Greece, Cyprus, Italy, Anatolia and the Black Sea region
Linguistic classificationIndo-European
ISO 639-5grk
Linguasphere56= (phylozone)

Hellenic is the branch of the Indo-European language family whose principal member is Greek.[2] In most classifications, Hellenic consists of Greek alone,[3][4] but some linguists use the term Hellenic to refer to a group consisting of Greek proper and other varieties thought to be related but different enough to be separate languages, either among ancient neighboring languages[5] or among modern varieties of Greek.[6]

Greek and ancient Macedonian

While the bulk of surviving public and private inscriptions found in ancient Macedonia were written in Attic Greek (and later in Koine Greek),[7][8] fragmentary documentation of a vernacular local variety comes from onomastic evidence, ancient glossaries and recent epigraphic discoveries in the Greek region of Macedonia, such as the Pella curse tablet.[9][10][11] This local variety is usually classified by scholars as a dialect of Northwest Doric Greek,[note 1] and occasionally as an Aeolic Greek dialect[note 2] or a distinct sister language of Greek;[note 3] due to the latter classification, a family under the name "Hellenic" has been suggested to group together Greek proper and the ancient Macedonian language.[5][23]

Modern Hellenic languages

In addition, some linguists use the term "Hellenic" to refer to modern Greek in a narrow sense together with certain other, divergent modern varieties deemed separate languages on the basis of a lack of mutual intelligibility.[24] Separate language status is most often posited for Tsakonian,[24] which is thought to be uniquely a descendant of Doric rather than Attic Greek, followed by Pontic and Cappadocian Greek of Anatolia.[25] The Griko or Italiot varieties of southern Italy are also not readily intelligible to speakers of standard Greek.[26] Separate status is sometimes also argued for Cypriot, though this is not as easily justified.[27] In contrast, Yevanic (Jewish Greek) is mutually intelligible with standard Greek but is sometimes considered a separate language for ethnic and cultural reasons.[27] Greek linguistics traditionally treats all of these as dialects of a single language.[3][28][29]

Language tree


Standard Modern Greek


Cypriot Greek

Cappadocian Greek


Crimean Greek (Mariupolitan)

Romano-Greek (a mixed language)

Italiot Greek (disputed) 

Griko (Doric-influenced)

Calabrian Greek


Arcadocypriot † (related to Mycenaean?)




Tsakonian (Doric-influenced Koine?; critically endangered)

(?) Ancient Macedonian


Hellenic constitutes a branch of the Indo-European language family. The ancient languages that might have been most closely related to it, ancient Macedonian[30][31] (either an ancient Greek dialect or a separate Hellenic language) and Phrygian,[32] are not documented well enough to permit detailed comparison. Among Indo-European branches with living descendants, Greek is often argued to have the closest genetic ties with Armenian[33] (see also Graeco-Armenian) and Indo-Iranian languages (see Graeco-Aryan).[34][35]

See also


  1. ^ Pioneered by Friedrich Wilhelm Sturz (1808),[12] and subsequently supported by Olivier Masson (1996),[13] Michael Meier-Brügger (2003),[14] Johannes Engels (2010),[15] J. Méndez Dosuna (2012),[16] Joachim Matzinger (2016),[17] Emilio Crespo (2017),[10] Claude Brixhe (2018)[18] and M. B. Hatzopoulos (2020).[12]
  2. ^ Suggested by August Fick (1874),[13] Otto Hoffmann (1906),[13] N. G. L. Hammond (1997)[19] and Ian Worthington (2012).[20]
  3. ^ Suggested by Georgiev (1966),[21] Joseph (2001)[5] and Hamp (2013).[22]


