Pontic Greek (ποντιακά, pontiaká) is a Greek language originally spoken in the Pontus area on the southern shores of the Black Sea, northeastern Anatolia, the Eastern Turkish/Caucasus province of Kars, southern Georgia and today mainly in northern Greece. Its speakers are referred to as Pontic Greeks or Pontian Greeks.
|Region||originally the Pontus on the Black Sea coast; Russia, Abkhazia, and Turkey|
|Greek; Latin; Cyrillic|
The linguistic lineage of Pontic Greek stems from Ionic Greek via Koine and Byzantine Greek, and contains influences from Georgian, Russian, Turkish and various Caucasian languages. The Ophitic variant of Pontic Greek in eastern Turkey has been identified as the living language that is closest to Ancient Greek.
Pontic Greek is an endangered Indo-European language spoken by about 778,000 people worldwide. However, only 200,000–300,000 are considered active speakers. Although it is mainly spoken in Northern Greece, it is also spoken in Turkey, Russia, Armenia, and by the Pontic diaspora. The language was brought to Greece in the 1920s after the expulsion of the Christian Pontic Greeks from their homeland during the 1923 population exchange between Greece and Turkey. However, it is still spoken in pockets of the Pontus today, mostly by Pontic Greek Muslims in the eastern districts of Trabzon Province. Pontic Greek is often considered a dialect of the same language as standard Greek, although reportedly, the speakers of each do not understand each other. It is primarily written in the Greek script, while in Turkey and Ukraine the Latin and Cyrillic alphabets respectively are used more frequently.
Closely related Greek dialects are spoken in Mariupolis (and formerly in Crimea), Ukraine (see Greeks in Ukraine and Mariupolitan Greek), in Georgia and in the former Russian Caucasus province of Kars Oblast: linguistic practice varies on whether they should be classified as "Pontic". The speakers of these dialects, depending on where they live, are referred to either as eastern Pontic Greeks or as Caucasus Greeks.
Historically the speakers of Pontic Greek called it Romeyka (or Romeika, Greek: Ρωμαίικα), which, in a more general sense, is also a historical and colloquial term for Modern Greek as a whole. The term "Pontic" originated in scholarly usage, but it has been adopted as a mark of identity by Pontic Greeks living in Greece.
Similarly, in Turkish, the language is called Rumca (pronounced [ˈɾumd͡ʒa]), derived from the Turkish word Rum, denoting ethnic Greeks living in Turkey in general; the term also includes other Greek speakers in Turkey such as those from Istanbul or Imbros (Gökçeada) who speak a language close to Standard Modern Greek.
Today's Pontic speakers living in Turkey call their language Romeyka, Rumca or Rumcika.
Similar to most modern Greek dialects, Pontic Greek is mainly derived from Koine Greek, which was spoken in the Hellenistic and Roman times between the 4th century BC and the 4th century AD. Following the Seljuk invasion of Asia Minor during the 11th century AD, Pontus became isolated from many of the regions of the Byzantine Empire. The Pontians remained somewhat isolated from the mainland Greeks, causing Pontic Greek to develope separately and distinctly from the rest of the mainland Greek. However, the language has also been influenced by the nearby Persian, Caucasian and Turkish languages.
Greek linguist Manolis Triantafyllidis has divided the Pontic of Turkey into two groups:
- the Western group (Oinountiac or Niotika) around Oenoe (Turkish Ünye);
- the Eastern group, which is again subdivided into:
Speakers of Chaldiot were the most numerous. In phonology, some varieties of Pontic are reported to demonstrate vowel harmony, a well-known feature of Turkish (Mirambel 1965).
Outside Turkey one can distinguish:
- the Northern group (Mariupol Greek or Rumeíka), originally spoken in Crimea, but now principally in Mariupol, where the majority of Crimean Pontic Greeks of the Rumaiic subgroup now live. Other Pontic Greeks speak Crimean Tatar as their mother tongue, and are classified as "Urums". There are approximately half a dozen dialects of Crimean (Mariupolitan) Pontic Greek spoken.
