a History of Greek
The History of the Greek Language, to us, begins in the early periods
of Ancient Greece, while the Mycenaeans and the Minoans were still
around. Greek was spoken all over the two empires, but at that time
they did not have an alphabet. This continued until the Minoans, who lived
on the island of Crete, first came in contact with the Pheonicians.
When the Pheonicians and the Minoans started trading, the Minoans
envied the Pheonicians abilities to record trading they had done.
They realized that they're trading business would not succeed to
grow larger if they did not aquire a way to write things down.
So they took the Pheonician alphabet, added vowels to make it
easier, and voila, now, everyone who could speak greek could
basically write it, as long as they had learned this new alphabet.
The Mycenaeans, nieghbors of the Minoans, also started using
this alphabet. As more words started being written down, people
set down how each word was to be spelled to avoid confusion whether
this word meant that or this. Spelling quizzes were born to childeren.
Later, near 1200 BC, the Mycenaeans and the Minoans fell to the
Doric invaders from the northern Baltic Peninsula. Not much education
went on for the next 400 to 600 years as the barbarians ruled over the
Then, near 800BC the Greeks, basically a combination of the Mycenaeans
and the Minoans overthrew their barbarian rulers and the Archaic
or Dark Age of greece ended. The new period, named the Classical or
Hellenic period (about 700 BC to about 350 BC)
period, brought forth a flowering of civilization. This was the
time during which Homer wrote his epics, most of the tragedies
of Ancient Greece were written, and great philosophical achievements
A number of dialects of greek arose during this time, but the
most important and dominating one proved to be the Attic dialect,
the one spoken in Athens. However, the Ionic style became
important too and the two fused to become the standard for
orators and philosophy. This became known as the Attic-Ionic
When Alexander set out to conquer the Middle Eastern region, he took
with him his Attic-Ionic dialect. His conquest started the Hellenistic
Age of greece, the time in which the cultures of Greece and the
Middle East came together to make a new culture. As this happened,
the Greek language became altered, too, and the result was the form
in which the New Testement was first written. This is today known
as Koine, Biblical, or New Testement greek.
The new Koine greek had significant changes in all aspects of the language,
grammar, vocabulary, and pronounciation. This form of greek is very
well represented in text, as stated the New Testament, the Discourses
of Epictetus and the Histories of Polybius were all written
in this style of Greek. It is said that this type of greek was
Jesus's second language, too.
Some greeks, however, resisted this change. They held tight to their
old greek. This movement was called Atticism, and it treated only
classical Attic greek as the medium for all literature to be written
Atticism dominated the years of the Byzantinian Empire in Greece,
from the 330 founding of Constantinople untill the fall of the
empire to the Turks in 1453. However, we cannot say how everyday speech
of the language sounded like, since ordinary speech was said to be
unfit for literature, and nothing was written down in "speech form".
As the greeks entered 400 years of bondage to the Turks, the amount
of literature written was drastically reduced, since it was required
that all literature be writtin in the old, purist attic style, and
almost no one had the capability to do this.
In 1830, when Greece finally won back it's independance, a new country
was formed with Athens and Peleponnesus as its main regions. The dialects
spoken in these areas became the national language, and the language
spoken in almost all greek societies. A new form of greek was developed, however,
to purify the language. This was called the katherevusa, and it became
the new method of speaking in greece. But building a language that
is broad enough to serve as both formal and normal speech proved to
be difficult. Even today the language has some problems, but slowly
the informal or demotic language has become the official language of
© Andries Smith 2000