Online Encyclopedia


Online Encyclopedia
Originally appearing in Volume V12, Page 497 of the 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica.
Spread the word: it!
GREEK LANGUAGE. Greek is ohe of the eight main the north Aegean probably the Dorians reached Crete, where alone branches into which the Indo-European languages (q.v.) are their existence is recorded by Homer (Odyssey, xix. 175 ff.; Diodorus divided. The area in which it is spoken has been curiously A Siculus v. 80. 2) ; Cp. Fick, pre-Dorian period Herodotus distin-• constant throughout its recorded history. These limits are, guishes various stocks. Though the name is not Homeric. both roughly speaking, the shores of the Aegean, on both the Herodotus and Thucydides recognize an Aeolian stock which must European and the Asiatic side, and the intermediate islands have spread over Thessaly and far to the west till it was suppressed (one of the most archaic of Greek dialects being found on the and absorbed by the Dorian stock which came in from the north- eastern side in the island of and the Greek peninsula west. The name of Aeolis still attached in Thucydides' time to the Cyprus), P western area of Calydon between the mountains and the N. side of generally from its southern promontories as far as the the entrance to the Corinthian gulf (iii. 102). In Boeotia the same mountains which shut in Thessaly on the north. Beyond stock survived (Thuc. vii. 57. 5), overlaid by an influx of Dorians, Mt. Olympus and the Cambunian mountains lay Macedonia, and it came down to the isthmus; for the Corinthians, though in which a closely kindred dialect was spoken, speaking in historical times a Doric dialect, were originally Aeolians Y so closely (Thus. iv. 42). In the Peloponnese Herodotus recognizes (viii. ?3) related, indeed, that O. Hoffmann has argued (Die Makedonen, three original stocks, the Arcadians, the Ionians of Cynuria, and the Gottingen, 1906) that Macedonian is not only Greek, but Achaeans.. In Arcadia there is little doubt that the pre-Dorian a part of the great Aeolic dialect which included Thessalian population maintained itself and its language, just as in the moun- to the south and Lesbian to the east. In the north-west, tains of Wales, the Scottish Highlands and Connemara the Celtic language has maintained itself against the Saxon invaders. By Greek included many rude dialects little known even to the Herodotus' time the Cynurians had been doricized, while the Ionians, ancient Greeks themselves, and it extended northwards beyond along the south side of the Corinthian gulf, were expelled by the Aetolia, and Ambracia to southern Epirus and Thesprotia. Achaeans (vii. 94, viii. 73), apparently themselves driven from their How-In the Homeric a the shrine of Pelas ran Zeus was at own homes by the Dorian invasion (Strabo viii. p. 333 fin.). How- ge great g ever this may be, the Achaeans of historical times spoke a dialect Dodona, but, by the time of Thucydides, Aetolia and all north akin to that of northern Elis and of the Greeks on the north side of of it had come to be looked upon as the most backward of Greek the Corinthian gulf. How close the relation may have been between lands, where men' lived a savage life, speaking an almost unin- the language of the Achaeans of the Peloponnese in the Homeric age telli Ible language, and eating flesh and their contemporaries in Thessaly we have no means of ascertain- g g raw (aryvclurorarot S~'fXiavo-av ing definitely, the documentary evidence for the history of the Kai wµocba-yor, Thuc. iii. 94, of the Aetolian Eurytanes). The dialects being all very much later than Homeric times. Even in Greeks themselves had no memory of how they came to occupy the Homeric catalogue Agamemnon has to lend the Arcadians ships this land. Their earliest legends connected the origin of their to take them to Troy (Iliad, ii. 612). But a population speaking the with Thessaly and Mt. Pindus, but Athenians and Arcadians same or a very similar dialect was probably seated on the eastern race Y coast, and migrated at the beginning of the Doric invasion to Cyprus. also boasted themselves of autochthonous race, inhabiting a As this population wrote not in the Greek alphabet but in a peculiar country wherein no man had preceded their ancestors. The syllabary and held little communication with the rest of the Greek Greek language, at any rate as it has come down to us, is world, it succeeded in preserving in Cyprus a very archaic dialect perfect, vowel sounds being most primitive very closely akin to that of Arcadia, and also containing a consider- remarkably Pe g P able number of words found in the Homeric vocabulary but lost or of any of the Indo-European languages, while its verb system modified in later Greek elsewhere. has no rival in completeness except in the earliest Sanskrit of On this historical foundation