Is the Greek lingua franca

Teaching in the digital humanities

Greek is fundamentally important to the history of Romance languages ​​in two ways.

1.1. The role of Greek in a Romanesque perspective

It is to be expected that the emergence of Vulgar Latin in general and thus the typological change from Latin to Romansh was influenced by a contact with Greek, which can be specified as astrate contact (🔗); Greek native speakers have not only been present in Rome since ancient times, they also played an important role in the city's cultural life. Greek then became of particular importance in the history of language with Christianization, which undoubtedly contributed to the pronounced linguistic dynamic of the imperial era. Coseriu has pointed out that the role of Greek in the development of Romansh has long been underestimated:

[…] The widespread belief that grammatical influences are exceptional and only possible under exceptional historical conditions contributed to the situation described. In reality, however, on the one hand, even for grammatical borrowings, no extraordinary conditions are required: it is sufficient that a language community or parts of a language community are to some extent bilingual; on the other hand, the historical conditions that existed for Latin during the imperial period were exceptional. Just think of the fact that so much is translated from Greek that Christianity is spreading from Greece and the Graecised East into the Empire, with the Greek language as an instrument of expression, that Greek is part of the elementary schooling of Roman children, that the Greeks and the Greek-speaking Orientals are very numerous almost everywhere in the Roman Empire, but especially in Italy and especially in Rome (at one point 90 percent of the population of Rome are foreigners, most of whom just speak Greek as Had their mother tongue or at least used it as a lingua franca). (Coseriu 1971, 5)

In particular, Greek influence was suspected in the origin of the Romance article and - above all - the verbal periphrases (see Dietrich 1973, Dietrich 2018, Löfstedt 1956). Numerous lexical borrowings, which often reveal their origins in the church language, are quite evident and unproblematic. Because:

The sacred language of early Christianity is Greek: in more greek The version of the New Testament has been preserved, the apostles and their disciples preached the Gospel in the same world language of the Orient, not only in the Orient but also in central and southern Italy and in North Africa, where Greek was the second national language alongside Latin. In Rome itself, Greek was the official language of the church in the second century. (Jud 1919, (1973, 167)).

This Christian missionary aspect of the Greco-Latin language contact is exemplified in ita. parlare / fra. parler  < parabolic ‘Speak in parables’ for expression1To a certain extent a non-Christian counterpart is lat. fabulari > span. hablar / port. falar.. The following table shows some church-language loanwords (1) and loan translations (2) from Greek and (as a substitute) their Italian cognates2Of course, there are also new formations in Romanic in the church language, such as ita. campana 'Bell', which however do not play a role in this context .:

(Greek>) Latin>ita.(Greek>) Latin>ita.

baptizare >battezzare,to baptize' monastery>monastero,Monastery'
episcopus>vescovo,Bishop'elemosyna>limosina (elemosina),Alms'
ecclesia>chiesa,Church'Eremita> eremita,Hermit'
epiphany>beffana (epifania)'Epiphany'monachus>Monaco,Monk'
(2) plebem>pieve'Country Parish'quadragesima
(according to gr. tessarakoste)

1.2. The role of Greek in a regional perspective

From a regional perspective, Greek has also contributed to the so-called separation of the Romance languages, i.e. to the differentiation and fragmentation of the Romance language areas. Some of these are also astrate contacts, but some are also substrate contacts (🔗); This is especially true for southern Italy and Sicily, where on the one hand smaller linguistic islands have been preserved in Calabria and southern Apulia, the so-called Salento, and where, on the other hand, a historically much wider distribution must be assumed; Currently, in Calabria (Greco calabro) one can only assume around 500 speakers and in Apulia (Grecía salentina) around 10,000 speakers.

