|Region||Eastern Peloponnese, around Mount Parnon|
Tsakonian (also Tsaconian, Tzakonian or Tsakonic; Tsakonian: τσακώνικα, α τσακώνικα γρούσσα; Greek: τσακώνικα) is a Hellenic language which is both highly divergent from other spoken varieties of Modern Greek and, from a philological standpoint, linguistically classified separately from them. It is spoken in the Tsakonian region of the Peloponnese, Greece.
Tsakonian descends from Doric, which was an Ancient Greek dialect on the Western branch of the Hellenic languages, and it is its only living descendant. Although Tsakonian is treated as a dialect of Modern Standard Greek, some compendia treat it as a separate language, since Modern Standard Greek descends from Ionic and Attic which are on the Eastern branch of the Hellenic languages, while Tsakonian (as a descendant of Doric) is the sole surviving member of the Western branch.
Tsakonian is critically endangered, with only a few hundred, mostly elderly, fluent speakers left. Tsakonian and Modern Greek are not mutually intelligible.
The term Tsakonas or Tzakonas first emerges in the writings of Byzantine chroniclers who derive the ethnonym from a corruption of Lakonas, a Laconian/Lacedaemonian (Spartan)—a reference to the Doric roots of the Tsakonian language.
Tsakonian is found today in a group of mountain towns and villages slightly inland from the Argolic Gulf, although it was once spoken farther to the south and west as well as on the coasts of Laconia (ancient Sparta).
Geographical barriers to travel and communication kept the Tsakonians relatively isolated from the rest of Greece until the 19th century, although there was some trade between the coastal towns. The rise of mass education and improved travel beginning after the Greek War of Independence meant that fluent Tsakonian speakers were no longer as isolated from the rest of Greece. In addition, during the war, the Turkish army drove the Tsakonians east, and as a result, their de facto capital shifted from Prastos to Leonidio, further making the people significantly less isolated. There began a rapid decline from an estimated figure of some 200,000 fluent speakers to the present estimate of a speaker count between 200 and 1,000.
Since the introduction of electricity to all villages in Tsakonia by the late 1950s, Greek mass media can reach the most remote of areas and has profoundly affected the speech of younger speakers. Efforts to revive the language by teaching it in local schools do not seem to have had much success. Standard Modern Greek is the official language of government, commerce and education, and it is possible that the continued modernization of Tsakonia will lead to the language's disappearance sometime this century.
The area where the language is found today in some villages Tsakonia slopes of Parnon in the southern province of Kynouria, including the towns of Leonidio and Tyros and villages of Melana, Agios Andreas, Vaskina, Prastos, Sitaina and Kastanitsa.
Tsakonian has no official status. Prayers and liturgies of the Greek Orthodox Church have been translated into Tsakonian, but the ancient Koine of the traditional church services is usually used as in other locations in Greece. Some teaching materials in Tsakonian for use in local schools have reportedly also been produced.
There are three dialects of Tsakonian: Northern, Southern, and Propontis.
The Propontis dialect was spoken in what was formerly a Tsakonian colony on the Sea of Marmara (or Propontis; two villages near Gönen, Vatika and Havoutsi), whose members were resettled in Greece during the 1924 Population exchange between Greece and Turkey. Propontis Tsakonian appears to have died out around 1970, although it had already stopped being the primary language of its community after 1914 when they were internally exiled with other Greeks in the region due to the outbreak of World War I. Propontis Tsakonian was overall grammatically more conservative, but it was also influenced by the nearby Thracian dialects of Greek which were much closer to Standard Modern Greek. The emergence of the Propontis community is either dated to the 13th century settlement of Tsakonians by Emperor Michael VII, explicitly referenced by Byzantine George Pachymeres or around the time of the 1770 Orlov Revolt. For an example of the standardizing Thracian Greek influence, compare the Northern and Southern word for water, ύο (ýo, derived from Ancient Greek ὕδωρ) to Propontic νερέ and Standard νερό (neré, neró).
Of the two mainland dialects of Tsakonian, Southern Tsakonian is spoken in the villages of Melana, Prastos, Tiros, Leonidio, Pramatefti and Sapunakeika, while Northern Tsakonian is found in Sitena and Kastanitsa. The Northern villages were much more exposed to the rest of Greek society, and as a result Northern Tsakonian experienced much heavier Standard Greek lexical and phonological influence, before it began to die out much faster than Southern Tsakonian. As early as 1971, it became difficult for researchers in the northern villages to find any informants who could offer more than "a few isolated words". There may have once been a fourth, Western, dialect of Tsakonian given the forms attested by Evliya Celebi in the 17th century.
Another difference between Tsakonian and the common Demotic Greek dialect is its verb system – Tsakonian preserves different archaic forms, such as participial periphrasis for the present tense. Certain complementisers and other adverbial features present in the standard Modern Greek dialect are absent from Tsakonian, with the exception of the Modern που (/pu/) relativiser, which takes the form πφη (/pʰi/) in Tsakonian (note: traditional Tsakonian orthography uses the digraph πφ to represent aspirated /pʰ/). Noun morphology is broadly similar to Standard Modern Greek, although Tsakonian tends to drop the nominative, final -ς (-s) from masculine nouns, thus Tsakonian ο τσχίφτα for Standard o τρίφτης (o tshífta/o tríftis: "grater").
There has always been contact with Koine Greek speakers and the language was affected by the neighboring Greek dialects. Additionally, there are some lexical borrowings from Arvanitika and Turkish. The core vocabulary remains recognizably Doric, although experts disagree on the extent to which other true Doricisms can be found. There are only a few hundred, mainly elderly true native speakers living, although a great many more can speak the language less than fluently.
