An Ancient Form of Greek Language Needs Help to Survive

1000’s of languages all around the world face an unsure future and should quickly fade away if speedy motion isn’t taken. One in every of these endangered languages is Romeyka, a wide range of Greek that has roots within the historic Hellenistic age.

Whereas its audio system are dwindling in numbers, particularly within the Trabzon area of Turkey, Romeyka could also be spared because of persevering with analysis, and a lately launched crowdsourcing platform that may assist doc and protect the language. 

Preserving Romeyka 

The push to maintain Romeyka alive is led by Ioanna Sitaridou, a Fellow of Queens’ School and a professor of Spanish and Historic Linguistics on the College of Cambridge and is the newest contribution to UN’s International Decade of Indigenous Languages (2022-2032). This requires the popularity of indigenous languages and promotes initiatives that work to safe their survival. 

Romeyka doubtless has a few thousand audio system left within the Trabzon area, and its probabilities of being handed onto future generations are rising slim as a consequence of a wide range of obstacles. It doesn’t have its personal writing system, and so it should depend on oral transmission. Native audio system are predominantly over the age of 65 and are surrounded by Turkish cultural influences that will additional isolate the language.

Learn Extra: Eight Ancient Languages Still Spoken Today

Holding Indigenous Languages Alive

Not all hope is misplaced, nonetheless. A brand new platform referred to as Crowdsourcing Romeyka harnesses the ability of public engagement to help the language. Designed by Harvard College Laptop Science undergraduate Matthew Nazari, this platform invitations individuals all over the world to add audio recordings of Romeyka being spoken.

“Speech crowdsourcing is a brand new software which helps audio system construct a repository of spoken knowledge for his or her endangered languages whereas permitting researchers to doc these languages, but additionally motivating audio system to understand their very own linguistic heritage,” stated Sitaridou in a press release, who has been learning Romeyka for the final 16 years. 

Together with the platform’s launch, Sitaridou is presenting new findings in regards to the language’s growth and grammar at an exhibition in Greece. She has concluded that Romeyka comes from Hellenistic Greek, not Medieval Greek, redefining its relationship with Fashionable Greek. 

“Romeyka is a sister, somewhat than a daughter, of Fashionable Greek,” stated Sitaridou. “Basically this evaluation unsettles the declare that Fashionable Greek is an isolate language.”

A definite characteristic of Romeyka is that it makes use of the infinitive, whereas all different Greek dialects recognized immediately don’t. For instance, Fashionable Greek audio system would say “I need that I am going” as a substitute of “I need to go.” The infinitive initially appeared in Hellenistic Greek (spoken from roughly 4th century B.C.E. to sixth century C.E.), however turned out of date in Medieval occasions as all Greek varieties aside from Romeyka ditched it.

Learn Extra: How to Resurrect Dying Languages

The Historical past of Romeyka

Historical Greek migration into elements of present-day Turkey expanded the presence of Greek language within the area, and Christianization performed a big position in its unfold. When the Ottoman Empire took over the realm within the 15th century, Islamization brought on the language to take two totally different paths. Sure communities transformed to Islam and retained Romeyka (also called Pontic Greek), whereas others that remained Christian moved towards Fashionable Greek. 

In 1923, a large population exchange occurred between Greece and Turkey; over 1,000,000 Greek Christians in Turkey had been relocated to Greece and practically half 1,000,000 Muslims in Greece had been relocated to Turkey. The Muslim Romeyka-speaking communities, although, may keep in Turkey, explaining the vestiges of Greek language within the nation immediately. 

Romeyka audio system must endure cultural pressures from each Turkish and Greek views, because the language doesn’t match neatly into both international locations’ mannequin of nationwide identification. This has impressed Sitaridou to lift consciousness of Romeyka and ameliorate the stigma surrounding it.  

“Elevating the standing of minority and heritage languages is essential to social cohesion, not simply on this area, however all around the world,” Sitaridou stated.

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