Griko dialect

Salentino Greek
Native to Italy
Region Salento
Ethnicity Griko people
Native speakers
(20,000 cited 1981)[1]
40,000 to 50,000 L2 speakers
Language codes
ISO 639-3
Glottolog None
apul1236  (dialect of Salentino-Calabrian Greek)[2]
Linguasphere 56-AAA-aia

Location map of the Italiot-speaking areas in Salento and Calabria

Griko, sometimes spelled Grico, or Grecanic, is the dialect of Italiot Greek spoken by the Griko people in Salento. Some Greek linguists consider it to be a Modern Greek dialect and often call it Katoitaliotikà (Greek: Κατωιταλιώτικα, "Southern Italian") or Grekanika (Γρεκάνικα), whereas its own speakers call it Katoitaliótika (Κατωιταλιώτικα) or Griko (Γκρίκο). Griko and Standard Modern Greek are mutually intelligible.[3]


The most popular hypothesis on the origin of Griko is the one by Gerhard Rohlfs[4] and Georgios Hatzidakis, that Griko's roots go as far back in history as the time of the ancient Greek colonies in Southern Italy and Sicily in the eighth century BC. The Southern Italian dialect is thus considered to be the last living trace of the Greek elements that once formed Magna Graecia.

There are, however, competing hypotheses according to which Griko may have preserved some Doric elements, but its structure is otherwise mostly based on Koine Greek, like almost all other Modern Greek dialects.[5] Thus, Griko should rather be described as a Doric-influenced descendant of Medieval Greek. The idea of Southern Italy's Greek dialects being historically derived from Medieval Greek was proposed for the first time in the 19th century by Giuseppe Morosi.[6]

Geographic distribution

Two small Italiot-speaking communities survive today in the Italian regions of Calabria (Province of Reggio Calabria) and Apulia (peninsula of Salento). The Italiot-speaking area of Salento comprises nine small towns in the Grecìa Salentina region (Calimera, Martano, Castrignano de' Greci, Corigliano d'Otranto, Melpignano, Soleto, Sternatia, Zollino, Martignano), with a total of 40,000 inhabitants. The Calabrian Greek region also consists of nine villages in Bovesia, (including Bova Superiore, Roghudi, Gallicianò, Chorìo di Roghudi and Bova Marina) and four districts in the city of Reggio Calabria, but its population is significantly smaller, with around only 2000 inhabitants.

Official status

By Law 482 of 1999, the Italian parliament recognised the Griko communities of Reggio Calabria and Salento as a Greek ethnic and linguistic minority. It states that the Republic protects the language and culture of its Albanian, Catalan, Germanic, Greek, Slovene and Croat populations and of those who speak French, Franco-Provençal, Friulian, Ladin, Occitan and Sardinian.[7]


There is rich oral tradition and Griko folklore. Griko songs, music and poetry are particularly popular in Italy and Greece. Famous music groups from Salento include Ghetonia and Aramirè. Also, influential Greek artists such as Dionysis Savvopoulos and Maria Farantouri have performed in Griko. The Greek musical ensamble Encardia focuses on Griko songs as well as on the musical tradition of Southern Italy at large.[8]


Sample text from Καληνύφτα – Kalinifta ("Good night") and Andramu pai, popular Griko songs:

Griko Modern Greek English Translation
Καληνύφτα - kali'nifta Καληνύχτα - kali'nixta Good night
Ἐβὼ πάντα σὲ σένα πενσέω,
γιατὶ σένα φσυχή μου 'γαπῶ,
τσαὶ ποῦ πάω, ποῦ σύρνω, ποῦ στέω
στὴν καρδιά μου πάντα σένα βαστῶ.
Ἐγὼ πάντα ἐσένα σκέφτομαι,
γιατὶ ἐσένα ψυχή μου ἀγαπῶ,
καὶ ὅπου πάω, ὅπου συρθῶ, ὅπου σταθῶ,
στὴν καρδιά μου πάντα ἐσένα βαστῶ.
I always think of you
because I love you, my soul,
and wherever I go, wherever I drag myself into, wherever I stay,
inside my heart I always hold you.
transliteration:transliteration: ...
E'vo 'panta se 'sena pen'seo,
ja'ti 'sena fsi'hi mu ɣa'po,
tɕe pu 'pao, pu 'sirno, pu 'steo
stin kar'dja mu 'panta 'sena vas'to.
e'ɣo 'panda e'sena 'skeftome,
ʝa'ti e'sena psi'çi mu aɣa'po,
ce 'opu 'pao, 'opu sir'θo, 'opu sta'θo
stin kar'ðʝa mu 'panda e'sena va'sto.
Griko Modern Greek English Translation
Ἄνδρα μοῦ πάει - Andramu pai Ὁ ἄνδρας μοῦ πάει - O andras mou pai My husband is left
Στὲ κούω τὴ μπάντα τσαὶ στὲ κούω ἦττο σόνο
Στέω ἐττοῦ μα 'σα τσαὶ στὲ πένσεω στὸ τρένο
Πένσεω στὸ σκοτεινό τσαὶ ἤττη μινιέρα
ποῦ πολεμώντα ἐτσεί πεσαίνει ὁ γένο!
Ἀκούω τὴν μπάντα, ἀκούω τὴ μουσική
Εἶμαι ἐδὼ μαζί σας μὰ σκέφτομαι τὸ τρένο
Σκέφτομαι τὸ σκοτάδι καὶ τὸ ὀρυχεῖο
ὅπου δουλεύοντας πεθαίνει ὁ κόσμος!
I hear the band, I hear the music
I'm here with you but I think of the train
I think of darkness and the mine
where people work and die!
transliteration:transliteration: ...
Ste 'kuo ti 'baⁿda ce ste kuo itto sono,
steo et'tu ma sa ce ste 'penseo sto 'treno,
penseo sto skotinò citti miniera

pu polemònta ecì peseni o jeno!
Akuo ti banda, akuo ti musiki
ime edho mazi sas ma skeftome to treno
skeftome to skotadhi kai to orihio
opu doulevontas petheni o kosmos!

See also

Notes and references

  1. N. Vincent, Italian, in B. Comrie (ed.) The world's major languages, London, Croom Helm, 1981. pp. 279-302.
  2. Hammarström, Harald; Forkel, Robert; Haspelmath, Martin; Bank, Sebastian, eds. (2016). "dialect of Salentino-Calabrian Greek". Glottolog 2.7. Jena: Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History.
  3. Hammarström (2015) Ethnologue 16/17/18th editions: a comprehensive review: online appendices
  4. G. Rohlfs, Griechen und Romanen in Unteritalien, 1924.
  5. G. Horrocks, Greek: A history of the language and its speakers, London: Longman. 1997. Ch. 4.4.3 and 14.2.3.
  6. G. Morosi, Studi sui dialetti greci della terra d'Otranto, Lecce, 1870.
  7. Law no. 482 of 1999: "La Repubblica tutela la lingua e la cultura delle popolazioni albanesi, catalane, germaniche, greche, slovene e croate e di quelle parlanti il francese, il franco-provenzale, il friulano, il ladino, l'occitano e il sardo."
  8. "Website of Encardia". Retrieved 2016-02-17.

Further reading

External links

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