Subscribe to Blog via Email
Cyprus 2023, initial linguistic observations
Dialects in Greece are dead, unless you know where to go looking, and even when you do, you’re not going to find much any more. And the centralising Greek state is spreading Standard Greek further; Mariupol is now Standard Greek-speaking as well.
Cyprus is not Greece, and that has not happened here. What has happened is a genuine diglossia, as opposed to the politicised Mexican Standoff that characterised Greece in the mid 20th century. With Standard Greek as the acrolect (the posh variant), rural Cypriot as the basilect (the street variant), and a spectrum between the two, as people modulate their language according to circumstance.
Including if Penpushers are present. (Penpushers, Καλαμαράες, being what Cypriots call Greece Greeks, since they speak Standard Greek, and Standard Greek is a formal language to them.) My aunt and uncle are clearly modulating their language in speaking to me, and they’re aware of it: they’re not dropping fricatives (iðen > ien), they’re not fortitioning glides (xorjon > xorkon), they are generally undoing their phonological changes, and avoiding some local vocabulary.
Which makes me feel bad, I don’t want to make my relatives feel self-conscious around me, and speaking what is to them fancy. Especially as Cypriots have internalised notions that their dialect is crap and Standard Greek is brainier. (Much like Americans with British English.)
… But I appreciate it, not gonna lie. Even with their modulated Cypriot, I am having to pay attention to understand what is going on, I do miss the occasional phrase, and I find it even harder when they speak among themselves. There is still plenty of non-standard vocabulary and syntax in what they do produce, and my studies have come in handy. (Including my study of Asterix in Cypriot, pictured, from which I had already learned the Turkic word for “village mayor”, muhtar > muxtaris. That’s what Vitalstastistix is called there.)
But it’s the articulation that’s getting me. Athens Greek is staccato and choppy, even when it’s delivered at machine-gun pace. Cypriot Greek is more flowing, with voiceless stops voiced (p > b) for extra fluidity, and somewhat monotone compared to the rollercoaster intonation of Cretan. It’s kind of like Standard French. And like French, I find it very hard to extract words out of the flowing stream of syllables. A stream delivered at a brisk pace—again, just like French.