On some Reasons why Greek is one of The World’s Major Languages by Brian D. Joseph


On some reasons why Greek is one of  The World’s Major Languages  

 Brian D. Joseph


In 1987, Croom Helm Publishers of England brought out a book entitled Major Languages of The World’s, edited by Bernard Comrie.[…]The book contains descriptions of 40 languages considered by the editor to be “major languages”. The 40 languages are Swahili, Yoruba, Tagalog, Malay,Korean, Japanese, Burmese, Chinese, Vietnamese, Thai, Tamil, Hausa, Hebrew, Arabic, Turkish, Finnish, Hungarian, Pashto, Persian, Bengali, Hindi, Sanskrit, Serbo-Croatian, Czech, Slovak, Russian, Polish, Romanian, Italian, Portuguese, Spanish, French, Latin, Danish, Norwegian, Swedish, Dutch, German, English, and Greek.[…]

[..] Second, even though Comrie says, quite rightly, that any language can be a major language with regard to what it potentially tells us about the human linguistic abilities and the nature of human language, it is the case that Greek offers the world something that very few languages can, namely a virtually unbroken 3500-year documentation of the language. In the case of Greek, this stretches from Mycenaean Greek of the 14 present day, with only a gap of a few hundred years between Mycenaean Greek and the earliest alphabetic inscriptions and the language of Homeric epic. In this regard, only a few languages, such as Chinese or, if we take the languages of India that are descended from Sanskrit as showing a single line of descent, then languages like Hindi and Bengali too.

Thus this second point distinguishes Greek from just about every other language and language group in the world, and thus makes Greek a remarkably important laboratory for the study of language change[…]



The World’s Major Languages
By Bernard Comrie

Chapter 19


1 Historical Background

 The Greek language forms, by itself, a separate branch of the Indo-European family. It is one of the oldest attested Indo-European languages, being attested from c. 1400 BC in the Mycenaean Greek documents found on Crete (and from somewhat later, on the Greek mainland) written in the Linear B syllabary. Except for a break in attestation between the end of the Mycenaean empire (c. 1150 BC) and roughly 800 BC, a period sometimes referred to as the Dark Agesof Greek culture, Greek presents a continuous record of attestation for the linguist, right up to the present day.

 Commonly called Greek in English, based on the term Graeci used by the Romans to label all the Greeks (though originally the name may have properly applied only to a tribe in the north-west of Greece), the language is also referred to as Hellenic, from the Greek stem ʽΕλλην-*,1 used in the Iliad to refer to a Thessalian tribe but in Herodotus (and elsewhere) to designate the Greeks as a whole as opposed to barbarians; indeed, the Greeks themselves have generally referred to their language as Ελληνική, though contemporary Greeks also use the designation ρωμαίικα, an outgrowth of their connection historically with the Eastern Roman Empire based in Constantinople.[…]




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