Pontic Greek

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Pontic Greek
Region originally the Pontus on the Black Sea coast; Greek Macedonia
Native speakers
1.2 million (2009)[1]
Greek; Latin; Cyrillic
Language codes
ISO 639-3 pnt
Glottolog pont1253[2]
Linguasphere 56-AAA-aj
This article contains IPA phonetic symbols. Without proper rendering support, you may see question marks, boxes, or other symbols instead of Unicode characters.

Pontic Greek (ποντιακά, pontiaká) is a Greek language 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. The linguistic lineage of Pontic Greek stems from Ionic Greek via Koine and Byzantine Greek and contains influences from Georgian, Russian, Turkish and to a lesser extent, Persian (via Ottoman Turkish) and various Caucasian languages. Its Ophitic variant has been identified as the living language that is closest to Ancient Greek. Its speakers are referred to as Pontic Greeks or Pontian Greeks.

Closely related Greek dialects are spoken in Mariupolis (and formerly in Crimea), Ukraine (see Greeks in Ukraine and Mariupolitan Greek), in Georgia and in the former Russian Caucasus province of Kars Oblast: linguistic practice varies on whether they should be classified as "Pontic". The speakers of these dialects, depending on where they live, are referred to either as eastern Pontic Greeks or as Caucasus Greeks.

Pontic is also closely related to Cappadocian Greek.[citation needed]


Historically the speakers of Pontic Greek called it Romeyka (Romeika, Greek: Ρωμαίικα), 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.[3]

Similarly, in Turkish, the language is called Rumca (pronounced [ˈɾumd͡ʒa]), 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.[4]

Today's Pontic speakers living in Turkey call their language Romeyka, Rumca or Rumcika.[4]


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

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:

  • 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 Sovietized variant of the Pontic Greek language spoken by the Pontic Greek population of the Soviet Union. The Bolsheviks formed and created a "Soviet" variant of the Pontic dialect against the modern Demotic Greek language of Greece, as Demotic Greek was viewed as a "capitalist variant" of the Greek language. This was also designed to make the Pontic Greeks, who then constituted a majority of the Greek-speaking population of the Soviet Union, a unique Greek subgroup.[citation needed]


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. [5][6][7][8] 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.[9][10] There are however estimates that show the real number of the speakers as considerably higher.[4]

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" (even in relation to other Pontic dialects) and as the living language that is closest to Ancient Greek.[9][10]

A very similar dialect is spoken by descendants of Christians from the Of valley now living in Greece in the village of Nea Trapezounta, Pieria, (Central Macedonia), with about 400 speakers.[11][12][13]

Geographic distribution[edit]

Though Pontic was originally spoken on the southern shores of the Black Sea, substantial numbers migrated into the northern and eastern shores, into the Russian Empire of the 18th and 19th century. Pontic is still spoken by large numbers of people in Ukraine: mainly Mariupol, but also other places in Ukraine such as Odessa and Donetsk, Russia (around Stavropol) and Georgia. The language enjoyed some use as a literary medium in the 1930s, including a school grammar (Topkhara 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 the former Soviet Union.[14]

In Greece, Pontic is now used mainly emblematically rather than as a medium of communication.[citation needed]

mostly in Macedonia (East, Central and West) and in Attica[15]
mostly in eastern Black Sea Region and in Istanbul[16][15][17]

Official status[edit]


In Greece, Pontic has no official status. Pontic Greeks expelled from their homeland and arriving in Greece in 1923 were encouraged to assimilate and give up their separate identity.[citation needed]

Soviet Union[edit]

Historically, Pontic Greek was the de facto language of the Greek minority in the USSR, although in the Πανσυνδεσμιακή Σύσκεψη (All-Union Conference) of 1926, organized by the Greek-Soviet intelligentsia, it was decided that demotic should be the official language of the community.[18]

In the 1920s, the early Bolsheviks actively encouraged a Rumaiic/Pontic Greek revival among ethnic Greeks in The Soviet Union. Promoting the Rumaiic, as against the Demotic Greek of Greece, was in effect a way of promoting a separate identity and drawing Soviet Greeks further away from the influence of capitalist Greece. The Soviet administration established a Greek-Rumaiic theater, several magazines and newspapers and a number of Rumaiic language schools. The Rumaiic poet Georgi Kostoprav created a Rumaiic poetic language for his work.[citation needed]

