The Pontic Dialect (Romeyka)

The Pontic dialect developed from Ancient Greek and originated from the Greeks who colonized the Pontus region (current day north eastern Turkey) in the 8th century BC.  Today, Pontic is spoken mainly by Pontic Greeks who reside in Greece and who were forced from Pontus in 1923 as a result of the Treaty of Lausanne. The dialect is also used in northeastern Turkey (Pontus) today by a small number of people.  In this region the dialect is referred to as Rumca or Romeyka. The dialect is also used by Pontic Greeks who reside in the diaspora.

All forms of Greek (with one exception) derive from the ‘Hellenistic Koine' (meaning common language) which developed throughout the Greek speaking world in areas such as Greece, parts of the Balkans, southern Italy and Sicily, Asia Minor and parts of the Middle East and North Africa., from the 4th century BC to the 4th century AD. This Greek generally superseded the Ancient Greek dialect which came before it.

Owing to it's geographic isolation from the remainder of the Greek speaking world, and accompanied by the Seljuk Turk invasions into Asia Minor around the 11th century, the dialect spoken by the Pontic Greeks took on a path of it's own, and started to differ considerably from the remainder of the Greek speaking world. Therefore, the Pontic dialect may seem unintelligible to a mainland Greek, but it is actually a form of the same Greek dialect which was spoken at some stage in the wider Greek speaking world but had since died out there.

The Pontic dialect spoken in Pontus therefore not only kept many medieval features, but it was also influenced by other languages in the Pontus, most notably Turkish, since Pontus was administratively within the Ottoman Empire and since many in the Pontus region also spoke Turkish. The Pontic dialect may also exhibit influences of Persian and other Caucasian languages.

Peter Mackridge in his article titled The Pontic dialect: A corrupt version of Ancient Greek? writes:

Linguistically speaking, Pontic shares so much in common with standard Greek that it would be absurd not to see it as another dialect of Modern Greek.

Mackridge also quotes Dawkins (1937:24) who states:

The position of Pontic is at the end of a long chain of (Greek) dialects, though it is the last link which has very nearly entirely detached itself.

A question therefore often arises as to whether Pontic is a dialect or a language in itself. Whilst the answer may be based on linguistic interpretation, it is worth noting that the Pontic dialect was taught in schools to Pontic Greeks of the USSR during the 1930's. An assortment of publications then followed between 1930 and 1934 in particular. The dialect has been used in the arts (namely theater) before and after 1917, and is still being used in this sphere today.

In conclusion, the Pontic dialect whilst spoken and used today in various ways and forms, faces an uphill battle when it comes to surviving in it's current form. While the possibility of teaching the dialect within Pontus today, seems near on impossible due to Turkey's strict laws on the running of Greek language schools, the future most probably lies within Greece where the majority of it's speakers reside.


Peter Mackridge, St. George College, Oxford:  The Pontic Dialect: A Corrupt Version of Ancient Greek?

Further Reading

The development of the Pontic Greek dialect

Related Articles

Pontian Wikipedia