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Tsakonian is a Hellenic language spoken in the Tsakonian region of the Peloponnese, Greece. It is found today in a group of mountain towns and villages slightly inland from the Argolic Gulf, although it was once spoken farther to the south and west as well as on the coast. The language is closely related to Modern Greek, but is descended from the ancient Doric dialect rather than the Attic based Koine which is the ancestor of the Modern Greek dialects.
However, there has always been contact with Attic Greek speakers and the language was not entirely unaffected by the neighboring Greek dialects. Additionally, there are many lexical borrowings from Albanian and Turkish. The core vocabulary remains recognizably Doric, though experts disagree on the extent to which other true Doricisms can be found. There are only a few hundred, mainly elderly true native speakers alive, although there are many more who can speak the language less than fluently.
Geographical barriers to travel and communication kept the Tsakonians relatively isolated from the rest of Greece until the 19th century, although there was some trade between the coastal towns. The rise of mass education and improved travel beginning after the Greek War of Independence meant that Tsakonian speakers were no longer as isolated from the rest of Greece and there began a rapid decline from an estimated figure of some 200,000 speakers to the present number.
Since the introduction of electricity to all villages in Tsakonia by the 1970s, the Greek mass media can reach the most remote of areas and profoundly affect the speech of younger speakers. Some efforts to revive the language by teaching it in local schools seem not to have had much success. Standard Modern Greek is the prestige language of government, commerce and education and it appears inevitable that the continued modernization of Tsakonia will lead to the language's disappearance sometime this century.