Friday, November 25, 2011

the languages of modern Greece

Growing up in Greece in the 1970s, I had to learn not one but three Greek languages. First was the demotic parlance of everyday life. But at school, we were taught something different: “katharevousa” (“cleansed”), a language designed by 19th-century intellectuals to purify demotic from the cornucopia of borrowed Turkish, Slavic and Latin words. Finally, we had to study ancient Greek, the language of our classical ancestors, the heroes of Marathon and Thermopylae. Most of us managed to learn none of the three, ending up mixing them in one grammatically anarchic jargon that communicated the confusion of our age.

George Zarkadakis is the author of the novel The Island Survival Guide. (Washington Post)

In Canada, instead we (fail to) learn Parisian French and are exposed to a mishmash of British and American spelling. You could say we are a confused colony with 2 Imperial masters.

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