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History of Greek
Katharevousa and Demotic
After the war of independence (1821-27) and the liberation of Greece from 200 years of Turkish rule, there was a desire for a unified language. Greece's new ruling class adopted the archaic literary forms of the past to bolster its new identity and Katharevousa became the official language. However, another variety called the Demotic or 'popular' language was used for everyday speech.

The Demotic variety was often known as the 'hairy language' since its proponents were reputed to have long hair! At various points in the history of the Greek National State, one or the other variety has enjoyed the status of being the official language. The official language is now Demotic.

Today, Modern Greek is spoken by approximately 12 to 13 million people worldwide. It is the sole official language of the Republic of Greece and one of the two official languages in the Republic of Cyprus. It is spoken as the sole mother tongue by more than 95% of the population of Greece and by half a million of the 600,000 inhabitants of Cyprus.

In addition, as a result of emigration, there are substantial communities of Greek speakers in Australia (Melbourne has one of the biggest Greek settlements outside Greece), Germany, North America and the UK where there are approximately 200,000 native Greek speakers. Since 1981 Greece has also been one of the official languages of the European Economic Community.

The Cypriot dialect is not an independent language but a dialect of the Greek language that has its own strong characteristic features of vocabulary, grammar, syntax and sound. The Cypriot dialect, by virtue of its isolation in the far eastern Mediterranean basin, has changed to a lesser extent than mainland Greek and has thus retained a large number of elements of Ancient Greek. However, all formal interaction is conducted in Standard Modern Greek.

The Greek Language and Alphabet
The Greek alphabet dates from about 1000 BC and was the first alphabet in which letters stood for vowels as well as consonants. Like the Semitic alphabets, it was at first written from right to left but in time the style changed to one where lines alternated from right to left, and left to right; this system was known as boustrophedon, meaning as the ox ploughs. Later it shifted once again to the present left to right direction.

There is great flexibility in word order in Modern Greek and there are a number of correct ways in which a sentence can be put together. There are other ways in which a student can be spoilt for choice, for example Greek offers a variety of words for 'love' depending on whether it is family love, friendship, love for one's country, romantic love, or passion.

When learning Greek not only the language itself has to be mastered, but the punctuation as well. Instead of a question mark, the Greeks use[;] whilst the Greek semi-colon is simply a dot above the line [.].

In 1982, the Greek government introduced the monotonic system. Under this system, the complicated variety of written accents and breathing marks were abolished. Now Greek words of more than one syllable normally bear a stronger stress on one of the syllables than on the others and the syllable that bears the stress is marked with an accent.

And Finally...
The impact of Greek on the English language has been enormous, with the adoption of such prefixes as: phono (sound), geo (earth), auto (self), physio (nature), hydro (water), chrono (time), hemi (half), psycho (mind), hetero (different), anti (against), micro (small), philo (love), poly (much, many), tele (distance), photo (light)...

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Did you know?
There are no "primitive" languages. All languages have a system of sounds, words and sentences that can adequately communicate the content of culture.
Greek History
Greek Speaking
» Greece
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