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Native toItaly
EthnicityGriko people
Native speakers
(20,000 cited 1981)[1]
40,000 to 50,000 L2 speakers
Greek alphabet, Latin alphabet
Official status
Recognised minority
language in
Language codes
ISO 639-3
Glottologapul1237  Apulian Greek
Location map of the Italiot-speaking areas in Salento and Calabria

Griko (endonym: Griko/Γκρίκο), sometimes spelled Grico, is one of the two dialects of Italiot Greek (the other being Calabrian Greek or Grecanico), spoken by Griko people in Salento, province of Lecce, Italy.[2][3][4][5][6] Some Greek linguists consider it to be a Modern Greek dialect and often call it Katoitaliótika (Greek: Κατωιταλιώτικα, lit.'Southern Italian') or Grekanika (Γραικάνικα). Griko and Standard Modern Greek are partially mutually intelligible.[7]


The most popular hypothesis on the origin of Griko is the one by Gerhard Rohlfs[8] and Georgios Hatzidakis, that Griko's roots go as far back in history as the time of the ancient Greek colonies in Southern Italy and Sicily in the eighth century BC. The Southern Italian dialect is thus considered to be the last living trace of the Greek elements that once formed Magna Graecia.

There are, however, competing hypotheses according to which Griko may have preserved some Doric elements, but its structure is otherwise mostly based on Koine Greek, like almost all other Modern Greek dialects.[9] Thus, Griko should rather be described as a Doric-influenced descendant of Medieval Greek spoken by those who fled the Byzantine Empire to Italy trying to escape the Turks. The idea of Southern Italy's Greek dialects being historically derived from Medieval Greek was proposed for the first time in the 19th century by Giuseppe Morosi.[10]

Geographic distribution

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Two small Italiot Greek-speaking communities survive today in the Italian regions of Calabria (Metropolitan city of Reggio Calabria) and Apulia (Province of Lecce). The Italiot Greek-speaking area of Apulia comprises nine small towns in the Grecìa Salentina region (Calimera, Martano, Castrignano de' Greci, Corigliano d'Otranto, Melpignano, Soleto, Sternatia, Zollino, Martignano), with a total of 40,000 inhabitants. The Calabrian Greek region also consists of nine villages in Bovesia, (including Bova Superiore, Roghudi, Gallicianò, Chorìo di Roghudi and Bova Marina) and four districts in the city of Reggio Calabria, but its population is significantly smaller, with around only 2000 inhabitants.

Official status

By Law 482 of 1999, the Italian parliament recognized the Griko communities of Reggio Calabria and Salento as a Greek ethnic and linguistic minority. It states that the Republic protects the language and culture of its Albanian, Catalan, Germanic, Greek, Slovene and Croat populations and of those who speak French, Franco-Provençal, Friulian, Ladin, Occitan and Sardinian.[11] According to UNESCO data from 2011, the two dialects of Griko are classified as severely endangered languages.[12]


There is rich oral tradition and Griko folklore. Griko songs, music and poetry are particularly popular in Italy and Greece. Famous music groups from Salento include Ghetonia and Aramirè. Also, influential Greek artists such as Dionysis Savvopoulos and Maria Farantouri have performed in Griko. The Greek musical ensemble Encardia focuses on Griko songs as well as on the musical tradition of Southern Italy at large.[13][14]


Sample text from ΚαληνύφταKalinifta ("Good night") and Andramu pai, popular Griko songs:

Griko Modern Greek English Translation
Καληνύφτα - kali'nifta Καληνύχτα - kali'nixta Good night
Εβώ πάντα σε σένα πενσέω,
γιατί σένα φσυχή μου 'γαπώ,
τσαι που πάω, που σύρνω, που στέω
στην καρδία,[15] μου πάντα σένα βαστῶ.
Εγώ πάντα εσένα σκέφτομαι,
γιατί εσένα ψυχή μου αγαπώ,
και όπου πάω, όπου σέρνομαι, όπου στέκομαι,[16]
στην καρδιά μου πάντα εσένα βαστώ.
I always think of you
because I love you, my soul,
and wherever I go, wherever I drag myself to, wherever I stand,
inside my heart I always hold you.
[eˈvo ˈpanta se ˈsena penˈseo
jaˈti ˈsena fsiˈhi mu ɣaˈpo
tɕe pu ˈpao pu ˈsirno pu ˈsteo
stin karˈdia[15] mu ˈpanta ˈsena vasˈto]
[eˈɣo ˈpanda eˈsena ˈsceftome
ʝaˈti eˈsena psiˈçi mu aɣaˈpo
ce ˈopu ˈpao ˈopu ˈserno[me] ˈopu ˈsteko[me][16]
stin ɡarˈðʝa mu ˈpanda eˈsena vaˈsto]
Griko Modern Greek English Translation
Ἄνδρα μοῦ πάει - Andramu pai Ὁ ἄνδρας μοῦ πάει - O andras mou pai My husband is gone
Στὲ κούω τὴ μπάντα τσαὶ στὲ κούω ἦττο σόνο
Στέω ἐττοῦ μα 'σα τσαὶ στὲ πένσεω στὸ τρένο
Πένσεω στὸ σκοτεινό τσαὶ ἤττη μινιέρα
ποῦ πολεμώντα ἐτσεί πεσαίνει ὁ γένο!
Ἀκούω τὴν μπάντα, ἀκούω τὴ μουσική
Εἶμαι ἐδὼ μαζί σας μὰ σκέφτομαι τὸ τρένο
Σκέφτομαι τὸ σκοτάδι καὶ τὸ ὀρυχεῖο
ὅπου δουλεύοντας πεθαίνει ὁ κόσμος!
I hear the band, I hear the music
I'm here with you but I think of the train
I think of darkness and the mine
where people work and die!
Ste 'kuo ti 'baⁿda ce ste kuo itto sono,
steo et'tu ma sa ce ste 'penseo sto 'treno,
penseo sto skotinò citti miniera
pu polemònta ecì peseni o jeno!
Akuo ti banda, akuo ti musiki
ime edho mazi sas ma skeftome to treno
skeftome to skotadhi kai to orihio
opu doulevontas petheni o kosmos!


