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Koine Greek (UK: /ˈkɔɪn/,[2] US: /kɔɪˈn, ˈkɔɪn, kˈn/;[3][4] Greek: Ελληνιστική Κοινή, Ellinistikí Koiní, [elinistiˈci ciˈni], lit. "Common Greek"), also known as Alexandrian dialect, common Attic, Hellenistic or Biblical Greek, was the common supra-regional form of Greek spoken and written during the Hellenistic period, the Roman Empire, and the early Byzantine Empire, or late antiquity.[citation needed] It evolved from the spread of Greek following the conquests of Alexander the Great in the fourth century BC, and served as the lingua franca of much of the Mediterranean region and the Middle East during the following centuries. It was based mainly on Attic and related Ionic speech forms, with various admixtures brought about through dialect levelling with other varieties.[5]

Koine Greek included styles ranging from more conservative literary forms to the spoken vernaculars of the time.[6] As the dominant language of the Byzantine Empire, it developed further into Medieval Greek, which then turned into Modern Greek.[7]

Literary Koine was the medium of much of post-classical Greek literary and scholarly writing, such as the works of Plutarch and Polybius.[5] Koine is also the language of the Christian New Testament, of the Septuagint (the 3rd-century BC Greek translation of the Hebrew Bible), and of most early Christian theological writing by the Church Fathers. In this context, Koine Greek is also known as "Biblical", "New Testament", "ecclesiastical" or "patristic" Greek.[8] The Roman Emperor Marcus Aurelius also wrote his private thoughts in Koine Greek in a work that is now known as The Meditations.[9] Koine Greek continues to be used as the liturgical language of services in the Greek Orthodox Church.[10]

Name

The English-language name Koine derives from the Koine Greek term ἡ κοινὴ διάλεκτος hē koinḕ diálektos, "the common dialect".[11] The Greek word koinḗ (κοινή) itself means "common". The word is pronounced /kɔɪˈn/, /ˈkɔɪn/ or /kˈn/ in US English and /ˈkɔɪn/ in UK English. The pronunciation of the word koine itself gradually changed from [koinéː] (close to the Classical Attic pronunciation [koinɛ́ː]) to [kyˈni] (close to the Modern Greek [ciˈni]). In Greek, the language has been referred to as Ελληνιστική Κοινή, "Hellenistic Koiné", in the sense of "Hellenistic supraregional language").[12]

Ancient scholars used the term koine in several different senses. Scholars such as Apollonius Dyscolus (second century AD) and Aelius Herodianus (second century AD) maintained the term Koine to refer to the Proto-Greek language, while others used it to refer to any vernacular form of Greek speech which differed somewhat from the literary language.[13]

When Koine Greek became a language of literature by the first century BC, some people distinguished two forms: written as the literary post-classical form (which should not be confused with Atticism), and vernacular as the day-to-day vernacular.[13] Others chose to refer to Koine as "the dialect of Alexandria" or "Alexandrian dialect" (ἡ Ἀλεξανδρέων διάλεκτος), or even the universal dialect of its time.[14] Modern classicists have often used the former sense.

Origins and history

[6] As the dominant language of the Byzantine Empire, it developed further into Medieval Greek, which then turned into Modern Greek.[7]

Literary Koine was the medium of much of post-classical Greek literary and scholarly writing, such as the works of Plutarch and Polybius.[5] Koine is also the language of the Christian New Testament, of the Septuagint (the 3rd-century BC Greek translation of the Hebrew Bible), and of most early Christian theological writing by the Church Fathers. In this context, Koine Greek is also known as "Biblical", "New Testament", "ecclesiastical" or "patristic" Greek.[8] The Roman Emperor Marcus Aurelius also wrote his private thoughts in Koine Greek in a work that is now known as The Meditations.[9] Koine Greek continues to be used as the liturgical language of services in the Greek Orthodox Church.[10]

The English-language name Koine derives from the Koine Greek term ἡ κοινὴ διάλεκτος hē koinḕ diálektos, "the common dialect".[11] The Greek word koinḗ (κοινή) itself means "common". The word is pronounced /kɔɪˈn/, /ˈkɔɪn/ or /kˈn/ in US English and /ˈkɔɪn/ in UK English. The pronunciation of the word koine itself gradually changed from [koinéː] (close to the Classical Attic pronunciation [koinɛ́ː]) to [kyˈni] (close to the Modern Greek [ciˈni]). In Greek, the language has been referred to as Ελληνιστική Κοινή, "Hellenistic Koiné", in the sense of "Hellenistic supraregional language").[12]

Ancient scholars used the term koine in several different senses. Scholars such as Apollonius Dyscolus (second century AD) and Aelius Herodianus (second century AD) maintained the term Koine to refer to the Proto-Greek language, while others used it to refer to any vernacular form of Greek speech which differed somewhat from the literary language.[13]

When Koine Greek became a language of literature by the first century BC, some people distinguished two forms: written as the literary post-classical form (which should not be confused with Atticism), and vernacular as the day-to-day vernacular.[13] Others chose to refer to Koine as "the dialect of Alexandria" or "Alexandrian dialect" (ἡ Ἀλεξανδρέων διάλεκτος), or even the universal dialect of its time.[14] Modern classicists have often used the former sense.