- Soviet Rumaiic, a Sovietized variant of the Pontic Greek language spoken by the Pontic Greek population of the Soviet Union. The Bolsheviks formed and created a "Soviet" variant of the Pontic dialect against the modern Demotic Greek language of Greece, as Demotic Greek was viewed as a "capitalist variant" of the Greek language. This was also designed to make the Pontic Greeks, who then constituted a majority of the Greek-speaking population of the Soviet Union, a unique Greek subgroup.
The inhabitants of the Of valley who had converted to Islam in the 17th century remained in Turkey and have partly retained the Pontic language until today. Their dialect, which forms part of the Trapezountiac subgroup, is called "Ophitic" by linguists, but speakers generally call it Romeyka. As few as 5,000 people are reported to speak it. There are however estimates that show the real number of the speakers as considerably higher. Speakers of Ophitic/Romeyka are concentrated in the eastern districts of Trabzon province: Çaykara (Katohor), Dernekpazarı (Kondu), Sürmene (Sourmena) and Köprübaşı (Göneşera). Although less widespread, it is still spoken in some remote villages of the Of-district itself. It is also spoken in the western İkizdere (Dipotamos) district of Rize province. Historically the dialect was spoken in a wider area, stretching further east to the port town of Athina (Pazar).
Ophitic has retained the infinitive, which is present in Ancient Greek but has been lost in other variants of Modern Greek; it has therefore been characterized as "archaic" (even in relation to other Pontic dialects) and as the living language that is closest to Ancient Greek.
A very similar dialect is spoken by descendants of Christians from the Of valley (especially from Kondu) now living in Greece in the village of Nea Trapezounta, Pieria, (Central Macedonia), with about 400 speakers.
Though Pontic was originally spoken on the southern shores of the Black Sea, from the 18th and 19th century and on substantial numbers migrated into the northern and eastern shores, into the Russian Empire. Pontic is still spoken by large numbers of people in Ukraine, mainly in Mariupol, but also in other parts of Ukraine such as the Odessa and Donetsk region, in Russia (around Stavropol) and Georgia. The language enjoyed some use as a literary medium in the 1930s, including a school grammar (Topkharas 1998 ).
After the massacres of the 1910s, the majority of speakers remaining in Asia Minor were subject to the Treaty of Lausanne population exchange, and were resettled in Greece (mainly northern Greece). A second wave of migration occurred in the early 1990s, this time from countries of the former Soviet Union.
In Greece, Pontic is now many times used only emblematically rather than as a medium of communication due to the mixing of Pontic and other Greeks.
- Greece: 400,000 speakers
- Turkey: ~4,000 speakers
- Of-dialectical region:
- To the west of Trabzon:
- Caucasus region
- Kars: Multiple villages and provincial capital.
In Greece, Pontic has no official status. Pontic Greeks expelled from their homeland and arriving in Greece in 1923 were encouraged to assimilate and give up their separate identity.
Historically, Pontic Greek was the de facto language of the Greek minority in the USSR, although in the Πανσυνδεσμιακή Σύσκεψη (Pansyndesmiakí Sýskepsi, All-Union Conference) of 1926, organised by the Greek-Soviet intelligentsia, it was decided that Demotic should be the official language of the community.
Later revival of Greek identity in the Soviet Union and post-Communist Russia saw a renewed division on the issue of Rumaiic versus Demotic. A new attempt to preserve a sense of ethnic Rumaiic identity started in the mid-1980s. The Ukrainian scholar Andriy Biletsky created a new Slavonic alphabet, but though a number of writers and poets make use of this alphabet, the population of the region rarely uses it.
The language has a rich oral tradition and folklore and Pontic songs are particularly popular in Greece. There is also some limited production of modern literature in Pontic, including poetry collections (among the most renowned writers is Kostas Diamantidis), novels, and translated Asterix comic albums. The youth often speak standard Greek as their first language. The use of Pontic has been maintained more by speakers in North America than it has in Greece.
