Demotic Greek Minimalism Syntax Study and Analysis

X-Bar Tree
X-Bar Tree

Demotic Greek Syntax Minimalism

The Hellenic language is a very unique and fun language. In some ways it is much like English, and in more ways, quite different. Interestingly enough, Greek can write or utter the same sentences many different ways, and have just one translation in English. It is not a syntactically rigid language, although some rules must be followed to be accepted by its linguistic community. This report will venture into the interesting facts of the syntactic structure of Greek in order to satisfy the mind with a clear answer to the declaratives heretofore presented. As a disclaimer, the Romanized alphabet used in this report is for convenience only. IPA transcription or Greek alphabetics will not be used for ease on the reader.

Form & Order

Word order is important in Greek but not to the full realization of English. For example, the book gives a sentence:

1) “That banana is eating the monkey”


2) “Those monkeys are eating the banana.”

Even though these sentences include the same words, their semantics are completely different. To translate the sentences in Greek we get roughly:

“Ekin-i i banana tro-i ton

[] [sg.fem.nom.] [sg.fem.nom.] [3rdperson.sing.] [sing.masc.acc.]

That the banana it is eating the




To get the same English translation as 1, but using the word order in 2, I get the following.

Ekin-ous tous pithik-ous tro-i i banana.

[] [] [] [] [sg.fem.nom.] [sg.fem.nom.]

Those the monkeys (she eats) the banana.

In these two examples we can see that the word order in Greek is not as important of that in English. This can be attributed to the rigidness of feature checking that has to happen with every verb (except gender), noun, and determiner. They all share the same features, and must in order to be grammatical. Nouns, determiners, and verbs have many-many forms that all share the semantic meaning, but if uttered with just one of these features with the wrong number, for example, may offend, or even flaunt your obviousness of your foreign heritage.

Morpho-syntactic Features

Many features of Greek have to do solely with their morphological forms. Tense for example, is not obviated by modals. For past tense, Greek can use an infix of the verb, or a root change (last consonant of the stem) depending on the category of verb it is (I will use 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th conjugation verb to distinguish these.) Also, it depends on the type of verb. (Active, or Passive, both with a single morphological verb form.) The next step of past tense formation is a stress shift, followed by a new morpheme denoting person of the simple past.)

Present tense (Active voice)

1st dhou.l’ev.o I work.

2nd Ko.lim.b’ao I swim

3rd The.o.’ro I consider

4th A.’kou.(g)o I hear/listen

Simple Past tense. (Active Voice) (infix, or root change, accent shifted, +past tense ending)

1st ‘dhou.le(ps).a I worked

2nd Ko.’limb(is).a I swam

3rd The.or.(is).a I considered

4th ‘A.kou.(s)a I heard.

Passives also have an infix, but sometimes add a root change in otherwise difficult consonant clusters. Also bear the stress shift to the antepenultimate.

Present tense (Passive Voice)

1st Dhou.’lev.o.mai I am worked

2nd Chas.mour.i.’e.mai I yawn (mediopassive, has the same structure & rules)

3rd The.or.’ I am considered

4th A.’koug.o.mai I am heard.

Simple Past ending (Passive Voice)

1st Dou.’lef.thik.a I was worked

2nd Chas.mour.’i.thik.a I yawned

3rd The.or.’i.thik.a I was considered

4th A.’kous.tik.a I was heard (notice the s+thik cluster would be hard to pronounce individually. th à t after an /s/)

For the non-past form, an additional morpheme is inserted before the verb with the infix, or root change, but lacking the stress shift. (present tense endings are again used)

1st (Tha) dhou.’le(ps).o I will work

2nd (Tha) Ko.lim.’b(is).o I will swim

3rd (Tha) The.or.’(is).o I will consider

4th (Tha) ‘A.’kou.(s)o I will hear/listen

Affixation happens quite often in Greek and carries a sometimes important syntactic role, especially in verbs, a suffix will denote number and person of the verb when added after the stem.

Thel-o- I want

Thel-eis- You want

Thel-ei- He/She/It wants

Thel-oumai- We want

Thel-ete- Y’all want (also the formal form)

Thel-oun(e)- They want

A prefix such as “Ksana” can denote that the action is being done again.

