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Languages of Greece

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Title: Languages of Greece  
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Languages of Greece

Languages of Greece
Official languages Greek
Regional languages Cretan, Cappadocian, Pontic, Maniot, Tsakonian, Yevanic
Minority languages Turkish, Macedonian Slavic, Albanian (Arvanitika) and (Standard Albanian), Romani, Bulgarian, Armenian, Aromanian, Ladino
Main foreign languages English (48%)
German (9%)
Italian (8%)
French (8.5%)
Sign languages Greek Sign Language
Common keyboard layouts
Greek keyboard
Source European Commission[1]

The official language of Greece is Greek, spoken by 99% of the population. In addition, a number of non-official, minority languages and some Greek dialects are spoken as well. The most common foreign languages learned by Greeks are English, French, Spanish, and Italian.


  • Modern Greek 1
    • Cappadocian Greek 1.1
    • Cretan Greek 1.2
    • Cypriot Greek 1.3
    • Maniot Greek 1.4
    • Pontic Greek 1.5
    • Tsakonian Greek 1.6
    • Yevanic Greek 1.7
  • Greek Sign Language 2
  • Minority languages 3
    • Albanian 3.1
      • Arvanitika 3.1.1
    • Armenian 3.2
    • Aromanian 3.3
      • Megleno-Romanian 3.3.1
    • Macedonian Slavic 3.4
      • Bulgarian 3.4.1
    • Ladino 3.5
    • Romany 3.6
    • Turkish 3.7
  • References 4

Modern Greek

The distribution of major modern Greek dialect areas.

Modern Greek (Νεοελληνική γλώσσα) is the only official language of the Hellenic Republic, and is spoken by some 99.5% of the population by approximately 11,100,000 people[2] (though not necessarily as a first language). Standard Modern Greek is the officially used standard, but there are several non-official dialects and distinct Hellenic languages spoken as well. With regional spoken dialects existing side by side with learned, archaic written forms. All surviving forms of modern Greek, except the Tsakonian dialect, are descendants of the common supra-regional (Koine) as it was spoken in late antiquity. As such, they can ultimately be classified as descendants of Attic Greek, the dialect spoken in and around Athens in the classical era. Tsakonian, an isolated dialect spoken today by a dwindling community in the Peloponnese, is a descendant of the ancient Doric dialect. Some other dialects have preserved elements of various ancient non-Attic dialects, but Attic Koine is nevertheless regarded by most scholars as the principal source of all of them.

Cappadocian Greek

Cappadocian Greek (Καππαδοκικά) is a Hellenic language originally spoken in Cappadocia and since the 1920s spoken in Greece. It has very few speakers and was previously thought to be extinct. The Cappadocians rapidly shifted to Standard Modern Greek and their language was thought to be extinct since the 1960s.

Cretan Greek

Cretan Greek is spoken by more of 500,000 people on the island of Crete, as well as in the Greek Diaspora. It is rarely used in written speech, and differs much less from Standard Greek than other varieties. The Cretan dialect is spoken by the majority of the Cretan Greeks in the island of Crete, as well as by several thousands of Cretans who have settled in major Greek cities, notably in Athens.

Cypriot Greek

Cypriot Greek (Κυπριακή διάλεκτος) is spoken by Greek Cypriots, settled in many Greek cities, and many other parts of the world including Australia, Canada and the Americas.

Maniot Greek

The Maniot Greek dialect (Μανιάτικη διάλεκτος) of the local area of Mani.

Pontic Greek

Pontic Greek (Ποντιακή διάλεκτος) is a Hellenic language originally spoken in Pontus and the Caucasus, though now mostly spoken in Greece by some 500,000 people. The linguistic lineage of Pontic Greek stems from Ionic Greek via Koine and Byzantine Greek

Tsakonian Greek

The little-spoken Tsakonian language (Τσακωνική διάλεκτος) is used by some in the Tsakonia region of Peloponnese. The language is split into three dialects: Northern, Southern, and Propontis. The language is spoken by 1,200 people.

Yevanic Greek

A Jewish dialect of Greek (Ρωμανιώτικη διάλεκτος) spoken by the Romaniotes, Yevanic is almost completely extinct today. There are a total of roughly 50 speakers, around 35 of whom now reside in Israel. The language may still be used by some elderly Romaniotes in Ioannina.

