Cypriot Greek

Cypriot Greek
History of the
Greek language

(see also: Greek alphabet)

Proto-Greek (c. 3000–1600 BC)
Mycenaean (c. 1600–1100 BC)
Ancient Greek (c. 800–330 BC)
Aeolic, Arcadocypriot, Attic-Ionic,
Doric, Locrian, Pamphylian,
Homeric Greek,
Macedonian (?)

Koine Greek (c. 330 BC–330)
Medieval Greek (330–1453)
Modern Greek (from 1453)
Calabrian, Cappadocian, Cheimarriotika, Cretan,
Cypriot, Demotic, Griko, Katharevousa,
Pontic, Tsakonian, Maniot, Yevanic
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*Dates (beginning with Ancient Greek) from Wallace, D. B. (1996). Greek Grammar Beyond the Basics: An Exegetical Syntax of the New Testament. Grand Rapids: Zondervan. p. 12. ISBN 0310218950. 

The Cypriot dialect of Modern Greek, known as Kypriaka (Greek: Κυπριακά), Cypriot Greek (Greek: Κυπριακή διάλεκτος, "Cypriot dialect")[1] is spoken by 750,000 people in Cyprus and diaspora Greek Cypriots. Cypriot Greek is distinct enough that it can be classified as a distinct dialect of the Standard Greek.[2] In Cyprus, the dialect is reportedly more similar to Classical Greek [grc] in vocabulary and grammar than that spoken in Greece.


Usage and settings

It is the spoken everyday language of most Greek Cypriots. There is diglossia (in the linguistic sense) between Dhimotiki and the dialect. There are specific settings where speaking Standard Greek is demanded or considered polite, such as in school classes (but not during breaks), in parliament, in the media, and in the presence of non-Cypriot Greeks. Cypriot Greek is common on the internet,[3][4] in e-mails and on SMSs

In general, the stronger the use of dialect in a speaker (closer to the basilect), the more likely he is to be perceived as a peasant or of an uneducated and poor background. This can be particularly stigmatizing within formal and upper class circles.

The social consensus on the High and Low roles of the acrolect and basilect make Cypriot diglossia more like the diglossia of Greece in the mid 19th century (when Dhimotiki was stigmatised), and less like the diglossia of the 20th century (when the consensus had broken down, and Dhimotiki and Katharevousa were competing to become the High language). Cypriot diglossia makes the dialect one of only four Greek dialects currently still widely used; the others, Pontic Greek, Cretan Greek and Tsakonian Greek. Pontic Greek is healthier in the former Soviet Union and Turkey than in Greece itself, where its use is increasingly emblematic. Accordingly, Cypriot is the only Greek dialect with a significant presence of spontaneous use online, including blogs and bulletin boards, and even a version of Greeklish reflecting the dialect's distinct phonology.

History and literature

The modern Cypriot dialect is not an evolution of the ancient Arcadocypriot dialect, but evolved from Koine; it belongs to the Southeastern group of Modern Greek dialects, along with the dialects of the Dodecanese and Chios (with which it shares phonological phenomena such as gemination and intervocalic lenition). Cyprus was cut off from the rest of the Greek-speaking world from the 7th to the 10th century A.D due to Arab attacks. It was reintegrated in the Byzantine Empire in 962 to be isolated again in 1191 when it fell to the hands of crusaders. This isolation developed a lot of linguistic characteristics distinct from Byzantine Greek.

The legislation of the Kingdom of Cyprus in the Middle Ages was written in the dialect. Other important medieval works are the chronicles of Leontios Makhairas and George Boustronios, as well as a collection of sonnets in the manner of Francesco Petrarca.

In the past hundred years, the dialect has been used in poetry, major poets being Vasilis Michaelides and Dimitris Lipertis. It is also traditionally used for folk songs and poetry, including τσιαττιστά (battle poetry, a form of Playing the dozens) and the tradition of ποιητάρηες (bards). In the late 70ties Minister of Education Chrysostomos A. Sofianos upgraded the status of the Cypriot dialect by introducing it in education. More recently it has been used in Reggae by Hadji Mike and rap by several Cypriot hip hop groups. DNA (Dimiourgoi Neas Antilipsis), a hiphop group from Cyprus, released an album named "sihnotites" with 2 tracks in Cypriot. (See also Music of Cyprus).

