This chapter focuses on the most recent episode in the long history of metalinguistic theorizing on Greek. It attempts an analysis of the discourse employed in a body of work by a number of contemporary Greek scholars (mainly linguists), with particular reference to the question of the continuity of the Greek language and its ideological use and abuse. This question has assumed central importance in *UHHNPHWDOLQJXLVWLFGLVFRXUVHVLQFHWKHRƫFLDOGHPLVHRIGLJORVVLDLQ*UHHFHDIWHU 1974, which called for a revisiting of traditional preoccupations and concerns. I would like to suggest that the contestation of ideologies over post-diglossia Greek depends on conventional polarities and dichotomies, which hinder a renewed understanding of the language in its contemporary dimensions. I have chosen to focus on one particular discourse that has served as a response to the purist or ‘ethnocentric’ view of the Greek language: the view that allegedly seeks to reinstate the discredited katharevousa through the linking of Modern Greek with its celebrated ancestor, Ancient or Classical Greek. This anti-purist GLVFRXUVHFDQEHLGHQWLƩHGLQDERG\RIZRUNZKLFKLQFOXGHVFROOHFWLRQVRISDSHUV monographs; public interventions; individual papers; book reviews; reference works and internet sites.1 These works, in my view, constitute a coherent corpus, not only because of their timeframe (from the early ’90s up to the present) and the
identity of their authors (who have assumed a particular public stance and have WDNHQUHODWHGRƫFLDOSRVWVEXWDOVREHFDXVHRIWKHLUPDLQOLQHRIDUJXPHQWDWLRQ The anti-purists2 wish to discard an ethnocentric view of the continuity of Greek and the implications of superiority for its classical phase, along with the belief in the concomitant inferiority of its present state, which is felt as a state of decline from the language’s glorious past. They also seek to reveal the hidden interests of the ethnocentric prescriptivists, realized in the sphere of education through the re-introduction of Ancient Greek classes in secondary schools. Finally, they relate the purists’ views to their point of origin, a traditionalist or nationalist reaction to progressive and modernist changes in Greek society. The advantage of choosing to focus on this anti-ethnocentric pole is that, despite WKHGLƨHUHQFHVEHWZHHQWKHYDULRXVVFKRODUVVWXGLHGKHUHWKHUHLVDPXFKFOHDUHU and more coherent position in their writings than in ethnocentric views, which seem more dispersed, less localized and, possibly because of this, more widespread. ,WZRXOG EH GLƫFXOW WR GHOLQHDWH WKH SXULVW SROHZLWK DQ\ SUHFLVLRQ EHFDXVH LW attracts a wide spectrum of ‘commonsense’ and scholarly opinion, ranging from an emphasis on the peculiarities of Greek to worries about its fate, and from common concerns with spelling and foreign loanwords, as expressed in ‘letters to the editor’ columns, to metaphysical beliefs in the language’s superiority. In addition to this matter of convenience, I would like to note that the self-adoption of a critical stance by the anti-purists has been taken to imply that it is somehow beyond criticism, to the point that it is seen as setting ‘the terms for the debate’.3 This assumption needs to be challenged if we are to achieve a more sophisticated view of the issues involved. At the same time, my decision to focus on the anti-ethnocentric pole of the debate does not imply the endorsement of ethnocentric or traditionalist views against the anti-prescriptivists. It is obvious that a comprehensive study would require an analysis of the discourse of both positions, as well as a broader discussion of context. The latter would include issues of geographical and political alignment,4 as well as links with wider intellectual debates, for instance debates on the concept of nation, its meaning and its functions.5 However, such a study falls outside the scope of this chapter, which can focus only on some aspects of the wider debate. $ƩQDOZRUGRIFDXWLRQ,FDQQRWDQGGRQRWFODLPKHUHWKDW,DPRƨHULQJDQ ‘objective’ or ‘distanced’ analysis. I do not believe that any analysis can be divested of the analyst’s personal stance and conditions of work. At the same time, though, and in full awareness of the thin ice of Greek intellectual debate, I consider that
LWLVLQGHHGSRVVLEOHWRLQYRNHVWDQGDUGVRIUHDVRQHYLGHQFHJURXQGVDQGVSHFLƩF criteria,6 as these are employed in the practice of discourse analysis. In particular, I follow analysts such as Stubbs and de Beaugrande,7 by combining corpus-linguistics tools with critical discourse analysis in order to identify the dominant themes and arguments of the discourse studied. In the following two sections I shall examine the two central notions of myth and ideology in this discourse and then show how these may be related to views on language and history, before concluding with a personal view on how the ground for debate can be cleared.