Languages of Cyprus
Sign in the Sovereign Base Areas of Akrotiri and Dhekelia in English, Greek, and Turkish
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The official languages of the Republic of Cyprus are Greek and Turkish.[2]: art. 3, § 1  The everyday spoken language (vernacular) of Greek Cypriots is Cypriot Greek, and that of Turkish Cypriots is Cypriot Turkish. For official purposes, the standard languages (Standard Modern Greek and Standard Turkish) are used.

According to the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages of the Council of Europe, Armenian was recognised as a minority language of Cyprus as of 1 December 2002.

Three "religious groups" are recognised by the constitution; two have their own language: Armenian (the language of Armenian Cypriots) and Cypriot Arabic (the language of Maronite Cypriots). Sometimes Kurbetcha, the language of the Kurbet, the Cypriot Roma, is included alongside the other two in literature, but it is not officially recognised in any capacity.[3]

The 2011 census of the Republic recorded 679,883 native speakers of Greek, 34,814 of English, 24,270 of Romanian, 20,984 of Russian and 18,388 of Bulgarian of a total of 840,407. Following the 1974 Turkish invasion, Cyprus was effectively divided into two linguistically near-homogeneous areas: the Turkish-speaking north and the Greek-speaking south;[4]: 2.2  only 1,405 speakers of Turkish reside in territory controlled by the Republic.[5]

The languages of Cyprus have historically exerted influence on one another; Cypriot Greek and Cypriot Turkish borrowed heavily from each other, and Cypriot Greek has helped shape Cypriot Arabic's phonology.[6]: 84 [7]: 223 

Cypriot Greek

Main article: Cypriot Greek

Languages spoken in territory under control of the Republic of Cyprus (2011)[8]
Greek (official)
Turkish (official)

Greek was originally brought to Cyprus by Greek settlers in the 12th–11th century BCE.[4]: 2.1  The earliest known Cypriot Greek inscription dates to c. 1000 BC.[9] The contemporary Cypriot Greek (CG)—the mother tongue of Greek Cypriots—evolved from later Byzantine Koine, under the influence of the languages of the many colonisers of the island. CG differs markedly from Standard Modern Greek (SMG),[10] particularly in its phonology, morphology and vocabulary, and CG may be difficult for speakers of other varieties of Greek to understand[11]: 1886  or may even be unintelligible to some.[12]: 26 [13]: 61  CG has a literary tradition that flourished before the Ottoman conquest of 1571.[14]: 392 

SMG has been the language of instruction in Greek Cypriot education since the late 19th century (then Katharevousa) and is the language used in Greek-language media in the country (though in a recognisably Cypriot form).[15] Indeed, Greek Cypriot society is diglossic, with SMG the high (taught) and CG the low variety (naturally acquired), itself a dialect continuum that has been long undergoing levelling and koinénisation. SMG exerts a continuing influence on CG, and CG speakers code-mix and code-switch between the two varieties in formal settings. Greek Cypriots' tendency to "downplay the differences between the two varieties"[12]: 35  has been thought to help preserve diglossia in circumstances that would have otherwise led to the demise of the low variety (CG).[3]: 534–535 [11]: 1887 

Many Turkish Cypriots have traditionally (prior to 1974) been fluent in CG, meaning CG served as the "vernacular lingua franca" of the island.[11]: 1886  Some Turkish Cypriots were uni-lingual in Greek.[16][17][18]

Cypriot Turkish

Main article: Cypriot Turkish

Road sign outside Pyla, Cyprus in Greek (in capital letters, top), Turkish (middle) and romanised Greek (bottom)

Emanating from Anatolia and evolved for four centuries, Cypriot Turkish is the vernacular spoken by Cypriots with Ottoman ancestry, as well as by Cypriots who converted to Islam during Ottoman rule.[19]

Cypriot Turkish consists of a blend of Ottoman Turkish and the Yörük dialect that is spoken in the Taurus Mountains of southern Turkey. In addition it has absorbed influences from Greek, Italian and English. Cypriot Turkish is mutually intelligible with Standard Turkish.

Minority languages

Two minority languages are covered by the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages in Cyprus, Armenian and Cypriot Arabic.[20]


Armenians have inhabited Cyprus since the sixth century AD, but about 9,000 more arrived from Turkey in the early 20th century to escape the Armenian genocide. Of those, most moved on to other countries. Today, Western Armenian is taught in Armenian schools (Nareg) and is the first language of about 3,000 people of Armenian descent in the Republic. Armenian Cypriots are often bilingual in Greek and Armenian.[3]: 507–509  In 2014, it was reported that there are 668 Armenian first-language speakers in Republic of Cyprus-controlled areas (of a total 1,831 Armenian Cypriots).[21]: 3 

