Modern Greek language

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Modern Greek ( Νέα Ελληνικά )

Spoken in

Greece , Cyprus , Albania , North Macedonia , Turkey , Bulgaria , in isolated linguistic islands in southern Italy ( Calabria and Puglia ) and wherever the Greeks and Cypriot Greeks emigrated ( USA , Australia , Great Britain , Germany , etc.)
speaker 13.1 million
Official status
Official language in GreeceGreece Greece Cyprus European Union
Cyprus RepublicRepublic of Cyprus 
European UnionEuropean Union 
Recognized minority /
regional language in
AlbaniaAlbania Albania Bulgaria Italy Romania Turkey Hungary
Language codes
ISO 639 -1


ISO 639 -2 ( B ) gre ( T ) ell
ISO 639-3


Modern Greek (Modern Greek Νέα Ελληνικά Néa Elliniká ), the current language of the Greeks , is the official language of Greece (around 10.5 million speakers) and Cyprus (around 0.7 million speakers) and thus one of the 24  official languages ​​of the European Union . It is also approved as the local official language in some southern Albanian and southern Italian municipalities where members of Greek minorities live, and as the school language in Turkey ( Istanbul ) . Together with the emigrated Greeks and Cypriots, over 13 million people worldwide speak Greek as their mother tongue . Modern Greek belongs to the Indo-European languages .


Modern Greek is now generally referred to as Greek in many dictionaries and in the current context (for example in the EU) . In order to linguistically differentiate it from ancient Greek , which in the context of humanistic education and ancient Greek culture is usually only referred to as Greek , the terms modern and ancient Greek predominate in a linguistic context.

In order to name the official state and colloquial language of Greece today and to draw the line between the modern Greek language forms Katharevousa and Dimotiki , the English term Standard Modern Greek ('Standard Modern Greek') was coined. Standard Modern Greek is often equated with Dimotiki , which, however, is not completely correct from a linguistic point of view, since Katharevousa has also had a significant influence on the standard language.

In modern Greek itself, the language is scientifically correct as " Νεοελληνική κοινή " ( Neoellinikí kiní , Modern Greek common language '). In addition, there are the interchangeable expressions " τα Ελληνικά " ( ta Elliniká 'the Greek'), " τα Νέα Ελληνικά " ( ta Néa Elliniká , the modern Greek '), " η Ελληνική " ( i Ellinikí ]' the Greek language) and " η Νεοελληνική " ( i Neoellinikí , the modern Greek [language] ').


Areas with a Greek-speaking majority in the closed Greek-speaking area, around 1900

Modern Greek developed from the Koine of Ancient Greek and thus from the ancient Attic dialect. Research sets the beginning of the modern Greek epoch alternately in the 11th century (first epics in largely modern Greek), around 1453 ( fall of Constantinople ) or in the middle of the 17th century ( Cretan Renaissance ).

The language had no official status since 1460, but it was spoken in the occupied territories of Greece and throughout the Ottoman Empire . After the Greek Revolution in 1830, it became the sole state language of the newly founded state. In the following hundred years there was extensive population exchange with the other newly founded nation states in the region, so that Greek largely disappeared from them, but in the growing Greek state itself it became the language of the overwhelming majority. Only in Cyprus, which was a British colony until 1960, there was no such exchange. Greek also spread throughout the world through emigration , particularly in North America and Australia, since the 19th century . Since the Second World War, emigration to Western Europe, especially to Germany and Great Britain, has also played an increasingly important role.

Katharevousa and Dimotiki

Until 1976 there were two competing forms of language for Modern Greek, the Dimotiki ( Δημοτική , the folk language '), the traditional vernacular, and the official Katharevousa ( Καθαρεύουσα , the pure'), a largely artificial high-level language based on classical Greek. With the artificial language Katharevousa, nationally minded, educated circles of the young Greek state tried to underline the continuity to the “great” classical past. The more complicated grammar and the outdated vocabulary were not accepted by the population, nevertheless a decade-long linguistic dispute raged between the Atticists (proponents of the Katharevousa based on the Attic dialect of ancient Greek with a center at the University of Athens ) and the Demoticists (supporters of the vernacular with a center of the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki ).

After the end of the military dictatorship , Katharevousa was abolished as the official language by a parliamentary resolution and today only plays a role in documents of the Orthodox Church , in inscriptions or in other written areas (e.g. the Estia newspaper ). Basically, the vernacular  - with its own phonetics , morphology and lexicons  - has established itself as the spoken and written language of Greece in the last few decades. However, many learned idioms and words from the Katharevousa managed to find their way into the spoken language of the people, so that today's modern Greek is a synthesis of the Dimotiki and the Katharevousa, with a mixing ratio in favor of the former. The broad stylistic and lexical spectrum of today's language, resulting from the folk and scholarly influences mentioned, makes up an important aspect of the special richness of modern Greek. Passages such as quotations and proverbs or simple emphasis in Katharevousa or in ancient Greek can also be spoken within a conversation in Modern Greek, whereby appropriate language skills are required.

Today's language forms

The modern Greek language is comparatively speaking uniformly in Greece today and is only slightly dialektal dissected, with the exception of the spoken only in a few villages Tsakonischen and the spoken mainly in northern Greece on the country Pontic . A visitor to Greece hardly has to expect to meet Greek people with whom it is not possible to communicate in standard Greek.

After the liberation of Greece, whose territory initially only comprised the Peloponnese , Attica and parts of central and western Greece, the Peloponnesian dialect, which was both verbally and morphologically closest to the written Katharevousa, became the basis of the standard language. After the Greek capital was moved to Athens in 1834, it gradually overlaid the old Athenian dialect with the arrival of many Greeks from the Peloponnese. In addition, the dialects of the Ionian Islands and Constantinople, whose speakers complemented the Athenian elite, were closely related to the Peloponnesian.

Meanwhile, in some parts of the country - z. B. in Crete , in Epirus , Thrace (here especially in Northern Evros ) - and in Cyprus the idioms spoken so far from the standard language that one speaks of modern Greek dialects even if the differences between them are not so great, as is the case, for example, with some German dialects.