Origins and history

Greek-speaking areas during the Hellenistic period (323 to 31 BC).
  • Dark blue: areas where Greek speakers probably were a majority.
  • Light blue: areas that were Hellenized.

Koine Greek arose as a common dialect within the armies of Alexander the Great.[13] Under the leadership of Macedon, their newly formed common variety was spoken from the Ptolemaic Kingdom of Egypt to the Seleucid Empire of Mesopotamia.[13] It replaced existing ancient Greek dialects with an everyday form that people anywhere could understand.Apollonius Dyscolus (second century AD) and Aelius Herodianus (second century AD) maintained the term Koine to refer to the Proto-Greek language, while others used it to refer to any vernacular form of Greek speech which differed somewhat from the literary language.[13]

When Koine Greek became a language of literature by the first century BC, some people distinguished two forms: written as the literary post-classical form (which should not be confused with Atticism), and vernacular as the day-to-day vernacular.[13] Others chose to refer to Koine as "the dialect of Alexandria" or "Alexandrian dialect" (ἡ Ἀλεξανδρέων διάλεκτος), or even the universal dialect of its time.[14] Modern classicists have often used the former sense.

Koine Greek arose as a common dialect within the armies of Alexander the Great.[13] Under the leadership of Macedon, their newly formed common variety was spoken from the Ptolemaic Kingdom of Egypt to the Seleucid Empire of Mesopotamia.[13] It replaced existing ancient Greek dialects with an everyday form that people anywhere could understand.[15] Though elements of Koine Greek took shape in Classical Greece, the post-Classical period of Greek is defined as beginning with the death of Alexander the Great in 323 BC, when cultures under Greek sway in turn began to influence the language.

The passage into the next period, known as Medieval Greek, dates from the foundation of Constantinople by Constantine the Great in 330. The post-Classical period of Greek thus refers to the creation and evolution of Koine Greek throughout the entire Hellenistic and Roman eras of history until the start of the Middle Ages.[13]

The linguistic roots of the Common Greek dialect had been unclear since ancient times. During the Hellenistic period, most scholars thought of Koine as the result of the mixture of the four main Ancient Greek dialects, "ἡ ἐκ τῶν τεττάρων συνεστῶσα" (the composition of the Four). This view was supported in the early twentieth century by Paul Kretschmer in his book Die Entstehung der Koine (1901), while Medieval Greek, dates from the foundation of Constantinople by Constantine the Great in 330. The post-Classical period of Greek thus refers to the creation and evolution of Koine Greek throughout the entire Hellenistic and Roman eras of history until the start of the Middle Ages.[13]

The linguistic roots of the Common Greek dialect had been unclear since ancient times. During the Hellenistic period, most scholars thought of Koine as the result of the mixture of the four main Ancient Greek dialects, "ἡ ἐκ τῶν τεττάρων συνεστῶσα" (the composition of the Four). This view was supported in the early twentieth century by Paul Kretschmer in his book Die Entstehung der Koine (1901), while Ulrich von Wilamowitz-Moellendorff and Antoine Meillet, based on the intense Ionic elements of the Koine – σσ instead of ττ and ρσ instead of ρρ (θαλάσσα – θάλαττα, 'sea'; ἀρσενικός – ἀρρενικός, 'potent, virile') – considered Koine to be a simplified form of Ionic.[13]

The view accepted by most scholars today was given by the Greek linguist Georgios Hatzidakis, who showed that despite the "composition of the Four", the "stable nucleus" of Koine Greek is Attic. In other words, Koine Greek can be regarded as Attic with the admixture of elements especially from Ionic, but also from other dialects. The degree of importance of the non-Attic linguistic elements on Koine can vary depending on the region of the Hellenistic world.[13]

In that respect, the varieties of Koine spoken in the Ionian colonies of Anatolia (e.g. Pontus, cf. Pontic Greek) would have more intense Ionic characteristics than others and those of Laconia and Cyprus would preserve some Doric and Arcadocypriot characteristics, respectively. The literary Koine of the Hellenistic age resembles Attic in such a degree that it is often mentioned as Common Attic.[13]

The first scholars who studied Koine, both in Alexandrian and Early Modern times, were classicists whose prototype had been the literary Attic Greek of the Classical period and frowned upon any other variety of Ancient Greek. Koine Greek was therefore considered a decayed form of Greek which was not worthy of attention.[13]

The reconsideration on the historical and linguistic importance of Koine Greek began only in the early 19th century, where renowned scholars conducted a series of studies on the evolution of Koine throughout the entire Greek began only in the early 19th century, where renowned scholars conducted a series of studies on the evolution of Koine throughout the entire Hellenistic period and Roman Empire. The sources used on the studies of Koine have been numerous and of unequal reliability. The most significant ones are the inscriptions of the post-Classical periods and the papyri, for being two kinds of texts which have authentic content and can be studied directly.[13]

Other significant sources are the Septuagint, the Greek translation of the Hebrew Bible, and the Greek New Testament. The teaching of these texts was aimed at the most common people, and for that reason, they use the most popular language of the era.

