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LANGUAGE: The language battles

In our discussion of high and popular language, we mentioned Greece, where there has been a struggle to decide whether the norm would be classical or demotic Greek. From Athens, Harry Papasotiriou writes: "On high versus vulgar language, in Greece the low-brow demotic has now prevailed, both officially and in practice. But inevitably new distinctions emerge between official, dignified and learned speech and writing on the one hand, and every-day language on the other. There are many now who lament the waning of linguistic heritages and the crass simplification of the current Greek Language (not dissimilar to the lamentations of many Englishmen about the Americanization of English). On this matter, I am all in favour of a language drawing from its heritage - and Greek has a very rich heritage indeed - so long as the natural evolution of a language is not stifled or some formal straight-jacket created. I am particularly averse to linguistic uniformity being imposed top-down by the state or some other official body like an academy. This does not mean that I support the conservation of local dialects, which to my mind is an equally stifling attitude towards language. Language should be free to evolve along with society."

Ronald Hilton - 4/16/01