Abstract–What Thumb’s Handbook Tells Us About the Development of Contemporary Greek”

Mark Janse and Brian Joseph

Our project began as the first steps toward an updating of Albert Thumb’s classic work, Handbuch der neugriechischen Volkssprache, originally published in 1895 (second edition, 1910) in German and then translated into English by Samuel Angus and published in 1912 under the title Handbook of the modern Greek vernacular: grammar, texts, glossary.  In the project’s early stages, we discovered that the variety of Modern Greek which Thumb describes – late 19th century vernacular Greek, treated by Thumb as an emerging κοινή – showed greater affinities with varieties that in present-day Greek are found in regional dialects than with anything approximating the present-day demotic κοινή, roughly the standard language as spoken in the capital of Athens and its environs.

In this presentation, we document some of the forms that led us to this assessment, with particular attention to neuter noun and mediopassive verb paradigms, and we discuss them against a backdrop of the Greek language question (το γλωσσικό ζήτημα) and its accompanying language ideology.  In particular, we show how they together played a role in the reshaping of present-day demotic in the direction of Classical Greek, thereby leaving older forms to occur today only in regional dialects.

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