OSU Department of Linguistics OSU Department of Slavic
Languages and Literatures

Brian D Joseph, Publications

GREEK, Modern

Consultant: Brian D. Joseph, Professor of Linguistics, The Ohio State University

NOTE: accents, diacritics, and special symbols have been eliminated or modified in the interest of making the text readable in the absence of the appropriate encoding system and font. Thus, long marks and the like are not indicated, and so cited forms should be used with caution.

Language Name: Modern Greek (note that Greek by itself, without reference to time period, usually refers to Ancient Greek); autonym: elinika (cf. the Ancient Greek autonym hellenike, the neuter plural nominative/accusative of which is the source, via sound changes, of the modern term), also neoelinika (literally, "new (i.e., modern) Greek"), and romeika (literally, "Romaic", due to the affinities (Orthodox Christian) Greeks felt after the 4th century AD with the Eastern Roman (= Byzantine) Empire based in Constantinople).

Location: Prior to the late Hellenistic period, as noted in the chapter on Ancient Greek, there were Greek speakers all over the eastern Mediterranean, in Southern Italy, along the Black Sea coasts, in Egypt, the Levant, Cyprus, and much of Asia Minor. This distribution continued throughout the Hellenistic period and on through the Byzantine and Medieval periods, and is valid even into the Modern era, though Greece and Cyprus are the main venues for the Greek language today. Most of the Greek inhabitants of Asia Minor, what is now Turkey, were removed to Greece after the population exchanges of the early 1920s that came in the aftermath of the Turkish defeat of Greece's expansionist forays. New diasporic communities have arisen in the 20th century, quite robustly in Australia (especially Melbourne) and in North America (especially in major cities in the USA and Canada), and to a lesser extent in parts of Europe and Central Asia, the latter in part due to emigration brought on by the Greek civil war after World War II.

Family: As a descendant of Ancient Greek, Modern Greek has the same family affiliation as that given in the chapter on Ancient Greek, namely part of the Greek or Hellenic branch of Indo-European.

Related Languages: The linguistic affinities noted in the chapter on Ancient Greek are relevant for Modern Greek, though perhaps not as obvious as for the ancient language. Depending on how one judges the difference between dialects of a language as opposed to separate languages, the highly divergent modern form of Greek known as Tsakonian, spoken still in the eastern Peloponnesos (in Greece), could well be considered now a separate language from the rest of Modern Greek, and the Pontic dialects once spoken in Asia Minor along the Black Sea coast and now spoken in many parts of Greece due to the 1923 population exchanges are divergent enough to warrant consideration as a separate language from the rest of Greek now (see also the next section).

Dialects: The dialect complexity of Ancient Greek was to a large extent levelled out during the Hellenistic period with the emergence of the relatively unified variety of Greek known as the Koine (see chapter on Ancient Greek). While somewhat oversimplified, since there are differences in the realizations of Koine Greek in different parts of the Hellenistic world, this view is essentially accurate. The dominant basis for the Koine was the ancient Attic-Ionic dialect though there was some limited input from the other dialects. For the most part, the Hellenistic Koine, or actually the version of it that took hold in the Byzantine period, was the starting point for the modern dialects, and it is conventional to date the emergence of Modern Greek dialects to about the 10th to 12th centuries (AD). The main exception to this characterization is Tsakonian (see above), which derives more or less directly from the ancient Doric dialect, though with an admixture of standard Modern Greek in recent years; in addition, the Greek of Southern Italy, still spoken for instance in some villages in Apulia and Calabria, seems to have Doric roots. The Pontic dialects (see above) may derive more directly from the Hellenistic Koine.

The main modern dialects that derive from the later Byzantine form of the Koine are (following Newton 1972): Peloponnesian-Ionian, Northern, Cretan, Old Athenian, and South-eastern (including the islands of the Dodecanese and Cypriot Greek). The major features distinguishing these dialects include deletion of original high vowels and raising of original mid-vowels when unstressed in the Northern varieties, loss of final -n in all but the Southeastern varieties, palatalizations of velars in all but Peloponnesian-Ionian, use of the accusative for indirect objects in the Northern dialects instead of the genitive, among others. Peloponnesian-Ionian forms the historical basis for what has emerged in the 20th century as Standard Modern Greek, and is thus the basis for the language of modern Athens, now the main center of population (Old Athenian being the dialect of Athens before the 1821 War of Independence, still found in other parts of Greece due to various relocations).