Locally produced television shows, usually comedies or soap operas, make use of the dialect. For example Vourate Geitonoi (βουράτε instead of τρέξτε), Oi Takkoi (Τάκκος being a uniquely Cypriot name), and Istories tou Horkou (χωρκού rather than χωριού). Cypriot Greek is closer to classical Greek, in some respects, such as vocabulary and grammar, than standard Greek is.[citation needed] The 2006 feature film Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest features actor Jimmy Rousanis arguing in the Greek Cypriot dialect with another crew member speaking Gibrizlidja about a captain's hat they find in the sea.Peter Polycarpou routinely spoke in the Greek Cypriot dialect in his role as Chris Theodopolopoudos in the British television comedy series Birds of a Feather.



  1. Double consonants preserved the stressed pronunciation of Ancient Greek.
    1. Double unvoiced plosives (‹ττ›, ‹ππ›, ‹κκ›) are pronounced aspirated ([tʰ], [pʰ], [kʰ] or [cʰ] depending on the succeeding vowel).
    2. The rest of the double consonants are pronounced as geminates. (e.g. ‹λλ› as [lː], ‹μμ› as [mː], etc.)
  2. Extreme "palatalization" of Greek velars to palato-alveolars when followed by the front vowels [e] and [i] and the semivowel [j], very similar to how standard Italian developed from Latin. It should be noted that Standard Greek pronunciation exhibits true palatalization of velars to palatals ([k] > [c] and [x] > [ç]). The palato-alveolars in Cypriot Greek can be found both as affricates ([tʃ]) and fricatives ([ʃ]):
    1. The "palatalization" of kappa, i.e. κ > κ
      Standard Greek [c] becomes a soft affricate [tʃ]. This sound is usually represented with ‹τζι› or ‹κ›. For example, Standard Greek "καί" [ce] meaning 'and' becomes Cypriot Greek "τζιαί" or "καί" [tʃe]. Also Standard Greek "εκείνος" [eˈcinos] becomes "κείνος" [ˈtʃinos]. Note, however, that this is not a hard and fast rule (counter-examples include loans from Standard Greek: κηδεία, κέρδος, άκυρο, ρακέττα).
    2. The "palatalization" of kappa after a sigma, ‹σκ›. Standard Greek [sc] becomes the double fricative [ʃː].
    3. The "palatalization" of double kappa, ‹κκ›. Pronounced in standard Greek as single [k], in Cypriot it becomes an aspirated affricate [tʃʰ].
    4. The "palatalization" of chi, ‹χ›. Standard Greek [ç] becomes [ʃ] in Cypriot, and it can be written as ‹σι› or ‹χ›. For example, Standard Greek "χέρι" [ˈçeri] ('hand') becomes "σιέρι" or "χέρι" [ˈʃeri].
  3. Voicing of ‹φ›, ‹θ› and ‹χ› (aspirated consonants in Ancient Greek) before liquids and nasals, to ‹β›, ‹δ› and ‹γ› respectively. (e.g. Cypriot "γρόνος" instead of "χρόνος" ('year'), "άδρωπος" (man) instead of "άνθρωπος" ('human'). In Cypriot dialect, άδρωπος means man and not human, while human is called πλάσμα. This process is partially reversed in younger speakers due to the influence of Standard Greek.
  4. Deletion of ‹β›, ‹δ›, ‹γ›, voiced intervocalic fricatives; e.g. κοπελλούδιν > κοππελούιν "little child". In linguistic texts, the deleted fricative is sometimes put in brackets for clarity: κοππελού(δ)ιν.
  5. /x/ > /θ/: e.g. άνθρωπος > άχρωπος "human"
  6. Defrication of [ʝ]/[ç] that function as semi-vowels in Modern Greek to [c] with most of the time modification of the preceding consonant. (e.g. "ποιός" [pços] in Cypriot Greek would be pronounced as "πκοιός" [pcos], and "σπίτια" [ˈspitça] as "σπίθκια" [ˈspiθka]). This is carried further in some parts of Cyprus where speakers use e.g. "πσοιός" [pʃos].
  7. External sandhi rules for word-final nasal consonants:
    1. /n/ before bilabials becomes [m]: e.g. "το μωρόν" [to moron] the baby (acc.).[clarification needed]
    2. /n/ before velars becomes [ŋ]: e.g. "την κρατικήν" [tiŋ ɡratiˈcin] ('governmental', acc.).
    3. Standard Greek sandhi rules for word-final [n] do not apply to Cypriot Greek; the /n/ is used much more frequently in Cypriot Greek.
  8. The vowel eta ‹η› is in some words pronounced which according to the "Erasmian" understanding is ancient Greek. A basic common example would be "μην", in Cypriot "μεν".


