What languages are spoken in Greece?
Greece or also popular as, ‘Hellas’ is a country in Southeast Europe. Whenever you think of the archaic acropolis in Athens or the glorious tombs and palaces of the Roman Empire, Greece is the first place that strikes your mind.
There is little doubt about Greece’s incredible contribution to Western civilization and its rich history. But inside this wonderful country, lies the footprints of various languages.
This article will shed light on the languages spoken in Greece, from then to now.
Languages in Greece
An estimated 10.7 million people live in Greece. The largest city is the lovely Athens.
Since 15th January 1822 after the end of the Greek war of independence, the country has been an independent republic, officially called the ’Hellenic Republic’.
It also became a member of the European Union in the early years of its inception and has the largest economy in the Balkans.
Coming to the languages spoken in Greece, it’s almost linguistically homogeneous, with around 99% of its population speaking the country’s official language – Greek.
There are, of course, a few minority languages and some other Greek dialects, spoken in the country.
A percentage of Greeks also speak foreign languages like English, Albanian, Russian, Turkish, German, Italian, and French.
Getting down to statistics, around 11,100,000 or 99.5% of Greece’s population speaks the ‘Modern Greek’ language, i.e the standard Greek dialect, as their native/second language.
Greek is one of the world’s oldest written language, with the first scripts going as far back as the 13th century BCE. The scripts found, later named Linear B.
Once the Mycenaean civilization collapsed a hundred years later, the words and symbols used during this time, disappeared.
A few hundred years later, the Greeks started writing again – with consonants symbols that later became greek vowels.
The language has a rich history encompassing various civilizations and societies.
In the classical era, the dialect in Athens known as ‘Attic Greek’, and several modern Greek dialects descended from it.
An uncommon dialect, Doric credited as the ancestor of the Tsakonian language, spoken by a small community in Peloponnese.
Let us take a look at the various dialects and languages in Greece.
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Historical Dialects of Greek
- Ancient Greek is one of the oldest and most historically significant languages in the world. The oldest set down texts in Ancient Greek dated to the 9th Century BC. The Iliad and Odyssey written in Ancient Greek. This dialect spoken till the 6th century. Ancient Greek is now a dead language.
- One important distinction is between Hellenistic Greek (also called Biblical Greek) and Byzantine Greek. The former used to write the New Testament of the Bible in its earliest versions. It popularised most famously by Alexander The Great, and travel off to far off places, where it became the Hellenistic Koiné or the Common Greek through local modifications.
- The latter developed as a rebellion against the former, with many Greek purists believing Kioné to be unsuitable for writing. The classical Attic Greek considered the only acceptable way to write proses. It’s called Byzantine Greek as Byzantine the religious and economic hub of the Roman Empire during this period.
Modern Dialects of Greek
- The Cappadocian language from Cappadocia as another Hellenic language, was spoken in Greece during the 1920s but owing to the small number of speakers, the dialect went extinct since the ‘60s.
- The Thracian Greek, spoken in the areas of Western Thrace while the Maniot Greek dialect was spoken in Greece’s Mani. The Maniots took huge pride in their language as it was the only area to ward off the Turks while the rest of Greece succumbed. Around 500,000 people speak the Maniot Greek dialect.
- The Thracians, on the other hand, were a group of tribes in the Balkans with twisted customs and traditions that still mystifies the rest of Greece. At this moment – it is difficult to ascertain the number of Thracian Greek speakers.
- The mountain shepherds in Northern Greece speak the archaic dialect of Sarakatsanika while the Cypriot dialect, spoken by 1.2 million people around the world.
Other languages Spoken in Greece
1. The largest immigrant group in Greece, the Albanian community has an Albanian speaking population of around 443,000 people.
2. Around 2,00,000 to 3,00,000 Romanian, Gypsy people speak the Romani language in Greece.
3. Armenian, another language similar to Romanian, is a Balkan romance language spoken by some 40,000 people in Greece.
4. Macedonian speakers in Greece to be around 40,000, with some of them calling the language ’Macedonian’ and donning a Macedonian ethnic identity while some others proclaim it to be a ’Slavic’ language and have a Greek national identity.
5. Russian is also widely used in Greece, while the numbers are still unknown, a large number of wealthy Russian people who immigrated to Greece at the beginning of the 20th century, speak Russian.
It’s also spoken in Greek Macedonia and northern Greece as their primary or secondary language.
6. Here’s a surprise – Turkish spoken widely in Greece! An estimated 128,000 people speak Turkish in the Western Thrace region of Greece.
This is due to the long years of Ottoman rule in Turkey. The Turkish speakers also make up a large part of Greece’s Muslim minority.
7. Pomak or Bulgarian, spoken by an estimated 30,000 people in the same area of western Thrace.
8. Around 51% or half the population of Greece can speak and understand English. Greece is a major tourist centre and English is taught in schools as a second/third language.
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The diversity of languages in Greece may be a little surprising, but the nation has long titled as the seedbed of Western thought, philosophy, art, and architecture. Hence, many empires have conquered and lost Greece.
During this process, they’ve also left behind traces of their language and culture and these footprints have preserved perfectly well from the modern Greek population.
Are you looking to expand your business in Greece? Or perhaps you want to translate texts from Greek to English? We can help.