowel phonemes: [o]
becomes [u], [e] becomes [i], and [i] and [u] are dropped. The dropped
vowels' existence is implicit, and may affect surrounding phonemes:
for example, a dropped [i] palatalizes preceding consonants, just like
an [i] that is pronounced. Southern variants do not exhibit these
Examples of Northern dialects are Rumelian (Constantinople), Epirote,
Macedonian, Thessalian, Thracian, Northern Euboean, Sporades,
Samos, Smyrna, and Sarakatsanika. The Southern category is divided
into groups that include:
Old Athenian-Maniot: Megara, Aegina, Athens, Cyme (Old Athenian) and
Mani Peninsula (Maniot)
Peloponnese (except Mani), Ionian Islands,
Attica, Boeotia, and Southern Euboea
Cretan-Cycladian: Cyclades, Crete, and several enclaves in Syria and
Southeastern: Chios, Ikaria, Dodecanese, and Cyprus.
Demotic Greek has officially been taught in monotonic Greek script
since 1982. Polytonic script remains popular in intellectual circles.
Main article: Katharevousa
Katharevousa (Καθαρεύουσα) is a semi-artificial sociolect
promoted in the 19th century at the foundation of the modern Greek
state, as a compromise between
Classical Greek and modern Demotic. It
was the official language of modern
Greece until 1976.
Katharevousa is written in polytonic Greek script. Also, while Demotic
Greek contains loanwords from Turkish, Italian, Latin, and other
languages, these have for the most part been purged from Katharevousa.
See also the
Greek language question.
Main article: Pontic Greek
Anatolian Greek dialects until 1923. Demotic in yellow. Pontic in
Cappadocian Greek in green, with green dots indicating
Cappadocian Greek villages in 1910.
Pontic (Ποντιακά) was originally spoken along the mountainous
Black Sea coast of Turkey, the so-called Pontus region, until most of
its speakers were killed or displaced to modern
Greece during the
Pontic genocide (1919–1921), followed later by the population
Turkey in 1923. (Small numbers of Muslim
Pontic Greek escaped these events and still reside in the
Pontic villages of Turkey.) It hails from Hellenistic and Medieval
Koine and preserves characteristics of Ionic due to ancient
colonizations of the region. Pontic evolved as a separate dialect from
Demotic Greek as a result of the region's isolation from the Greek
mainstream after the
Fourth Crusade fragmented the Byzantine Empire
into separate kingdoms (see Empire of Trebizond).
Main article: Cappadocian Greek
Cappadocian (Καππαδοκικά) is a Greek dialect of central
Turkey of the same fate as Pontic; its speakers settled in mainland
Greece after the
Greek genocide (1919–1921) and the later Population
Turkey in 1923.
Cappadocian Greek diverged
from the other
Byzantine Greek dialects earlier, beginning with the
Turkish conquests of central Asia Minor in the 11th and 12th
centuries, and so developed several radical features, such as the loss
of the gender for nouns. Having been isolated from the crusader
conquests (Fourth Crusade) and the later Venetian influence of the
Greek coast, it retained the
Ancient Greek terms for many words that
were replaced with Romance ones in Demotic Greek. The poet Rumi,
whose name means "Roman", referring to his residence amongst the
"Roman" Greek speakers of Cappadocia, wrote a few poems in Cappadocian
Greek, one of the earliest attestations of the
Main article: Rumeíka
Rumeíka (Ρωμαίικα) or Mariupolitan Greek is a dialect spoken
in about 17 villages around the northern coast of the
Sea of Azov
Sea of Azov in
Ukraine and Russia. Mariupolitan Greek is closely related to
Pontic Greek and evolved from the dialect of Greek spoken in Crimea,
which was a part of the
Byzantine Empire and then the Pontic Empire of
Trebizond, until that latter state fell to the Ottomans in 1461.
