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

This section does not cite any sources. Please help improve this section by adding citations to reliable sources. Unsourced material may be challenged and removed. (April 2024) (Learn how and when to remove this message)


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 November 22, 2013.
  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