Management of Language Boundaries: Autoethnography by a Documentary Film about an Arvanitika Language Community in Greece

Author Information

Elena Botsi,
Hellenic Open University, Greece

DOI: 10.47298/comela22.3-2
The GLOCAL Proceedings:  The GLOCAL Conference in the Mediterranean and Europe 2022


Arvanitika is a threatened language that is spoken in very few areas of Greece. Greece’s Arvanitika -speaking communities, scattered in suburban areas, mainly in southern mainland and island Greece. These were founded in the Late Middle Ages during the Byzantine and Frankish conquest of Ottoman rule in the Southern Balkans, and merged with the new Greek nation by virtue of the Greek Orthodox faith and the struggle for liberation toward the Turks. Arvanitika is a branch of the South Albanian Tosk dialect characterized by a phenomenon of pidginization from Greek of various historical periods. During the period of language isolation, language contact with the official Albanian language was followed by massive Albanian migration to Greece in the early 1990s. The era of Albanian immigration finds the Arvanitika language, a low-status language, in a phase of linguistic change and transition from bilingual (Arvanitika-Greek) to the monolingual (Greek) situation mainly by the younger generations, where the Arvanitika communities remain in a phase of urbanization. The need to delineate the Arvanitika language from the official Albanian language and the negotiation of their ethnic identity leads the Arvanitika-speakers to a symbolic affirmation of difference between the two languages. In recent years, there has been a growing interest in language recording and salvage, especially at the folklore level with the revival of traditions.

The present paper is a linguistic autoethnography that focuses on the participation of the referent person in a documentary film about an Arvanitika village, in which she plays a dual role, that of the researcher, and as well as of the indigenous community member, in attempting to negotiate between science and domestic linguistic ideologies.

Keywords: Arvanitika, Albanian, Greece, Autoethnography, language ideology, language boundaries


Αλεξάκης, Ε. (2006). Ταυτότητες και Ετερότητες: Σύμβολα, Συγγένεια, Κοινότητα στην Ελλάδα –Βαλκάνια. Αθήνα: Δωδώνη.
Barth, F. (1969). Ethnic Groups and Boundaries. The Social Organisation of Culture Difference. Bergen: Scandinavian University Books.
Botsi, E. (2004). Die sprachliche Selbst- und Fremdkonstruktion am Beispiel eines arvanitischen Dorfes Griechenlands. Eine soziolinguistische Studie. Konstanz: Universität Konstanz (Dissertation). / kops / volltexte / 2004 / 1292.
Botsi, E. (2008). Arvanitika. In E. Adamou (Ed.): Le nom des langues II. Le Patrimoine Plurilingue de la Grèce. BCILL 121. (Collection Dirigée par Andrée Tabouret-Keller) (pp. 47-69). Louvain: Peeters.
Dorian, N., C. (Ed.) (1989): Investigating Obsolesensce. Studies in Language Contraction and Death. Cambridge: C.U.P.
Ellis C., Adams T., E. and Bochner A., P. (2010) Autoethnografie. In Mey G.and Mruck K. (eds.) Handbuch Qualitative Forschung in der Psychologie. Wiesbaden: Springer.
Gumperz, J., J. (1958). Dialects Differences and Social Stratification in a North Indian Village. American Anthropologist, 60(4): 668-682.
Haarmann, H. (1979). Elemente einer Soziologie der kleinen Sprachen Europas. Studien zur Multilingualismusforschung und Ausbaukomparatistik (Vol. 2). Hamburg: Helmut Buske Verlag.
Knoblauch, H. and Schnettler, B. (2012). Videography. Analysing video data as focused ethnographic and hermeneutical exercise. Qualitative Research, 12(3), 334-356.
Κόλλιας, Α., Π. (1997). Αρβανίτες και η καταγωγή των Ελλήνων. Αθήνα: Θαμύρις.
Μπαλτσιώτης, Λ. (1997). Η Πολυγλωσσία στην Ελλάδα. Σύγχρονα θέματα, 63, 89-95.
Μπαλτσιώτης, Λ. (2003). Εκδοχές της Ελληνικής Εθνικής Ιστορίας του 19ου και των Αρχών του 20ου Αιώνα στο λόγο των Αρβανίτικων Κοινοτήτων Σήμερα. Πρακτικά Συνεδρίου (σε CD). Η ΙΣτορία ως Διακύβευμα. Μορφές Σύγχρονης Ιστορικής Κουλτούρας, Historein /  Ιστορείν, 4, 2003-2004.
Μπίρης, Κ. (2010).Αρβανίτες. Οι Δωριείς του Νεότερου Ελληνισμού. Ιστορία των Ελλήνων Αρβανιτών. Αθήνα: Μέλισσα.
Mruck, K. and Breuer, F. (2003). Subjectivity and Reflexivity in Qualitative Research—The FQS Issues (17 Paragraphs). Forum Qualitative Sozialforschung /  Forum: Qualitative Social Research, 4(2): Article 23,
Μωραΐτης, Θ. (2011). Ανθολογία Αρβανίτικων Τραγουδιών της Ελλάδας. Αθήνα: Κέντρο Μικρασιατικών Σπουδών.
Oikonomou, A. (2012). Singing and Dancing. Sociability in the Arvanitikes Communities of Mount Kithairon (Attica, Greece). Revue Etudes SudEst Européennes, 323-338.
Οικονόμου, Α. (2008). Οικονομία και συγγένεια στις αρβανίτικες ορεινές κοινότητες του Κιθαιρώνα. InB. Νιτσιάκος andX. Κασίμης. Ο Ορεινός Χώρος της Βαλκανικής: Συγκρότηση και Μετασχηματισμοί. Δήμος Κόνιτσας: Πλέθρον.
Peltzer, A. and Keppler, A. (2015). Die soziologische Film- und Fernsehanalyse. Eine Einführung. Oldenbourg: De Gruyter.
Reinhold, K. H. T. (1855). Noctes Pelasgicae. Vel Symbolae ad Cognoscendas Dialectos Graeci ae Pelasgica scollatae. Athens: Garbola.
Sasse, H-, J. (1985). Sprachkontakt und Sprachwandel: Die Gräzisierung der albanischen Mundarten Griechenlands. In: Papiere zur Linguistik, 32(1), 37-95.
Σέργης, Μ., Γ. (2018). Αυτοεθνογραφία (Autoethnography). Στον τιμητικό τόμο για τον Μηνά Αλεξιάδη. In M. Γ. Βαρβούνη and M. Γ. Σέργης (eds.), Πλάτανος Ευσκιόφυλλος (pp. 675-696). Θεσσαλονίκη: Αντ. Σταμούλης.
Trudgill, P. (1976). Creolisation in Reverse: Reduction and Simplification in the Albanian dialects of Greece. Transactions of the Philological Society. 1976-1977.
Tsitsipis, L., D. (1991). Terminal-fluent Speaker Interaction and the Contextualisation of Deviant Speech. Journal of Pragmatics, 15: 153-173.
Tsitsipis, L., D. (1995). The Coding of Linguistic Ideology in Arvanitika (Albanian). Language Shift: Congruent and Contradictory Discourse. Anthropological Linguistics, 37, 541-577.
Τσιτσιπής, Λ., Δ. (1998). Αρβανίτικα και Ελληνικά. Ζητήματα Πολυγλωσσικών και Πολυπολιτισμικών Κοινοτήτων (Vol. 1). Λειβαδιά: Πρακτικά Συνεδρίου.
Documentary: https: /  / / watch?v=ieGbIPNyrF0. Accessed March 2, 2022.

Full COMELA 2022 Proceedings book