Number of Speakers: As noted in the earlier chapter, the spread of Greek during the Hellenistic period led to significant growth in the number of speakers of Greek, and this growth continued in the Byzantine and Medieval periods. At present, there are approximately 13,000,000 Greek speakers, some 10,000,000 in Greece, with about 500,000 in Cyprus, and the remainder in the modern Hellenic diaspora (over 1,000,000 in Australia). Some 5,000,000 speakers live in the greater Athens area alone, most of them speakers - and shapers - of the current standard language.

Origin and History: Temporally, Modern Greek has its origins in the Hellenistic Koine (see the chapter on Ancient Greek), since many of the changes that constitute the key differences between Ancient and Modern Greek are evident in nascent form in the Koine (though some ran to completion only later). While it is customary to divide Post-Classical and Post-Hellenistic Greek into the early Byzantine period (c. 300 AD to 1000 AD) and the later Byzantine/Medieval period (1000 to 1600), with the (truly) modern period starting after 1600, in fact vernacular Greek of the 12th century seems quite modern in many respects.

A key feature in the development of the modern language is the fact that throughout the history of post-Classical Greek, the language and its speakers could never really escape the influence of the Classical Greek language and Classical Greece itself. The important position that Classical Greece held culturally throughout the Mediterranean, the Balkans, parts of the Middle East, and even parts of Western and Central Europe, in the post-Classical period and on into the Middle Ages, meant that Greek speakers bore a constant reminder of the language and linguistic "monuments" of their ancestors. Classical Greek thus formed the prescriptive norm against which speakers of later stages of Greek generally measured themselves. This situation led to a "two-track system" for the language, in which a high-style consciously archaizing variety that speakers and writers modelled on Classical Greek was set against a vernacular innovative variety. While in the Medieval period this distinction was more a matter of a learned variety reserved for official (usually Church-related) and many literary uses opposed to a colloquial variety that only rarely found its way into literary expression, after the War of Independence from the Ottoman Empire in 1821, Greeks, confronted with the creation of a new nation-state of Greece, sought to codify and establish a national language as part of the nation-building process. At this point, the distinction became politicized, and the distinction arose between what came to be known as katharevousa ("Puristic", literally "(the) purifying (language)") as the high-style variety associated with official functions, i.e. those pertaining to government, education, religion, and such, and dimotiki ("Demotic", literally "(the) popular (language)") as the language of the people in ordinary, day-to-day, mundane affairs. This socio-linguistic state of affairs was one of the paradigm cases that Ferguson 1959 used in developing the notion of diglossia, and the struggle between proponents of each variety, representing as well various concomitant social attitudes and political positions, continued into the latter half of the 20th century. Currently, by various acts and actions of the government in 1976, dimotiki is now the official language, and the diglossic situation is resolved, at least officially. Throughout the periods of diglossia, official and unofficial, usage was actually somewhat mixed, with speakers often borrowing from one variety and, for instance, incorporating Puristic forms into Demotic usage, and the present state of Demotic, what has emerged as "Standard Modern Greek" (the Greek of everyday life in the largest city and capital of Greece, Athens) reflects a number of such borrowings from katharevousa, involving both grammar (morphology and syntax) and pronunciation, as well as the lexicon.

Basic Phonology: As noted in the previous chapter, the Classical Attic phonological system began to undergo several changes in the post-Classical period which ultimately characterize the differences between Ancient and Modern Greek. These included, for the consonants, the fricativization of earlier b d g to y (with later becoming v) and of ph th kh to f th x, the loss of h, and the reduction of the zd cluster (represented orthographically by <> (zeta)) to z, which then took on phonemic status. New instances of the voiced stops b d g were provided by loan words and possibly also as variants of voiceless p t k.after nasals.

Not all of these changes were completed within the Hellenistic Koine period; the conservative pronunciation [ph th kh] for the Classical Greek voiceless aspirated stops, for instance, was maintained as a sociolinguistically conservative high-prestige pronunciation in the Byzantine scholastic tradition into the 10th century. Moreover, even though all members of whole classes of consonants eventually were affected by these changes, each sound in a class seems to have undergone the change at a different time (e.g. in the Egyptian variety of the Koine, g > g was completed by the 1st century BC,b > (>) v by the 3rd century AD, and d > d by the 7th century AD).

The consonantal inventory of the late Koine is given in Table 1:

Table 1: Consonants of Koine Greek (Innovative; stable by (roughly) 5th century AD)
LabialPalatalDentalVelar Glottal



[voiced1 bdg]
Nasalsmn () 2
1These sounds were quite possibly not distinctive, but rather interpreted as positional variants of the voiceless stops.
2This sound was an allophone of /n/ before velar stops.