The policy underwent a sharp reversal in 1937.[citation needed] At the time of the Moscow Trials and the purges targeting various groups and individuals who aroused Joseph Stalin's often baseless suspicions,[citation needed] policies towards ethnic Greeks became unequivocally harsh and hostile.[citation needed] Kostoprav and many other Rumaiics were killed, and a large percentage of the population was detained and transported to Gulags or deported to remote parts of the Soviet Union.[citation needed]

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.[19]


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.[20]

Pontic alphabets[edit]

Pontic in Greece is written in historical Greek orthography, with diacritics: σ̌ ζ̌ ξ̌ ψ̌ for /ʃ ʒ kʃ pʃ/, α̈ ο̈ for [æ ø] (phonological /ia io/). Pontic in Turkey is written in Latin script following Turkish conventions, and Pontic in Russia is written in Cyrillic. In early Soviet times, Pontic was written in the Greek script phonetically, as shown below, using digraphs instead of diacritics; [æ ø] were written out as ια, ιο.

IPA Example
Α α A a А а [ä] ρομεικα, romeyika, ромейика
Β β V v В в [v] κατιβενο, kativeno, кативено
Γ γ Ğ ğ Г г [ɣ] [ʝ] γανεβο, ğanevo, ганево
Δ δ DH dh Д д [ð] δοντι, dhonti, донти
Ε ε E e Е е [] εγαπεςα, eğapesa, егапеса
Ζ ζ Z z З з [z] ζαντος, zantos, зантос
ΖΖ ζζ J j Ж ж [ʒ] πυρζζυας, burjuvas, буржуас
Θ θ TH th С с, Ф ф, Т т [θ] θεκο, theko, теко
Ι ι İ i И и [i] τοςπιτοπον, tospitopon, тоспитопон
Κ κ K k К к [k] καλατζεμαν, kalaceman, калачеман
Λ λ L l Л л [l] λαλια, lalia, лалиа
Μ μ M m М м [m] μανα, mana, мана
Ν ν N n Н н [n] ολιγον, oliğоn, олигон
Ο ο O o О о [] τεμετερον, temeteron, теметерон
Π π P p П п [p] εγαπεςα, eğapesa, егапеса
Ρ ρ R r Р р [ɾ] ρομεικα, romeyika, ромейка
Σ ς S s С с [s] καλατζεπςον, kalacepson, калачепсон
ΣΣ ςς Ş ş Ш ш [ʃ] ςςερι, şeri, шери
Τ τ T t Т т [t] νοςτιμεςα, nostimesa, ностимеса
ΤΖ τζ C c Ч ч [d͡ʒ] καλατζεμαν, kalaceman, калачеман
ΤΣ τς Ç ç Ц ц [t͡ʃ] μανιτςα, maniça, маница
Υ υ U u У у [u] νυς, nus, нус
Φ φ F f Ф ф [f] εμορφα, emorfa, эморфа
Χ χ H, KH (sert H) Х х [x] χαςον, hason, хасон


  • Preservation of the ancient pronunciation of 'η' as 'ε' (κέπιν = κήπιον, κλέφτες = κλέπτης, συνέλικος = συνήλικος, νύφε = νύ(μ)φη, έγκα = ἤνεγκον, έτον = ἦτον, έκουσα = ἤκουσα etc.).
  • Preservation of the ancient pronunciation 'ω' as 'o' where Koine Greek received it as 'ου' (ζωμίν = ζουμί, καρβώνι, ρωθώνι etc.).
  • Preservation of the ancient nominative suffix of neuter diminutive nouns in 'ιον' (παιδίον, χωρίον).
  • Preservation of the Ionic consonant pair 'σπ' instead of Koine 'σφ' (σποντύλιν, σπἰγγω, σπιντόνα).
  • Preservation of the termination of feminine compound adjectives in -ος (η άλαλος, η άνοστος, η έμορφος).
  • The declension of masculine nouns from singular, nominative termination '-ον' to genitive '-ονος' (ο νέον → τη νέονος, ο πάππον → τη πάππονος, ο λύκον → τη λύκονος, ο Τούρκον → τη Τούρκονος etc.).
  • The second aorist form in -ον (ανάμνον, μείνον, κόψον, πίσον, ράψον, σβήσον).
  • The middle voice verb termination in -ούμαι (ανακατούμαι, σκοτούμαι, στεφανούμαι).
  • The passive voice aorist termination in -θα (anc. -θην): εγαπέθα, εκοιμέθα, εστάθα etc.
  • The imperative form of passive aorist in -θετε (anc -θητι): εγαπέθετε, εκοιμέθετε, εστάθετε.
  • The sporadic use of infinitives (εποθανείναι, μαθείναι, κόψ'ναι, ράψ'ναι, χαρίσ'ναι, αγαπέθειν, κοιμεθείν).
  • The ancient accenting of nouns in vocative form: άδελφε, Νίκολα, Μάρια.
  • The sporadic use of 'ας' in the place of 'να': δός με ας τρόω.

