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Greek
Article 12 Article 17


Article 20


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Native Name
Ellinika'

Official Language: Cyprus, Greece
Officially Recognized Status: Italy, Turkey, Saranda and Gjirokastër districts of Albania
Home Speakers: Albania

Background
It belongs to the Indo-European family and is spoken by nearly 12 million people. Greek-speaking people moved into the Greek Peninsula and adjacent areas from the Balkan Peninsula in the second millennium B.C. With the course of time four distinct dialects evolved: Aeolic, Ionic, Arcado-Cyprian, and Doric. It was in the Ionic dialect that the epic poems of Homer, the Iliad and the Odyssey, appeared, perhaps in the 9th century B.C. With the rise of Athens in succeeding centuries, a dialect of Ionic known as Attic began to produce the great literature of the classical period. Attic became the dominant form of the language and the basis of the Koine, or common language, whose use passed far beyond the borders of present-day Greece. After the conquests of Alexander the Great it was spoken as far east as India, and later was adopted as a second language by the Roman Empire. The New Testament was written in the Koine and it is still used today by the Eastern Orthodox Church. The Greek alphabet, an adaptation of the Phoenician, dates back to about 1000 B.C. It was the first alphabet in which letters stood for vowels as well as for consonants, in contrast to the Semitic alphabets, which had only consonants. Like the Semitic alphabets, it was at first written from right to left. Greek was the official language of the Byzantine Empire from the 4th to the 15th century and thereafter continued to be spoken by Greeks under Turkish rule. Modern Greek began to take shape about the 9th century, and became the official language of the kingdom of Greece in the 19th century. Two literary varieties have been used in Greece: «Katharévusa» (Pure Language) and «Dimotikí» (Popular Language). Katharévusa, modelled on Classical Greek, was the normal language of the administration and education for over a century after the liberation from Turkey in the 1820s. However, Dimotikí, based on the spoken language, gradually became Standard Modern Greek, de facto and de jure (in 1976), thus leading Greek diglossia, with a high and low variety, to break down. .

Reprinted from www.unhchr.ch/udhr/