Proto-Greek language

The Proto-Greek language (also known as Proto-Hellenic) is an Indo-European language. It is assumed to be the last common ancestor of all known varieties of Greek, including Mycenaean Greek, the subsequent ancient Greek dialects (i.e., Attic, Ionic, Aeolic, Doric, Ancient Macedonian and Arcadocypriot) and, ultimately, Koine, Byzantine and Modern Greek. The unity of Proto-Greek would have ended as Hellenic migrants, who spoke the predecessor of the Mycenaean language, entered the Greek peninsula sometime in the Neolithic or the Bronze Age.[2]

Proto Greek Area reconstruction
A reconstruction of the 3rd millennium BC "Proto-Greek area", by Vladimir I. Georgiev.[1]


The evolution of Proto-Greek could be considered within the context of an early Paleo-Balkan sprachbund that makes it difficult to delineate exact boundaries between individual languages.[3] The characteristically Greek representation of word-initial laryngeals by prothetic vowels is shared, for one, by the Armenian language, which also seems to share some other phonological and morphological peculiarities of Greek; this has led some linguists to propose a hypothetically closer relationship between Greek and Armenian, although evidence remains scant.[4]

Proto-Greek is mostly placed in the Early Helladic period (late 4th millennium BC; circa 3200 BC) towards the end of the Neolithic in Southern Europe.[5][6] Russell Gray and Quentin Atkinson, in a 2003 paper using computational methods on Swadesh lists, have arrived at a somewhat earlier estimate: around 5000 BC for Graeco-Armenian or proto Graeco-Aryan split, and the emergence of Greek and Armenian as separate linguistic lineages around 4000 BC.[7]


Proto-Greek is reconstructed with the following phonemes:

Labial Alveolar Palatal Velar Labiovelar Glottal
Nasal m n ɲ[a]
Plosive p b pʰ t d tʰ ť[a] ď[a] k g kʰ kʷ gʷ kʷʰ
Affricate ts[b] dz[b]
Fricative s h
Liquid l r ľ[a] ř[a]
Semivowel j w
Front Center Back
Close i ī u ū
Mid e ē ə[b] o ō
Open a ā
  • Diphthongs are ai ei oi ui, au eu ou, āi ēi ōi, and possibly āu ēu ōu; all are allophonic with the corresponding sequences of vowel and semivowel.
  • Exactly one vowel in each word bears a pitch accent (equivalent to the Attic Greek acute accent).
  1. ^ a b c d e Only occurs geminated as the result of palatalization ČČ < Cy; ť also occurs in the combination < py
  2. ^ a b c Exact phonetic value uncertain

Proto-Greek changes

The primary sound changes separating Proto-Greek from the Proto-Indo-European language include:

  • Devoicing of voiced aspirates.
  • Merger of palatovelars and velars (centumization).
  • Merging of sequences of velar + *w into the labiovelars, with compensatory lengthening of the consonant in some cases. For example, PIE *h₁éḱwos > PG *íkkʷos > Mycenaean i-qo /íkkʷos/, Attic híppos, Aeolic íkkos.
  • Shortening of long vowels before a sonorant in the same syllable (Osthoff's law): *dyēws "skyling, sky god" > Attic Greek Zeús /dseús/.
  • Debuccalization of /s/ to /h/ in intervocalic and prevocalic positions (between two vowels, or if word-initial and followed by a vowel).
  • Palatalization of consonants followed by -y-, producing various affricate consonants (still represented as a separate sound in Mycenaean) and geminated palatal consonants; they later simplified, mostly losing their palatal character.
  • Dissimilation of aspirates (Grassmann's law), possibly post-Mycenaean.
  • Vocalization of laryngeals between consonants and initially before consonants to /e/, /a/, /o/ from *h₁, *h₂, *h₃ respectively (unlike all other Indo-European languages).
  • Other unique changes involving laryngeals; see below.
  • Strengthening of word-initial y- to dy- > dz- (note that Hy- > Vy- regularly due to vocalization of laryngeals).
  • Loss of final stop consonants.
  • Final /m/ > /n/.
  • Raising of /o/ to /u/ between a resonant and a labial (Cowgill's law).

Loss of prevocalic *s was not completed entirely, evidenced by sȳ́s ~ hȳ́spig’ (from PIE *suh₁-), dasýs ‘dense’ and dásos ‘dense growth, forest’; *som ‘with’ is another example, contaminated with PIE *ḱom (Latin cum; preserved in Greek kaí, katá, koinós) to Mycenaean ku-su /ksun/, Homeric / Old Attic ksýn, later sýn. sélas ‘light in the sky, as in the aurora’ and selḗnē/selā́nāmoon’ may be more examples of the same if it derived from PIE *swel- ‘to burn’ (possibly related to hḗliossun’, Ionic hēélios < *sāwélios).

Dissimilation of aspirates (so-called Grassmann's law) caused an initial aspirated sound to lose its aspiration when a following aspirated consonant occurred in the same word. It was a relatively late change in Proto-Greek history and must have occurred independently of the similar dissimilation of aspirates (also known as Grassmann's law) in Indo-Iranian, although it may represent a common areal feature:

  1. It postdates the Greek-specific de-voicing of voiced aspirates.
  2. It also postdates the change of /s/ > /h/, as it affects /h/ as well: ékhō "I have" < *hekh- < PIE *seǵʰ-oh₂, but future heksō "I will have" < *heks- < Post-PIE *seǵʰ-s-oh₂.
  3. It postdates even the loss of aspiration before /j/ that accompanied second-stage palatalization (see below), which postdates both of the previous changes (as well as first-stage palatalization).
  4. On the other hand, it predates the development of the first aorist passive marker -thē- since the aspirate in that marker has no effect on preceding aspirates.

