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Cappadocian Greek

Region Greece, originally Cappadocia (Central Turkey)
Native speakers
2,800 (2015)[1]
(previously thought to be extinct)
Language codes
ISO 639-3 cpg
Glottolog capp1239[2]

Cappadocian, also known as Cappadocian Greek or Asia Minor Greek, is a mixed language formerly spoken in Cappadocia (Central Turkey). In the population exchange between Greece and Turkey in the 1920s, Cappadocian Greeks were forced to emigrate to Greece, where they were resettled in various locations, especially in Central and Northern Greece. The Cappadocians rapidly shifted to Standard Modern Greek and their language was thought to be extinct since the 1960s. In June 2005, Mark Janse (Ghent University) and Dimitris Papazachariou (University of Patras) discovered Cappadocians in Central and Northern Greece who could still speak their ancestral language fluently. Amongst them are middle-aged, third-generation speakers who take a very positive attitude towards the language as opposed to their parents and grandparents. The latter are much less inclined to speak Cappadocian and more often than not switch to Standard Modern Greek. A survey of Cappadocian speakers and language use is currently in preparation.


  • History and research 1
  • Characteristics 2
  • Dialects 3
  • See also 4
  • References 5
  • Bibliography 6
    • Rumi and Sultan Walad 6.1

History and research

Anatolian Greek dialects until 1923. Demotic in yellow. Pontic in orange. Cappadocian in green, with green dots indicating individual Cappadocian Greek villages in 1910.[3]

Cappadocian evolved out of Byzantine Greek. After the battle of Manzikert in 1071, Cappadocia was cut off from the rest of the Greek-speaking world and Turkish became the lingua franca in the region.

The earliest records of the language are in the macaronic Persian poems of Jalal ad-Din Muhammad Rumi, who lived in Iconium (Konya), and some Ghazals by his son Sultan Walad.[4][5] Interpretation of the texts is difficult, as they are written in Arabic script, in Rumi's case without vowel points; Dedes' is the most recent edition and rather more successful than others.[6][7][8]

Many Cappadocians shifted to Turkish altogether (written with the Greek alphabet, Karamanlidika); where Greek was maintained (Sille, villages near Kayseri, Pharasa town and other nearby villages), it became heavily influenced by the surrounding Turkish. Unfortunately, there are next to no written documents in Medieval or early Modern Cappadocian, as the language was and still is essentially without a written tradition. The earliest descriptions of Cappadocian date from the 19th century, but are generally not very accurate.

The first reliable grammar of Cappadocian is Modern Greek in Asia Minor: A study of dialect of Silly, Cappadocia and Pharasa (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1916), by Richard MacGillivray Dawkins (1871–1955), the first Bywater and Sotheby Professor of Byzantine and Modern Greek Language and Literature at the University of Oxford, based on fieldwork conducted by the author in Cappadocia in 1909–1911.[9]

After the population exchange, several Cappadocian dialects have been described by collaborators of the Center for Asia Minor Studies (Κέντρον Μικρασιατικών Σπουδών) in Athens: Uluağaç (I.I. Kesisoglou, 1951), Aravan (D. Phosteris & I.I. Kesisoglou, 1960), Axo (G. Mavrochalyvidis & I.I. Kesisoglou, 1960) and Anaku (A.P. Costakis, 1964), resulting in a series of grammars (although regrettably not all Cappadocian villages were covered). The Pharasiot priest Theodoridis also published some folk texts.

In recent years, the study of Cappadocian has seen a revival following the pioneering work on Language Contact, Creolization, and Genetic Linguistics (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1988) by Sarah Grey Thomason and Terrence Kaufman, and a series of publications on various aspects of Cappadocian linguistics by Mark Janse, professor at Roosevelt Academy, who has also contributed a grammatical survey of Cappadocian to a forthcoming handbook on Modern Greek dialects edited by Christos Tzitzilis (Aristotle University of Thessaloniki).

The recent discovery of Cappadocian speakers by Janse and Papazachariou will result in a new grammar, dictionary and collection of texts.