Ksana-thelo- I want again

Ksana-theleis- You want again

Ksana-thelei- He/She/It wants again

Ksana-theloumai- We want again

Ksana-thelete- Y’all want again

Ksana-theloun(e)- They want again

Affixation also can go on nouns, but doesn’t often carry syntactic importance.


Kse-skepazo –I uncover

Skepazo I cover


Kefali- head

Kefala- big head

Interpretable/Uninterpretable features

Uninterpretable features are highly demanded by almost any word in a sentence. Nouns, for example must check the following features

Case, Number, Gender


Anthropos []

Anthropo []

Anthropou []

Anthrope []

Anthropoi []

Anthropous []

Anthropwn []

Anthropoi []

This noun may only appear when the features surrounding it agree with this noun.

Determiner: (def)

O [] Anthropos []

Ton[] Anthropo []

Tou [] Anthropou []

W [] Anthrope []

Oi [] Anthropoi []

Tous [] Anthropous []

Twn [] Anthropwn []

Oi [] Anthropoi []


Gata []

Gata []

Gatas []

Gata []

Gates []

Gates []

Gatwn []

Gates []

With appropriate Determiners:

I [] Gata []

Tin [] Gata []

Tis [] Gatas []

W [] Gata []

Oi [] Gates []

Tis [] Gates []

Twn [] Gatwn []

Oi [] Gates []

Neuter nouns (with their articles)

To [] paidi []

To [] paidi []

Tou [] padiou []

W [] paidi []

Ta [] paidia []

Ta [] paidia []

Twn [] padiwn []

Ta [] paidia []

Verbs can only agree with a noun if it shares the same features for number and also case. Verbs in Greek assign theta roles, but don’t always have to have a separate morpheme to do so. If you look, the morphosyntactic relationship has already been made in respect of person. Merging a verb and a noun(s) can appropriately be inserted in this part of the report because it ties in phi-feature checking, and theta role assignment. For example a transitive verb with matching phi features:

-----------Agent----------------- -- transitive --

O anthropos thel-i

[] [] [3rd person sg.]

The man he wants

Here, the determiner must agree with the noun as both masculine, singular, and nominative case. The verb agrees with both of those in number.

-------------agent---------------- ----transitive--

Oi anthropoi thel-oun(e)

[] [] [3rd person pl.]

The men they want

Here, again, the determiner must agree with the noun as both masculine, plural, and nominative case. The verb agrees with both of those in number. Adding a theme would again show the agreement of features in the accusative case.

-----------Agent----------------- -- transitive -- -------------theme------------

O anthropos thel-i tous pithikous

[] [] [3rd person sg.] [] []

The man he wants the monkeys


-------------agent---------------- ----transitive-- -----------theme-------------

Oi anthropoi thel-oun(e) ton pithiko

[] [] [3rd person pl.] [] []

The men they want the monkey

Unergative and Unaccusatives

Greek, as do other languages, have both unergatives and unaccusatives with a few interesting facts about them. An unergative verb has an optional agent. What I mean by that is, that it does not need to be pronounced outside of the verb as another morphological entity. Person is already within the verb.

Trech-o I run

Gela-o I laugh

Pid-o I jump

We can, however, for emphasis only, add an agent separate from the verb.

Ego trech-o I run

Esu gel-as You laugh

Avtos pid-i He jumps

The same thing applies to unaccusatives. The theme does not need to be pronounced although it can be for emphasis.

Peft-o I fall

Peft-eis You fall

Peft-oun(e) They Fall

Ego peft-o I fall

Esi pefties You fall

Avtoi peftoun(e) They fall

Interestingly enough, these do not have to be placed before the verb. If placed afterward, the same meaning is conveyed.

Peft-o ego I fall

Pefties esi You fall

Peftoun(e) aftoi They fall

Auxiliary verbs

Luckily for Greek speakers there are not as many auxiliary verbs in their language as English. Most of the auxiliaries are unnecessary because of the complex structure of the verb that carries the meaning already. We especially see this in passives.

Angizomai I am being touched

Mberdevomai I am being confused

Episimainomai I am being pointed out.

There is however, a very important auxiliary verb that is used in the perfect, and pluperfect aspect. The verb “ech-o” I have. This singular auxiliary verb does something very interesting to the verb it modifies. When using “ech-o” the adjacent verb MUST be in the 3rd person singular perfective form.