Greek Sign Language

Greek Sign Language (Ελληνική Νοηματική Γλώσσα) is the sign language of the Greek deaf community. It has been legally recognised as the official language of the Deaf Community in Greece and estimated to be used by about 42,000 signers (12,000 children and 30,000 active adult users) in 1986.

Minority languages

Regions with a traditional presence of languages other than Greek. Greek is today spoken as the dominant language throughout the country.[3]


Since the 1990s, large numbers of Albanian immigrants have arrived in Greece, forming the largest immigrant group (443,550 in the 2001 census) unofficial results claim 1,000,000 Greeks are of Albanian descent either by ancestry, marriage or immigration.[4]


Unlike the recent immigrants from Albania, the Arvanites are a centuries-old local Albanian-speaking community in parts of Greece (and mainland Albania), especially in the south. Their language, now in danger of extinction, is known as Arvanitika. They are fully integrated into Greek society and are considered ethnic Greeks, not Albanians. Their number has been estimated to between 30,000 and 140,000 - many have been assimilated into either modern Greek or Albanian culture.


Of the 35,000 Armenians in Greece today, some 20,000 speak the language.


The distribution of Romanians and Vlachs in the Balkans (Aromanians marked in red).

The Aromanians, also known as Vlachs, are a population group linguistically related to Romanians. The Aromanian, an Eastern Romance language, is spoken by the some 40,000 Aromanians in Greece.


Megleno-Romanian is a Romance language spoken in Greece and Macedonia. There are roughly 2,500 speakers in Greece.

Macedonian Slavic

In Greece, Slavic dialects heteronomous with standard Macedonian Slavic or Bulgarian are spoken; however, the speakers do not all identify their language with their national identity. The 1951 census recorded 41,017 Slavic-speaking Greek citizens (most of them bilingual). These Slavic-speakers in Greece vary on how they describe their language - most describe it as Slavic and proclaim a Greek national identity, although there are smaller groups, some of which describe it as Macedonian and espouse an ethnic Macedonian national identity, and some who describe it as Bulgarian and espouse a Bulgarian national identity.[5] Some prefer to identify as dopii and their dialect as dopia which mean local or indigenous in Greek . Ethnologue estimates 180,000 Slavic speakers, primarily in the Western Macedonia area.[6]


In addition to the above, there are an estimated 30,000 native speakers of Bulgarian in Western Thrace according to Ethnologue,[7] where it is referred to as Pomak.


Ladino, the Judeo-Spanish language, was traditionally spoken by the Sephardic community in Greece, particularly in the city of Thessaloniki, where, at their peak percentage, they made up 56% of the population.[8] However, many of Greece's Jews were murdered in World War II, and a large number emigrated to Israel after 1948. It is maintained today by between 2,000 and 8,000 people in Greece.


In the population of 200,000 to 300,000 Roma, or Gypsy, people in Greece today, the Romani language is spoken widely. Romani is an Indo-Aryan language similar to many Indian languages, due to the origins of the Roma people in northern India. The dialect spoken in Greece (as well as in Bulgaria, Albania, the Republic of Macedonia, Moldova, Montenegro, Serbia, Romania, parts of Turkey, and Ukraine) is known as Balkan Romani. There are 160,000 Romani speakers in Greece today (90% of the Roma population).[9]


Turkish is one of the most widely spoken minority languages in Greece today, with a speaker population of 128,380 people.[10] Traditionally, there were many more Turkish speakers in Greece, due to the long period of rule by the Ottoman Empire, but after the exchange of populations between Greece and Turkey, a much smaller number remain. The Turkish-speaking population of Greece is mainly concentrated in some parts of the regions of Thrace. Turkish speakers also make up a large part of Greece's Muslim minority.


  1. ^ Europeans and their Languages
  2. ^
  3. ^ Euromosaic, Le (slavo)macédonien / bulgare en Grèce, L'arvanite / albanais en Grèce, Le valaque/aromoune-aroumane en Grèce, and Mercator-Education: European Network for Regional or Minority Languages and Education, The Turkish language in education in Greece. cf. also P. Trudgill, "Greece and European Turkey: From Religious to Linguistic Identity", in S Barbour, C Carmichael (eds.), Language and nationalism in Europe, Oxford University Press 2000.
  4. ^
  5. ^
  6. ^
  7. ^
  8. ^
  9. ^
  10. ^
  • Ethnologue - Languages of Greece
  • Ethnologue - Pontic
  • Ethnologue - Yevanic

 This article incorporates public domain material from the CIA World Factbook document "2006 edition".

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