01 March 2010

Different Greeks

Margaret Alexiou writes in After Antiquity: Greek Language, Myth, and Metaphor (2002):

“The language of Greek prose fiction has attracted less attention than that of poetry and has followed a different path.... While the dominant poetic mode has been declamatory, or what Bakhtin terms ‘monologic,’ prose has been more ‘dialogic,’ affording a wider variety of registers and styles.... For prose fiction, the preferred registers during the nineteenth century range from ‘high’ puristic Greek to the ‘mixed’ language of the short stories of Georgios Vizyenos (1849-96) and Alexandros Papadiamandis (1851-1911), both of whom draw on registers from dialect to high puristic to convey distance, irony, and, above all, different narrative tones and voices. During the twentieth century, demotic has prevailed as the standard medium, but there is considerable variety in literary use of local dialect, from the Mytilenian colorings of Stratis Myrivilis to the Cretan tones of Nikos Kazantzakis, and a greater experimentation with register than was deemed appropriate in poetry.”

Even more difficult to analyze than the use of two or more languages in one text is the use of two or more registers (to non-linguists: types) of one language.

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