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FACTS ABOUT THE GREEK LANGUAGE
Greek belongs to the Indo-European language family and is often referred to as the first language of European civilisation. Today, there are about 15 million speakers of this language in the world. It is the official language in Cyprus and Greece, but it is also used in Albania, the United Kingdom, Armenia, the USA, Bulgaria, South Africa, Egypt, France, Georgia, Italy, Jordan, Kazakhstan, Russia, Macedonia, Romania, Spain, and Ukraine.
Historically, Greek had several stages of development: Proto-Greek, Mycenaean Greek, Ancient Greek, Koine Greek, Medieval Greek, and Modern Greek.
The earliest written evidence in the form of clay tablets has survived from the Proto-Greek times and has only been deciphered partially. The most notable literary monuments of this period are the Homeric epics, such as Iliad and Odyssey, which were written in around the 9th–8th century BCE.
The Mycenaean Greek stage coincides with the age of the Mycenaean civilization. Some written evidence dates back to the 15th–14th century BCE.
Ancient Greek was the language of Ancient Greece.
The dialects of the Ancient Greek merged, forming the so-called Koine (‘common’) Greek, which became the first lingua franca in the territories from the eastern shores of the Mediterranean to the Far East, unifying the ancient world. It first evolved in the territories conquered by Alexander the Great, but after the Hellenic colonisation it was spoken from Egypt to India.
After the downfall of Ancient Greece, Koine Greek was widely used in the Roman and Byzantine empires.
Arising from Phoenician writing, the Greek alphabetic writing, where each letter represents a sound, developed in around the 7th century. Originally, the letters of the Greek alphabet were used for numbers as well.
Colloquial speech developed much faster than written language – at the time when Ancient Greek was spoken, written texts were still composed in Proto-Greek.
Modern Greek emerged in around the 14th century and is still used today. This language has two varieties: the colloquial, or Demotic, and the urban, or Katharevousa. Katharevousa is used in official institutions and is somewhat similar to Koine.
Modern Greek is remarkably different from Proto-Greek. Speakers of the modern language might not understand Proto-Greek writing.
Proto-Greek is notable for shaping the majority of today’s internationalisms.
As a rule, when rendering Greek pronouns into Latvian, they preserve the same endings, provided that they can be found in Latvian as well. For example, the Greek pronoun ‘Mikis’ stays the same in Latvian.
Language code: ISO 639-1: el
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