Greek is one of the richest languages in the world and is distinguished by an extensive vocabulary. Greek language is ranked as the richest in the world with 5 million words and 70 million word types! Many of these words have been widely borrowed into other languages, including English.
Greek roots are often used to coin new words for other languages, especially in the medicine and sciences. Mathematics, physics, astronomy, theatre, athletics, democracy, philosophy, rhetoric, baptism and thousands of other words are Greek.
Greek words and word elements continue to be productive as a basis for coinages: anthropology, photography, biomechanics, telephony, isomer, cinematography, etc. and form, with Latin words, the foundation of international scientific and technical vocabulary. An estimated 12% of the English vocabulary has Greek origin. According to one estimate, more than 150,000 words of English are derived from Greek words. Greek has contributed to English in several ways, including direct borrowings from Greek and indirectly through other languages (mainly Latin or French).
Around 25% of Greek words are borrowed indirectly. This is because there were many Greek words borrowed in Latin originally, which then filtered down into English because English borrowed so many words from Latin (for example, “elaiwa” in Greek evolved into the Latin “oliva”, which in turn became “olive” in English).
History of the Greek Language
Ancient Greeks spoke in different ways from place to place. That means that the language was taking different forms from place to place, forms which are known as dialects. In Sparta they had the Doric dialect, in Athens they had the Attic dialect and other dialects in other places. This, however, didn’t prevent them from communicating and understanding each other without great difficulties, because the differences between the dialects were not very significant. Their language was virtually the same.
The common language, however, was developed much later, after the Classical Age, in the years between 300 B.C. But in order for the Attic dialect to become a common language it had to borrow words from other dialects as well. This happened at the time that Alexander the Great was conquering Middle East, so this common language became (with time) a language of the Middle Easterners as well. It was spoken and written everywhere: Syria, Asia Minor (modern Turkey), Persia (modern Iran), Egypt etc. It had become in a way the international language of that era. and 300 A.D. This language, that gradually became the common language of all Greeks, came from the Attic dialect and in particular the one spoken in Athens between 500 and 400 B.C., namely the time that Athens had reached the zenith of their glory.
This language gradually (and because it became widespread) lost its old form and developed some new features that foretold the language that is spoken today. The language of the 3rd century A.D. shares many elements with modern Greek. Instead of the ancient wordspretty much as we do today. We can find many similar examples in the New Testament, which was originally written in the common Greek language of that time. That is why it is argued that the common language of the Christ era is a milestone in the history of the Greek language and was the first form of Modern Greek.
More changes came in the Byzantine era.Later, when the Byzantine empire diminishes, the spoken language is almost no different than the modern language, Modern Greek, the way we know it from the folk songs.
Modern Greek language has unique virtues : expressibility, flexibility, composing power, productivity, which means that it composes and produces words according to the needs of the speaker.
Greek language, as you saw, has a long history. It has the longest history among the european languages. Scriptures in Greek have been discovered that date back to the second millenium B.C. and literature works more than 2500 years old. Works that will never become outdated have been expressed through this language: the ancient literature, the New Testament, the byzantine and modern Greek literature. This is the language that our people have used to raise their own monuments : the fairytales, the proverbs, their traditions, our folk songs.
It is a treasure. But this linguistic treasure of ours we have to conquer. And in order to achieve this we need some tools. One such tool is the Grammar, this book that with love we offer to the Greek student and the Greek nation in general.
Greek Words on International Use
English words of Greek origin
This list of English words with Greek origin will demonstrate how extensively entwined the roots of the Greek language in English.
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