Thereafter, the Crimean Greek state continued to exist as the
independent Greek Principality of Theodoro. The Greek-speaking
Crimea were invited by
Catherine the Great
Catherine the Great to resettle
in the new city of
Mariupol after the
Russo-Turkish War (1768–74)
Russo-Turkish War (1768–74) to
escape the then Muslim-dominated Crimea. Mariupolitan's main
features have certain similarities with both Pontic (e.g. the lack of
synizesis of -ía, éa) and the northern varieties of the core
dialects (e.g. the northern vocalism).
Areas in Southern
Italy where the
Griko and Calabrian dialects are
Southern Italian or Italiot (Κατωιταλιώτικα) comprises
both Calabrian and
Griko varieties, spoken by around 15 villages in
the regions of
Calabria and Apulia. The Southern Italian dialect is
the last living trace of Hellenic elements in Southern
Italy that once
formed Magna Graecia. Its origins can be traced to the Dorian Greek
settlers who colonised the area from
Corinth in 700 BC.
It has received significant
Koine Greek influence through Byzantine
Greek colonisers who re-introduced
Greek language to the region,
starting with Justinian's conquest of
Italy in late antiquity and
continuing through the Middle Ages.
Griko and Demotic are mutually
intelligible to some extent, but the former shares some common
characteristics with Tsakonian.
Main article: Yevanic language
Yevanic is a recently extinct language of Romaniote Jews. The language
was already in decline for centuries until most of its speakers were
killed in the Holocaust. Afterward, the language was mostly kept by
remaining Romaniote emigrants to Israel, where it was displaced by
Main article: Tsakonian language
Tsakonian (Τσακωνικά) is spoken in its full form today only
in a small number of villages around the town of
Leonidio in the
Arcadia in the Southern Peloponnese, and partially spoken
further afield in the area. Tsakonian evolved directly from Laconian
(ancient Spartan) and therefore descends from Doric Greek.
It has limited input from Hellenistic Koine and is significantly
different from and not mutually intelligible with other Greek
varieties (such as
Demotic Greek and Pontic Greek). Some linguists
consider it a separate language because of this.
Phonology and orthography
Modern Greek phonology, Greek orthography, and Greek
A series of radical sound changes starting in
Koine Greek has led to a
phonological system in
Modern Greek that is significantly different
from that of Ancient Greek. Instead of the rich vowel system of
Ancient Greek, with its four vowel-height levels, length distinction,
and multiple diphthongs,
Modern Greek has a simple system of five
vowels. This came about through a series of mergers, especially
towards /i/ (iotacism).
Modern Greek consonants are plain (voiceless unaspirated) stops,
voiced stops, or voiced and unvoiced fricatives.
Modern Greek has not
preserved length in vowels or consonants.
Archaic local variants
Use in other languages
Use as scientific symbols
Modern Greek is written in the Greek alphabet, which has 24 letters,
each with a capital and lowercase (small) form. The letter sigma
additionally has a special final form. There are two diacritical
symbols, the acute accent which indicates stress and the diaeresis
marking a vowel letter as not being part of a digraph. Greek has a
mixed historical and phonemic orthography, where historical spellings
are used if their pronunciation matches modern usage. The
correspondence between consonant phonemes and graphemes is largely
unique, but several of the vowels can be spelt in multiple ways.
Thus reading is easy but spelling is difficult.
A number of diacritical signs were used until 1982, when they were
officially dropped from Greek spelling as no longer corresponding to
the modern pronunciation of the language.
Monotonic orthography is
today used in official usage, in schools and for most purposes of
everyday writing in Greece. Polytonic orthography, besides being used
for older varieties of Greek, is still used in book printing,
especially for academic and belletristic purposes, and in everyday use
by some conservative writers and elderly people. The Greek Orthodox
Church continues to use polytonic and the late Christodoulos of
Athens and the Holy Synod of the Church of Greece have
requested the reintroduction of polytonic as the official script.
