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.

The origins, early form and development of the Hellenic language family are not well understood because of a lack of contemporaneous evidence. Several theories exist about what Hellenic dialect groups may have existed between the divergence of early Greek-like speech from the common Proto-Indo-European language and the Classical period. They have the same general outline, but differ in some of the detail. The only attested dialect from this period is Mycenaean Greek, but its relationship to the historical dialects and the historical circumstances of the times imply that the overall groups already existed in some form.

Most of the dialect sub-groups listed above had further subdivisions, generally equivalent to a city-state and its surrounding territory, or to an island. Doric notably had several intermediate divisions as well, into Island Doric (including Cretan Doric), Southern Peloponnesus Doric (including Laconian, the dialect of Sparta), and Northern Peloponnesus Doric (including Corinthian).

Ancient Macedonian was an Indo-European language at least closely related to Greek, but its exact relationship is unclear because of insufficient data: possibly a dialect of Greek; a sibling language to Greek; or a close cousin to Greek, and perhaps related to some extent, to Thracian and Phrygian languages. The Macedonian dialect (or language) appears to have been supplanted by Attic Greek in the Hellenistic period. 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 worth-western ancient Greek.

The earliest extant examples of ancient Greek writing (circa 1450 BCE) are in the syllabic script Linear B. Beginning in the 8th century BCE, however, the Greek alphabet became standard, albeit with some variation among dialects. Early texts are written in boustrophedon style, but left-to-right became standard during the classic period. Modern editions of ancient Greek texts are usually written with accents and breathing marks, interword spacing, modern punctuation, and sometimes mixed case, but these were all introduced later.

Ancient Greek is also used by organizations and individuals, mainly Greek, who wish to denote their respect, admiration or preference for the use of this language. This use is sometimes considered graphical, nationalistic or humorous. In any case, the fact that modern Greeks can still wholly or partly understand texts written in non-archaic forms of ancient Greek shows the affinity of the modern Greek language to its ancestral predecessor.

An isolated community near Trabzon, Turkey, an area where Pontic Greek is spoken, has been found to speak a variety of Modern Greek, Ophitic, that has parallels, both structurally and in its vocabulary, to ancient Greek not present in other varieties (linguistic conservatism). As few as 5,000 people speak the dialect, and linguists believe that it is the closest living language to ancient Greek.

Ancient Greek is often used in the coinage of modern technical terms in the European languages: see English words of Greek origin. Latinized forms of ancient Greek roots are used in many of the scientific names of species and in scientific terminology.

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