Comparison with Ancient Greek[edit]

  • Example 1: Pontic en (is), Ancient Greek esti, Koine idiomatic form enesti, Biblical form eni ("there is"), Modern Greek ine (είναι, from the infinitive "to be")
  • Example 2: Pontic temeteron (ours), Ancient Greek to(n) hemeteron, Modern Greek to(n) * mas
  • Example 3: Pontic pedhin (child), Ancient Greek paidion, Standard Greek pedhi
  • Example 4 (combining 2 and 3): Pontic temeteron to pedin (our child), Ancient Greek/Koine to hemeteron paidion, Modern Greek to pedi mas

  • 1. Attachment of the /e/ sound to the ancient infinitive suffix –ειν (in Trapezountiac Pontic)
ipíne εἰπεῖν
pathíne παθεῖν
apothaníne ἀποθανεῖν
piíne πιεῖν
iδíne εἰδεῖν
fiíne φυγεῖν
evríne εὑρεῖν
kamíne καμεῖν
faíne φαγεῖν
mathíne μαθεῖν
erthéane ἐλθεῖν
meníne μένειν
  • 2. Similar infinitive suffix -ηναι
anevίne ἀναβῆναι
katevine καταβῆναι
embine ἐμβῆναι
evjine ἐκβῆναι
epiδeavine ἀποδιαβῆναι
kimethine κοιμηθῆναι
xtipethine κτυπηθῆναι
evrethine εὑρεθῆναι
vrasine βραχῆναι
raine ῥαγῆναι
κράξειν κράξαι
μεθύσειν μεθύσαι
  • 4. Attachment of the /e/ sound to the ancient aorist infinitive suffix –σειν

ράψεινε, κράξεινε, μεθύσεινε, καλέσεινε, λαλήσεινε, κτυπήσεινε, καθίσεινε

  • 5. Same aorist suffix –ka (–ka was also the regular perfect suffix)
eδoka ἔδωκα
enδoka ἐνέδωκα
epika ἐποίηκα
efika ἀφῆκα
ethika ἔθηκα
  • 6. Ancient Greek –ein (-εῖν) infinitive > Pontic Greek –eane (-έανε) infinitive
erthéane ἐλθεῖν