Gerhard Rohlfs (1892-1986), one of the greatest specialists in southern Italian Greek, outlines the suppression of the language as follows:

I would like to say with some certainty that around the year 1000 the Greek language
1. was predominant in all of southern Calabria up to the isthmus Nicastro-Catanzaro,
2. Has played an important role in the whole of southern Apulia (Terra d’Otranto) up to the Taranto-Brindisi line, for example in the way that Greek zones alternated with predominantly Romanesque areas,
3. was predominant in the extreme northeast of Sicily in the triangle Taormina-Naso-Messina. This Greek culture has the 14th-15th centuries. Century not survived. (Rohlfs 1950, 17)

The following map shows the current language islands in the context of the Magna Graecia

Map 1Interactive symbols:blue = Greek language islands preserved to this day,red= Greek cities of the Μεγάλη ῾Ελλάς (Megalē Hellas) | Magna Graecia, square in Sicily, triangle on the mainland

However, the regional historical connection between ancient Greek, current Greek language islands and Romance dialects is by no means easy to assess. Concerns arise in the wider Romanistic horizon that extends beyond Italy, because a similar situation arose in the east and south of the Roman Empire, i.e. in Southeast Europe, Asia Minor, the Middle East and also in Egypt and North Africa, where the Roman expansion was also strong Hellenized areas with large settlements met. Latin has nowhere been able to establish itself permanently there, as the Austrian historian Konstantin Jireček has shown exemplarily (and probably somewhat schematically) for Southeastern Europe (cf. the so-called Jireček line). At first glance, the Romance dialects of Sicily and southern Italy seem to completely contradict this overall picture.

From the Romance perspective, namely by Gerhard Rohlfs mentioned above, an already ancient, consistent linguistic romanization of Sicily has therefore been categorically questioned (Rohlfs 1924, Rohlfs 1933, Rohlfs 1947, Rohlfs 1972, Rohlfs 1974). More precisely, two different things have been asserted that are by no means implicit:

  • There is no continuity of the modern Sicilian dialects until the time of the ancient establishment of the Roman province Sicilia; on the contrary, the Sicilian came into being in the Middle Ages as a result of massive repopulation after the Arabs were ousted by the Normans.
  • The Greek language islands in Salento that have survived to this day, as well as Greek, which was still spoken in remnants in the area of ​​Messina until the 15th century, and a large part of the Greek borrowings in the southern Italian and Sicilian dialects are in continuity with the ancient ones Magna Graecia.

The opposite position, which goes back to Giuseppe Morosi (1847-1890), assumes that the Greek linguistic islands and medieval Sicilian Greek go back to the Byzantine period (535 AD - 827 AD), during which a strong missionary activity Greek monks took place.

In the light of more recent research, the two positions are by no means mutually exclusive, as Trovato / Valenti 2013 (24 f.) Show in reasonable consideration and with reference to the fundamental studies by Alberto Varvaro 1981 and Franco Fanciullo 1996. Apart from ideological presets that either insist on the continuity of Latin-Romance or of ancient Greek, it should be noted that

che i linguisti tra Otto e Novecento operavano secondo il modello spazio-temporale, che non andava al di là dello studio del sovrapporsi degli strati linguistici in una determinata regione, e, soprattutto, non operavano con il concetto di 'bilinguismo', introdotto negli anni '70 con l'avvento della sociolinguistica. Ciò non permise - a Rohlfs, come ai suoi contraddittori italiani - di pensare, ad es. per la Sicilia, a un bilinguismo greco-latino - più verosimile sul piano storico - che avrebbe potuto egregiamente conciliare le due posizioni. | […] Also il concetto di suddivisione areale che, nel caso degli studi sul siciliano, vede tutt'al più contrapposte un'area greca a un'area araba ea una latina, appare assai ristretto per rendere conto, in termini sol diatopici, della storia linguistica della Sicilia medievale. La relativa attuale staticità è il frutto di una dinamicità - sociale, ancor più che linguistica - che si è cristallizzata nel momento in cui il romanzo locale divenne l’elemento coagulante della nuova koiné siciliana. Essa oggi va letta - ad es. per la storia del lessico - nei termini della prevalenza di un elemento - quello greco, quello arabo o quello latino - sull’altro, prevalenza che non esclude la contemporanea presenza, certo diversificata nei ruoli, delle altre componenti. (Trovato / Valenti 2013, 24 f.)