Other sources can be based on random findings such as inscriptions on vases written by popular painters, mistakes made by Atticists due to their imperfect knowledge of Attic Greek or even some surviving Greco-Latin glossaries of the Roman period,[16] e.g.:

Καλήμερον, ἦλθες;
Bono die, venisti?
Good day, you came?

Ἐὰν θέλεις, ἐλθὲ μεθ' ἡμῶν.
Si vis, veni mecum.
If you want, come with us.[a]

Ἐὰν θέλεις, ἐλθὲ μεθ' ἡμῶν.
Si vis, veni mecum.
If you want, come with us.[a]

Ποῦ;
Ubi?
Where?

Πρὸς φίλον ἡμέτερον Λεύκιον.
Ad amicum nostrum Lucium.
To our friend Lucius.

Τί γὰρ ἔχει;
Quid enim habet?
Indeed, what does he have?
What is it with him?

Ἀρρωστεῖ.
Aegrotat.
He's sick.

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Finally, a very important source of information on the ancient Koine is the modern Greek language with all its dialects and its own Koine form, which have preserved some of the ancient language's oral linguistic details which the written tradition has lost. For example, Pontic and Cappadocian Greek preserved the ancient pronunciation of η as ε (νύφε, συνέλικος, τίμεσον, πεγάδι for standard Modern Greek νύφη, συνήλικος, τίμησον, πηγάδι etc.),[b] while the Tsakonian language preserved the long α instead of η (ἁμέρα, ἀστραπά, λίμνα, χοά etc.) and the other local characteristics of Doric Greek.[13]

Dialects fr

Dialects from the southern part of the Greek-speaking regions (Dodecanese, Cyprus, etc.), preserve the pronunciation of the double similar consonants (ἄλ-λος, Ἑλ-λάδα, θάλασ-σα), while others pronounce in many words υ as ου or preserve ancient double forms (κρόμμυον – κρεμ-μυον, ράξ – ρώξ etc.). Linguistic phenomena like the above imply that those characteristics survived within Koine, which in turn had countless variations in the Greek-speaking world.[13]

Biblical Koine refers to the varieties of Koine Greek used in Bible translations into Greek and related texts. Its main sources are:

Septuagint Greek

There has been some debate to what degree Biblical Greek represents the mainstream of contemporary spoken Koine and to what extent it contains specifically Semitic substratum features. These could have been induced either through the practice of translating closely from Biblical Hebrew or Aramaic originals, or thro

There has been some debate to what degree Biblical Greek represents the mainstream of contemporary spoken Koine and to what extent it contains specifically Semitic substratum features. These could have been induced either through the practice of translating closely from Biblical Hebrew or Aramaic originals, or through the influence of the regional non-standard Greek spoken by originally Aramaic-speaking Hellenized Jews.

Some of the features discussed in this context are the Septuagint's normative absence of the particles μέν and δέ, and the use of ἐγένετο to denote "it came to pass". Some features of Biblical Greek which are thought to have originally been non-standard elements eventually found their way into the main of the Greek language.

S. J. Thackeray, in A Grammar of the Old Testament in Greek According to the Septuagint (1909), wrote that only the five books of the Pentateuch, parts of the Book of Joshua and the Book of Isaiah may be considered "good Koine

Some of the features discussed in this context are the Septuagint's normative absence of the particles μέν and δέ, and the use of ἐγένετο to denote "it came to pass". Some features of Biblical Greek which are thought to have originally been non-standard elements eventually found their way into the main of the Greek language.

S. J. Thackeray, in A Grammar of the Old Testament in Greek According to the Septuagint (1909), wrote that only the five books of the Pentateuch, parts of the Book of Joshua and the Book of Isaiah may be considered "good Koine". One issue debated by scholars is whether and how much the translation of the Pentateuch influenced the rest of the Septuagint, including the translation of Isaiah.[17]

Another point that scholars have debated is the use of ἐκκλησία ekklēsía as a translation for the Hebrew קָהָל qāhāl. Old Testament scholar James Barr has been critical of etymological arguments that ekklēsía refers to "the community called by God to constitute his People". Kyriakoula Papademetriou explains:

He maintains that ἐκκλησία is merely used for designating the notion of meeting and gathering of men, without any particular character. Therefore, etymologizing this word could be needless, or even misleading, when it could guide to false meanings, for example that ἐκκλησία is a name used for the people of God, Israel.[18]

New Testament Greek

Mycenaean

Ancient

Koine

Medieval

Modern