The Modern Greek Language: A Descriptive Analysis of Standard Modern Greek

Peter Mackridge, quot;The Modern Greek Language: A Descriptive Analysis of Standard Modern Greekquot;
Oxford University Press | 1985 | ISBN: 0198158548, 0198157703 | 412 pages | File type: PDF | 16,3 mb
The first comprehensive survey of Standard Modern Greek, this book offers a descriptive analysis of the structure of the language and of present-day usage, highlighting the discussion with examples drawn from a wide cross section of spoken, written, and literary sources.


This book is an attempt to present a fairly comprehensive account of the structure and usage of Standard Modern Greek (SMG), which is defined as the language ordinarily spoken and written at the present day by moderately educated people in the large urban centres of Greece. Today, despite the view frequently expressed by Greeks that the Modern Greek language is in a state of chaos, there is nevertheless a broad consensus about the general principles (and about most of the details) of the language.

The observations contained in this book are based on my own experience of learning to understand and to use the Athenian spoken language since 1965, and on a large amount of spoken and written material collected systematically since 1974, the date at which the military dictatorship fell and the 'language question' suddenly became close to being resolved through the virtual abandonment of what had hitherto been the official language (katharevousa). This material consists of articles in newspapers and magazines and recordings both of radio and television broadcasts and of live conversations and discussions. Especially close attention has been paid to the linguistic features employed by people who are speaking naturally and with no intention of impressing by their use of Greek. This is one of the reasons why only a few examples have been taken from creative literature. Most weight has been attached to the utterances of people born and bred in Athens who have completed their high-school education, since these are the chief bearers of SMG; but the speech of Greeks from other areas and from different educational backgrounds has also been studied by way of comparison. Although questionnaires have been employed to elicit which form out of a range of alternatives a speaker uses, and native informants have been consulted as to the acceptability of utterances recorded from other speakers, most of the spoken material was collected from the speech of people who were unaware that their use of the language was being studied. The reason for this is the unreliability of answers to direct questions about what form a Greek speaker uses, since, owing to the highly normative nature of language teaching in Greece, the speaker will usually specify the form which (s)he thinks (s)he uses or ought to use, a response which is often contradicted in practice by his/her use of a different form in informal conversation. Examples taken from written texts are usually assigned a reference (enclosed in brackets); in most cases where such a reference is lacking, the example is either a commonly used phrase or has been noted from oral usage.

This book is not intended in any way to be a grammar. It does not possess any of the kinds of 'adequacy' which, according to Chomsky, are required of a grammar. Instead, it confines itself to an analysis, not without certain generalizations, of a large amount of material, which is not, however, treated as a finite corpus. I should also stress that I have no intention in this book of making any contribution to the study either of linguistic theory or of linguistic universal.

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