alone is it possible to understand the Vedic literature. Its noun system, on the other hand, is clearly the relation of the dialects in historical times. The prehistoric movements of the Greek tribes can to some extent be realized in much less complete, its cases being more broken down than their dialects, as recorded in their inscriptions, though all existing those of the Aryan, Armenian, Slavonic and Italic families. inscriptions belong to a much later period. Thus from the ancient The most remarkable characteristic of Greek is one conditioned Aeolis of northern Greece sprang the historical dialects of Thessaly by the geographical aspect of the land. Few countries are so broken and Lesbos with the neighbouring coast of Asia Minor. At an early up with mountains as Greece. Not only do mountain ranges as period the Dorians had invaded and to some extent affected the elsewhere on the European continent run east and west, but other character of the southern Thessalian and to a much greater extent ranges cross them from north to south, thus dividing the portions that of the Boeotian dialect. The dialects of Locris, Phocis and of Greece at some distance from the sea into hollows without outlet, Aetolia were a somewhat uncouth and unliterary form of Doric. every valley being separated for a considerable part of the year According to accepted tradition, Elis had been colonized by Oxylus from contact with every other, and inter-communication at all the Aetolian, and the dialect of the more northerly part of Elis, as seasons being rendered difficult. Thus till external coercion from already pointed out, is, along with the Achaean of the south side of Macedon came into play it was never possible to establish a great the Corinthian gulf, closely akin to those dialects north of the central government controlling the Greek mainland. The geo- I Isthmus. The most southerly part of Elis—Triphylia—has a dialect graphical situation of the islands in the Aegean equally led to the akin to Arcadian. Apart from Arcadian the other dialects of the isolation of one little territory from another. To these geographical Peloponnese in historical times are all Doric, though in small details considerations may be added the inveterate desire of the Greeks they differ among themselves. Though we are unable to check the to make the abacs, the city state, everywhere and at all times an statements of the historians as to the area occupied by Ionic in independent unit, a desire which, originating in the geographical prehistoric times, it is clear from the legends of the Jose connexion conditions, even accentuated the isolating effect of the natural between Athens and Troezen that the same dialect had been spoken features of the country. Thus at one time in the little island of on both sides of the Saronic gulf, and may well have extended, as Amorgos there were no less than three separate and independent Herodotus says, along the eastern coast of the Peloponnese and the political units. The inevitable result of geographical and political south side of the Corinthian gulf. According to legend, the Ionians division was the maintenance of a great number of local character- expelled from the Peloponnese collected at Athens before they ' istics in language, differentiating in this respect also each political started on their migrations to the coast of Asia Minor. Be that as community from its nearest neighbours. It was only natural that it may, legend and language alike connected the Athenians with the the inhabitants of a country so little adapted to maintain a numerous Ionians, though by the 5th century B.C. the Athenians no longer population should have early sent off swarms to other lands. The cared to be known by the name (Hdt. i. 143). Lemnos, Imbros and earliest stage of colonization lies in the borderland between myth Scyros, which had long belonged to Athens, were Athenian also in and history. The Greeks themselves knew that a population had language. The great island of Euboea and all the islands of the preceded them in the islands of the Cyclades which they identified central Aegean between Greece and Asia were Ionic. Chios, the most' 2. Aeolic.