2.1. Linguistic features

Regardless of the age of the loan, which must be clarified in each individual case (cf. Trovato / Valenti 2013, 11-15), there are numerous linguistic features in southern Italy and Sicily that are definitely or very likely to come from Greek.

2.1.1. Two exemplary lexical borrowings

The numerous lexical borrowings (cf. the selection in Trovato / Valenti 2013, 12-23) predominantly denote concepts of the everyday world; they are not infrequently widespread beyond Sicily in the entire catchment area of ​​the Magna Graecia. As a rule of thumb, one can assume that the more dialectal they are, the older they are (see Trovato / Valenti 2013, 14). The name of the EARTHWORM is probably very old in this sense:

  • caséntaru 'Lombrico' ('earthworm') < gâs enteron literally 'intestino di terra' (see AIS 457).

The designation is often mentioned in the literature naca for a CRADLE HANGING ON THE CEILING. At the beginning of the detailed article in Varvaro 2014 it says:

naca "Prestito o relitto al gr. Ant. νάxη ‘vello di pecora’, perché con questo si faceva la culla sospesa; è voce di area sic. ed it. mer., fino al Cilento e alla Puglia. "(Varvaro 2014, 623; cf. AIS 62 and a photo)

This borrowing clearly reflects an everyday acculturation of the Romans / Romans to the Greeks.

2.1.2. Contact phenomena in morphosyntax

Aside from the lexicon, there are also a number of linguistic contact phenomena in the morphosyntax which prompted Rohlfs to say - in the repetition of an expression by Wilhelm von Humboldt - that the "inner linguistic form" of the Romance contact dialects is characterized by the "aftermath" of the Greek substrate language (cf. Rohlfs 1947, 9 and the subtitle of this publication3This is, more precisely, a report from the session of the Bavarian Academy of Sciences, which goes back to a lecture on November 11, 1944: It seems a little eerie to read that the illusion of academic normality was still created even when that Munich city center was already largely destroyed.). In terms of area typology, the severely restricted usability of the infinitive is very important for Romance studies, because it is found in a very similar, albeit more extensive, form in the Balkans and especially in Romanian; there, too, the phenomenon is traced back to the Greek.

One of the most peculiar syntactical phenomena of Italian graciousness is the replacement of the infinitive, which stopped halfway. In accordance with the development that has taken place in Greece, the infinitive in Italian-Greek dialects has generally been replaced by a dependent conjunctive sentence: "we want to sleep"> "we want us to sleep". But in certain cases the infinitive has been preserved and is still in full vitality today. While after the verbs that express an intention or a goal, as well as after prepositions (e.g. 'without to'), the conjunctional paraphrase is mandatory4See also Rohlfs 1985, 82: "Il fenomeno [...] trova la sua più rigida pratica e applicazione dopo i verbi che esprimono una volontà o una intenzione [...].", There are other verbs (verbs of statement or perception: 'know', 'see', 'hear'), which allow both expressions. There is also a verb for which only the infinitive is allowed today: the verb 'can' (bov. sònno <σώνω. otr. sòzo <σώζω. The infinitive is also preferred in the abbreviated indirect question mark. (Rohlfs 1962, 111)

In Calabria the phenomenon is repeated in the Italian dialects of the entire southern half of Calabria, reaching north to the approximate line Nicastro - Catanzaro […]. It is no different in Salento […]. (Rohlfs 1962, 111)

The spread of the complementation with infinitive and / or complementary sentence in Calabria shows the interactive AsiCa (Krefeld / Lücke 2006-2017); Here is a photo of the results of the stimulus F22 ('Un giorno vorrei ritornare al mio paese.,), which also includes the functionality of the online atlas ‘5A reengineering to improve user friendliness is currently in progress and will be available soon (AsiCa 2.0). indicates:

