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Language change in Greek from the 12th to the 19th century

altCypriot born research academic and writer Dr Erma Vassiliou, will give a lecture on the language change in Greek from the 12th to the 19th century, next Thursday, 23 July 2015, at the Greek Centre, as part of the Greek Community of Melbourne’s seminar series. It must be noted that the lecture will be in Greek.

Everything is in a perpetual stage of change and so is language. Although Greek has undergone many changes, there has never been a moment in history that Greeks did not recognize their language.

The present paper shows fresh opportunities for explaining and understanding Language Change exhibited in historical documents available to us today in spoken or near spoken forms of Greek. Dating from the 11th and 12th century (the Age of the Comneni), and from the 13th to the 15th (the late Byzantine period) and the following eras, right to the Ottoman period, the examples used in the present work are drawn from medieval poetry, chronicles, epic songs, narratives and prefaces written in the vernacular for works in standard forms.

Memoirs and sermons, writings of hermits and monks and of other works of unknown people, who expressed themselves in the simple, lité language (λιτή γλώσσα), are a significant source and a path for discovering change. This approach depicts changes in phonology, the lexicon and semantics, inasmuch as it exposes phenomena of reanalysis the very time they were taking place.

Change due to external reasons (loanwords, calques) will be examined also. Apart from reanalysis, the phenomena of analogy and extension have a primary place in demonstrating change in Greek in the flow of centuries.

Dr Vassiliou is a post-doctoral researcher in Linguistics at the Australian National University Canberra. She is a British citizen Cypriot, living permanently in Australia. She grew up in the Congo and attended bilingual boarding schools from a very young age, both in the Congo and in Athens. Erma migrated to Australia in 1987. She was awarded a Bachelor of Arts in Interpreting/Translating from Deakin University Toorak in 1991, a Graduate Diploma of Studies in Humanities (Linguistics), from La Trobe University Bundoora, in 1993, a Masters in Linguistics from La Trobe University in 1996, and a PhD in Linguistics, also from La Trobe University, in 2002. She has been a Visiting and Research Fellow at the Australian National University since 2005. She worked on a wide range of topics in Historical Linguistics, her main research into languages being on Medieval Cypriot, Contemporary Cypriot, Medieval French, Byzantine Greek and, to a lesser extent, Lingala.

Her extensive works on Linguistic Typology, Language Change and Morphology include: Cypriot as a Verb-Object-Subject language, La Trobe University 1994, The Word Order of Medieval Cypriot, La Trobe University, 2003, French loan words in Cypriot revisited, Modern Greek Studies Australia and New Zealand, 2012, University of Sydney, An introduction to the Cypriot Morpho-Syntax (2015, under press) and Discovering Modern Greek in Anna Comnena's Alexiad (to appear).

Many more publications are in process. Recently, Erma Vassiliou started working on the Language of the Troubadours.

Erma is an awarded poet, a writer and a translator from and into Greek, French and English. Her work The girl with the violin represented her country of birth Cyprus in Vienna, in 2013. Two of her works have been funded by the Australia Council for the Arts: her poetry collection Eoraka, (I have seen) in 1996, and her non-fiction autobiographical work Μπορείς ακόμα κι ονειρεύεσαι-La grande saison des pluies et la petite saison sèche (You can still dream-The long period of rains and the short period of dryness) in 2003.

The Greek Community of Melbourne and the organising Committee of the Seminars wish to thank the sponsor of the lecture Mr Tony Tsourdalakis.