Pontic Greek

(Redirected from Pontic language)

Pontic Greek (Pontic: Ποντιακόν λαλίαν, romanized: Pontiakón lalían or Ρωμαίικα romanized: Roméika; Greek: Ποντιακή διάλεκτος, romanized: Pontiakí diálektos; Turkish: Rumca) is a variety of Modern Greek indigenous to the Pontus region on the southern shores of the Black Sea, northeastern Anatolia, and the Eastern Turkish/Caucasus region. Today it is spoken mainly in northern Greece. Its speakers are referred to as Pontic Greeks or Pontian Greeks.

Pontic Greek
ποντιακά, pontiaká, понтиакá, Roméika
Regionoriginally the Pontus on the Black Sea coast; Greece, Russia, Georgia, and Turkey
Native speakers
778,000 (2009–2015)[1]
Greek, Latin, Cyrillic
Language codes
ISO 639-3pnt
This article contains IPA phonetic symbols. Without proper rendering support, you may see question marks, boxes, or other symbols instead of Unicode characters. For an introductory guide on IPA symbols, see Help:IPA.

The linguistic lineage of Pontic Greek stems from Ionic Greek via Koine and Byzantine Greek, and contains influences from Georgian, Russian, Turkish, Armenian, and Kurdish.

Pontic Greek is an endangered Indo-European language spoken by about 778,000 people worldwide.[1] Many Pontians live in Greece; however, only 200,000–300,000 of those are considered active Pontic speakers.[3] Although it is mainly spoken in Northern Greece, it is also spoken in Turkey, Russia, Georgia, Armenia and Kazakhstan and by the Pontic diaspora. The language was brought to Greece in the 1920s after the population exchange between the Christian Pontic Greeks and the Turkish Muslims from their homelands 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 one of the languages of the Greek (Hellenic) branch separate from Mainland Greek. Speakers of Pontic Greek and typical demotic, Mainland Greek do not usually understand each other.[1] It is primarily written in the Greek script; in Turkey and Ukraine the Latin script is used more frequently; in Russia and former Soviet countries, the Cyrillic alphabet is used.


Pontic Greek is classified as an Indo-European, Greek language of the Attic-Ionic branch.[1]


Historically, the speakers of Pontic Greek called it simply Romeyka (or Romeika, Pontic: Ρωμαίικα), which is also a historical and colloquial term for Modern Greek in general. The term "Pontic" originated in scholarly usage, but it has been adopted as a mark of identity by Pontic Greeks living in Greece. Pontic Greeks in Greece may call their language Pontiaká.[4]

Similarly, in Turkish, there is no special name for Pontic Greek; it is called Rumca ([ˈɾumd͡ʒa]), derived from the Turkish word Rum, denoting Byzantine Greeks.[5][6][7]

Nowadays, Pontic speakers living in Turkey call their language Romeyka, Rumca or Rumcika.[7]


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.[8] The Pontians remained somewhat isolated from the mainland Greeks, causing Pontic Greek to develop separately and distinctly from the rest of the mainland Greek.[9] 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:
    • the coastal subgroup (Trapezountiac) around Trebizond (Ancient Greek Trapezous) and
    • the inland subgroup (Chaldiot) in Chaldia (around Argyroupolis (Gümüşhane) and Kanin in Pontic), its vicinity (Kelkit, Baibourt, etc.), and around Kotyora (Ordu).

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 Soviet variant of the Pontic Greek language spoken by the Pontic Greek population of the Soviet Union.


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.[10][11][12][13] Their dialect, which forms part of the Trapezountiac subgroup, is called "Ophitic" by linguists, but speakers generally call it Romeika. As few as 5,000 people are reported to speak it.[2][14] There are however estimates that show the real number of the speakers as considerably higher.[7] 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 Pazar (Athina).

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" or conservative (even in relation to other Pontic dialects) and as the living language that is closest to Ancient Greek.[2][14] Because a majority of the population of these districts converted to Islam during the 17th to 19th centuries, some Arabic and Turkish loanwords have been adopted in the language. According to Vahit Tursun, writer of the Romeika-Turkish dictionary, loanwords from the neighboring Laz speakers of Rize province are strikingly absent in the Romeika vocabulary of Trabzon natives.

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.[15][16][17]

Geographic distributionEdit

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 [1932]).

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.[18]

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.[citation needed]

Official statusEdit


In Greece, Pontic has no official status, like all other Greek dialects.

Soviet UnionEdit

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.[22]

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.[23]


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.[24] 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.[1]


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[citation needed]. 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. The Pontic Wikipedia uses Greek script: it has adopted εα, εο for these vowels, to avoid clashes with Modern Greek ια, ιο, and uses digraphs from the Soviet system instead of diacritics, but otherwise follows historical orthography.

alphabet[citation needed]
IPA Example
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 [] 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 [] 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 Ц ц [d͡ʒ] καλατζεμαν, kalaceman, калацеман
ΤΣ τς Ç ç Ч ч [t͡ʃ] μανιτςα, maniça, манича
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


The following are features of Pontic Greek which have been retained from early forms of Greek, in contrast to the developments of Modern Greek.


