Greek or Hellenic (Modern Greek: ελληνικά [eliniˈka], elliniká, "Greek", ελληνική γλώσσα [eliniˈci ˈɣlosa] ( listen), ellinikí glóssa, "Greek language") is an independent branch of the Indo-European family of languages, native to the southern Balkans, the Aegean Islands, western Asia Minor, parts of northern and Eastern Anatolia and the South Caucasus, southern Italy, Albania and Cyprus. It has the longest documented history of any Indo-European language, spanning 34 centuries of written records. Its writing system has been the Greek alphabet for the majority of its history; other systems, such as Linear B and the Cypriot syllabary, were used previously. The alphabet arose from the Phoenician script and was in turn the basis of the Latin, Cyrillic, Armenian, Coptic, Gothic and many other writing systems.
Greek holds an important place in the histories of Europe, the Western world, and Christianity. The canon of ancient Greek literature includes works of monumental importance and influence for the future Western canon such as the epic poems Iliad and Odyssey. Greek was also the language in which many of the foundational texts of Western philosophy, such as the Platonic dialogues and the works of Aristotle, were composed. The New Testament was written in Koiné Greek. Together with the Latin texts and traditions of the Roman world, the study of the Greek texts and society of antiquity constitutes the discipline of classics.
During classical antiquity, Greek was a widely spoken lingua franca in the Mediterranean world and Roman Empire. It would eventually become the official parlance of the Byzantine Empire and develop into Medieval Greek. In its modern form, the Greek language is the official language in two countries, Greece and Cyprus, a recognised minority language in seven other countries, and is an official language of the European Union. The language is spoken by at least 13 million people today in Greece, Cyprus, Italy, Albania, some parts of the Balkans, and the Greek diaspora.
Greek roots are often used to coin new words for other languages. Greek is a predominant source of international scientific vocabulary.