Several further changes took place in the consonants to give the inventory found in Standard Modern Greek, and all of these changes were such that they have led to analytic ambiguities for the resulting segments in the modern language (see the discussion in Joseph & Philippaki-Warburton 1987:231-6). Their controversial status for the Modern Greek, where a full range of data is available, means that status of these new sounds cannot be adequately resolved for earlier stages.

From around the 10th to 12th centuries, affricate(-like) sounds ts and dz began to emerge as distinctive elements, partly in loans from neighboring languages, partly as a regular sound change of k and/or t before front vowels in some dialects, and partly as a sporadic outcome (possibly lexically induced or due to dialect borrowings) of s, th, z, ks, ps, and other sounds in various contexts. The Medieval Greek spelling for these sounds is consistently with <>, which is used in Modern Greek just for the voiced [dz]; the modern outcomes, however, suggest that it stood for [ts] as well as [dz] in Medieval Greek. Their status as unit affricates as opposed to clusters is controversial.

Similarly, in the post-Koine period, pure voiced stops continued to establish themselves in the language, through loans and through sound changes, not just post-nasal voicing of p t k but that together with the loss of unstressed initial vowels and nasality in complex syllable onsets, creating contrasts (e.g. Ancient en-trepomai 'be ashamed' > endrepome > ndrepome > Modern drepome, with initial [dr-] opposed to #dr (as in drepani 'sickle') and#tr (as in trepo 'turn')); still, some modern speakers lightly nasalize even initial voiced stops (medially nasalization is more variable though apparently on the wane for younger speakers) and even loan words show some variability, so that the status of b d gin contemporary Greek is controversial, with some analysts arguing for underlying nasal + stop clusters even word-initially.

In addition, the palatal semi-vowel [ j ] arose in the post-Koine period, and this segment too offers analytic ambiguities. Its two historical sources, [ g ] before front vowels and unstressed [i] before a vowel, are sychronically recoverable in some modern words due to morphophonemic alternations (e.g. spiti-O 'house' / spitj-a 'houses'; aniy-o 'I open' / anij-i 's/he opens').

With regard to vowels, in the Koine period, earlier [o:] raised to [u:], distinctive vowel length was lost, and the movement of several vowels to [i] was underway; in addition, the long palatal diphthongs lost their offglide, the labial offglide w became [v] or [f] depending on the voicing of the following sound, and each of the other diphthongs merged with some short monophthong. The ultimate result in late Koine is the vowel system, considerably simplified from Classical Greek, given in Table 2:

Table 2: Late Hellenistic Vowel System

The main additional change that took place to give the system found in Standard Modern Greek was unrounding of y to i after the 10th century, though in certain environments (e.g. around labials and/or velars) and in some dialects y yielded u; note also the loss of unstressed initial vowels mentioned above.

The final noteworthy phonological development was one that was clearly underway in the Hellenistic Koine, namely a change in the accent to a stress accent, as opposed to the pitch accent of Classical Greek; the main stress in Modern Greek words falls on the syllable which in earlier stages had the high pitch (acute or circumflex). Modern Greek still observes a restriction of the main stress to one of the last three syllables in the word (the modern realization of the Classical moraically based restriction), but accent placement is distinctive (cf. nomos 'law' vs. nomos 'prefecture'), being predictable only with regard to certain morphological classes and grammatical categories (e.g. recessive in -ma(t)-stem neuter nouns, end-stressed in neuter i-stem genitive singulars in -u, etc.).

Basic phonological rules: Many of the same phonological generalizations and processes discussed in the chapter on Ancient Greek apply as well to later stages of Greek, though with some alterations due to sound changes, borrowings, and such. The restriction on possible word-final consonants (only-s, -n, -r permitted) held during the Koine and Middle Greek periods, though the the loss of final -n via a regular sound change and the gradual restructuring of the nominal system away from consonant-stems to vowel-stems (e.g. earlier pater- 'father' becoming patera-, leont- 'lion' becoming leonda-, etc.) removed most word-final instances of -r, -n, and potential clusters; moreover, it is still valid today really just for native Greek vocabulary, for modern loans have brought in many words, relatively unaltered, with other final consonants, e.g. tsek 'check', mats '(football) match', basket 'basketball', etc.

The survival of groups of related words from Ancient Greek has led to the survival of various morphophonemic alternations in later stages, though in some instances in a somewhat different form due to sound changes, e.g. (unaltered) t ~ s before i (e.g. plut-os 'wealth' / plus-ios 'wealthy'), (altered) fortition of fricatives (from earlier aspirated stops) to stops before s (e.g. e-yraf-e '(s)he was writing' /e-yrap-s-e '(s)he wrote'), among others.

