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Tsakonian (also Tsaconian, Tzakonian or Tsakonic; Tsakonian: τσακώνικα, α τσακώνικα γρούσσα; Greek: τσακώνικα) is a Hellenic language which is both highly divergent from other spoken varieties of Modern Greek and, from a philological standpoint, linguistically classified separately from them. It is spoken in the Tsakonian region of the Peloponnese, Greece.
|Region||Eastern Peloponnese, around Mount Parnon|
Tsakonian descends from Doric, which was an Ancient Greek dialect on the Western branch of the Hellenic languages, and it is its only living descendant. Although Tsakonian is treated as a dialect of Modern Standard Greek, some compendia treat it as a separate language, since Modern Standard Greek descends from Ionic and Attic which are on the Eastern branch of the Hellenic languages, while Tsakonian (as a descendant of Doric) is the sole surviving member of the Western branch.
The term Tsakonas or Tzakonas first emerges in the writings of Byzantine chroniclers who derive the ethnonym from a corruption of Lakonas, a Laconian/Lacedaemonian (Spartan)—a reference to the Doric roots of the Tsakonian language.
Tsakonian is found today in a group of mountain towns and villages slightly inland from the Argolic Gulf, although it was once spoken farther to the south and west as well as on the coasts of Laconia (ancient Sparta).
Geographical barriers to travel and communication kept the Tsakonians relatively isolated from the rest of Greece until the 19th century, although there was some trade between the coastal towns. The rise of mass education and improved travel beginning after the Greek War of Independence meant that fluent Tsakonian speakers were no longer as isolated from the rest of Greece. In addition, during the war, the Turkish army drove the Tsakonians east, and as a result, their de facto capital shifted from Prastos to Leonidio, further making the people significantly less isolated. There began a rapid decline from an estimated figure of some 200,000 fluent speakers to the present estimate of a speaker count between 200 and 1,000.
Since the introduction of electricity to all villages in Tsakonia by the late 1950s, Greek mass media can reach the most remote of areas and has profoundly affected the speech of younger speakers. Efforts to revive the language by teaching it in local schools do not seem to have had much success. Standard Modern Greek is the official language of government, commerce and education, and it is possible that the continued modernization of Tsakonia will lead to the language's disappearance sometime this century.
The area where the language is found today in some villages Tsakonia slopes of Parnon in the southern province of Kynouria, including the towns of Leonidio and Tyros and villages of Melana, Agios Andreas, Vaskina, Prastos, Sitaina and Kastanitsa.
Tsakonian has no official status. Prayers and liturgies of the Greek Orthodox Church have been translated into Tsakonian, but the ancient Koine of the traditional church services is usually used as in other locations in Greece. Some teaching materials in Tsakonian for use in local schools have reportedly also been produced.
There are three dialects of Tsakonian: Northern, Southern, and Propontis.
The Propontis dialect was spoken in what was formerly a Tsakonian colony on the Sea of Marmara (or Propontis; two villages near Gönen, Vatika and Havoutsi), whose members were resettled in Greece during the 1924 Population exchange between Greece and Turkey. Propontis Tsakonian appears to have died out around 1970, although it had already stopped being the primary language of its community after 1914 when they were internally exiled with other Greeks in the region due to the outbreak of World War I. Propontis Tsakonian was overall grammatically more conservative, but it was also influenced by the nearby Thracian dialects of Greek which were much closer to Standard Modern Greek. The emergence of the Propontis community is either dated to the 13th century settlement of Tsakonians by Emperor Michael VII, explicitly referenced by Byzantine George Pachymeres or around the time of the 1770 Orlov Revolt. For an example of the standardizing Thracian Greek influence, compare the Northern and Southern word for water, ύο (ýo, derived from Ancient Greek ὕδωρ) to Propontic νερέ and Standard νερό (neré, neró).