Cappadocian Greek is well known from the linguistic literature as being one of the first well documented cases of language death, and in particular the significant admixture of non-Indo-European linguistic features into an Indo-European language. This process was pronounced on South-Western Cappadocia, and included the introduction of vowel harmony and verb-final word order.


The Greek element in Cappadocian is to a large extent Byzantine, e.g. θír or tír "door" from (Ancient and) Byzantine Greek θύρα (Modern Greek θύρα), píka or épka "I did" from Byzantine Greek έποικα (Modern Greek έκανα). Other, pre-Byzantine, archaisms are the use of the possessive pronouns mó(n), só(n) etc. from Ancient Greek εμός, σός etc. and the formation of the imperfect by means of the suffix -išk- from the Ancient Greek (Ionic) iterative suffix -(e)sk-. Turkish influence appears at every level. The Cappadocian sound system includes the Turkish vowels ı, ö, ü, and the Turkish consonants b, d, g, š, ž, tš, dž (although some of these are also found in Greek words as a result of palatalization).

Turkish vowel harmony is found in forms such as düšündǘzu "I think", aor. 3sg düšǘntsü < düšǘntsi (Malakopi), from Turkish düşünmek, patišáxıs < patišáxis "king" (Delmeso), from Turkish padişah. Cappadocian noun morphology is characterized by the emergence of a generalized agglutinative declension and the progressive loss of grammatical gender distinctions, e.g. to néka "the (neuter) woman (feminine)", genitive néka-ju, plural nékes, genitive nékez-ju (Uluağaç). Another Turkish feature is the morphological marking of definiteness in the accusative case, e.g. líkos "wolf (nominative / unmarked indefinite accusative)" vs. líko "wolf (marked definite accusative)".

Agglutinative forms are also found in the verb system such as the pluperfect írta ton "I had come" (lit. "I came I was") (Delmeso) on the model of Turkish geldi idi (geldiydi). Although Cappadocian word order is essentially governed by discourse considerations such as topic and focus, there is a tendency towards the Turkish subject–object–verb word order with its typological correlates (suffixation and pre-nominal grammatical modifiers).

The commonality among all Greek Cappadocian dialects is that they evolved from Byzantine Greek under the influence of Turkish. On the other hand, those dialects evolved in isolated villages. This has resulted in a variety of Greek Cappadocian dialects.


  • Northeastern Cappadocian (Sinasos, Potamia, Delmeso)
  • Northwestern Cappadocian (Silata or Zila, Anaku, Flojita, Malakopi)
  • Central Cappadocian (Axo; Misthi) (See Misthiotica)
  • Southwestern Cappadocian (Aravan, Gurzono; Fertek)
  • Southeastern Cappadocian (Oulagatz (Uluağaç), Semendere)
  • Farasiot: dialect of Pharasa (Faraşa) town (now Çamlıca village Yahyalı, Kayseri) and other nearby villages (Afshar-Köy, Çukuri), more closely related to Pontic, though both are the closest relatives of Cappadocian
  • Sille

See also


  1. ^ Cappadocian at Ethnologue (18th ed., 2015)
  2. ^ Nordhoff, Sebastian; Hammarström, Harald; Forkel, Robert; Haspelmath, Martin, eds. (2013). "Cappadocian Greek".  
  3. ^ Dawkins, R.M. 1916. Modern Greek in Asia Minor. A study of dialect of Silly, Cappadocia and Pharasa. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
  4. ^
  5. ^
  6. ^ Δέδες, Δ. 1993. Ποιήματα του Μαυλανά Ρουμή. Τα Ιστορικά 10.18–19: 3–22.
  7. ^ Meyer, G. 1895. Die griechischen Verse in Rabâbnâma. Byzantinische Zeitschrift 4: 401–411.
  8. ^ Burguière, P. 1952. Quelques vers grecs du XIIIe siècle en caractères arabes. Byzantion 22: 63–80.
  9. ^


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Rumi and Sultan Walad

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  • Mertzios, C.D. 1958. Quelques vers grecs du XIIIe siècle en caractères arabes. Byzantinische Zeitschrift 51: 1516.
  • Burguière, P. 1952. Quelques vers grecs du XIIIe siècle en caractères arabes. Byzantion 22: 63–80.
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