Meet Crete
Learning the Greek Alphabet
Culture . Tradition

Learning the Greek Alphabet

Greek is the mother tongue of the inhabitants of Greece and of the Greek population of the island of Cyprus.

Greek is also the language of the Greek communities outside Greece, as in the United States, Canada, and Australia. There are Greek-speaking enclaves in Calabria (southern Italy) and in Ukraine. Two main varieties of the language may be distinguished: the local dialects, which may differ from one another considerably, and the Standard Modern Greek.

Learning the Greek alphabet

Learning the Greek Alphabet - MeetCrete

* But:

Γ γ > if it appears in the following combination: “γγ” or “γκ”, it is pronounced like sing
if it appears in the following combination: “γχ” the sound is in the back of the throat, like “χ”, but softer
if it appears in the following combination: “γι” or “γυ”, then it turns into “yes”

Y u > if it appears in the following combination: “αυ” and “ευ”, which is very often, pronounce it like “after” and “left” respectively

Ο ο > if it appears in the following combination: “οι” and “ου”,which is very often, pronounce it like “me” and “boots” respectively

Ηη and Ιι > voacaly no difference, it just makes life difficult concerning orthography

σ > if a word finishes with the letter sigma, the sigma is pronounced regularly, but is written “ς”

Some interesting facts about the Greek alphabet

The Greek alphabet derived from the North Semitic alphabet via that of the Phoenicians.

The Greek alphabet was modified to make it more efficient and accurate for writing a non -Semitic language by the addition of several new letters and the modification or dropping of several others.

Most important, some of the symbols of the Semitic alphabet, which represented only consonants, were made to represent vowels: the Semitic consonants ʾalef, he, yod, ʿayin, and vav became the Greek letters alpha, epsilon, iota, omicron, and upsilon, representing the vowels a,e,i,o, and u, respectively.

The addition of symbols for the vowel sounds greatly increased the accuracy and legibility of the writing system for non-Semitic languages.

The early Greek alphabet was written, like its Semitic forebears, from right to left. This gradually gave way to the boustrophedon style, and after 500 BC Greek was always written from left to right.

From the Ionic to the classical Greek alphabet

Before the 5th century BC the Greek alphabet could be divided into two principal branches, the Ionic (eastern) and the Chalcidian (western); differences between the two branches were minor. The Chalcidian alphabet probably gave rise to the Etruscan alphabet of Italy in the 8th century BC and hence indirectly to the other Italic alphabets, including the Latin alphabet, which is now used for most European languages.

In 403 BC, however, Athens officially adopted the Ionic alphabet as written in Miletus, and in the next 50 years almost all local Greek alphabets, including the Chalcidian, were replaced by the Ionic script, which thus became the classical Greek alphabet.

The classical alphabet had 24 letters, 7 of which were vowels, and consisted of capital letters, ideal for monuments and inscriptions. From it were derived three scripts better suited to handwriting: uncial, which was essentially the classical capitals adapted to writing with pen on paper and similar to hand printing; and cursive and minuscule, which were running scripts similar to modern handwriting forms, with joined letters and considerable modification in letter shape.

Uncial went out of use in the 9th century AD, and minuscule, which replaced it, developed into the modern Greek handwriting form.

(source: Encyclopaedia Britannica)

  • Our own word alphabet comes from the first two letters of the Greek alphabet: alpha and beta.

Related posts

Mitato (or Kumos) – the shepherd’s hut in the mountains of Crete


Greek counting from 1 to 100


Mythology: Talos, the bronze protector of Crete


Food & Drink: Cretan cheese Graviera


Food & Drink: Cretan Dakos, also called Koukouvagia (greek: owl)


Mythology: Daedalus and Icarus – on the run