Laryngeal changes

Greek is unique in reflecting the three different laryngeals with distinct vowels. Most Indo-European languages can be traced back to a dialectal variety of late Proto-Indo-European (PIE) in which all three laryngeals had merged (after colouring adjacent short /e/ vowels), but Greek clearly cannot. For that reason, Greek is extremely important in reconstructing PIE forms.

Greek shows distinct reflexes of the laryngeals in various positions:

  • Most famously, between consonants, where original vocalic *h₁, *h₂, *h₃ are reflected as /e/, /a/, /o/ respectively (the so-called triple reflex). All other Indo-European languages reflect the same vowel from all three laryngeals (usually /a/, but /i/ or other vowels in Indo-Iranian):
Proto-Indo-European Greek Vedic Sanskrit Latin
dʰh̥₁s- "sacred, religious" θέσφατος / thésphatos "decreed by God" धिष्ण्य / dhíṣṇya- "devout" fānum "temple" < *fasnom < *dʰh̥₁s-no-
sth̥₂-to- "standing, being made to stand" στατός / statós स्थित / sthíta- status
dh̥₃-ti- "gift" δόσις / dósis दिति / díti- datiō
  • An initial laryngeal before a consonant (a *HC- sequence) leads to the same triple reflex, but most IE languages lost such laryngeals and a few reflect them initially before consonants. Greek vocalized them (leading to what are misleadingly termed prothetic vowels): Greek érebos "darkness" < PIE *h₁regʷos vs. Gothic riqiz- "darkness"; Greek áent- "wind" < *awent- < PIE *h₂wéh₁n̥t- vs. English wind, Latin ventum "wind", Breton gwent "wind".
  • The sequence *CRHC (C = consonant, R = resonant, H = laryngeal) becomes CRēC, CRāC, CRōC from H = *h₁, *h₂, *h₃ respectively. (Other Indo-European languages again have the same reflex for all three laryngeals: *CuRC in Proto-Germanic, *CiRˀC/CuRˀC with acute register in Proto-Balto-Slavic, *CīRC/CūRC in Proto-Indo-Iranian, *CRāC in Proto-Italic and Proto-Celtic.) Sometimes, CeReC, CaRaC, CoRoC are found instead: Greek thánatos "death" vs. Doric Greek thnātós "mortal", both apparently reflecting *dʰn̥h₂-tos. It is sometimes suggested that the position of the accent was a factor in determining the outcome.
  • The sequence *CiHC tends to become *CyēC, *CyāC, *CyōC from H = *h₁, *h₂, *h₃ respectively, with later palatalization (see below). Sometimes, the outcome CīC is found, as in most other Indo-European languages, or the outcome CiaC in the case of *Cih₂C.

All of the cases may stem from an early insertion of /e/ next to a laryngeal not adjacent to a vowel in the Indo-European dialect ancestral to Greek (subsequently coloured to /e/, /a/, /o/ by the particular laryngeal in question) prior to the general merger of laryngeals:

  • *CHC > *CHeC > CeC/CaC/CoC.
  • *HC- > *HeC- > eC-/aC-/oC-.
  • *CRHC > *CReHC > CRēC/CRāC/CRōC; or, *CRHC > *CeRHeC > *CeReC/CeRaC/CeRoC > CeReC/CaRaC/CoRoC by assimilation.
  • *CiHC > *CyeHC > CyēC/CyāC/CyōC; or, *Cih₂C > *Cih₂eC > *CiHaC > *CiyaC > CiaC; or, *CiHC remains without vowel insertion > CīC.

A laryngeal adjacent to a vowel develops along the same lines as other Indo-European languages:

  • The sequence *CRHV (C = consonant, R = resonant, H = laryngeal, V = vowel) passes through *CR̥HV, becoming CaRV.
  • The sequence *CeHC becomes CēC/CāC/CōC.
  • The sequence *CoHC becomes CōC.
  • In the sequence *CHV (including CHR̥C, with a vocalized resonant), the laryngeal colors a following short /e/, as expected, but it otherwise disappears entirely (as in most other Indo-European languages but not Indo-Iranian whose laryngeal aspirates a previous stop and prevents the operation of Brugmann's law).
  • In a *VHV sequence (a laryngeal between vowels, including a vocalic resonant ), the laryngeal again colours any adjacent short /e/ but otherwise vanishes early on. That change appears to be uniform across the Indo-European languages and was probably the first environment in which laryngeals were lost. If the first V was *i, *u or a vocalic resonant, a consonantal copy was apparently inserted in place of the laryngeal: *CiHV > *CiyV, *CuHV > *CuwV, *CR̥HV possibly > *CR̥RV, with always remaining as vocalic until the dissolution of vocalic resonants in the various daughter languages. Otherwise, a hiatus resulted, which was resolved in various ways in the daughter languages, typically by converting i, u and vocalic resonants, when it directly followed a vowel, back into a consonant and merging adjacent non-high vowels into a single long vowel.


Proto-Greek underwent palatalization of consonants before *y. This occurred in two separate stages. The first stage affected only dental consonants, while the second stage affected all consonants.

The first palatalization turned dentals + *y into alveolar affricates:

Before After
*ty, *tʰy *ts
*dy *dz

Alongside these changes, the inherited clusters *ts, *ds and *tʰs all merged into *ts.

In the second palatalization, all consonants were affected. It took place following the resolution of syllabic laryngeals and sonorants. The following table, based on American linguist Andrew Sihler,[8] shows the developments.

