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RegionGreece, originally Cappadocia (modern-day Central Turkey)
Native speakers
2,800 (2015)[1]
(previously thought to be extinct)
Language codes
ISO 639-3cpg
ELPCappadocian Greek
Cappadocian Greek is classified as Critically Endangered by the UNESCO Atlas of the World's Languages in Danger

Cappadocian Greek (Cappadocian Greek: Καππαδοκικά, Καππαδοκική Διάλεκτος), also known as Cappadocian is a dialect of modern Greek, originally spoken in Cappadocia (modern-day Central Turkey) by the descendants of the Byzantine Greeks of Anatolia.[3] The language originally diverged from Medieval Greek after the late medieval migrations of the Turks from Central Asia into what is now Turkey began cutting the Cappadocians off from the rest of the Greek-speaking Byzantine (Eastern Roman) Empire. As a result of the population exchange between Greece and Turkey in 1923, all remaining speakers (known in Turkey as Rûm, and referred to now as Cappadocian Greeks) were forced to emigrate to Greece where they were resettled in various locations, primarily in Central and Northern Greece. The Cappadocians were encouraged to shift to Standard Modern Greek as part of their integration into Greece, and their language was thought to be extinct since the 1960s. In June 2005, Mark Janse (Ghent University) and Dimitris Papazachariou (University of Patras) discovered Cappadocians in Central and Northern Greece who could still speak their ancestral language fluently. Many are middle-aged, third-generation speakers who take a very positive attitude towards the language, as opposed to their parents and grandparents.[4] The latter are much less inclined to speak Cappadocian and more often than not switch to Standard Modern Greek.

History and research

Anatolian Greek dialects until 1923. Demotic in yellow. Pontic in orange. Cappadocian in green, with green dots indicating individual Cappadocian Greek villages in 1910.[5]
Original Cappadocian homeland

By the fifth century AD, the last of the Indo-European native languages of Asia Minor ceased to be spoken, replaced by Koine Greek.[6] At the same time, the communities of central Anatolia were becoming actively involved in the affairs of the then Greek-speaking Eastern Roman Empire, and some (now Greek-speaking) Cappadocians, such as Maurice Tiberius (r. 582–602) and Heraclius (r. 610 to 641), would even rise to become emperors.[7][8]

Cappadocian Greek first began to diverge from the Medieval Greek common language of the Byzantine (Eastern Roman) Empire six centuries later,[5] following the Byzantines' defeat at the Battle of Manzikert in 1071. This subsequent civil war and the Seljuk invasion led to the severing of Cappadocia from the rest of the Byzantine world.[9] Among all Greek dialects, Cappadocian Greek is the one most influenced by Turkish,[10][11] but unlike Standard Modern Greek, it would not be influenced by Venetian or French, which entered Modern Greek during the Frankokratia period, when those groups began ruling in Greece following the Fourth Crusade's sacking of Byzantine Constantinople.

The earliest records of the language are in the macaronic poems of Jalal ad-Din Muhammad Rumi (1207–1273), who lived in Iconium (Konya), and some ghazals by his son Sultan Walad.[12][13] Interpretation of the Greek language texts is difficult as they are written in Arabic script, and in Rumi's case without vowel points; Dedes' edition (Δέδες) is the most recent edition.[14][15][16]

By the early 20th century many Cappadocians had shifted to Turkish altogether (written with the Greek alphabet, Karamanlidika). Where Greek was maintained (numerous villages near Kayseri, including Misthi, Malakopea, Prokopion,[17] Karvali,[18][19] and Anakou), it became heavily influenced by the surrounding Turkish. However, there are next to no written documents in Medieval or early Modern Cappadocian, as the language was, and still essentially is, a spoken language only. Those educated to read and write, such as priests, would do so in the more classicising literary Greek. The earliest outside studies of spoken Cappadocian date from the 19th century, but are generally not very accurate.

One of the first documented studies was Modern Greek in Asia Minor: A study of dialect of Silly, Cappadocia and Pharasa (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1916), by Richard MacGillivray Dawkins (1871–1955), then a fellow of Emmanuel College, Cambridge and later the first Bywater and Sotheby Professor of Byzantine and Modern Greek Language and Literature at the University of Oxford, based on fieldwork conducted by the author in Cappadocia in 1909–1911.[20]

After the population exchange, several Cappadocian dialects have been described by collaborators of the Center for Asia Minor Studies (Κέντρον Μικρασιατικών Σπουδών) in Athens: Uluağaç (I.I. Kesisoglou, 1951), Aravan (D. Phosteris & I.I. Kesisoglou, 1960), Axo (G. Mavrochalyvidis & I.I. Kesisoglou, 1960) and Anaku (A.P. Costakis, 1964), resulting in a series of grammars.

In recent years, the study of Cappadocian has seen a revival following the pioneering work on Language Contact, Creolization, and Genetic Linguistics (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1988) by Sarah Grey Thomason and Terrence Kaufman, and a series of publications on various aspects of Cappadocian linguistics by Mark Janse, professor at Roosevelt Academy, who has also contributed a grammatical survey of Cappadocian to a forthcoming handbook on Modern Greek dialects edited by Christos Tzitzilis (Aristotle University of Thessaloniki).[21]

The recent discovery of Cappadocian speakers by Janse and Papazachariou will result in the release of a new dictionary and a compilation of texts.

