SOAS University of London

Department of Linguistics, School of Languages, Cultures and Linguistics

Romeyka:The contribution of an endangered Greek variety to linguistic theory, language change, and typology

Ioanna Sitaridou

Date: 27 January 2015Time: 3:30 PM

Finishes: 27 January 2015Time: 5:30 PM

Venue: Russell Square: College Buildings Room: G3

Type of Event: Seminar

Key changes in the history of the Greek language include loss of the infinitive. Infinitive loss occurs in all Greek varieties except Southern Italian Greek, which retained a limited distribution of the Medieval Greek infinitive. However, one living but endangered Greek variety shows a robust use of the infinitive: Romeyka in Pontus, Turkey. Comparing the current infinitival distribution in Romeyka today with previous stages of Greek, I argue that: (a) the Romeyka infinitive has roots in Hellenistic Greek due to preservation of the construction prin “before” with infinitive, which remains extremely productive to this day. This construction in other varieties did not survive into early medieval times and is only found as a learned construction in ‘high’ registers of the Medieval Greek record; (b) the Romeyka infinitive, part of a conservative variety with abundant Hellenistic features, once cut off from other medieval varieties due to islamisation (as late as the 16/17th c. CE), was reanalysed as a negative polarity item thus introducing a new NPI category. The infinitive aside, other grammatical features too such as negation make Romeyka the most archaic Hellenic variety spoken today and allows us to open a window on the evolution of Pontic Greek and Asia Minor Greek more generally.

Organiser: Rachel Watson

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