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Greek is an Indo-European language with a documented history of 3,500 years, the longest in the Indo-European family. It is also the earliest attested Indo-European language if the extinct Anatolian languages are excluded. Today, it is spoken by approximately 15 million people in Greece, Cyprus, Albania, Bulgaria, the Republic of Macedonia, Italy and Turkey. There are also many Greek emigrant communities around the world, such as those in Melbourne, Australia – which has the fourth largest urban Greek population in the world, after Athens, Thessaloniki and Nicosia.
Greek has been written in the Greek alphabet (the first to introduce vowels), since the 9th century BC in Greece (before that in Linear B), and the 4th century BC in Cyprus (before that in Cypriot syllabary). Greek literature has a continuous history of nearly 3000 years.
HistoryGreek has been spoken in the Balkan Peninsula since the 2nd millennium BC. The earliest evidence of this is found in the Linear B tablets in the "Room of the Chariot Tablets", a LMII-context (c. 1500 BC) region of Knossos in Crete. The later Greek alphabet is unrelated to Linear B, and is believed to be derived from the Phoenician alphabet (abjad); with minor modifications, it is still used today. Greek is conventionally divided into the following periods:
ClassificationGreek is an independent branch of the Indo-European language family. The ancient languages which were probably most closely related to it, ancient Macedonian (which may have been a dialect of Greek) and Phrygian, are not well enough documented to permit detailed comparison. Among living languages, Armenian seems to be the most closely related language.
Geographic distributionModern Greek is spoken by about 15 million people mainly in Greece and Cyprus. There are also Greek-speaking populations in Georgia, Ukraine, Egypt, Turkey, Albania, Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia and Southern Italy. The language is spoken also in many other countries where Greeks have settled, including Armenia, Australia, Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Brazil, Canada, Denmark, France, Germany, Netherlands, Sweden, United Kingdom, and the United States.
Official statusGreek is the official language of Greece where it is spoken by about 99.5% of the population. It is also, alongside Turkish, the official language of Cyprus. Due to the membership of Greece and Cyprus in the European Union, Greek is one of the 20 official languages of the European Union.