Important isoglosses in the uniform language area of ​​Greek around 1900

The first attempt to organize the modern Greek dialects was made by Georgios Hatzidakis . Based on the development of the unstressed semi-open and closed vowels , he divided the modern Greek dialects into northern and southern. According to this classification, in the northern Greek dialects all unstressed / o / and / e / in / u / or / i /, while all unstressed / i / and / u / become completely silent. In the southern Greek dialects, however, these vowels remain unchanged. Examples: πεθαίνω (standard pronunciation [ pɛ'θɛnɔ ]> northern Greek [ pi`θɛnu ]), κουλούρι (standard [ ku'luri ]> northern Greek [ klur ]), σκυλί (southern Greek [ skʲi'li ]> northern Greek [ skli ])) .

Another isogloss according to which the modern Greek dialects would be classified is the preservation or loss of the [n] -finals in predominantly neutral nouns. According to this isogloss, the south-eastern, insular dialects in which the final [n] is retained ( τυρί ν [ tiˈrin ]) or even added ( στόμα ν [ ˈstɔman ]) are separated from the others in which it does not appear.

Another isogloss results from the development of the so-called "irrational" intervocalic support Loud [⁠ ɣ ⁠] : In many, again mainly insular parts of Greece ( Cyclades , Lesbos , Ikaria , Crete ) can be between vowels in final position of a word to find inserted consonants [ ɣ ], e.g. B. κλαίω> κλαί γ ω ( ˈklɛɔ> ˈklɛγɔ ). In some regions of Greece the supporting sound [ ɣ ] (in Cyprus the sound k ) also occurred between the stem ending [ -ɛv- ] and the ending / -ɔ / in the present tense, such as δουλεύω [ ðuˈlɛvɔ ]> δουλεύ γ ω [ ðuˈlɛvγɔ ] or . in Cyprus [ ðuˈlɛfkɔ ] on.

Furthermore, the following phonetic, morphological and syntactic phenomena were proposed as a basis for the classification of the modern Greek dialects, each of which only occurs in some parts of the language area:

  1. the de-nasalization of the consonant complexes / mb /, / ng /, / nd /, for example in κουμπί ([ kuˈmbi ]> [ kuˈbi ]),
  2. the change of the sound [ ç ] in [ ʃ ]: χέρι ([ ˈçɛri ]> [ ˈʃɛri ]),
  3. the preservation or elimination of the augment: ε δένατε [ εˈðɛnatɛ ]> δένατε [ ˈðɛnatɛ ],
  4. the loss of the personal genitive and its replacement by the accusative in the northern Greek dialects: σου λέω [ suˈlεɔ ]> σε λέω [ sεˈlεɔ ],
  5. the reenactment of the unstressed forms of the personal pronoun: μου λέει [ muˈlɛi ]> λέει μου [ ˈlɛimu ], μου δίνει [ muˈðini ]> δίνει μου [ ˈðinimu ].

The dialects of Greek can be divided on the basis of these isoglosses as follows:

Dialects in Greece and Cyprus
  • Northern dialects on mainland Greece about north of a line Kithairon - Chalkida , in the northern half of Euboea and on the Northern Sporades , on Thasos , Samothraki , Limnos , Lesbos and Samos . These dialects are also spoken by the minorities in the neighboring states of Albania , North Macedonia and Bulgaria .
    • The dialect of the Sarakatsans (Greek Σαρακατσάνοι Sarakatsani , Bulgarian каракачани karakachani ), who originally practiced transhumant pasture farming in northern Greece and now a small part also live in Romania and Bulgaria, differs greatly from the surrounding dialects and has retained some archaisms.
  • Southern dialects
    • Peloponnesian-Ionian in the Peloponnese , in Attica and Boeotia south of the border with the northern dialects, in the south of Evia and on the Ionian Islands
    • Old Athenian and Maniotic: The old Athenian dialect, which z. B. received the [i] sound in a stressed position before other vowels, could only sporadically maintain itself around the cities of Megara and Kymi as well as Aegina and is close to the still existing dialect of the Mani peninsula , which is also more maniotic among the descendants Emigrants could keep in the Corsican town of Cargèse until the 20th century.
    • Cretan-Cycladic in Crete , the Cyclades, and in some exclaves in Syria and Lebanon .
    • South-eastern dialects in Chios , Ikaria and the Dodecanese, as well as Cypriot Greek in Cyprus. Due to the long political and spatial isolation in the Middle Ages and modern times, some linguistic archaisms from the Middle Ages were able to persist until the Turkish invasion of 1974 on the entire island and then in the Greek part of the island of Cyprus . As a result, the colloquial language of the Cypriot Greeks differs markedly from the standard Greek language. The latter is still used in all formal contexts (education, offices, media) and in writing.

The Jevanic or Jewish-Greek language (Greek Ρωμανιώτικη διάλεκτος Romaniotiki dialektos , " Romaniotischer dialect") of the Romaniotes , Jewish Greeks, which was spread throughout the Ottoman Empire, is extinct . It died out in the 20th century through the assimilation of its speakers into the Sephardic language , the surrounding state languages ​​or Hebrew during the emigration to Israel and not least through the mass extermination of the Jews in the Holocaust . Jevanic originated from the Middle Greek Koine and, like comparable European languages ​​of the Jews, was heavily interspersed with Hebrew terms, but apparently largely understandable for speakers of modern Greek.

Language forms of older origin

Some forms of modern Greek have been formed from older levels of the language and have not followed some developments in the common language. In addition, some dialects on the outer edge of the former Greek-speaking area have the influence of non-Attic Greek dialects or the neighboring languages, e.g. B. Italian. These forms of language, all of which are disappearing, are difficult or incomprehensible for a speaker of standard Greek, which means they can also be classified as independent Greek languages.


Tsakonian is stillactively spokenin ten villages in the Laconia regionin the Peloponnese; it developed from Doric roots. Only around 70% of the vocabulary corresponds to that of standard Greek.

The dialect of some villages on the island of Karpathos is also influenced by Doric, mainly used in Olymbos .

