Indo-European Language – Cretan

In Greece, Cretan is usually referred to merely as a dialect of the Greek language. This dialect is particularly spoken people who have been brought up and living in Crete in addition to thousands of others living in the diaspora.  It is generally believed that like most other Greek dialects, Cretan Greek evolved from Koine, a universal Greek dialect that spoken all through the post-Classical antiquity. However, it structured its vocabularies differently from the standard Greek because of the far distance from Crete to the influence of the main cities in Greek.

It is believe that the most important changes in Pie of the Cretan language might have been attributed to prehistoric wars of invasion.  Crete conquest by various groups in different historic periods may also have left their influence especially on the vocabulary. Holton. Mackridge and Philippaki-Warburton (28), suggested that Crete like any other island in the larger Greece has a slightly different pronunciation and expression of words compared to the standard Greek. However, these pronunciation and word use differences can also vary within the inhabitants of the island of Crete.

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ART ONE: Philology

Cretan language belong the branch of language referred to as Indo-European languages. This is a kind of language that was traditionally spoken by parts of India, Middle East and European cultures in the ancient times. These are some of the three indigenous languages spoken in Sicels (Greek Sikeloi) and other tribes of Sicily.

The closest relatives of the Cretan language are the Eteocretan and Minoan languages. Although the language does not exist in writing, there are three main Cretan prehistoric writings conventionally known as Cretan Hieroglyphics, Linear A and Linear B. So far, only the first one has been discovered in Crete while the second one has been attested to certain areas in the Aegean Islands (Kythera, Thera, Melos and Kea) as well as in the Greek mainland along southern Laconia in the form of two inscription signs (Joseph & Philippaki-Warburton, 34). The third relative has been identified almost exclusively in Mycenaean Palaces of Knossos on Crete, Mycenae, Pylos, Thebes and Tiryns in the mainland.  In the strict sense of writing, Cretan Hieroglyphics last appeared around 1450 and 1500 BC Linear A  while Linear B continued to be used across the Greek mainland up to around 1200 BC. The inscriptions at the Kings Palace and Minoan speakers provide evidence of how the existence of the language became known by modern generation. Eteocretan is a term that sometimes applies with the written Minoan languages in a millennium earlier to relate to the Cretan hieroglyphics and also in the Linear A script.

Figure 1: Map showing the areas mentioned of the Aegean region

Hieroglyphics was the common form of writing that was used by the Cretan speakers. The writing comprised of a form of images that did not represent any poetic connection. The users often referred the letters with living objects. As illustrated in figure 2.

Figure 2: An example of Hieroglyphic writing representing common numbers.


Living descendants of the Cretan language

The most probable living descendant of the Cretan language can be traced among the Minoan speakers. According to Botinis (35), it appears that it might have been likely that the Minoans developed their writing system as a way of responding to their economic needs. This development coincides with what was discovered in the first Cretan Palaces in 1900-1625 BC. The evidence in the script represents the syllabus of the language as well as remarkable system of numbers based on the decimal system.

Additionally, some of the descendants of the Cretan language led by Cretan linguistics have had 25 years of petitioning the European Union to recognize the Cretan Greek as a living language and not just a dialect. In 2005, the EU formally recognized the existence of Cretan Greek as the oldest living language whose roots spread as wide as the ancient Greek. One of the proponent of the recognition of the language argued that most of the Cretan villagers of the modern world would not have much problem conversing with the Cretan ancestors who might have lived at the time of Knossos.

Historical period of the text

The Cretan language belongs to the ancient Greece approximately 3000 years ago. This has been established through archaeological findings and the study of the development of language. Most of the literature related to Cretan language dates back to 2000 BC at the time of the Archimedes and Pythagoras in Ancient Greece.

PART 2: Linguistic Commentary (Historical Linguistics)

Morphological changes

Over the Cretan language has undergone significant morphological change. This is illustrated in how various subgroups related to the original Cretan language use words and express themselves in a speech. Most of the parts of the bigger Greek region have borrowed a lot of words from the Cretan language and this might have been the reason Cretan was only referred to as a dialect. For example, The Modern Greek language consists of consonants which count as conditional allophones and phonemes in their own right. However, there is a list of phonological processes that are conspicuously absent in the standard version of Modern Greek. These phenomena include africanization of velar consonants, extreme palatalization and delateralisation and retroflexification of the sound /i/ before back vowels.

According toa study conducted by Botinis, children between te ages of 1.5 to 2 years appeared to have a problem of cluster reduction, consonant and final consonant deletion, less consonant harmony, fronting and metathesis. These factors declined with the age of the child. This corresponds with the findings of Fortson, who found that only 83% of the original consonants, vowels and consonant clusters were sounded correctly. This shows that there has been a slight change in the morphological composition of Greek languages that reflects the present nature of the Cretan language.

Phonological changes

The historical connection and evolving identity of the Greek languages between different stages of development of the Greek language is often emphasized in every aspect of the language. Although most languages have undergone notable morphological and phonological changes, the Cretan language was among the few languages that had the least number of changes ever since the classical antiquity. Cretan has had an irregular succession in terms of literature, culture, and the orthographic tradition. All these factions of the language were interrupted to an extent that each successive generation can speak a totally new language different from the preceding and the succeeding one (Fortson, 19). The remaining Cretan speakers even today are inclined to regard the ancient literary work of their ancestor as part of their own other than what others would regard as foreign. Thus, it is fine to say that the historical change in culture, tradition and language has had insignificant effect on Cretan language as compared to others which would have otherwise undergone a complete transformation.

For example, a study on the phonetically pronunciation of Greek children showed that the most sounds which were pronounced by at least 75% of the children. In general it appeared that the difficult words were newly acquired and were therefore hard to pronounce at each age levels. It was found that the very first words to be pronounced by children were from Greek origin and were plosives, glides and nasals at the bilabial and alveolar regions of articulation. This shows that most of the Greek languages including Cretan have maintained a significant degree of their original phonetics and is passed down from generation to generation.

Most aspects of Cretan language have remained constant in terms of syntactic changes. The verbs tend to only agree with the subject. For example, the surviving literature of Cretan language either spoken or written has been recognized to be largely intact in terms of nominative predicates and subjects, genitive for possessors, and accusative nature of verbs and prepositions. However, morphological changes disturbed their syntax counterparts to some extent. For example, ancient Cretan made use of participial constructions that involved the infinitives while the modern varieties of the dialect lacks the infinitive completely. Instead, they have developed new periphrastic constructions which make use of the participles in a more restrictive manner. The disappearance of the datives in the language led to an emergence of prepositional indirect objects.


The Modern Greek is a descendant of various languages spoken in the ancient Greek. The Linguistic situation in Greece and the surrounding borrow a lot from the old languages with multiple archaized forms of the modern word and grammar. However, there are still significant remnants of the ancient languages that can be traced within the mainland and the islands like the Cretan descendants in Crete.