Pontic Greek
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Pontic Greek
Pontic Greek
Regionoriginally the Pontus on the Black Sea coast; Russia, Georgia, and Turkey
Native speakers
778,000 (2009-2015)[1]
Greek; Latin; Cyrillic
Language codes
This article contains IPA phonetic symbols. Without proper rendering support, you may see question marks, boxes, or other symbols instead of Unicode characters. For an introductory guide on IPA symbols, see Help:IPA.

Pontic Greek (Greek: , Pontiakí diálektos; Pontic Greek: , Pontiakón lalían) is a Greek dialect originally spoken in the Pontus area on the southern shores of the Black Sea, northeastern Anatolia, the Eastern Turkish/Caucasus province of Kars, southern Georgia and today mainly in northern Greece. Its speakers are referred to as Pontic Greeks or Pontian Greeks.

The linguistic lineage of Pontic Greek stems from Ionic Greek via Koine and Byzantine Greek, and contains influences from Georgian, Russian, Turkish and Armenian.

Pontic Greek is an endangered Indo-European language spoken by about 778,000 people worldwide.[1] However, only 200,000-300,000 are considered active speakers.[3] Although it is mainly spoken in Northern Greece, it is also spoken in Turkey, Russia, Armenia, Georgia and Kazakhstan and by the Pontic diaspora. The language was brought to Greece in the 1920s after the expulsion of the Christian Pontic Greeks from their homeland during the 1923 population exchange between Greece and Turkey. However, it is still spoken in pockets of the Pontus today, mostly by Pontic Greek Muslims in the eastern districts of Trabzon Province. Pontic Greek is considered a dialect of modern Greek, although reportedly, the speakers of each do not fully understand each other.[4] It is primarily written in the Greek script, while in Turkey and Ukraine the Latin script is used more frequently.


Pontic Greek is classified as an Indo-European, Greek language of the Attic-Ionic branch.[1]


Historically the speakers of Pontic Greek called it Romeyka (or Romeika, Greek: ), which, in a more general sense, is also a historical and colloquial term for Modern Greek as a whole. The term "Pontic" originated in scholarly usage, but it has been adopted as a mark of identity by Pontic Greeks living in Greece.[5]

Similarly, in Turkish, the language is called Rumca (pronounced ['?umda]), derived from the Turkish word Rum, denoting ethnic Greeks living in Turkey in general; the term also includes other Greek speakers in Turkey such as those from Istanbul or Imbros (Gökçeada) who speak a language close to Standard Modern Greek.[6]

Today's Pontic speakers living in Turkey call their language Romeyka, Rumca or Rumcika.[6]


Similar to most modern Greek dialects, Pontic Greek is mainly derived from Koine Greek, which was spoken in the Hellenistic and Roman times between the 4th century BC and the 4th century AD. Following the Seljuk invasion of Asia Minor during the 11th century AD, Pontus became isolated from many of the regions of the Byzantine Empire.[7] The Pontians remained somewhat isolated from the mainland Greeks, causing Pontic Greek to develop separately and distinctly from the rest of the mainland Greek.[8] However, the language has also been influenced by the nearby Persian, Caucasian and Turkish languages.


Greek linguist Manolis Triantafyllidis has divided the Pontic of Turkey into two groups:

  • the Western group (Oinountiac or Niotika) around Oenoe (Turkish Ünye);
  • the Eastern group, which is again subdivided into:
    • the coastal subgroup (Trapezountiac) around Trebizond (Ancient Greek Trapezous) and
    • the inland subgroup (Chaldiot) in Chaldia (around Argyroupolis [Gümü?hane] and Kanin in Pontic), its vicinity (Kelkit, Baibourt, etc.), and around Kotyora (Ordu).

Speakers of Chaldiot were the most numerous. In phonology, some varieties of Pontic are reported to demonstrate vowel harmony, a well-known feature of Turkish (Mirambel 1965).

Outside Turkey one can distinguish:

  • the Northern group (Mariupol Greek or Rumeíka), originally spoken in Crimea, but now principally in Mariupol, where the majority of Crimean Pontic Greeks of the Rumaiic subgroup now live. Other Pontic Greeks speak Crimean Tatar as their mother tongue, and are classified as "Urums". There are approximately half a dozen dialects of Crimean (Mariupolitan) Pontic Greek spoken.
    • Soviet Rumaiic, a Soviet variant of the Pontic Greek language spoken by the Pontic Greek population of the Soviet Union.


