ʒyljɑnɑ (leex) wrote in linguaphiles,

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Ghent linguist discovers language previously thought extinct in Greece.

The Ghent linguist Mark Janse has discovered inhabitants of Greece who speak Cappadocian, a minority language that disappeared from Turkey in the 1920s and hadn't been sighted in Greece since the 1960s.

In the 20s of the previous century, the Cappadocians were forcibly extradited from Turkey to Greece, and gave up their language in order to avoid discrimination. "The first generation of Cappadocians kept using the language in intimate circles, but Greek became the lingua franca towards the outside world," according to Janse, who is internationally considered the foremost authority on Cappadocian. "The next generation was more of less forbidden to speak the language to prevent discrimination and encourage social integration." Since then, the Turkish-sounding Cappadocian language was considered one of the many threatened with extinction.

Janse has now discovered new speakers in Greece: third-generation middle-aged immigrants who speak an uncontaminated form and who are proud of their language. The Cappadocians are descended from the Hittites in Anatolia, but became hellenized after the conquest of Asia Minor by Alexander the Great. After the victory of the Turks over the Byzantine forces at the Battle of Manzikert (1071), they became turkified. After the fall of Smyrna in 1922 the Cappadocians were forced to emigrate to Greece, where they soon repressed their language. In Greece, a part of the Ottoman Empire until the 1930s, they and their Greek-Turkish mixed language tongue weren't precisely welcomed either.

"This find is a big deal in a period of time where an estimated 50 to 90 percent of the 6,000 languages on Earth is threatened with extinction. Additionally, Cappadocian bears living witness to a peaceful co-existence of Greeks and Turks, who are traditionally considered sworn enemies," according the the university. Together with a colleague from Patras University in Greece, Janse will be composing a grammar and dictionary, and gathering original Cappadocian texts.

(Translated from a local Dutch-language newspaper; I haven't been able to find it online yet.)
Tags: cappadocian, language extinction, news
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