Cypriot Arabic

Main article: Cypriot Arabic

It is not entirely clear when Arabic first made its way to Cyprus, but Arabic speakers are known to have emigrated from the Levant in the late 12th century AD.[7]: 220  Today, Cypriot Arabic (CA) is moribund with efforts being made to revitalise it. It is spoken by an estimated 900 Cypriot Maronites, all over the age of 30. Kormakitis was a long-time stronghold of the language, but most Maronites relocated to the south and spread after 1974, fuelling its—now very likely—death.[3]: 507  CA speakers are bilingual in Greek and CA, and CA, having long existed cut off from other varieties of Arabic, has been heavily influenced by Cypriot Greek, with respect to its syntax, vocabulary and, particularly, phonology: it has lost all emphatic consonants and stop voicing opposition. CA has traits in common with some north Syrian and Mesopotamian dialects and sedentary vernaculars spoken on the Levantine coast.[7]: 220–222  Cypriot Arabic has not so far been codified, though there are plans to do so.[22]: 3  In 2014, it was reported that, in the 2011 census, of all 3,656 Maronite Cypriots in Republic of Cyprus-controlled areas "none declared [Cypriot Arabic] to be their first language".[21]: 4 


There is an unknown number of Roma, speakers of Kurbetcha (or Gurbetcha), a creole with vocabulary that is predominantly Romani and Cypriot Turkish grammar, residing in Northern Cyprus. Kurbetcha is not protected by the Charter and has been little studied.[3]: 508–509, 536–537, 549 

Foreign languages

Proficiency in English is high (higher than in many other European countries), and Cypriots that receive education in English might code-switch between their native language and English. English features on road signs, public notices, and in advertisements, etc.[11]: 1888  English was the sole official language during British colonial rule and lingua franca (until 1960) and continued to be used (de facto) in courts of law until 1989 and in legislature until 1963.[4]: 4.4  A reported 80.4% of residents of Cyprus perceive to have command of the English language as L2, a 10.8% of French, a 4.6% of German, a 2.8% of Russian, and a 2.0% of Spanish. On average, Cypriots speak 1.2 foreign languages.[23]: 6  According to the Eurobarometer, 76% of people of Cyprus can speak English, 12% can speak French and 5% can speak German.[24]

Foreign language lessons become compulsory at the age of 9 (2008).[23]: 11 

Extinct languages

The Cypro-Minoan syllabary and earlier languages

It is reckoned written language first made its appearance in Cyprus in the 16th century BCE with the yet-to-be-deciphered Cypro-Minoan syllabary, an offshoot of Linear A "with some additional elements of hieroglyphic affiliation" that was the basis for the later Cypriot syllabary.[25]: 109–110  The Cypro-Minoan syllabary may have been used to write more than one language.[26]: 60ff. 

Arcadocypriot and transitional Greek

The ancient Arcadocypriot dialect of Greek was spoken by the Mycenaean Greeks to first settle in Cyprus in the 12th or 11th century BCE. It was eventually succeeded by Koine Greek in the fourth century BCE[3]: 509  and later Byzantine Koine evolved into Cypriot Greek.[10]


The Idalion tablet, inscribed in the Cypriot syllabary, from the fifth century BCE. The tablet is named after Idalion or Idalium, one of ten ancient Cypriot city-kingdoms

Eteocypriot was a pre-Indo-European language, indigenous to the island, that competed with Greek following the latter's arrival and was ultimately supplanted by it by the third century BCE. It was written in the Cypriot syllabary that was adopted for Arcadocypriot; the same writing system was used to write both (unrelated) languages. For the time that the two languages co-existed, the peoples of Cyprus were bilingual (and bicultural).[25]: 115–116 