Of the two mainland dialects of Tsakonian, Southern Tsakonian is spoken in the villages of Melana, Prastos, Tiros, Leonidio, Pramatefti and Sapunakeika, while Northern Tsakonian is found in Sitena and Kastanitsa. The Northern villages were much more exposed to the rest of Greek society, and as a result Northern Tsakonian experienced much heavier Standard Greek lexical and phonological influence, before it began to die out much faster than Southern Tsakonian. As early as 1971, it became difficult for researchers in the northern villages to find any informants who could offer more than "a few isolated words". There may have once been a fourth, Western, dialect of Tsakonian given the forms attested by Evliya Celebi in the 17th century.
Another difference between Tsakonian and the common Demotic Greek dialect is its verb system – Tsakonian preserves different archaic forms, such as participial periphrasis for the present tense. Certain complementisers and other adverbial features present in the standard Modern Greek dialect are absent from Tsakonian, with the exception of the Modern που (/pu/) relativiser, which takes the form πφη (/pʰi/) in Tsakonian (note: traditional Tsakonian orthography uses the digraph πφ to represent aspirated /pʰ/). Noun morphology is broadly similar to Standard Modern Greek, although Tsakonian tends to drop the nominative, final -ς (-s) from masculine nouns, thus Tsakonian ο τσχίφτα for Standard o τρίφτης (o tshífta/o tríftis: "grater").
There has always been contact with Koine Greek speakers and the language was affected by the neighboring Greek dialects. Additionally, there are some lexical borrowings from Arvanitika and Turkish. The core vocabulary remains recognizably Doric, although experts disagree on the extent to which other true Doricisms can be found. There are only a few hundred, mainly elderly true native speakers living, although a great many more can speak the language less than fluently.
- A /a/ can appear as a reflex of Doric /aː/, in contexts where Attic had η [ɛː] and Modern Greek has /i/: αμέρα "day" /aˈmera/ corresponding to Modern ημέρα /iˈmera/ "day", κρέφτα "thief" [ˈkrefta] corresponding to Modern κλέφτης [ˈkleftis].
- Ε /e/ > /i/ before vowels: e.g. βασιλλία /vasiˈlia/ "king" < βασιλέα /vasiˈlea/. This sound change is absent from Propontis Tsakonian. As a result of this sound change in combination with the prior palatalization of /mi ni/ and /li/ into [ɲi] and [ʎi], the palatal allophones [ɲ] [ʎ] became phonemic. Minimal pairs example: εννία "nine" /eˈnia/ from Ancient Greek ἐννέα VS νία /eˈɲia/ "one fem." from Ancient Greek μία.
- O occasionally [o] > [u]: ου(ι)θί /u(i)ˈθi < όφις /ˈopʰis/ "snake", τθούμα [ˈtʰuma] < στόμα /ˈstoma/ "mouth". Final [o] > [e] after coronals and front vowels: όνος [ˈonos] > όνε [ˈone] "donkey", πόρος /ˈporos/ > πόρε /ˈpore/ "door", γραφτός /grafˈtos/ > γραφτέ [ɣrafˈte] "written", χρέος /ˈkʰreos/ > χρίε /ˈxrie/, but λύκος /ˈlykos/ > λιούκο /ˈʎuko/ "wolf" and θερμόν /ˈtʰerˈmon/ > σχομό /ʃoˈmo/ "food".
- Υ Reflected as/i/ in most Modern Greek dialects, this was [u] in Doric and [y] in Attic. In Southern and Northern Tsakonian, that /u/ was fronted to [y], and then backed to /u/ again. The palatalization of numerous consonants before front vowels that took place right before the backing of /y/ to /u/ gives the flawed impression that /y/ was diphthongized into /ju/. Examples: λύκος /ˈlykos/ νύκτα /ˈnykta/ κρύπτων /ˈkryptoːn/ τύ /ˈty/> /ˈʎyko/ /ˈɲytʰa/ /ˈkrʲyfu/ /eˈcy/> λιούκο /ˈʎuko/ "wolf" νιούτθα /ˈɲutʰa/ "night" γκρζιούφου /ˈgʒufu/ "hide (participle)" εκιού /eˈcu/ "you". As seen from the following equivalent words, <Υ> was never fronted in Propontis Tsakonian, but rather remained /u/: /ˈukʰo/ "wolf, /ˈnutʰa/ "night", /eˈtu/ "you". Any minor divergences from this model can be attributed to either internal dialectal borrowings or to borrowings from other Hellenic languages such as Maniot Greek or Standard Modern Greek.
