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Greeklish as a phenomenon in the Greek language

Greeklish as a phenomenon in the Greek language

Those people who start learning Greek face the following problem: when Greek young people communicate in chats or social networks, they often use Greeklish (the spelling of Greek words with the English letters). A user with little experience finds himself or herself in a difficult situation because it is hard and impossible to recognize and translate Greeklish by using a standard Greek dictionary.



Are there any other resources that help to recognize Greeklish?


-Yes, there are. But we will talk about them later, let us start with some historical background.




The word Greeklish is a blending of Greek and English and usually means Greek written with the Latin letters.



This way of spelling was caused by the technological progress: Greeklish had to be used when the first computers and mobile phones appeared because very few devices had the Greek language (the Greek symbols were neither recognized nor read). The technological progress is still going on, so there are no problems with decoding, but Greeklish remains popular among young people when they informally communicate in chats and forums, on social networking websites, by email or SMS. The success of Greeklish is easy to explain - you can type fast without thinking about the spelling of Greek words or placing the stress (This Greek spelling is a teacher's headache and a learner's nightmare).



Before Greeklish Greek letters were already written with the Latin script. This type of writing was called «Φραγκολεβαντίνικα» - frankolevantika. Along with Greeklish, this term implies using the Latin script to write Greek. It was applied by Greek Orthodox Christians of Cappadocia (a historical name of the place in the east of Cetral Asia on the territory of modern Turkey) who also spoke Turkish. There is a big number of Renaissance manuscripts where Greek texts were written with the help of this method. For example, the comedy "Fortounatos" by Mark Antonio Foscolo (1655) or the "frankolevantikan"  "I Mera tou Hristianou" that is kept in the Venetian Museum on Naxos, Greece.


Modern Greeklish can be classified into 2 types: orthographic and phonetic.


The orthographic type requires the substitution of the Greek letters with the Latin letters or other symbols which look like Greek.


The main orthographic substitutions:

ω – w; η – h; θ – 8, th; ψ – ps, y, 4; ξ – ks, x, 3; χ – h, x; n – v, n; β – b, v.


The phonetic type implies using the Latin script to express a sound without following the spelling rules. Most letters and letter combinations with the sound "i" were written with the Latin  "i" (η, ι, υ, ει, οι -  h, i, u, ei, oi).


For example, πλατεία (a square) is written as plateia orthographically, and platia phonetically, ήλιος (the sun) hlios or ilios respectively.




There may be other, less common types of Greeklish. According to the "keyboard" type, the Latin letters are used instead of the Greek ones if they are on the same key of a keyboard. The main aim of the "aesthetic" or "Byzantium" type is a visual image. To achieve it, various symbols and letters are applied: π = n, Π = TT, etc.


Since there are no strict rules of writing the Greek letters with the Latin ones, all these types tend to be mixed. As a result, everybody invents their own variant of Greeklish.


(A different language is a different lifestyle)



Modern tendencies.



2000 saw the book «Exegesis» by Astro Teller, a novel about artificial intelligence that was translated into Greeklish.


Nowadays there are 2 opposing opinions about Greeklish. The opponents raise the alarm and are highly critical of this method as the sense of orthography is lost. A Greeklish text doesn't look attractive and makes reading difficult. The proponents, on the contrary, support the simplification of spelling and the elimination of traditional spelling rules.



(The picture shows an English phrase written with the Greek letters: If you would write Greeks in English it looks that stupid!)





Attention! If you use Greeklish in business correspondence, it is considered to be rude, shows  the lack of respect for a partner and looks simply unprofessional.



Recently television has been using the word Greeklish to describe speech with too many English words. In this case they say that a person speaks Greeklish - a combination of Greek and English.



So do you Greek friends write in Greeklish, and you can't understand it? Do not worry! There  are special resources to translate it into Greek.


For example, you can use the following websites:




We will finish our article with a table of popular Greeklish abbreviations:


Enjoy your learning Greek!




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