In lieu of an abstract, here is a brief excerpt of the content:

Games of Power and SolidarityCommentary Peter Mackridge For some years now—at least since the change in official language policy following the end of the Colonels' dictatorship in 1974—Greek teachers, politicians, writers, and parents have been sounding impassioned warnings that the Greek language is in peril. The massive invasion of Euro-American culture during these years—through the channels of tourism, music, television and business—has been accompanied by noticeable changes in the status and use of the Greek language . The official phasing-out of katharevousa from 1976 onwards, the abolition of Ancient Greek teaching to schoolchildren below the age of fifteen (also in 1976), the use of the monotonie system in schoolbooks, newspapers, and much other written material since 1982—all this was a matter of government policy and therefore of objective fact. The regular outbursts of lamentation at the wretched state of the language have often laid the blame on foreign contamination or on official Greek policy, yet the allegations that have been voiced (that the language is being systematically abused by television announcers and newsreaders, or that young people don't use more than a few hundred words, and don't use syntax at all) have rarely been supported by convincing evidence. One symptom of a general malaise concerning the Greek language is the founding of societies to protect and promote it. In 1982 a Greek Linguistic Society (Ellinikós Glossikós Omilos) was set up with great razzmatazz, claiming that the Greek language was in danger. After occasioning a deluge of articles and correspondence in the press, it seems to have fizzled out. A Society for the Internationalization of the Greek Language has also been founded; since 1989 it has been holding symposia and producing a regular magazine to promote the establishment of Greek as the official language of Europe (or perhaps even the world). A common characteristic of these societies is that they treat Greek, from Linear B to the present day, as a single language , and are remarkably reticent about specifying which variety of Journal of Modern Greek Studies, Volume 10, 1992. Ill 112 Peter Mackridge Greek they would like to see as the international language. This leads to a widespread implication that since modern European languages have used so many Ancient Greek words and roots in the development of various scientific nomenclatures, and since ancient and modern Greek are one, therefore international scientific terminology is entirely due to the Greeks (both ancient and modern). One writer, a wellknown poet and novelist and a founder-member of the Ellinikós Glossikós 'Omilos (Nicolaïdis 1989), has even suggested a whole new array of items based on Greek (including Modern Greek) that could be introduced into western European languages: one neat example is "le mésopolème" (from Modern Greek mesopólemos) to replace the more unwieldy French "l'entre-deux-guerres." All these movements have invariably gone together with calls for the reintroduction of the compulsory study of Ancient Greek throughout secondary education, the abolition of which is alleged to have cut off the younger generation from the roots of the Greek language, without which they cannot know their own language properly. It seems to be nonetheless true that—like the Americans and British, and no doubt other peoples—the Greeks as a whole are becoming less and less careful about speaking and writing "correctly," which is to say that they are explicitly or implicitly challenging traditional norms of usage. This explains why there has recently been a spate of books claiming to point out and correct mistakes commonly made in Greek.1 In the meantime, most Greeks are quite ignorant both of the way their language functions synchronically (though they may know a few random etymologies—some of them quite erroneous —that they were taught at school) and of the relationship that exists between today's standard language, on the one hand, and ancient Greek, katharevousa, and the modern dialects, on the other hand; there is little of what Brian Joseph calls "interlectal awareness," or perhaps such interlectal awareness as there is tends to be based on idées reçues rather than fact. Sociolinguistics is in vogue nowadays, to judge...


Additional Information

Print ISSN
pp. 111-120
Launched on MUSE
Open Access
Back To Top

This website uses cookies to ensure you get the best experience on our website. Without cookies your experience may not be seamless.