  • The vowel "η" sometimes merged with "ε" rather than "ι" (κέπιν = κήπιον, κλέφτες = κλέπτης, συνέλικος = συνήλικος, νύφε = νύ(μ)φη, έγκα = ἤνεγκον, έτον = ἦτον, έκουσα = ἤκουσα etc.).
  • The vowel "ω" merged with "o" even in those cases where Koine Greek received it as "ου" (ζωμίν = ζουμί, καρβώνι, ρωθώνι etc.).
  • Preservation of the Ionic consonant pair "σπ" instead of Koine "σφ" (σποντύλιν, σπίγγω, σπιντόνα).

Declension of nouns and adjectivesEdit

  • Preservation of the ancient nominative suffix "" in neuter diminutive nouns from Ancient Greek "-ίον" (παιδίον, χωρίον; Pontic παιδίν, χωρίν).
  • 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 τεμέτερον (temeteron; "ours") from Ancient Greek τῶν ἡμετέρων (ton hemeteron) in contrast to Modern Greek των […] μας (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
3. Ancient first aorist infinitive suffix -αι has been replaced by second aorist suffix -ειν
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
εντώκα ἐνέδωκα
εποίκα ἐποίηκα
εφήκα ἀφῆκα
εθήκα ἔθηκα
6. Ancient Greek –ein (-εῖν) infinitive > Pontic Greek –eane (-έανε) infinitive
Pontic Ancient
ερθέανε ἐλθεῖν

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ a b c d e "Pontic". Ethnologue. Archived from the original on April 12, 2018. Retrieved 2018-04-11.
  2. ^ a b c "Against all odds: archaic Greek in a modern world | University of Cambridge". July 2010. Archived from the original on February 2, 2021. Retrieved 2013-03-31.
  3. ^ Sitaridou, Ioanna; Kaltsa, Maria (2010). "Topicalisation in Pontic Greek". Modern Greek Dialects and Linguistic Theory. 4: 259–279.
  4. ^ Drettas 1997, page 19.
  5. ^ "Nişanyan Sözlük - Türkçe Etimolojik Sözlük". Archived from the original on December 28, 2021.
  6. ^ "Rum Kelime Kökeni, Kelimesinin Anlamı - Etimoloji". Archived from the original on December 28, 2021.
  7. ^ a b c Özkan, Hakan (2013). "The Pontic Greek spoken by Muslims in the villages of Beşköy in the province of present-day Trabzon". Byzantine and Modern Greek Studies. 37 (1): 130–150. doi:10.1179/0307013112z.00000000023.
  8. ^ Topalidis, Sam. "Development of the Pontic Greek Dialect". PontosWorld. Archived from the original on September 24, 2020. Retrieved 2017-05-01.
  9. ^ Mackridge, Peter (October 10, 1991). "The Pontic dialect: a corrupt version of Ancient Greek?". Journal of Refugee Studies. Academia. 4 (4): 335–339. doi:10.1093/jrs/4.4.335.
  10. ^ Mackridge, Peter (1987). "Greek-Speaking Moslems of North-East Turkey: Prolegomena to a Study of the Ophitic Sub-Dialect of Pontic". Byzantine and Modern Greek Studies. 11 (1): 115–137. doi:10.1179/030701387790203037. S2CID 163034102.
  11. ^ Asan, Omer (2000) [1996]. Pontos Kültürü [Pontos Culture] (in Turkish) (2nd ed.). Istanbul: Belge Yayınları. ISBN 975-344-220-3.
  12. ^ Özkan, H. (2013). Blume, Horst D.; Lienau, Cay (eds.). Muslimisch-Pontisch und die Sprachgemeinschaft des Pontisch-Griechischen im heutigen Trabzon [Muslim-Pontic and the language community of Pontic Greek in today's Trabzon]. Choregia – Münstersche Griechenland-Studien. Vol. 11. Lienau, C. pp. 115–137. ISBN 978-3-934017-15-3.
  13. ^ "The cost of language, Pontiaka trebizond Greek". Archived from the original on 2013-04-11. Retrieved 2013-03-31.
  14. ^ a b Connor, Steve (January 3, 2011). "Jason and the Argot: Land where Greece's Ancient Language Survives". Independent. Archived from the original on November 22, 2021.
  15. ^ Anthi Revythiadou and Vasileios Spyropoulos (2009): "Οφίτικη Ποντιακή: Έρευνα γλωσσικής καταγραφής με έμφαση στη διαχρονία και συγχρονία της διαλέκτου" [Ophitic Pontic: A documentation project with special emphasis on the diachrony and synchrony of the dialect] "www.latsis-foundation.org" (PDF) (in Greek). Archived from the original (PDF) on 2012-01-31. Retrieved 2011-10-29.
  16. ^ Revythiadou, A.; Spyropoulos, V. (2012). Οφίτικη: Πτυχές της Γραμματικής Δομής μιας Ποντιακής Διαλέκτου [Ofitica Pontic: Aspects of the Grammar of a Pontic Dialect] (in Greek). Thessaloniki: Εκδοτικός Οίκος Αδελφών Κυριακίδη. ISBN 978-960-467-344-5.
  17. ^ Revythiadou, A.; Spyropoulos, V.; Kakarikos, K. (1912). "Η ταυτότητα της οφίτικης ποντιακής: Mια γλωσσολογική μελέτη των πηγών και των ομιλητών της" [The identity of ophitic pontic: A linguistic study of its sources and its speakers] (PDF). Δελτίο Κέντρο Μικρασιατικών Σπουδών (in Greek). 17: 217–275.[permanent dead link]
  18. ^ Selm, Joanne van (2003). The Refugee Convention at fifty: a view from forced migration studies. Lexington, Mass: Lexington Books. p. 72. ISBN 0-7391-0565-5.[1]
  19. ^ a b "Romeika - Pontic Greek (tr)". Karalahana.com. Archived from the original on 2014-02-25. Retrieved 2013-03-20.
  20. ^ "News and Events: Endangered language opens window on to past". University of Cambridge. 2011-01-04. Archived from the original on January 1, 2020. Retrieved 2013-03-20.
  21. ^ "Pontic Greek (Trabzon Of dialect) - Turkish Dictionary (tr)". Karalahana.com. Archived from the original on 2008-03-12. Retrieved 2013-03-20.
  22. ^ ΟΨΕΙΣ ΤΗΣ ΕΚΠΑΙΔΕΥΣΗΣ ΚΑΙ ΤΗΣ ΚΟΙΝΩΝΙΑΣ ΤΩΝ ΕΛΛΗΝΩΝ (in Greek). Archived from the original on 2011-07-21. Retrieved 2011-01-15.
  23. ^ Survey carried out in 2001–2004, organized by St. Petersburg State University
  24. ^ Asterix in Pontic Greek Archived 2012-10-05 at the Wayback Machine.