- Ω /ɔː/ in Ancient Greek (Severe Doric /oː/), regularly goes to /u/: εζού /eˈzu/ "I" Ancient Greek ἐγώ /egɔː/, αού [au] "say (participle)" < λαλών /laˈlɔːn/. This shift is absent from Propontis Tsakonian.
Tsakonian in some words preserves the pre-classical Greek [w]-sound, represented in some Ancient Greek texts by the digamma (ϝ). In Tsakonian, this sound has become a fricative [v]: βάννε [ˈvane] "sheep", corresponding to Ancient ϝαμνός [wamˈnos] (Attic ἀμνός).
Tsakonian has extensive changes triggered by palatalisation:
- [k] > [tɕ] : κύριος [ˈkyrios] > τζιούρη [ˈtɕuri], occasionally [ts]: κεφάλι [keˈfali] > τσουφά [tsuˈfa]
- [ɡ] > [dz] : αγγίζων [aŋˈɡizɔːn] > αντζίχου [anˈdzixu]
- [p] > [c] : πηγάδι [piˈɣaði] > κηγάδι [ciˈɣaði]
- [t] > [c] : τυρός [tyˈros] > κιουρέ [cuˈre], occasionally [ts]: τίποτα [ˈtipota] > τσίπτα [ˈtsipta], πίτα [ˈpita] > πίτσα [ˈpitsa]
- [m] > [n] : Μιχάλης [miˈxalis] > Ν(ν)ιχάλη [niˈxali]
- [n] > [ɲ] : ανοίγων [aˈniɣɔːn] > ανοίντου [aˈɲindu]
- [l] > [ʎ] : ηλιάζων [iliˈazɔːn] > λιάζου [ˈʎazu]
- [r] > [ʒ] : ρυάκι [ryˈaki] > ρζάτζι [ˈʒatɕi]. This sound appears to have been a fricative trill in the 19th century, and [ʒ] survived latterly only in women's usage in Southern Tsakonian. A similar change occurred with palatalised [rʲ] in Polish and Czech, whereas in other languages it went in the reverse.
Word-initial [r] > [ʃ]: *ράφων [ˈrafɔːn] > σχάφου [ˈʃafu]
Word-final [s] > [r], which reflects an earlier process in Laconian; in Tsakonian, it is a liaison phoneme: τίνος [ˈtinos] > τσούνερ [ˈtsuner]
In Southern Tsakonian, [l] is deleted before back and central vowels: λόγος [ˈloɣos] > Northern λόγo [ˈloɣo], Southern όγo [ˈoɣo]; λούζων [ˈluzɔːn] > Northern λούκχου [ˈlukʰu], Southern ούκχου [ˈukʰu];
Occasionally [θ] > [s], which appears to reflect an earlier process in Laconian, but in others [θ] is retained though the word is absent in Standard Greek: θυγάτηρ [θyˈɣatir] > σάτη [ˈsati], but Ancient θύων [ˈθiɔːn] (Modern equivalent: σφάζω [ˈsfazo]) > θύου [ˈθiu]
Tsakonian avoids clusters, and reduces them to aspirated or prenasalised stops and affricates:
- [ðr, θr, tr] > [tʃ]: δρύας, άνθρωπος, τράγος [ˈðryas, ˈanθropos, ˈtraɣos] > τσχούα, άτσχωπο, τσχάο [ˈtʃua, ˈatʃopo, ˈtʃao]
- [sp, st, sθ, sk, sx] > [pʰ, tʰ, tʰ, kʰ, kʰ]: σπείρων, ιστός, επιάσθη, ασκός, ίσχων [ˈspirɔːn, isˈtos, epiˈasθi, asˈkos, ˈisxɔːn] > πφείρου, ιτθέ, εκιάτθε, ακχό, ίκχου [ˈpʰiru, iˈtʰe, eˈcatʰe, aˈkʰo, ˈikʰu]