Pontic and Cappadocian

Pontic , which is highly endangered outside Greece, and Cappadocian , which has now almost been extinguished, have strong Ionic influences. Pontic was the common dialect of the Greek settlements around the Black Sea , while Cappadocian was spoken in central Anatolia . As part of the population exchange with Turkey in 1922, these ethnic groups were almost completely relocated to different parts of Greece. In contrast to Cappadocian, Pontic is not yet extinct and is still actively spoken. In areas populated by Pontic resettlers, it is still the common lingua franca and rubs off on the standard Greek spoken here. There are several Pontic-speaking radio stations in the Thessaloniki area. However, the number of speakers is continuously decreasing, which is also due to the fact that the Greek state officially completely ignored the Pontic - as well as the history of the Pontier in general - until a few years ago. Knowledge of standard Greek is not sufficient to understand Pontic. Remains of speakers of the Pontic can also be found in today's Turkey , Russia and the Ukraine (in and near the Ukrainian city of Mariupol , hence Mariupolitical, Greek Μαριουπολίτικα ).


The Griko (Italian also grecanico , Greek mostly κατωιταλιώτικα katoitaliotika , "Lower Italian") is used by less than 20,000 people in two variants, the Greek-Calabrian dialect in nine villages around Bova , Calabria , and the dialect of Grecìa Salentina in nine villages south of Lecce in Salento , the peninsula in the south of Apulia . Griko, which is strongly influenced by Doric ancient Greek, is very likely the linguistic legacy of Magna Graecia ; some researchers also see its origin in Middle Greek of the Byzantine period. It is written in Latin letters. The Griko and the surrounding southern Italian dialects have also influenced each other.


For more pronunciation tips, see Pronunciation of Modern Greek .

The sound level of Modern Greek has remained largely unchanged since around the year 1000; the decisive changes in sound took place at the end of the ancient Greek language level, in the Hellenistic period. Characteristic are the system, which exists in many languages, of the five vowel phonemes / a /, / o /, / u /, / i / and / e /, a multitude of fricative sounds that have completely replaced the breathy plosives originating from Indo-European and one There is a clear tendency towards sandhi loops, which give modern Greek a much more "fluid" sound than German, for example.

The most important differences from ancient Greek:

  • Change from the voiceless aspirated plosives [ ], [ ] [ ] to the voiceless fricative sounds [ f ], [ θ ] and [ x ] or [ ç ];
  • Change of the voiced plosives [ b ], [ d ], [ g ] to the voiced fricatives [ v ], [ ð ] and [ ɣ ] or [ ʝ ];
  • Simplification of the vowel and diphthong system:
    • Change from [ ɛː ], [ y ], [ ] and [ oi̯ ] to [ i ];
    • Change from [ ai̯ ] to [ ɛ ], from [ au̯̯ ] and [ eu̯ ] via [ ] / [ ] and [ ] / [ ] to [ av ] / [ af ] and [ ɛv ] / [ ɛf ] ;
    • Loss of distinction between long and short vowels;
  • Replacement of the musical accent by the dynamic or expiratory accent, as it is also used in German.

These phonological developments (apart from the change in accent) have not been reflected in the orthography.


Modern Greek has 5 vowel phonemes:

front center back
closed i u
half open ɛ ɔ
open a

The length of the vowel is not different in Greek as it is in German. Unstressed vowel phonemes are always pronounced briefly, / e / and / o / are always open, / i / and / u / are always closed. In stressed syllables, the vowel can be realized a little longer ([ ˈaˑⁿθrɔpɔs ], άνθρωπος ‚Mensch '), at the word boundary two identical vowel phonemes can be realized as a long vowel, also rhetorical stretches (/ ooooxi /, όοοοχι!, Such as‚ no one! ') occur.

  • The / e / sounds like German ä in h ä tte, not like in h e ben .
  • The / o / sound as in o ffen, not like in O fen.
  • The / i / corresponds to the correct pronunciation in M i nute (briefly but closed), not as in b i ll i g.
  • The / u / as in correct M u sik (briefly but closed), not like in K u nst.

Unstressed / i / before another vowel is often weakened to a [j] -like sound (/ mia /> [mja], μια ) or palatalised the preceding consonant (/ εlia /> [ εˈlʲa ], ελιά ).


The vowel sequences αϊ (αη), εϊ (εϋ, εη) or οϊ , which are rare in the vocabulary , appear in both syllabic and unsyllabic terms; only in the second case is there a real (falling) diphthong in the sense of a phoneme .


  • syllabic pronunciation (no diphthong): Δανάη [ ðaˈnai ], Αχαΐα [ axaˈia ], ελέησον [ εˈlεisɔn ], νόημα [ ˈnɔima ], κομπολόι [ kɔmbɔˈlɔi ];
  • Unsyllabic pronunciation (diphthong): νεράιδα [ nεˈrai̯ða ], κέικ [ kʲεi̯k ], κορόιδο [ kɔˈrɔi̯ðɔ ].

Since consecutive words are not spoken separately, in modern Greek at the word boundary from a phonetic point of view, rising diphthongs sometimes arise, which are also not phonemes: [ tɔaftɔˈkʲinitɔ ] ( το αυτοκίνητο ), [ ˈɔiˑlʲɔs ] ( ο ήλιος ).


bilabial labio-
dental alveolar palatal velar
stl. sth. stl. sth. stl. sth. stl. sth. stl. sth. stl. sth.
Plosives p b t d k G
Nasals m ɱ (1) n ŋ (2)
Vibrants r
Taps ɾ (3)
Fricatives f v θ ð s z ç (4) ʝ (4) x ɣ
Approximants l j (5)

The abbreviation stl. Stands for ' voiceless ' and sth. For ' voiced '.

(1)[ɱ] is an allophone of [m] before the labiodental fricatives [v] and [f].
(2) [ŋ] is an allophone of [n] before velar and palatal consonants and is denoted by the grapheme <γ>.
(3) [ɾ] is allophone of [r].
(4) [ç] and [ʝ] are allophones of [x] and [ɣ] before [ɛ] and [i].
(5) [j] is the allophone of the vowel [i] in the unstressed position before vowels.

For an explanation of the articulation locations, see the graphic under Phonetics .


The velar plosives / k / and / g / are in front of the vowels [ɛ] and [i], in combination with [i], generally to [kʲ] (occasionally also [kç]) and [gʲ] (occasionally also [gj] ) palatalized .