Tsakonian in some words preserves the pre-classical Greek [w]-sound, represented in some Ancient Greek texts by the digamma (ϝ). In Tsakonian, this sound has become a fricative [v]: βάννε [ˈvane] "sheep", corresponding to Ancient ϝαμνός [wamˈnos] (Attic ἀμνός).
Tsakonian has extensive changes triggered by palatalisation:
Word-initial [r] > [ʃ]: *ράφων [ˈrafɔːn] > σχάφου [ˈʃafu]
Word-final [s] > [r], which reflects an earlier process in Laconian; in Tsakonian, it is a liaison phoneme: τίνος [ˈtinos] > τσούνερ [ˈtsuner]
In Southern Tsakonian, [l] is deleted before back and central vowels: λόγος [ˈloɣos] > Northern λόγo [ˈloɣo], Southern όγo [ˈoɣo]; λούζων [ˈluzɔːn] > Northern λούκχου [ˈlukʰu], Southern ούκχου [ˈukʰu];
Occasionally [θ] > [s], which appears to reflect an earlier process in Laconian, but in others [θ] is retained though the word is absent in Standard Greek: θυγάτηρ [θyˈɣatir] > σάτη [ˈsati], but Ancient θύων [ˈθiɔːn] (Modern equivalent: σφάζω [ˈsfazo]) > θύου [ˈθiu]
Tsakonian avoids clusters, and reduces them to aspirated or prenasalised stops and affricates:
In the common verb ending -ζω, [z] > [nd] : φωνάζων [foˈnazɔːn] > φωνιάντου [foˈɲandu]
[z, v] are added between vowels: μυία, κυανός [myˈia, kyaˈnos] > μούζα, κουβάνε [ˈmuza, kuˈvane]
[ɣ, ð] often drop out between vowels: πόδας, τράγος [ˈpoðas, ˈtraɣos] > πούα, τσχάο [ˈpua, ˈtʃao]
|Original song – Tsakonian||Roman Transliteration||IPA transcription|
Πουλάτζι ἔμα ἐχα τθὸ κουιβί τσαὶ μερουτέ νι ἔμα ἐχα
Poulátzi éma ékha tʰo kouiví tse merouté ni éma ékha
puˈlatɕi ˈema ˈexa tʰo kwiˈvi tɕe meruˈte ɲ ˈema ˈexa
|Modern Greek||Modern Greek pronunciation (Roman guideline)||IPA transcription (see Greek phonology)|
Πουλάκι είχα στο κλουβί και μερομένο το είχα.
Pouláki íkha sto klouví ke meroméno to íkha
puˈlaci ˈixa sto kluˈvi ce meroˈmeno to ˈixa
I had a bird in a cage and I kept it happy
I gave it sugar and wine-grapes
and from the great amount of grapes and their essence,
the nightingale got naughty [possibly means it got drunk] and escaped.
And its master now runs after it with the cage in his hands:
Come my bird back where you belong, come to your house
I will remove your old bells and buy you new ones.
Tsakonian avoids consonant clusters, as seen, and drops final [s] and [n]; as a result, syllable structure tends more to CV than in Standard Modern Greek. (The use of digraphs in tradition spelling tends to obscure this). For instances, ancient [hadros] "hard" goes to Tsakonian [a.tʃe], where /t͡ʃ/ can be considered a single phoneme; it is written traditionally with a trigraph as ατσχέ (= atskhe).
Tsakonian has undergone considerable morphological changes: there is minimal case inflection.
The present and imperfect indicative in Tsakonian are formed with participles, like English but unlike the rest of Greek: Tsakonian ενεί αού, έμα αού "I am saying, I was saying" ≈ Greek ειμί λαλών, ήμην λαλών.
Note: Participles change according to the gender of the subject of the sentence
Tsakonian has preserved the original inflection of the aorist indicative.
Traditionally, Tsakonian used the standard Greek alphabet, along with digraphs to represent certain sounds that either do not occur in Demotic Greek, or that do not commonly occur in combination with the same sounds as they do in Tsakonian. For example, the [ʃ] sound, which does not occur in standard Greek, does occur in Tsakonian, and is spelled σχ (much like German sch). Another sound recalls Czech ř. Thanasis Costakis invented an orthography using dots, spiritus asper, and caron for use in his works, which has been used in his grammar and several other works. This is more like the Czech usage of hačeks (such as š). Lastly, unpalatalized n and l before a front vowel can be written double, to contrast with a palatalised single letter. (e.g. in Southern Tsakonian ένει [eɲi] "I am", έννι [eni] "he is" – the former corresponding to Northern Tsakonian έμι [emi] and Standard Greek είμαι [ime].)
|τζ||(Κ) τζ ̌ – τζ & τρζ ̌ — τρζ
(Λ) τζ ̌ – τζ
|(K) tɕ, trʒ|
(L) tɕ d͡ʒ
|νν||ν̇||n (not ɲ)|
|λλ||λ̣||l (not ʎ)|
|English||Modern Greek||Tsakonian (Greek alphabet)||Tsakonian (Latin script)||Tsakonian (Costakis Notation)|
|Where is his/her/its room?||Πού είναι το δωμάτιό του/της;||Κιά έννι το όντα σι;||Kiá éni to óda si?||κιά έν̇ι το όντα σι;|
|Where is the beach?||Πού είναι η παραλία;||Κιά έννι το περιγιάλλι;||Kiá éni to perigiáli?||κιά έν̇ι το περιγιάλ̣ι;|
|Where is the bar?||Πού είναι το μπαρ;||Κιά έννι το μπαρ;||Kiá éni to bar?||κιά έν̇ι το μπαρ;|
|Don't touch me there!||Μη μ' αγγίζεις εκεί!||Μη' μ' αντζίζερε όρπα!||Mi m' andzízere órpa!||Μη με ατζίζερε όρπα!|