Before After
*py, *pʰy *pť
*tsy *ťť
*ky, *kʰy
*kʷy, *kʷʰy
*by ?
*dzy *ďď
*ly *ľľ
*my, *ny *ňň
*ry *řř
*sy > *hy *yy
*wy *ɥɥ > *yy

In post-Proto-Greek times, the resulting palatal consonants and clusters were resolved in varying ways. Most notably, and were resolved into plain sonorants plus a palatal on-glide, which eventually turned the preceding vowel into a diphthong.

Proto-Greek Attic Homeric West Ionic Other Ionic Boeotian Arcado-
*pť pt
*ts s s, ss s tt ss
*ťť tt ss tt ss tt ss
*dz ?
*ďď zd
*ľľ ll il ll
*ňň in (but *uňň > ūn)
*řř ir (but *uřř > ūr)
*yy i

In the time between the first and second palatalizations, new clusters *tsy and *dzy were formed by restoring a lost *y after the newly formed *ts and *dz. This occurred only in morphologically transparent formations, by analogy with similar formations where *y was preceded by other consonants. In formations that were morphologically opaque and not understood as such by speakers of the time, this restoration did not take place and *ts and *dz remained. Hence, depending on the type of formation, the Pre-Greek sequences *ty, *tʰy and *dy have different outcomes in the later languages. In particular, medial *ty becomes Attic s in opaque formations, but tt in transparent formations.

The outcome of PG medial *ts in Homeric Greek is s after a long vowel, and vacillation between s and ss after a short vowel: tátēsi dat. pl. "rug" < tátēt-, possí(n)/posí(n) dat. pl. "foot" < pod-. This was useful for the composer of the Iliad and Odyssey, since possí with double ss scans as long-short, while posí with single s scans as short-short. Thus the writer could use each form in different positions in a line.

Examples of initial *ts:

  • PIE *tyegʷ- "avoid" > PG *tsegʷ- > Greek sébomai "worship, be respectful" (Ved. tyaj- "flee")
  • PIE *dʰyeh₂- "notice" > PG *tsā- > Dor. sā́ma, Att. sêma "sign" (Ved. dhyā́- "thought, contemplation")

Examples of medial *ts (morphologically opaque forms, first palatalization only):

  • PreG *tótyos "as much" > PG *tótsos > Att. tósos, Hom. tósos/tóssos (cf. Ved. táti, Lat. tot "so much/many")
  • PIE *médʰyos "middle" > PG *métsos > Att. mésos, Hom. mésos/méssos, Boeot. méttos, other dial. mésos (cf. Ved. mádhya-, Lat. medius)

Examples of medial *ťť (morphologically transparent forms, first and second palatalization):

  • PIE *h₁erh₁-t-yoh₂ "I row" > PG *eréťťō > Attic eréttō, usual non-Attic eréssō (cf. erétēs "oarsman")
  • PIE *krét-yōs > PreG *krétyōn "better" > PG *kréťťōn > Attic kreíttōn,[9] usual non-Attic kréssōn (cf. kratús "strong" < PIE *kr̥tús)

Other Post-Proto-Greek changes

Sound changes between Proto-Greek and all early dialects, including Mycenaean Greek, include:

  • Remaining syllabic resonants *m̥ *n̥ *l̥ and *r̥ are resolved to vowels or combinations of a vowel and consonantal resonant. It appears that the process still occurred within Proto-Greek, and resulted in an epenthetic vowel of undetermined quality (denoted here as ). This vowel then usually developed into a but also o in some cases. Thus:
    • *m̥, *n̥ > , but > *əm, *ən before a sonorant. appears as o in Mycenaean after a labial: pe-mo (spérmo) "seed" vs. usual spérma < *spérmn̥. Similarly, o often appears in Arcadian after a velar, e.g. déko "ten", hekotón "one hundred" vs. usual déka, hekatón < *déḱm̥, *sem-ḱm̥tóm.
    • *l̥, *r̥ > *lə, *rə, but *əl, *ər before sonorants and analogously. appears as o in Mycenaean Greek, Aeolic Greek and Cypro-Arcadian. Example: PIE *str̥-tos > usual stratós, Aeolic strótos "army"; post-PIE *ḱr̥di-eh₂ "heart" > Attic kardíā, Homeric kradíē, Pamphylian korzdia.
  • Loss of s in consonant clusters, with compensatory lengthening of the preceding vowel (Attic, Ionic, Doric) or of the consonant (Aeolic): *ésmi "I am" > ḗmi, eîmi or émmi.
  • Creation of secondary s from clusters, *nty > ns (it was, in turn, followed by a change similar to the one described above, loss of the n with compensatory lengthening: *apónt-ya > apónsa > apoûsa, "absent", feminine).
  • Conversion of labiovelars to velars next to /u/, the "boukólos rule".
  • In southern dialects (including Mycenaean, but not Doric), -ti- > -si- (assibilation).

The following changes are apparently post-Mycenaean:

  • Loss of /h/ (from original /s/), except initially, e.g. Doric níkaas "having conquered" < *níkahas < *níkasas.
  • Loss of /j/, e.g. treîs "three" < *tréyes.
  • Loss of /w/ in many dialects (later than loss of /h/ and /j/). Example: étos "year" from *wétos.
  • Loss of labiovelars, which were converted (mostly) into labials, sometimes into dentals (or velars next to /u/, as a result of an earlier sound change). See below for details. It had not yet happened in Mycenaean, as is shown by the fact that a separate letter ⟨q⟩ is used for such sounds.
  • Contraction of adjacent vowels resulting from loss of /h/ and /j/ (and, to a lesser extent, from loss of /w/); more in Attic Greek than elsewhere.
  • Rise of a distinctive circumflex accent, resulting from contraction and certain other changes.
  • Limitation of the accent to the last three syllables, with various further restrictions.
  • Loss of /n/ before /s/ (incompletely in Cretan Greek), with compensatory lengthening of the preceding vowel.
  • Raising of ā to ē /ɛː/ in Attic and Ionic dialects (but not Doric). In Ionic, the change was general, but in Attic it did not occur after /i/, /e/ or /r/. (Note Attic kórē "girl" < *kórwā; loss of /w/ after /r/ had not occurred at that point in Attic.)

