World Greek Language Day: The “unknown” Pontic Greek dialects in Turkey

Romeika Pontic

On World Greek Language Day today, Sputnik Hellas remembers an unknown Pontic Greek dialect spoken even today in Turkey, as it spread all around the Black Sea.

The existence of the Pontic dialect within the “family” of Greek language is widely known.

Lesser known “descendant” of Pontic Greek is the Greek of the region of Ophious (Ὄφιούς, Turkish: Of), in Τραπεζούντα (Trapezounta, Turkish: Trabzon) and Thoania (Θωανία, Turkish: Tonya), which is a subdialect and exists in other parts of the historical Pontus.

It is spoken to this day by the Pontic-speaking Muslims, descendants of the Islamised or crypto-Christian Greeks of Pontus, and is very similar to ancient Greek.

Linguists believe that this is the evolution of Pontic Greek and is spoken by 8,000 people.

“With the movements of the population from the Treaty of Lausanne onwards, (this dialect) can still be heard even in Constantinople, as there are about 130 unions trying to preserve it,” Professor Konstantinos Fotiadis said.

“It is their mother tongue, and as it has evolved over 100 years, they are consciously trying to preserve it. The child speaks Pontic when he is born, later, at school, he learns the Turkish language, some of these people told me about their children,” he said.

The same dialect, with variations, was transferred to Russia, Georgia and Armenia.

Romeika Pontic
Romeika (Pontic Greek) dictionary.

“What the Greek government never did, in the beginning, was done by the Bolsheviks in the Soviet Union. Lenin in his book on the self-determination of peoples and nations talks about respecting mother tongues,” the professor said.

Indeed, until 1937, both Pontic and Modern Greek were taught in schools , depending on the areas Greeks lived in.

As he added, this was also a piece of advice from Greek teachers, such as Dimitris Glinos, in their speeches at conferences in the 1920s, who stressed that the spread of the Greek language would help maintain communication channels with Greece.

At the same time, the professor emphasised that in response to today’s Turkey, which is claiming something new every day, the Greek government:

“Should have the issue of Pontic-speaking Muslims, who violently converted but kept their mother tongue and their traditions, as an agenda.”

READ MORE: Meet the Pontian Greek-speaker keeping Hellenism alive in Turkey through her music.