Cappadocian Greek is well known from the linguistic literature as being one of the first well documented cases of language death, and in particular the significant admixture of non-Indo-European linguistic features into an Indo-European language.[22] This process was pronounced in southwestern Cappadocia, and included the introduction of vowel harmony and verb-final word order.


The Greek element in Cappadocian is to a large extent Byzantine, e.g. θίρ or tír 'door' from (Ancient and) Byzantine Greek θύρα (Modern Greek θύρα), ποίκα or έπκα 'I did' from Byzantine Greek έποικα (Modern Greek έκανα).[23] Other, pre-Byzantine, archaisms are the use of the possessive adjectives μό(ν), σό(ν) etc. from Ancient Greek ἐμός, σός, etc. and the formation of the imperfect by means of the suffix -ισ̌κ- from the Ancient Greek (Ionic) iterative suffix -(ε)σκ-. Turkish influence appears at every level. The Cappadocian sound system includes the Turkish vowels ı, ö, ü, and the Turkish consonants b, d, g, š, ž, , , although some of these are also found in modern Greek words as a result of palatalization.

Turkish vowel harmony is found in forms such as δϋσ̌ϋνδΰζϋ 'I think', aor. 3sg δϋσ̌ΰντσϋ < δϋσ̌ΰντσι (Malakopi), from Turkish düşünmek, πατισ̌αχης < πατισ̌άχις 'king' (Delmeso), from Turkish padişah. Cappadocian noun morphology is characterized by the emergence of a generalized agglutinative declension and the progressive loss of grammatical gender distinctions, e.g. το ναίκα 'the (neuter) woman (feminine)', genitive ναίκα-ιου, plural ναίκες, genitive ναίκεζ-ιου (Uluağaç). Another Turkish feature is the morphological marking of definiteness in the accusative case, e.g. λύκος 'wolf (nominative / unmarked indefinite accusative)' vs. λύκο 'wolf (marked definite accusative)'.

Agglutinative forms are also found in the verb system such as the pluperfect ήρτα τον 'I had come' (lit. 'I came I was') (Delmeso) on the model of Turkish geldi idi (geldiydi). Although Cappadocian word order is essentially governed by discourse considerations such as topic and focus, there is a tendency towards the Turkish subject–object–verb word order with its typological correlates (suffixation and pre-nominal grammatical modifiers).

The commonality among all Greek Cappadocian dialects is that they evolved from Byzantine Greek under the influence of Turkish. On the other hand, those dialects evolved in isolated villages. This has resulted in a variety of Greek Cappadocian dialects.


Although Cappadocian Greek was once believed to be a dead language, the discovery of a population of speakers has led to an increase in awareness, both within and outside of the Cappadocian community in Greece. In the documentary Last Words, which follows Mark Janse through Cappadocian-speaking villages on the Greek mainland, community members are seen encouraging each other to use their dialect for ordinary things, such as joke telling. The members of these villages, including such notable figures as the bishop, recount being touched by a presentation given in Cappadocian by Janse on a visit to the region. The bishop went so far as to say that Janse's speech "has lifted their shame." The revitalisation process is seen through examples such as this, wherein the speakers have begun to take back their identity and embrace their mother tongue. Additionally, younger generations are embracing the power of technology to spread awareness, utilising social media about the language to inform the larger Greek population. [citation needed]