—Though Boeotian is overlaid with a Doric element, it nevertheless agrees with Thessalian and Lesbian in some characteristics. Unlike Greek generally; they represent the original qw of the word for four by r before E, where Attic and other dialects have r: rfrrapes, Attic TfrrapES. The corresponding voiced and aspirated sounds are similarly treated: BEa4,acos the adjective in Thessalian to DEa4oi, and Epilp for th p. They all tend to change o to v: ovvua, " name”; ov for win Thessalian: "AirXovv, " Apollo "; and v in Boeotian for ot: FuKia (olela), " house." They also make the dative plural of the third declension in -Earn., and the perfect participle active is declined like a present participle in -wv. Instead of the Athenian method of giving the father's name in the genitive when a citizen is described, these dialects (especially Thessalian) tend to make an adjective: thus instead of the Attic AripoeBEvrir Ortuo08EVOVS, Aeolic would rather have A. O,IpooOisecoc. Thessalian stands midway between Lesbian and Boeotian. agreeing with Lesbian in the use of double consonants, where Attic has a single consonant, with or without lengthening of the previous syllable: Eppi, Attic Eiui for an original *esmi; aTaaaa, Attic 0-.Han; Ifvvos for an earlier Eh'Fos, Attic Evos, Ionic Lives, Doric Iivos. Where Attic has -as from an earlier -ass or -avrs, Lesbian has -acs: rats &pxaes accusative in Lesbian for older nays apxays. Lesbian has no oxyton words according to the grammarians, the accent being carried back to the penult or ante-penultimate syllable. It has also no " rough breathing," but this characteristic It shared with the Ionic of Asia Minor, and in the course of time with other dialects. The characteristic particle of the dialects is ICE, which is used like the Doric Ka, the Arcadian Kan, and the Attic and Ionic ay. Thessalian and Lesbian agree in making their long vowels close, ri belonging EL (a close e, not a diphthong), rat-Lip, " father." The v sound did not become ti as in Attic and Ionic, and hence when the Ionic alphabet was introduced it was spelt ov, or when in contact with dentals cos, as in bvlovpa =ovvpa, name," rcouxa =T6xri, " chance "; the pronunciation, therefore, must have been like the English sound in news, tune. Boeotian developed earlier than other dialects the changes in the vowels which characterize modern Greek: at became e, Kal passing into Kii: compare raTEtp and FuKia above: EL became c in Exc, " has." Thessalian shows some examples of the Homeric genitive in -ow: roafpoco, &c.; its ordinary genitive of o- stems is in -at. There are some points of connexion between this group and Arcadian-Cyprian: in both Thessalian and Cyprian the characteristic rrbacs (Attic, &c., rbacs) and Savxva- for S6 .vii are found, and both groups form the " contracting verbs " not in -w but in -pc. In the second group as in the first there is little that precedes the 5th century B.C. Future additions to our materials may be expected to lessen the gap between the two groups and Homer. 3. Ionic-Attic.—One of the earliest of Greek inscriptions—of the 7th century, at least—is the Attic inscription written in two lines from right to left upon a wine goblet (otvoxbri) given as a prize: hoc 'iv OpXEOTOV raVTOn araabrara rac' cs TOTO SEKav Lay. The last words are uncertain. `ill lately early inscriptions in Ionic were few, but recently an early inscription has been found at Ephesus and a later copy of a long early inscription at Miletus. The most noticeable characteristic of Attic and Ionic is the change of a into ri which is universal in Ionic but does not appear in Attic after another vowel or p. Thus both dialects used pi niip, repii from an earlier petTrip, Tepa, but Attic had oo¢ia, rpdypa and xc,pa, not eo4iri, Tipitapa and xclipri as in Ionic. The apparent exception Kbp,1 is explained by the fact that in this word a digamma F has been lost after p, in Doric KbpFa. That the change took place after the Ionians carne into Asia is shown by the word M$Soc, which in Cyprian is M&Soc; the Medea were certainly not known to the Greeks till long after the conquest of Ionia. While Aeolic and the greater part of Doric kept F, this symbol and the sound w represented by it had disappeared from both Ionic and Attic before existing records begin— in other words, were certainly not in use after 800 B.C. The symbol was known and occurs in a few isolated instances. Both dialects agreed in changing u into so that a u sound has to be represented by ov. The short o tended towards u, so that the contraction of 0+o gave ov. In the same way short e tended towards i, so that the contraction of E+E gave Et, which was not a diphthong but a close for TOTE, rOSE, Sari, SoOii, T6P6E, TWEE, TO, Sri. No inscription of more e-sound. In Attic Greek these contractions were represented by 0 and E respectively till the official adoption of the Ionic alphabet at Athens in 403 B.C. So also were the lengthened syllables which represent in their length the loss of an earlier consonant, as 4pEina and E&Eiiia, Aeolic ipevva, 'ha paa, which stand for a prehistoric *fpEVO-a and *Tvepoa, containing the -o- of the first aorist, and Tots, oTKOVS, Exouoc representing an earlier rbvs, o*KOVS, Exovrc (3 pl. present) or *fxovroe (dative pl. of present participle). Both dialects also agreed in changing r before e into o (like Aeolic), as in Txouoc above, and in the 3rd person singular of -pc verbs, TWBfiac, btbwoc, &c., and in noun stems, as in Mats for an earlier *Mr Ls. Neither dialect used the particle KE or Ka, but