Emmanuel Roumanis: How Atticism saved Greek from Itself: Contested Language Ideologies in Modern Greek Lexicography

All news items
What Lezing
When 19-02-2020
from 20:00 till 21:30
Where Auditorium 1, Jan Broeckx, Blandijnberg 2
Organized by Griekenlandcentrum

Sinds zijn oprichting in 1992 stelt het Griekenlandcentrum van de UGent zich tot doel de Griekse cultuur van de oudheid tot het heden te belichten in al haar aspecten en dit door middel van een zestal voordrachten per jaar, aangevuld met tentoonstellingen, muziekuitvoeringen en culturele uitstappen. Het centrum bouwt voort op de rijke traditie van onze universiteit en wil een brug slaan tussen de academische studie van de Griekse beschaving en haar nawerking enerzijds en de brede maatschappelijke interesse die hiervoor bestaat anderzijds.​​​​


The Greek language has a notably long tradition of linguistic prescriptivism. This tendency is embodied in classical (linguistic) Atticism, a movement that sought to recapture the language of high Attic literature, particularly its vocabulary, and reached its peak at the end of the Second Sophistic (c. II–III CE). This movement coincided with the early stages of diglossia in Greek, a tendency that would find its ultimate development in the ideological struggle between the katharevousa (‘purifying’) and demotic (‘popular’) variants of the language during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Consequently, Greek lexicography has been indelibly marked by an internal struggle, a kind of cognitive dissonance, which has sometimes prevented editors of Modern Greek dictionaries from fully adopting modern, more rigorous lexicographical principles that seek to describe Greek words in more objective, less ideological terms.

After a brief outline of the socio-political and historical contexts from which Modern Greek lexicography emerged during the last century or so, a link will be made between the Atticistic lexica of the postclassical period and a purifying, prescriptivising trend that has remained (or in some cases has been intentionally revived) right up until the present. It will be shown that the historical and cultural prestige of classical, Attic Greek continues to weigh heavily upon the modern Greek consciousness.​