The inhabitants of the Of valley who had converted to Islam in the 17th century remained in Turkey and have partly retained the Pontic language until today.[9][10][11][12] Their dialect, which forms part of the Trapezountiac subgroup, is called "Ophitic" by linguists, but speakers generally call it Romeyka. As few as 5,000 people are reported to speak it.[13][14] There are however estimates that show the real number of the speakers as considerably higher.[6] Speakers of Ophitic/Romeyka are concentrated in the eastern districts of Trabzon province: Çaykara (Katohor), Dernekpazar? (Kondu), Sürmene (Sourmena) and Köprüba (Göne?era). Although less widespread, it is still spoken in some remote villages of the Of district itself. It is also spoken in the western ?kizdere (Dipotamos) district of Rize province. Historically the dialect was spoken in a wider area, stretching further east to the port town of Athina (Pazar).

Ophitic has retained the infinitive, which is present in Ancient Greek but has been lost in other variants of Modern Greek; it has therefore been characterized as "archaic" or conservative (even in relation to other Pontic dialects) and as the living language that is closest to Ancient Greek.[13][14]

A very similar dialect is spoken by descendants of Christians from the Of valley (especially from Kondu) now living in Greece in the village of Nea Trapezounta, Pieria, Central Macedonia, with about 400 speakers.[15][16][17]

Geographic distribution

Though Pontic was originally spoken on the southern shores of the Black Sea, from the 18th and 19th century and on substantial numbers migrated into the northern and eastern shores, into the Russian Empire. Pontic is still spoken by large numbers of people in Ukraine, mainly in Mariupol, but also in other parts of Ukraine such as the Odessa and Donetsk region, in Russia (around Stavropol) and Georgia. The language enjoyed some use as a literary medium in the 1930s, including a school grammar (Topkharas 1998 [1932]).

After the massacres of the 1910s, the majority of speakers remaining in Asia Minor were subject to the Treaty of Lausanne population exchange, and were resettled in Greece (mainly northern Greece). A second wave of migration occurred in the early 1990s, this time from countries of the former Soviet Union.[18]

In Greece, Pontic is now many times used only emblematically rather than as a medium of communication due to the mixing of Pontic and other Greeks.[]

Official status


In Greece, Pontic has no official status, like all other Greek dialects.

Soviet Union

Historically, Pontic Greek was the de facto language of the Greek minority in the USSR, although in the ? (Pansyndesmiakí Sýskepsi, All-Union Conference) of 1926, organised by the Greek-Soviet intelligentsia, it was decided that Demotic should be the official language of the community.[22]

Later revival of Greek identity in the Soviet Union and post-Communist Russia saw a renewed division on the issue of Rumaiic versus Demotic. A new attempt to preserve a sense of ethnic Rumaiic identity started in the mid-1980s. The Ukrainian scholar Andriy Biletsky created a new Slavonic alphabet, but though a number of writers and poets make use of this alphabet, the population of the region rarely uses it.[23]


The language has a rich oral tradition and folklore and Pontic songs are particularly popular in Greece. There is also some limited production of modern literature in Pontic, including poetry collections (among the most renowned writers is Kostas Diamantidis), novels, and translated Asterix comic albums.[24] The youth often speak standard Greek as their first language. The use of Pontic has been maintained more by speakers in North America than it has in Greece.[1]


Pontic, in Greece, is written in the Greek alphabet, with diacritics: for /? ? k? p?/, for [æ ø] (phonological /ia io/). Pontic, in Turkey, is written in the Latin alphabet following Turkish conventions. In Russia, it is written in the Cyrillic alphabet[]. In early Soviet times, Pontic was written in the Greek alphabet phonetically, as shown below, using digraphs instead of diacritics; [æ ø] were written out as , .