A post-Classical innovation that has led to significant morphophonemic alternations involves the voicing of voiceless stops after a nasal, word-internally but also in article plus noun combinations and weak pronoun plus verb combinations. Thus, just as earlier pente 'five' and lampo 'shine' have yielded laterpende, lambo (with variants pende / pede, lambo / labo found as well in the modern standard language), so too ton tonon 'the tone/ACC', (au)ton etaraksa 'him I-disturbed' have yielded to(n) dono (with loss of word-final -n as well), to(n) daraksa (with loss of the unstressed initial vowel), and, with place assimilation of the nasal, ton ponon 'the pain/ACC', (au)ton epeisamen 'him we-persuaded' have yielded to(m) bono, to(m) bisame.

The weak pronominal forms, including direct and indirect object forms as well as possessives, provoke accentual readjustments when attached after their host noun (the usual position for possessives) or host verb (the usual position for object pronominals with nonfinite (imperatival and participial) forms). In particular, as a (transformed) continuation of accentual effects shown by Ancient Greek enclitic elements, effects which are evident in much of Post-Classical Greek but in flux during the Medieval period, the weak pronominals trigger the addition of an accent, which for many speakers becomes the primary accent, on the syllable just before the pronominal when the host is otherwise accented on the antepenult, e.g. onoma 'name' / onoma mu 'my name', kitakse 'look!' / kitakse tus 'look at them!'.

Basic Morphology: Like its ancient ancestor, Modern Greek is basically a fusional inflecting language morphologically, with relevant grammatical information generally being indicated through the endings of inflected words, i.e. nouns, pronouns, adjectives, article and verbs. Each ending typically encoded values for several categories simultaneously.

Still, compared to Ancient Greek, Post-Classical Greek, from the Koine through to the modern language, shows a greater number and use of analytic structures, supplanting some of the earlier synthetic ones in Middle Greek. This trend is found to some extent in nominal morphology but is especially robust in the verb.

Interestingly, many of these changes in the direction of analytic structures, e.g. with adjectival degree, indirect object marking, periphrastic futures (especially based on the verb 'want'), finite replacements for the infinitive, etc., are found in several of the Balkan languages that are neighbors to Greek, including Albanian, Bulgarian, Macedonian, and Romanian. While the relationship between the emergence of these changes in Greek and similar developments in these other languages is controversial - many of these changes were underway relatively early in Post-Classical Greek and their spread may have been facilitated by contact with speakers of these other languages not caused by the contact (and in some instances, Greek may have been the source of these features in the other language) - no history of the development of Modern Greek can ignore the larger Balkan context for these changes.

Noun Morphology: The nominal forms and categories given in the previous chapter for Ancient Greek are valid as well into the Koine period, though the dative case and all dual number forms begin to fall into disuse during that time, and are completely absent from colloquial Modern Greek. In addition, starting in the Koine period and continuing on into the Medieval period, most noun paradigms came to be restructured, with the basis for their organization becoming gender (masculine, feminine, and neuter) rather than the formal stem-classes (i-stem, consonant-stem, o-stem, etc.) of Ancient Greek. The resulting division, for the most part, has most masculine nouns with a nominative singular in -V-s opposed to an accusative and genitive in -V-O, and most feminine nouns with a nominative and accusative singular in-V-O opposed to a genitive in -V-s; the neuters are rather diverse but, as in Ancient Greek, the nominative and accusative are always identical.

As in Ancient Greek, there is agreement in gender, number, and case within noun phrases between adjectives and head nouns, and definiteness is marked by the presence of an article as the first element in the noun phrase. The sample paradigms given in the Ancient Greek chapter are valid for the Koine nominal declension, except that the dative and the dual are moribund; some examples of article-adjective -noun combinations for Modern Greek are given in Table 3.

