Vocabulary of modern Greek

I have some multilingual dictionaries that suggest that modern Greek has been severely permeated by English vocabulary. Some glaring examples:
“bar”–mpar, pronounced as in English.
“cake”–keïk, pronounced as in English (instead of the classic glykisma.)
“blue”–mpli, pronounced as English “blee.”
There are a great many other words in the classical language that don’t seem to appear in the modern language. I’m not sure why, but the historical cultural imposition of Turkish on Greece and the inexorable influence of Western European languages like English and French have made an impact on Greek.
Is my appraisal accurate?

Oh my God. Are you telling me that a language has evolved over the course of thousands of years? Sorry for the sarcasm, but what are you getting at exactly? It has changed remarkably little, if you ask me.

You could equally argue that English has adopted “foreign” words for all the examples you give: bistro for bar (well, kind of), gâteau for cake and azure for blue.

It happens in most (almost all) languages.

English, in fact, is somewhat famous for adoption. It keeps making up or osmosing new words. I’d suggest there are several words from every language ever made (except Esperanto, blechh!)in English.

Just wanted to point out how Modern Greek has treated its Turkish loanwords. Like Italian, MG prefers that words end in a vowel. If a loanword ends in a consonant, MG will tack on -i at the end, to make a neuter gender ending which is then declinable.

The ancient Greeks had a name for it: aphesis. Means to drop the initial vowel from a word. They’re still doing it.

From the Arabic ‘araq ‘distilled liquor’ (literally ‘sweat’, referring to the drops condensing in the still), via Turkish, MG dropped the first vowel and stuck -i at the end to get raki.

From the Turkish ocak ‘fireplace, oven’ (the Turkish c is pronounced j), MG got tzaki. There’s the aphesis again: lose a vowel from the front, replace it with one at the back.

From Turkish yogurt (the g is silent), Modern Greek has yiaourti.

They don’t apply the final -* to contemporary loanwords from English, though. I guess they get by without declining them.

One more: from Turkish bozuk ‘ruined, spoiled, disordered’ comes a well-known Modern Greek word. In classical Persian Sufi poetry, which was a big influence on Ottoman Turkish poetry, the life of taverns, wine-drinking, and the music that went with them was considered moral ruin and dissolution. The Sufis gladly played on the ironic terms and in their songs called themselves drunkards and their gatherings taverns, literally “places of ruin” (kharâbât). The Turkish word meaning the same thing became applied to the musical instrument of the lute family used for singing these kinds of songs. In Greece it was the favorite instrument of rempetiko musicians who frequented the disreputable dives and whorehouses. Thus Modern Greek mpouzouki (bouzouki) from Turkish bozuk — the word that also gave us bashi-bozuk literally ‘his head is disordered’ (known to readers of Tintin comic books!).

More fuel for the fire:

garatzi - garage
tsigara - cigarette
caro (slang) - car

Hey! That was uncalled for!

I remember my Greek friends when, making fun of a bad joke, would sometimes laugh “Hhhaarr, Hhaarr, Hhaar,” which did not at all sound like a normal laugh. A month or so later I think I found the reason. I saw some Superman, and I think, Archie comic books with Demotic Greek script, but they translitterated the American English “ha ha” into “xar, xar”.

I realize that languages will change over the course of thousands of years. It’s annoying, however, to learn Greek roots (in English class, for example) and find out they are no longer used in the modern language; for example:
hippos “horse”
kyanos --“light blue” (cf. “cyan,” sinij–the modern Russian for “blue”)
From what I have read, not one of these words is still used for the particular meaning in Greek.
I’ve also found that traditional texts would become harder to pronounce:
Ho on ho theos synezeuchen, ho anthropos me chorizeto
("KJV, “What God hath yoked together let no man put asunder”). According to language books, the modern pronunciation of the Greek for the verb form “yoked” would be pronounced, sinezefkhen.
Well, I won’t criticize another man’s language…

The following is posted by my wife. She was born and has lived almost all her life in Athens. She has a degree in Philology from the U. of Athens, taught Classical Greek language, literature and culture and modern Greek in Athens before coming to Chicago last year to get married…and enjoys nothing more than correcting my mistaken conceptions of, for instance, the differences between Doric, Ionic and Aeolian dialects in Classical Greek. Brace yourself. :slight_smile:

Mrs. Satyagrahi:
"Gee… I don’t know where to start… Maybe I would, dougie_monty, if you made a specific point I could address. I am afraid I do not see what you are driving at. What is eating you about MG vocabulary? The fact that it reflects language change, i.e. a process that is neither good nor bad but simply IS? Or maybe the fact that MG is pronounced differently than CG? Please state clearly your contention and I would be happy to respond.

BTW - the accurate transliteration of the archaic phrase from the Greek Orthodox wedding ceremony would be:

“Hous ho theos synedzeuksen, anthro: pos me: cho:ridzeto:”
( the symbol : denotes long pronunciation of the vowel immediately preceding it; sorry for the inevitably missing accents! I am transliterating using 5th-c. CG phoneme values. Also, the extra space in that phrase is necessary to avoid the insertion of an extraneous smiley.)

