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Ancient Greek

Ancient Greek
Ἑλληνική
Hellēnikḗ
Account of the construction of Athena Parthenos by Phidias.jpg
Inscription about the construction of the statue of Athena Parthenos in the Parthenon, 440/439 BC
Region eastern Mediterranean
Era 9th century BC to the 6th century AD
Indo-European
Greek alphabet
Language codes
ISO 639-2
ISO 639-3 (includes all pre-modern stages)
Glottolog anci1242
Homeric Greece-en.svg

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.

Ancient 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.


Bilabial Dental Velar Glottal
Nasal μ
m
ν
n
γ
(ŋ)
Plosive voiced β
b
δ
d
γ
ɡ
voiceless π
p
τ
t
κ
k
aspirated φ
θ
χ
Fricative σ
s
h
Trill ρ
r
Lateral λ
l
Front Back
unrounded rounded
Close ι
i
υ
y
Close-mid ε ει
e
ο ου
o
Open-mid η
ɛː
ω
ɔː
Open α
a

Ὅτι μὲν ὑμεῖς, ὦ ἄνδρες Ἀθηναῖοι, πεπόνθατε ὑπὸ τῶν ἐμῶν κατηγόρων, οὐκ οἶδα· ἐγὼ δ' οὖν καὶ αὐτὸς ὑπ' αὐτῶν ὀλίγου ἐμαυτοῦ ἐπελαθόμην, οὕτω πιθανῶς ἔλεγον. Καίτοι ἀληθές γε ὡς ἔπος εἰπεῖν οὐδὲν εἰρήκασιν.
[hóti men hyːmêːs | ɔ̂ː ándres atʰɛːnaî̯i̯oi | pepóntʰate | hypo tɔ̂ːn emɔ̂ːŋ katɛːɡórɔːn | uːk oî̯da ‖ éɡɔː dûːŋ kai̯ au̯tos | hyp au̯tɔ̂ːn olíɡuː emau̯tûː | epelatʰómɛːn | hǔːtɔː pitʰanɔ̂ːs éleɡon ‖ kaí̯toi̯ alɛːtʰéz ɡe | hɔːs épos eːpêːn | uːden eːrɛ̌ːkaːsin ‖]
Hóti mèn hūmeîs, ô ándres Athēnaîoi, pepónthate hupò tôn emôn katēgórōn, ouk oîda: egṑ d' oûn kaì autòs hup' autōn olígou emautoû epelathómēn, hoútō pithanôs élegon. Kaítoi alēthés ge hōs épos eipeîn oudèn eirḗkāsin.
How you, men of Athens, are feeling under the power of my accusers, I do not know: actually, even I myself almost forgot who I was because of them, they spoke so persuasively. And yet, loosely speaking, nothing they have said is true.
  • Ancient Greek
  • Aegean/Asiatic Aeolic
  • Thessalian
  • Boeotian
  • Attica
  • Euboea and colonies in Italy
  • Cyclades
  • Asiatic Ionia
  • Arcadian
  • Cypriot
  • PIE *s became /h/ at the beginning of a word (debuccalization): Latin sex, English six, Ancient Greek ἕξ /héks/.
  • PIE *s was elided between vowels after an intermediate step of debuccalization: Sanskrit , Latin generis (where s > r by rhotacism), Greek *genesos > *genehos > Ancient Greek γένεος (/géneos/), Attic γένους (/génoːs/) "of a kind".
  • PIE *y /j/ became /h/ (debuccalization) or /(d)z/ (fortition): Sanskrit , Ancient Greek ὅς "who" (relative pronoun); Latin iugum, English yoke, Ancient Greek ζυγός /zygós/.
  • PIE *w, which occurred in Mycenaean and some non-Attic dialects, was lost: early Doric ϝέργον, English work, Attic Greek ἔργον /érgon/.
  • PIE and Mycenaean labiovelars changed to plain stops (labials, dentals, and velars) in the later Greek dialects: for instance, PIE *kʷ became /p/ or /t/ in Attic: Attic Greek ποῦ /pôː/ "where?", Latin quō; Attic Greek τίς /tís/, Latin quis "who?".
  • PIE "voiced aspirated" stops *bʰ dʰ ǵʰ gʰ gʷʰ were devoiced and became the aspirated stops φ θ χ /pʰ tʰ kʰ/ in Ancient Greek.
  • 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
  • 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 ererēr, ananēn, ololōl, ededēd. 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 h₃lh₃leh₃lolōl with normal Greek development of laryngeals. (Forms with a stop were analogous.)
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