Hellenic languages

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Greece, Cyprus, Italy, Anatolia and the Black Sea region
Linguistic classification: Indo-European
Proto-language: Proto-Greek
ISO 639-5: grk
Linguasphere: 56= (phylozone)
Glottolog: (not evaluated)

Hellenic is the branch of the Indo-European language family that includes Greek.[2] In most classifications, Hellenic consists of Greek alone,[3][4] but some linguists use the term Hellenic to refer to a group consisting of Greek proper and other varieties thought to be related but different enough to be separate languages, either among ancient neighbouring languages[5] or among modern spoken dialects.[6]

Greek and ancient Macedonian

A family under the name "Hellenic" has been suggested to group together Greek proper and the ancient Macedonian language, which is barely attested and whose degree of relatedness to Greek is not well known. The suggestion of a "Hellenic" group with two branches, in this context, represents the idea that Macedonian was not simply a dialect within Greek but a "sibling language" outside the group of Greek varieties proper.[5][7] Other approaches include Macedonian as a dialect of Greek proper or as an unclassified Paleo-Balkan language.[8]

Modern Hellenic languages

In addition, some linguists use the term "Hellenic" to refer to modern Greek in a narrow sense together with certain other, divergent modern varieties deemed separate languages on the basis of a lack of mutual intelligibility.[9] Separate language status is most often posited for Tsakonian,[9] which is thought to be uniquely a descendant of Doric rather than Attic Greek, followed by Pontic and Cappadocian Greek of Anatolia.[10] The Griko or Italiot varieties of southern Italy are also not readily intelligible to speakers of standard Greek.[11] Separate status is sometimes also argued for Cypriot, though this is not as easily justified.[12] In contrast, Yevanic (Jewish Greek) is mutually intelligible with standard Greek but is sometimes considered a separate language for ethnic and cultural reasons.[12] Greek linguistics traditionally treats all of these as dialects of a single language.[3][13][14]

Language tree


Standard Modern Greek


Cypriot Greek

Cappadocian Greek


Crimean Greek (Mariupolitan)

Romano-Greek (a mixed language)

Italiot Greek 

Griko (Doric-influenced)

Calabrian Greek

Aeolic (extinct)

Arcadocypriot (extinct; related to Mycenaean?)

Pamphylian (extinct)

Mycenaean (extinct)


Tsakonian (Doric-influenced Koine?; moribund)

(?) Ancient Macedonian (extinct)


Hellenic constitutes a branch of the Indo-European language family. The ancient languages that might have been most closely related to it, ancient Macedonian[15] and Phrygian,[16] are not well enough documented to permit detailed comparison. Among Indo-European branches with living descendants, Greek is often argued to have the closest genetic ties with Armenian[17] (see also Graeco-Armenian) and the Indo-Iranian languages[18] (see Graeco-Aryan).[19]

See also


  1. ^ Nordhoff, Sebastian; Hammarström, Harald; Forkel, Robert; Haspelmath, Martin, eds. (2013). "Graeco-Phrygian". Glottolog 2.2. Leipzig: Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology. 
  2. ^ In other contexts, "Hellenic" and "Greek" are generally synonyms.
  3. ^ a b Browning (1983), Medieval and Modern Greek, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
  4. ^ Joseph, Brian D. and Irene Philippaki-Warburton (1987): Modern Greek. London: Routledge, p. 1.
  5. ^ a b B. Joseph (2001): "Ancient Greek". In: J. Garry et al. (eds.) Facts about the World's Major Languages: An Encyclopedia of the World's Major Languages, Past and Present. (Online Paper)
  6. ^ David Dalby. The Linguasphere Register of the World's Languages and Speech Communities (1999/2000, Linguasphere Press). Pp. 449-450.
  7. ^ LinguistList, Language Family Tree (online database)
  8. ^ For a survey of different views, see Brixhe C., Panayotou A. (1994), "Le Macédonien", in Bader, F. (ed.), Langues indo-européennes, Paris:CNRS éditions, 1994, pp 205–220.
  9. ^ a b Mosely, Christopher (2007): Encyclopedia of the World's Endangered Languages. London: Routledge, p. 232.
  10. ^ Ethnologue: Family tree for Greek.
  11. ^ N. Nicholas (1999), The Story of Pu: The Grammaticalisation in Space and Time of a Modern Greek Complementiser. PhD Disseration, University of Melbourne. p. 482f. (PDF)
  12. ^ a b Joseph, Brian; Tserdanelis, Georgios (2003). "Modern Greek". In Roelcke, Thorsten. Variationstypologie: Ein sprachtypologisches Handbuch der europäischen Sprachen. Berlin: de Gruyter. p. 836. 
  13. ^ G. Horrocks (1997), Greek: A History of the Language and its Speakers. London: Longman.
  14. ^ P. Trudgill (2002), Ausbau Sociolinguistics and Identity in Greece, in: P. Trudgill, Sociolinguistic Variation and Change, Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press.
  15. ^ Roger D. Woodard. "Introduction," The Cambridge Encyclopedia of the World's Ancient Languages, ed. Roger D. Woodard (2004, Cambridge University Press, pp. 1-18), pp. 12-14.
    Benjamin W. Fortson. Indo-European Language and Culture. Blackwell, 2004, p. 405.
  16. ^ Johannes Friedrich. Extinct Languages. Philosophical Library, 1957, pp. 146-147.
    Claude Brixhe. "Phrygian," The Cambridge Encyclopedia of the World's Ancient Languages, ed. Roger D. Woodard, Cambridge University Press, 2004, pp. 777-788), p. 780.
    Benjamin W. Fortson. Indo-European Language and Culture. Blackwell, 2004, p. 403.
  17. ^ James Clackson. Indo-European Linguistics: An Introduction. Cambridge University Press, 2007, pp. 11-12.
  18. ^ Benjamin W. Fortson. Indo-European Language and Culture. Blackwell, 2004, p. 181.
  19. ^ Henry M. Hoenigswald, "Greek," The Indo-European Languages, ed. Anna Giacalone Ramat and Paolo Ramat (Routledge, 1998 pp. 228-260), p. 228.
    BBC: Languages across Europe: Greek