Languages inn Greek

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karim37

Member
UK
English, England
Hi,

Do the name of languages in Greek usually end in a? I know English is αγγλικά (Is it pronounced anglika or aglika?) Other languages for example are γερμανικά for German. I think it is pronounced germanik (g as in girl) though it might be yermanica. I still don't know when γ is pronounced like g and when it is like y.
I have seen some langauges both with a or i. For example I have seen τσέχικα and Τσεχική for the Czech language. The same for Polish and Hungarian. Perhaps they are wrong. I am looking for the basic form that would be in the dictionary.
I beleive that Swahili is Σουαχίλι and Bengali is Μπενγκάλι (pronounced benkali?). Is Urdu pronounced exactly as it is in English? And Arabic is pronounced aravika?
Are there any languages that don't end in a?
 
  • διαφορετικός

    Senior Member
    Swiss German - Switzerland
    Hi karim37,

    Let's focus on the general question of -ά and -ή endings for languages.

    In general you have to use the ά for language adverbs: "Μιλώ αγγλικά." (You don't say "Μιλώ αγγλική.", this is wrong) It is derived from the adjective for the language, the basic form of which is αγγλικός.

    The noun for such a language can usually have both endings: "Ξέρω τα αγγλικά." and "Ξέρω την αγγλική.", which means "Ξέρω την αγγλική γλώσσα." The version with -ά is neuter plural, the version with -ή is female singular.

    The same applies to most languages: τα ελληνικά / η ελληνική, τα γερμανικά / η γερμανική, ...

    Why are there two variants of the noun? Well, I don't know. But both are usual.
     

    karim37

    Member
    UK
    English, England
    Thank you!
    So if you were writing a list of languages, you would write them with ά except for languages that end in i in English like Swahili and Bengali.
     

    Helleno File

    Senior Member
    English - UK
    Thanks διαφορετικέ. I'm a bit unsure about the distinction in use between -ά and -ή words for languages.

    So I know you can say "Πήγα στην Αθήνα για να βελτιώσω τα ελληνικά μου" = 'I went to Athens in order to improve my Greek'. Does "την ελληνική μου" work in that sentence? I would probably say "η ελληνική είναι περίπλοκη γλώσσα" = 'Greek is a complicated language'. Is "τα ελληνικά" also ok?
     

    διαφορετικός

    Senior Member
    Swiss German - Switzerland
    I would probably say "η ελληνική είναι περίπλοκη γλώσσα" = 'Greek is a complicated language'. Is "τα ελληνικά" also ok?
    Yes, both can be used like this.

    So I know you can say "Πήγα στην Αθήνα για να βελτιώσω τα ελληνικά μου" = 'I went to Athens in order to improve my Greek'. Does "την ελληνική μου" work in that sentence?
    Maybe it doesn't work, I am not sure.

    So if you were writing a list of languages, you would write them with ά except for languages that end in i in English like Swahili and Bengali.
    I don't know which languages are exceptions and I don't know how "Swahili" and "Bengali" are translated. But yes, the form with -ά is suitable for a list of languages.
     

    Perseas

    Senior Member
    Maybe it doesn't work, I am not sure.
    Yes, we don't say that, but grammatically it isn't wrong.

    Do the name of languages in Greek usually end in a?
    They usually end in -ικά (Ελληνικά) or in -ική (Ελληνική).
    Both "Ελληνικά & Ελληνική" are nominalized adjectives for ελληνικά γράμματα (Greek letters) & ελληνική γλώσσα (Greek language).
     

    διαφορετικός

    Senior Member
    Swiss German - Switzerland
    "Ελληνικά [...]" [...] nominalized [...] ελληνικά γράμματα (Greek letters)
    Interesting, I did not know that. Does "τα γράμματα" here mean "η μάθηση, η σπουδή"?

    I have found this definition in the dictionary Λεξικό της κοινής νεοελληνικής in the section "I2.α.". I Looked it up because I am not sure if I understand the expression "Greek letters".
     

    Perseas

    Senior Member
    Interesting, I did not know that. Does "τα γράμματα" here mean "η μάθηση, η σπουδή"?
    No, but in other contexts it does. E.g. "μαθαίνω γράμματα", which means "I learn to write, to read - I get education".

    Aside from the literal meaning "Greek letters", "Ελληνικά γράμματα" refers to the intellectual production of Greeks which is associated with the language .
    Note: We don't say "μιλώ τα ελληνικά γράμματα" to mean "I speak Greek" (as we say "μιλώ την ελληνική γλώσσα"), but we can say "ενδιαφέρομαι για τα ελληνικά γράμματα" to mean "I'm interested in the Greek literature".
     
    Last edited:

    Perseas

    Senior Member
    The modern Greek speaker does not associate "ελληνικά" with "ελληνικά γράμματα". For us "ελληνικά" simply means "Greek". But it is "ελληνικά" (i.e. neuter plural adjective) because it modified the neuter plural noun "γράμματα".

    Of course, the literal meaning for "ελληνικά γράμματα" is the letters of the alphabet and other meanings like "Greek literature" are due to the broadening of that meaning that took place already in antiquity.
     

