The often-maligned Greek Cypriot dialect has been stoutly defended in a new book by a professor at Athens university who says the dialect has a strong contemporary role and is useful in many different fields.
“The Cypriot dialect is very rich, but it is not a matter of the number of words or the history and the origin and how old it is that is important, but the fact that it has a contemporary role,” he said.
Professor Giorgos Georgiou has recently completed a small dictionary, together with doctor Marios Kyriazis, of the Cypriot dialect related exclusively to medical terminology which is expected to be published next month.
Book presentations of another two of his books, 1099 Cyprus proverbs and Ta Ximarismena will take place in Public bookshops at the Nicosia and Limassol malls on May 20 and June 3 respectively.
In an interview with the Cyprus News Agency on Wednesday, Georgiou explained that over the years the Greek Cypriot dialect had evolved and found new roles in modern society. It is used in advertising and by politicians who use it to create an intimacy with the audience, as well as by lawyers to establish a relationship of trust, he added.
Georgiou said it was inaccurate to believe that the dialect limits the ability to use official Greek language or that it results in students receiving low grades in Greek language exams. It is the teacher’s role to explain its role and present it as an extended language repertoire he said.
“Linguistic transition should be smooth, and here you need skilled teachers, so as not to give the students the impression that the language they speak at home is wrong and that the formal language used at school is good,” he said. “Instead, students should be trained to understand the difference in use, that is to expand their ability to communicate.”
The linguist said that using the dialect is often wrongly associated with being a barrier to a close relationship with Greece instead of viewing it as an enrichment of their lives.
The changing use of language, he said, was like a train which continues its journey loading and unloading “valuable presents”.
“Thousands of words have changed meaning, meaning one thing in ancient times and today they still exist and mean something different, which is something completely normal and an indication of a healthy language.”
As well as writing books on the Greek Cypriot dialect, Georgiou also directs the cultural foundation of the Tamassos Diocese which was founded two years ago. The foundation is currently planning to organise a conference on Cyprus language in cooperation with the EU and the European University.