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Successive Crises in Greece Impact Greek Language

November 18, 2022

BOSTON – Members of the academic community of Boston attended the lecture with the theme ‘The Greek Language Face to Face with the Successive Crises over the Last Twelve Years’ at the Maliotis Cultural Center. It was presented by Nikoletta Tsitsanoudis-Mallidis Associate Professor of Linguistics and Greek Language at the University of Ioannina, and Associate in Linguistics at the Center for Hellenic Studies of Harvard University.

Professors, Greek School teachers, students, as well as the president and members of the Federation of the Hellenic Societies of New England were present at the event. t

Prof. Mallidis said among other things that, “during the last twelve years we have been going through the fourth serious crisis in a row: financial/banking, refugee, health, environmental/climate.”

Tsitsanoudis-Mallidis said that, while some are claiming that ‘a new normality’ is upon us, that ‘normality’ now consists of “constant – some even planetary – threats and dangers, language is called upon to adapt at the speed of light, watching the vortex of changes in situations, which function as social contexts.”

Prof. Nikoletta Tsitsanoudis-Mallidis with professors Kelly Polychroniou and Roselita Fragoudakis.
(Photo by TNH/Theodore Kalmoukos)

She also declared:

“The fast-paced change and the real need (“life and death”) of community members for automatic information and effective communication, as well as the study of the respective authorities for crisis management and enforcement leads to the creation/construction of (sub) sets of words and synapses of words, which, although rapidly established, on the one hand do not always enjoy the consent of the community, and on the other hand, have an unknown duration or endurance over time.

“Thus, in the case of the nine years (2009-2018) during which the so-called ‘memoranda of cooperation’ were imposed in Greece, so-called ‘memorandum’ or ‘post-memorandum language’ emerged. During the refugee crisis, over the last five years, a relatively specific, war vocabulary has been recruited, depicting population movements and the consequences and/or reactions in host societies.”

Prof. Mallidis continued:

“During the ongoing pandemic, the vocabulary of the coronavirus was formed, while a new ‘linguistic order of things’ is being formed in relation to the environmental crisis and climate change.

“In our research, we dealt with the language structures used to describe the economic crisis in Greece and its consequences, especially after the implementation of the so-called ‘memorandum’ in the country since May 2010.

“We have studied hundreds of published texts from traditional and conventional media, but also from alternative and participatory ones, as well as from the internet. The research approach was based on the principles of Critical Discourse.

“It was observed that for the representation of situations and emotions between the recipients and victims of the crisis, various structural forms are used, with the predominant noun and verb structures…  Verbal structures encompass the performance of the citizen’s deeper involvement in the painful experience of financial deficit and the consequent threats, while the nominal structures are distinguished for their narrative characteristics.

From the event at the Maliotis Cultural Center. (Photo by TNH/Theodore Kalmoukos)


“A thorough lexical and grammatical examination of the depictions of the refugee issue – and in particular of refugee children – in the media feeds the researcher with additional thoughts regarding the stylistic use of language.

“What one can observe by taking a critical stand towards the multitude of linguistic and textual pieces is that the language seems to follow the events and is modified, depending on the distance that each transmitter has (the media in this case) from the respective focus of developments. In detail: At the point – center or epicenter – of each event, that is, where a large number of refugees arrive and the local community is disturbed, the linguistic representations are served through a very intense and semantically particularly burdened language repertoire.

“The vocabulary ‘at the heart’ of the events is almost warlike, subjecting people to constant alarm, with words and phrases seriously stigmatized with elements of exaggeration or even dramatization, ‘we are at war’, ‘our life is a hell’, ‘tsunami’ or ‘waves’ of refugees’, ‘refugee bombs’ etc.

“The language gives the impression that it sounds deafening and mobilizes immediate reflexes of fear, danger, and threat, conveying a continuous ‘alert’, to the readers who experience immediately and firsthand the consequences of one or many serious events.”

A questions and answers period followed, as well as a reception for all in attendance.


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