Labial Dental/Alveolar Post-alveolar Velar
Stop pb td ɖ kɡ
Affricate tsdz
Fricative fv s (z) ʃ x
Nasal m n ɲ
Trill r
Approximant l j
Front Central Back
High i u
Mid ɛ ɔ
Low a


In many aspects, its grammar is similar to that of Modern Greek. The language has three genders, masculine, feminine, and neuter. All nouns and adjectives are declined according to number and case. There are four cases, just like in Modern Greek: nominative, genitive, accusative, and vocative. Verbs are conjugated according to person, number, tense, mood, and aspect. The table below shows the personal pronouns of the Griko language:

Personal pronouns 1st person 2nd person 3rd person
Singular Plural Singular Plural Singular Plural
Nominative evò emì esù esì (e)cino, (e)cini, (e)cino (e)cini, (e)cine, (e)cina
Genitive mu ma, mas su esà(s), sa (e)cinù, (e)cinì, (e)cinù (e)cinò
Accusative me, emena ma, mas esea, sea esà(s), sa (e)cino, (e)cini, (e)cino (e)cinu, (e)cine, (e)cina

See also

Notes and references

  1. ^ Vincent, N. (1981). "Italian". In Comrie, B. (ed.). The world's major languages. London: Croom Helm. pp. 279–302.
  2. ^ F. Violi, Lessico Grecanico-Italiano-Grecanico, Apodiafàzzi, Reggio Calabria, 1997.
  3. ^ Paolo Martino, L'isola grecanica dell'Aspromonte. Aspetti sociolinguistici, 1980. Risultati di un'inchiesta del 1977
  4. ^ Filippo Violi, Storia degli studi e della letteratura popolare grecanica, C.S.E. Bova (RC), 1992
  5. ^ Filippo Condemi, Grammatica Grecanica, Coop. Contezza, Reggio Calabria, 1987;
  6. ^ In Salento e Calabria le voci della minoranza linguistica greca | Treccani, il portale del sapere
  7. ^ Hammarström, Harald (2015). Ethnologue 16/17/18th editions: a comprehensive review: online appendices.
  8. ^ G. Rohlfs, Griechen und Romanen in Unteritalien, 1924.
  9. ^ G. Horrocks, Greek: A history of the language and its speakers, London: Longman. 1997. Ch. 4.4.3 and 14.2.3.
  10. ^ G. Morosi, Studi sui dialetti greci della terra d'Otranto, Lecce, 1870.
  11. ^ Law no. 482 of 1999 Archived 2015-05-12 at the Wayback Machine: "La Repubblica tutela la lingua e la cultura delle popolazioni albanesi, catalane, germaniche, greche, slovene e croate e di quelle parlanti il francese, il franco-provenzale, il friulano, il ladino, l'occitano e il sardo."
  12. ^ Evans, Lisa (15 April 2011). "Endangered languages: the full list". The Guardian. Archived from the original on 1 August 2013.
  13. ^ "Website of Encardia". Archived from the original on 20 January 2016. Retrieved 17 February 2016.
  14. ^ Tsatsou, Marianna (22 April 2012). "Charity Concert Collects Medicine and Milk Instead of Selling Tickets". Greek Reporter. Retrieved 31 December 2016.
  15. ^ a b Often, in actual performances of the song, synizesis takes place on the two final syllables of καρδία (/kar.'di.a/ > /kar.dja/) corresponding to Standard Modern Greek καρδιά /kar.'ðʝa/ (< καρδία /kar.'ði.a/).
  16. ^ a b The verbs "σέρνομαι" and "στέκομαι" are in passive forms but the active forms "σέρνω" (transl. el – transl. serno) and [especially] "στέκω" (transl. el – transl. steko) of the respective verbs can be used with "passive meaning" in modern Greek.
  17. ^ Romano, Antonio (2011). Acoustic data about the Griko vowel system. University of Turin, Italy.

Further reading