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  • Le nashta: Description d'un parler slave de Grèce en voie de disparition
  • Jouko Lindstedt
Evangelia Adamou . Le nashta: Description d'un parler slave de Grèce en voie de disparition. Munich: Lincom Europa, 2006. 109 pp. [Languages of the world/materials, 456.]

The southernmost Slavic dialects, spoken in Albania and Greece, offer interesting material for the study of historical linguistics and language contacts. Most of these dialects are now endangered or moribund and therefore urgently in need of documentation. Field work among Slavic speakers was impossible for a long time both in Albania, which was a closed society, and in Greece, where a policy of aggressive Hellenization prevailed (see, e.g., Karakasidou 1997). Dialect monographs written by Macedonian and Bulgarian dialectologists (both groups regarding this area as theirs) have been based mainly on interviews with refugees from the region who now live in various Slavic countries.

Evangelia Adamou's synchronic description of the local Slavic dialect of the village of Lití, only 10 km north of Thessaloniki, is exceptional in that it is based on fresh material she started to collect in the village in 2002. She writes that in the 1990s this kind of field work would still have been practically impossible (11). The oldest of her informants was born in the 1910s, the youngest in the 1940s, but only those born in the 1930s or earlier have Slavic as their mother tongue, since the transmission of the dialect has been halted. Adamou makes it clear that this is a dialect bound for extinction. Her description (8-11) of the kind of situations in which Slavic speech can still be heard in this locality is sociolinguistically interesting and could be fruitfully compared with several other endangered languages that have become what I would like to call in-group second languages.

In the Ottoman era (which in this region lasted up to the Balkan Wars of 1912-13), Lití was called Ajvaiti (7); Simovski's (1997: 4, 209) valuable atlas (not mentioned by Adamou) records the Slavic name Ajvatovo for it. For centuries, Thessaloniki was a truly multinational city, not particularly Greek (Mazower 2004), and the surrounding countryside has been largely Slavic-speaking for more than a millennium. [End Page 339] Today, Slavists (outside Bulgaria) usually consider the dialects around Thessaloniki to be part of the Lower Vardar dialect group of the Macedonian language. Adamou prefers simply to call the dialect Nashta 'ours' according to the local practice, and she repeatedly points out how it differs from both the Macedonian and Bulgarian standard languages in several respects. This is somewhat beside the point because in every language area it is easy to find dialects that clearly differ from the corresponding standard language. It would have been better to compare the dialect of Lití with other Macedonian (and Bulgarian) dialects.

After an introductory chapter about the sociolinguistic situation of Nashta, there are three major chapters on the phonology, morphology, and syntax of the dialect. At the end there is a folktale transcribed from a male speaker born in 1925 and a vocabulary list based on the Intercontinental Dictionary Series.

Nashta has a typical Lower Vardar system of six accented vowels /i e a ? o u/ that tend to neutralize into a three-vowel system in unaccented syllables with /e a o/ clearly rising towards /i ? u/ and the latter vowels lowering, though to a lesser extent. For unaccented, non-final syllables Adamou (13) posits the three archiphonemes /I a U/, but she does not actually use these symbols in her IPA-based transcription of the dialect material, instead always writing one of the six full vowels. Thus, we find 'goreme 'nous brûlons' (24), ?to'deno 'froid' (102, etymologically stu-), k?lb?'l?k 'foule, monde' (31). Also, the marking of the schwa next to the former syllabic r is inconsistent: kr?st 'croix' (100), kr?f 'sang' (93) but on the one hand va'rna 'il revient, il devient' (67) and on the other hand 'tsrkvta 'l'église' (25, 104; on the latter page glossed as indefinite).

Adamou does not posit a palatal series of consonants but writes a consonant + j in certain words, for example...


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