Ancient Macedonian language

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The Macedonian people and their kings were of Greek stock, as their traditions and the scanty remains of their language combine to testify. ~ John Bagnell Bury
He was still in a world of Greek gods and sacrifices, of Greek plays and Greek language, though the natives might speak Greek with a northern accent which hardened 'ch' into 'g','th' into 'd' and pronounced King Philip as Bilip. ~ Robin Lane Fox
The names of the genuine Macedonians and those born of Macedonian parents, especially the names of the elit class and nobles, in their formation and phonology are purely Greek. ~ Otto Hoffmann

Ancient Macedonian, the language of the ancient Macedonians, either a dialect of Ancient Greek or a separate Hellenic language, was spoken in the kingdom of Macedonia during the 1st millennium BC and belongs to the Indo-European language family. It gradually fell out of use during the 4th century BC, marginalized by the use of Attic Greek by the Macedonian aristocracy, the Ancient Greek dialect that became the basis of Koine Greek, the lingua franca of the Hellenistic period.

Quotes[edit]

  • The first Greek-speaking people in the southern Balkan Peninsula arrived in Macedonia, Thessaly, and Epirus sometime after 2600 B.C. and developed, probably due to the extreme mountainous nature of the country, their several different dialects.
  • Here we have seen that their early history is still largely an open question. They may have had Greek origins: Whatever process produced the Greek-speakers (of that is how one defines "Greek") who lived south of Olympus may have also produced the Makedones who wandered out of the western mountains to establish a home and a kingdom in Pieria.
    • Eugene N. Borza, "In The Shadow of Olympus", pp. 277-278, Princeton University Press.
  • The Macedonian people and their kings were of Greek stock, as their traditions and the scanty remains of their language combine to testify.
    • John Bagnell Bury, "A History of Greece to the Death of Alexander the Great", 2nd ed. (1913).
  • That the Macedonians and their kings did in fact speak a dialect of Greek and bore Greek names may be regarded nowadays as certain.
    • Malcolm Errington, "A History of Macedonia", University of California Press, February 1993.
  • He was still in a world of Greek gods and sacrifices, of Greek plays and Greek language, though the natives might speak Greek with a northern accent which hardened 'ch' into 'g','th' into 'd' and pronounced King Philip as Bilip.
  • Cleopatra VII would have described herself as a Greek. Whatever the racial ingredients of her Macedonian ancestors, her language, like theirs (though they had spoken a dialect), was Greek and so was her whole education and culture.
    • Michael Grant, "From Alexander to Cleopatra: The Hellenistic World", Scribner Paper Fiction.
  • That the Macedonians were of Greek stock seems certain. The claim made by the Argead dynasty to be of Argive descent may be no more than a generally accepted myth, but Macedonian proper names, such as Ptolemaios or Philippos, are good Greek names, and the names of the Macedonian months, although differed from those of Athens or Sparta, were also Greek. The language spoken by the Macedonians, which Greeks of the classical period found unintelligible, appears to have been a primitive northwest Greek dialect, much influenced by the languages of the neighboring barbarians.
    • J.R. Hamilton, Australian historian, "Alexander the Great", Hutchinson, London, 1973.
  • Hesiod first mentioned 'Makedon', the eponym of the people and the country, as a son of Zeus, a grandson of Deukalion, and so a first cousin of Aeolus, Dorus, and Xuthus; in other words he considered the 'Makedones' to be an outlying branch of the Greek-speaking tribes, with a distinctive dialect of their own, "Macedonian".
  • All in all, the language of the Macedones was a distinct and particular form of Greek, resistant to outside influences and conservative in pronunciation. It remained so until the fourth century when it was almost totally submerged by the flood tide of standardized Greek.