Table 3: Examples of nominal inflection for Modern Greek
'the good father'
'the good mother
'the good baby'
NOM.SG o kalos pateras
ACC.SG ton kalo patera
GEN.SG tu kalu patera
VOC.SG kale patera
NOM.SG i kali mitera
ACC.SG tin kali mitera
GEN.SG tis kalis miteras
VOC.SG kali mitera
NOM.SG to kalo moro
ACC.SG to kalo moro
GEN.SG tu kalu moru
VOC.SG kalo moro
NOM/VOC.PL i kali pateres
ACC.PL tus kalus pateres
GEN.PL ton kalon pateron
NOM/VOC.PL i kales miteres
ACC.PL tis kales miteres
GEN.PL ton kalon miteron
NOM/VOC.PL ta kala mora
ACC.PL ta kala mora
GEN.PL ton kalon moron

As in Ancient Greek, the personal pronouns in Koine, Medieval, and Modern Greek have special forms, while demonstrative and other pronouns generally followed some other nominal declensional pattern. Adjectives show comparative and superlative degree forms, which by Medieval Greek and on into the modern language, are generally formed analytically (comparative viapjo + adjective, superlative via definite article + pjo + adjective), though the synthetic adjectival inflections of Ancient Greek are still used with a few, especially common, adjectives.

Verb Morphology: As with the noun, the categories and forms of the verbal system of Ancient Greek are generally valid for the Koine, though with some changes, and even, to some extent for Medieval and Modern Greek as well. As with the nouns, all verbal dual forms go out of use. Future periphrases begin to arise in the Koine in place of the earlier synthetic future, and by Medieval Greek one based on the use of the verb thelo 'want' as an auxiliary holds sway as the primary type, ultimately resulting in the Modern Greek future marker tha (from earlier 3SG thelei with the subjunctive marker na). In the early Koine, the perfect is on the wane and eventually disappears altogether as a category in the late Koine, only to be reconstituted as a category several centuries later in Medieval Greek through a periphrastic construction with 'have' as an auxiliary together with the sole productive remnant of the earlier infinitive. Also, as noted in the previous chapter, the infinitive in the Koine period begins to retreat, being replaced by finite periphrases with subordinating conjunctions; the infinitive continued as a marginal category into the Middle Greek period (c. 15th century) and in Modern Greek now, all functions that might be thought of as typical for infinitivals in various languages, e.g. complementation, nominalization, purpose clauses, control structures, etc., are expressed with fully finite (indicative or subjunctive) clauses (see Joseph 1990 for discussion). Similarly, the numerous participles of Ancient Greek diminish considerably in use, and though they were more prevalent in the Koine and Medieval Greek, there are now in Standard Modern Greek just two participial forms, an active and a medio-passive imperfective.

The system of verbal moods also underwent some changes, with the optative mood becoming moribund in the Koine period and ultimately disappearing from use altogether. Further, although the subjunctive mood has continued throughout the history of Greek, in the Koine period and on into Medieval and Modern Greek, it comes to be used increasingly obligatorily with an introductory element, e.g. a conjunction, of some sort; the most common of these was hina, originally a final conjunction ('in order that, that'), which became Medieval and Modern Greek na and now arguably functions solely as the marker for the subjunctive as a category (though see Table 4, footnote 1).

Aspect continues to be a significant category in the Koine and on into Modern Greek, and owing to the emergence of a periphrastic future with the infinitive, a form which participated in aspectual distinctions, the aoristic/imperfective distinction is extended into the future. Moreover, with the re-emergence of the perfect in Medieval Greek, the relevant aspectual oppositions (e.g. for the Moder language) become imperfective, perfective (= aoristic), and perfect.

Voice too continues as an important category in the language, with essentially the same values for the forms as in Ancient Greek. One formal change is that there comes to be no distinction between passive and middle in any of the tenses.

Negation in the Koine and into Medieval Greek was marked as in Ancient Greek, i.e. by syntactic means with a separate word for 'not' associated with (but not necessarily adjacent to) the verb. Increasingly, though, the negative element came to stand obligatorily before the verb, and in Modern Greek the negators de(n) (for finite, indicative forms) and mi(n) (for subjunctive) - a pair which continues an Ancient Greek distinction - attach to the left of the verb and can only be separated from it only by weak pronominal forms and/or the future marker (all of which are arguably affixal in contemporary Greek). The Ancient Greek ability of imperatival forms to be negated to yield a prohibitive is lost, however, and in Modern Greek mi(n) with the subjunctive (with omission of na possible) forms a negative command.

Finally, as in Ancient Greek, the situation is similar in later stages with regard to marking for causative, frequentative, and iterative, in that there is in general no regular inflection for these categories; in Modern Greek causatives are expressed via periphrastic constructions parallel to the use of make in English.