IPA Example
? ? A a ? ? ?, romeyika, ??
? ? V v ? ? ??, kativeno, ??
? ? ? ? ? ? ?, ?anevo, ?
? ? DH dh ? ? ??, dhonti, ??
? ? E e ? ? ?, e?apesa, ?
? ? Z z ? ? ?, zantos, ?
J j ? ? , burjuvas, ?
? ? TH th ? ?, ? ?, ? ? ?, theko, ?
? ? ? i ? ? ??, tospitopon, ??
? ? K k ? ? ?, kalaceman, ?
? ? L l ? ? ??, lalia, ??
? ? M m ? ? ?, mana, ?
? ? N n ? ? ?, olin, ?
? ? O o ? ? ???, temeteron, ???
? ? P p ? ? ?, e?apesa, ?
? ? R r ? ? ?, romeyika, ?
? ? S s ? ? ?, kalacepson, ??
? ? ? ? , ?eri, ?
? ? T t ? ? ?, nostimesa, ?
C c ? ? ??, kalaceman, ???
Ç ç ? ? ??, maniça, ???
? ? U u ? ? ???, nus, ???
? ? F f ? ? ???, emorfa, ???
? ? H, KH (sert H) ? ? ??, hason, ??


The following are features of Pontic Greek which have been retained from early forms of Greek, in contrast to the developments of Modern Greek.


  • Preservation of the ancient pronunciation of '?' as '?' ( = , ? = ?, = , ? = (?), ? = ?, ? = ?, = etc.).
  • Preservation of the ancient pronunciation '?' as 'o' where Koine Greek received it as '' ( = , ?, etc.).
  • Preservation of the Ionic consonant pair '' instead of Koine '' (, , ).

Declension of nouns and adjectives

  • Preservation of the ancient nominative suffix -? in neuter diminutive nouns from Ancient Greek '-' (?, ; Pontic , ).
  • Preservation of the termination of feminine compound adjectives in - (? , ? ?, ? ?).
  • The declension of masculine nouns from singular, nominative termination '-' to genitive '-?' (? ? -> , ? -> , ? -> ?, ? ? -> etc.).
  • The ancient accenting of nouns in vocative form: , , .

Conjugation of verbs

  • The second aorist form in - (?, , , , , ).
  • The middle voice verb termination in - (, , ).
  • The passive voice aorist termination in - (anc. -), , etc.
  • The imperative form of passive aorist in -? (anc -?): , ?, .
  • The sporadic use of infinitives (, , ', ', ', , ).
  • Pontic en ("is") from Koine idiomatic form enesti (standard Ancient Greek esti), compare the Biblical form eni ("there is"), Modern Greek ine ()


  • The sporadic use of '' in the place of '': ?.
  • Pontic temeteron ("ours") from Ancient Greek ton hemeteron in contrast to Modern Greek ton [...] mas.

Comparison with Ancient Greek

1. Attachment of the /e/ sound to the ancient infinitive suffix -, - (in Trapezountiac Pontic)
2. Preservation of the Ancient infinitive suffix -?
? ?
? ?
? ?
? ?
3. Ancient first aorist infinitive suffix - has been replaced by second aorist suffix -
4. Attachment of the /e/ sound to the ancient aorist infinitive suffix -
?, , , , , ?,
5. Same aorist suffix - (- was also the regular perfect suffix)
6. Ancient Greek -ein (-) infinitive > Pontic Greek -eane (-?) infinitive

