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GR7: The history and structure of Modern Greek

This paper will not be available after Tripos 2016-17

This is a large subject, but a very rewarding one not only for those who are interested in Greek Linguistics but also for everyone who is interested in language as a phenomenon. The paper can be fruitfully combined with one of the Part II papers in Linguistics, or papers on the history of specific languages or language families. The choice of set texts is partly motivated by the tension which has long existed in Greek linguistic history between, on the one hand, the vernacular and its dialects, and, on the other, some form of archaising Greek. The first part of the course is largely concerned with following the historical development of Modern Greek, on the basis of literary and non-literary texts. The second part concentrates on the synchronic study of the language, i.e. its present-day written and spoken forms. In both the synchronic and the diachronic parts, attention is paid to morphology, phonology and syntax, as well as lexicon.

This paper is also available to students taking Part II of the Classics Tripos (Paper O1) and to students taking the Linguistics Tripos (paper 24).


Topics for 2016-17

  • Language change from Medieval to Modern Greek: phonology, morphology, syntax and the lexicon
  • Grammaticalization and the system of Tense-Aspect-Mood in Modern Greek
  • Relating the vernacular (and its dialects) with learned forms of Greek: the rise of diglossia, the compromises and the resolution of the Language Question
  • The structure of Modern Greek: Defining characteristics of Standard Modern Greek
  • Identifying the modern counterparts of ‘lost’ Classical forms such as the dative, the infinitive and the optative.
  • Comparing Standard Modern Greek to other modern varieties and earlier forms of the language.
Preparatory reading: 
  • R. Browning, Medieval and Modern Greek (Cambridge 2nd ed. 1983)
  • D. Holton, P. Mackridge & I. Philippaki-Warburton. Greek: A Comprehensive Grammar – 2nd Edition. Revised by Vassilios Spyropoulos. (Routledge, 2nd ed. 2012).
  • G. Horrocks, Greek: a history of the language and its speakers (Wiley-Blackwell, 2nd edition 2010) 
  • P. Mackridge, The Modern Greek language. A descriptive analysis of Standard Modern Greek (Oxford 1985) 
  • H. Tonnet, Ιστορία της ελληνικής γλώσσας. Η διαμόρφωσή της (Athens 1995) [also in French: Histoire du grec moderne. La formation d'une langue (Paris 1993)]

A full bibliographical guide can be found here: Gr.7 reading list.

Teaching and learning: 

The paper will be taught by Dr Anastasios Tsangalidis, through a series of lectures and supervisions. Dates and times of lectures and classes will be arranged at a meeting at the start of the Michaelmas Term.

For the Gr.7 Moodle site, please see here. The password can be collected from the paper coordinator.


One three-hour exam will be set. There will be a wide choice of questions covering both historical and synchronic aspects of the language. Candidates will be required to answer a total of three questions.

Course Contacts: 
Dr Tasos Tsangalidis