The Greek vowel letters and digraphs with their pronunciations are:
⟨α⟩ /a/, ⟨ε, αι⟩ /e/, ⟨η, ι, υ, ει, οι, υι⟩
/i/, ⟨ο, ω⟩ /o/, and ⟨ου⟩ /u/. The digraphs ⟨αυ⟩,
⟨ευ⟩ and ⟨ηυ⟩ are pronounced /av/, /ev/, and /iv/
respectively before vowels and voiced consonants, and /af/, /ef/ and
/if/ respectively before voiceless consonants.
The Greek letters ⟨φ⟩, ⟨β⟩, ⟨θ⟩, and ⟨δ⟩ are
pronounced /f/, /v/, /θ/, and /ð/ respectively. The letters ⟨γ⟩
and ⟨χ⟩ are pronounced /ɣ/ and /x/, respectively. Before mid or
close front vowels (/e/ and /i/), they are fronted, becoming [ʝ] and
[ç], respectively, which, in some dialects, notably those of Crete
and the Mani, are further fronted to [ʑ] or [ʒ] and [ɕ] or [ʃ],
respectively. Μoreover, before mid or close back vowels (/o/ and
/u/), ⟨γ⟩ tends to be pronounced further back than a prototypical
velar, between a velar [ɣ] and an uvular [ʁ] (transcribed ɣ̄). The
letter ⟨ξ⟩ stands for the sequence /ks/ and ⟨ψ⟩ for /ps/.
The digraphs ⟨γγ⟩ and ⟨γκ⟩ are generally pronounced [ɡ],
but are fronted to [ɟ] before front vowels (/e/ and /i/) and tend to
be pronounced [ɡ̄] before the back vowels (/o/ and /u/). When these
digraphs are preceded by a vowel, they are pronounced [ŋɡ] and
[ɲɟ] before front vowels (/e/ and /i/) and [ŋ̄ɡ̄] before the
back (/o/ and /u/). The digraph ⟨γγ⟩ may be pronounced [ŋɣ] in
some words ([ɲʝ] before front vowels and [ŋ̄ɣ̄] before back
ones). The pronunciation [ŋk] for the digraph ⟨γκ⟩ is extremely
rare, but could be heard in literary and scholarly words or when
reading ancient texts (by a few readers); normally it retains its
"original" pronunciation [ŋk] only in the trigraph ⟨γκτ⟩,
where ⟨τ⟩ prevents the sonorization of ⟨κ⟩ by ⟨γ⟩
Syntax and morphology
Modern Greek grammar
Street sign in
Rethymno in honor of
Psara island: Psaron (in genitive)
Street, historic island of the 1821 Revolution
Modern Greek is largely a synthetic language.
Modern Greek and
Albanian are the only two modern
Indo-European languages that retain a
synthetic passive (the North Germanic passive is a recent innovation
based on a grammaticalized reflexive pronoun).
Differences from Classical Greek
Modern Greek has changed from
Classical Greek in morphology and
syntax, losing some features and gaining others.
participles (except the past participle)
third person imperative.
modal particle θα (a contraction of ἐθέλω ἵνα → θέλω
να → θε' να → θα), which marks future and conditional
auxiliary verb forms for certain verb forms
aspectual distinction in future tense between imperfective (present)
and perfective (aorist)
Modern Greek has developed a simpler system of grammatical prefixes
marking tense and aspect, such as augmentation and reduplication, and
has lost some patterns of noun declension and some distinct forms in
the declensions that were retained.
Most of these features are shared with other languages spoken in the
Balkan peninsula (see Balkan sprachbund), although Greek does not show
all typical Balkan areal features, such as the postposed article.
