Pontic Greek Dictionary.

The Daily Sabah reports on some lexicographical news:

A Turkish researcher and author has prepared a dictionary for an endangered Indo-European language spoken by some inhabitants of northern Turkey’s Trabzon province in the Black Sea region. Vahit Tursun prepared the dictionary for Pontic Greek, also called Romeika by the Turks, over eight years by speaking to people of the region who still remember and speak the language, Turkish daily the Hürriyet reported. The language, which is actually a dialect of Greek, was originally spoken in the Pontus area on the southern shores of the Black Sea.

Tursun said it was his dream to prepare this Turkish-Romeika dictionary, and he has been recording and writing down new words he has heard for the last 30 years. “I was always inclined toward doing something (a project) about my own culture. I saved words like they were pennies I put in a penny bank. Now the day this penny bank has become a dictionary has finally come,” Tursun said, adding that a language is the work of thousands of years of human history and knowledge. Peter Mackridge, Professor Emeritus at the Modern Greek Department of Oxford University, also worked as an adviser in the process of creating the dictionary.

We talked about Pontic Greek/”Romeyka” in 2011, and Nick Nicholas had a lot to say about them in a 2010 Ἡλληνιστεύκοντος post; Trabzon is the city once known as Trebizond, the last holdout of the Byzantine Empire. Thanks, Trevor!


  1. I find it interesting that Pontic Greek (Romeika) is characterised as “an endangered Indo-European language”, followed somewhat further down by the clarification that it is “actually a dialect of Greek”.

    Neither is incorrect, but I guess it all depends on what slant you want to adopt. Is there an element of politics / nationalism here?

  2. Yes, I found that odd but didn’t know how to parse it.

  3. The journalist is probably not very versed in such matters (“endangered IE language” sounds like it should be the last of its family), but that leads to a refreshing nonchalance into naming something a “language” or a “dialect”. At the end of the article, we read that Romeika is in the list of “endangered languages” (hence, language), but the journalist asked (or googled) around and found that it is related to Greek (hence, dialect).

  4. John Cowan says

    There are a bunch of endangered IE languages, notably Kuwaiti Persian. Three of the four Hellenic languages (Pontic, Cappadocian, Tsakonian, Contemporary Modern Standard Greek) are endangered. Greeks, and even Greek linguists, have agreed to call them “dialects of Greek”, but they are way past that.

  5. January First-of-May says

    Three of the four Hellenic languages (Pontic, Cappadocian, Tsakonian, Contemporary Modern Standard Greek) are endangered.

    IIRC, there are a few more; Mariupolitan is the first one that comes to mind, but apparently there’s also Pharasiot and Silliot and possibly a bunch of others. (I wasn’t able to quickly figure out whether Silliot is endangered or extinct.)

    It is definitely true that all except Standard Greek (and Cypriot, which is too close to Standard Greek to count as its own language) are endangered.

  6. David Marjanović says

    Don’t forget what’s left of the two versions of Greek in Italy – one imported in the 15th century alongside Albanian, one going back close to 3000 years.

  7. John Cowan says

    No, that’s exploded even though WP still mentions it. The Grikos may have some ancestors who arrived in Italy in the -10C, but their language is yet another descendant of Koine with some Doric stirred in and phonologically adapted to Italian. It is nowhere near as separated from Standard Greek as Tsakonian is (whose innovations, like its pure CV structure, are much more obvious and notable than its Doric retentions).

  8. David Marjanović says

    Uh, yes, it’s mostly Koine with some Doric, though I don’t know if there’s been much research on how much Doric exactly. And the adaptation to Italian/Sicilian may hide some phonological archaisms.

  9. See now Alexander Gale’s Greek Reporter piece, which gives some background and includes a brief video at the end where Professor Ioanna Sitaridou talks about the dialect (alas, with the inevitable tosh about “a variety of Greek far more archaic than other forms of Greek spoken today” and gushing over the infinitive) and you get to hear some snatches of the actual dialect (in its spectacular Black Sea coast setting). Thanks, Peter!

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