Note that /w/ and /j/, when following a vowel and not preceding a vowel, combined early on with the vowel to form a diphthong and so were not lost.

Loss of /h/ and /w/ after a consonant was often accompanied by compensatory lengthening of a preceding vowel.

The development of labiovelars varies from dialect to dialect:

  • Due to the PIE boukólos rule, labiovelars next to /u/ had already been converted to plain velars: boukólos "herdsman" < *gʷou-kʷólos (cf. boûs "cow" < *gʷou-) vs. aipólos "goatherd" < *ai(g)-kʷólos (cf. aíks, gen. aigós "goat"); elakhús "small" < *h₁ln̥gʷʰ-ús vs. elaphrós "light" < *h₁ln̥gʷʰ-rós.
  • In Attic and some other dialects (but not, for example, Lesbian), labiovelars before some front vowels became dentals. In Attic, and kʷʰ became t and th, respectively, before /e/ and /i/, while became d before /e/ (but not /i/). Cf. theínō "I strike, kill" < *gʷʰen-yō vs. phónos "slaughter" < *gʷʰón-os; delphús "womb" < *gʷelbʰ- (Sanskrit garbha-) vs. bíos "life" < *gʷih₃wos (Gothic qius "alive"), tís "who?" < *kʷis (Latin quis).
  • All remaining labiovelars became labials, original kʷ kʷʰ gʷ becoming p ph b respectively. That happened to all labiovelars in some dialects like Lesbian; in other dialects, like Attic, it occurred to all labiovelars not converted into dentals. Many occurrences of dentals were later converted into labials by analogy with other forms: bélos "missile", bélemnon "spear, dart" (dialectal délemnon) by analogy with bállō "I throw (a missile, etc.)", bolḗ "a blow with a missile".
  • Original PIE labiovelars had still remained as such even before consonants and so became labials also there. In many other centum languages such as Latin and most Germanic languages, the labiovelars lost their labialisation before consonants. (Greek pémptos "fifth" < *pénkʷtos; compare Old Latin quinctus.) This makes Greek of particular importance in reconstructing original labiovelars.

The results of vowel contraction were complex from dialect to dialect. Such contractions occur in the inflection of a number of different noun and verb classes and are among the most difficult aspects of Ancient Greek grammar. They were particularly important in the large class of contracted verbs, denominative verbs formed from nouns and adjectives ending in a vowel. (In fact, the reflex of contracted verbs in Modern Greek, the set of verbs derived from Ancient Greek contracted verbs, represents one of the two main classes of verbs in that language.)



As Mycenaean Greek shows, the PIE dative (suffix -i), instrumental (suffix -phi) and locative (suffix -si) cases are still distinct and are not yet syncretized into other cases.

Nominative plural -oi, -ai replaces late PIE -ōs, -ās.

The superlative in -tatos becomes productive.

The peculiar oblique stem gunaik- "women", attested from the Thebes tablets is probably Proto-Greek. It appears, at least as gunai- in Armenian as well.


The pronouns hoûtos, ekeînos and autós are created. The use of ho, hā, ton as articles is post-Mycenaean.


An isogloss between Greek and Phrygian is the absence of r-endings in the middle voice in Greek, apparently already lost in Proto-Greek.

Proto-Greek inherited the augment, a prefix e-, to verbal forms expressing past tense. That feature is shared only with Indo-Iranian and Phrygian (and to some extent, Armenian), lending some support to a "Graeco-Aryan" or "Inner PIE" proto-dialect. However, the augment down to the time of Homer remained optional and was probably little more than a free sentence particle, meaning "previously" in the proto-language, which may easily have been lost by most other branches.

The first person middle verbal desinences -mai, -mān replace -ai, -a. The third singular phérei is an innovation by analogy, replacing the expected Doric *phéreti, Ionic *phéresi (from PIE *bʰéreti).

The future tense is created, including a future passive as well as an aorist passive.

The suffix -ka- is attached to some perfects and aorists.

Infinitives in -ehen, -enai and -men are created.


  • "one": *héns (masculine), *hmía (feminine) (> Myc. e-me /heméi/ (dative); Att./Ion. εἷς (ἑνός), μία, heîs (henos), mía)
  • "two": *dúwō (> Myc. du-wo /dúwoː/; Hom. δύω, dúō; Att.-Ion. δύο, dúo)
  • "three": *tréyes (> Myc. ti-ri /trins/; Att./Ion. τρεῖς, treîs; Lesb. τρής, trḗs; Cret. τρέες, trées)
  • "four": nominative *kʷétwores, genitive *kʷeturṓn (> Myc. qe-to-ro-we /kʷétroːwes/ "four-eared"; Att. τέτταρες, téttares; Ion. τέσσερες, tésseres; Boeot. πέτταρες, péttares; Thess. πίτταρες, píttares; Lesb. πίσυρες, písures; Dor. τέτορες, tétores)
  • "five": *pénkʷe (> Att.-Ion. πέντε, pénte; Lesb., Thess. πέμπε, pémpe)
  • "six": *hwéks (> Att. ἕξ, héks; Dor. ϝέξ, wéks)
  • "seven": *heptə́ (> Att. ἑπτά, heptá)
  • "eight": *oktṓ (> Att. ὀκτώ, oktṓ)
  • "nine": *ennéwə (> Att. ἐννέα, ennéa; Dor. ἐννῆ, ennê)
  • "ten": *dékə (> Att. δέκα, déka)
  • "hundred": *hekətón (> Att. ἑκατόν, hekatón)
  • "thousand": *kʰéhliyoi (> Att. χίλιοι, khílioi)

