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Koine Greek

Koine Greek
Region Eastern Roman Empire
Era 300 BC – 300 AD (Byzantine official use until 1453)
Early forms
Language codes
ISO 639-3
Linguist list
Glottolog None

Koine Greek (UK English /ˈkɔɪn/, US English /kɔɪˈn/, /ˈkɔɪn/ or /kˈn/; from Koine Greek ἡ κοινὴ διάλεκτος, "the common dialect"), also known as Alexandrian dialect, common Attic, Hellenistic or Biblical Greek (Modern Greek: Ελληνιστική Κοινή, "Hellenistic Koiné", in the sense of "Hellenistic supraregional language"), was the common supra-regional form of Greek spoken and written during Hellenistic and Roman antiquity and the early Byzantine era, or Late Antiquity. It evolved from the spread of Greek following the conquests of Alexander the Great in the 4th century BC, and served as the lingua franca of much of the Mediterranean region and the Middle East during the following centuries. It was based mainly on Attic and related Ionic speech forms, with various admixtures brought about through dialect levelling with other varieties.

letter Greek transliteration IPA
Alpha α a /a/
Beta β b /b/ ([b, β])
Gamma γ g /ɣ/ ([ɣ, g, ʝ])
Delta δ d /d/
Epsilon ε e /e/
Zeta ζ z /z/
Eta η ē /e̝/
Theta θ th /tʰ/
Iota ι i /i/ ([i, j])
Kappa κ k /k/ ([k, g])
Lambda λ l /l/
Mu μ m /m/
Nu ν n /n/ ([n, m])
Xi ξ x /ks/
Omicron ο o /o/
Pi π p /p/ ([p, b])
Rho ρ r /r/
Sigma σ (-σ-/-σσ-) s (-s-/-ss-) /s/ ([s, z])
Tau τ t /t/ ([t, d])
Upsilon υ y /y/
Phi φ ph /pʰ/
Chi χ ch /kʰ/
Psi ψ ps /ps/
Omega ω ō /o/
. αι ai /e/
. ει ei /i/ ([i, j])
. οι oi /y/
. υι yi /yj/
. αυ au [aɸʷ, aβʷ]
. ευ eu [eɸʷ, eβʷ]
. ου ou /u/
. αι (ᾳ) āi /a/
. ηι (ῃ) ēi /i/
. ωι (ῳ) ōi /o/
. h (/h/)

  • Koine Greek
  • Koine Greek
  • The ancient distinction between long and short vowels was gradually lost, and from the second century BC all vowels were isochronic (all vowels having equal length).
  • From the second century BC, the Ancient Greek pitch accent was replaced with a stress accent.
  • Psilosis: loss of rough breathing, /h/. Rough breathing had already been lost in the Ionic Greek varieties of Anatolia and the Aeolic Greek of Lesbos.
  • ᾱͅ, ῃ, ῳ /aːi eːi oːi/ were simplified to ᾱ, η, ω /aː eː oː/.
  • The diphthongs αι, ει, and οι became monophthongs. αι, which had already been pronounced as /ɛː/ by the Boeotians since the 4th century BC and written η (e.g. πῆς, χῆρε, μέμφομη), became in Koine, too, first a long vowel /ɛː/ and then, with the loss of distinctive vowel length and openness distinction /e/, merging with ε. The diphthong ει had already merged with ι in the 5th century BC in Argos, and by the 4th century BC in Corinth (e.g. ΛΕΓΙΣ), and it acquired this pronunciation also in Koine. The diphthong οι fronted to /y/, merging with υ. The diphthong υι came to be pronounced [yj], and remained a diphthong. The diphthong ου had been already raised to /u/ in the 6th century BC, and remains so in Modern Greek.
  • The diphthongs αυ and ευ came to be pronounced [av ev] (via [aβ eβ]), but are partly assimilated to [af ef] before the voiceless consonants θ, κ, ξ, π, σ, τ, φ, χ, and ψ.
  • Simple vowels mostly preserved their ancient pronunciations. η /e/ (classically pronounced /ɛː/) was raised and merged with ι. In the 10th century AD, υ/οι /y/ unrounded to merge with ι. These changes are known as iotacism.
  • The consonants also preserved their ancient pronunciations to a great extent, except β, γ, δ, φ, θ, χ and ζ. Β, Γ, Δ, which were originally pronounced /b ɡ d/, became the fricatives /v/ (via [β]), /ɣ/, /ð/, which they still are today, except when preceded by a nasal consonant (μ, ν); in that case, they retain their ancient pronunciations (e.g. γαμβρός > γαμπρός [ɣamˈbros], ἄνδρας > άντρας [ˈandras], ἄγγελος > άγγελος [ˈaŋɟelos]). The latter three (Φ, Θ, Χ), which were initially pronounced as aspirates (/pʰ tʰ kʰ/ respectively), developed into the fricatives /f/ (via [ɸ]), /θ/, and /x/. Finally ζ, which is still metrically categorised as a double consonant with ξ and ψ because it may have initially been pronounced as σδ [zd] or δσ [dz], later acquired its modern-day value of /z/.
  • Abel, F.-M. Grammaire du grec biblique.
  • Allen, W. Sidney, Vox Graeca: a guide to the pronunciation of classical Greek – 3rd ed., Cambridge University Press, 1987.
  • Andriotis, Nikolaos P. History of the Greek Language
  • Buth, Randall, Ἡ κοινὴ προφορά: Koine Greek of Early Roman Period
  • Bruce, Frederick F. The Books and the Parchments: Some Chapters on the Transmission of the Bible. 3rd ed. Westwood, NJ: Revell, 1963. Chapters 2 and 5.
  • Conybeare, F.C. and Stock, St. George. Grammar of Septuagint Greek: With Selected Readings, Vocabularies, and Updated Indexes.
  • Horrocks, Geoffrey C. (2010). Greek: A history of the language and its speakers (2nd ed.). Oxford: Blackwell.
  • Smyth, Herbert Weir (1956), Greek Grammar, Harvard University Press, ISBN  .
  • Stevens, Gerald L. New Testament Greek Primer.
  • Stevens, Gerald L. New Testament Greek Intermediate. From Morphology to Translation.
  • Easterling, P & Handley, C. Greek Scripts: An illustrated introduction. London: Society for the Promotion of Hellenic Studies, 2001.


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