Because of the influence of Katharevousa, however, Demotic is not
commonly used in its purest form. Archaisms are still widely used,
especially in writing and in more formal speech, as well as in some
everyday expressions, such as the dative εντάξει ('OK',
literally 'in order') or the third person imperative ζήτω! ('long
The following is a sample text in
Modern Greek of the Article 1 of the
Universal Declaration of Human Rights
Universal Declaration of Human Rights (by the United Nations):
Άρθρο 1: Όλοι οι άνθρωποι γεννιούνται
ελεύθεροι και ίσοι στην αξιοπρέπεια
και τα δικαιώματα. Είναι προικισμένοι
με λογική και συνείδηση, και οφείλουν
να συμπεριφέρονται μεταξύ τους με
Modern Greek in Greek alphabet
Arthro 1: Oloi oi anthropoi genniountai eleutheroi kai isoi stin
axioprepeia kai ta dikaiomata. Einai proikismenoi me logiki kai
syneidisi, kai ofeiloun na symperiferontai metaxy tous me pneuma
Modern Greek in Roman Transliteration, faithful to script
Árthro 1: Óli i ánthropi yeniúnde eléftheri ke ísi stin
aksioprépia ke ta dhikeómata. Íne prikizméni me loyikí ke
sinídhisi, ke ofílun na simberiféronde metaksí tus me pnévma
Modern Greek in Transcription, faithful to pronunciation
[ˈarθro ˈena ‖ ˈoli i ˈanθropi ʝeˈɲunde eˈlefθeri ce
ˈisi stin aksioˈprepia ce ta ðiceˈomata ‖ ˈɪne priciˈzmeni me
loʝiˈci ce siˈniðisi ce oˈfilun na simberiˈferonde metaˈksi
tuz me ˈpnevma aðelfoˈsinis]
Modern Greek in IPA
Article 1: All the human beings are born free and equal in the dignity
and the rights. Are endowed with reason and conscience, and have to
behave between them with spirit of brotherhood.
— Gloss, word-for-word
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.
— Translation, grammatical
Nationalencyklopedin "Världens 100 största språk 2007" The
World's 100 Largest Languages in 2007
^ Jeffries 2002, p. 69: "It is difficult to know how many ethnic
Greeks there are in Albania. The Greek government, it is typically
claimed, says there are around 300,000 ethnic Greeks in Albania, but
most Western estimates are around the 200,000 mark ..."
^ "Greek in Hungary". Database for the European Charter for Regional
or Minority Languages. Public Foundation for European Comparative
Minority Research. Archived from the original on 29 April 2013.
Retrieved 31 May 2013.
^ "Italy: Cultural Relations and Greek Community". Hellenic Republic:
Ministry of Foreign Affairs. 9 July 2013. The Greek Italian community
numbers some 30,000 and is concentrated mainly in central Italy. The
age-old presence in
Italy of Italians of Greek descent – dating back
to Byzantine and Classical times – is attested to by the Griko
dialect, which is still spoken in the
Magna Graecia region. This
historically Greek-speaking villages are Condofuri, Galliciano,
Roccaforte del Greco, Roghudi, Bova and Bova Marina, which are in the
Calabria region (the capital of which is Reggio). The Grecanic region,
including Reggio, has a population of some 200,000, while speakers of
Griko dialect number fewer that 1,000 persons.
^ Tsitselikis 2013, pp. 294–295.
^ "Language Use in the United States: 2011" (PDF). United States
Census. Retrieved 17 October 2015.
^ Hammarström, Harald; Forkel, Robert; Haspelmath, Martin, eds.
Modern Greek (1453–)".
Glottolog 3.0. Jena, Germany: Max
Planck Institute for the Science of Human History.
^ Based on: Brian Newton: The Generative Interpretation of Dialect. A
Modern Greek Phonology, Cambridge 1972,
^ Dimitriadis, Alexis. "On Clitics, Prepositions and Case Licensing in
Standard and Macedonian Greek". In Alexiadou, Artemis; Horrocks,
Geoffrey C.; Stavrou, Melita. Studies in Greek Syntax.
