Greek (ελληνικά) is part of the Hellenic branch of Indo-European languages and spans 34 centuries of written records. It is one of the world’s oldest recorded languages still in use today with an estimated 13 million speakers. Greek is the official language of Greece and Cyprus and is also one of 23 official languages of the European Union. It is also spoken by traditional and emigrant communities worldwide, in countries including Albania, Italy, Turkey, Germany, the USA and Australia.
Greek was the official language of the Byzantine Empire and a lingua franca in the Mediterranean in classical times. Greece finally gained independence from the Ottoman Empire in 1830 and the dialects spoken in the newly formed kingdom (centring around Athens) became the basis for today’s Greek vernacular. Standard Modern Greek, though it has its origins in the early 11th century, differs from Ancient Greek, particularly in sentence structure and the meaning of words, although historical changes are slight compared to other languages and most present-day Greek speakers would find Ancient Greek texts relatively easy to understand. The canon of Ancient Greek literature includes monumentally important works such as The Iliad and The Odyssey by Homer. Greece also produced the great philosophers, Socrates, Aristotle and Plato.
Greek vocabulary was influenced by Latin, Venetian and Turkish, and more recently it has adopted words from modern languages such as French and English. There are several core dialects, mainly split between the Northern and Southern regions of Greece for reasons of accent, which are all mutually intelligible. There are also some outlying dialects which are more divergent from Standard Greek, such as Griko, spoken in areas of southern Italy. Many modern languages have adopted words from Greek, including English which has an estimated 50,000 words derived from Greek, such as ‘mathematics’, ‘democracy’ and ‘philosophy’. Greek, along with Latin, continues to form the foundation for international scientific and technological terminology.
The Greek alphabet has been in use since about 900 BCE. Originally the letters only existed in upper case (capitals), but lower case letters were introduced in medieval times to facilitate a faster, more convenient style of writing. A writing reform took place more recently, in 1982, which did away with many diacritics (accented letters) in Modern Greek, replacing them with monotonic orthography.
The Centre for Neo-Hellenic Studies is a not-for-profit organisation founded to promote modern Greek literature and culture, both in Greece and abroad. The Centre for the Greek Language is an educational and cultural organisation which aims to promote Greek language and culture. It operates as an advisory body to the Greek Ministry of Education on language policy and education.
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