  • Present participles ending in -οντα instead of Modern Greek -οντας.
  • Archaisms such as the use of infinitives as nouns (e.g. το δειν, the gaze)
  • In slang. the Turkish derivational suffix -lik, added as -λίκκι(ν), is used to transform a concrete noun to an abstract noun as noted here. For example: "ο πρόεδρος" ('president') yields "το προεδριλίκκι" ('presidency').

Note: The incorporation of this particular type of Turkish morphology is also found in Standard Greek, however as the suffix -λίκι.
Cypriot Greek used two κ to phonologically imitate the aspirated k of Turkish.

  • The suffixes -ούης/-ούα/-ούι(ν) for masculine, feminine and neuter respectively, are used to derive diminutives of nouns, in place of Standard Greek -άκης/-ίτσα/-άκι. The Cypriot Greek suffixes derive from the original -ούδης/-ούδα/-ούδι(ν) with the drop of intervocalic ‹δ›. For example, "καττούιν" would be a heavily Cypriot version of "γατούδι" ('kitty').


  • The Modern Cypriot lexicon contains loanwords mostly from Old French, Italian, Provençal, and few words from other languages. Additionally, non-Muslim speakers use standard Muslim Arabic expressions such as mashalla(h) and halali, which have become part of the vocabulary, while Muslim speakers use Christian expressions form Greek such as "a, panayia mou!"
  • The Cypriot lexicon also contains Ancient Greek vocabulary which is no longer used in Standard Greek, for instance: Συντυχάννω/λαλώ (talk), or Αρέσκει μου (I like) with the κ in tact from classical, and πλάσματα (people).
  • Different names for foodstuff to standard modern Greek. For example prickly pears are commonly found both on Crete and Cyprus. In Greece including Crete they are known as "φραγκόσυκα" (i.e. "Frankish figs"), and in Cyprus they are known as "παπουτσόσυκα" (i.e. "shoe figs").


  • The verb is: ένι and εν instead of είναι (Modern Greek). εν is ambiguous between the negative particle (Standard Greek δεν), in front of a verb (e.g. εν πειράζει = δεν πειράζει "it doesn't matter"), and the copula (e.g. εν καλά = είναι καλά "he/she/it is well").
  • "έννα" used as the Future particle, in contrast to standard Greek "θα" (each of these being a different contraction from θέλει νά)
  • Personal pronouns
  strong weak
Nom. Acc. Gen. Acc. Gen.
1st Person Sg.
εγιώ / εγιώνι / εγώνι
2nd Person Sg.
εσού / εσούνι
3rd Person Sg. m.
Pl. m.

Note: εγιώ/εγιώνι and εσού/εσούνι are currently not in use as much as standard Greek εγώ and εσύ. Τούντο is a contraction of Τούτον το etc. Both forms can be used e.g. Τούτον το πράμαν = τούντο πράμαν.

Besides τούτος as a generic demonstrative, there is also the more specific spatial demonstrative pronoun τζείνος, -η, -ο ('him/her/that there'). (From Standard Greek εκείνος).

  • Order of personal pronoun-verb is different than modern Greek, example:

"(He) told me" in Cypriot is "Είπεν μου" instead of standard modern Greek "μου είπε"


While the σι spelling is commonly used to represent [ʃ], it presupposes a following vowel, e.g. σιέρι. When [ʃ] is found at the end of the word or before a consonant (in loan words), the σι spelling cannot be used. For example the word /paʃ/ < the Turkish baş meaning "main"(or "head"), cannot be spelled as πάσι, since that will be interpreted as [ˈpasi]. Since diacritics are not used outside linguistics, Cypriots will frequently double σ as σς or recourse to the English spelling instead: πασς or παsh.


Sometimes two-syllable words are inverted. For example κλάτσες instead of κάλτσες (socks).