Active form of verb

Ech-o [1st] dhoule(ps)i [3rd] I have worked

Eich-a [1st] dhoule(ps)i [3rd] I had worked

Passive form of verb

Ech-o [1st] doulief(th)ei [3rd] I have been worked

Eich-a [1st] dhouliev(th)ei [3rd] I had been worked

(the parenthesis here denote the perfected stem)

An insight to the tree, the perf node here has an uninterpretable strong feature that calls for a perfected 3rd person singular verb.


Negatives in Greek are quite interesting. They have a complex structure, and can be used a number of different ways, with a number of different forms.

It can be separated into two different forms: denial, and disagreement.

“Denial presupposes that something has been stated or suggested immediately before in the discourse with which the speaker disagrees. The particle ‘Oxi’ (no) is the appropriate negative maker to introduce the denial in such circumstances.

Nomizo oti o Nikos agorase enan autokinito

‘I think Nick bought a new car.’


Oxi, den agorase.

‘No he didn’t’”

Sentential negation is formed two different ways depending on if it is in the subjunctive, or indicative. To for a negation of the indicative, the morpheme “De(n)” is used just before the verb. (that is if no other verbal particles are there first. (tha) )

Den echo enan oraio poukamiso.

“I don’t have a lovely shirt.”

I musiki den akougotan poli kala

“The music wasn’t heard very well.”

Subjunctive negation is used by a different morpheme “Mi(n)” and is followed immediately after a subjunctive marker. (Na) (optional)

“Na min mou kitakseis etsi!”

Don’t look at me that way!”

Min blepeis mexri fthanoume.

“Don’t look until we get there.”

Constituent negation is also found in Greek and is done with a variety of different ways.

“Negation with indefinite pronouns, determiners, and adverbials: Indefinite pronouns such as ‘kaneis/kanenas’ (anyone, no one,) which may be used wither pronominally to replace a whole noun . . . acquire their negative meaning when they are within negative sentences. Indefinite adverbials are either expressed with a single adverb, or with more complex expressions. Negative sentences that contain one of these words or expressions must also contain the negative particle ‘de(n) or mi(n)’ according to the mood of the verb.

Den irthe kaneis va me dei otan imouna arrosti

‘No one came to see me when I was sick’

Kaneis va min paei na ton boithisi

‘No on e should go help him’

Kanena tou bivlio den aksize

‘No book of his was worth anything’

Pote den eidame toso poli kosmo se singentrosi.

‘We have never seen so many people at a meeting’

Greek sentence structure, in many respects is quite plastic in how it is used and formed. A strict VSO, OSV or SOV is not how Greek is spoken. All these elements are used to flaunt fluency. For instance, if only one of these forms was always used by a speaker, although correct grammatically, would give obvious clues to the prospathic acquisition of the speaker. A variety of sentence forms are required to provide a varying salad as to produce a more superior form of fluency. Usually, different forms are also closely related to intonation changes, but are inappropriate to discuss here in a Syntax paper.


O andras thelei na paiksei to paixnidi.

The man(nom) wants (3rd person sing) to play (3rd person singular) the game(acc)


To paixnidi o andras thelei na paiksei

the game(acc) The man(nom) wants (3rd person sing) to play (3rd person singular)


O andras to paixnidi thelei na paiksei

The man(nom) the game(acc) wants (3rd person sing) to play (3rd person singular)


Thelei na paiksei o andras to paixnidi.

wants (3rd person sing) to play (3rd person singular) The man(nom) the game(acc)

In every one of these forms, it is understood that the man wants to play the game. This is understood in each one of these forms, and without intonation, they are all equal in semantic quality. Word movement can happen in a rich variety of environments. The syntactic freedom can be accounted for the obnoxiously detailed features each word has, and the agreements they have to make with the adjacent words that share the same features.

There are some restrictions however. I think that it is necessary, if not interesting to point out that “na” which can be abstractly and inadequately described as the infinitival marker (there are no infinitives in Greek,) cannot occur unless there exist yet another verb following it. Respectively, Two verbs cannot occur in the same sentence without this “na”

*Thelei paiksei o andras to paixnidi


Greek modals, like English have past and present forms. Here I will translate the English modals with the Greek equivalent with some examples.