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Pontic Greek at Ethnologue (18th ed., 2015)
  2. ^ Hammarström, Harald; Forkel, Robert; Haspelmath, Martin; Bank, Sebastian, eds. (2016). "Pontic". Glottolog 2.7. Jena: Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History. 
  3. ^ Drettas 1997, page 19.
  4. ^ a b c Özkan, Hakan (2013). "The Pontic Greek spoken by Muslims in the villages of Beşköy in the province of present-day Trabzon". Byzantine and Modern Greek Studies. 37 (1): 130–150. doi:10.1179/0307013112z.00000000023. 
  5. ^ 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. 
  6. ^ Asan, Omer (2000) [1996]. Pontos Kültürü [Pontos Culture] (in Turkish) (2nd ed.). Istambul: Belge Yayınları. ISBN 975-344-220-3. 
  7. ^ 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. 
  8. ^ "The cost of language, Pontiaka trebizond Greek". Retrieved 2013-03-31. 
  9. ^ a b "Against all odds: archaic Greek in a modern world | University of Cambridge". Retrieved 2013-03-31. 
  10. ^ a b Jason and the argot: land where Greek's ancient language survives, The Independent, Monday, 3 January 2011
  11. ^ Anthi Revythiadou and Vasileios Spyropoulos (2009): "Οφίτικη Ποντιακή: Έρευνα γλωσσικής καταγραφής με έμφαση στη διαχρονία και συγχρονία της διαλέκτου" [Ophitic Pontic: A documentation project with special emphasis on the diachrony and synchrony of the dialect] "www.latsis-foundation.org" (PDF) (in Greek). Retrieved 2011-10-29. 
  12. ^ Revythiadou, A.; Spyropoulos, V. (2012). Οφίτικη: Πτυχές της Γραμματικής Δομής μιας Ποντιακής Διαλέκτου [Ofitica Pontic: Aspects of the Grammar of a Pontic Dialect] (in Greek). Thessaloniki: Εκδοτικός Οίκος Αδελφών Κυριακίδη. ISBN 978-960-467-344-5. 
  13. ^ Revythiadou, A.; Spyropoulos, V.; Kakarikos, K. (1912). "Η ταυτότητα της οφίτικης ποντιακής: Mια γλωσσολογική μελέτη των πηγών και των ομιλητών της" [The identity of ophitic pontic: A linguistic study of its sources and its speakers] (PDF). Δελτίο Κέντρο Μικρασιατικών Σπουδών (in Greek). 17: 217–275. 
  14. ^ 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]
  15. ^ a b "Romeika - Pontic Greek (tr)". Karalahana.com. Retrieved 2013-03-20. 
  16. ^ "News and Events: Endangered language opens window on to past". University of Cambridge. 2011-01-04. Retrieved 2013-03-20. 
  17. ^ "Pontic Greek (Trabzon Of dialect) - Turkish Dictionary (tr)". Karalahana.com. Retrieved 2013-03-20. 
  18. ^ ΟΨΕΙΣ ΤΗΣ ΕΚΠΑΙΔΕΥΣΗΣ ΚΑΙ ΤΗΣ ΚΟΙΝΩΝΙΑΣ ΤΩΝ ΕΛΛΗΝΩΝ (in Greek). Retrieved 2011-01-15. 
  19. ^ Survey carried out in 2001–2004, organized by St. Petersburg State University
  20. ^ Asterix in Pontic Greek.


  • 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)
  • Özhan Öztürk, Karadeniz: Ansiklopedik Sözlük. 2 Cilt. Heyamola Yayıncılık. İstanbul, 2005. ISBN 975-6121-00-9
  • Τομπαΐδης, Δ.Ε. 1988. Η Ποντιακή Διάλεκτος. Αθήνα: Αρχείον Πόντου. (Tompaidis, D.E. 1988. The Pontic Dialect. Athens: Archeion Pontou.)
  • Τομπαΐδης, Δ.Ε. ϗ Συμεωνίδης, Χ.Π. 2002. Συμπλήρωμα στο Ιστορικόν Λεξικόν της Ποντικής Διαλέκτου του Α.Α. Παπαδόπουλου. Αθήνα: Αρχείον Πόντου. (Tompaidis, D.E. and Simeonidis, C.P. 2002. Additions to the Historical Lexicon of the Pontic Dialect of A.A. Papadopoulos. Athens: Archeion Pontou.)
  • Παπαδόπουλος, Α.Α. 1955. Ιστορική Γραμματική της Ποντικής Διαλέκτου. Αθήνα: Επιτροπή Ποντιακών Μελετών. (Papadopoulos, A.A. 1955. Historical Grammar of the Pontic Dialect. Athens: Committee for Pontian Studies.)
  • Παπαδόπουλος, Α.Α. 1958–61. Ιστορικόν Λεξικόν της Ποντικής Διαλέκτου. 2 τόμ. Αθήνα: Μυρτίδης. (Papadopoulos, A.A. 1958–61. Historical Lexicon of the Pontic Dialect. 2 volumes. Athens: Mirtidis.)
  • Οικονομίδης, Δ.Η. 1958. Γραμματική της Ελληνικής Διαλέκτου του Πόντου. Αθήνα: Ακαδημία Αθηνών. (Oikonomidis, D.I. 1958. Grammar of the Greek Dialect of Pontos. Athens: Athens Academy.)
  • Τοπχαράς, Κονσταντίνος. 1998 [1932]. Η Γραμματική της Ποντιακής: Ι Γραματικι τι Ρομεικυ τι Ποντεικυ τι Γλοςας. Θεσσαλονίκη: Αφοί Κυριακίδη. (Topcharas, K. 1998 [1932]. The Grammar of Pontic. Thessaloniki: Afoi Kiriakidi.)

External links[edit]