See also


  1. ^ Cappadocian at Ethnologue (18th ed., 2015) (subscription required)
  2. ^ "Cappadocian Greek". Ethnologue. Retrieved 2021-09-20.
  3. ^ Janse, Mark (January 2009). "The Resurrection of Cappadocian (Asia Minor Greek)". Αω International: 3. Retrieved 2016-09-16.
  4. ^ "Laboratory of Ancient Greek Dialects". University of Patras. Archived from the original on December 10, 2017. Retrieved September 30, 2016.
  5. ^ a b Dawkins, R.M. 1916. Modern Greek in Asia Minor. A study of dialect of Silly, Cappadocia and Pharasa. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
  6. ^ Swain, Simon; Adams, J. Maxwell; Janse, Mark (2002). Bilingualism in Ancient Society: Language Contact and the Written Word. Oxford [Oxfordshire]: Oxford University Press. pp. 246–266. ISBN 978-0-19-924506-2.
  7. ^ Stark, Freya (2012). Rome on the Euphrates: The Story of a Frontier. Tauris Parke Paperbacks. p. 390. ISBN 978-1-84885-314-0. Byzantium reverted to Greek (Maurice, born in Cappadocia, was its first Greek emperor); and trade and diplomacy were honored from the very founding of the Imperial city as never in Rome before.
  8. ^ Corradini, Richard (2006). Texts and identities in the early Middle Ages. Verl. der Österr. Akad. der Wiss. p. 57. ISBN 978-3-7001-3747-4. Emperor Maurice who is said to be the first emperor "from the race of the Greeks," ex Graecorum genere.
  9. ^ Speros Vryonis The Decline of Medieval Hellenism in Asia Minor, 1971, p. 482
  10. ^ Song, Jae Jung (2012-03-29). Word Order. Cambridge University Press. p. 317. ISBN 978-0-521-87214-0. The Asia Minor Greek dialects spoken in the regions of Sílli, Cappadocia and Phárasa are heavily influenced by Turkish, [...]
  11. ^ Ralli, Angela (2019). The Morphology of Asia Minor Greek: Selected Topics. BRILL. p. 9. ISBN 978-90-04-39450-6. Admittedly, of all Asia Minor dialects, Cappadocian is the most heavily affected by Turkish [...]
  12. ^ "Greek Verses of Rumi & Sultan Walad". Archived from the original on December 13, 2013. Retrieved October 24, 2014.
  13. ^ "Rumi". 2004-05-09. Retrieved 2016-05-14.
  14. ^ Δέδες, Δ. 1993. Ποιήματα του Μαυλανά Ρουμή. Τα Ιστορικά 10.18–19: 3–22.
  15. ^ Meyer, G. 1895. Die griechischen Verse in Rabâbnâma. Byzantinische Zeitschrift 4: 401–411.
  16. ^ Burguière, P. 1952. Quelques vers grecs du XIIIe siècle en caractères arabes. Byzantion 22: 63–80.
  17. ^ Rodley, Lyn (2010). Cave Monasteries of Byzantine Cappadocia. Cambridge University Press. p. 5. ISBN 978-0-521-15477-2. ..medieval place names in the region that can be established are known only from scant references: one Elpidios, Memorophylax of Prokopios, who attended the Council of Chalcedon (451), may have come from Hagios Prokopios (now Urgup, but still called 'Prokopion' by the local Greek population in the early years of this century);
  18. ^ Oberheu, Susanne. Wadenpohl, Michael (2010). Cappadocia. BoD. pp. 270–1. ISBN 978-3-8391-5661-2. On May 1st, 1923, the agreement on the exchange of the Turkish and Greek minorities in both countries was published. A shock went through the ranks of the people affected – on both sides. Within a few months they had to pack their belongings and ship them or even sell them. They were to leave their homes, which had also been their great-grandfathers' homes, they were to give up their holy places and leave the graves of their ancestors to an uncertain fate. In Cappadocia, the villages of Mustafapasa, Urgup, Guzelyurt and Nevsehir were the ones affected most by this rule. Often more than half the population of a village had to leave the country, so that those places were hardly able to survive…The Greeks form Cappadocia were taken to Mersin on the coast in order to be shipped to Greece from there. But they had to leave the remaining part of their belongings behind in the harbor. They were actually promised that everything would be sent after them later, but corrupt officials and numberless thieves looted the crammed storehouses, so that after a few months only a fraction of the goods or even nothing at all arrived at their new home….Today the old houses of the Greek people are the only testimony that reminds us of them in Cappadocia. But these silent witnesses are in danger, too. Only a few families can afford the maintenance of those buildings….((cite book)): CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  19. ^ Güzelyurt becomes a touristic hub. AKSARAY - Anatolia News Agency. July 17, 2012. In the town of Güzelyurt in Aksaray Province in the Central Anatolian region of Turkey, 250-year-old arched stone mansions have been transformed into boutique hotels to serve tourists coming to discover the area's cultural and historical treasures. The town is an important part of the historical Cappadocia region…Much of the previously large Greek population in Güzelyurt vanished with the population exchange of the 1920s. "With the population exchange in 1924, Greeks and Turks exchanged places. Before the population exchange, rich Greeks dealing with trade in Istanbul had historical mansions in Güzelyurt," Özeş said. Some houses in the town date back 250 years and a few 100-year-old historical houses also exist, according to Özeş. "They have extremely thick walls. The height of the arches is nearly four to five meters. Each of the houses is a work of art creating an authentic environment."
  20. ^ "Modern Greek in Asia Minor; a study of the dialects of Siĺli, Cappadocia and Phárasa, with grammar, texts, translations and glossary: Dawkins, R. M. (Richard McGillivray), 1871–1955 : Free Download & Streaming : Internet Archive". Retrieved 2016-05-14.
  21. ^ Mufwene, Salikoko S. (1990-01-01). "Sarah Grey Thomason & Terrence Kaufman. Language contact, creolization, and genetic linguistics Sarah Grey Thomason & Terrence Kaufman. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1988. xi, 411 pp. Cloth. US $48.50 | John Benjamins". Journal of Pidgin and Creole Languages. 5 (1): 143–147. doi:10.1075/jpcl.5.1.14muf. ISSN 0920-9034.
  22. ^ Janse, Mark (2002-11-21). "Aspects of Bilingualism in the History of the Greek Language". Bilingualism in Ancient Society. pp. 332–391. doi:10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199245062.003.0013. ISBN 0199245061.
  23. ^ "Ancient Greece: The Birth of Thinking | Alexander Street, part of Clarivate". Retrieved 2023-02-17.


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Rumi and Sultan Walad

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