See also



  1. ^ Georgiev 1981, p. 156: "The Proto-Greek region included Epirus, approximately up to Αὐλών in the north including Paravaia, Tymphaia, Athamania, Dolopia, Amphilochia, and Acarnania), west and north Thessaly (Hestiaiotis, Perrhaibia, Tripolis, and Pieria), i.e. more or less the territory of contemporary northwestern Greece)."
  2. ^ A comprehensive overview in J.T. Hooker's Mycenaean Greece (Hooker 1976, Chapter 2: "Before the Mycenaean Age", pp. 11–33 and passim); for a different hypothesis excluding massive migrations and favoring an autochthonous scenario, see Colin Renfrew's "Problems in the General Correlation of Archaeological and Linguistic Strata in Prehistoric Greece: The Model of Autochthonous Origin" (Renfrew 1973, pp. 263–276, especially p. 267) in Bronze Age Migrations by R.A. Crossland and A. Birchall, eds. (1973).
  3. ^ Renfrew 2003, p. 35: "Greek The fragmentation of the Balkan Proto-Indo-European Sprachbund of phase II around 3000 BC led gradually in the succeeding centuries to the much clearer definition of the languages of the constituent sub-regions."
  4. ^ Clackson 1995.
  5. ^ Vladimir I. Georgiev, for example, placed Proto-Greek in northwestern Greece during the Late Neolithic period. (Georgiev 1981, p. 192: "Late Neolithic Period: in northwestern Greece the Proto-Greek language had already been formed: this is the original home of the Greeks.")
  6. ^ Coleman 2000, pp. 101–153.
  7. ^ Gray & Atkinson 2003, pp. 437–438; Atkinson & Gray 2006, p. 102: "Hittite appears to have diverged from the main Proto-Indo-European stock around 8700 years ago, perhaps reflecting the initial migration out of Anatolia. Indeed, this date exactly matches estimates for the age of Europe’s first agricultural settlements in southern Greece. Following the initial split, the language tree shows the formation of separate Tocharian, Greek, and then Armenian lineages, all before 6000 BP, with all of the remaining language families formed by 4000 BP. We note that the received linguistic orthodoxy (Indo-European is only 6000 years old) does approximately fit the divergence dates we obtained for most of the branches of the tree. Only the basal branches leading to Hittite, Tocharian, Greek and Armenian are well beyond this age."
  8. ^ Sihler 1995.
  9. ^ Lengthened -ei /eː/ due to Attic analogical lengthening in comparatives.


  • Atkinson, Quentin D.; Gray, Russel D. (2006). "Chapter 8: How Old is the Indo-European Language Family? Illumination or More Moths to the Flame?". In Forster, Peter; Renfrew, Colin (eds.). Phylogenetic Methods and the Prehistory of Languages. Cambridge: McDonald Institute for Archaeological Research. pp. 91–109. ISBN 978-1-902937-33-5.
  • Buck, Carl Darling (1933). Comparative Grammar of Greek and Latin. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
  • Clackson, James (1995). The Linguistic Relationship Between Armenian and Greek. Oxford: Wiley-Blackwell. ISBN 9780631191971.
  • Coleman, John E. (2000). "An Archaeological Scenario for the "Coming of the Greeks" ca. 3200 B.C." The Journal of Indo-European Studies. 28 (1–2): 101–153.
  • Fortson, Benjamin W., IV (2004). Indo-European Language and Culture. Malden, MA: Blackwell Publishing. ISBN 1-4051-0316-7.
  • Georgiev, Vladimir Ivanov (1981). Introduction to the History of the Indo-European Languages. Sofia: Bulgarian Academy of Sciences.
  • Gray, Russel D.; Atkinson, Quentin D. (2003). "Language-tree Divergence Times Support the Anatolian Theory of Indo-European Origin". Nature. 426 (6965): 435–439. doi:10.1038/nature02029. PMID 14647380.
  • Hooker, J.T. (1976). Mycenaean Greece. London: Routledge & Kegan Paul.
  • Renfrew, Colin (1973). "Problems in the General Correlation of Archaeological and Linguistic Strata in Prehistoric Greece: The Model of Autochthonous Origin". In Crossland, R. A.; Birchall, Ann (eds.). Bronze Age Migrations in the Aegean; Archaeological and Linguistic Problems in Greek Prehistory: Proceedings of the first International Colloquium on Aegean Prehistory, Sheffield. London: Gerald Duckworth and Company Limited. pp. 263–276. ISBN 0-7156-0580-1.
  • Renfrew, Colin (2003). "Time Depth, Convergence Theory, and Innovation in Proto-Indo-European: 'Old Europe' as a PIE Linguistic Area". In Bammesberger, Alfred; Vennemann, Theo (eds.). Languages in Prehistoric Europe. Heidelberg: Universitätsverlag Winter GmBH. pp. 17–48. ISBN 978-3-82-531449-1.
  • Schwyzer, Eduard (1939). Griechische Grammatik: auf der Grundlage von Karl Grugmanns Griechischer Grammatik (in German). Munich: C.H. Beck.
  • Sihler, Andrew L. (1995). New Comparative Grammar of Greek and Latin. New York: Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-19-508345-8.

