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Koine, ἡ κοινὴ διάλεκτος
Period approx. 300 BC BC to AD 600

Formerly spoken in

Eastern Mediterranean, Southern Balkan Peninsula, Syria, Palestine, Egypt; still the official language of the monastic republic of Athos today

Indo-European languages

  • Koine
Language codes
ISO 639 -1


ISO 639 -2

grc (historical Greek language until 1453)

ISO 639-3

grc (historical Greek language until 1453)

The KOINE (from ancient Greek ἡ κοινὴ διάλεκτος hē koinè dialektos , "the general dialect", stress on the second syllable) is that the level of proficiency of the Greek language , which as a national standard language from Hellenismus into the Roman Empire about 300 v. Chr (. To 600 AD) was created.

Sometimes the late ancient Greek (approx. 300–600 AD) is no longer counted as a koinē. For centuries, Greek was the most important lingua franca in the eastern Mediterranean , and the language was also widespread in the Latin west .

Greek-speaking areas in the Hellenistic period in the narrower area of ​​the eastern Mediterranean ( 323 to 31 BC ). Dark blue : territories where Greek was spoken. Light blue : territories that were Hellenized (323 to 31 BC) (see also History of Hellenism )

The contemporary Greek name ἡ κοινὴ [διάλεκτος] hē koinḕ [diálektos] means "the general dialect ". The contemporary pronunciation developed from [koi̯ˈnɛː] through [kyːˈnɛː] to [kyˈni]. In modern Greek, the word is pronounced as Kiní [ ciˈni ] ([ kʲiˈni ]).

In today's linguistics, every dialect that is accepted as a supra-regional standard in a linguistic community is referred to as “Koine” (cf. lingua franca and equivocal language ).

The formative basis of the Koine was the Attic , which proves Athens' leading position in political and cultural terms.


Koine Greek ( modern Greek Ελληνιστική Κοινή Ellinistikí Kiní , 'Hellenistic common language') emerged from the mixing of the individual Greek dialects ( Attic , Dorian , Ionian , Aeolian ) during the campaigns of Alexander the Great , which lasted several years , whose army consisted of Macedonians and Greeks - with the exception of the Lacedaemonians - recruited. Due to the great political and cultural importance of Athens in the 5th and 4th centuries BC The basis of the Koine was the Attic.

The great territorial expansion of the Hellenistic monarchies, which inherited from Alexander, made Greek the common lingua franca in the Balkans and Asia Minor as well as in Syria and Palestine as far as Egypt ( Ptolemaic dynasty); farther east, Greek functioned at least as the language of rule and administration as far as India. The importance of Koine Greek in the Middle East and Egypt did not fade, even with the spread of Latin by the Romans, and in East Current it became the sole official language around 630. The Koine thus formed the basis for the Greek of the Middle Ages and modern times.

At the end of antiquity, Isidore of Seville regarded the Koine as the fifth Greek dialect alongside Attic, Doric, Ionian and Aeolian (Etym. 9,1,4 f.). The Koine is now counted as part of ancient Greek , but differs quite clearly from the classical Greek of Sophocles or Plato and quite significantly from the language of Homer , among other things through simplifications in grammar and phonetic structure. The modern artificial language Katharevousa is based more on the Koine than on the classic Attic.

Greek in the Bible

The scriptures of the New Testament of the Bible are written in the New Testament variant of ' Koine ', the common language (spoken by everyone). The Septuagint is the Koine translation of the Old Testament popular in New Testament times and the source of most Old Testament quotations in the New Testament. It gives linguists an insight into how Jewish scholars of the last centuries before Christian understood the Hebrew of the Tanakh (or the Old Testament). It can be observed that the Greek translation was laid out extremely precisely and thoughtfully. However, this translation is anything but literally concordant and contains some misinterpretations and misunderstandings.

There have been Greek cities in Palestine since Hellenism ; It was precisely the educated upper class who made use of Greek, while Aramaic was mostly spoken in the common people. A New Testament testimony to the Greek settlements is the mention of the union of Greek colony cities in northeast Palestine, known as the Decapolis (Greek δέκα déka 'ten' and πόλις pólis 'city').

In addition, it says in the Gospel of John 19 : 19-20 EU that when Jesus was executed, the tablet with the inscription "Jesus of Nazareth, the King of the Jews" was written in the three languages Hebrew , Latin and Greek, which was the spread of Greek illustrated as lingua franca. They made the spread of the new religion much easier: by the Gospels ( εὐαγγέλιον euangelion "good news", "good news") being written in Greek, Christianity was able to spread rapidly among the urban population throughout the eastern Mediterranean region (in the countryside one spoke mostly other, local languages ​​(compare languages ​​in the Roman Empire ), which is why the new religion spread more slowly here).

Letter Greek typography Transcription IPA
alpha α a / a /
beta β b / b / ([b, β])
gamma γ G / ɣ / ([ɣ, g, ʝ])
delta δ d / d /
epsilon ε e / e /
Zeta ζ z / z /
Eta η ē / e̝ /
Theta θ th / tʰ /
Iota ι i / i / ([i, j])
Kappa κ k / k / ([k, g])
Lambda λ l / l /
Mu μ m / m /
Nu ν n / n / ([n, m])
Xi ξ x / ks /
Omicron ο O /O/
pi π p / p / ([p, b])
Rho ρ r / r /
Sigma σ (-σ - / - σσ-) s (-s - / - ss-) / s / ([s, z])
dew τ t / t / ([t, d])
Upsilon υ y / y /
Phi φ ph / pʰ /
Chi χ ch / kʰ /
Psi ψ ps / ps /
omega ω O /O/
. αι ai / e /
. ει egg / i / ([i, j])
. οι oi / y /
. υι yi / yi / (or / y / )
. αυ ouch [aɸʷ, aβʷ]
. ευ eu [eɸʷ, eβʷ]
. ου ou / u /
. αι (ᾳ) āi / a /
. ηι (ῃ) egg / i /
. ωι (ῳ) ōi /O/
. H (/H/)

Further use of the term koine

Based on the meaning of the Koine in Greece, this term is also applied quite generally to languages ​​that have developed as the common lingua franca in an area characterized by dialects. In this sense, Standard German can also be viewed as a Koine, which is used as the supra-regional lingua franca in the German-speaking area, without having completely displaced the many dialects and regional lects . From this perspective, a dialect is seen as a preliminary stage of the (emerging) standard language . Just as in the example of the 'Koine' the Greek dialects (Attic, Ionian, Dorian, etc.) were preliminary stages of the Koine, which then became a widely spoken and commercial language , the various German (and other European) 'Dialects' are also preliminary stages the later (German or European) standard language.

See also


Web links

Wiktionary: Koine  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations

References and comments

  1. Robert Browning : From the Koine to the Beginnings of Modern Greek. In: Heinz-Günther Nesselrath : Introduction to Greek Philology. Springer Fachmedien, Wiesbaden 1997, ISBN 978-3-663-12075-9 , pp. 156-168
  2. Martin Persson Nilsson : History of the Greek religion: The Hellenistic and Roman times. Vol. 2, CH Beck, Munich 1974, ISBN 978-3-4060-1430-7 , p. 22 ( [1] on books.google.de)
  3. ^ Heinrich Löffler : Problems of Dialectology. An introduction. 3rd edition, Wissenschaftliche Buchgesellschaft, Darmstadt 1990, p. 6 f.