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Nommer l’ennemi: la “question de la langue” en Grèce et les termes désignant les variétés linguistiques / Naming the enemy: the “language issue” in Greece and the terms denoting linguistic varieties

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Abstract

During the consecration process of vernacular languages, contrary to the European scholars’ emancipatory stance towards Latin, Greek scholars adopt an attitude of adulation towards the past, which is closely related to the prestige of the classical tradition and its influence on the Enlightened European countries. This attitude of adulation will lead to the prevailing view both in the historiography of Greek and in the collective linguistic sentiment, considering Ancient and Modern Greek as the same language. The unity of language in the diachronic dimension, with its strong and weak version, can be regarded as the founding myth of the Greek language. This paper tries to demonstrate that, in early linguistic discussions in Greece, a unifying approach is submitted by modern language defenders (a variety designated then through such terms as: γραικική, ρωμαίικη, κοινή, etc.), while archaists adopt a schismatic attitude. For instance, it appears that the “modernists” introduce a “meronymic” theory according to which, Modern Greek represents one of the “parts” (gr. meros), more specifically, a dialect, of Greek language. Subsequently, the paper focuses on the term Hellenic (gr. ελληνική), reserved at that time, exclusively, for Ancient Greek, and on its usage by Daniil Philippidis, in 1801, as one of its earliest occurrences as a term designating Modern Greek. This innovative and provocative act does not only express and concretize a unifying design approach, but it also constitutes a clear and concise argument, which in long run will prove to be a decisive one against modern language depreciators.

References

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