Infinitive complement and complement clause after volere in Calabria (AsiCa, stimulus 22)

The Italian-Greek and Italian-Romanesque parallels are shown in the following table:

1. Voglio dormireϑèlo na ćumiϑoetèlo na plòso
vògghiu mi dòrmuògghiu cu dòrmu
2. volete venire?ϑèlite na èrtitetèlete ná 'rtete
voliti mi venitiuliti cu bbinite
3. vado a vederepáo na ívropáo na dò
vaju mi ​​vijuvau cu bbisciu
4. sono venuto per mangiareirta na fáoirta na fáo
vinivi mi mangiusu bbinutu cu mmangiu
5. dovresti sentireiχe na kú (s) iiχe na kusi
avívi a sentiriivi (a) ssentire
6. sono tornato senza bereekondòfera sènza na pí (s) oejúrisa senza na pío
turnai senza mi mbivusu turnatu senza cu bbíu
7. temo di caderešáźome (na) mi pèoeforíome na mi ppeso
timu nom mi cadutignu cu nnu ccásciu
8. lascialo entrareáfisto (n) na mbikíáfiston ná 'mbi
ássalu mi trasilássalu cu ttrase
9. Mi fai theme kánni peϑáni / na peϑáno me kanni na pesáno
mi fai muriri / mi morume faci cu mmòru
10. non sa scrivereδe zzèri grázzi / na grázzifsèri grafsi / na grafsi
no ssapi scríviri / mi scrivi e (n)nu ssape scríere / cu scriva
11. l’ho visto piangeretone ívra klázzi / na klázzion ida kláfsi / na kláfsi
u vítti ćángiri l’aggiu vistu chiángere
12. l’ho sentito venireton íkua èrti / na èrtion íkusa èrti / ná ‘rte
u ntisi viniril’aggiu ntisu venire
13. non posso dormireδe sònno ćumiϑíè ssoźo plòsi
non ppòzzu dormiri un pózzu tormire
14. possiamo aspettaresònnome mínisòźome míni
potimu ‘spettariputimu ‘spettare
15. si potrebbe tagliareísonne kopíísoδe koftí
si poterrissi tagghiarise putía tajare
16. non so dove andareδen èho pu páien èho pu pái
non sácciu aúndi jirinu ssacciu aḍḍu scire
Table: mostly identical construction in Greek and Romance dialects (combination by Rohlfs 1962, 111 f. and 114


The limited usability of the infinitive is connected with another peculiarity, namely with the fact that the introductory conjunction of the complementary clause (the complementer), i.e. the equivalent of deu. that/ ita.che, occurs in two complementary variants, depending on whether it is a sentence with a final or non-final meaning. This functional division also has a direct equivalent in Greek and in the Balkans and thus also in Romanian. The following table (see Rohlfs 1985, 66-72) gives an overview:

not finalfinal
lat.credo quod / quia mortuus estvoelo ut mihi dicas
ancient greek.οτι [oti]ινα [ina]
ngreek.πιστευω οτι (πωρ) βρεχει ‘penso che pioverà‘ϑελω να βρεζη ‘voglio che piova‘
rum.cred că va veni 'Penso che verrà'vreau să vie 'Advance lui venga'
bova greekpistéo ti pai 'Penso che se na vada'ϑèlo na mas ipise 'Voglio che tu ci dica'
calabr. (Reggio)pensu chi bbeni 'Penso che verrà'vogghiu mi veni 'Advance lui venga'
calabr. Catanzaro (East)criju ca vena
tu cridi ca u truvamu?
cridu ca chiova
pensu ca chiova
dinci ma va
voliti must cce vaju iu?
vorria chi chiova
volissi chi chiovissa
calabr. Nicotera (west)penzu ca veni
pensu ca chiovi
vurria u vaju
vurria must chiovi
calabr. Cosenzapíansu ca chiòvadi
piensu ca chiòvari
lu vì ca si bbiecchiu?
u vulèva chi chiuvíssidi
volissi chi chiovíssiri
vu chi cci jissi iju?
north east siz.sacciu ca veniofnu mi vegnu 'Vogliono che io venga'
salento lèi ti me agapá 'Tu mi dici che mi ami'itela na min èrti 'Vorrei che lui non venga'
Salento Romansh (Gallipoli)sacciu ca nu bbène ‘Io so che non viene’vulimu cu non bbegna ‘Vogliamo che lui non venga’
neapol. (?)approxche

