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Irene Droppert
Dutch - Modern Greek
Vlaardingen-The Netherlands

The Greek language belongs to the Indo-European language family and has been spoken since around the late 3rd century before Christ in South East Europe (the Balkan Peninsula). The script for this language, Linear B, was used until about the 9th century BC when the Greek alphabet was written. The Linear B script had been composed of characters, each of which symbolised an open syllable or a vowel. In addition characters were included of which the meaning was denoted as an image. This script had been originated from the Linear A script, which existed as early as 3000 BC in Crete. Until now Linear A script has not been fully deciphered as a language.

The origin of the first alphabetic writing can be found in Egypt, in the Sinai. There the Proto Sinaitic writing was spoken by the Canaanites around 1850 BC. Our alphabet has been derived from the Proto Sinaitic alphabet, as well as Cyrillic, Latin and Greek. When this writing spread across Canaan it slowly transitioned into the Phoenician writing. It is assumed that from this writing the Greek alphabet was derived.

Therefore the Greek alphabet is not originated from the Linear B script, but probably from the Phoenician Script. In this writing the vowels were missing and it was written from right to left and reversed. It was a Semitic language, placed with the Afro-Asiatic language family, which includes for example Arabic, Aramaic and Hebrew. In the 8th century BC, this writing had been adapted by the ancient Greeks to their own language needs. By adding vowels they created the Greek alphabet. The Greeks were the first with a full alphabetic script, which is still used today, albeit with some minor modifications.

The development of the Greek can be divided into six periods a.f.:

  • The Proto Greek - It is supposed that the Proto Greek language is the ancestor of all known varieties in the greek language and that it was probably spoken in the Balkans since around 3000 BC.
  • The Mycenaean Greek - The second oldest type of the language or a dialect. It is registered from about 1600 years - 1100 years BC and was spoken in Crete and the south of the Peloponesis. Because of existing evidence it was supposed to be an early form of the current Greek.
  • Classical Greek - (from appr. 800 years - 300 BC) The Greek alphabet was developed. There were great mutual differences between the many dialects, but it was widely spoken in the Roman Empire, even when it was not used in the Middle Ages in Western Europe anymore.
  • The Koiné Greek - (from appr. 300 BC till the year 500) The merging of many dialects with the dialect of Athens (the Attic dialect), resulted in the creation of the first common dialect. The New Testament was written in this dialect. Grammatical difficulties were reduced, the dative (the third case) and the wishing mood (may it happens) completely disappeared, except for a few expressions. Partly because of the conquests of Alexander the Great the Attic dialect was in this period pre-eminently the universal language.
  • The Medieval Greek - (from 500-1453) With the fall of Constantinople on May 29, 1453, the Ancient Greek was reimported into the rest of Europe. This continuation of Koiné Greek during the Middle Ages as the official and national language until the fall of the Byzantine Empire, is also known as the Byzantine Greek. The infinitive (the whole verb), as well as the old future, the perfect and the pluperfect were replaced by highly simplified descriptions with auxiliary verbs.
  • Modern Greek - (as of 1453) Independently caused by the Koiné Greek, much of the language can be traced back to the late Byzantine period. From 1830, the end of the Turkish occupation, two forms of the language were used, namely the religious, administrative and academic Katharevousa (Καθαρεύουσα = lit. purified language - derived from the verb «καθαρίζω») and Demotiki (Δημοτική = vernacular). This language issue took almost 150 years, since it was only in 1976, when the vernacular language became the official language in Greece.

The Greek language is one of the oldest languages in the world and the oldest language in Europe. The language is dating back to the second millennium BC and was hence a source of linguistic loanwords for other European languages. In particular the medical terminology is for a very large part based on ancient Greek medical terms. Close contact between the Greek civilization and other civilizations had their effect with numerous linguistic influences on the Greek language at the same time. When studying Greek history of the last two thousand years we find numerous conquests upon some Greek geographical areas, with the consequence that the Greek language, and in particular the local dialects, are included as such or modified numerous linguistic items to fit in the Greek grammar and the syntax.

These numbers are mainly represented in Greece and Cyprus, but also by the Greek emigrants around the world. It is the only official language in the Greek Republic and one of the two official languages of Cyprus.

Once evaluated from Ancient Greek, the tendency to use the term Common New Greek Language (Κοινή Νεοελληνική) for the Modern Greek colloquial language yet began only after the early 21st century.

When Greece joined the European Community in 1981, a spelling change was introduced in 1982 by a parliamentary committee. There was a lapse of the old breathing signs (spiritus = latin for expiration) and accents were reduced to a single accent (o τόνος) placed on a vowel of the syllable with the accent (tο μονοτονικό σύστημα).

Although the abundance of declension categories from the Ancient Greek has been reduced nowaday, in Modern Greek a subdivision in conjugation and declension of nouns, adjectives and verbs still was made.

Excluding the loss of the 3rd case (dative )and the restructuring of several declension and conjugation categories the old system was retained. In the verb system however the loss of the aforementioned categories is slightly larger and new developed constructive descriptions replaced the old ones.

Because of the many declension and conjugation processes it is important that the student masters the basic patterns. We would also like to pay due attention to the structure of sentences and expresssions, in which in particular the syntax uses up an important place.

The purpose of the website is to learn the Modern Greek language as currently spoken and give a sufficient view of it. We would like to report a reliable guide about using the Greek grammar, both the linguistic approach as the linguistic material that we use to illustrate different aspects of the language. We will try to elucidate the special difficulties for English speaking students, and the most important differences between the two languages.

The grammar is meant as a reference, and not as a study in order to achieve a certain level. We assume that students know how to use other material for this purpose. Course participants are able to consult the grammar as a complement to basic material in course books in order to get a more comprehensive view of the Greek grammar and the patterns of its contemporary use.

Because this site is only about Modern Greek, we will henceforth use the abbreviation MG!