- [mf, nθ, ŋx] > [pʰ, tʰ, kʰ]: ομφαλός, γρονθία, ρύγχος [omfaˈlos, ɣronˈθia, ˈryŋxos] > απφαλέ, γροτθία, σχούκο [apʰaˈle, ɣroˈtʰia, ˈʃukʰo]
- [ks] > [ts]: ξερός [kseˈros] > τσερέ [tseˈre]
- [kt, xθ] > [tʰ]: δάκτυλο, δεχθώ [ˈðaktylo, ðexˈθɔː] > δάτθυλε, δετθού [ˈðatʰile, ðeˈtʰu]
- [l] after consonants often goes to [r]: πλατύ, κλέφτης, γλώσσα, αχλάδες [plaˈty, ˈkleftis, ˈɣlɔːsa, aˈxlaðes] > πρακιού, κρέφτα, γρούσα, αχράε [praˈcu, ˈkrefta, ˈɣrusa, aˈxrae]
- [rp, rt, rk, rð] > [mb, nd, ŋɡ, nd]: σκορπίος, άρτος, άρκα, πορδή [skorˈpios, ˈartos, ˈarka, porˈði] > κχομπίο, άντε, άγκα, πφούντα [kʰomˈbio, ˈande, ˈaŋɡa, ˈpʰunda]
In the common verb ending -ζω, [z] > [nd] : φωνάζων [foˈnazɔːn] > φωνιάντου [foˈɲandu]
[z, v] are added between vowels: μυία, κυανός [myˈia, kyaˈnos] > μούζα, κουβάνε [ˈmuza, kuˈvane]
[ɣ, ð] often drop out between vowels: πόδας, τράγος [ˈpoðas, ˈtraɣos] > πούα, τσχάο [ˈpua, ˈtʃao]
|Original song – Tsakonian||Roman Transliteration||IPA transcription|
Πουλάτζι ἔμα ἐχα τθὸ κουιβί τσαὶ μερουτέ νι ἔμα ἐχα
Poulátzi éma ékha tʰo kouiví tse merouté ni éma ékha
puˈlatɕi ˈema ˈexa tʰo kwiˈvi tɕe meruˈte ɲ ˈema ˈexa
|Modern Greek||Modern Greek pronunciation (Roman guideline)||IPA transcription (see Greek phonology)|
Πουλάκι είχα στο κλουβί και μερομένο το είχα.
Pouláki íkha sto klouví ke meroméno to íkha
puˈlaci ˈixa sto kluˈvi ce meroˈmeno to ˈixa
- English translation
I had a bird in a cage and I kept it happy
I gave it sugar and wine-grapes
and from the great amount of grapes and their essence,
the nightingale got naughty [possibly means it got drunk] and escaped.
And its master now runs after it with the cage in his hands:
Come my bird back where you belong, come to your house
I will remove your old bells and buy you new ones.
Tsakonian avoids consonant clusters, as seen, and drops final [s] and [n]; as a result, syllable structure tends more to CV than in Standard Modern Greek. (The use of digraphs in tradition spelling tends to obscure this). For instances, ancient [hadros] "hard" goes to Tsakonian [a.tʃe], where /t͡ʃ/ can be considered a single phoneme; it is written traditionally with a trigraph as ατσχέ (= atskhe).
Tsakonian has undergone considerable morphological changes: there is minimal case inflection.
The present and imperfect indicative in Tsakonian are formed with participles, like English but unlike the rest of Greek: Tsakonian ενεί αού, έμα αού "I am saying, I was saying" ≈ Greek ειμί λαλών, ήμην λαλών.