May mboro (Inflected for person and number)

Can mboro (Inflected for person and number)

Shall va + verb that “shall” be done

Will tha + verb that will

Must Prepei


Might mboresa (inflected for person and number)

Could mboresa (inflected for person and number)

Should va + verb that should have been done

Would tha + conditional form of verb inflected for person and number

Mboro: Interestingly enough, the verb mboro, is also used as the verb “I am able to . . .” or “I can . . .” When sentences are used with this modal, we get the following meanings:

Mboro na paw; (Can I/May I go?)

Mborousa na paw; (Could I/May I have gone?)

Na: A dependant particle that can only occur with another linguistic element

Na pame; (shall we go)

Na pigainamai (We should have gone)

Tha: A dependant particle that can only occur with another linguistic element

Tha pame (We will go)

Tha pigainame . . . (We would go . . .)


Prepei na paw (we must go)

Eprepe na paw ( It was necessary for me to go)

It is significant to note that all of these modal particles must appear initially in the sentence. It is ungrammatical to place then anywhere else but immediately preceding the following element. In Greek, when two verbs are present only the first one carries the tense features, while the second one is not tensed, but rather perfected (optionally). This would make sense when we take into account some semantics of what we are actually saying.

Take the English sentence “I could have spoken” Here, we have an ambiguity that is confused in English, but is very concrete in Greek. The possible interpretations could be: “I could have spoken . . .in church” per say. This would denote that the action of speaking would have happened once, and would have concluded. English uses a whole other perfective case to denote this. Greek can use either or. The other interpretation could be “I could have spoken . . . Spanish if I was taught it as a child” This would denote a more habitual, continuity of the act “speaking” therefore allowing the decoder of the message to get the same result and semantic quality the speaker was trying to convey. This problem is solved in every such sentence in Greek with the perfected stem of the verb denoting a one-time, and completed process, whereas the imperfected stem would denote a more continual aspect of the action. This frees up the second verb from having to carry a tensed feature. This can be accomplished by the first verb since tense, number, and person are all carried by the verb. Person cannot be ambiguous either. Exhaustively, the interpretation of the sentences “I could have spoken” can be thus:

Mborousa na miliso

(1st person, sing, cont+pst) dependent particle (1st person, sing, perfected, -pst)

‘I was capable of having the ability to speak one time’

‘I could have spoken

Mborousa na milaw

(1st person, sing, cont+pst) dependant particle (1st person, sing, imperf, -pst)

‘I was capable of having the ability to be able to speak’

“I could have spoken”


Thankfully in Greek, (medio)passives are not complicated at all. In English, a (medio)passive is created by using three different words. “I am eaten” this requires much diagramming, feature checking, and frustration. Passives in Greek are very morphological, and as such, don’t require (according to my knowledge so far) much diagramming or movement. However, feature checking is vital if using more than just the (medio)passive in the sentence.

D.Theophanopoulou- Kontou, in his paper The Structure of "VP" and the Mediopassive Morphology, touches on this subject. In it he tries to explain how these morphemes can be used syntactically.

“. . . Derivation, function of the mediopassive morpheme within the

framework of the v- light theory (Larson 1988, Chomsky 1995). I am referring to the

following cases:

(1) τα σπίτια γκρεμίστηκαν/*γκρέμισαν από τους εχθρούς/τον σεισμό

(2) ο εχθρός/ο σεισμός γκρέμισε τα σπίτια

(3) η πόρτα άνοιξε από τον αέρα/*τη Μαρία

(4) ο αέρας/η Μαρία άνοιξε την πόρτα

(5) τα λουλούδια μαράθηκαν από την πολλή ζέστη/*τον Γιάννη

(6) η πολλή ζέστη/*ο Γιάννης μάρανε τα λουλούδια

(7) τα κάγκελα σκούριασαν από την υγρασία/*τα παιδιά

(8) η υγρασία/*τα παιδία σκούριασε τα κάγκελα

(9) συγκεντρώθηκαν πολλά χρήματα από τους μαθητές της Γ Λυκείου

(10) *οι μαθητές συγκεντρώθηκαν στο προαύλιο από τον Διευθυντή

I shall try to show that passive and anticausative constructions, despite their surface similarity

(patient oriented constructions, agentless, common morphology in case of mediopassive

anticausatives), differ both in their structure and derivation.More precisely:

(a) Passives are vP-constructions, the mediopassive morpheme checking the

missing external θ-role implied by the v-light (productive suffix). The suggested

structure is supported by the following criteria: (i) the 'agentive' character of the

constructions which are basically related to the corresponding transitive counterpart,

despite their agentless form (agent defocussing constructions, meaning that the subject

is affected by the action expressed by the verb), (ii) the optional presence of a by-phrase

expressing the agent (cf. (1) vs. (3), (6), (8)) and (iii) the optional presence of adverbs

like επίτηδες (deliberately).

