The dialect of Crete

The dialect of Crete

The Cretan dialect includes words that came from and were influenced by the various nations inhabited in Crete that were adapted and changed in order to have the required musicality and bravery of the Cretans.

The Cretan dialect came from the Doric dialect and was influenced by the conquerors of the island without losing its identity. It is thought to be the most ancient dialect in Greece as it is estimated that it was spoken from about 1450 B.C. , after the Achaean descend to Crete. The flourishing of the Cretan dialect was during the Mediaeval Years. All the popular texts were written in the Cretan dialect and read in Greece. The men of the letters and poets were responsible of the flourishing of the Cretan dialect and the most important of them were Vitsentzos Kornaros and Georgios Chortatsis.

All the books of that era were written in the Cretan dialect and that helped it to become a common Modern Greek language. But the historical events stopped its evolution as it was then that the Ottomans took over Greece.

It should be clear that the Cretan dialect is not the same for the whole island. Theodoros Roditakis in his book “Cretan Dialects book, no more ignorance” supports that different idioms were created in the large mountainous areas due to the transfer difficulty. Those idioms are divided into three main categories, the eastern, the central and the western. For example “trelos”, a crazy person, is “trezos” in the western Cretan dialect and “kouzoulos” in the eastern. The dominance of the central idiom is due to the fact that most of texts were written in it.

The enrichment of the vocabulary of the (already rich) Cretan dialect is due to the ability of the Cretans to create new words. Those words can be simple or compound like the word “oneirokalesmeni” (“oneiro” + “kalesmeni”= dream called). The Cretans become word makers while trying to express their habits, feelings and any other stimulus.

The Cretan dialect could be described as a “language” as, apart from its rich vocabulary, it has its own syntactic rules, phonetics and morphology.

The dialect is not used only in Crete. A few years ago the “Eikones” TV show of Tasos Dousis went to the Chamidie village in the borderline of Syria and Lebanon where the residents speak the Cretan dialect. The village was built in the end of the 19th century after the order of the Turkish Sultan, Abdul Chamid the 2nd, in order to host the Muslims of Crete that had made to leave the island after the liberation from the Turks.

That is why there are many areas in the Minor Asian coasts where the Cretan dialect is spoken. Apart from the dialect, the manners and the customs of Crete are also preserved in those areas.