On the accent of Corfu

By: | Post date: June 10, 2023 | Comments: No Comments
Posted in categories: Greece, Language

As I’ve already noted several times in my trip, there is very little left of traditional dialect in Greece if you don’t go hunting for it, and Corfu Town at the start of tourist season is not the place to go looking for it.

All that really remains anywhere is regional variation in intonation.
Crete has melodramatic swooping, that it seems to mild to call just sing-song. By contrast, I was struck by the reassuring sound of Vangelis Lolos’ Thessalian monotone (and George Baloglou’s Salonican was not that much more animated.)
Cyprus and the Dodecanese seem to be in between: there is a sing-song there, but it is more low-key.
I was brought up on Greek Shadow puppetry (Karagiozis), which had several regional stereotypes. The faded aristocrat from Zante, Sior Nionio, sounded very sing-song and very Italian. And although it was comical exaggeration, it was clearly comical exaggeration based on something.
And I look forward to hearing what is left of that in Zante, because I’m not hearing it here. (Spoiler: I didn’t end up hearing it there either.)
There is a distinct Corfu intonation, which I occasionally hear in the street. And it sounds nothing like Sior Nionio from Karagiozis plays. To my astonishment, if I had to put my finger on it, I would say the intonation here sounds like Cyprus.

A couple of days after writing that, on the taxi out to the airport, I had a very pleasant surprise.
10 minutes of torrential Corfu dialect from my taxi driver. Dialect (well, dialectal nominal morphology, at least), not merely local intonation (which is still mysteriously Cypriot-like). It helped that he was 62—so the right age group; but clearly, if I wanted to hear more dialect here, I should have taken more cab rides.

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