(b) Anticausatives are VP-constuctions derived in the Lexicon (lexical. clitic

derivation), irrespectively of their morphology: active (παχαίνω, ανοίγω), mediopassive

(μαραίνομαι, προσγειώνομαι, συγκεντρώνομαι), active/ mediopassive (μπλέκω/

μπλέκομαι, αυξάνω/αυξάνομαι). The causative counterpart where it occurs can be

considered as the result of transitivization. Supporting criteria: (i) the non agentive

character of the intransitives. The verbs denote physical/ biological process

(autonomous event), the change-of-state expressed by them being thus understood as

the result of internal cause involvement (ii) the absence of a by-phrase expressing the

agent (cf. (1) vs. (3), (6), (8)) or of an adverb like επίτηδες. (iii) the non systematic

distribution of active vs. mediopassive morphology: cf. μαραίνομαι vs. μουχλιάζω,

σκουριάζω or αυξάνω/αυξάνομαι).

The mediopassive morphology can be understood as related to the semantic

properties of the predicate, represented as [(CAUSE) [Y BECOME STATE]]. The

mediopassive suffix denotes the involvement of the subject-patient (Y) in the process,

the unexpressed internal θ-causer (X) being thus lexically signalled.

The twofold distribution of the non active morphology (vP- vs. VP structure) is

further checked against the other mediopassive constructions of MG (reflexives,

pseudoreflexives, deponents) with the following results:

(i) The transitive structure, more precisely vP-structure, is basic in cases where

the non active morphology signals the missing θ-roles (the external θ-role in syntactic

reflexives and the internal θ-role in the inherent ones, cf. πλένομαι, χτενίζομαι

(Alexiadou & Anagnostopoulou 1999).

(ii) The intransitive structure, more precisely VP-structure, is basic where

external θ-role is excluded, the morphology of the verb being related to semantic/

idiosyncratic reasons.

(iii) Deponents are the result of further suffix morphologization.

According to this distribution (i) the absence of active marpholology in actives can be

explained since the missing θ-roles would, thus, remain unexpressed. On the contrary

the absence of an agent adjunct in anticausatives can be related to the character of the

constructions (basically agent defocussing constructions with secondary transitivization

(ii) the analysis corresponds to the supported meaning/ function of the mediopassive

suffixe ('affected'. Manney 1999).

Remaining problems: (i) ambiguous mediopassive constructions referring to two

different structures (vP vs. VP, cf. (9), (10)) seems to be countereconomic, (ii)

transitivization conditions should be better determined. (iii) the notion of 'affected/

involvement' is still too vague .

I have read some papers on Greek DP structures, and have found some interesting facts, however, I admit that some of it is over my head, but the phenomena they recall is real. For example one, called Determiner Spreading in Modern Greek: Split DP Hypothesis by Natalia Kariaeva, from Rutgers University tries to explain the reason why there are contrasts between indefinite and definite grammaticality in Greek DPs.

In Greek, it is perfectly grammatical to say (definitely): (to here is the definite article)

(a) to megalo to kokkino to vivlio

the big the red the book

(b) to megalo to vivlio to kokkino

the big the book the red

(c) to megalo to kokkino vivlio

the big the red book

the big red book

But if the same sentence is used with the Indefinite article being reintroduced by the noun, ungrammaticality ensues:

(a) *ena megalo ena kokkino ena vivlio

a big a red a book

(b) *ena megalo ena kokkino vivlio

a big a red book

a big red book”

Natalia Kariaeva goes on to postulates:

“These contrasts have been analyzed to date in terms of two distinct derivational mechanisms: regular attribution and predication (see, for example, I propose an alternative Minimalist style analysis that derives both contrasts above using a single feature checking mechanism. My analysis rests on two core assumptions: (1) I claim that the nominal functional system

exhibits a complex Left Periphery equivalent to the clausal complementizer layer (Rizzi

(1997)). The extended projection of the noun phrase is, thus, split into two functionally

distinct domains: DP internal and DP external. (2) Determiner Spreading constitutes an

emphatic counterpart of regular modification equivalent to Topicalization/Focalization in

the clausal domain. Adjectival modifiers are base generated both inside the Determiner

Phrase and on the Left Periphery. Their place of origin determines the degree of emphasis

they carry. Roussou and Tsimpli (1994) and Giusti (1997) claim that Modern Greek is characterized by an asymmetry in the inventory of its nominal functional categories. It has only one true determiner: the definite article. The indefinite article belongs to the class of

quantifiers. I argue that the lack of opposition in the determiner paradigm in Modern

Greek is responsible for definiteness/indefiniteness contrasts observed in Determiner

Spreading. Only the definite DP imposes agreement in definiteness onto its Left

Periphery phenomena. The indefinite DP, headed by a quantifier, cannot generate such

agreement. Consequently, the analysis of Determiner Spreading as a Left Periphery

phenomenon accounts for definiteness/indefiniteness contrasts in a uniform manner

without positing several distinct derivational mechanisms (a general outline of

Determiner Spreading generation is provided in tables 1 and 2 below):”

Table 1: Definite Noun Phrase

If this concept has been understood correctly, a parallel can be drawn between an adjective and a definite article. This makes sense in the fact that definite articles are inflected the same way nouns and adjectives are. For number, gender, and case. Definate articles lack this morphosyntactic ability so this hypothesis that they are different in that one can be a “true determiner” The other is just a kind of adjective. Since adjectives can modify the next noun, then of course they would be allowed before every noun. A determiner only heads a determiner phrase, which can possess more than one noun, but will modify the whole phrase rather than every individual noun. I found this paper quite fascinating in its theory, a new perspective I haven’t seen before really makes sense, but I feel I lack the necessary syntactic knowledge to really appreciate it.

Just as in English, there are many distributional equivalents of the word “the”

They are as follows:















(all these are the equivalent of “the” just for different numbers, genders, and cases)













(These are all equivalent to the proximal demonstratives, each representing a different inflection for number, gender, and case. Repeated morphs are not represented)









(These are all equivalent to the distal demonstratives again, representing the different inflections for number, gender and case. Repeated morphs are not represented)

Some quantifiers are as follows (all are in the singular masculine nominative form for convenience.)





O dikos mou-Mine

Poios-Which, who

Kanenas-Anyone/someone/no one

Ti- what

Posos-How much/many

These demonstratives must precede the noun in the DP. They act as a determiner, and are distributional equivalents. A noun in the plural form can rarely stand alone in without these determiners, and still have sentential grammaticality. But for the most part, They must always have their determiner with them, even with proper names. Core Syntax: A Minimalist Approach: pg 260

“O Giorgos ephuge”

George left.

Null determiners don’t exists as to make bare plurals almost non-existent

Genitive Case feature:

Greek features the genitive in an interesting way. When we want to say something like “George’s Book,” or “The book of George” there is only one way to do it. There is a feature on the article as well as the noun that are spelled-out. If something is in the genitive, both the article (equivalent of “of”) and the noun take the genitive form:

*To vivlio o[nom, sing, masc] Giorgos[nom, sing, masc]

The book George

To vivlio tou [gen, sing, masc] Giorgou[gen, sing, masc]

The book of George

Case Checking:

The last thing I am going to talk about is the exhaustive nature of case checking in Greek, For learners of this language, whose native language is English this seems to be the most tricky. Lots of different forms are to be memorized and if not used correctly, proper decoding wont happen. There are four different cases in Greek. Nominative, Accusative, Genitive and Vocative. The genitive has already been mentioned above. All these case features must be assigned to all syntactic elements modifying the noun that is in that case. This means all articles, quantifiers, adjectives, etc.

The big pilot he wants the cat

O[] megalos[] pilotis[] thelei tin[] gata[]

Of the fat kids

twn[] pachoulwn[] paidiwn.[]

‘The big pilot wants the fat kids’ cat.’