An unstressed [i] in front of a vowel weakens to [j] or [ç] in words of vernacular origin. In the case of [n] and [l], it also palatalizes the preceding consonant as a variant, resulting in [nj] or [nʲ] or [lj] or [lʲ].

Sandhi apparitions

In modern Greek there are a multitude of Sandhi appearances, where one of them or both changes when different sounds come together. Examples:

  • [n] before bilabial consonants changes to [m] or disappears: / tin 'pɔli / → [timˈbɔli] or [tiˈbɔli] ( τη (ν) πόλη ‚die Stadt [acc.]').
  • [n] before dental or alveolar consonants weakens or disappears: / 'fεrnɔndas / → [' fεrnɔⁿdas] or ['fεrnɔdas] ( φέρνοντας ' bringing '); / tɔn la'ɔ / → [tɔlaˈɔ] ( το (ν) λαό ‚the people [acc.] ').
  • Before labiodental consonants, [m] becomes [ɱ] : / 'ɛmvɔlɔ / → [' ɛɱvβlɔ] ( έμβολο 'cones').
  • The voiceless plosives and affricates are sonorized according to nasals, i.e. voiced: / stin psiˈçi / → [stimbziˈçi] ( στην ψυχή 'in the soul').
  • [s] becomes voiced before voiced consonants: / ɔ'jɔs mu / → [ɔ'jɔzmu] ( ο γιος μου ‚my son ').
  • Degemination :
    • Two equal vowels merge into one: / ta ˈatɔma / → ['taːtɔma] ( τα άτομα ' the people ').
    • Two identical consonants merge into one: / ɔ'jɔs su / → [ɔ'jɔsu] ( ο γιος σου 'your son').
  • Diphthongization of different vowels or omission of the first: / ɔ 'ilʲɔs / → [' ɔilʲɔs] ( ο ήλιος 'the sun'); / tɔ ˈatɔmɔ / → ['tatɔmɔ] ( το άτομο ' the person ').


In modern Greek, almost every word of Greek origin ends either on a vowel or on one of the consonants / -n / ( ) and / -s / ( ). The endings -ρ, -ξ, -ψ are seldom used in words that have been adopted from ancient Greek into modern Greek . Some of these words are often used ( εναλλάξ enalláx 'alternating', εφάπαξ efápax 'one-time, one-off payment'), while most of the others only appear in scholarly or official texts ( δέλεαρ délear 'bait', μύωψ míops 'short-sighted'). In addition, there is the preposition εξ ( ex 'from') as a special phenomenon , which, according to its ancient Greek origin, is εκ ( ek ) with the following consonant and is thus perhaps the only Greek word that does not end in a vowel or a continuous consonant. In foreign words ( τρακ trak , stage fright ', σνίτσελ snítsel , Schnitzel', ροζ Róz , pink ') or interjections ( οχ! Och! Ah!') And onomatopoeia ( γαβ! Gav! , Wow! '), All the sounds in terminal position. Foreign words such as τανκς ( tanks 'tanks') and τσιπς ( tsips 'chips'), in which the ς has a plural meaning borrowed from English, are written with κς and πς instead of ξ and ψ .


Word Accent

In modern Greek, the stress of the word on (exactly) one syllable is realized by the dynamic accent , that is, the syllable carrying the accent sounds louder than the others. As in German, the stressed syllable usually has a higher tone . In the typeface, the accent is expressed by the acute accent , which characterizes the stressed syllable. The correct accentuation of a word plays a greater role than in Romance or Germanic languages, as it does not automatically fall on a certain syllable of the word through phonetic rules. Many words differ only in their accent, for example νόμος ( nómos 'law') and νομός ( nomós 'district') or πότε ( póte 'when') and ποτέ ( poté 'never, ever'). Words that are not correctly emphasized are often poorly understood or misunderstood by native speakers, while in German or French, with the standard fixed emphasis on the stem or last syllable, an incorrectly emphasized word can usually be understood without major problems.

The accent also changes in the conjugation to the expression of the tenses or in the declination to the case distinction: When forming the aorist, it always shifts to the third from last syllable; if the verb has only two syllables, a so-called augment ( ε- e- ) is placed in front of the verb, which then carries the stress: κάνω ( káno , I do ')> έκανα ( ékana , I made'). When the genitive singular and plural as well as the accusative plural are formed, an accent shift occurs in many polysyllabic words. B. from the nominative ο άνθρωπος (o ánthropos) the genitive του ανθρώπου (tou anthrópou) . Such phenomena created problems for many grammar theories of the 1980s that failed to take into account suprasegmental features such as accent shifts.

Some words in Greek are basically unstressed and appear right next to the words to which they refer. They are called clitics referred (presented Proklitika, adjusted enclitics ) and include the unaccented forms of personal pronouns and possessive pronouns. In some cases they lead - according to an increasingly obsolete rule - to a secondary accent on the neighboring main term.

A basic phonological rule for stress is the so-called three - syllable rule . According to this, the accent can be on the last three syllables of a word, which in Greek are referred to as λήγουσα ( lígousa , ultima, final syllable '), παραλήγουσα ( paralígousa , Paenultima, preceding syllable') and προπαραλήγουσα ( proparalígousous ). If one or more enclitic, i.e. unstressed words are appended to a word stressed on the third last syllable, a complex is created that is called a phonological word ( φωνολογική λέξη fonologiki lexi ). As a result of the three-syllable rule, this word is then stressed two syllables after the actual lexical stress of the first component. On the actually stressed syllable of this first word, the construction also has a secondary accent, such as B. in τα πράγμα τά μου ( ta prágma mou , my things') or φέρνον τάς το μου ( férnon tás to mou , 'bringing it to me').

Sentence accent

Like German, Greek is able to emphasize certain parts of the sentence as decisive for the statement and thus to modify the statement of the sentence by the sentence accent: Το γράμμα είναι για μένα ( To grámma íne gia ména , The letter is for me [ nobody else] ') vs. Το γράμμα είναι για μένα ( To grámma íne gia ména 'The letter is [really] for me'); or in the question: Δε θέλεις τίποτα ; ( De thélis típota ; 'You don't need anything?' [Standard accent ]) vs. Δε θέλεις τίποτα; ( De thélis típota; 'Don't you really want anything?' [Emphatic inquiry]).