  • There were two parts of the Greek-speaking world at this time which did not suffer from revolution and did not seek to impose rule over the city states. In Epirus there were three clusters of tribal states, called Molossia, Thesprotia and Chaonia[...]the other part of the Greek-speaking world extended from Pelagonia in the north to Macedonia in the south. It was occupied by several tribal states, which were constantly at war against Illyrians, Paeonians and Thracians.
  • Macedonians had their own language related to Greek, but the members that dominated Macedonian society routinely learned to speak Greek because they thought of themselves and indeed all Macedonians as Greek by blood.
    • Thomas R. Martin, "Ancient Greece: From Prehistoric to Hellenistic Times", Yale University Press, p. 188.
  • Certainly the Thracians and the Illyrians were non-Greek speakers, but in the northwest, the peoples of Molossis (Epirot province), Orestis and Lynkestis spoke West Greek. It is also accepted that the Macedonians spoke a dialect of Greek and although they absorbed other groups into their territory, they were essentially Greeks.
    • Robert Morkot, British historian, "The Penguin Historical Atlas of Ancient Greece", Penguin Publishing USA, January 1997.
  • ...despite ancient and modern controversies it seems clear that the Macedonians as a whole were Greek-speakers. While the elite naturally communicated with other elites in standard, probably Attic, the ordinary Macedonians appear to have spoken a dialect of Greek, albeit with load-words from Illyrian and thracian which gave ammunition to their denigrators[...] if proof needed of the sophistication of Macedonia at this time, one may bring forward the fragments of the earliest surviving Greek literary papyrus, a carbonized book-roll found in a tomb-group of c. 340-320 at Derveni near Thessaloniki. It preserves parts of a philosophical text on Presocratic and Orphic cosmology composed around 400, and surely had a religious significance for the man in whose funeral pyre it was placed. The Derveni roll provides evidence for a high level of culture among the aristocracy.
    • Graham Shipley, English historian, " The Greek World After Alexander", Routledge, p. 111.
  • Before the times of the national unity installed by the Macedonians around the middle of the 4th century BC, Greece was composed of many regions or city states[...] That they [Dorians] were related to the North-West Dialects (of Phocis, Locris, Aetolia, Acarnania and Epirus) was not perceived clearly by the ancients.
    • Sylvain Auroux, French linguist, "History of the Language Sciences: I. Approaches to Gender II. Manifestations", p. 439.
  • The nucleus of the Macedonian vocabulary consists of words which have exact correspondence in Greek. The importance of these words and the archaic phonological character of Macedonian lead to the conclusion that these are not borrowings but inherited words: this fact is confirmed by the genetic unity of Macedonian and Greek. Moreover, the numerous lexical and phonological isoglosses in Macedonian and the different Greek dialects confirm the supposition of genetic unity.
    • Vladimir Ivanov Georgiev, Bulgarian linguist, "Introduction to the History of the Indo-European Languages", Sofia 1981, p. 169.
  • Whoever does not consider the Macedonians as Greeks must also conclude that by the 6th and 5th centuries BC the Macedonians had completely given up the original names of their nation - without any need to do so - and taken Greek names in order to demonstrate their admiration for Greek civilization. I think it not worth the trouble to demolish such a notion; for any hypothesis of historical linguists which is put forward without taking into account the actual life of a people, is condemned as it were out of its own mouth.
    • Otto Hoffmann, German linguist, "Die Makedonen, Ihre Sprache und Ihr Volkstum", Göttingen, 1906.
  • And now after supervising the ancient Macedonian linguistic thesaurus we are posting the decisive question, if what is adding to the Macedonian language its character, are the hellenic or the barbarian elements of it, the response can not be of any doubts. From the 39 "languages" that according to Gustav Mayer their form was "completely alien" has been proven after this research of mine, that 10 of them are clearly Hellenic, with 4 more possibly dialectical forms of common hellenic words, so from the entire collection are remaining only 15 words appearing to be justifiable or at least suspected of anti-hellenic origins. Adding to those 15, few others which with regards their vocals could be hellenic, without till now being confirmed as such, then their number, in comparison to the number of pure hellenic ones in the Macedonian language, is so small that the general hellenic character of the Macedonian linguistic treasure can not be doubted.
