Griko dialect

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Salentino Greek
Native to Italy
Region Salento
Ethnicity Griko people
Native speakers
unknown (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: Κατωιταλιωτικά, "Southern Italian") or Grekanika (Γρεκάνικα), whereas its own speakers call it Katoitaliótika (Κατωιταλιώτικα) or Griko (Γκρίκο). Griko and Standard Modern Greek are mutually intelligible to some extent.[citation needed]


The most popular hypothesis on the origin of Griko is the one by Gerhard Rohlfs[3] and Georgios Hatzidakis, stating that Griko's roots go as far back in history as the time of the ancient Greek colonisation of Southern Italy and Sicily in the 8th century BC, and in that respect, this Southern Italian dialect is 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 mainstream Koiné Greek like almost all other Modern Greek dialects.[4] Thus, Griko should rather be described as a Doric-influenced descendant of Byzantine 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.[5]

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 Griko 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, supposedly around 2000.

Official status

By Law no. 482 of 1999, the Italian parliament recognized the Griko communities of Reggio Calabria and Salento as a Greek ethnic and linguistic minority. This 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, Provençal, Friulian, Ladin, Occitan and Sardinian.[6]


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.


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

Griko Modern Greek English Translation
Καληνύφτα - Kalinífta Καληνύχτα - Kaliníhta Good night
Ἐβὼ πάντα σὲ σένα πενσέω,
γιατὶ σένα φσυχὴ μοῦ 'γαπῶ,
τσαὶ ποῦ πάω, ποῦ σύρνω, ποῦ στέω
στὴν καρδία μοῦ πάντα σένα βαστῶ.
Ἐγὼ πάντα ἐσένα σκέπτομαι,
γιατὶ ἐσένα ψυχὴ μοῦ ἀγαπῶ,
κι ὄπου πάω, ὄπου σέρνομαι, ὄπου στέκω,
στήν καρδιὰ μοῦ 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: ...
Evó pánta se séna penséo,
yiatí séna fsihí mou 'ghapó,
tche pu páo, pu sýrno, pu stéo
stin kardía mu pánta séna vastó.
Egó pánta eséna skéftome,
yiatì eséna psihí mu agapó,
ke ópu páo, ópu sérnome, ópu stéko
stin kardiá mu pánta eséna vastó.

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 μαζὶ σᾶς μα σκέπτομαι τὸ τρένο
Σκέπτομαι τὸ σκοτάδι καὶ τὸ ὀρυχεῖο
ὄπου 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 ettù ma 'sà 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. Nordhoff, Sebastian; Hammarström, Harald; Forkel, Robert; Haspelmath, Martin, eds. (2013). "dialect of Salentino-Calabrian Greek". Glottolog. Leipzig: Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  3. G. Rohlfs, Griechen und Romanen in Unteritalien, 1924.
  4. G. Horrocks, Greek: A history of the language and its speakers, London: Longman. 1997. Ch. 4.4.3 and 14.2.3.
  5. G. Morosi, Studi sui dialetti greci della terra d'Otranto, Lecce, 1870.
  6. 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."

Further reading

External links