's Odyssey]] Ancient Greek includes the forms of Greek used in ancient Greece and the ancient world from around the 9th century BC to the 6th century AD. It is often roughly divided into the Archaic period (9th to 6th centuries BC), Classical period (5th and 4th centuries BC), and Hellenistic period (3rd century BC to the 6th century AD). It is antedated in the second millennium BC by Mycenaean Greek. The language of the Hellenistic phase is known as Koine (common). Koine is regarded as a separate historical stage of its own, although in its earliest form it closely resembled Attic Greek and in its latest form it approaches Medieval Greek. Prior to the Koine period, Greek of the classic and earlier periods included several regional dialects. Ancient Greek was the language of Homer and of fifth-century Athenian historians, playwrights, and philosophers. It has contributed many words to English vocabulary and has been a standard subject of study in educational institutions of the Western world since the Renaissance. This article primarily contains information about the Epic and Classical phases of the language.
DialectsAncient Greek was a pluricentric language, divided into many dialects. The main dialect groups are Attic and Ionic, Aeolic, Arcadocypriot, and Doric, many of them with several subdivisions. Some dialects are found in standardized literary forms used in literature, while others are attested only in inscriptions. There are also several historical forms. Homeric Greek is a literary form of Archaic Greek (derived primarily from Ionic and Aeolic) used in the epic poems, the " Iliad" and " Odyssey", and in later poems by other authors. Homeric Greek had significant differences in grammar and pronunciation from Classical Attic and other Classical-era dialects.
HistoryThe origins, early form and development of the Hellenic language family are not well understood because of a lack of contemporaneous evidence. Several theories exist about what Hellenic dialect groups may have existed between the divergence of early Greek-like speech from the common Proto-Indo-European language and the Classical period. They have the same general outline, but differ in some of the detail. The only attested dialect from this periodImprecisely attested and somewhat reconstructive due to its being written in an ill-fitting syllabary ( Linear B). is Mycenaean Greek, but its relationship to the historical dialects and the historical circumstances of the times imply that the overall groups already existed in some form. Scholars assume that major Ancient Greek period dialect groups developed not later than 1120 BC, at the time of the Dorian invasion(s)—and that their first appearances as precise alphabetic writing began in the 8th century BC. The invasion would not be "Dorian" unless the invaders had some cultural relationship to the historical Dorians. The invasion is known to have displaced population to the later Attic-Ionic regions, who regarded themselves as descendants of the population displaced by or contending with the Dorians. The Greeks of this period believed there were three major divisions of all Greek people—Dorians, Aeolians, and Ionians (including Athenians), each with their own defining and distinctive dialects. Allowing for their oversight of Arcadian, an obscure mountain dialect, and Cypriot, far from the center of Greek scholarship, this division of people and language is quite similar to the results of modern archaeological-linguistic investigation. One standard formulation for the dialects is:This one appears in recent versions of the Encyclopædia Britannica, which also lists the major works that define the subject. West vs. non-west Greek is the strongest marked and earliest division, with non-west in subsets of Ionic-Attic (or Attic-Ionic) and Aeolic vs. Arcadocypriot, or Aeolic and Arcado-Cypriot vs. Ionic-Attic. Often non-west is called East Greek. Arcadocypriot apparently descended more closely from the Mycenaean Greek of the Bronze Age. Boeotian had come under a strong Northwest Greek influence, and can in some respects be considered a transitional dialect. Thessalian likewise had come under Northwest Greek influence, though to a lesser degree. Pamphylian Greek, spoken in a small area on the southwestern coast of Anatolia and little preserved in inscriptions, may be either a fifth major dialect group, or it is Mycenaean Greek overlaid by Doric, with a non-Greek native influence. Most of the dialect sub-groups listed above had further subdivisions, generally equivalent to a city-state and its surrounding territory, or to an island. Doric notably had several intermediate divisions as well, into Island Doric (including Cretan Doric), Southern Peloponnesus Doric (including Laconian, the dialect of Sparta), and Northern Peloponnesus Doric (including Corinthian). The Lesbian dialect was Aeolic Greek. All the groups were represented by colonies beyond Greece proper as well, and these colonies generally developed local characteristics, often under the influence of settlers or neighbors speaking different Greek dialects. The dialects outside the Ionic group are known mainly from inscriptions, notable exceptions being fragments of the works of the poet Sappho from the island of Lesbos and the poems of the Boeotian poet, Pindar. After the conquests of Alexander the Great in the late 4th century BC, a new international dialect known as Koine or Common Greek developed, largely based on Attic Greek, but with influence from other dialects. This dialect slowly replaced most of the older dialects, although Doric dialect has survived in the Tsakonian language, which is spoken in the region of modern Sparta. Doric has also passed down its aorist terminations into most verbs of Demotic Greek. By about the 6th century AD, the Koine had slowly metamorphosized into Medieval Greek.
Related languagesAncient Macedonian was an Indo-European language closely related to Greek, but its exact relationship is unclear because of insufficient data: possibly a dialect of Greek; a sibling language to Greek; or a close cousin to Greek, and perhaps related to some extent, to Thracian and Phrygian languages. The Pella curse tablet is one of many finds that support the idea that the Ancient Macedonian language is closely related to the Doric Greek dialect.Sarah B. Pomeroy, Stanley M. Burstein, Walter Donlan, Jennifer Tolbert Roberts, A Brief History of Ancient Greece: Politics, Society, and Culture, Oxford University Press, 2008, p.289
Differences from Proto-Indo-EuropeanAncient Greek differs from Proto-Indo-European and other Indo-European languages in certain ways. In phonotactics, Ancient Greek words could end only in a vowel or ; final stops were lost, as in "milk", compared with "of milk" (genitive). Ancient Greek of the classical period also differed in phonemic inventory:
- PIE became at the beginning of a word ( debuccalization): Latin , English six, Ancient Greek .