A full synopsis of the Modern Greek verb grafo 'I write' is given in Table 4, with first person singular forms for all tense, aspect, voice, and all moods but imperative, for which second singular is used, as well as the few nonfinite participial forms (note that < y > is used here for the voiced velar fricative):

Table 4: Synopsis of yrafo 'write'
PresentPast FuturePerfect
Indicative yrafoeyrafa/IMPFVE
tha yrafo/IMPFVE
tha yrapso/AOR
exo yrapsi
ixa yrapsi/PLUPRF
tha exo yrapsi/FUT.PRF
Subj'nc've na yrafo/IMPFVE
na yrapso/AOR
------na exo yrapsi
Imperative yrafe/IMPFVE
------ ------exe yrapsi
Participle yrafondas------ ------exondas yrapsi
Indicative yrafomeyrafomun/IMPFVE
tha yrafome/IMPFVE
tha yrafto/AOR
exo yrafti
ixa yrafti/PLUPRF
tha exo yrafti/FUT.PRF
Subj'nc've na grafome/IMPFVE
na yrafto/AOR
------na exo yrafti
Imperative yrafu/IMPFVE
------ ------exe yrafti
Participle yrafomenos yramenos

1The marker na can combine with indicative past forms to give various subtle shades of modality (e.g. na eyrafa 'I should have written'); it is not clear, though, if these constitute a legitimate category of "past subjunctive" or instead derive from the combinatorics of the element na.

General Rules of Word Formation: Word-formation processes in Post-Classical Greek and on into Modern Greek remain essentially the same as in Ancient Greek (see previous chapter). Some minor changes evident in the modern language include greater numbers of coordinative compounds, e.g. maxero-piruna 'cutlery' (literally: "knife-(and)-forks") or aniyo-klino 'open and close', and the emergence of multiply-inflected compounds, possibly through borrowing, e.g. pedi-thavma 'child prodigy' (literally "child-wonder") with a plural pedja-thavmata (literally "children-wonders"); note the multiple accents, suggesting that the individual words in this type retain their individual integrity.

Basic Syntax:

Constituent Order: What was said about basic word order for Ancient Greek - essentially free ordering of major constituents in a clause - holds for all later stages of the language as well. All permutations of ordering of subject, object, and verb can be found, though Modern Greek shows a preference for Subject-Verb-Object ordering in neutral contexts. Similarly, the ordering of elements within constituents, e.g. within the noun phrase, is virtually unchanged, so that the remarks in the previous chapter hold for later stages of Greek too.

One main area of difference, however, is in the placement of weak pronouns, generally referred to as "clitics". In Ancient Greek, these elements, as well as various sentence connectives, were positioned in relation to the clausal unit that contained them, and they usually appeared in second position within that unit. In Modern Greek, however, their positioning is relative to the verb - before finite verbs and after nonfinite verbs (imperatives and participles) in the standard language - so that weak pronouns can now occur sentence-initially. The Ancient Greek positioning was valid throughout the Hellenistic period and on into Byzantine Greek, but in the Medieval period, the orientation of the weak pronouns toward the verb, as opposed to the clause, began to emerge, with the modern distribution developing after the 16th century. The verbal complex that results from the combination of the verb with weak pronouns is the core of the Modern Greek clause structure, since tense, mood, and negation markers also form part of this complex (see above in Morphology and below regarding Negation and the Example Sentences).

Case-marking: The essentials of case-marking remained the same in Post-Classical Greek and on into the Medieval and Modern periods as those found in Ancient Greek. Subjects are still marked with the nominative case and accusative marks direct objects; there is, however, no idiosyncratic marking of direct objects with other cases in Modern Greek, though some instances are to be found in the Koine period. The loss of the dative case in the Koine period has led to the marking of indirect objects by the genitive case (accusative in some dialects) and by the preposition s(e) (earlier eis). The genitive is thus used now in ways it was not in earlier stages, but some earlier uses of the genitive no longer occur; the partitive, for instance, is expressed periphrastically rather than by the genitive case. Accusative is the only case found for the object of prepositions, except that pronominal objects with some prepositions are usually in the genitive case (compare, e.g.,mazi mu '(together) with me/GEN' with me emena 'with me/ACC').

Negation. As noted above in the section on morphology, negation in Modern Greek is marked primarily by morphological means, with the two markers den and min forming part of the verbal complex; the free word for 'no', oxi, is used with constituents in elliptical negation, as in thelo to mov oxi to ble 'I-want the mauve-one not the blue-one'. Negation in the pre-Modern period, from the Koine up through Medieval Greek, was transitional, from the Ancient Greek purely syntactic clause-based expression of negation to the modern verb-based, essentially morphological, system.