Again, what IS your point? Surely, if you are a strudent of either MG or CG, some tutor must have pointed out that the first instances of what gradually became MG pronunciation are attested as early as the last quarter of the 4th c. BC."
Me, back again. She will be happy to answer specific questions and, trust me, you won’t find a more credible source this side of Pericles. :slight_smile:

Fourth Century, eh? To be honest, I had an inkling of this from a classmate in high school, who is now a lawyer in Century City in Los Angeles. His family is Greek and he told me the pronunciations I referred to–and, I might properly assume, the vocabulary–go back several centuries, at least.
A considerable portion of the English classes I had in high school was devoted to vocabulary, and much of that was concerned with the body of Latin and Greek roots that are unquestionably part of modern English vocabulary.
What I observe is that there was an overwhelming influence on Greek from without. It’s just confusing to use words like *hydrogen, hippopotamus, ichthylology, eryops (a kind of lizard or extinct reptile), and then notice that the language which created those roots doesn’t use them any longer.
As for the Biblical phrase, I made an error. (But I must admit that this phrasing is in koine Greek, not modern, and I will concede, Satyagraha, that this is your wife’s bailiwick.) :slight_smile:
FWIW, the phrase in Matthew 19:6 was, using the same Greek orthography I used earlier, * Ho oun ho theos synezeuxen anthropos me chorizeto.
The source for this rendering is the Wetscott and Hort Greek text, the 1948 Macmillan edition.
You, Satyagraha, and other Dopers who have posted replies make a major point: The Greek language has developed considerably in the time since the Roman classical period. And I should probably have sensed since my classmate made that point…
The problem I have is that I will try to pronounce Greek letters, or other such words, when speaking with a family member (who has no background in classical languages at all, let alone my passing acquaintance), according to the modern fashion: Veeta instead of Beta, for example. My reply that that’s the way the letter name is pronounced (approximately) in the modern language doesn’t seem to make any difference…
I hope I haven’t wandered from the ideas I intended to express…

Hi, dougie_monty! This is Lefki, Satyagrahi’s wife. Let me respond to a couple of issues your posting raises, hoping that you will find my comments interesting and useful :slight_smile:

You mention a few words that it pains you not to see in MG. But… but… they ARE there!! Yes, speakers of MG use the words hydrogen, hippopotamus, ichthyology effortlessly and naturally in everyday conversation. Now, these words have undergone phonetic changes over the centuries, i.e. they are pronounced, more or less, differently than in Classical times; still, they are the same words handed down from generation after generation of speakers of Greek.

In a previous posting you lament the “loss” of words like hydor (= water), hippos (= horse), ichthys (= fish), kyanous(CG)/kyanos(MG) (=dark blue; kyanous being a Mycenaean word, possibly originating in Asia Minor), & oinos (=wine). Truly enough, MG speakers will use the koine words nero, alogo, psari, ble (borrowed from French), & krasi instead. However, not only have the CG roots not been obliterated by their koine/medieval counterparts, but are commonly used in other members of the same semantic field. For instance, a speaker of MG will go to the oinopoleio to buy some krasi or to the ichthyopoleio to get a psari or two. In much the same vein, s/he will bet on an alogo running at the ippodromos. Kyanokranos is the Greek word for a UN peace-keeper, while kyanolefki is the synechdochical term for the Greek flag. The list is endless, I am just trying to give a small and, hopefully, representative, sample here.

BTW - have you ever read/heard about the Law of the Alexandrian Philologists? It states one of the major phonemic changes in Greek, that took place approx. 3 centuries BC. This law formulates the change reflected in the modern pronunciation of the letter B as vita, as opposed to the Classical be:ta.

Modern Greek vocabulary is a treasure chest of Classical, Koine, Medieval/Byzantine, & Foreign morpho-phonemic heritage. In the same breath, a MG speaker will say tzaki (of Turkish origin), keik (of English/Germanic origin), eisodos (Classical word for “entrance”), thalassa (pre-hellenic word for “sea”) as well as pontos/pelagos (Indo-European words for “open sea”).

Please let me know if I could answer any more questions… Assuming that I did answer some with this posting! :slight_smile:

Satygrahi here. Let me add a couple thoughts.

First, English has changed vastly more in the last 800 years than Greek has in the last 3000. Modern Greek high-school students can read and understand CG with some recourse to the dictionary…and that’s not true of modern American H.S. students with regard to untranslated Chaucer.

Second, I understand that modern Greek students reading CG literature will pronounce it in the modern way. The “correct” CG pronunciation is of interest only to linguistic scholars…especially since no one today is absolutely sure just how CG was pronounced. The German scholar Erasmus, in the 15th Cent., instituted a reasonable system of pronunciation that we now use with regard to CG…but no one followed around Plato with a tape recorder…so we just don’t know for sure.

Third, Mrs. Satyagrahi laughs at me every time I try to speak Greek…because I use the Erasmian pronunciation and sound so “archaic.” :slight_smile:

Fourth, just imagine all the great MG swear words I’ve picked up in the last year. You don’t get that in school! :slight_smile:

OK, I see what you mean. :slight_smile:
I noticed, incidentally, that the New Testament rendered into Modern Greek seems different from the W&H text I mentioned; offhand I can think of one case in point: John 1:1,2, in which the koine text uses the accusative, pros ton theon, while the modern Greek–and the MG grammars I’ve seen make a point that “Dative” is not used in the Demotic language–uses the dative, para to theo. (Including the “improper diphthongs” on the article and the noun.)
I’ve certainly noticed that Cecil himself commented on the efforts by French “activists” to purge American English usage from French. (In a humorous trivia book, Will Eisner noted such usage had even permeated Soviet Russian!)
But your point about MG and the classical language is well taken. Nai. :slight_smile:

That’s pretty good. I would say that speakers of English cannot make the same claim. :wink: