Griko Background

The Greek language spoken in Italy, known by the names grico, griko, greco-bovese or greco-calabro, is written in Roman characters and is a highly corrupted form of modern Greek. Griko is not a unitary language since it is spoken in two geographically and linguistically distinct enclaves, one in the area known as Bovesia near Reggio di Calabria and the other near Lecce, in the area known by the name of Grecia Salentina.

General History and History of the Language

Towards the end of the 13th century, the political and cultural decline of the Byzantine Empire engulfed the Hellenism of Calabria in a crisis, which it withstood very effectively until the 15th century. From that time on, the various Romance dialects began to prevail in everyday interaction, especially in the urban centres that were open to external influences. There were even scattered pockets of bilingualism in the more remote towns and villages.

Italian and its regional dialects spread like wildfire among the population, due to their far superior social and cultural standing to that of Calabrian Greek. The results of this were a reduction to about twelve in the number of villages where Grico was still in common use at the start of the 19th century and the emergence of a situation of general bilingualism. Thus the first general census conducted in Italy after unification identified only seven Greek-speaking communes in Calabria, which represented some 8,000 people.

Universal schooling in Italian after the Second World War, compulsory military service, the law of 1901 granting freedom to emigrate (which caused serious depopulation throughout southern Italy) and the growing influence of the Italian mass media put an end to the bilingualism that had existed since the 17th century and reduced Greek to a dead language as far as social intercourse between communities was concerned.

Initiatives designed to promote the language were launched in the late fifties, thanks to the growing awareness of some intellectuals from the middle classes in Reggio di Calabria and Bova Marina and the interest shown by foreign researchers such as Rohlfs.


Apų "Katalėsti o kosmo" From "Katalėsti o kosmo"
Ti ene e glossama? Pedāimmu! 'En i' lloja tze chartė, ka 'su pianni ce mattenni meletonta; c' 'en i' lloja ka vrėkane grammena 's kanč mmea paleon lisari,'s ena tticho kau stin grutta. E glōssama e' fonė, fonė manechō. What's a language? My son ! It's not the words from old manuscripts, that you are, with difficulty, trying to decipher; nor words engraved on a antique slab of stone, on a wall, in a cave. Our language is voice, only voice.
Me rotā pos entzėgnase, pos čttase 's emā, is tin čfer' etturtea, is tin čmase pronō. Is to tzeri, pedāimmu! 'E ssu ndiāzzete n'o tzeri. You're asking me when it started out, how it got to us, who brought it towards this land, who learnt it first. Who knows, my son! You shouldn't care about knowing these things.
Sa llumera e' ppuru e glossama, ka mas tčrmane i zzoė. Tispon čvale pleo tzila, tispo fėsise 'cipanu n'āi na jėri lion e vampa; ce arte sbinnete, ma ma. Like the fire is our language: it warmed up our lives. Nobody added small branches, nobody blew on it to heighten the flames; and now it's burning out with us.
Ti su meni? Lillė statti, enan aspro kulumai: an esų pai n'on enghisi, ma mia mmavri paletteddha, a pa' n'on escalisi, na! su kanni kammia spitta, sozzi doi mian addhi vvampa; depoi sbėnnete, ma sena. What's left to you? A bit of ashes, a small white pile: if you go and touch it, with a black shovel, if you try to find it again, out goes a spark, a shy spark, and it burns out, with you.


(Bear in mind that there isn't a real official writing system for Griko. The information put forth in the Italian - Griko webpages here, is from the system used by Tommasi in his vocabulary. This vocabulary is made by a man from Calimera (Tommasi) with the Griko of this village. The Griko of other villages is similar but there are also some differences.)

tz has the sound of a double "z" or "tz", or a harsh "z", similar to the "ts" of "Tsar".
zz is "soft" like a "dz", or similar to the "z" of the English/American "pizza".
eh sound of the " inhaled c ", like "loch"
ddh a kind of mix of "l" [or English "r"] and "d". The only English pronounciation which is quite near to "ddh" is "dr" but "d" and "r" should be pronounced as a single sound.
k is practically the English "ck" or "k". Sometimes it is pronounced with a kind of inhalation, similar to "ch".
c sound of the "ch" as in "cheese"
ft sounds similar to a "double t". The original pronunciation was "ft".
ps sounds similar to a "tz" (see above)
j sounds similar to a "y" in English/American

Another note: Another sound, "fs" is pronounced identical to "tz" at Calimera and other villages. But in Martano they pronounce it like "fs" or "ss", in Zollino they pronounce it like the English "sh". This sound came from the Greek letters "ksi" and "psi". You could write a note with the warning that the "tz" derived from Greek "ks" and "ps" are pronounced "fs/ss" in Martano, "sh" in Zollino.

An apostrophe (') at the beginning or the end of a word indicates the dropping of one letter or syllable The accent circumflex (^) indicates the fusion of two words (ex. tu ipa = t' ûpa). The accent on all words, except those marked with an accent mark, falls on the next to the last syllable.

Kalime`raGood Morning and Good Day
Kalini`ftaGood Night
Stasu kalo` (to a male), Stasu kali` (to a female), Stasi`te(sta) kali` (to a group)Good Bye
Haristo`Thank You
As kalo`Best Wishes
Kalombra`iGood Evening
Kalo`s i`rte (to a male), Kali` irte (to a female), Kalo`s i`rtate (or Kalo`s i`rtato) (to a group)Welcome
Atteporna` (or Arteporna`)This Morning
Artevvra`iThis Evening
Tuni'ftaLast Night
Evō ('vo) I
Esų ('su)You
(Cino/Cini/Cino)He, She, It
Emė We
EsėYou (pl)
ĖmeI am
Ėse You are
Čne He/She/It is
Ėmesta We are
ĖsestaYou (pl) are
ĖneThey are
EhoI have
SozoI can
TorōI see
CųoI hear
PāoI go
CannoI make
Ilio Sun
Ghė (homa)Earth
Fengāri (Silčne)Moon
Haro  (tānato)Death
Zoė Life
Alādi Oil

Some Grammar

Here are a few grammatical notes. For in depth expertise we would suggest the book "Katalisti or Kosmo" by S. Tommasi, published by Ghetonėa in 1996.

The article is declined:

o i (e) to (o)
Genitive/Dative tu tis (ti,is) tu (u)
Accusative ton (on,o) tin (ti,in,i) to (o)

e (i) e ta (a)
Genitive/Dative tos (to,os,o) tos (to,os,o) tos (to,os,o)
Accusative tus (us) tes (es,e) ta (a)

o āntrepo, e (i) āntrepi
i (e) fonė, e foné
to prama, ta prāmata
The man, the men
The voice, the voices
The thing, the things
The verbs:present and indicative past (active form) of "fonazzo" (I call)


Return to the Republic of Molossia Main page.