In colloquial language, syllable lengthening (temporal accent) can also be observed as a means of accentuating the content of individual words.


The modern Greek language is a synthetic language with inflected and fusional elements. In the process, inflecting elements compared to ancient Greek were pushed back in favor of affix and periphrastic formations. It is one of the few Indo-European languages ​​that has a synthetic diathesis, i.e. constructed without auxiliary verbs (i.e. its own verb endings for active and passive). The distinction between the verb aspects unique / completed (perfect) and permanent / repeated (imperfect) was systematized and extended to all tenses except the present indicative.


Modern Greek gets along with a relatively small number of morphemes to identify the grammatical categories, but these are often ambiguous and denote several forms. The ending / -i / for example can be the third person singular ( πίνει píni ' er trinkt ') in the verb, the masculine nominative plural ( φίλοι fíli 'Freunde'), the nominative and accusative singular feminine ( φίλη fíli , girlfriend ') or neutral nouns ( φιλί filí , kiss'), for adjectives the forms denote the nominative plural masculine ( μεγάλοι megáli 'large'), nominative and accusative feminine ( μεγάλη megáli 'large') and neuter ( βαρύ varí 'heavy'). This multitude of homophonic endings only becomes clear in the context, but also often in the typeface, through the historical orthography, which still reflects the phonetic level of ancient Greek.

In terms of linguistic history, the numerous and frequently used diminutive endings (e.g. -άκι -aki , -ούλης -oulis , -ούλα -oula , -ίτσα -itsa ), with which familiarity, customary or closeness are expressed in addition to belittling , are relatively young .

The inflectional elements of modern Greek include the regular occurrence of two stems of the verbs that embody two different aspects. As a rule, the aorist stem is formed from the present tense stem, which is expanded by / s / for the active and / th / for the passive , sometimes with hardening of the stem end, with the passive by shifting the fricative to the stem end and replacement of the / th / by / t /. Examples:

Present stem Aorist Tribe (Active) Aorist Tribe (Passive)
κρυβ- kriv- κρυψ- krips- κρυφτ- krift-
δειχν- dichn- δειξ- dix- δειχτ- densely
ετοιμαζ- etimaz- ετοιμασ- etimas- ετοιμαστ- etimast-
πληρων- pliron- πληρωσ- pliros- πληρωθ- pliroth-
αγαπ (α) - agap (a) - αγαπησ- agapis- αγαπηθ- agapith-

Differences from ancient Greek

In the course of the history of the language, there have been some grammatical simplifications compared to ancient Greek. In the course of the union of Dimotiki and Katharevousa, however, some grammatical and lexical archaisms were taken up again, some of which were perhaps also continuously in use and are noted here:

  • The dative has been lost and is syntactically mostly replaced by a prepositional construction with σε ( se 'zu') or για ( gia 'for') with the accusative. Only in fixed expressions such as εν τω μεταξύ ( en to metaxý 'meanwhile') or τοις εκατό ( tis ekató 'percent') can one still encounter the dative.
  • Some declinations (coincidence of a declination and consonantic declination) have disappeared, and the different forms of the declinations obtained have also decreased. Only a minority of words still follow ancient Greek declension paradigms, such as B. το ήπαρ ( to ípar 'the liver') or το δόρυ ( to dóri 'the spear').
  • The loss of the infinitive was compensated by subordinate clause constructions with να ( na ) (“I want to buy” → “I want me to buy”). In rare cases the substantiated infinitive is used, such as B. το είναι και το γίγνεσθαι ( to INE ke to gígnesthe 'or' being and becoming) το μεταφράζειν ( to metafrázin , translating ') when the action and not the result is to be expressed specifically what η μετάφραση ( i Metafrasi , the translation ') alone cannot.
  • Loss of the optative mode in favor of constructions with να (na) or ας (as) .
  • Loss of the dual , whose place the plural also takes over.
  • The new modal particle θα ( tha ; from θέλω να thélo na ‚I want that… '> θε' να the 'na  → θα tha ) replaced own conjugation morphemes for the future tense and conditional.
  • Most of the participles are reduced to the past participle passive ( -μένος -ménos ) and / or the gerund ( -οντας / -ώντας -ondas / -óndas ). Exception: some 'learned' participles which, like in ancient Greek, are fully declinable, e.g. B. υπάρχων ( ypárchon 'existing'), εισαχθείς ( isachthís 'inscribed'), δρών ( drón 'acting'), επιζών ( epizón 'surviving') u. v. m.
  • Loss of the third person imperative . Exception: certain fixed expressions such as έστω ( ésto 'it be, at least') or ζήτω! ( zíto 'he / she / long live (high)!').
  • New pronouns for the second person plural, as the old pronouns could no longer be distinguished acoustically from those of the first person plural due to the sound change ( itazism ).
  • Reduction in duplication ; it is only present in rare cases in the past participle passive voice, e.g. B. πε πεισμένος ( pe pismenos 'convinced'), προσ κε κλημένος ( pros ke klimenós 'invited'), πε φωτισμένος ( pe fotisménos 'enlightened, enlightened') u. a. m.
  • Reduce the augment to those cases where it is emphasized. There are exceptions for a few learned verbs: εθεωρείτο (etheoríto) , επρόκειτο (eprókito) , εξερράγη (exerrági) .
  • Development of the modern Greek periphrastic perfect, it is formed analytically with the auxiliary verb έχω ( écho , haben ') and the aparemfato , in the future tense additionally with the preceding future tense particle θα (tha) . Instead, the ancient Greek perfect, which was primarily formed by stem duplication, disappeared. An action or an event is referred to with the perfect (resultant) aspect in the three time stages present, past and future: έχω δει ( écho di 'I saw'), είχα δει ( ícha di 'I had seen') and θα έχω δει ( tha écho di 'I will have seen'). Events in one of the perfect forms are described in a focused manner and their effects on the narrative time.
  • The ancient Greek main tense future tense, which was formed with its own verb stem but could not be differentiated in terms of aspects, has given way to the modern Greek future tense formation by means of the future tense particles θα (tha) derived from a modal construction : θα βλέπω ( tha vlépo , I will see [constantly, repeatedly, continuously] '), θα δω ( tha do ' I will see [once] ') and θα έχω δει ( tha écho di ' I will have seen '). In Greek grammars, the future forms are referred to as permanent future, unique future and perfect future .
  • The last two points describe the consistent further development of the temporally incomplete three-aspect system of ancient Greek. In modern Greek, each of the three tenses past, present and future can be realized in all three aspects ( perfect / aorist , imperfect and perfect / resultative ). For the principle modal addition sentence structure (as there is only during the presence conceived Here, the proviso that not labeled tense between the aspects perfective and Imperfective only in a hypotaxis , υποτακτική ) can be distinguished by means of aorist or present stem. This sentence structure, which also serves as an infinitive replacement, is one of the most common basic patterns in modern Greek colloquial language.


