Unbounded Griko: One Heart, Two – or More – Languages, Multiple Communities. The Case of Salentine-Greek (Apulia)

Author: Manuela Pellegrino (Harvard University, Center for Hellenic Studies, U.S.A.)
Speaker: Manuela Pellegrino
Topic: Language Ideologies
The (SCOPUS / ISI) SOAS GLOCAL COMELA 2021 General Session


Scholars working within the framework of language ideologies have long been arguing against the essentialized approach to minority languages which prevails in policy-making spheres and which is to be found in some strands of language endangerment studies; by treating languages as bounded cultural entities such an approach implicitly reproduces the old-scented 19th century’s view of an unquestioned link between language and identity; this in turn delegitimizes mixed codes, multiple norms and practices deriving from language contact and shift (Jaffe 2007:61-67; see Cameron 2007, Duchêne and Heller 2007, Hill 2002, Pennycook 2004, Ricento 2006 to mention a few). Building on these insights in this paper I present the case of Salentine-Greek or simply Griko a Greek variety used in the Southern Italian province of Lecce (Salento, Apulia); my ethnography has shows how while elderly speakers continue to use it as a language of communication, locals at large do not expect nor strive to reverse language shift (Pellegrino 2014).Through a semiotic analysis of the ethnographic present and reviewing the activities embedded in the current revival of Griko, I will show how Griko keeps forming part of locals’ lived experiences in multiform ways, ultimately challenging iconic representations as well as expectations about minority language users/uses — unbounding Griko as it were. The Griko community is moreover internally fragmented into multiple communities of social actors; these may primarily engage in metalinguistic activities ” offering comments about the nature and status of Griko “and/or may resort to Griko performatively while making the most of all linguistic resources at their disposal ” the local romance dialect, called Salentine, as well as Italian ” together with their symbolic weight . The meeting and clash of oldfangled language ideologies from the past and current language ideologies which celebrate linguistic diversity ultimately create new and shifting boundaries internal to the community and between Griko as language of communication and Griko as a language as representation.

Keywords: Salentine-Greek (Griko), Apulia, language ideologies, revival, semiotic analysis