Southern Balkans, Anatolia (now Turkey) and Cyprus
Linguistic classificationIndo-European
  • Graeco-Phrygian

Graeco-Phrygian (/ˌɡrkˈfrɪiən/) is a proposed subgroup of the Indo-European language family which comprises the Hellenic and Phrygian languages.

Modern consensus views Greek as the closest relative of Phrygian, a position that is supported by Brixhe, Neumann, Matzinger, Woodhouse, Ligorio, Lubotsky, and Obrador-Cursach. Furthermore, out of 36 isoglosses collected by Obrador Cursach, Phrygian shared 34 with Greek, with 22 being exclusive between them. The last 50 years of Phrygian scholarship developed a hypothesis that proposes a proto-Graeco-Phrygian stage out of which Greek and Phrygian originated, and if Phrygian was more sufficiently attested, that stage could perhaps be reconstructed.[1][2][3][4][5][6]


The linguist Claude Brixhe points to the following features Greek and Phrygian are known to have in common and in common with no other language:[1]

Obrador-Cursach (2019) has presented further phonetic, morphological and lexical evidence supporting a close relation between Greek and Phrygian, as seen in the following tables that compare the different isoglosses between Phrygian, Greek, Armenian, Albanian and Indo-Iranian.[7]

Phrygian features Greek Armenian Albanian Indo-Iranian
Centum treatment +
*CRh₃C > *CRōC +
Loss of /s/ + + +
Prothetic vowels + + +
*-ih₂ > -iya + +
*ki̯- > s- +
*-m > -n + + ?
*M > T +
Phrygian features Greek Armenian Albanian Indo-Iranian
Conditional ai +
e-augment + + + +
e-demonstrative +
*-eh₂-s masc. +
t-enlargement +
verbs in -e-yo- +
verbs in -o-yo- +
*-dh +
*dhh₁s-ó- +
*-eu̯-/*-ēu̯- +
*gu̯her-mo- + + +
*gneh₂-ik- + +
*h₂eu̯-to- + +
*h₃nh₃-mn- + +
*méǵh₂-s +
*meh₁ + + + +
*-mh₁no- +
ni(y)/νι +
*-(t)or ?
-toy/-τοι + +
  1. ^ Highlighted text indicates that borrowing cannot be totally ruled out.
Phrygian features  Greek Armenian Albanian Indo-Iranian
*bhoh₂-t-/*bheh₂-t- +
*(h₁)en-mén- +
hl̥h₃-ró- +
kako- +
ken- + +
*koru̯- +
*mōro- +
*sleh₂g- +
  1. ^ Highlighted text indicates that borrowing cannot be totally ruled out.

Other proposals

Greek has also been variously grouped with Armenian and Indo-Iranian (Graeco-Armenian; Graeco-Aryan), Ancient Macedonian (Hellenic) and, more recently, Messapic. Greek and Ancient Macedonian are most often classified under Hellenic; at other times, ancient Macedonian is seen as a Greek dialect and thus, Hellenic is posited to consist of only Greek dialects. The linguist Václav Blažek states that, in regard to the classification of these languages, "the lexical corpora do not allow any quantification" (see corpus and quantitative comparative linguistics).[8]


  1. ^ a b Brixhe, Claude (2008). "Phrygian". In Woodard, Roger D (ed.). The Ancient Languages of Asia Minor. Cambridge University Press. p. 72. ISBN 978-0-521-68496-5. "Unquestionably, however, Phrygian is most closely linked with Greek."
  2. ^ Woodhouse 2009, p. 171:This question is of course only just separable from the question of which languages within Indo-European are most closely related to Phrygian, which has also been hotly debated. A turning point in this debate was Kortlandt's (1988) demonstration on the basis of shared sound changes that Thraco-Armenian had separated from Phrygian and other originally Balkan languages at an early stage. The consensus has now returned to regarding Greek as the closest relative.
  3. ^ Ligorio & Lubotsky (2018), p. 1816: "Phrygian is most closely related to Greek. The two languages share a few unique innovations [...] It is therefore very likely that both languages emerged from a single language, which was spoken in the Balkans at the end of the third millennium BCE.
  4. ^ Obrador-Cursach 2018, p. 102:Furthermore, if Phrygian were not so-poorly attested perhaps we could reconstruct a Proto-Greco-Phrygian stage of both languages.
  5. ^ Obrador-Cursach 2020, pp. 238–239:To the best of our current knowledge, Phrygian was closely related to Greek. This affirmation is consistent with the vision offered by Neumann (1988: 23), Brixhe (2006) and Ligorio and Lubotsky (2018: 1816) and with many observations given by ancient authors. Both languages share 34 of the 36 features considered in this paper, some of them of great significance:…The available data suggest that Phrygian and Greek coexisted broadly from pre-historic to historic times, and both belong to a common linguistic area (Brixhe 2006: 39–44).
  6. ^ Obrador-Cursach 2020, p. 243:With the current state of our knowledge, we can affirm that Phrygian is closely related to Greek. This is not a surprising conclusion: ancient sources and modern scholars agree that Phrygians did not live far from Greece in pre-historic times. Moreover, the last half century of scientific study of Phrygian has approached both languages and developed the hypothesis of a Proto-Greco-Phrygian language, to the detriment to other theories like Phrygio-Armenian or Thraco-Phrygian.
  7. ^ Obrador-Cursach 2020, pp. 234–238.
  8. ^ Blažek, Václav (November 2005). "On the internal classification of Indo-European languages: survey" (PDF). Linguistica Online: 6. ISSN 1801-5336.


Further reading