See also


  1. ^ a b c d "Pontic". Ethnologue. Retrieved .
  2. ^ Hammarström, Harald; Forkel, Robert; Haspelmath, Martin, eds. (2017). "Pontic". Glottolog 3.0. Jena, Germany: Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History.
  3. ^ "Topicalisation in Pontic Greek".
  4. ^ "Pontic | Ethnologue". ethnologue.
  5. ^ Drettas 1997, page 19.
  6. ^ a b c Özkan, Hakan (2013). "The Pontic Greek spoken by Muslims in the villages of Be?köy in the province of present-day Trabzon". Byzantine and Modern Greek Studies. 37 (1): 130-150. doi:10.1179/0307013112z.00000000023.
  7. ^ PontosWorld. "Development of the Pontic Greek Dialect". pontosworld.com. Retrieved .
  8. ^ "The Pontic Dialect: A Corrupt Version of Ancient Greek The Odyssey of the Pontic Greeks". heinonline.org. Retrieved .
  9. ^ Mackridge, Peter (1987). "Greek-Speaking Moslems of North-East Turkey: Prolegomena to a Study of the Ophitic Sub-Dialect of Pontic". Byzantine and Modern Greek Studies. 11 (1): 115-137. doi:10.1179/030701387790203037.
  10. ^ Asan, Omer (2000) [1996]. Pontos Kültürü [Pontos Culture] (in Turkish) (2nd ed.). Istambul: Belge Yay?nlar?. ISBN 975-344-220-3.
  11. ^ Özkan, H. (2013). Blume, Horst D.; Lienau, Cay (eds.). Muslimisch-Pontisch und die Sprachgemeinschaft des Pontisch-Griechischen im heutigen Trabzon [Muslim-Pontic and the language community of Pontic Greek in today's Trabzon]. Choregia - Münstersche Griechenland-Studien. 11. Lienau, C. pp. 115-137. ISBN 978-3-934017-15-3.
  12. ^ "The cost of language, Pontiaka trebizond Greek". Archived from the original on 2013-04-11. Retrieved .
  13. ^ a b "Against all odds: archaic Greek in a modern world | University of Cambridge". July 2010. Retrieved .
  14. ^ a b Jason and the argot: land where Greek's ancient language survives, The Independent, Monday, 3 January 2011.
  15. ^ Anthi Revythiadou and Vasileios Spyropoulos (2009): "? : ? " [Ophitic Pontic: A documentation project with special emphasis on the diachrony and synchrony of the dialect] "www.latsis-foundation.org" (PDF) (in Greek). Archived from the original (PDF) on 2012-01-31. Retrieved .
  16. ^ Revythiadou, A.; Spyropoulos, V. (2012). ?: ? [Ofitica Pontic: Aspects of the Grammar of a Pontic Dialect] (in Greek). Thessaloniki: ? . ISBN 978-960-467-344-5.
  17. ^ Revythiadou, A.; Spyropoulos, V.; Kakarikos, K. (1912). "? : M " [The identity of ophitic pontic: A linguistic study of its sources and its speakers] (PDF). ? ? (in Greek). 17: 217-275.[permanent dead link]
  18. ^ Selm, Joanne van (2003). The Refugee Convention at fifty: a view from forced migration studies. Lexington, Mass: Lexington Books. p. 72. ISBN 0-7391-0565-5.[1]
  19. ^ a b "Romeika - Pontic Greek (tr)". Karalahana.com. Archived from the original on 2014-02-25. Retrieved .
  20. ^ "News and Events: Endangered language opens window on to past". University of Cambridge. 2011-01-04. Retrieved .
  21. ^ "Pontic Greek (Trabzon Of dialect) - Turkish Dictionary (tr)". Karalahana.com. Archived from the original on 2008-03-12. Retrieved .
  22. ^ ? (in Greek). Archived from the original on 2011-07-21. Retrieved .
  23. ^ Survey carried out in 2001-2004, organized by St. Petersburg State University
  24. ^ Asterix in Pontic Greek Archived 2012-10-05 at the Wayback Machine.


  • Georges Drettas, Aspects pontiques, ARP, 1997, ISBN 2-9510349-0-3. "... marks the beginning of a new era in Greek dialectology. Not only is it the first comprehensive grammar of Pontic not written in Greek, but it is also the first self-contained grammar of any Greek 'dialect' written, in the words of Bloomfield, 'in terms of its own structure'." (Janse)
  • Berikashvili, Svetlana. 2017. Morphological aspects of Pontic Greek spoken in Georgia. LINCOM GmbH. ISBN 978-3862888528
  • Özhan Öztürk, Karadeniz: Ansiklopedik Sözlük. 2 Cilt. Heyamola Yay?nc?l?k. ?stanbul, 2005. ISBN 975-6121-00-9
  • , ?.?. 1988. ? . . (Tompaidis, D.E. 1988. The Pontic Dialect. Athens: Archeion Pontou.)
  • , ?.?. ? ?, ?.?. 2002. ? ? ?.?. . . (Tompaidis, D.E. and Simeonidis, C.P. 2002. Additions to the Historical Lexicon of the Pontic Dialect of A.A. Papadopoulos. Athens: Archeion Pontou.)
  • , ?.?. 1955. ? . ? ?. (Papadopoulos, A.A. 1955. Historical Grammar of the Pontic Dialect. Athens: Committee for Pontian Studies.)
  • , ?.?. 1958-61. ? . 2 . ?. (Papadopoulos, A.A. 1958-61. Historical Lexicon of the Pontic Dialect. 2 volumes. Athens: Mirtidis.)
  • , ?.?. 1958. ? . ? . (Oikonomidis, D.I. 1958. Grammar of the Greek Dialect of Pontos. Athens: Athens Academy.)
  • , . 1998 [1932]. ? ? ? . . (Topcharas, K. 1998 [1932]. The Grammar of Pontic. Thessaloniki: Afoi Kiriakidi.)

External links

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