    • Otto Hoffmann, German linguist, "Die Makedonen, Ihre Sprache und Ihr Volkstum", Göttingen, 1906.
  • The names of the genuine Macedonians and those born of Macedonian parents, especially the names of the elit class and nobles, in their formation and phonology are purely Greek.
    • Otto Hoffmann, German linguist, "Die Makedonen, Ihre Sprache und Ihr Volkstum", Göttingen, 1906.
  • For a long while Macedonian onomastics, which we know relatively well thanks to history, literary authors, and epigraphy, has played a considerable role in the discussion. In our view the Greek character of most names is obvious and it is difficult to think of a Hellenization due to wholesale borrowing. ‘Ptolemaios’ is attested as early as Homer, ‘Ale3avdros’ occurs next to Mycenaean feminine a-re-ka-sa-da-ra- ('Alexandra'), ‘Laagos’, then ‘Lagos’, matches the Cyprian 'Lawagos', etc. The small minority of names which do not look Greek, like ‘Arridaios’ or ‘Sabattaras’, may be due to a substratum or adstratum influences (as elsewhere in Greece). Macedonian may then be seen as a Greek dialect, characterized by its marginal position and by local pronunciations (like ‘Berenika’ for ‘Ferenika’, etc). Yet in contrast with earlier views which made of it an Aeolic dialect (O.Hoffmann compared Thessalian) we must by now think of a link with North-West Greek (Locrian, Aetolian, Phocidian, Epirote). This view is supported by the recent discovery at Pella of a curse tablet (4th cent. BC) which may well be the first 'Macedonian' text attested (provisional publication by E.Voutyras; cf. the Bulletin Epigraphique in Rev.Et.Grec.1994, no.413); the text includes an adverb ‘opoka’ which is not Thessalian. We must wait for new discoveries, but we may tentatively conclude that Macedonian is a dialect related to North-West Greek.
    • Olivier Masson, French linguist, "Oxford Classical Dictionary:Macedonian Language", 1996.
  • The problem of the nationality of the Macedonians has been studied a great deal. Otto Hoffman with linguistics as his starting point solved it correctly and decisively when he accepted that the Macedonians were Greeks.
    • F. Munzer, German linguist, "Die Politische Vernichtung des Griechentums", Leipzig 1925, p. 4.
  • The Ancient Macedonian language: The ancient language of the Macedonian kingdom in N. Greece and modern Macedonia during the later 1st millennium BC. Survived until the early 1st millennium AD. Not to be confused with the modern Macedonian language, which is a close relative of the Slavic Bulgarian.
  • The evidence for the language of the Macedonians has been reviewed and discussed by Kalleris and Hammond, Griffith, and many others, all contending that it was a dialect of Greek. The increasing volume of surviving public and private inscriptions makes it quite clear that there was no written language but Greek. There may be room for argument over spoken forms, or at least over local survivals of earlier occupancy, but it is hard to imagine what kind of authority might sustain that. There is no evidence for a different "Macedonian" language that cannot be as easily explained in terms of dialect or accent.
    • "Cambridge Ancient Histories", Cambridge Univ. Press, 1998.
  • As a Macedonian [Philip] was looked down upon by the more refined Athenians, but they shared the same Hellenistic culture. How deep this went is evident in aesthetically the least spectacular, but politically the most explosive, of the finds in Vergina. In the Great Tumulus above Philip's tombs, which was raised by the invading Galatians in 274 BC, the archaeologists found fragments of no fewer than seventy-five funeral monuments, or “stelai”. The names on these were entirely Greek, save two, which appeared to be Hellenized versions of Thracian and Phoenician names. The implication is that Philip's Macedonia was thoroughly Hellenized, an outpost of classical Greek culture...
    • Robert Fox, journalist and a writer on defence issues, "The Inner Sea: The Mediterranean and its People", Sinclair- Stevenson, London 1991 (p 229-230).

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