Greeklish, a portmanteau of the words Greek and English, also known as Grenglish, Latinoellinika/Λατινοελληνικά or ASCII Greek, is the Greek language written using the Latin alphabet. Unlike standardized systems of Romanization of Greek, as used internationally for purposes such as rendering Greek proper names or place names, or for bibliographic purposes, the term Greeklish mainly refers to informal, ad-hoc practices of writing Greek text in environments where the use of the Greek alphabet is technically impossible or cumbersome, especially in electronic media. Greeklish was commonly used on the Internet when Greek people communicate by forum, e-mail, IRC, instant messaging and occasionally on SMS, mainly because older operating systems did not have the ability to write in Greek, or in a unicode form like UTF-8. During this age, Greeklish became a controversial subject, with some claiming that it bastardized the Greek language or degraded the youth's linguistic ability. Nowadays, while the Greek alphabet has become more easily accessible and much Greek language content is written in it, Greeklish is still often used, primarily by younger generations on social media, be it for convenience or aesthetic reasons.
Sometimes, the term Greeklish is also used informally for a non-standard language variety used by bilingual speakers of English and Greek, i.e. Greek with heavy macaronic or code-switching admixture of English words, or vice versa.
Some older traditions of using the Latin alphabet for Greek existed in earlier centuries. The term frankolevantinika properly refers to the use of the Latin script to write Greek in the cultural ambit of Catholicism. ("Frankos" is an older Greek term for Roman Catholic.) This usage was routine in the Venetian-ruled Greece and in Venetian Crete in the early modern era. Indeed, the autograph manuscripts of several Greek literary works of the Renaissance are in Latin script (e.g. the comedy Fortounatos by Markos Antonios Foskolos, 1655). This convention was also known as frankochiotika/φραγκοχιώτικα, "Frankish/Catholic Chiot", alluding to the significant presence of Catholic missionaries based on the island of Chios.
Greeklish may be orthographic or phonetic. In orthographic use, the intent is to reproduce Greek orthography closely: there is a one-to-one mapping between Greek and Latin letters, and digraphs are avoided, with occasional use of punctuation or numerals resembling Greek letters rather than Latin digraphs. While letters are in the first instance chosen for phonetic similarity, visual equivalence, and corresponding keyboard keys, are used when phonetically similar letters are exhausted. Thus, psi (ψ) may be written as ps, 4 or y; xi (ξ) as ks, x or 3; and theta (θ) as th or 8.
In phonetic use, there is no concern to reproduce Greek orthography, and the Greeklish is a phonetic transcription (usually with English phonetic norms, sometimes with other languages' like German) of Greek words — although often there is a mixture of the two. In particular, iotacism is preserved: the various letters and digraphs now pronounced as /i/ are transcribed as i, and not differentiated as they are in an orthographic scheme (e.g. h, i, u, ei, oi for η ι υ ει οι). In a phonetic scheme, xi is usually x or ks or 3; ks or 3 is used if x has been chosen, following orthographic norms, for chi (χ). Psi and theta will usually be the digraphs ps and th. 3 is often used to represent xi (ξ) because of the similar shape of the number 3 to the original letter albeit mirrored.
An example of orthographic Greeklish could be the word "plateia", which in Greek means "square" and using the Greek alphabet is spelled "πλατεία". The word "plateia" derives from the exact replacement of each Greek letter with its Latin respective: π=p, λ=l, α=a, τ=t, ε=e, ι=i, α=a.
An example of phonetic Greeklish could be the same word, "square", written like this: "platia". The reason the same word is, in this occasion, written without the letter "e", is the fact that, phonetically, the word "square" in Greek sounds exactly like this: "platia" (since -"εί"- is now pronounced /i/, as an instance of iotacism), but not for the phonology and the historical or learned pronunciation of the Ancient Greek language (where it was "plateia").
The most extreme case of orthographic Greeklish, which achieves the greater optical resemblance to the Greek prototypes, is perhaps the so-called "byzantine" or "arabesque" or "calligraphic/artistic" Greeklish introduced in the Hellas mailing list by the mathematician George Baloglou. Main characteristics of Baloglou's "byzantine" is the distinction of σ and ς (σ=c ς=s), the distinction οf lower and upper letters, such as π=n, Π=TT or 5, θ=8, Θ=0 or Q, ψ=y, Ψ=4, and the unusual, but with great resemblance with the Greek prototype, transliterations σ=c, π=n ρ=p Ρ=P.
Since there were many relevant differences both in the written and in the spoken language -such as in the grammar, orthography and phonology of Greek- at the time of the Ancient Greek, the Koine, Jewish Koine, Medieval and Modern, thus the same word across the history may change outstandingly and therefore have multiple choices of "rendering" (transliteration or transcription) depending on the time on which the referring text was written or translated.
Giannis Androutsopoulos (see references) talks about Exegesis, a book in Greeklish that was published by Oxy Publications in 2000. The Greeklish transliteration was based on the Greek translation of the original book written by Astro Teller. A novel about artificial intelligence, it describes a computer program that has acquired a "mind" of its own. The original book was written entirely in the form of e-mail messages, something that prompted Androutsopoulos and his collaborators to publish a version of it in Greeklish.
In the past there was a variety of mutually incompatible systems for displaying non-ASCII characters (IBM 437, ELOT 928, ISO 8859-7 plus a few company-specific encodings) and no standard method for typing them on a computer keyboard. This situation was resolved with the introduction of Unicode. Before the introduction of Unicode-compatible software (web servers and clients) many Greek personal or informal web sites were written in Greeklish. This is no longer the case and most (if not all) of the sites with Greek content are written in native Greek.
Almost all electronic mail messaging was also using Greeklish, and only recently, with the introduction of full Unicode compatibility in modern e-mail client software and gradual replacement of older programs, that usage of Greek characters became widespread.
Some Internet Service Providers in Greece use both Greek and Greeklish in their emails. For example, the corporate announcements sent to users via email are usually written in English, Greek, and Greeklish. This is done to ensure that the recipient can understand an important service message even if the settings of their computer for non-ASCII characters don't match those of the sender.
As of 2008, business advertisements using Greeklish have appeared in Athens Metro and other areas. Companies that have used Greeklish in some of their advertisements include Pizza Hut, Forthnet and Vodafone.
Use of Greeklish for business purposes or business communication is considered as a lack of business ability or respect.
Since the appearance of Greeklish there have been numerous attempts to develop applications for automatic conversion from Greeklish to Greek. Most of them can cope with only some of Greeklish transliteration patterns and can be found and downloaded from the Internet. The first complete system for automatic transcription of Greeklish into Greek, obtaining correct spelling is All Greek to Me! , developed and provided by Institute for Language and Speech Processing.
The first open online application for the transcription of Greeklish to Greek, was developed by Artificial Intelligence Group at University of Patras, named deGREEKLISH.