^ Dawkins, R.M. 1916.
Modern Greek in Asia Minor. A study of dialect
of Silly, Cappadocia and Pharasa. Cambridge: Cambridge University
^ a b Dawkins, R.M. 1916.
Modern Greek in Asia Minor. A study of
dialect of Silly, Cappadocia and Pharasa. Cambridge: Cambridge
^ Δέδες, Δ. 1993. Ποιήματα του Μαυλανά
Ρουμή. Τα Ιστορικά 10.18–19: 3–22. (in Greek)
^ Meyer, G. 1895. Die griechischen Verse in Rabâbnâma. Byzantinische
Zeitschrift 4: 401–411. (in German)
^ "Greek Verses of
Rumi & Sultan Walad". Archived from the
original on 8 October 2017.
^ The Greek Poetry of Jalaluddin Rumi
^ Dawkins, Richard M. "The Pontic dialect of
Modern Greek in Asia
Minor and Russia". Transactions of the Philological Society 36.1
^ "Greeks of the Steppe". The Washington Post. 10 November 2012.
Retrieved 25 October 2014.
^ Kontosopoulos (2008), 109
^ cf. Iotacism
^ G. Th. Pavlidis and V. Giannouli, "
Spelling Errors Accurately
Differentiate USA-Speakers from Greek Dyslexics: Ιmplications for
Causality and Treatment" in R.M. Joshi et al. (eds) Literacy
Acquisition: The Role of Phonology, Morphology and Orthography.
Washington, 2003. ISBN 1-58603-360-3
^ ""Φιλιππικός" Χριστόδουλου κατά του
μονοτονικού συστήματος". in.gr News. Retrieved
^ "Την επαναφορά του πολυτονικού ζητά η
Διαρκής Ιερά Σύνοδος". in.gr News. Retrieved
Ανδριώτης (Andriotis), Νικόλαος Π. (Nikolaos P.)
(1995). Ιστορία της ελληνικής γλώσσας:
(τέσσερις μελέτες) (History of the Greek language: four
studies). Θεσσαλονίκη (Thessaloniki): Ίδρυμα
Τριανταφυλλίδη. ISBN 960-231-058-8.
Vitti, Mario (2001). Storia della letteratura neogreca. Roma: Carocci.
Wikibooks has more on the topic of: Modern Greek
Portal for the Greek Language (modern & ancient) of the Center for
the Greek Language
Hellenic National Corpus of the Institute for Language & Speech
Audio example of Modern Greek
Online course "Filoglossia" by ILSP
Greek online course "Greek by Radio" from
Cyprus radio broadcasting
CyBC in English, 105 lessons with Real audio files
Dictionaries and glossaries
Greek–English Dictionary Georgacas for
Modern Greek Literature
Triantafyllides Dictionary for
Standard Modern Greek
Standard Modern Greek (Lexicon of the
Modern Greek Koine)
Modern Greek - English glossary
English–Greek Dictionary (Modern Greek)
Modern Greek grammar
Official website of the Center for the Greek Language
Modern Greek Studies of the Manolis Triandaphyllidis
Foundation at the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki
Center for the Research of the
Modern Greek Dialects and Idioms of the
Cyprus Linguistics Society (CyLing)
Institute for Language & Speech Processing
Origin and genealogy
Mycenaean Greek (c. 1600–1100 BC)
Ancient Greek (c. 800–300 BC)
Koine Greek (c. 300 BC–AD 330)
Medieval Greek (c. 330–1453)
Modern Greek (since 1453)
Attic and Ionic
Jewish Koine Greek
Koine Greek grammar
Cyrillization and Romanization
Promotion and study
Hellenic Foundation for Culture
Center for the Greek Language
Morphemes in English
Terms of endearment
Greek language question
Ages of Greek
C. 3rd millennium BC
C. 1600–1100 BC
C. 800–300 BC
C. 300 BC – AD 330