  • Cypriot Greeks may have standard Greek patronyms, like Papadopoulos, but there are some which are clearly Cypriot Greek. There are some names which indicate place of birth or origin, e.g. Παφίτης being from Paphos, or Καϊμακλιώτης being from Kaimakli, or professional occupation e.g. Σκαρπάρης (shoemaker), Κωμοδρόμος (smith) etc. As most cypriots used patronymics until independence (1960) when surnames became officially used in public registers, a similar process of creation of surnames took place to that of other Greek speaking populations outside the Hellenic Republic e.g. the Pontians . A good example would be Ευσταθιάδου (bearing the also commonly Pontian -άδης (masc.)/ -άδου (fem.) ending). Additionally, Cypriot patronymy includes a couple of semi-diphthongs in some names, i.e. beginning with Ττ or Κκ marking aspirated unvoiced plosives, e.g. Ττοφή .[5]
  • Cypriot first names include: Γιωρκής, Στυλλής, Αλισαβού, Πκιερής.
  • Also there are names which, whilst normal names elsewhere, are unusual except in Cyprus where they are more highly concentrated. Examples include: Βαρνάβας, Βερεγγάρια, Δωμέτιος, Μάμας, Μάριος and Νεόφυτος.
  • In keeping with older traditions of Greeks, Cypriots often have as their patronym, literally, the name of the father. At the same time the first-born son may take as a first name his paternal grandfather's name[6] (sometimes a second-born son taking as his name the maternal grandfather's name) leading to repetition. For example a grandfather being called Γεώργιος Αργυρού, his son being named Σάββας Γεωργίου, and the grandson called Γεώργιος Γεωργίου(/Σαββίδης).


Whereas in Greece the imperative "μαλάκα!" now is more often used in jest, and comes close to meaning something like "mate!",[7] in Cyprus it remains highly offensive and literally "wanker!". Cypriots also use a Turkish word for pimp namely "(ρε) πεζεβέγκι!"

See also


  • Beaudouin, M. 1884: Étude du dialecte chypriote moderne et medieval [Study of the Modern and Medieval Cypriot Dialect] (Paris).
  • Horrocks, G. 1997: Greek: A History of the Language and its Speakers (London), ελλ. μτφ. υπό Μ. Σταύρου & Μ. Τζεβελέκου (Αθήνα 2006).
  • Thumb, A. 1909: Handbuch der griechischen Dialekte [Handbook of Greek Dialects] (Heidelberg).
  • Κοντοσόπουλος, Ν. 1994(2): Διάλεκτοι και Ιδιώματα της Νέας Ελληνικής [Dialects and Properties of Neo-Hellenic] (Αθήνα).
  • Μενάρδος, Σ. 1969: Γλωσσικαί Μελέται [Language Studies] (Λευκωσία).
  • Μηνάς, Κ. 1987: «Αφομοίωση του ερρίνου με τους άηχους κλειστούς φθόγγους στην ελληνική γλώσσα» [Assimilation of Nasal with Silent Closed Sounds in the Greek Language] ― Πρακτικά Β΄ Διεθνούς Κυπριολογικού Συνεδρίου, τόμ. 3, σελ. 253-283 (Λευκωσία).
  • Μηνάς, Κ. 2000: «Φωνητικά και ετυμολογικά τής Κυπριακής διαλέκτου» [Phonetics and Etymologies of the Cypriot Dialect] ― Νεοελληνική Διαλεκτολογία 3, σελ. 151-188
  • Newton, B. 1972: Cypriot Greek. Its phonology and inflexion (The Hague: Mouton).
  • Παντελίδης, Χ. 1929: Φωνητική των Νεοελληνικών Ιδιωμάτων Κύπρου, Δωδεκανήσου και Ικαρίας [Phonetics of Neo-Hellenic Dialects of Cyprus, Dodecanese, and Icaria] (Αθήνα).
  • Χατζηιωάννου, Κ. 1996: Ετυμολογικό Λεξικό τής Ομιλουμένης Κυπριακής Διαλέκτου [Etymological Dictionary of the Spoken Cypriot Dialect] (Λευκωσία).
  • Χατζηιωάννου, Κ. 1999: Γραμματική τής Ομιλουμένης Κυπριακής Διαλέκτου [Grammar of the Spoken Cypriot Dialect] (Λευκωσία).
  • Χριστοδούλου, Μ. 1970: "Περί των διαλεκτικών ζωνών εν τη νέα Ελληνική γλώσση και της θέσεως της κυπριακής διαλέκτου εν αυταίς" [The Position of the Cypriot Dialect within the Dialectical Zones of the Neo-Hellenic Language] - Επετηρίς Κέντρου Επιστημονικών Ερευνών Κύπρου, τόμ. 3, σελ. 119-138.


  1. ^ According to the Oxford English Dictionary, Cypriot is "the dialect of Greek used in Cyprus".
  2. ^ B D Joseph, 2006. "Modern Greek". In The Encyclopedia of Language and Linguistics, 2nd edition.
  3. ^
  4. ^ βαρκούμαι is the Cypriot word corresponding standard modern Greek βαριέμαι
  5. ^
  6. ^ Greek Naming Conventions
  7. ^

External links


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