The History and Origins of The Greek Language

The Greek language belongs to the Indo-European family of languages and is primarily spoken in Greece. It is also one of the official languages in Cyprus and is one of the 24 official languages of the European Union. The language is spoken by at least 13.2 million people today in Greece, Cyprus, Italy, Albania, Turkey, and the Greek diaspora. In the United States, there are approximately 304,932 who actively speak Greek.

Origins of The Language

Greek has a long history dating back 3400 years ago and probably the most
well-documented origins throughout time. There are phases which divide the language into 6 periods of existence and evolution.

  • The Ancient phase is subdivided into a Mycenaean period (texts in syllabic script attested from the 14th to the 13th century BC)
  • Archaic and Classical periods (beginning with the adoption of the alphabet, from the 8th to the 4th century BC)
  • Hellenistic and Roman phase (4th century BC to 4th century AD)
  • Byzantine phase (5th to 15th century AD)
  • Modern phase up to this date.

It also has the biggest development of all languages in history, because by the time it emerged in the second half of the 2nd millennium BC, it had already acquired a completely distinct character from the parent Indo-European language. Its linguistic features place it in a central region on the dialect map that can be reconstructed for Proto-Indo-European; the ancient languages with which it has the most features in common are little-known ones such as Phrygian.

The Connection to The Rest of The Languages

Greek is the language in which many of the foundational texts in science, especially astronomy, mathematics and logic, and Western philosophy, such as the Platonic dialogues and the works of Aristotle were written. It holds an important place in the history of the Western world and Christianity; the canon of ancient Greek literature includes works in the Western canon such as the epic poems Iliad and Odyssey.

Written Greek

The Greek alphabet arose from the Phoenician script and was, in turn, the basis of the Latin, Cyrillic, Armenian, Coptic, Gothic and many other writing systems. In its classical and modern forms, the alphabet has 24 letters, ordered from alpha to omega. There used to be only a single form of each letter, but later throughout history, uppercase and lowercase forms were developed in parallel with Latin during the modern era. The Greek alphabet has been around since the late 9th or early 8th century BC and was the first alphabetic script to have distinct letters for vowels as well as consonants.

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