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Vocabulary PDF Print E-mail

The vocabulary of the Greek language is very wide. The many synonyms are demonstrating the fine differences between the concepts. As the French writer Jacques Lacarrière has declared “In the Greek language there is a vertigo of words because it is the language that has investigated, recorded and analyzed the inner processes of the speech and the language more than any other language”.

“A language like the Greek one where one thing is love and another thing is eros
One thing is desire and another thing is longing
One thing is bitterness and another thing is heart ache
One thing is bowels and another thing is guts”
(Odysseas Elitis, The Little Nautilus)

As far as the Greek alphabet is concerned, which appeared between the end of the 9th century and the beginning of the 8th century B.C on the basis of the Phoenician syllabic alphabet, it has inspired the poet to write about its letters:

“From the time that I fell in love with these small bodies I emaciated I shined. I did not think of anything else day and night rather than how to grow them, one day to sleep with them. I was waiting behind the doors. I learned to catch them in the air, in the water. But I don’t know yet how to pronounce them.
A- White or cyan, depending on the hours and the position of the stars
Λ (L)- Really wet. Same as a pebble.
Γ- The lightest- your incapacity to pronounce it show the grade of your barbarity
Ρ (R)- A child and almost ways feminine
E- Full of air. It is reached by Batis (wind of Greece)
Y- The most Greek of all the words. An hydria
Σ (S)- A weed. But the Greek should whistle sometimes too”
(Odysseas Elitis, The Little Nautilus)

Today, the learning of the Greek language is an adventure, which, however, recompenses the adventurer to the full: The modern Greek poetry (not only that of Kavafis, Elytis and Seferis but also that of Sahtouris, Manolis Anagnostakis and Kiki Dimoula) and the modern Greek literature (not only that of Kazantzakis but also that of Tsirkas, Theotokis and Dimitris Hatzis) have many joys to offer, if read in the original.

And the songs. The music of Mikis Theodorakis and Manos Hatzidakis are intertwined harmonically (harmony is a Greek word) with the lyrics of Nikos Gatsos or Lefteris Papadolpoulos and in this way they can be felt better. The same is true also for the lyrics of the Greek traditional songs which are based on the steps of the so thrilling cyclic dances.

Regarding the older versions that are hidden in the language that contemporary Greeks speak, who could not admire the language of Kavafis or Papadiamantis if s/he had the chance to enjoy it in its original form?

“The Greek language brings together the richness and the homogeneity of the German, the clarity of the French, the musicality of the Italian and the slimness of the Spanish” has written the French poet and Scholar Claude Fauriel (1772 - 1884)

Most of the speakers of the European languages already speak Greek without possibly… knowing it.

The participation of the Greek in the most diffused European language, English, is indicated in the table below (from KONSTANTINIDES A: The Greek Words in the English language, Thessaloniki 1993)

According to an excerpt from the work of the English professor of Linguistics in the University of London, R.H. Robing, “Short History of Linguistics”:

“Basic concepts of thinking and expression in the English- as well as in other European languages- are purely Greek: analysis (1667), synthesis (1611), antithesis (1529), problem (1382), hypothesis (1596), method (1541), theory (1605), practice (1553), empiric (1605), paradigm (1483), music (1250), orchestra (1606), melody (1569), rhythm (1557), harmony (1532), rhapsody (1542), organ (1000), hypocrisy (1225), theater (1374), drama (1515), tragedy (1374), comedy (1374), poetry (1447), lyrism (1859), symptom (1398), diagnosis (1681), therapy (1846), politic (1420), democracy (1531), tyranny (1374), anarchy (1539), despotism (1727), oligarchy (1577), idea (1430), ideology (1796), logic (1362), dilemma (1656), category (1588), program (1633), system (1638), organization (1432), etiology (1656), symbol (1450), syllable (1384), phrase (1530), dialect (1551), dialogue (1551), theme (1300), theorem (1551), axiom (1485), physic (1390), energy (1581), plastic (1632), meter (900), machine (1549), metal (1300), mass (900), magic (1386), myth (1838), mystery (1315), phenomenon (1639), period (1413), phase (1812), dynamic (1827), fantasy (1382), crisis (1543), criterion (1647), dogma (1600), psalm (961), bible (1095), church (825), martyr (900), liturgy (1560), orthodox (1630), catholic (1551), hymn (1667), symmetry (1563), assymetry (1652) panic (1420), mania (1607), aesthesis (1879)». The numbers in the brackets show the year in which these words appear for the first time in an English text.

(Τhe data are taken from a lecture realized by the President of the Organization for the Internationalization of the Greek Language Professor of the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki, Dr. Thomas Savvides

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