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Demotic Greek or Dimotiki (Greek: Δημοτική Γλώσσα, Dimotikí Glóssa, [ðimotiˈci], lit.'language of the people') is the standard spoken language of Greece in modern times and, since the resolution of the Greek language question in 1976, the official language of Greece.[1] "Demotic Greek" (with a capital D) contrasts with Katharevousa, which was used in formal settings, during the same period. In that context, Demotic Greek describes the specific non-standardized vernacular forms of Greek used by the vast majority of Greeks during the 19th and 20th centuries.[2]

As is typical of diglossic situations, Katharevousa and Dimotiki complemented and influenced each other. Over time, Dimotiki became standardized. In 1976, it was made the official language of Greece. It continued to evolve and is now called Standard Modern Greek. The term "demotic Greek" (with a minuscule d) also refers to any variety of the Greek language which has evolved naturally from Ancient Greek and is popularly spoken.

Basic features of Dimotiki

Demotic Greek differs in a few ways from Ancient Greek and from subsequent learned forms of Greek. Syntactically, it favors parataxis over subordination. It also heavily employs redundancy, such as μικρό κοριτσάκι (small little-girl) and ξανακοιμήθηκε πάλι (he-went-back-to-sleep again). Somewhat in connection with this, Demotic employs the diminutive with great frequency,[3]: XI  to the point that many Demotic forms are in effect neuter diminutives of ancient words, especially irregular ones, e.g. νησί from νήσιον (island) from ancient νῆσος (island).

Greek noun declensions underwent considerable alteration, with irregular and less productive forms being gradually replaced by more regular forms based on the old one: άντρας (man) for ancient ἀνήρ. Another feature was the merging of classical accusative and nominative forms, distinguishing them only by their definite articles, which continued to be declined as in Ancient Greek. This was especially common with nouns of the third declension, such as πατρίς (hometown, fatherland) which became nominative η πατρίδα, accusative την πατρίδα in Demotic.[3]: X 

A result of this regularization of noun forms in Demotic is that the words of most native vocabulary end in a vowel, s or n (ς, ν), i.e. an even more restricted set of possible word-final sounds than Ancient Greek. Exceptions are foreign loans like μπαρ (bar), and learned forms ύδωρ (from Ancient Greek ὕδωρ, water), and exclamations like αχ! (ach!, oh!) Many dialects even append the vowel -e (ε) to third-person verb forms: γράφουνε instead of γράφουν (they write). Word-final consonant clusters are also rare, again mainly occurring in learned discourse and via foreign loans: άνθραξ (coal – scientific) and μποξ (boxing – sport).[4]: 8–9 

Indirect object is usually expressed by prepending the word σε to the accusative where Ancient Greek had εἰς for accusative of motion toward; bare σε is used without the article to express indefinite duration of time, or contracted with the definite article for definiteness especially with regard to place where or motion toward; or with the genitive, especially with regard to means or instrument.[3]: X  Using one noun with an unmarked accusative article-noun phrase followed by σε contracted with the definite article of a second noun distinguishes between definite direct and indirect objects, whether real or figurative, e.g. «βάζω το χέρι μου στο ευαγγέλιο» or «...στη φωτιά» (lit. I put my hand upon the Gospel or the fire, i.e. I swear it's true, I'm sure of it). By contrast, Katharevousa continued to employ the ancestral form, εἰς, in place of σε.[citation needed]

The verb system inherited from Ancient Greek gradually evolved, with the old future, perfect, and pluperfect tenses gradually disappearing; they were replaced with conjugated forms of the verb έχω (I have) to denote these tenses instead. The future tenses and the subjunctive and optative moods, and eventually the infinitive, were replaced by the modal/tense auxiliaries θα and να used with new simplified and fused future/subjunctive forms.[3]: X  In contrast to this, Katharevousa employed older perfective forms and infinitives that had been for the most part lost in the spoken language[citation needed], but in other cases it employed the same aorist or perfective forms as the spoken language, but preferred an archaizing form of the present indicative, e.g. κρύπτω for Demotic κρύβω (I hide), which both have the same aorist form έκρυψα.[3]: XI 

Demotic Greek also borrowed a significant number of words from other languages such as Italian and Turkish, something which katharevousa avoided.

Dimotiki and "Standard Modern Greek"

Dimotiki is commonly used interchangeably with "Standard Modern Greek" (Νέα Ελληνικά). Nonetheless, these terms are not necessarily synonyms. While today's Standard Modern Greek is fundamentally a continuation of earlier Dimotiki, it also contains—especially in its written form and formal registers—numerous words, grammatical forms, and phonetical features that did not exist in the most "pure" and consistent forms of Dimotiki during the period of diglossia in Greece. Due to these admixtures, it could even be described as a product of a "merger" between earlier Dimotiki and Katharevousa.[1]

Furthermore, in a broader sense, the Greek term Δημοτική (Dimotikí) can also describe any naturally evolved colloquial language of the Greeks, not just that of the period of diglossia.