- Ένει (Ení) = I am
- Έσει (Esí) = you are
- Έννι (Éni) = he/she/it is
- Έμε (Éme) = we are
- Έτθε (Éthe) = you are
- Είνι (Íni) = they are
- Έμα (Éma) = I was
- Έσα (Ésa) = you were
- Έκη (Éki) = he/she/it was
- Έμαϊ (Émaï) = we were
- Έτθαϊ (Éthaï) = you were
- Ήγκιαϊ (Ígiaï) = they were
- ένει φερήκχου (masculine) ένει φερήκχα (feminine) ένει φερήκχουντα (neuter) (feríkhou/feríkha/ferikhouda) = I bring
- έσει φερήκχου (masculine) έσει φερήκχα (feminine) έσει φερήκχουντα (neuter) (feríkhou/feríkha/ferikhouda) = you bring
- έννι φερήκχου (masculine) έννι φερήκχα (feminine) έννι φερήκχουντα (neuter) (feríkhou/feríkha/ferikhouda) = he/she/it brings
- έμε φερήκχουντε (masculine, feminine) έμε φερήκχουντα (neuter) (feríkhude/feríkhuda) = we bring
- έτθε φερήκχουντε (masculine, feminine) έτθε φερήκχουντα (neuter) (feríkhude/feríkhuda) = you bring
- είνι φερήκχουντε (masculine, feminine) έμε φερήκχουντα (neuter) (feríkhude/feríkhuda) = they bring
Note: Participles change according to the gender of the subject of the sentence
Tsakonian has preserved the original inflection of the aorist indicative.
- ενέγκα (enéga) = I brought
- ενέντζερε (enédzere) = You brought
- ενέντζε (enédze) = He/She/It brought
- ενέγκαμε (enégame) = We brought
- ενέγκατε (enégate) = You brought
- ενέγκαϊ (enégaï) = They brought
Traditionally, Tsakonian used the standard Greek alphabet, along with digraphs to represent certain sounds that either do not occur in Demotic Greek, or that do not commonly occur in combination with the same sounds as they do in Tsakonian. For example, the [ʃ] sound, which does not occur in standard Greek, does occur in Tsakonian, and is spelled σχ (much like German sch). Another sound recalls Czech ř. Thanasis Costakis invented an orthography using dots, spiritus asper, and caron for use in his works, which has been used in his grammar and several other works. This is more like the Czech usage of hačeks (such as š). Lastly, unpalatalized n and l before a front vowel can be written double, to contrast with a palatalised single letter. (e.g. in Southern Tsakonian ένει [eɲi] "I am", έννι [eni] "he is" – the former corresponding to Northern Tsakonian έμι [emi] and Standard Greek είμαι [ime].)
|τζ||(Κ) τζ ̌ – τζ & τρζ ̌ — τρζ
(Λ) τζ ̌ – τζ
|(K) tɕ, trʒ|
(L) tɕ d͡ʒ
|νν||ν̇||n (not ɲ)|
|λλ||λ̣||l (not ʎ)|
- Note: (K) is for the northern dialect of Kastanitsa and Sitaina, (Λ) and (L) for the southern which is spoken around Leonidio and Tyros.
|English||Modern Greek||Tsakonian (Greek alphabet)||Tsakonian (Latin script)||Tsakonian (Costakis Notation)|
|Where is his/her/its room?||Πού είναι το δωμάτιό του/της;||Κιά έννι το όντα σι;||Kiá éni to óda si?||κιά έν̇ι το όντα σι;|
|Where is the beach?||Πού είναι η παραλία;||Κιά έννι το περιγιάλλι;||Kiá éni to perigiáli?||κιά έν̇ι το περιγιάλ̣ι;|
|Where is the bar?||Πού είναι το μπαρ;||Κιά έννι το μπαρ;||Kiá éni to bar?||κιά έν̇ι το μπαρ;|
|Don't touch me there!||Μη μ' αγγίζεις εκεί!||Μη' μ' αντζίζερε όρπα!||Mi m' andzízere órpa!||Μη με ατζίζερε όρπα!|
- Campbell, Lyle; Bellew, Anna (2018). Cataloguing the World's Endangered Languages. Routledge. pp. 204–205.
- Linguist List
- Browning, Robert (1983). Medieval and modern Greek. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. p. 124.
- Horrocks, Geoffrey (2010). Greek: A history of the language and its speakers (2nd ed.). Oxford: Blackwell. p. 382.
- Joseph, Brian D.; Terdanelis, Georgios (2003). "Modern Greek". In Roelcke, Thorsten (ed.). Variation typology: a typological handbook of European languages. Berlin: de Gruyter. pp. 823–836. Joseph, Brian D. (2012). "Lexical diffusion and the regular transmission of language chang in its sociohistorical context". In Hernández-Campoy, Juan Manuel; Conde-Silvestre, Juan Camilo (eds.). Handbook of historical sociolinguistics. Oxford: Blackwell. p. 411.