Further reading


Albania ( (listen) a(w)l-BAY-nee-ə; Albanian: Shqipëri or Shqipëria; Gheg Albanian: Shqipni or Shqipnia also Shqypni or Shqypnia), officially the Republic of Albania (Albanian: Republika e Shqipërisë, pronounced [ɾɛpuˈblika ɛ ʃcipəˈɾiːsə]), is a country in Southeast Europe on the Adriatic and Ionian Sea within the Mediterranean Sea. It shares land borders with Montenegro to the northwest, Kosovo to the northeast, North Macedonia to the east, Greece to the south and a maritime border with Italy to the west.

Geographically, the country displays varied climatic, geological, hydrological and morphological conditions, defined in an area of 28,748 km2 (11,100 sq mi). It possesses remarkable diversity with the landscape ranging from the snow-capped mountains in the Albanian Alps as well as the Korab, Skanderbeg, Pindus and Ceraunian Mountains to the hot and sunny coasts of the Albanian Adriatic and Ionian Sea along the Mediterranean Sea.

Historically, the area of Albania was populated by various Illyrian, Thracian and Ancient Greek tribes as well as several Greek colonies established in the Illyrian coast. The area was annexed in the 3rd century by Romans and became an integral part of the Roman provinces of Dalmatia, Macedonia and Illyricum. The autonomous Principality of Arbër emerged in 1190, established by archon Progon in the Krujë, within the Byzantine Empire. In the late thirteenth century, Charles of Anjou conquered Albanian territories from the Byzantines and established the medieval Kingdom of Albania, which at its maximal extension was extending from Durrës along the coast to Butrint in the south. In the mid-fifteenth century, it was conquered by the Ottomans.

The modern nation state of Albania emerged in 1912 following the defeat of the Ottomans in the Balkan Wars. The modern Kingdom of Albania was invaded by Italy in 1939, which formed Greater Albania, before becoming a Nazi German protectorate in 1943. After the defeat of Nazi Germany, a Communist state titled the People's Socialist Republic of Albania was founded under the leadership of Enver Hoxha and the Party of Labour. The country experienced widespread social and political transformations in the communist era, as well as isolation from much of the international community. In the aftermath of the Revolutions of 1991, the Socialist Republic was dissolved and the fourth Republic of Albania was established.

Politically, the country is a unitary parliamentary constitutional republic and developing country with an upper-middle income economy dominated by the tertiary sector followed by the secondary and primary sector. It went through a process of transition, following the end of communism in 1990, from a centralized to a market-based economy. It also provides universal health care and free primary and secondary education to its citizens.The country is a member of the United Nations, World Bank, UNESCO, NATO, WTO, COE, OSCE and OIC. It is also an official candidate for membership in the European Union. In addition it is one of the founding members of the Energy Community, including the Organization of the Black Sea Economic Cooperation and Union for the Mediterranean.

Ancient Greek

The Ancient Greek language includes the forms of Greek used in Ancient Greece and the ancient world from around the 9th century BCE to the 6th century CE. It is often roughly divided into the Archaic period (9th to 6th centuries BCE), Classical period (5th and 4th centuries BCE), and Hellenistic period (Koine Greek, 3rd century BCE to the 4th century CE).

It is antedated in the second millennium BCE by Mycenaean Greek and succeeded by medieval Greek.

Koine is regarded as a separate historical stage on 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 periods of the language.

Ancient Macedonian language

Ancient Macedonian, the language of the ancient Macedonians, either a dialect of Ancient Greek or a separate Hellenic language, was spoken in the kingdom of Macedonia during the 1st millennium BC and belongs to the Indo-European language family. It gradually fell out of use during the 4th century BC, marginalized by the use of Attic Greek by the Macedonian aristocracy, the Ancient Greek dialect that became the basis of Koine Greek, the lingua franca of the Hellenistic period.The surviving public and private inscriptions found in Macedonia indicate that there was no other written language in ancient Macedonia but Ancient Greek, and recent epigraphic discoveries in the Greek region of Macedonia, such as the Pella curse tablet, suggest that ancient Macedonian might have been a variety of North Western Ancient Greek. Other linguistic evidence suggests that although Ancient Greek was the language of literacy, the vernacular was a separate language, although closely related.

Attic Greek

Attic Greek is the Greek dialect of the ancient city-state of 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.

Black Athena

Black Athena: The Afroasiatic Roots of Classical Civilization, its three volumes first published in 1987, 1991, and 2006 respectively, is a work by Martin Bernal. He discusses ancient Greece in a new light. Bernal's thesis discusses the perception of ancient Greece in relation to Greece's African and Asiatic neighbors, especially the ancient Egyptians and Phoenicians who, he believes, colonized ancient Greece. Bernal proposes that a change in the Western perception of Greece took place from the 18th century onward and that this change fostered a subsequent denial by Western academia of any significant African and Phoenician influence on ancient Greek civilization.

Black Athena has been criticized by academics. They often highlight the fact that there is no archaeological evidence for ancient Egyptian colonies in mainland Greece or the Aegean Islands. Academic reviews of Bernal's work generally reject his heavy reliance on ancient Greek mythology, speculative assertions, and handling of archaeological, linguistic, and historical data.


Debuccalization is a sound change in which an oral consonant loses its original place of articulation and moves it to the glottis (usually [h], [ɦ], or [ʔ]). The pronunciation of a consonant as [h] is sometimes called aspiration but in phonetics, aspiration is the burst of air accompanying a stop. The word comes from Latin bucca, meaning "cheek" or "mouth".

Debuccalization is usually seen as a sub-type of lenition, often defined as a consonant mutation involving the weakening of a consonant by progressive shifts in pronunciation.

