Transplanting diglossia: attitudes towards Standard and Cypriot Greek among London’s Greek Cypriot community

Karatsareas, P. 2016. Transplanting diglossia: attitudes towards Standard and Cypriot Greek among London’s Greek Cypriot community. Sociolinguistics Symposium 21. Murcia, Spain 15 - 18 Jun 2016

TitleTransplanting diglossia: attitudes towards Standard and Cypriot Greek among London’s Greek Cypriot community
AuthorsKaratsareas, P.
TypeConference paper
Abstract

The linguistic situation in Greek-speaking Cyprus has been traditionally described as a textbook case of diglossia à la Ferguson (1959) with Standard Modern Greek (SModGr) being labelled as the High variety and Cypriot Greek (CypGr), the regional ModGr variety of Cyprus, being labelled the Low variety (Arvaniti, 2011; Moschonas, 1996). More recently, however, it has been proposed that the linguistic repertoire available to speakers features an array of forms of CypGr, which is best described as a continuum ranging from basilectal to acrolectal varieties (Katsoyannou et al., 2006; Tsiplakou et al., 2006). The basilectal end encompasses low prestige varieties predominantly spoken in rural areas. The acrolectal end is occupied by the version of SModGr used in the public domain in Cyprus (Arvaniti, 2006/2010).
SModGr is known to carry high prestige in Cyprus. Speakers of CypGr describe speakers of the standard as more attractive, more intelligent, more interesting and more educated than speakers of the Cypriot dialect (Papapavlou, 1998). In this paper, I explore the relation between SModGr and CypGr in a diasporic setting, namely, the Greek Cypriot community of London.

The United Kingdom is 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). Similarly to the Cyprus homeland, the members of the Greek Cypriot parikia (‘community’) share a rich linguistic repertoire, which, in addition to varieties of Greek, crucially includes English. As is often the case with diasporas, the parikia does not form a homogeneous speech community in that not all of its members have an equally good command of Greek or even English. Rather, different types of monolingual and bilingual speakers are found including a large number of heritage speakers in the sense of Benmamoun et al. (2013), Montrul (2008, 2015) and Polinsky & Kagan (2007).

Twenty British-born heritage speakers of CypGr were interviewed on their attitudes towards the different varieties of Greek. Results indicate that the prestige relation between SModGr and CypGr that holds in Cyprus has been transplanted to the parikia. SModGr is widely perceived as the prestigious variety and is described in positive terms (‘correct’, ‘proper’). The use of CypGr, on the other hand, enjoys covert prestige: it is perceived as an index of solidarity and in-group membership but at the same time is also viewed by heritage speakers as reminiscent of the hardship and lack of education of the generation that brought CypGr to the UK. In certain cases, the use of CypGr by heritage speakers is actively discouraged by the first generation not only in the public domain but also in private domains such as the home. Active discouragement targets both lexical and grammatical variants that are traditionally associated with basilectal varieties of CypGr, and heritage language features, especially the adoption of morphologically adapted loanwords from English.

References
Arvaniti, Amalia. 2006/2010. Linguistic practices in Cyprus and the emergence of Cypriot Standard Greek. Mediterranean Language Review 17, 15–45.
Benmamoun, Elabbas, Silvina Montrul & Maria Polinsky. 2013. Heritage languages and their speakers: opportunities and challenges for linguists. Theoretical Linguistics 39(3/4), 129–181.
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Moschonas, Spiros. 1996. I glossiki dimorfia stin Kypro [Diglossia in Cyprus]. In “Ischyres” – “Astheneis” Glosses stin Evropaiki Enosi: Opseis tou glossikou igemonismou [“Strong” – “Weak” Languages in the European Union: Aspects of Linguistic Imperialism], 121–128. Thessaloniki: Kentro Ellinikis Glossas.
Polinsky, Maria & Olga Kagan. 2007. Heritage languages: in the ‘wild’ and in the classroom. Languages and Linguistics Compass 1(5), 368–395.
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Keywordssociolinguistics
heritage language
language attitudes
diglossia
Standard Modern Greek
Cypriot Greek
London
Year2016
ConferenceSociolinguistics Symposium 21
Accepted author manuscriptSociolinguisticsSymposium21_Karatsareas_slides_short.pdf

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