Any deviation from the case markings will account for ungrammaticality, and everyone would point and laugh at you.

For an analysis of sentences and clauses and their related movements, a pertinent list can be formulated and discussion of them will be heretofore discussed.

First the complementizers. Complementizers are conjunctions introducing a complement clause immediately following it. Some common ones in Greek include:



Etsi kai-if







“Complement clauses are embedded clauses governed by a verb:

a) Pistevei oti/pos/pou de tha ginei polemos

Believes-He (that) not will become-it war

‘He believes that war will not take place’

An adjective:

b) Einai vevaios oti/pos/pou i katastasi tha beltiothei

Is-he certain that the situation will improve

‘He is sure that the situation will improve’

Or a noun:

c) i apofasi tis na ton akoluthisei einai aksiothavmasti

the decision hers to him follow-she is-it admirable

‘Her decision to follow him is admirable’”

The different complementizers that are expressed in examples ‘a’ and ‘b’ express some semantically important phenomena. The use of pos/oti are synonymous and are used interchangeable without semantic variability but the use of ‘pou’ is to express a certain fact with all knowledge of the factual aspect of the clause. In the first sentence, the war will never take place when used with ‘pou.’ The complementizers tie together two or more clauses to make a complete sentence.

With the complement being the subject of a sentence the subject clause is introduced by the complementizer ‘oti/pos’ however, this must be used with, and only with the neuter definite article. The neuter article is used here because the clause itself bears no morphological indicator of gender as do nouns, adjectives, or others. For this reason, a clausal subject is always neuter in gender. This also agrees with the Greek rule that subject must always have an article associated with them.

“To oti de mou milaei me peirazei para poli

(the) that not to me he speaks me bothers-it very much

‘that he does not talk to me bothers me a great deal.

To oti me kseries toso ligo mou fainaitai periergo

(the) that me know-you so little to me seems-it weird

‘that you know me so little bothers me’

To pos exase tin doulia tou einai poli lipiro

(the) that lost-he the job his is-it very sad

‘That he lost his job is very sad’

Clauses with the “pou” complementizer denoting a factual event, AND preceded by the definite article, cannot keep the same complementizer when movement to the beginning occurs. When this complementizer moves from the embedded CP to the highest CP it must change to either ‘pos or oti.’ Without this, a sentential crash occurs flaunting ungrammaticality. After the movement, the clauses invert as well to complete a very complicated movement.

mou fainaitai periergo pou me kseries toso ligo

to me seems-it weird that me know-you so little

After clausal inversion: ungrammaticality with “pou”

*pou me kseries toso ligo mou fainaitai periergo

that me know-you so little to me seems-it weird

Subject initial article with clausal initial complementizer.

To oti me kseries toso ligo mou fainaitai periergo

(the) that me know-you so little to me seems-it


1. David Adgar: Core Syntax: A Minimalist Approach” Oxford, 2003

2. Dimitris Ntelitheos The Syntax of Emphasis: Ellipsis and Discontinuity in the DP, University of California, Los Angeles

3. Natalia Kariaeva: Determiner Spreading in Modern Greek: Split DP Hypothesis

Linguistics, Rutgers University, USA

4. George Tsoulas “Floating Quantifiers?” University of New York

5. Michalis Georgiafentis Towards A Minamalist Account of the VOS Order In Greek, University of Reading.

6. Evi Sifaki The Syntax of Subject Inverted Orders in Greek: VSO University of York

7. George Kotzoglou: Verb movement and particles in Greek. University of Reading

8. D.Theophanopoulou- Kontou: The Structure of "VP" and the mediopassive morphology the passives and anticausatives in Modern Greek, University of Athens

9. Anna Androulakis: Reading Working Papers in Linguistics 2001, pgs 85-111.

10. Grohmann, K. K. Anti-Locality in the Nominal Domain, University of Cyprus

11. Phillipaki-Warburton, Peter Mackridge, David Holton: Greek-A Comprehensive Grammar of the Modern Language, 1997, London, Routledge

More by this Author


No comments yet.

    Sign in or sign up and post using a HubPages Network account.

    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    No HTML is allowed in comments, but URLs will be hyperlinked. Comments are not for promoting your articles or other sites.

    Click to Rate This Article