  1. ^ Hammarström, Harald; Forkel, Robert; Haspelmath, Martin, eds. (2017). "Graeco-Phrygian". Glottolog 3.0. Jena, Germany: Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History.
  2. ^ In other contexts, "Hellenic" and "Greek" are generally synonyms.
  3. ^ a b Browning (1983), Medieval and Modern Greek, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
  4. ^ Joseph, Brian D. and Irene Philippaki-Warburton (1987): Modern Greek. London: Routledge, p. 1.
  5. ^ a b c Joseph, Brian D. (2001). "Ancient Greek". In Garry, Jane; Rubino, Carl; Bodomo, Adams B.; Faber, Alice; French, Robert (eds.). Facts about the World's Languages: An Encyclopedia of the World's Major Languages, Past and Present. H. W. Wilson Company. p. 256. ISBN 9780824209704.
  6. ^ David Dalby. The Linguasphere Register of the World's Languages and Speech Communities (1999/2000, Linguasphere Press). Pp. 449-450.
  7. ^ Joseph Roisman; Ian Worthington (7 July 2011). A Companion to Ancient Macedonia. John Wiley & Sons. p. 94. ISBN 978-1-4443-5163-7. Many surviving public and private inscriptions indicate that in the Macedonian kingdom there was no dominant written language but standard Attic and later on koine Greek.
  8. ^ Lewis, D. M.; Boardman, John (2000). The Cambridge ancient history, 3rd edition, Volume VI. Cambridge University Press. p. 730. ISBN 978-0-521-23348-4.
  9. ^ Sarah B. Pomeroy, Stanley M. Burstein, Walter Donlan, Jennifer Tolbert Roberts, A Brief History of Ancient Greece: Politics, Society, and Culture, Oxford University Press, 2008, p.289
  10. ^ a b Crespo, Emilio (2017). "The Softening of Obstruent Consonants in the Macedonian Dialect". In Giannakis, Georgios K.; Crespo, Emilio; Filos, Panagiotis (eds.). Studies in Ancient Greek Dialects: From Central Greece to the Black Sea. Walter de Gruyter. p. 329. ISBN 978-3-11-053081-0.
  11. ^ Hornblower, Simon (2002). "Macedon, Thessaly and Boiotia". The Greek World, 479-323 BC (Third ed.). Routledge. p. 90. ISBN 0-415-16326-9.
  12. ^ a b Hatzopoulos, Miltiades B. (2020). "The speech of the ancient Macedonians". Ancient Macedonia. De Gruyter. pp. 64, 77. ISBN 978-3-11-071876-8.
  13. ^ a b c Masson, Olivier (2003). "[Ancient] Macedonian language". In Hornblower, Simon; Spawforth, Antony (eds.). The Oxford Classical Dictionary (revised 3rd ed.). Oxford University Press. pp. 905–906. ISBN 978-0-19-860641-3.
  14. ^ Michael Meier-Brügger, Indo-European linguistics, Walter de Gruyter, 2003, p.28,on Google books
  15. ^ Roisman, Worthington, 2010, "A Companion to Ancient Macedonia", Chapter 5: Johannes Engels, "Macedonians and Greeks", p. 95
  16. ^ Dosuna, J. Méndez (2012). "Ancient Macedonian as a Greek dialect: A critical survey on recent work (Greek, English, French, German text)". In Giannakis, Georgios K. (ed.). Ancient Macedonia: Language, History, Culture. Centre for Greek Language. p. 145. ISBN 978-960-7779-52-6.
  17. ^ Matzinger, Joachim (2016). Die Altbalkanischen Sprachen (PDF) (Speech) (in German). Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich.
  18. ^ Brixhe, Claude (2018). "Macedonian". In Klein, Jared; Joseph, Brian; Fritz, Matthias (eds.). Handbook of Comparative and Historical Indo-European Linguistics. Vol. 3. De Gruyter. pp. 1862–1867. ISBN 978-3-11-054243-1.
  19. ^ Hammond, N.G.L (1997). Collected Studies: Further studies on various topics. A.M. Hakkert. p. 79.
  20. ^ Worthington, Ian (2012). Alexander the Great: A Reader. Routledge. p. 71. ISBN 978-1-136-64003-2.
  21. ^ Vladimir Georgiev, "The Genesis of the Balkan Peoples", The Slavonic and East European Review 44:103:285-297 (July 1966)
  22. ^ Eric Hamp & Douglas Adams (2013) "The Expansion of the Indo-European Languages", Sino-Platonic Papers, vol 239.
  23. ^ "Ancient Macedonian". MultiTree: A Digital Library of Language Relationships. Archived from the original on 8 February 2016.
  24. ^ a b Salminen, Tapani (2007). "Europe and North Asia". In Moseley, Christopher (ed.). Encyclopedia of the World's Endangered Languages. London: Routledge. pp. 211–284.
  25. ^ Ethnologue: Family tree for Greek.
  26. ^ N. Nicholas (1999), The Story of Pu: The Grammaticalisation in Space and Time of a Modern Greek Complementiser. PhD Dissertation, University of Melbourne. p. 482f. (PDF)
  27. ^ a b Joseph, Brian; Tserdanelis, Georgios (2003). "Modern Greek". In Roelcke, Thorsten (ed.). Variationstypologie: Ein sprachtypologisches Handbuch der europäischen Sprachen. Berlin: de Gruyter. p. 836.
  28. ^ G. Horrocks (1997), Greek: A History of the Language and its Speakers. London: Longman.
  29. ^ P. Trudgill (2002), Ausbau Sociolinguistics and Identity in Greece, in: P. Trudgill, Sociolinguistic Variation and Change, Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press.
  30. ^ Roger D. Woodard. "Introduction", The Cambridge Encyclopedia of the World's Ancient Languages, ed. Roger D. Woodard (2004, Cambridge University Press, pp. 1–18), pp. 12–14.
  31. ^ Benjamin W. Fortson. Indo-European Language and Culture. Blackwell, 2004, p. 405.
  32. ^ Johannes Friedrich. Extinct Languages. Philosophical Library, 1957, pp. 146-147.
    Claude Brixhe. "Phrygian," The Cambridge Encyclopedia of the World's Ancient Languages, ed. Roger D. Woodard, Cambridge University Press, 2004, pp. 777-788), p. 780.
    Benjamin W. Fortson. Indo-European Language and Culture. Blackwell, 2004, p. 403.
  33. ^ James Clackson. Indo-European Linguistics: An Introduction. Cambridge University Press, 2007, pp. 11-12.
  34. ^ Benjamin W. Fortson. Indo-European Language and Culture. Blackwell, 2004, p. 181.
  35. ^ Henry M. Hoenigswald, "Greek," The Indo-European Languages, ed. Anna Giacalone Ramat and Paolo Ramat (Routledge, 1998 pp. 228-260), p. 228.
    BBC: Languages across Europe: Greek