The retained aspect - distinction between the one-off, completed action (formed with the aorist stem of the verbs) and the continuous or repeated action (formed with the present stem) is a grammatical category that is unknown in almost all Germanic languages ​​and therefore requires modern Greek learners special attention. In the English language, there is a similar category with the present participle in its various uses ( he was reading, he kept reading, while reading ... ). For specific information about the differentiation of aspects in modern Greek, see the articles Aorist and Paratatikos .

Another grammatical peculiarity of Modern Greek is the rich word group of so-called Deponentien , verbs that are formed with passive endings, but still have a purely active meaning ( έρχομαι érchome 'I come'). After all, Modern Greek is one of the languages ​​with the most irregular verbs; see Irregular Verbs in Modern Greek .


In the basic vocabulary of Modern Greek, the uninterrupted continuity in the history of language since ancient Greek is clearly recognizable, the vast majority of the modern Greek vocabulary comes etymologically directly from ancient Greek. The similarities on the morphological level are also more pronounced than can be found in the comparable development from Latin to French or Spanish . Numerous elementary words such as άνθρωπος ( ánthropos 'man'), θάλασσα ( thálassa 'sea'), θεός ( theós 'god'), ουρανός ( ouranós 'heaven') or φίλος ( almost infinite 'friend') have remained unchanged for millennia Greek language. Other words have experienced a more or less great change in meaning, such as παιδεύω ( pedévo , ancient Greek 'educate' → modern Greek 'torment'), περίπτερο ( períptero , ancient Greek περίπτερος peripteros , the 'kriechisch' kriechisch ', pillar-winged' new-greek 'column] ), γαμώ ( gamó , ancient Greek 'to marry' → modern Greek 'to fuck'), πονηρός ( ponirós , ancient Greek, the bad '→ modern Greek, the shrewd'), some also through the context of Christianity such as άγγελος ( ángelos , ancient Greek → modern Greek 'angel').

Via the Katharevousa, which took up numerous terms from ancient Greek, words of ancient Greek origin that had previously disappeared in the course of time have entered standard Greek. In addition to the word μάτι (máti) , which was formed from the ancient Greek diminutive form ὀμμάτιον (ommátion) to ὄμμα (ómma) , there is also the word οφθαλμός ( ofthalmós 'eye'), which is borrowed directly from ancient Greek . Examples of expressions that did not exist in the traditional vernacular, but today, despite their "learned" origin, are part of the basic Greek vocabulary are εν τω μεταξύ ( en to metaxý 'in the meantime'), τουλάχιστον ( touláchiston 'at least') or ενδιαφέρων ( endiaféron 'interesting').

Compound terms and new words were almost always formed on the basis of the ancient vocabulary: if, for example, κρασί (krasí) is the common word for wine, λευκός οίνος ( levkós ínos , white wine ') and οινουikeργείο ( inourgío , wine press') refer to the word back; Likewise, the terms ιχθυοπολείο ( ichthiopolío , fish shop ') and ιχθυοτροφείο ( ichthiotrofío , fish farming ') are not based on modern Greek ψάρι (psári) , but from ancient Greek ίχθυς ( íchthys , fish '). In the same way, international technical terms of Greek origin are borrowed back. Examples are ηλεκτρισμός ( ilektrismós 'electricity') and ξυλόφωνο ( xylófono 'xylophone'), ξενοδοχείο ( xenodochío 'hotel') and λεωφορείο ( leoforío 'bus').

Some ancient Greek word stems exist both in a historically inherited form and in a high-level language, newly borrowed from ancient Greek, the meaning of which can differ (so λευτεριά lefteriá next to ελευθερία elefthería , freedom '; γωνιά goniá vs.' corner 'only in the popular sense. γωνία gonía , also 'angle' in the mathematical sense).

With a very good knowledge of ancient Greek, a written modern Greek text is often to be understood accordingly; conversely, however, it is only significantly more difficult to grasp the meaning and grammatical structures of an ancient Greek text with a knowledge of modern Greek. Greeks also have to learn ancient Greek in order to be able to read Homer , Thucydides and Plato . Since the modified variant of the Erasmic pronunciation of ancient Greek is taught in German schools , one can normally neither understand nor be understood in today's Greece with this knowledge of ancient Greek. In Greek schools, however, ancient Greek is taught according to the modern Greek pronunciation.

Further articles: List of Greek first names , Greek toponyms , List of prepositions in Modern Greek , Greek numerals

Loan and foreign words

During the centuries of rule by powers with other languages, modern Greek has adopted many words from their languages.

In the late antique and early Byzantine times numerous words from Latin made their way into the Greek vocabulary. Already in the early Middle Ages , some Arabic words were included, especially in the field of mathematics or medicine , and there are a few words from the Middle Ages of Albanian or Slavic origin in the Greek vocabulary.