    διαφορετικός

    Senior Member
    Swiss German - Switzerland
    Thank you again, Perseas.

    [...] other meanings like "Greek literature" are due to the broadening of that meaning that took place already in antiquity.
    I see: the meaning "Greek language" of "τα ελληνικά γράμματα" has also developed in the past, but in modern Greek only the abbreviated version "τα ελληνικά" can still be used for that meaning. (And this pattern has been applied to other languages, even to those which have not been known in the antiquity, like αγγλικά.)
     

    ioanell

    Senior Member
    Greek
    though it might be yermanica.

    Yes, this is right.

    I still don't know when γ is pronounced like g and when it is like y.
    γ is never pronounced as g, but always as a voiced fricative, e.g. as in the English yes.

    I have seen some langauges both with a or i. For example I have seen τσέχικα and Τσεχική for the Czech language. The same for Polish and Hungarian. Perhaps they are wrong.
    No, they are not wrong. You can seem them in both forms, as other posts above have already explained.

    I don't know which languages are exceptions and I don't know how "Swahili" and "Bengali" are translated.
    To my knowledge, exceptions are:
    the names of those languages which became known in later times, not spoken by a specific people but by a number of peoples, like Swahili in Africa, and the names of languages spoken by peoples whose names were never introduced and adapted to the Greek phonetic and declensional system, belonging mainly to the Indo-Aryan family, like e.g. Hindi-Urdu, Benghali, Hindustani, Punjabi, Marathi etc., but to other language families as well. That's why Swahili and Benghali haven't been "translated", although the word "βεγγαλικά", meaning "fireworks", came from the "bengal light".

    The form "Ὁμιλεῖ τήν ἑλληνικήν (γλῶσσαν)" has been mainly used by scholars in older times (17th c. and on), but nowadays is considered outdated. "Μιλάει ελληνικά" is rather the standard modern form.
     

    karim37

    Member
    UK
    English, England
    When I was asking about γ, I meant gamma though it can look like ipsilon. I think for example the word for cat is γάτα pronounced ghata, but "for" is για which I think is pronounced Ya.
     

    ioanell

    Senior Member
    Greek
    Hi,
    When I was asking about γ, I meant gamma though it can look like ipsilon. I think for example the word for cat is γάτα pronounced ghata, but "for" is για which I think is pronounced Ya.
    I think I fully understood that you meant gamma. Repeating part of my previous post above, I say that γ is never pronounced as g (γκ, although that was the pronunciation in Classical Greek until about the time of Hellenistic Koine).
    γάτα is pronounced γáta (because γ is followed by an open α vowel) and για is pronounced ya (ja, according to the IPA chart, because γ is followed either by a close ι vowel or by a mid ε vowel), just like yes (jes) and ...yermanika (jermaniká).

    gamma ... can look like ipsilon
    When printing in latin types, this resemblance only happens with the lower-case characters γ and y, particularly if you don’t pay attention to the strokes in the lower part of the letters. In Greek, there is no resemblance (γ vs υ), especially if writing by hand.
     

    Αγγελος

    Senior Member
    Greek
    The pronunciation of the letter gamma is slightly complicated.
    The basic sound is one that doesn't exist in English. It is similar to Spanish g in haga or Parisian French r.
    Before front vowels, i.e. e and i, however spelt (ε, αι, η, ι, υ, ει, οι), gamma is pronounced like y in 'yell' or 'year'.
    Α silent ι/ει/οι/υ can occur between a gamma and another vowel to indicate that the gamma is pronounced like a y: για (=for), γειά σου (=hi), γιος (=son), γυαλί (=glass)... But such an ι/ει/οι/υ need not be silent; η Μεσόγειος (=the Mediterranean), for instance, is pronounced mesòyi-os, in four syllables. There is no hard-and-fast rule to tell you which vowels are silent in that position, only a tendency, that in words belonging to the 'learned' part of the vocabulary they are usually sounded. The same problem is encountered in connexion with the consonants κ, γκ, χ, λ, ν as well: μπάνιο (=bath), pronounced just like Italian bagno, does not rhyme with σπάνιο (=rare), pronounced spánio, in three syllables, and μαλάκια (=mollusks) is not homonymous with μαλλάκια, diminutive of μαλλιά (=hair).
    Τhe digraphs γκ and γγ are pronounced g or ng (as in 'finger', not as in 'singer'). You have already noticed that αγγλικά can be pronounced both ways. Most Greeks are not aware of the difference.
    In the word ελεγκτής (=checker, controller) and before χ and ξ (άγχος, θα ελέγξω) γ is pronounced like ng in 'singer'. AND in some words such as συγγραφέας (=author) or εγγραφή (=inscription, registration) containing the prefixes συν- and εν-, changed to συγ- and εγ- before another γ, the first gamma of the resulting γγ is pronounced like ng in 'singer', while the second one has its normal pronunciation! Again, this only happens in words of the learned or higher register: in ordinary words like συγγενής (=relative) or εγγονός (=grandson), the γγ is pronounced g or ng, as in άγγελος.
     
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