Other information: As noted in the previous chapter and the above section on verbal morphology, from the Koine on into Medieval Greek, complementation was increasingly with finite clauses only, in place of the earlier infinitival complementation. After the 15th century, complementation is essentially only with finite clauses headed by the subjunctive marker na or by indicative complementizers oti, pos, or pu.

Similarly, the participles of Ancient Greek decreased in use in the Post-Classical period, and the one productive participle of Modern Greek, the active imperfective participle, is now used more like a clausal adjunct, its subject, when unexpressed, being interpreted as coreferent with the main clause subject.

Increasingly in the Medieval period and on into Modern Greek relative clauses are marked with an invariant relative marker - in the modern language pu, homophonous with one of the indicative complementizers - with resumptive pronouns in the relative clause being fairly common. The use of inflected relative pronouns, however, has always been possible, but is restricted now mainly to higher style writing.

The definite article, which in Ancient Greek, among other functions, served as a means of nominalizing virtually any part of speech, continues in that use in later stages of the language, and provides a way in Modern Greek or nominalizing clauses (see the example sentences).

Finally, the weak object pronouns serve important discourse functions, and frequently co-index full noun-phrase objects, among other things to signal emphasis and topicality (and note their use in relative clauses mentioned above).

Basic Orthography: Throughout Post-Classical Greek and on into the Modern era, the Greek alphabet has been the primary medium for writing Greek, although in the Medieval period, the Arabic and Hebrew alphabets were occasionally used in certain communities (e.g. Hebrew by the Jewish community of Constantinople). The form of the alphabet is essentially that of the ancient Ionian alphabet (see the chapter on Ancient Greek), with some additional letter combinations not found in ancient times, and moreover, the value of some of the letters and letter combinations is different due to sound changes. An official orthographic reform in 1976 by the government of Greece eliminated the ancient breathing marks and the grave and circumflex accents; thus, only the acute accent is used now, and only, for the most part, in polysyllabic words. Some variation is evident in the spelling of some words whose sounds have more than one representation, e.g. 'look at' ([kitazo]), 'egg' ([avyo]).

Table 5: The Modern Greek Alphabet (modern Standard language is the basis for the phonetic values)

Table 6: Modern Greek Digraphs

Table 7: Modern Greek Diacritics (for Pre-1976 texts; post-1976 only acute accent is used)

Loanwords and Contact with Other Languages: As noted in the previous chapter, Greek absorbed many loanwords from Latin during the Koine period, some of which have stayed in the language since, e.g. Latin hospitium 'lodgings, house' -> Post-Classical Greek hospition -> (via regular sound changes) Modern spiti 'house'. In the Byzantine period, and on through Medieval times, Latin is still a major source of loan words, but some enter through the medium of Balkan Latin, shown by various telltale phonological characteristics, e.g. pe(n)dzimenton 'baggage' from Latin impedimentum with Balkan Latin affricatization. In the later Medieval period, numerous loans from the Venetian dialect of Italian enter Greek, including the verb-forming suffix -ar- (cf. Italian infinitival -are), as do various technical feudal terms from French, e.g. roi 'king' (French roi). Moreover, as speakers of Greek came into contact in this period with Slavic, Albanian, Vlach (Aromanian), and increasingly also Turkish speakers, loans from all these languages permeate the language, with Turkish, especially after the 14th century, providing the greatest number by far. Turkish loans range over a variety of semantic domains and lexical categories, including ordinary day-to-day life (e.g. jeleki 'vest', pilafi 'rice', kafes 'coffee', tsai 'tea', boya 'paint'), military (e.g. tufeki 'rifle', askeri 'soldier'), arts (e.g. baglamas 'a musical instrument'), verbs (e.g. baildizo 'faint', from Turkish bayil- with a Turkish past tense suffix -d- and a Greek derivational suffix-iz-) interjections (e.g. aman 'for mercy's sake!', de 'marker of impatience with imperatives'), among others; further, some Turkish derivational suffixes have become productive in Greek, especially the suffix -dzis which forms nouns of occupation (e.g. taksi-dzis 'taxi driver').

This period of contact with neighboring Balkan languages also played a critical role in the ultimate shaping of Greek structurally, in that, as noted above, many of the structural features that characterize Modern Greek and distinguish it from Ancient Greek, are shared by the other languages of the Balkans, including the formation of the future tense, the use of finite complementation, the merger of genitive and dative cases, analytic expression of adjectival comparison, etc. Even if the appearance of these features in Greek was not caused directly by contact - and while the chronology might speak against that for some of them, for others it is still an open question - it may be that their presence in languages Greek speakers were in contact with facilitated their spread within Greek. And, at the very least, the lexical and phrasal parallels among all these languages, including Greek, are striking and speak to a period of intense and intimate contact among their speakers.

