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Demotic Greek or Dimotiki (Greek: , Dimotikí Glóssa, [ðimoti'ci], lit. "language of the people") is a term used in contrast with Katharevousa to describe the colloquial vernacular form of Modern Greek which had evolved naturally from Koine Greek and was spoken by the vast majority of Greeks in Greece during the time of diglossia in the modern Greek state from the time of its founding in 1821 until the resolution of the Greek language question in 1976.[1] In this context Dimotiki describes the specific non-standardized vernacular forms of Greek used by the vast majority of Greeks throughout the 19th and 20th centuries.[2] During this long period of diglossia Katharevousa and Dimotiki complemented and influenced each other, as is typical of diglossic situations. Dimotiki became standardized over time and it was this standardized from of Dimotiki which in 1976 was made the official language of Greece. This standardized form of Dimotiki is today known formally as Standard Modern Greek. The term demotic Greek (with a lowercased d) is also a term used generally to refer to any variety of the Greek language which has evolved naturally from Ancient Greek and is popularly spoken.

Basic features of Dimotiki

Demotic Greek differs from varieties of Ancient Greek and learned forms inherited from the same in several important ways. Syntactically, it favors parataxis over subordination. It also heavily employs redundancy, such as (small little-girl) and ? ? (he-went-back-to-sleep again). Somewhat in connection with this, Demotic employs the diminutive with great frequency,[3]:XI to the point that many Demotic forms are in effect neuter diminutives of ancient words, especially irregular ones, e.g. ? or (island) from ancient ? (island).

Greek noun declensions underwent considerable alteration, with irregular and less productive forms being gradually replaced by more regular forms based on the old one: (man) for ancient ?. Another feature was the merging of classical accusative and nominative forms, distinguishing them only by their definite articles, which continued to be declined as in Ancient Greek. This was especially common with nouns of the third declension, such as (hometown, fatherland) which became nominative ? ?, accusative ? in Demotic.[3]:X Another feature of the evolution of Demotic was the near-extinction of the genitive plural, which was revived in Katharevousa and is now productive again in Demotic.[]

A derivative feature of this regularization of noun forms in Demotic is that the words of most native vocabulary end in a vowel, or in a very restricted set of consonants: s and n (?, ?). Exceptions are foreign loans like ? (bar), and learned forms ? (from Ancient Greek ?, water), and exclamations like ! (ach!, oh!) Many dialects go so far as to append the vowel -e (?) to third-person verb forms: instead of ? (they write). Word-final consonant clusters are also rare, again mainly occurring in learned discourse and via foreign loans: (coal - scientific) and ? (boxing - sport).[4]:8-9

Indirect object is usually expressed by with the accusative where Ancient Greek had for accusative of motion toward; bare is used without the article to express indefiniteness duration of time, or contracted with the definite article for definiteness especially with regard to place where or motion toward; or with the genitive, especially with regard to means or instrument.[3]:X Using one noun with an unmarked accusative article-noun phrase followed by contracted with the definite article of a second noun distinguishes between definite direct and indirect objects, whether real or figurative, e.g. «? ? » or «... » (lit. I put my hand upon the Gospel or ...in the fire, i.e. I swear it's true, I'm sure of it). By contrast, Katharevousa continued to employ the ancestral form, , in place of .[]

The verb system inherited from Ancient Greek gradually evolved, with the old future, perfect and pluperfect tenses gradually disappearing; they were replaced with conjugated forms of the verb (I have) to denote these tenses instead. The future tenses and the subjunctive and optative moods, and eventually the infinitive, were replaced by the modal/tense auxiliaries and used with new simplified and fused future/subjunctive forms.[3]:X In contrast to this, Katharevousa employed older perfective forms and infinitives that had been for the most part lost in the spoken language[], but in other cases it employed the same aorist or perfective forms as the spoken language, but preferred an archaizing form of the present indicative, e.g. for Demotic (I hide), which both have the same aorist form .[3]:XI

Demotic Greek also borrowed a significant number of words from other languages such as Italian and Turkish, something which katharevousa avoided.

Dimotiki and "Standard Modern Greek"

Dimotiki is sometimes used interchangeably with "Standard Modern Greek" ( ), but these two terms are not necessarily synonymous. While in Greek the term (Dimotikí) can describe any naturally evolved colloquial language of the Greeks, today's Standard Modern Greek language can be thought of specifically as a fusion of Katharevousa and the specific Dimotiki spoken by in Greece in the 20th century.[1] It is not wrong to call the Greek language of today "a demotic Greek", but such terminology may lead to confusion with the semi-standardized Dimotiki which was in use during the period of diglossia in Greece and is not identical to today's Standard Modern Greek.

Referring to Standard Modern Greek as Dimotiki or Demotic Greek (with a capital "D") also ignores the fact that today's Greek contains--especially in its written form and formal registers--numerous words, grammatical forms, and phonetical features that did not exist in the Dimotiki and which only entered the language through Dimotiki's merger with Katharevousa as part of the resolution of the Greek language question.