- Moseley, Christopher (2007). Encyclopedia of the world's endangered languages. New York: Routledge. s.v. "Tsakonian".
- Miller, William (1964). The Latins in the Levant, a history of Frankish Greece (1204-1566). Harvard University. Cambridge, Speculum Historiale; New York, Barnes & Noble. p. 4.
- Mansfield, Peter (April 21, 2000). "Letter from Tere-Sapunadzi". The Times Literary Supplement.
- P. Trudgill, D. Schreier (2006): Greece and Cyprus. In: U. Ammon (ed.), Sociolinguistics. Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter.
- Costakis, A. P. (1986) Lexiko tīs tsakōnikīs dialektou. pX
- Nicholas 2019, p. 20 harvnb error: no target: CITEREFNicholas2019 (help)
- Koukoules, F. (1924) Ekthesis peri tou kata to etos 1919 telesthentos diagōnismou tīs en Athīnais Glōssikīs Etaireias [Presentation of the competition conducted by the Linguistic Society of Athens in 1919]. Athina, 36: 254-281. Referenced in Nicholas 2019 : p20.
- Costakis, A. P. (1951) Syntomī grammatikī tīs tsakōnikīs dialektou [A brief grammar of the Tsakonian dialect]. Athens: Institut Français d’Athènes Publ., 224 p. (Collection de l’Institut Français d’Athènes. Vol. 35). Pages 151-155
- Nicholas 2019, p. 19 harvnb error: no target: CITEREFNicholas2019 (help)
- Haralambopoulos, A. L. (1980) Fōnologikī analysī tīs tsakōnikīs dialektou [Phonological analysis of the Tsakonian dialect]. Thessaloniki: Aristotle University Publ., 195 p. (Aristoteleio Panepistīmeio Thessalonikīs, Epistīmonikī Epetīrida tīs Filosofilkīs Scholīs [Aristotle University of Thessaloniki. Scholarly papers of the Faculty of Philosophy]. Appendix. No. 30). Page 7
- Liosis, N. (2007) Glōssikes epafes stī notioanatolikī Peloponnīso [Language contact in the Southeastern Peloponnese]. PhD dissertation (Linguistics). Thessalonica, Aristotle University. Page 7
- This song in its original (polytonic) Tsakonian form is taken from a book called «ΚΛΕΦΤΙΚΑ ΔΗΜΟΤΙΚΑ ΤΡΑΓΟΥΔΙΑ» (KLEPHTIC DEMOTIC SONGS) by N. G. Politou. It can be found in the last few pages of the book under the «ΤΡΑΓΟΥΔΙΑ ΕΙΣ ΕΛΛΗΝΙΚΑΣ ΔΙΑΛΕΚΤΟΥΣ» (SONGS IN GREEK DIALECTS) section on page 269.
- Sources: Nicholas, Houpis, Costakis
- Costakis, Athanasios (Thanasis) P. (1951). Σύντομη Γραμματική της Τσακωνικής Διαλέκτου (Brief Grammar of the Tsakonian Dialect). Athens: Institut Français d'Athènes.
- Horrocks, Geoffrey (2014). Greek: A history of the language and its speakers, 2nd ed. Hoboken, NJ: Wiley Blackwell. ISBN 978-1-118-78515-7.
- Nicholas, Nick (1999). "The Story of pu: The grammaticalisation in space and time of a Modern Greek complementiser". Final. Archived from the original on 2012-12-12. Cite journal requires
- Pernot, H. (1934). Introduction à l'étude du dialecte tsakonien. Paris.
- Nicholas, Nick (2019). "A critical lexicostatistical examination of Ancient and Modern Greek and Tsakonian". Journal of Applied Linguistics and Lexicography. 1 (1): 18–68. doi:10.33910/2687-0215-2019-1-1-18-68.
- Blažek, Václav. "Glottochronological analysis of the Greek lexicon: Modern, Tsakonian, Old and Mycenaean Greek. In: Graeco-Latina Brunensia. 2010, vol. 15, iss. 1, pp. 17-35. ISSN 2336-4424
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