In the Neapolitan and Campanian languages, the opposition seems to be on the wane, if not gone. That too Sicilian is still listed in the table; however, the infinitive offset is now very rare there (see case 3), as Rohlfs has already stated:

La sostituzione dell’infinito per mezzo della congiunzione mi si ritrova in ultimi residui di applicazione anche nella Sicilia nordorientale (nel tratto tra Messina, Taormina e Naso), ridotta qui ai verbi che esprimono una intenzione; cfr. vaju mi ​​viju ‘Vado a vedere’, pinsáu mi parti ‘Ha pensato di partire’, vinni mi ti dicu ‘Sono venuto per dirti’, ci dissi mi veni ‘Gli ho detto di venire’. (Rohlfs 1985, 84 f.)

In Sicilia dopo il verbo 'volere ‘la sostituzione dell’infnito non è più in uso, mentre in funzione congiunzionale mi ‘Che’ è comunissimo; cfr. vonnu mi vegnu ‘Essi vogliono che io venga’. (Rohlfs 1985, 86, note 5)

Recent data surveys confirm Rohlfs, as Alfonso Leone explains:

Propria del triangolo north-orientale dell’Isola (all’incirca la provincia di Messina, dove il sostrato greco sopravvisse più a lungo) è la congiunzionemiche, solitamente seguita dal presente indicativo, evita l’infinito, dietro appunto il greco volgare, dove questo modo era divenuto impopolare. Bisogna tuttavia aggiungere, a scanso di equivoci, che né | per questo è l’infinito scomparso (anzi dopo "volere", in coincidenza di soggetto tra verbo reggente e verbo dipendente, esso non è stato sostituito: Vogghiu mi mancia 'Voglio che egli mangi', ma semper Vogghiu manciari), ne la congiunzione mi si sottrae alla concorrenza di chi (se i questionari 8, 9, 12, 13 hanno [...] Vogghiu mi veni 'Voglio che venga', i questionari 10, 11, 14 presentano invece Vogghiu chi veni). (Leone 1995, 67 f.)

The typical Sicilian (and South Calabrian) complementer just mentionedmi, a “congiunzione destinata semper più a regredire, specie sotto la spinta dell’italiano” (Leone 1995, 68) deserves a comment. Leone sees it as a phonetic variant of the functionally identical Calabrian conjunction must (modo) under the influence of chi, that the ita. conjunction che corresponds to (quia).

Less clear, but worth considering is the Greek influence in other Sicilian and southern Italian peculiarities (cf. Rohlfs 1947); this is how Rohlfs sees the use of the passoto remoto instead of the passato prossimo Greek contact influence for processes and actions with reference to the present, because the Italo-Greek dialects lack the compound perfect:

So in Sicily and southern Calabria you don't say 'come hai dormito?' To a friend who has just woken up, but rathercomu dormisti ?,to a friend who is just coming out of the restaurant, not 'come hai mangiato?' butcomu mangiasti? They say:sta matina jivi a la cità 'I went into town this morning',sta matina chiuvíu “It rained this morning‘. There can be no doubt that this mode of expression, which sounds downright ridiculous to Italians in other regions, is to be understood as the aftereffect of a loan translation from the Greek. (Rohlfs 1947, 18)

This use of the passato remoto as such is undisputed (cf. AIS 1618 or AsiCa F23 'Oggi sono stata da mia zia'), but similar uses can also be found in Romanic areas without Greek contact, for example in Portugal.

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