both have its instead. One of the effects of the change of a into ,i was that the combination ao changed in both dialects to no, which in all Attic records and in the later Ionic has become ea by a metathesis in the quantity of the vowels: vain, earlier vaF6s, " temple," is in Homeric Greek vpbs, in later Ionic and Attic sews. In the dative (locative) plural of the -a stems, Ionic has generally -won on the analogy of the singular; Attic had first the old locative form in -,lac, -Ewa, which survived northerly Ionic island on the Asiatic coast, seems to have been origin-ally Aeolic, and its Ionic retained some Aeolic characteristics. The most southerly of the mainland towns which were originally Aeolic was Smyrna, but this at an early date became Ionic (Hdt. i. 149). The last important Ionic town to the south was Miletus, but at an early period Ionic widened its area towards the south also and took in Halicarnassus from the Dorians. According to Herodotus, there were four kinds of Ionic (xapasr3ipes ryat{wogs rfaospes, i. 142). Herodotus tells us the areas in which these dialects were spoken, but nothing of the differences between them. They were (I) Samos, (2) Chios and Erythrae, (3) the towns in Lydia, (4) the towns in Carla. The language of the inscriptions unfortunately is a Kocvii, a conventional literary language which reveals no differences of importance. Only recently has the characteristic so well known in Herodotus of ic appearing in certain words where other dialects have r (Saws for Srws, KOU for raj), &c.) been found in any inscription. It is, how-ever, clear that this was a popular characteristic not considered to be sufficiently dignified for official documents. We may conjecture that the native languages spoken on the Lydian and Carian coasts had affected the character of the language spoken by the Greek immigrants, more especially as the settlers from Athens married Carian women, while the settlers in the other towns were a mixture of Greek tribes, many of them not Ionic at all (Hdt. 146). The more southerly islands of the Aegean and the most southerly peninsula of Asia Minor were Doric. In the Homeric age Dorians were only one of many peoples in Crete, but in historical times, though the dialects of the eastern and the western ends of the island differ from one another and from the middle whence our most valuable documents come, all are Doric. By Melos and Thera Dorians carried their language to Cos. Calymrus, Cnidus and Rhodes. These settlements, Aeolic, Ionic and Doric, grew and prospered, and like flourishing hives themselves sent out fresh swarms to other lands. Most prosperous and energetic of all was Miletus, which established its trading posts in the Black Sea to the north and in the delta of the Nile (Naucratis) to the south. The islands also sent off their colonies, carrying their dialects with them, Paros to Thasos. Euboea to the peninsulas of Chalcidice; the Dorians of Megara guarded the entrance to the Black Sea at Chalcedon and Byzantium. While Achaean influence spread out to the more southerly Ionian islands, Corinth carried her dialect with her colonies to the coast of Acarnania, Leucas and Corcyra. But the greatest of all Corinthian colonies was much farther to the west—at Syracuse in Sicily. Unfortunately the continuous occupation of the same or adjacent sites has led to the loss of almost all that is early from Corinth and from Syracuse. Corcyra has bequeathed to us some interesting grave inscriptions from the 6th century B.C. Southern Italy and Sicily were early colonized by Greeks. According to tradition Cumae was founded not long after the Trojan War; even if we bring the date nearer the founding of Syracuse in 735 B.C., we have apparently no record earlier than the first half of the 5th century B.C., though it is still the earliest of Chalcidian inscriptions. Tarentum was a Laconian foundation, but the longest and most important document from a Laconian colony in Italy comes from Heraclea about the end of the 4th century B.c.—the report of a commission upon and the lease of temple lands with description and conditions almost of modern precision. To Achaea belonged the south Italian towns of Croton, Metapontum and Sybaris. The ancestry of the Greek towns of Sicily has been explained by Thucydides (vi. 2-5). Selinus, a colony of Megara, bewrays its origin in its dialect. Gela and Agrigentum no less clearly show their descent from Rhodes. According to tradition the great city of Cyrene in Africa was founded from Thera, itself an offshoot from Sparta.
End of Article: GREEK LANGUAGE

Additional information and Comments

There are no comments yet for this article.
» Add information or comments to this article.
Please link directly to this article:
Highlight the code below, right click and select "copy." Paste it into a website, email, or other HTML document.