Examples of Modern Greek features that did not exist in Dimotiki

The following examples are intended to demonstrate Katharevousa's features in Modern Greek. They were not present in traditional Demotic and only entered the modern language through Katharevousa (sometimes as neologisms), where they are used mostly in writing (for instance, in newspapers), but also orally, especially words and fixed expressions are both understood and actively used also by non-educated speakers. In some cases, the Demotic form is used for literal or practical meanings, while the Katharevousa is used for figurative or specialized meanings: e.g. for the wing or feather of a bird, but for the wing of a building or airplane or arm of an organisation.[3]:180:203

Words and fixed expressions

  • ? (interesting)
  • (at least)
  • ? (he abducted her)
  • ? ... (it is a fact that ...)
  • ? (for now)
  • (figurative, I wash my hands [of him, her, it]); adapted from the Ancient Greek phrase describing Pontius Pilate washing his hands at Matthew 27:24; for actual hand-washing, the Demotic phrase is .[3]:xii

Special dative forms:

  • ? (thank God)
  • ? ... (in the name [of] ...)
  • ? (in cash)
  • (following)
  • (meanwhile)
  • (in ignorance [of])
  • ? (moreover)
  • ? (working, literally on the deed)
  • ? (percent, literally in a hundred)
  • (with [one's] own hands)

Grammatical (morphological) features

  • Adjectives ending in -, -?, - (e.g. ? interesting) or in -, -, - (e.g. thoughtful) - mostly in written language.
  • Declinable aorist participle, e.g. (having delivered), ([having been] born) - mostly in written language.
  • Reduplication in the perfect. E.g. ? (invited), (obsolete)

Phonological features

Modern Greek features many letter combinations that were avoided in classical Demotic:

  • -- (e.g. "misdemeanor"); Demotic preferred -- (e.g. "to err || to be guilty")
  • -- (e.g. ? "building, structure"); Demotic preferred -- [e.g. "(stone)mason"]
  • -- (e.g. ? "falsity, lie"); Demotic preferred -- (e.g. ? "liar")
  • -- (e.g. ? / ? "I was sufficed / satisfied"); Demotic preferred -- (e.g. ?)
  • -- (e.g. (?) "yesterday"); Demotic preferred -- [e.g. (?)]
  • etc.

Native Greek speakers often make mistakes in these "educated" aspects of their language; one can often see mistakes like ? instead of (I've been promoted), /? instead of ? (due to the fact that), ? ? instead of ? (the interesting person), ? instead of ? (the interesting women), ? instead of ? (the vote). However, the educated ones do not make mistakes often.[]

Radical demoticism

One of the most radical proponents of a language that was to be cleansed of all "educated" elements was Giannis Psycharis, who lived in France and gained fame through his work My Voyage ( T M, 1888). Not only did Psycharis propagate the exclusive use of the naturally grown colloquial language, but he actually opted for simplifying the morphology of Katharevousa forms prescription.[]

For instance, Psycharis proposed changing the form of the neuter noun "light" (gen. ) into ? (gen. ). Such radical forms had occasional precedent in Renaissance attempts to write in Demotic, and reflected Psycharis' linguistic training as a Neogrammarian, mistrusting the possibility of exceptions in linguistic evolution. Moreover, Psycharis also advocated spelling reform, which would have meant abolishing most of the six different ways to write the vowel /i/ and all instances of double consonants. Therefore, he wrote his own name as , instead of ?.[]

As written and spoken Dimotiki became standardized over the next few decades, many compromises were made with Katharevousa (as is reflected in contemporary standard Greek) despite the loud objections of Psycharis and the radical "psycharist" () camp within the proponents of Dimotiki's use. Eventually these ideas of radical demoticism were largely marginalized and when a standardized Dimotiki was made the official language of the Greek state in 1976, the legislation stated that Dimotiki would be used "without dialectal and extremist forms"[5]--an explicit rejection of Psycharis' ideals.


  1. ^ a b "Demotic Greek language". Encyclopedia Britannica. Retrieved .
  2. ^ Babiniotis, Georgios (2002). Lexiko tis neas ellinikis glossas [Dictionary of the new Greek language] (in Greek). Athens. p. 474.
  3. ^ a b c d e f g Pring, J.T. The Pocket Oxford Greek Dictionary. (New York: 1965 & 1982; 2000 ed.)
  4. ^ Mackridge, Peter; Philippaki-Warburton, Irene (1997). Greek: a Comprehensive Grammar of the Modern Language. New York: Routledge. ISBN 0-41510002-X.
  5. ^ N. 390 Art. 2 (2) ? ? ? [ Concerning the organisation and administration of General Instruction] of 1976-04-30

    ? ? ? ? ? ? ? , , ? ? . The Modern Demotic Greek language of the revered writers of the Nation, in such forms as are intelligible in a panhellenic expressive medium by the Greek people, coherent, without dialectal and extremist forms.

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