'Good' and 'bad' Greek in a heritage language setting

Transplanted diglossia in London’s Greek Cypriot community.

  • Thu 15 Mar 18

    12:00 - 14:00

  • Colchester Campus


  • Event speaker

    Dr Petros Karatsareas, University of Westminster

  • Event type

    Lectures, talks and seminars
    Language and Linguistics Seminar Series

  • Event organiser

    Language and Linguistics, Department of

  • Contact details

    Victoria Mead

In this talk, I explore notions of linguistic (im)properness and (in)correctness among London’s Greek Cypriot community, focussing on attitudes towards Standard and Cypriot Greek.

I show that the diglossia that has been documented in Cyprus has been transplanted in London and that, unlike what has been previously supported, negative attitudes towards Cypriot Greek do exist in the London community where the dialect is perceived as varetá ‘heavy’, xorkátika ‘villagey’ and spazména ‘broken’.

Standard Greek, on the contrary, is considered proper and polite. Like in Cyprus, these attitudes are reinforced by the community’s educational system, which only allows for Standard Greek in teaching and learning. Unlike in Cyprus, however, negative attitudes towards Cypriot Greek have infiltrated the home environment with older speakers discouraging younger speakers from speaking the dialect even in informal communication.

This has direct implications for the intergenerational transmission of Cypriot Greek in London as younger speakers abandon the use of their heritage language in communication with other members of the Greek Cypriot community and instead prefer Standard Greek and, increasingly, English.