Pontic, in Greece, is written in the Greek alphabet, with diacritics: σ̌ ζ̌ ξ̌ ψ̌ for /ʃ ʒ kʃ pʃ/, α̈ ο̈ for [æ ø] (phonological /ia io/). Pontic, in Turkey, is written in the Latin alphabet following Turkish conventions. In Russia, it is written in the Cyrillic alphabet. In early Soviet times, Pontic was written in the Greek alphabet phonetically, as shown below, using digraphs instead of diacritics; [æ ø] were written out as ια, ιο.
|Α α||A a||А а||[ä]||ρομεικα, romeyika, ромейика|
|Β β||V v||В в||[v]||κατιβενο, kativeno, кативено|
|Γ γ||Ğ ğ||Г г||[ɣ] [ʝ]||γανεβο, ğanevo, ганево|
|Δ δ||DH dh||Д д||[ð]||δοντι, dhonti, донти|
|Ε ε||E e||Е е||[e̞]||εγαπεςα, eğapesa, егапеса|
|Ζ ζ||Z z||З з||[z]||ζαντος, zantos, зантос|
|ΖΖ ζζ||J j||Ж ж||[ʒ]||πυρζζυας, burjuvas, буржуас|
|Θ θ||TH th||С с, Ф ф, Т т||[θ]||θεκο, theko, теко|
|Ι ι||İ i||И и||[i]||τοςπιτοπον, tospitopon, тоспитопон|
|Κ κ||K k||К к||[k]||καλατζεμαν, kalaceman, калачеман|
|Λ λ||L l||Л л||[l]||λαλια, lalia, лалиа|
|Μ μ||M m||М м||[m]||μανα, mana, мана|
|Ν ν||N n||Н н||[n]||ολιγον, oliğоn, олигон|
|Ο ο||O o||О о||[o̞]||τεμετερον, temeteron, теметерон|
|Π π||P p||П п||[p]||εγαπεςα, eğapesa, егапеса|
|Ρ ρ||R r||Р р||[ɾ]||ρομεικα, romeyika, ромейка|
|Σ ς||S s||С с||[s]||καλατζεπςον, kalacepson, калачепсон|
|ΣΣ ςς||Ş ş||Ш ш||[ʃ]||ςςερι, şeri, шери|
|Τ τ||T t||Т т||[t]||νοςτιμεςα, nostimesa, ностимеса|
|ΤΖ τζ||C c||Ч ч||[d͡ʒ]||καλατζεμαν, kalaceman, калачеман|
|ΤΣ τς||Ç ç||Ц ц||[t͡ʃ]||μανιτςα, maniça, маница|
|Υ υ||U u||У у||[u]||νυς, nus, нус|
|Φ φ||F f||Ф ф||[f]||εμορφα, emorfa, эморфа|
|Χ χ||H, KH (sert H)||Х х||[x]||χαςον, hason, хасон|
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The following are features of Pontic Greek which have been retained from early forms of Greek, in contrast to the developments of Modern Greek.
- Preservation of the ancient pronunciation of 'η' as 'ε' (κέπιν = κήπιον, κλέφτες = κλέπτης, συνέλικος = συνήλικος, νύφε = νύ(μ)φη, έγκα = ἤνεγκον, έτον = ἦτον, έκουσα = ἤκουσα etc.).
- Preservation of the ancient pronunciation 'ω' as 'o' where Koine Greek received it as 'ου' (ζωμίν = ζουμί, καρβώνι, ρωθώνι etc.).
- Preservation of the Ionic consonant pair 'σπ' instead of Koine 'σφ' (σποντύλιν, σπἰγγω, σπιντόνα).
Declension of nouns and adjectivesEdit
- Preservation of the ancient nominative suffix -ν in neuter diminutive nouns from Ancient Greek '-ίον' (παιδίον, χωρίον; Pontic παιδίν, χωρίον=
- Preservation of the termination of feminine compound adjectives in -ος (η άλαλος, η άνοστος, η έμορφος).
- The declension of masculine nouns from singular, nominative termination '-ον' to genitive '-ονος' (ο νέον → τη νέονος, ο πάππον → τη πάππονος, ο λύκον → τη λύκονος, ο Τούρκον → τη Τούρκονος etc.).
