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Greek

GEOFFREY HORROCKS


Subject History

DOI: 10.1111/b.9780631220398.2000.x


Extract

Greek constitutes a branch of the * Indo-European family of languages in its own right, though it probably once formed a fairly close subgroup with * Indo-Iranian and * Armenian within Indo-European. Within Europe, it is spoken today principally in Greece and Cyprus, though there are also Greek communities in Germany and the United Kingdom. Greek is now widely believed to be the product of contact between the indigenous populations of the Balkan peninsula and Indo-European invaders beginning around 2000 BC. It has the longest continuous recorded history of any European language, with the earliest documents, corpora of clay tablets written in the * Linear B syllabary, dating from the second half of the second millennium BC. The surviving texts record details of the economic activity of the Mycenaean civilization of southern Greece and Crete (so–called after Mycenae, one of its principal centres in the Peloponnese). After the collapse of the Mycenaean world around 1200 BC, writing disappeared for several centuries and we enter the Greek Dark Age. During the late 9th or early 8th c., writing was reintroduced through an adaptation of the * Phoenician alphabet in which redundant consonant signs were redeployed to represent vowel sounds (the Latin alphabet was borrowed from Greek colonies in southern Italy; for the Greek alphabet, see Fig. 7 ). The earliest surviving alphabetic ... log in or subscribe to read full text

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