Where the Doric dialect group fits in the overall classification of ancient Greek dialects depends to some extent on the classification. Several views are stated under Greek dialects. The prevalent theme of most views listed there is that Doric is a subgroup of West Greek. Some use the terms Northern Greek or Northwest Greek instead. The geographic distinction is only verbal and ostensibly is misnamed: all of Doric was spoken south of "Southern Greek" or "Southeastern Greek."
Be that as it may, "Northern Greek" is based on a presumption that Dorians came from the north and on the fact that Doric is closely related to Northwest Greek. When the distinction began is not known. All the "northerners" might have spoken one dialect at the time of the Dorian invasion; certainly, Doric could only have further differentiated into its classical dialects when the Dorians were in place in the south. Thus West Greek is the most accurate name for the classical dialects.
Tsakonian, a descendant of Laconian Doric (Spartan), is still spoken on the southern Argolid coast of the Peloponnese, in the modern prefectures of Arcadia and Laconia. Today it is a source of considerable interest to linguists, and an endangered dialect.
The dialects of the Doric Group are as follows:
Laconian was spoken by the population of Laconia in the southern Peloponnese and also by its colonies, Tarentum and Herakleia in Magna Graecia. Sparta was the seat of ancient Laconia.
Laconian is attested in inscriptions on pottery and stone from the seventh century BC. A dedication to Helen dates from the second quarter of the seventh century. Tarentum was founded in 706 and its founders must already have spoken Laconic.
Many documents from the state of Sparta survive, whose citizens called themselves Lacedaemonians after the name of the valley in which they lived. Homer calls it "hollow Lacedaemon", though he refers to a pre-Dorian period. The seventh century Spartan poet Alcman used a dialect that some consider to be predominantly Laconian. Philoxenus of Alexandria wrote a treatise On the Laconian dialect.
Argolic was spoken in the thickly settled northeast Peloponnese at, for example, Argos, Mycenae, Hermione, Troezen, Epidaurus, and as close to Athens as the island of Aegina. As Mycenaean Greek had been spoken in this dialect region in the Bronze Age, it is clear that the Dorians overran it but were unable to take Attica. The Dorians went on from Argos to Crete and Rhodes.
Ample inscriptional material of a legal, political and religious content exists from at least the sixth century BC.
Corinthian was spoken first in the isthmus region between the Peloponnesus and mainland Greece; that is, the Isthmus of Corinth. The cities and states of the Corinthian dialect region were Corinth, Sicyon, Archaies Kleones, Phlius, the colonies of Corinth in western Greece: Corcyra, Leucas, Anactorium, Ambracia and others, the colonies in and around Italy: Syracuse, Sicily and Ancona, and the colonies of Corcyra: Dyrrachium, and earliest inscriptions at Corinth date from the early sixth century BC. They use a Corinthian epichoric alphabet. (See under Attic Greek.)
Corinth contradicts the prejudice that Dorians were rustic militarists, as some consider the speakers of Laconian to be. Positioned on an international trade route, Corinth played a leading part in the re-civilizing of Greece after the centuries of disorder and isolation following the collapse of Mycenaean Greece.
The Northwest Greek group is closely related to Doric proper, while sometimes there is no distinction between Doric and the Northwest Greek. Whether it is to be considered a part of the Doric Group or the latter a part of it or the two subgroups of West Greek: the dialects and their grouping remain the same. West Thessalian and Boeotian had come under a strong Northwest Greek influence. The Northwest Greek dialects differ from the Doric Group dialects in the below features:
- Dative plural of the third declension in -οις (-ois) (instead of -σι (-si)): Ἀκαρνάνοις ἱππέοις Akarnanois hippeois for Ἀκαρνᾶσιν ἱππεῦσιν Akarnasin hippeusin (to the Acarnanian knights).
- ἐν (en) + accusative (instead of εἰς (eis)): en Naupakton (into Naupactus).
- -στ (-st) for -σθ (-sth): γενέσται genestai for genesthai (to become), μίστωμα mistôma for misthôma (payment for hiring).
- ar for er: amara /Dor. amera/Att. hêmera (day), Elean wargon for Doric wergon and Attic ergon (work)
- Dative singular in -oi instead of -ôi: τοῖ Ἀσκλαπιοῖ, Doric τῶι Ἀσκλαπιῶι, Attic Ἀσκληπιῶι (to Asclepius)
- Middle participle in -eimenos instead of -oumenos
The dialects are as follows:
This dialect was spoken in Phocis and in its main settlement, Delphi. Because of that it is also cited as Delphian. Plutarch says that Delphians pronounce b in the place of p (βικρὸν for πικρὸν)
The dialect of Elis is considered, after Aeolic Greek, one of the most difficult for the modern reader of epigraphic texts (earliest c. 600 BC)
Northwest Greek Koiné
- hybrid dialect of Attic and certain Northwest Greek and Doric features
- chiefly associated with the Aetolian Confederacy and dates to the second and third centuries BC.
Calydon sanctuary (earliest c. 600-575 BC) - Aetolian League 300-262 BC
A school of thought maintains that the Ancient Macedonian language may have been a Greek dialect, possibly of the Northwestern group in particular, although other scholars would classify Macedonian as a separate marginal or "deviant" item on its own.