Debuccalization processes occur in many different types of environments such as the following:

word-initially, as in Kannada

word-finally, as in Burmese

intervocalically, as in a number of English varieties (e.g. litter [ˈlɪʔə])


In phonology, epenthesis (; Greek ἐπένθεσις) means the addition of one or more sounds to a word, especially to the interior of a word (at the beginning prothesis and at the end paragoge are commonly used). The word epenthesis comes from epi- "in addition to" and en "in" and thesis "putting". Epenthesis may be divided into two types: excrescence, for the addition of a consonant, and svarabhakti, or anaptyxis (), for the addition of a vowel. The opposite process where one or more sounds are removed is referred to as elision.


Epirus () is a geographical and historical region in southeastern Europe, now shared between Greece and Albania. It lies between the Pindus Mountains and the Ionian Sea, stretching from the Bay of Vlorë and the Acroceraunian mountains in the north to the Ambracian Gulf and the ruined Roman city of Nicopolis in the south. It is currently divided between the region of Epirus in northwestern Greece and the counties of Gjirokastër, Vlorë, and Berat in southern Albania. The largest city in Epirus is Ioannina, seat of the region of Epirus, with Gjirokastër the largest city in the Albanian part of Epirus.A rugged and mountainous region, Epirus was the north-west area of ancient Greece. It was inhabited by the Greek tribes of the Chaonians, Molossians, and Thesprotians, and home to the sanctuary of Dodona, the oldest ancient Greek oracle, and the most prestigious one after Delphi. Unified into a single state in 370 BC by the Aeacidae dynasty, Epirus achieved fame during the reign of Pyrrhus of Epirus who fought the Roman Republic in a series of campaigns. Epirus subsequently became part of the Roman Republic along with the rest of Greece in 146 BC, which was followed by the Roman Empire and Eastern Roman Empire.

Following the fall of Constantinople to the Fourth Crusade, Epirus became the center of the Despotate of Epirus, one of the successor states to the Byzantine Empire. Conquered by the Ottoman Empire in the 15th century, Epirus became semi-independent during the rule of Ali Pasha in the early 19th century, but the Ottomans re-asserted their control in 1821. Following the Balkan Wars and World War I, southern Epirus became part of Greece, while northern Epirus became part of Albania.


Graeco-Armenian (or Helleno-Armenian) is the hypothetical common ancestor of Greek and Armenian that postdates Proto-Indo-European. Its status is comparable to that of the Italo-Celtic grouping: each is widely considered plausible without being accepted as established communis opinio. The hypothetical Proto-Graeco-Armenian stage would need to date to the 3rd millennium BC and would be only barely different from either late Proto-Indo-European or Graeco-Armeno-Aryan.


The Greeks or Hellenes (; Greek: Έλληνες, Éllines [ˈelines]) are an ethnic group native to Greece, Cyprus, southern Albania, Italy, Turkey, Egypt and, to a lesser extent, other countries surrounding the Mediterranean Sea. They also form a significant diaspora, with Greek communities established around the world.Greek colonies and communities have been historically established on the shores of the Mediterranean Sea and Black Sea, but the Greek people have always been centered on the Aegean and Ionian seas, where the Greek language has been spoken since the Bronze Age. Until the early 20th century, Greeks were distributed between the Greek peninsula, the western coast of Asia Minor, the Black Sea coast, Cappadocia in central Anatolia, Egypt, the Balkans, Cyprus, and Constantinople. Many of these regions coincided to a large extent with the borders of the Byzantine Empire of the late 11th century and the Eastern Mediterranean areas of ancient Greek colonization. The cultural centers of the Greeks have included Athens, Thessalonica, Alexandria, Smyrna, and Constantinople at various periods.

Most ethnic Greeks live nowadays within the borders of the modern Greek state and Cyprus. The Greek genocide and population exchange between Greece and Turkey nearly ended the three millennia-old Greek presence in Asia Minor. Other longstanding Greek populations can be found from southern Italy to the Caucasus and southern Russia and Ukraine and in the Greek diaspora communities in a number of other countries. Today, most Greeks are officially registered as members of the Greek Orthodox Church.Greeks have greatly influenced and contributed to culture, arts, exploration, literature, philosophy, politics, architecture, music, mathematics, science and technology, business, cuisine, and sports, both historically and contemporarily.

Homeric Greek

Homeric Greek is the form of the Greek language that was used by Homer in the Iliad and Odyssey and in the Homeric Hymns. It is a literary dialect of Ancient Greek consisting mainly of Ionic and Aeolic, with a few forms from Arcadocypriot, and a written form influenced by Attic. It was later named Epic Greek because it was used as the language of epic poetry, typically in dactylic hexameter, by poets such as Hesiod and Theognis of Megara. Compositions in Epic Greek may date from as late as the 3rd century BC, though its decline was inevitable with the rise of Koine Greek.

Indo-European sound laws

As the Proto-Indo-European language (PIE) broke up, its sound system diverged as well, as evidenced in various sound laws associated with the daughter Indo-European languages.

Especially notable is the palatalization that produced the satem languages, along with the associated ruki sound law. Other notable changes include:

Grimm's law and Verner's law in Proto-Germanic

an independent change similar to Grimm's law in Armenian

loss of prevocalic *p- in Proto-Celtic

Brugmann's law in Proto-Indo-Iranian

Winter's law and Hirt's law in Balto-Slavic

merging of voiced and breathy-voiced stops, and /a/ and /o/, in various "northern" languagesBartholomae's law in Indo-Iranian, and Sievers' law in Proto-Germanic and (to some extent) various other branches, may or may not have been common Indo-European features. A number of innovations, both phonological and morphological, represent areal features common to the Italic and Celtic languages; among them the development of labiovelars to labial consonants in some Italic and Celtic branches, producing "p-Celtic" and "q-Celtic" languages (likewise "p-Italic" and "q-Italic", although these terms are less used). Another grouping with many shared areal innovations comprises Greek, Indo-Iranian, and Armenian; among its common phonological innovations are Grassmann's law in Greek and Indo-Iranian, and weakening of pre-vocalic /s/ to /h/ in Greek, Iranian and Armenian.

