To accent or not? A soc.culture.greek debate

between Nikos Sarantakos and 'Viron' ('Byron')

On Mon, 07 Dec 1998 11:00:41 +0200, Viron wrote:

>Nikos Sarantakos wrote:



>> Breathings and accents were introduced by Alexandrian

>> grammarians to facilitate the learning of Greek by

>> non-indigenous Greek populations -in mainland Greece

>> accents were actually **not widely used** until 10th c. AD





>How would this facilitate the learning of Greek ? Would it be easier if there

>weren't any accents ? I think that they were "xountikoi", what do you think ?

Ancient Greek had long and short vowels etc. For the native Greeks, accents&breathings were not necessary, for they knew (it was their mother tongue) how to pronounce it. Non-indigenous Greeks, in Egypt or Syria, who only learnt Greek as adults, did not possess that intimate knowledge, so the accents were necessary for learning purposes -remember, Greek were as important as English are today. In mainland Greece accents were not necessary and that is why they were not used until much later.

However, in the meantime, long and short vowels ceased to be audible (all vowels became short, that is) and rough breathing ceased to exist.

>> Nowadays, the suppression of accents also serves the

>> purpose of facilitating the learning of Greek by Greek

>> populations from exUSSR. In other words, it serves

>> a good national cause.



>You forgot the Albanians, the Kurds, the Iraqis, the Bulgarians, the Fyromians

>and the rest of the nationalities that come here to serve a good national cause.

This is snide irony, but there is a good cause of teaching Greek to Pontics from ex-USSR (Greeks from Albania generally know the tongue). Unless you believe that they are only useful to Greece as weight-lifting champions. I, on the contrary, believe that they won't offer what they can unless they are able to speak and write good Greek.

>The use of accents cannot be seen without seing the broader problem of the

>Greek education system. We have established "demotiki" as the official

>language taught at schools but the funny thing is that we are also obliged

>to teach the students of words and expressions that have no "demotiki" roots

>but come from kathareyoysa or Ancient Greek.

No, sir, I disagree here. Demotiki is free to use the vast treasures of ancient and later Greek and to borrow freely words -when it comes to *words*, there are no barriers. Therein lies its immense richness and expressive power. If the morphology of the word is non-compliant to demotiki grammar, there are two solutions, either grin and bear it or change the word slightly so as to conform (mind you, this is done subconsciously by the users of the language, not by diktats!) On the other hand, "katharevousa" was unable to integrate common demotiki words (even the words auti, kota, makaroni etc.) and this was one of the reasons of its demise.

>And it is sad to realise that the new generation cannot express themselves,

>they have a great lack of vocabulary and they do not have any language

>discipline. If you deprive "demotiki" from the words and expressions that

>come from kathareyoysa and Ancient Greek and which cannot be justified with

>the "demotiki" grammar and syntax rules, then you have a very poor language

>serving just the basic needs of communicating. Please note that I refer

>to the "demotiki" actually being taught at schools nowadays.

Yep, but the same is true if you deprive, say, English of all the French/Norman/etc. and Latin vocabulary and you stick to the Anglo-saxon one. Then, I fail to see which words and expressions come from katharevousa (as opposed to Ancient Greek) (*). There are no such animals. Katharevousa never was a real language, for it never was spoken. Since you talk about "expressions", it is highly significative that katharevousa has almost *no native idiomatic or proverbial expressions*. By native I mean expressions that were not borrowed by the ancient Greek neither by French or the demotiki. If you disagree, please provide some examples.

Look now: the ancient Greeks spoke and wrote the same language. The dichotomy between spoken and written language began in the Hellenistic era, when everyone spoke Koine and its later evolution but they wrote in Attic. This Atticism is a scourge in our language and it has taken its toll for some 20 centuries! Thanks to the Evangiles and some other (few) texts we have some evidence of the spoken Greek of that era, and all evidence (add the material from inscriptions, papyri and the like) show that *all the major grammatic phenomena* of modern demotiki language had actually made their initial incipient appearance very early, perhaps even before 1st c. BCE. Our century is the first time, after 20 centuries, when the Greek language spoken is more or less the one actually taught. Isn't that fascinating?


(*) Note also that very many demotiki and dialectal words come directly from ancient Greek, *without* the mediation of Katharevousa!


>I also use the language without accents, I used to and if I try to use them

>now I would certainly make mistakes. But I must say - as another fellow poster

>said - I am very fortunate that I have learned this "type" of language.

>At least, I feel somehow linked to my roots.



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