- PIE was elided between vowels after an intermediate step of debuccalization: Sanskrit , Latin (where s > r by rhotacism), Greek *genesos > *genehos > Ancient Greek (), Attic () "of a kind".
- PIE became (debuccalization) or ( fortition): Sanskrit , Ancient Greek "who" (relative pronoun); Latin , English yoke, Ancient Greek .
- PIE , which occurred in Mycenaean and some non-Attic dialects, was lost: early Doric , English work, Attic Greek .
- PIE and Mycenaean labiovelars changed to plain stops (labials, dentals, and velars) in the later Greek dialects: for instance, PIE became or in Attic: Attic Greek "where?", Latin ; Attic Greek , Latin "who?".
- PIE "voiced aspirated" stops were devoiced and became the aspirated stops in Ancient Greek.
Phonemic inventoryThe pronunciation of Ancient Greek was very different from that of Modern Greek. Ancient Greek had long and short vowels; many diphthongs; double and single consonants; voiced, voiceless, and aspirated stops; and a pitch accent. In Modern Greek, all vowels and consonants are short. Many vowels and diphthongs once pronounced distinctly are pronounced as ( iotacism). Some of the stops and glides in diphthongs have become fricatives, and the pitch accent has changed to a stress accent. Many of the changes took place in the Koine Greek period. The writing system of Modern Greek, however, does not reflect all pronunciation changes. The examples below represent Attic Greek in the 5th century BC. Ancient pronunciation cannot be reconstructed with certainty, but Greek from the period is well documented, and there is little disagreement among linguists as to the general nature of the sounds that the letters represent.
Consonantsoccurred as an allophone of that was used before velars and as an allophone of before nasals. was probably voiceless when word-initial (written ). was assimilated to before voiced consonants.
Vowelsraised to , probably by the 4th century BC.
Morphologybearing the name of Cimon, Stoa of Attalos]] Greek, like all of the older Indo-European languages, is highly inflected. It is highly archaic in its preservation of Proto-Indo-European forms. In Ancient Greek, nouns (including proper nouns) have five cases ( nominative, genitive, dative, accusative, and vocative), three genders ( masculine, feminine, and neuter), and three numbers (singular, dual, and plural). Verbs have four moods ( indicative, imperative, subjunctive, and optative) and three voices (active, middle, and passive), as well as three persons (first, second, and third) and various other forms. Verbs are conjugated through seven combinations of tenses and aspect (generally simply called "tenses"): the present, future, and imperfect are imperfective in aspect; the aorist ( perfective aspect); a present perfect, pluperfect and future perfect. Most tenses display all four moods and three voices, although there is no future subjunctive or imperative. Also, there is no imperfect subjunctive, optative or imperative. The infinitives and participles correspond to the finite combinations of tense, aspect, and voice.
AugmentThe indicative of past tenses adds (conceptually, at least) a prefix /e-/, called the augment. This was probably originally a separate word, meaning something like "then", added because tenses in PIE had primarily aspectual meaning. The augment is added to the indicative of the aorist, imperfect, and pluperfect, but not to any of the other forms of the aorist (no other forms of the imperfect and pluperfect exist). The two kinds of augment in Greek are syllabic and quantitative. The syllabic augment is added to stems beginning with consonants, and simply prefixes e (stems beginning with r, however, add er). The quantitative augment is added to stems beginning with vowels, and involves lengthening the vowel:
- a, ā, e, ē → ē
- i, ī → ī
- o, ō → ō
- u, ū → ū
- ai → ēi
- ei → ēi or ei
- oi → ōi
- au → ēu or au
- eu → ēu or eu
- ou → ou
ReduplicationAlmost all forms of the perfect, pluperfect, and future perfect reduplicate the initial syllable of the verb stem. (Note that a few irregular forms of perfect do not reduplicate, whereas a handful of irregular aorists reduplicate.) The three types of reduplication are:
- Syllabic reduplication: Most verbs beginning with a single consonant, or a cluster of a stop with a sonorant, add a syllable consisting of the initial consonant followed by e. An aspirated consonant, however, reduplicates in its unaspirated equivalent: Grassmann's law.
- Augment: Verbs beginning with a vowel, as well as those beginning with a cluster other than those indicated previously (and occasionally for a few other verbs) reduplicate in the same fashion as the augment. This remains in all forms of the perfect, not just the indicative.
- Attic reduplication: Some verbs beginning with an a, e or o, followed by a sonorant (or occasionally d or g), reduplicate by adding a syllable consisting of the initial vowel and following consonant, and lengthening the following vowel. Hence er → erēr, an → anēn, ol → olōl, ed → edēd. This is not actually specific to Attic Greek, despite its name, but it was generalized in Attic. This originally involved reduplicating a cluster consisting of a laryngeal and sonorant, hence h₃l → h₃leh₃l → olōl with normal Greek development of laryngeals. (Forms with a stop were analogous.)