Koine Greek

Koine Greek (UK: , US: ), also known as Alexandrian dialect, common Attic, Hellenistic or Biblical Greek, was the common supra-regional form of Greek spoken and written during the Hellenistic period, the Roman Empire, and the early Byzantine Empire, or late antiquity. It evolved from the spread of Greek following the conquests of Alexander the Great in the fourth 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.Koine Greek included styles ranging from more conservative literary forms to the spoken vernaculars of the time. As the dominant language of the Byzantine Empire, it developed further into Medieval Greek, which then turned into Modern Greek.Literary Koine was the medium of much of post-classical Greek literary and scholarly writing, such as the works of Plutarch and Polybius. Koine is also the language of the Christian New Testament, of the Septuagint (the 3rd-century BC Greek translation of the Hebrew Bible), and of most early Christian theological writing by the Church Fathers. In this context, Koine Greek is also known as "Biblical", "New Testament", "ecclesiastical" or "patristic" Greek. The Roman Emperor Marcus Aurelius also wrote his private thoughts in Koine Greek in a work that is now known as The Meditations. It continues to be used as the liturgical language of services in the Greek Orthodox Church.

Linear B

Linear B is a syllabic script that was used for writing Mycenaean Greek, the earliest attested form of Greek. The script predates the Greek alphabet by several centuries. The oldest Mycenaean writing dates to about 1450 BC. It is descended from the older Linear A, an undeciphered earlier script used for writing the Minoan language, as is the later Cypriot syllabary, which also recorded Greek. Linear B, found mainly in the palace archives at Knossos, Cydonia, Pylos, Thebes and Mycenae, disappeared with the fall of Mycenaean civilization during the Late Bronze Age collapse. The succeeding period, known as the Greek Dark Ages, provides no evidence of the use of writing. It is also the only one of the Bronze Age Aegean scripts to have been deciphered, by English architect and self-taught linguist Michael Ventris.Linear B consists of around 87 syllabic signs and over 100 ideographic signs. These ideograms or "signifying" signs symbolize objects or commodities. They have no phonetic value and are never used as word signs in writing a sentence.

The application of Linear B appears to have been confined to administrative contexts. In all the thousands of clay tablets, a relatively small number of different "hands" have been detected: 45 in Pylos (west coast of the Peloponnese, in southern Greece) and 66 in Knossos (Crete). It is possible that the script was used only by a guild of professional scribes who served the central palaces. Once the palaces were destroyed, the script disappeared.

List of ancient Greek tribes

The ancient Greek tribes (Ancient Greek: Ἑλλήνων ἔθνη) were groups of Greek-speaking populations living in Greece, Cyprus, and the various Greek colonies. They were primarily divided by geographic, dialectal, political, and cultural criteria, as well as distinct traditions in mythology and religion. Some groups were of mixed origin, forming a syncretic culture through absorption and assimilation of previous and neighboring populations into the Greek language and customs. Greek word for tribe was Phylē (sing.) and Phylai (pl.), the tribe was further subdivided in Demes (sing. Demos, pl. Demoi) roughly matching to a clan.

With the dominion of land passing on from one tribe to the other, cultural exchange through art and trade, and frequent alliances toward common goals, the ethnic character of the different tribes had become primarily political by the dawn of the Hellenistic period. The Roman conquest of Greece, the subsequent division of the Roman Empire into Greek East and Latin West, as well as the advent of Christianity, molded the common ethnic and political Greek identity once and for all to the subjects of the Greek world by the 3rd century AD.

List of proto-languages

Below is a list of proto-languages that have been reconstructed, ordered by geographic location.

Pre-Greek substrate

The Pre-Greek substrate (or Pre-Greek substratum) consists of the unknown language or languages spoken in prehistoric ancient Greece before the settlement of Proto-Hellenic speakers in the area. It is possible that Greek took over some thousand words and proper names from such a language (or languages), because some of its vocabulary cannot be satisfactorily explained as deriving from the Proto-Greek language.

Thracian language

The Thracian language () is an extinct and poorly attested language, generally considered to be Indo-European, spoken in ancient times in South-East Europe by the Thracians. The linguistic affinities of the Thracian language are poorly understood, but it is generally agreed that it exhibited satem features.

A contemporary, neighboring language, Dacian is usually regarded as closely related to Thracian. However, there is insufficient evidence with respect to either language to enable the nature of this relationship to be decided.

The point at which Thracian became extinct is a matter of dispute. However, it is generally accepted that Thracian was still in use in the 6th century AD: Antoninus of Piacenza wrote in 570 that there was a monastery in the Sinai, at which the monks spoke Greek, Latin, Syriac, Egyptian and Bessian – a Thracian dialect.Other theories about Thracian remain controversial.

Some linguists have suggested that the Albanian language and the ethnogenesis of the Albanians followed a migration by members of the Bessi westward into Albania.

A classification put forward by some linguists, such as Harvey Mayer, suggests that Thracian (and Dacian) belonged to the Baltic branch of Indo-European. However, this theory has not achieved the status of a general consensus among linguists.These are among many competing hypotheses regarding the classification and fate of Thracian.

Origin and genealogy
Writing systems
Promotion and study
Ages of Greek

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