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Attic Greek

Attic Greek
Region Attica, Lemnos
Era c. 500–300 BC; evolved into Koine
Language codes
ISO 639-3
Linguist list
Glottolog None
AncientGreekDialects (Woodard) en.svg
Distribution of Greek dialects in Greek in the classical period.
Western group: Central group:
Eastern group:

Attic Greek is the main Greek dialect that was spoken in ancient Attica, which includes Athens. Of the ancient dialects, it is the most similar to later Greek and is the standard form of the language that is studied in ancient-Greek language courses. Attic Greek is sometimes included in the Ionic dialect. Together, Attic and Ionic are the primary influences on Modern Greek.

Greek is a branch of the Indo-European language family, which includes English. In historical times, Greek already existed in several dialects (see article on Greek dialects), one of which was Attic.

The earliest written records in Greek date from the 16th to 11th centuries BC and exist in an archaic writing system, Linear B, which belongs to the Mycenaean Greeks. The distinction between Eastern and Western Greek is believed to have arisen by Mycenaean times or before. Mycenaean Greek represents an early form of Eastern Greek, a main branch to which Attic also belongs. Because of the gap in the written record between the disappearance of Linear B, around 1200 BC, and the earliest inscriptions in the later Greek alphabet, around 750 BC, the further development of dialects remains opaque. Later Greek literature wrote about three main dialects: Aeolic, Doric, and Ionic. Attic was part of the Ionic dialect group. "Old Attic" is used for the dialect of Thucydides (460-400 BC) and the dramatists of 5th-century Athens; "New Attic" is used for the language of later writers.

Attic Greek persisted until the 3rd century BC, when it was replaced by its similar but more universal offspring, (ἡ κοινὴ διάλεκτος (hē koinē diálektos)) "the common dialect". The cultural dominance of the Athenian Empire and the later adoption of Attic Greek by king Philip II of Macedon (382-336 BC), father of the conqueror, Alexander the Great, were key to the eventual victory of Attic over other Greek dialects and the spread of Koine Greek, throughout Alexander's Hellenic empire. The rise of Koine is conventionally marked by the accession in 285 BC of Greek-speaking Ptolemy II, who ruled from Alexandria, Egypt and launched the Alexandrian period, when the city of Alexandria and its expatriate Greek-medium scholars flourished.

PIE VsR or VRs → Attic-Ionic-Doric VVR.
VsR or VRs → Aeolic VRR.
  • Eastern
    • Attic Greek
  • Attic Greek
  • Proto-Greek and Doric mātēr → Attic mētēr "mother"
  • Attic chōrā ⁓ Ionic chōrē "place", "country"
  • Proto-Greek kor → early Attic-Ionic *korwē → Attic korē (Ionic kourē)
  • Proto-Indo-European *es-mi (athematic verb) → Attic-Ionic ēmi (= εἰμί) ⁓ Aeolic emmi "I am"
  • Boeotian kourios ⁓ Attic kyrios "lord"
  • nika-enikā "conquer (thou)!"
  • PIE *trey-es → Proto-Greek trehes → Attic trēs = τρεῖς "three"
  • early *genes-os → Ionic geneos → Attic genous "of a kind" (genitive singular: Latin generis, with r from rhotacism)
  • basilēosbasils "of a king" (genitive singular)
  • basilēōnbasiln (genitive plural)
  • basilēusibasileusi (dative plural)
  • Homeric boē-tho-os → Attic boēthos "running to a cry", "helper in battle"
  • Proto-Greek *glōkh-ya → Attic glōtta — Ionic glōssa "tongue"
  • PIE *kwetwores → Attic tettares — Ionic tesseres "four" (Latin quattuor)
  • PIE *medh-yos → Homeric messos (palatalization) → Attic mesos "middle"
  • Proto-Greek korwā → Attic korē "girl"
  • Proto-Indo-European *si-sta-mes → Attic histamen — Cretan istamen "we stand"
  • pāsin élegon "they spoke to everyone" vs. pāsi legousi
  • pāsi(n) dative plural of "all"
  • legousi(n) "they speak" (third person plural, present indicative active)
  • elege(n) "he was speaking" (third person singular, imperfect indicative active)
  • titheisi(n) "he places", "makes" (third person singular, present indicative active: athematic verb)
  • Attic tends to replace the -ter "doer of" suffix with -tes: dikastes for dikaster "judge".
  • The Attic adjectival ending -eios and corresponding noun ending, both having two syllables with the diphthong ei, stand in place of ēios, with three syllables, in other dialects: politeia, Cretan politēia, "constitution", both from politewia whose w is dropped.
  • The vernacular and poetic dialect of Aristophanes.
  • The dialect of Thucydides (mixed Old Attic with neologisms).
  • The dialect and the orthography of Old Attic inscriptions in Attic alphabet before 403 BC. The Thucydidean orthography is similar.
  • The conventionalized and poetic dialect of the Attic tragic poets, mixed with Epic and Ionic Greek and used in the episodes. (In the choral odes, conventional Doric is used).
  • Formal Attic of Attic orators, Plato,Xenophon and Aristotle, imitated by the Atticists or Neo-Attic writers, and considered to be good or Standard Attic.


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