Three "religious groups" are recognised by the constitution; two have their own language: Armenian (the language of Armenian Cypriots) and Cypriot Arabic (the language of Maronite Cypriots). Sometimes Kurbetcha, the language of the Kurbet, the Cypriot Roma, is included alongside the other two in literature, but it is not officially recognised in any capacity.
The 2011 census of the Republic recorded 679,883 native speakers of Greek, 34,814 of English, 24,270 of Romanian, 20,984 of Russian and 18,388 of Bulgarian of a total of 840,407. Following the 1974 Turkish invasion, Cyprus was effectively divided into two linguistically near-homogeneous areas: the Turkish-speaking north and the Greek-speaking south;:2.2 only 1,405 speakers of Turkish reside in territory controlled by the Republic.
Languages of Cyprus- Government controlled areas (2011)
The languages of Cyprus have historically exerted influence on one another; Cypriot Greek and Cypriot Turkish borrowed heavily from each other, and Cypriot Greek has helped shape Cypriot Arabic's phonology.:84:223
SMG has been the language of instruction in Greek Cypriot education since the late 19th century (then Katharevousa) and is the language used in Greek-language media in the country (though in a recognisably Cypriot form). Indeed, Greek Cypriots are diglossic, with SMG the high (taught) and CG the low variety (naturally acquired), itself a dialect continuum that has been long undergoing levelling and koinénisation. SMG exerts a continuing influence on CG, and CG speakers code-mix and code-switch between the two varieties in formal settings. Greek Cypriots' tendency to "downplay the differences between the two varieties":35 has been thought to help preserve diglossia in circumstances that would have otherwise led to the demise of the low variety (CG).:534–535:1887
Road sign outside Pyla, Cyprus in Greek (in capital letters, top), Turkish (middle) and romanised Greek (bottom)
Emanating from Anatolia and evolved for four centuries, Cypriot Turkish is the vernacular spoken by Cypriots with Ottoman ancestry, as well as by Cypriots who converted to Islam during Ottoman rule.
Armenians have inhabited Cyprus since the sixth century AD, but about 9,000 more arrived from Turkey in the early 20th century to escape the Armenian Genocide. Of those, most moved on to other countries. Today, Western Armenian is taught in Armenian schools (Nareg) and is the first language of about 3,000 people of Armenian descent in the Republic. Armenian Cypriots are often bilingual in Greek and Armenian.:507–509 In 2014, it was reported that there are 668 Armenian first-language speakers in Republic of Cyprus-controlled areas (of a total 1,831 Armenian Cypriots).:3
It is not entirely clear when Arabic first made its way to Cyprus, but Arabic speakers are known to have emigrated from the Levant in the late 12th century AD.:220 Today, Cypriot Arabic (CA) is moribund with efforts being made to revitalise it. It is spoken by an estimated 900 Cypriot Maronites, all over the age of 30. Kormakitis was a long-time stronghold of the language, but most Maronites relocated to the south and spread after 1974, fuelling its—now very likely—death.:507 CA speakers are bilingual in Greek and CA, and CA, having long existed cut off from other varieties of Arabic, has been heavily influenced by Cypriot Greek, with respect to its syntax, vocabulary and, particularly, phonology: it has lost all emphatic consonants and stopvoicing opposition. CA has traits in common with some north Syrian and Mesopotamian dialects and sedentary vernaculars spoken on the Levantine coast.:220–222 Cypriot Arabic has not so far been codified, though there are plans to do so.:3 In 2014, it was reported that, in the 2011 census, of all 3,656 Maronite Cypriots in Republic of Cyprus-controlled areas "none declared [Cypriot Arabic] to be their first language".:4
There is an unknown number of Roma, speakers of Kurbetcha (or Gurbetcha), a creole with vocabulary that is predominantly Romani and Cypriot Turkish grammar, residing in Northern Cyprus. Kurbetcha is not protected by the Charter and has been little studied.:508–509,536–537,549
Proficiency in English is high (higher than in many other European countries), and Cypriots that receive education in English might code-switch between Cypriot Greek and English. English features on road signs, public notices, and in advertisements, etc.:1888 English was the sole official language during British colonial rule and lingua franca (until 1960) and continued to be used (de facto) in courts of law until 1989 and in legislature until 1963.:4.4 A reported 80.4% of residents of Cyprus perceive to have command of the English language as L2, a 10.8% of French, a 4.6% of German, a 2.8% of Russian, and a 2.0% of Spanish. On average, Cypriots speak 1.2 foreign languages.:6 According to the Eurobarometer, 76% of people of Cyprus can speak English, 12% can speak French and 5% can speak German.
Foreign language lessons become compulsory at the age of 9 (2008).:11
It is reckoned written language first made its appearance in Cyprus in the 16th century BCE with the yet-to-be-deciphered Cypro-Minoan syllabary, an offshoot of Linear A "with some additional elements of hieroglyphic affiliation" that was the basis for the later Cypriot syllabary.:109–110 The Cypro-Minoan syllabary may have been used to write more than one language.:60ff.
Eteocypriot was a pre-Indo-European language, indigenous to the island, that competed with Greek following the latter's arrival and was ultimately supplanted by it by the third century BCE. It was written in the Cypriot syllabary that was adopted for Arcadocypriot; the same writing system was used to write both (unrelated) languages. For the time that the two languages co-existed, the peoples of Cyprus were bilingual (and bicultural).:115–116
^ abcdefHadjioannou, Xenia; Tsiplakou, Stavroula; Kappler, Matthias (2011). "Language policy and language planning in Cyprus". Current Issues in Language Planning. Routledge. 12 (4): 503–569. 10.1080/14664208.2011.629113.
^Gökçeoğlu, Mustafa; Pehlivan, Ahmet (2006). "Greek in Turkish Cypriot Literature". In Kappler, Matthias (ed.). Intercultural Aspects in and Around Turkic Literatures; Proceedings of the international conference held on October 11–12th, 2003 in Nicosia. Harrassowitz Verlag. pp. 83–92.
^ abJoseph, Brian D.; Tserdanelis, Georgios (2003). "Modern Greek". In Roelcke, Thorsten (ed.). Variationstypologie. Ein sprachtypologisches Handbuch zu den europäischen Sprachen in Geschichte und Gegenwart / Variation Typology. A Typological Handbook of European Languages. Walter de Gruyter. pp. 823–836.
^Beckingham 1957, p. 166:In Cyprus religious and linguistic divisions do not quite coincide. While many Turks habitually speak Turkish there are 'Turkish', that is, Muslim villages in which the normal language is Greek; among them are Lapithiou (P i), Platanisso (F i), Ayios Simeon (F i) and Galinoporni (F i). This fact has not yet been adequately investigated. With the growth of national feeling and the spread of education the phenomenon is becoming not only rarer but harder to detect. In a Muslim village the school teacher will be a Turk and will teach the children Turkish. They already think of themselves as Turks, and having once learnt the language, will sometimes use it in talking to a visitor in preference to Greek, merely as a matter of national pride. On the other hand many Turks, whose mother tongue is Turkish, learn Greek because they find it useful to understand the language of the majority, though it is much less common for them to write it correctly