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Katharevousa (Greek: , pronounced [ka?a'revusa], literally "purifying [language]") is a conservative form of the Modern Greek language conceived in the late 18th century as a compromise between Ancient Greek and the Demotic Greek of the time. Originally, it was widely used for both literary and official purposes, though seldom in daily language. In the 20th century, it was increasingly adopted for official and formal purposes, until minister of education Georgios Rallis made Demotic Greek the official language of Greece in 1976, and in 1982 Prime Minister Andreas Papandreou abolished the polytonic system of writing for both Demotic and Katharevousa.

Katharevousa was conceived by the intellectual and revolutionary leader Adamantios Korais (1748-1833).[1] A graduate of the University of Montpellier, Korais spent most of his life as an expatriate in Paris. Being a classical scholar, he was repelled by the Byzantine and later influence on Greek society and was a fierce critic of the clergy and their alleged subservience to the Ottoman Empire.[2] He held that education was a prerequisite to Greek liberation.

Part of Katharevousa's purpose was to mediate the struggle between the "archaists" favouring full reversion to archaic forms and the "modernists".


Although Katharevousa was introduced relatively recently, the concept of a conservative literary version of Greek had been present since the times of Koine Greek, with there being a tendency towards a state of diglossia between the Attic literary language and the constantly developing spoken Koine, which eventually evolved into Demotic Greek. Medieval Greek texts and documents of the Byzantine Empire were almost always written in conservative literary Greek. Examples of texts written in vernacular Greek prior to the 13th century are very rare.[3] It can be argued that the establishment of Katharevousa was an official declaration and standardization of the conservative form of Greek, which had already existed in one way or another.

The first known use of the term Katharevousa is in a work by the Greek polymath Nikephoros Theotokis, in 1796.[4]

Katharevousa was widely used in public documents and whatever was conceived as work of formal activity by Greek scholars. The name Katharevousa implies a pure form of Greek as it might hypothetically have evolved from ancient Greek without external influences, while in its modern connotation the word has come to mean "formal language".

In later years, Katharevousa was used for official and formal purposes (such as politics, letters, official documents, and newscasting), while Demotic Greek (, dimotiki) or popular Greek, was the daily language. This created a diglossic situation whereby most of the Greek population was excluded from the public sphere and advancement in education unless they conformed to Katharevousa. In 1976, Demotic was made the official language, and in 1982 Andreas Papandreou abolished the polytonic system of writing; by the end of the 20th century full Katharevousa in its earlier form had become obsolete. Much of the vocabulary of Katharevousa and its grammatical and syntactical rules have influenced the Demotic language, so that the project's emphasis has made an observable contribution to the language as it is used today. Modern Greek might be argued to be a combination of the original Demotic and the traditional Katharevousa as stressed in the 19th century, also with institutional input from Koine Greek. Amongst Katharevousa's later contributions is the promotion of classically based compounds to describe items and concepts that did not exist in earlier times, such as "newspaper", "police", "automobile", "aeroplane", "television" and many others, rather than borrowing new words directly from other languages.


Katharevousa (Greek: ) is the feminine present participle of the verb katharévo (Greek: , pronounced [ka?a'revo], literally "cleanse, purify, clean"), related to the Greek word catharsis.

Present-day use

The Church of Greece and other churches of the Greek Orthodox tradition still use Katharevousa in official communications.[5]

Text sample

This is a text sample of Katharevousa from the Great Greek Encyclopedia, published in 1930. The text has to do with Adamantios Korais's relations with the Greek Church. It is rendered in Demotic and translated into English.

  • Katharevousa: ? ?' ? ? ? ? ? ? ? . ? ? , ? , ? ?, ? ? ? .[6]
H? d' apò ts Helládos apod?mía tou egéneto próxenos polln adík?n kríse?n perì pros?p?n kaì pragmát?n kaì prta prta ts perì hs an?tér? égine lógos pròs tòn klron symperiphorâs tou. Àn éz? en Helládi kaì ?rcheto eis epikoin?nían pròs tòn klron kaì egn?rizen ek toû pl?síon óchi mónon tàs kakías, allà kaì tàs aretàs autoû, óchi mónon pol? thà synetélei eis diórth?sín tin?n ek tn kakn en ti Ekkl?sí?i echónt?n, allà kaì dèn thà ?kouen hósa ?kousen ek tn hyperbolikn katà toû kl?rou ekphráse?n tou.
  • Standard Modern Greek: ? ? ? , , ? . ? ? ? ? , ? , ? ? ? ? ? ? , ? .
? apod?mía tou apó t?n Elláda égine próxenos poll?n ádik?n kríse?n gia prós?pa kai prágmata kai pr?ta pr?ta, gia t?n opoía égine lógos parapán?, t?s symperiphorás tou pros ton kl?ro. An zoúse st?n Elláda kai erchótan se epikoin?nía me ton kl?ro kai gn?rize apó kontá óchi móno tis kakíes, allá kai tis aretés autoú, óchi móno tha synteloúse polý st? diórth?s? merik?n apó ta kaká pou ypárchoun st?n Ekkl?sía, allá kai den tha ákouge ósa ákouse exaitías t?n yperbolik?n ekphráse?n tou enantíon tou kl?rou.
  • English: His expatriation from Greece was a cause for many unjust judgements about situations and people and mainly for his behaviour towards the clergy, which was discussed above. If he had lived in Greece and been in contact with the clergy and known closely not only its turpitude but also its virtues, not only would he have contributed greatly to correcting some of the problems within the Church, but also would not have listened to all that he listened to due to his exaggerated sentiments against the clergy.

See also

Similar movements


  1. ^ Stavro Skendi (April 1975). "Language as a Factor of National Identity in the Balkans of the Nineteenth Century". Proceedings of the American Philosophical Society. 119 (2): 186-189. JSTOR 986634.
  2. ^ Adamantios Korais, ?, pages 3sq.
  3. ^ Toufexis, Notis (18 July 2013). "Byzantine and Modern Greek Studies". Diglossia and Register Variation in Medieval Greek. 32: 203-217. doi:10.1179/174962508X322687.
  4. ^ The Phenomenon of Diglossia: Language and National Identity, interview with Peter Mackridge
  5. ^ Argyropoulou, Christina (2015): ? ? ? ? ? ?. ? 7: 52-69.
  6. ^ Great Greek Encyclopedia, Vol. XIV, 1930, p. 864.

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