Examples of Modern Greek features that did not exist in Dimotiki

The following examples are intended to demonstrate Katharevousa features in Modern Greek. They were not present in traditional Demotic and only entered the modern language through Katharevousa (sometimes as neologisms), where they are used mostly in writing (for instance, in newspapers), but also orally, especially words and fixed expressions are both understood and actively used also by non-educated speakers. In some cases, the Demotic form is used for literal or practical meanings, while the Katharevousa is used for figurative or specialized meanings: e.g. φτερό for the wing or feather of a bird, but πτέρυξ for the wing of a building or airplane or arm of an organisation.[3]: 180 : 203 

Words and fixed expressions

Special dative forms:

Grammatical (morphological) features

Phonological features

Modern Greek features many letter combinations that were avoided in traditional Demotic:

Native Greek speakers, depending upon their level of education, may often make mistakes in these "educated" aspects of their language; one can often see mistakes like προήχθη instead of προήχθην (I've been promoted), λόγου του ότι/λόγο το ότι instead of λόγω του ότι (due to the fact that), τον ενδιαφέρον άνθρωπο instead of τον ενδιαφέροντα άνθρωπο (the interesting person), οι ενδιαφέροντες γυναίκες instead of οι ενδιαφέρουσες γυναίκες (the interesting women), ο ψήφος instead of η ψήφος (the vote). [citation needed]

Radical demoticism

One of the most radical proponents of a language that was to be cleansed of all "educated" elements was Giannis Psycharis, who lived in France and gained fame through his work My Voyage (Το ταξίδι μου, 1888). Not only did Psycharis propagate the exclusive use of the naturally grown colloquial language, but he actually opted for simplifying the morphology of Katharevousa forms prescription.[citation needed]

For instance, Psycharis proposed changing the form of the neuter noun "light" το φως (gen. του φωτός) into το φώτο (gen. του φώτου). Such radical forms had occasional precedent in Renaissance attempts to write in Demotic, and reflected Psycharis' linguistic training as a Neogrammarian, mistrusting the possibility of exceptions in linguistic evolution. Moreover, Psycharis also advocated spelling reform, which would have meant abolishing most of the six different ways to write the vowel /i/ and all instances of double consonants. Therefore, he wrote his own name as Γιάνης, instead of Γιάννης.[citation needed]

As written and spoken Dimotiki became standardized over the next few decades, many compromises were made with Katharevousa (as is reflected in contemporary standard Greek) despite the loud objections of Psycharis and the radical "psycharist" (ψυχαρικοί) camp within the proponents of Dimotiki's use. Eventually these ideas of radical demoticism were largely marginalized and when a standardized Dimotiki was made the official language of the Greek state in 1976, the legislation stated that Dimotiki would be used "without dialectal and extremist forms"—an explicit rejection of Psycharis' ideals.[5]


  1. ^ a b "Demotic Greek language". Encyclopedia Britannica. Retrieved 2020-04-16.
  2. ^ Babiniotis, Georgios (2002). Lexiko tis neas ellinikis glossas [Dictionary of the new Greek language] (in Greek). Athens. p. 474.((cite book)): CS1 maint: location missing publisher (link)
  3. ^ a b c d e f g Pring, J.T. The Pocket Oxford Greek Dictionary. (New York: 1965 & 1982; 2000 ed.)
  4. ^ Mackridge, Peter; Philippaki-Warburton, Irene (1997). Greek: a Comprehensive Grammar of the Modern Language. New York: Routledge. ISBN 0-41510002-X.
  5. ^ N. 390 Art. 2 (2) Περὶ ὀργανώσεως καὶ διοικήσεως τῆς Γενικῆς Ἐκπαιδεύσεως. [ Concerning the organisation and administration of General Education] of 30 April 1976

    Ὡς Νεοελληνικὴ γλῶσσα νοεῖται ἡ διαμορφωθεῖσα εἰς πανελλήνιον ἐκφραστικὸν ὄργανον ὑπὸ τοῦ Ἑλληνικοῦ Λαοῦ καὶ τῶν δοκίμων συγγραφέων τοῦ Ἔθνους Δημοτική, συντεταγμένη, ἄνευ ἰδιωματισμῶν καὶ ἀκροτήτων.
    "Modern Greek language means the Demotic shaped into a pan-Hellenic instrument of expression by the Greek People and the esteemed writers of the Nation, coherent, without peculiar and extreme forms."