Greek has the longest written history of any of the Indo-European languages, but that doesn’t mean that today’s Greek sounds like the Greek language of Plato and Socrates. A lot can change over thousands of years- just think of how much English has changed since Chaucer’s time!
Interestingly, Romeyka, a Greek dialect spoken along the coast of the Black Sea in Turkey, preserves some aspects of ancient Greek that have since disappeared from the language. Linguists believe that the dialect may help them understand more clearly how Ancient Greek evolved into the modern Greek spoken today.
As Ioanna Sitaridou, a linguist from the University of Cambridge who has been studying the language, explained in a press release:
“Although Romeyka can hardly be described as anything but a Modern Greek dialect, it preserves an impressive number of grammatical traits that add an Ancient Greek flavor to the dialect’s structure – traits that have been completely lost from other Modern Greek varieties. What these people are speaking is a variety of Greek far more archaic than other forms of Greek spoken today.”
For example, speakers of Romeyka use verb forms that were abandoned by other Greek dialects 2,000 years ago. Unfortunately, while Sitaridou has been trying to preserve a record of the language, the number of people who speak it has declined as Romeyka speakers leave their communities to seek opportunities elsewhere. Soon, it could become another statistic: one of the languages that disappears forever every 14 days.
According to Sitaridou:
“With as few as 5,000 speakers left in the area, before long Romeyka could be more of a heritage language than a living vernacular. With its demise would go an unparalleled opportunity to unlock how the Greek language has evolved.”