  1. ^ "SPECIAL EUROBAROMETER 386 Europeans and their Languages" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 2016-01-06.
  2. ^ The Constitution of the Republic of Cyprus (PDF). 1960. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2013-12-03. Retrieved 2013-06-26.
  3. ^ a b c d e f Hadjioannou, Xenia; Tsiplakou, Stavroula; Kappler, Matthias (2011). "Language policy and language planning in Cyprus". Current Issues in Language Planning. 12 (4). Routledge: 503–569. doi:10.1080/14664208.2011.629113. hdl:10278/29371. S2CID 143966308.
  4. ^ a b c "Cyprus" (PDF). Euromosaic III. Retrieved 3 July 2013.
  5. ^ "Population enumerated by age, sex, language spoken and district (1.10.2011) (sheet D1A)". Population – Country of Birth, Citizenship Category, Country of Citizenship, Language, 2011. CYstat. June 2013.[permanent dead link]
  6. ^ Gökçeoğlu, Mustafa; Pehlivan, Ahmet (2006). "Greek in Turkish Cypriot Literature". In Kappler, Matthias (ed.). Intercultural Aspects in and Around Turkic Literatures; Proceedings of the international conference held on October 11–12th, 2003 in Nicosia. Harrassowitz Verlag. pp. 83–92. ISBN 9783447052856.
  7. ^ a b c Borg, Alexander (1997). "Cypriot Arabic Phonology". In Kaye, Alan S. (ed.). Phonologies of Asia and Africa (including the Caucasus). Vol. 1. Winona Lake, Indiana: Eisenbrauns. pp. 219–244. ISBN 1-57506-017-5.
  8. ^ "Middle East :: CYPRUS". CIA The World Factbook. 19 July 2022.
  9. ^ Steele Philippa, "The mystery of ancient Cypriot clay balls", British Academy Review, 24, 2014
  10. ^ a b Joseph, Brian D.; Tserdanelis, Georgios (2003). "Modern Greek". In Roelcke, Thorsten (ed.). Variationstypologie. Ein sprachtypologisches Handbuch zu den europäischen Sprachen in Geschichte und Gegenwart / Variation Typology. A Typological Handbook of European Languages. Walter de Gruyter. pp. 823–836.
  11. ^ a b c d Ammon, Ulrich; Dittmar, Norbert; Mattheier, Klaus J.; Trudgill, Peter, eds. (2006). "Greece and Cyprus". Sociolinguistics: an international handbook of the science of language and society / Soziolinguistik: ein internationales Handbuch zur Wissenschaft von Sprache und Gesellschaft. Handbooks of linguistics and communication science / Handbücher zur Sprach- und Kommunikationswissenschaft. Vol. 3 (2nd ed.). Berlin: Walter de Gruyter. pp. 1881–1889. ISBN 9783110184181.
  12. ^ a b Arvaniti, Amalia (2006). "Erasure as a means of maintaining diglossia in Cyprus". San Diego Linguistic Papers (2). Department of Linguistics, UC San Diego.
  13. ^ Terkourafi, Marina (2007). "Perceptions of difference in the Greek sphere: The case of Cyprus". Journal of Greek Linguistics. 8 (1): 60–96. doi:10.1075/jgl.8.06ter.
  14. ^ Horrocks, Geoffrey C. (2010). Greek: a history of the language and its speakers (2nd ed.). Wiley-Blackwell. ISBN 9781444318920.
  15. ^ Arvaniti, Amalia (2010). "Linguistic practices in Cyprus and the emergence of Cypriot Standard Greek" (PDF). Mediterranean Language Review. 17: 15–45.
  16. ^ Beckingham, C.F. (1957). "The Turks of Cyprus". The Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute of Great Britain and Ireland. 87 (2): 166. doi:10.2307/2844102. JSTOR 2844102. In Cyprus religious and linguistic divisions do not quite coincide. While many Turks habitually speak Turkish there are 'Turkish', that is, Muslim villages in which the normal language is Greek; among them are Lapithiou (P i), Platanisso (F i), Ayios Simeon (F i) and Galinoporni (F i). This fact has not yet been adequately investigated. With the growth of national feeling and the spread of education the phenomenon is becoming not only rarer but harder to detect. In a Muslim village the school teacher will be a Turk and will teach the children Turkish. They already think of themselves as Turks, and having once learnt the language, will sometimes use it in talking to a visitor in preference to Greek, merely as a matter of national pride. On the other hand many Turks, whose mother tongue is Turkish, learn Greek because they find it useful to understand the language of the majority, though it is much less common for them to write it correctly
  17. ^ Stavroula Varella, Language Contact and the Lexicon in the History of Cypriot Greek, Peter Lang, 2006, p. 64
  18. ^ Ozan Gülle (2014), "Structural Convergence in Cyprus", Inauguraldussertation zur Erlangung des Doktorgrades der Philosophie an der Ludwig-Maximilians-Universitat Munchen, p. 149: "it is historically well documented that Turkish Cypriots showed large differences in their frequency of communication in Cypriot Greek [...]: On one end of the spectrum are Turkish Cypriots who were probably monolingual Cypriot Greek speakers or had only little competency in Turkish, ..."
  19. ^ Jennings, Ronald (1993), Christians and Muslims in Ottoman Cyprus and the Mediterranean World, 1571-1640, New York University Press ISBN 0-814-74181-9.
  20. ^ "Implementation of the Charter in Cyprus". Database for the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages. Public Foundation for European Comparative Minority Research. Archived from the original on 7 February 2014. Retrieved 26 June 2013.
  21. ^ a b Council of Europe (2014-01-16). European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages. Fourth periodical presented to the Secretary General of the Council of Europe in accordance with Article 15 of the Charter. CYPRUS (PDF) (Report).
  22. ^ Office of the Law Commissioner (2011). European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages. Third periodical report by the Republic of Cyprus (PDF) (Report). Council of Europe.
  23. ^ a b Mejer, Lene; Boateng, Sadiq Kwesi; Turchetti, Paolo (2010). "Population and social conditions" (PDF). eurostat. Statistics in Focus (49/2010). Archived from the original (PDF) on 2014-11-14.
  24. ^ Europeans and their Languages - Eurobarometer, 2006
  25. ^ a b Haarmann, Harald, ed. (1995). "5. The Cretan legacy in the East: Writing systems in the multilingual society of ancient Cyprus". Early Civilization and Literacy in Europe: an inquiry into cultural continuity in the Mediterranean World. Walter de Gruyter. pp. 109–116. ISBN 9783110146516.
  26. ^ Steele, Philippa M. (2013). A Linguistic History of Ancient Cyprus: The Non-Greek Languages and their Relations with Greek, c.1600–300 BC. Cambridge University Press. ISBN 9781107042865.