Finally, in the 20th century, French - especially in the first half of the century - and English - especially in the latter half - have provided an abundance of loan words, e.g. from French asenser(i) 'elevator', beton 'concrete', ble 'blue', kombinezon 'petticoat', majo 'bathing suit', etc., and from English futbol 'footbol', gol 'goal', mats '(football) match', vintsi 'winch', yot 'yacht', among numerous others.

Common Words: Nouns are cited in the nominative singular form, adjectives in nominative singular masculine; all forms listed here are from Standard Modern Greek:
man:a(n)dras (i.e. male person); anthropos (i.e. human being)
yes:ne; malista

Example Sentences

Inasmuch as Koine syntax did not differ appreciably from Classical Greek syntax in kind, but rather more in the extent of use of certain forms, the examples in the previous chapter give an idea of the essentials of Koine syntax. Thus a few sample sentences are given here from Medieval Greek (in (1), following Ancient Greek transliteration to allow for recovery of the orthography) and Modern Greek, to illustrate some of the characteristics discussed above (the Medieval periphrastic future; the Modern verbal complex with weak pronouns, future marker, and negation; relativization; co-indexing of objects with weak pronouns; finite complementation and nominalization of clausal complements in both periods with the definite article; etc.):

kaitotethelo naidoto poston
andthen want/1SG.PRESthat see/1SG.PERFVE.SUBJthe/NTR.SG.ACC howhim/MASC.SG.ACC.WEAK
theleis surein(Ptochoprodromos III.390 (12th cent.))
'And then I want to see how you will drag him' (literally: "And then I-want that I-see the how him you-will drag")

denthatis topumeto jati
boresamena tinafisumes tin paraliaxoris
could/1PL.PRFVE.INDIC thather/ACC.SG.WEAK leave/1SG.SUBJ.PRFVEat the-beach/ACCwithout
leftake parea
money andcompany/ACC
'We won't tell her why we could have left her at the beach without money or friends' (literally: "We won't tell her it the-why we could that we leave her ...")

o meyalos anthropospu xthesto vradi milusameme
the-big-man/NOM.SG.MASCthat/COMP yesterdaythe-evening/ACC spoke/1PL.IMPFVEwith
afton ixeerthis to mayazimasna mas
him/ACC.SG.STRONGhad/3SG come/PERFto the-store/NTR.SG.ACCour/GEN thatus/ACC.WEAK
rotisian tinynorisametin kiria Moraiti
ask/3SG.PERFVE.SUBJif her/ACC.SG.WEAKknew/1PL.ACT.INDIC.PRFVE the-lady-Moraitis/ACC.SG.FEM
'The big man that yesterday in the evening we were talking with had come to our store to ask us if we knew Mrs. Moraitis' (literally: "The big man that yesterday the evening we were talking with him had come to the store of ours that he might-ask us if we knew her Mrs. Moraitis")

Basic Bibliography

Browning, Robert. 1983. Medieval and Modern Greek. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Holton, David, Peter Mackridge, & Irene Philippaki-Warburton. 1997. Greek. A Comprehensive Grammar of the Modern Language. London/New York: Routledge.

Horrocks, Geoffrey. 1997. Greek. A History of the Language and its Speakers. London/New York: Longman.

Householder, Fred W., Kostas Kazazis, and Andreas Koutsoudas. 1964. Reference Grammar of Literary Dhimotiki. (=International Journal of American Linguistics 30.2/Publication 31 of the Indiana University Research Center in Anthropology, Folklore, and Linguistics). Bloomington: Indiana University.

Joseph, Brian D. 1990. Morphology and Universals in Syntactic Change. Evidence from Medieval and Modern Greek. New York/London: Garland Publishing, Inc.

Joseph, Brian D. & Irene Philippaki-Warburton. 1987. Modern Greek. London: Croom Helm Publishers. Mackridge, Peter. 1985. The Modern Greek Language. Oxford, at the Clarendon Press.

Mirambel, Andre. 1939. Precis de grammaire elementaire du grec moderne. Paris: Societe d'editions "Les Belles Lettres".

Mirambel, Andre. 1959. La langue grecque moderne, description et analyse. Paris: Librairie C. Klincksieck (Collection Linguistique publiee par la Societe de Linguistique de Paris).

Newton, Brian. 1972. The Generative Interpretation of Dialect. (Cambridge Studies in Linguistics, 7). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Brian D Joseph
Brian D Joseph