There are numerous Italian words that were transmitted by the Genoese or Venetian occupiers ( bagno  > μπάνιο 'bath'; Venetian coverta  > κουβέρτα 'ceiling'; scala  > σκάλα 'stairs'; terrazza  > ταράτσα 'terrace') numerous words of Turkish origin, the latter mainly from the area of ​​everyday culture such as food or music ( köfte  > κεφτές , meatball '; tüfek  > τουφέκι , rifle'). The names of modern achievements are partly taken from French ( douche  > ντους ‚shower '; crayon  > κραγιόν ‚ lipstick') or English ( bar  > μπαρ ‚pub '; sandwich  > σάντουιτς ‚ sandwich', goal  > γκολ ‚gate [im Football] ', parking  > πάρκινγκ ' parking lot '). Not infrequently, Greek loanwords from other languages ​​returned to Greek: for example, in the case of the ancient Greek λιμήν , port ', which resulted in modern Greek λιμάνι via Turkish liman (perhaps also ancient Greek καλός δρόμος , good road'> Turkish κaldirim, street, sidewalk '> Modern Greek καλντερίμι , cobblestones'); see. ancient Greek παστά , salted '> Italian pasticcio , pate'> modern Greek παστίτσιο , pasta casserole from the Ionian cuisine '.

Anglicisms are not as common as in German, on the one hand because at the time of the Katharevousa neologisms were formed from roots of Greek origin, on the other hand because English words cannot be integrated into the phonetically completely different language of Greek as easily as into the more closely related German. In contrast to Eastern Europe, for example, German appears only in very few cases as the source language for Greek ( σνίτσελ snítsel 'Schnitzel'; κιτς kits 'Kitsch'); the word ( μπίρα bira ) is even more common than the older Greek ζύθος zythos for beer. (See also list of German words in other languages .)


Modern Greek uses the Greek alphabet , which in its current form has remained almost unchanged since 403 BC. Exists. The orthographic system of Modern Greek is a historical spelling that has preserved certain spelling of sounds and sound combinations over centuries and millennia, although the sound values ​​in the spoken language have changed several times in the meantime. This results in the problematic phenomenon for learners that writing and spoken language are not congruent, as is approximately the case in Italian and Turkish, for example . The best- known example of this is iotazism (or itazism ), i.e. the phonetic coincidence of the graphemes η, υ, ει, οι and υι with ι . When completely identical pronunciation as [⁠ i ⁠] exist in modern Greek to be different before every six spellings. In addition, there are two overrides for [⁠ ɔ ⁠] ( ο and ω ) and two for [⁠ ɛ ⁠] ( αι and ε ). The spelling is clear , as is largely the case in French : you can read the sound of even unknown words with a high degree of accuracy, but conversely the correct spelling of the vowels mentioned must be learned or, alternatively, can be derived from knowledge of ancient Greek.

Diacritical marks

The stressed syllable of a polysyllabic word is marked by an accented sign , the acute , with the digraphs ( οι, αι, ει, ου, ευ, αυ ) it is placed on the second letter. In some pronunciation variants , the acute is only set in the 'two-syllable' form: μια [ mɲa ] vs. μία [ ˈmi.a ] and δυο [ ðjɔ ] vs. δύο [ ˈði.ɔ ]. In order to avoid ambiguities in the orthography, the acute is also used in some monosyllabic word pairs with the same name for graphic differentiation ( η [feminine article] ≠ ή , or ', πως , that' ≠ πώς , how? ', Που [relative pronoun] ≠ πού ,Where?'). It is only used for words that contain minuscules , i.e. Ελλάς , but ΕΛΛΑΣ .

The double point above the vowels ι or υ (the trema ) is not an accent sign, but a typographical indication that a letter combination of two vowels, which would normally be pronounced together, should in this case be spoken as two separate vowels ( diariesis ). Without Trema z. B. the word παϊδάκια [ pa-i-ˈðakʲa ] 'lamb chops' as [ peˈðakʲa ] 'small children'. If the accent falls on the first of the two vowels, the trema is unnecessary (as in κέικ kéik [ ˈcɛik ] 'cake'). On the other hand, if the accent falls on the last of the two consecutive vowels, as in the surname Νικολαΐδης ( Nikolaídis /ni.ko.laˈi.ðis/), to avoid an interpretation as a digraph.

Phonetic Ambiguities

As mentioned above, in modern Greek most of the time each grapheme (or each group of graphemes) is assigned a certain phoneme (or a group of phonemes), i. H. one can almost certainly deduce the correct pronunciation from the spelling with knowledge of some rules. However, there are also some cases where the pronunciation is not fully apparent from the written form. This is the case

  • for graphemes corresponding to the phoneme / i /. Here the scholarly or popular origin of the word often decides how the grapheme is to be pronounced; Examples: ποιος [ pjɔs ] / [ pʝɔs ] vs. ποιότητα [ piˈɔtita ], έννοια [ 'ɛnja ] vs. [ 'ɛnia ];
  • with the consonant combinations μπ, ντ, γκ, γγ , provided they are not at the beginning of the word; under each of these digraphs two pronunciation variants are combined: b / mb, d / nd, g / ng, g / ng; Examples: τούμπα - ταμπού ( mb a - ta b ú ), άντρας - ξεντύνω ( á nd ras - CFE d ino ) αγκαλιάζω - ογκρατέν ( a ng aljázo - o g rates ), άγγελος - επαγγελματίας ( á ng elos - epa g elmatías ).


The transcription of the Greek alphabet with Latin letters for modern Greek is not handled uniformly in German, an existing ISO standard has not yet been able to prevail.

For the use of Latin letters in Internet traffic, some romanization variants have been developed, which are known as Greeklish .

