«Το Σάββατον εννα χαρτώσουμεν το κίτσ̑ ιν»: British Cypriot Greek as a heritage language

Karatsareas, P. 2015. «Το Σάββατον εννα χαρτώσουμεν το κίτσ̑ ιν»: British Cypriot Greek as a heritage language. 12th International Conference on Greek Linguistics. Freie Universität Berlin, Germany Sep 2015

Title«Το Σάββατον εννα χαρτώσουμεν το κίτσ̑ ιν»: British Cypriot Greek as a heritage language
AuthorsKaratsareas, P.
TypeConference paper
Abstract

Since the early 20th century, the United Kingdom has been home to a sizeable Greek Cypriot community, whose population is presently estimated to fall between 200,000 and 300,000 individuals (Christodoulou-Pipis 1991; National Federation of Cypriots in the UK, accessed on 11 February 2015). The members of the Greek Cypriot parikia share a rich linguistic repertoire, which—in addition to English—features an array of forms of Cypriot Greek ranging from basilectal to acrolectal varieties along the continuum defined by Κατσογιάννου et al. (2006) and Tsiplakou et al. (2006). As is often the case with diasporas, however, the parikia does not form a homogenous speech community in that not all of its members have an equally good command of Cypriot Greek (or English, for that matter). Rather, different types of both monolingual and bilingual speakers can be found.

Here, I focus on one particular type of Cypriot Greek bilingual that has recently begun to draw significant attention in the literature: heritage speakers (see Benmamoun et al. 2013; Montrul 2008; Polinsky & Kagan 2007). Heritage speakers are British-born second-generation immigrants, i.e. the children of first-generation immigrants who were born in Cyprus. They grew up acquiring Cypriot Greek at home until they started school at which time they started acquiring English. Gradually, they became more fluent in the latter, limiting the use of the former to the interaction with family and friends from the same ethnic background. Research on other heritage languages has shown that this acquisitional trajectory is expected to affect the heritage speakers’ competence in Cypriot Greek with inflectional morphology, both nominal and verbal, considered one of the most vulnerable grammatical domains in that connection.

My aim in this paper is to test the predictions of the heritage linguistics literature by examining the nominal morphology of heritage speakers of British Cypriot Greek. I specifically look at gender, number and case agreement between nouns and such targets as articles, adjectives, pronouns, participles and numerals in the speech data collected by means of sociolinguistic interviews from 20 speakers who were born and still live in areas of north London with high concentrations of Greek Cypriots (Harringay, Wood Green, Palmers Green, Edmonton). The results indicate that, contrary to the expectations of the literature, the agreement system of Cypriot Greek heritage speakers shows no signs of erosion or even deviation from that of non-heritage Cypriot Greek. In the collected data, all agreement targets appear in the expected inflected form with respect to the specification of their controller for gender, number and case. Possible explanations for these findings are proposed including the early age of acquisition of nominal agreement in Greek (2;10, according to Stephany 1997), late exposure and shift to English as well as sustained use of the heritage language within the parikia in adult life.

References
Benmamoun, Elabbas, Montrul, Silvina & Maria Polinsky. 2013. Heritage languages and their speakers: opportunities and challenges for linguists. Theoretical Linguistics 39(3/4), 129–181.

Christodoulou-Pipis, Irina. 1991. Greek Outside Greece: Language Use by Greek-Cypriots in Britain. Nicosia: Diaspora Books.

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Montrul, Silvina A. 2008. Incomplete Acquisition in Bilingualism: Re-examining the Age Factor. Amsterdam/Philadelphia: John Benjamins.

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Stephany, Ursula. 1997. The acquisition of Greek. In Dan Isaac Slobin (Ed.), The Crosslinguistic Study of Language Acquisition: Volume 4, 183–333. Hillsdale, NJ: Erlbaum.

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Year2015
Conference12th International Conference on Greek Linguistics
Accepted author manuscript
Cover sheet attachedKaratsareas_2015_slides.pdf

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Permalink - https://westminsterresearch.westminster.ac.uk/item/999y3/-british-cypriot-greek-as-a-heritage-language


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