- The ancient accenting of nouns in vocative form: άδελφε, Νίκολα, Μάρια.
Conjugation of verbsEdit
- The second aorist form in -ον (ανάμνον, μείνον, κόψον, πίσον, ράψον, σβήσον).
- The middle voice verb termination in -ούμαι (ανακατούμαι, σκοτούμαι, στεφανούμαι).
- The passive voice aorist termination in -θα (anc. -θην): εγαπέθα, εκοιμέθα, εστάθα etc.
- The imperative form of passive aorist in -θετε (anc -θητι): εγαπέθετε, εκοιμέθετε, εστάθετε.
- The sporadic use of infinitives (εποθανείναι, μαθείναι, κόψ'ναι, ράψ'ναι, χαρίσ'ναι, αγαπέθειν, κοιμεθείν).
- Pontic en ("is") from Koine idiomatic form enesti (standard Ancient Greek esti), compare the Biblical form eni ("there is"), Modern Greek ine (είναι)
- The sporadic use of 'ας' in the place of 'να': δός με ας τρόω.
- Pontic temeteron ("ours") from Ancient Greek ton hemeteron in contrast to Modern Greek ton […] mas.
Comparison with Ancient GreekEdit
- 1. Attachment of the /e/ sound to the ancient infinitive suffix –εῖν, -ειν (in Trapezountiac Pontic)
PONTIC ANCIENT ειπείνε εἰπεῖν παθείνε παθεῖν αποθανείνε ἀποθανεῖν πιείνε πιεῖν ειδείνε εἰδεῖν φυείνε φυγεῖν ευρείνε εὑρεῖν καμείνε καμεῖν φαείνε φαγεῖν μαθείνε μαθεῖν ερθέανε ἐλθεῖν μενείνε μένειν
- 2. Preservation of the Ancient infinitive suffix -ῆναι
PONTIC ANCIENT ανεβήναι ἀναβῆναι κατεβήναι καταβῆναι εμπήναι ἐμβῆναι εβγήναι ἐκβῆναι επιδεαβήναι ἀποδιαβῆναι κοιμεθήναι κοιμηθῆναι χτυπεθήναι κτυπηθῆναι ευρεθήναι εὑρεθῆναι βρασήναι βραχῆναι ραήναι ῥαγῆναι PONTIC ANCIENT κράξειν κράξαι μεθύσειν μεθύσαι
- 4. Attachment of the /e/ sound to the ancient aorist infinitive suffix –ειν
- ράψεινε, κράξεινε, μεθύσεινε, καλέσεινε, λαλήσεινε, κτυπήσεινε, καθίσεινε
- 5. Same aorist suffix –κα (–κα was also the regular perfect suffix)
PONTIC ANCIENT εδώκα ἔδωκα ενδώκα ἐνέδωκα εποίκα ἐποίηκα εφήκα ἀφῆκα εθήκα ἔθηκα
- 6. Ancient Greek –ein (-εῖν) infinitive > Pontic Greek –eane (-έανε) infinitive
PONTIC ANCIENT ερθέανε ἐλθεῖν
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- Survey carried out in 2001–2004, organized by St. Petersburg State University
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- Özhan Öztürk, Karadeniz: Ansiklopedik Sözlük. 2 Cilt. Heyamola Yayıncılık. İstanbul, 2005. ISBN 975-6121-00-9
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|Pontic edition of Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia|
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Pontic.|
- Mark Janse, "Aspects of Pontic grammar", a Review Article of Drettas (1997). The paper summarizes the high points of the book.
- Committee for Pontian Studies (Επιτροπή Ποντιακών Μελετών)
- Trebizond Greek: A language without a tongue
- Pontic Greek: A cost of a language
- The Pontic Dialect
- Argonautai Komninoi Association
- Pontic Greek - English Dictionary
- Development of the Pontic Greek Dialect
- Archaic Greek in a modern world video from Cambridge University, on YouTube
- Hakan Özkan (Westfälische Wilhelms-Universität), The language of the mountains - the Rumca dialect of Sürmene (Conference, 8 December 2010)