Text sample

Ανήκω σε μια χώρα μικρή. Ένα πέτρινο ακρωτήρι στη Μεσόγειο, που δεν έχει άλλο αγαθό παρά τον αγώνα του λαού του, τη θάλασσα, και το φως του ήλιου. Είναι μικρός ο τόπος μας, αλλά η παράδοσή του είναι τεράστια και το πράγμα που τχη χαρακδρδηθεω είινις πτηθεω είκις πτηθεω. Η ελληνική γλώσσα δεν έπαψέ ποτε της να μιλιέται.
Audio file / audio sample Spoken ? / i
Aníko se mia chóra mikrí. Éna pétrino akrotíri sti Mesógio, pou den échi állo agathó pará ton agóna tou laoú tou, ti thálassa, ke to fos tou íliou. Íne mikrós o tópos mas, allá i parádosí tou íne terástia ke to prágma pou ti charaktirízi íne óti mas paradóthike chorís diakopí. I ellinikí glóssa den épapsé pote tis na miliéte. (Transcription)
[ aˈnikɔ sɛ mja ˈxɔra miˈkri. ˈƐna ˈpɛtrinɔ akrɔˈtiri sti‿mɛˈsɔʝiɔ pu ðɛn ˈɛçi ˈalɔ aɣaˈθɔ parˈa tɔn aˈɣɔna tu laˈu‿tu, ti ˈθalasa, kʲɛ tɔ fɔs tu‿ˈilʲu. ˈInɛ miˈkrɔs ɔ tɔpɔz‿mas, aˈla i paˈraðɔˈsi‿tu ˈinɛ tɛˈrastia kʲɛ to ˈpraɣma pu ti xaraktiˈrizi ˈinɛ ˈɔti mas‿paraˈðɔθikʲɛ xɔˈriz‿ðjakɔˈpi. i ɛliniˈkʲi ˈɣlɔsa ðɛn ˈɛpapsɛ pɔˈtɛ tis na miˈlʲɛtɛ. ] ( IPA inscription)
I belong to a small country. A rocky cape in the Mediterranean with no other wealth than the struggle for life of its people, the sea and the light of the sun. My country is small, but its legacy is vast and marked by the fact that it has been handed down to us without interruption. The Greek language has never stopped being spoken.
Giorgos Seferis : Speech on the award of the Nobel Prize, Stockholm 1963


  • Νικόλαος Π. Ἀνδριώτης: Περί του γλωσσικού ιδιώματος της Ίμβρου (German "About the dialect of Imbros"). Ελεύθερη Σκέψις , Athens 1996.
  • Nikolaos P. Andriotis: Lexicon of Archaisms in Modern Greek Dialects. (= Writings of the Balkan Commission. 22). Publishing house of the Austrian Academy of Sciences , Vienna 1974.
  • Νικόλαος Π. Ἀνδριώτης: Το γλωσσικό ιδίωμα του Μελένικου (German "The dialect of Meleniko "). Δημοσιεύματα της Εταιρείας Μακεδονικών Σπουδών , Thessaloniki 1989.
  • G. Mavrochalyvidis, JI Kessissoglou: Le Dialecte d'Axos . Préface de NP Andriotis. Imprimerie de l'Institut Français d'Athènes, 1960.
  • Dimitrios Phosteris, JI Kessissoglou: Vocabulaire d'Aravani . Préface de NP Andriotis. Imprimerie de l'Institut Français d'Athènes, 1960.
  • Peter Trudgill: Modern Greek dialects. A preliminary classification. In: Journal of Greek Linguistics 4, 2003, pp. 54-64, ISSN  1566-5844 .
Large monolingual lexicons
  • Γεώργιος Μπαμπινιώτης: Λεξικό της Νέας Ελληνικής Γλώσσας . First edition. Athens 1998.
  • Αριστοτέλειο Πανεπιστήμιο Θεσσαλονίκης , Ινστιτούτο Νεοελληνικών σπουδών (Eds.): Ληεξεικό της Νοικλλς Ννηλλς ηοινλς . First edition. Thessaloniki 1998.
Etymological lexicon
  • Νικόλαος Π. Ἀνδριώτης: Ετυμολογικό λεξικό της κοινής νεοελληνικής (German: "Etymological Lexicon of the Modern Greek Common Language"). Institut français d'Athènes, Athens 1951; Reprints Ινστιτούτο Νεοελληνικών Σπουδών (Ίδρυμα Μανόλη Τριανταφυλλίδη) , Thessaloniki 1967, 1971, 1983, 1988, 1992, 1995, 2006, most recently 2008.
Language courses
  • Maria Christmann-Petropoulou: Modern Greek, textbook and workbook. Three volumes. Third, improved and enlarged edition. Universitätsverlag Winter, Heidelberg 2004, ISBN 3-8253-1584-3 .
  • Hans and Niki Eideneier : Modern Greek is not that difficult. A course with many songs, illustrations, photos and caricatures by Kostas Mitropulos. Two parts. L. Reichert, Wiesbaden 1980; fifth and fourth, improved edition, ibid. 1993 (part 1, main volume, ISBN 3-88226-595-7 ) and 1991 (part 2, ISBN 3-88226-510-8 ; further sub-volumes with key to the solution, methodological notes, speaking and music cassette are available).
  • Hans and Niki Eideneier: Modern Greek is not that difficult. Key vocabulary. Basic grammar. L. Reichert, Wiesbaden 1984, 1986, ISBN 3-88226-284-2 .
  • Hans and Niki Eideneier: Modern Greek is not that difficult. Part 3: 100 texts from easy to difficult . ISBN 3-89500-080-9

Web links

Wikibooks: Modern Greek  - learning and teaching materials

Individual evidence

  1. ^
  2. Christos Karvounis (2002): “[The struggle for language in the 19th – 20th centuries Century] accelerated a process of coming of age, through which the vernacular basis grew together with the high-level language elements, which led to a 'common language' ( Νεοελληνική κοινή / Standard modern Greek ) that is perhaps more powerful and expressive than ever before. "
    Adrados (2001) , P. 289: "What we commonly call Modern Greek is not entirely uniform, because its phonetics and morphology and especially its vocabulary preserves numerous elements of the old standard language."
  3. ^ Peter Mackridge: The Modern Greek Language. Oxford 1985, ISBN 0-19-815770-3 .
  4. GN Hatzidakis 1892, p. 342.
  5. Triandafyllidis 1938, p. 66 f.
  6. ^ Brian Newton: The Generative Interpretation of Dialect. A Study of Modern Greek Phonology. Cambridge 1972, ISBN 0-521-08497-0 .
  7. Entry on tsakonic on
  8. Portrait (Universitat Oberta de Catalunya)
  9. Entry in the UNESCO Red Book on Endangered Languages
  11. ^ A b Amalia Arvaniti, Mary Baltazani: Intonational Analysis and Prosodic Annotation of Greek Spoken Corpora. Prepublication version ( PDF download ; 445 kB)
  12. Efrossini Kalkasina-Korn and Elisabeth Weiler (eds.): Νεοελληνικά Διηγήματα . Modern Greek stories. Munich 1988, ISBN 3-423-09248-3 .