The Pontian Dialect
The Pontian Greek dialect can be traced back to the first Hellenic colonists, the Ionians of Miletus at the beginning of the 8th century B.C. Throughout the ages the Pontian dialect was influenced by the different languages spoken by neighboring peoples, especially during the long era of Ottoman rule. The Greek origin of this dialect, however, can be traced to the ancient Ionian speech of the first Greek settlers.
The Pontian dialect is still spoken in several areas in Pontos by Greek-speaking Muslims whose religion excluded them from the population exchange in 1922. Even today, people in areas like Tonya, Sourmena and Ophi speak the Pontian dialect.
by Dimitris Tombaides, Professor Emeritus, Aristotelian University of Thessaloniki
Chairman of the Committee of Pontic Studies* Permission has been granted from Ephesus Publishing/Militos Publishing to post this article, which is published in the book The Pontos of the Hellenes. For additional products by Ephesus Publishing, please click here.
The dialect of Pontos is one of the two Greek dialects spoken in Asia Minor (the other being Cappadocian) that are today almost extinct as spoken languages and constitute an object of study only as “museum” languages. For many years the Pontic dialect has exhibited the following paradox: while every dialect is associated with a specific geographical area: for example Epirotic with Epirus, Thracian with Thrace etc., the Pontic dialect today is not associated with any geographical area. This was an outcome of the 1923 Treaty of Lausanne, signed by Eleftherios Venizelos and Kemal Ataturk, which provided for the exchange of Greek and Turkish populations. That was when the Greeks of Pontos came to Greece and settled throughout the mainland, chiefly in the countryside, towns and villages as well as in the larger urban areas. The bulk of Pontic refugees settled in Macedonia and Thrace but many wound up in Athens, Piraeus, Thessaloniki and other cities large and small.
Pontic is one of the most studied, if not the most studied, of the Modern Greek dialects. This is due to its archaizing, medieval structure that early on aroused the interest of great linguists such as G. Hatzidakis, I M. Triantafyllides, N.P Andriotes, A. A. Papa-dopoulos and others. These linguists, working within the research environment of their time, analysed the Pontic dialect and demonstrated that certain linguistic features of classical Greek, and in particular of the classical Ionic dialect were preserved only in Pontic. In this way, (in conjunction with other evidence from Greek antiquity including history, folklore etc.) they believed they had irrefutably proved the continuous presence of the ancient Hellenic element, especially the linguistic one, in modern manifestations of the Greek presence. This continuity had been questioned by Jakob Philipp Fallmerayer and had to be upheld in every way.
The exhaustive research into and study of the Pontic dialect resulted in a number of basic works, some of which appear in the bibliography that follows. The principal centre conducting these studies into the Pontic dialect and into other aspects of Pontic culture, history, folklore, folk art etc, is the Committee of Pontic Studies (EPM) from its foundation in 1927 to this day. The EPM, in its journal Archeion Pontou (which will soon number 50 volumes) and in its Appendices, which are independent publications (23 volumes to date), has published countless papers on the idiosyncrasies of the Pontic dialect. The various subjects covered have included phonology-phonetics, morphology, etymology, semantics and syntax, as well as other systematic studies of historical grammar and vocabulary. Additionally, it is worth mentioning the significant, and continually increasing, number of linguistic studies carried out in Greek and foreign universities which have ranged from simple studies to doctoral theses.