Greece Language

The evolution of a language is always conditioned by external factors: historical, economic, socio-cultural. In the case of the linguistic story of modern Greece, these factors can be summarized as follows: the growth of the Athens-Piraeus industrial-urban center, where 4/5 of the Greek population have been concentrated in the space of a few decades; the strong immigration of the Greeks of Asia Minor, as a consequence of the μεγάλη ϰαταϚτϱοϕή of 1922 (Turkish invasion) and the parallel loss of energy due to the strong emigration phenomena from Greece to the Americas, Australia, Europe; the instability of the political framework, characterized by the radicalization of the contrast between conservative and progressive forces, with strong lacerations especially after World War II.

From a linguistic point of view, modern Greece, in the course of our century, appears to be dominated by a progressive – albeit highly contrasted – re-dimensioning of the traditional diglossia: δημοτιϰή, the popular language, evolution of Byzantine-medieval Greek, has gained ground, eroding spaces traditionally entrusted to the language of learned derivation, the ϰαθαϱεύοσα.

In 1917, by decision of the government of E. Venizelos, δημοτιϰή became the official language in the primary education levels. Between 1921 and 1923, the restored right-wing government revived the ϰαθαϱεύοσα. Between 1923 and 1967, except for a brief interval (1935-36) during the rule of K. Tsaldaris, δημοτιϰή was introduced into lower and middle education; in 1967 and for seven years (until 1974), the military junta again imposed the use of ϰαθαϱεύοσα, in education, as well as in any other linguistic domain. After the dictatorship of the colonels (1974), the Republican government decreed, with the national law of 1976, the δημοτιϰή official language of the country: in official documents, in the press, in schools, at all levels of education, in radio broadcasts -TV. Even today, however, the ϰαθαϱεύοσα survives in the Church, in the courts, in the armed forces, albeit with wide differences in use between generations. The most interesting phenomenon, in the current Greece, is certainly the formation of the so-called ϰοινή νεοελληνιϰή (preferred term and less connotated than the usual δημοτιϰή), characterized by a distinctly popular syntactic structure but which often draws, in high or technical-formal communication situations, lexical elements coming from the great baggage of learned tradition.

It goes without saying that, along the way of a new standardization, although the uncertainties are numerous, the neo-Greek appears today to be a highly flexible and expressive language, capable of adapting to the most sophisticated communicative needs. Numerous casts on the great languages ​​of culture (πόλεμοϚ ἀστϱαπῆϚ, “lightning war”; διαϚτημόπλοιον, “spaceship”); numerous loans from foreign languages: direct loans, of the μπάϱ type, ingl. bar ; μίϚ, English miss ; ἀσανσέϱ, fr. ascenseur ; or loans with Greek morphology, of the μπετονιέϱα type, fr. béton + suff. -ιέϱα ‹fr. – ière ; or, even, neologisms constructed with Greek material, of the type ϰοσμοναύτηϚ, “cosmonaut”; τηλεγϱαϕῶ, “to telegraph”; ποδόϚϕαιϱο, on thefootball ; etc. Very recent is the introduction of a simplified accent system (μονοτονιϰό σύστημα) which, in contrast to the complex rules of the traditional Greek accent, proposes a single form of accent [′], only for plurisyllabic lexemes, and the abolition of spirits: for which we write today πόλη, “city”; αυτοϰτονώ, “to commit suicide”; στην Αθήνα, “in Athens”; υπεϱϱεαλισμόϚ, “hyperrealism”, etc.

Almost all writers, poets, journalists, men of culture write following the new rules: even if, at the moment, tolerance for archaic spellings is normal. In the process of new standardization, much will be done by schools, radio, television, the press and, obviously, the new socio-cultural instances.

Greece Language