  • Georges Drettas, Aspects pontiques, ARP, 1997, ISBN 2-9510349-0-3. "... marks the beginning of a new era in Greek dialectology. Not only is it the first comprehensive grammar of Pontic not written in Greek, but it is also the first self-contained grammar of any Greek 'dialect' written, in the words of Bloomfield, 'in terms of its own structure'." (Janse)
  • Berikashvili, Svetlana. 2017. Morphological aspects of Pontic Greek spoken in Georgia. LINCOM GmbH. ISBN 978-3862888528
  • Özhan Öztürk, Karadeniz: Ansiklopedik Sözlük. 2 Cilt. Heyamola Yayıncılık. İstanbul, 2005. ISBN 975-6121-00-9
  • Τομπαΐδης, Δ.Ε. 1988. Η Ποντιακή Διάλεκτος. Αθήνα: Αρχείον Πόντου. (Tompaidis, D.E. 1988. The Pontic Dialect. Athens: Archeion Pontou.)
  • Τομπαΐδης, Δ.Ε. ϗ Συμεωνίδης, Χ.Π. 2002. Συμπλήρωμα στο Ιστορικόν Λεξικόν της Ποντικής Διαλέκτου του Α.Α. Παπαδόπουλου. Αθήνα: Αρχείον Πόντου. (Tompaidis, D.E. and Simeonidis, C.P. 2002. Additions to the Historical Lexicon of the Pontic Dialect of A.A. Papadopoulos. Athens: Archeion Pontou.)
  • Παπαδόπουλος, Α.Α. 1955. Ιστορική Γραμματική της Ποντικής Διαλέκτου. Αθήνα: Επιτροπή Ποντιακών Μελετών. (Papadopoulos, A.A. 1955. Historical Grammar of the Pontic Dialect. Athens: Committee for Pontian Studies.)
  • Παπαδόπουλος, Α.Α. 1958–61. Ιστορικόν Λεξικόν της Ποντικής Διαλέκτου. 2 τόμ. Αθήνα: Μυρτίδης. (Papadopoulos, A.A. 1958–61. Historical Lexicon of the Pontic Dialect. 2 volumes. Athens: Mirtidis.)
  • Οικονομίδης, Δ.Η. 1958. Γραμματική της Ελληνικής Διαλέκτου του Πόντου. Αθήνα: Ακαδημία Αθηνών. (Oikonomidis, D.I. 1958. Grammar of the Greek Dialect of Pontos. Athens: Athens Academy.)
  • Τοπχαράς, Κονσταντίνος. 1998 [1932]. Η Γραμματική της Ποντιακής: Ι Γραματικι τι Ρομεικυ τι Ποντεικυ τι Γλοςας. Θεσσαλονίκη: Αφοί Κυριακίδη. (Topcharas, K. 1998 [1932]. The Grammar of Pontic. Thessaloniki: Afoi Kiriakidi.)

External linksEdit