Book Cover

  • authors = F. Georgia, G. Athanasios, Ch. Themistocleous
  • date = 2012
  • publication = Newcastle upon Tyne: Cambridge Scholars Publishing.
  • title = “Fragaki Georgia, Georgakopoulos Athanasios, Themistocleous Charalambos (Eds) (2012). Current Trends in Greek Linguistics.”

Abstract

Current Trends in Greek Linguistics is a collection of fifteen papers written by junior researchers of Greek linguistics. Our aim in editing this volume has been to highlight the ongoing linguistic research taking place in Greek. The collected papers attempt to look into issues that have already been discussed in the literature from a fresh perspective and bring to the fore aspects of the Greek language that have not been extensively examined so far. The authors follow both qualitative and quantitative methodologies, as well as a variety of theoretical frameworks, including cognitive linguistics, formal linguistics, corpus linguistics, variational sociolinguistics, critical discourse analysis etc. Through the application of theoretical concepts and the analysis of empirical data, the papers address a wide range of topics such as lexical temporal expressions and the conceptualization of time, the subjunctive mood and its semantic features, adjective evaluation, strategies of verbal humour, the role of social variables, media and political discourse, segmental and supra-segmental phenomena such as prosody, tonal structure and hiatus resolution, aphasic speech, and the teaching of lexical clusters and idioms. It should be noted that the papers were peer-reviewed in several stages and this process contributed significantly to the exchange of ideas and the development of the arguments presented by the authors.

The book is divided into four sections: Aspects of meaning, Textual and sociolinguistic approaches, Phonetics and phonology and Clinical linguistics and language teaching. The first section includes three chapters dealing with different aspects of meaning. On theoretical as well as on empirical grounds, the contributors of this section try to throw some light on three thorny issues of the current semantic agenda, that is the interpretation of lexical temporal expressions, the conceptualization of time and the semantic properties of the subjunctive mood.

In the first chapter, Kostopoulos investigates prepositional, adverbial and nominal temporal constructions and offers an elaborated account for these expressions. The empirical data, which provide the basis for testing the validity of the assumptions made in this paper, come from tales and legal reports. By taking a cognitive semantics perspective and by arguing against a formal semantics approach, he shows how the interaction of such factors as the plasticity of a mental space, subjectification and accessibility to inferences contribute to the interpretation of lexical temporal expressions.

In Chapter 2 Anna Piata studies the relationship between varying degrees of conventionality and the conceptual structure of time. The author builds on Fauconnier and Turner’s Conceptual Integration Theory and provides a refinement of their theory, by taking into account the conceptualization of time in different genres, namely newspaper articles and poetic discourse, taken from two respective corpora. In investigating the conventional and creative character of time expressions, this study puts forward three complementary criteria for detecting the degrees of conventionality of a temporal expression. As the analysis shows, both conventional and non-conventional expressions of time share the same underlying conceptual structure, yet the latter is creatively exploited in the case of poetic discourse and thus manifests emergent structure. Finally, an important finding of the study is that a creative discourse type such as poetry values the form-meaning relationship as an important player in meaning construction.

Konstantinos Sampanis aims at defining the semantic properties of the Modern Greek subjunctive mood with respect to the present indicative and the future indicative. In particular, it is suggested that the semantic distinction between these three verbal categories (namely the present indicative, the future indicative and the subjunctive) can be captured by assigning different values (plus /+/ or minus /-/) to the semantic features assertion and realis. Along with this analysis, Sampanis discusses some aspects concerning the mood characteristics of the particle na + verb construction in Modern Greek, as well as the usability of a semantic feature analysis from both a synchronic and a diachronic perspective.

The section on textual and sociolinguistic approaches includes five chapters dealing with a variety of subjects, ranging from evaluation and humour to news representation and sociolinguistic variables. Georgia Fragaki focuses on the evaluative use of Greek adjectives and the devices of evaluation employed in opinion articles. Following a corpus-linguistic methodology, she argues that in Greek, apart from adjective patterns, which have been identified and extensively discussed in other languages, a wide range of other evaluation devices are used. She proposes a classification of three broad and non-exhaustive categories, comprising syntactic, semantic and morphological devices, which are further investigated by reference to the lexico-grammatical instantiation of evaluation in Greek through adjectives. Diverse linguistic phenomena such as predicative uses, word semantics (inherent or context-related) and morphemes are studied together as different facets of evaluation. It is pointed out that the study of languages like Greek can unearth a host of means of evaluation, which have not been widely discussed in previous literature, including below word evaluation, the use of the article and the creative use of adjective categories.

In Chapter 5 Maria Kamilaki examines the use of learned elements as a strategy of verbal humour in written texts produced by young speakers of Greek. She analyses these data by using the framework of the General Theory of Verbal Humour proposed by Attardo. In particular, she explores the use of learned elements as regards three knowledge resources: language, situation and target. Kamilaki points out that, although learned elements are relics of the diglossic Greek tradition, they seem to be alive in young people’s language and co-occur in their texts with non-learned elements, contributing to instances of linguistic creativity such as neologisms. According to the author, learned elements in the texts of young speakers can also be seen as a means of reinforcing their identities, either by confirming the cohesion of the inner group or by expressing their disapproval of members of the outer group.

The next two chapters fall into the area of, more or less, traditional variational sociolinguistics. They both use ethnographic methods in the collection of data and statistical analysis in order to detect statistically significant correlations of linguistic with social features. In particular, Nikos Vergis’ chapter is dedicated to gender-based differences in the production of a rhotic consonant by speakers of the linguistic community of Anogia in rural Crete. The researcher studies spoken data from interviews with (both young and old) Anogian men and women, as well as their metalinguistic comments on the use of the rhotic, as elicited by a questionnaire. The analysis of the former shows that the variable of age is more crucial than that of gender, since elderly men and women use the rhotic more frequently than their younger counterparts. In addition, an important finding concerning gender differences is that young men produce more rhotics than young women, who tend to avoid its use. This finding is aligned, according to the author, with the metalinguistic comments of women, who appear to be reserved as regards the use of the rhotic when speaking to outsiders.

Irene Theodoropoulou examines the sociolinguistic variation of the social group of the so-called Generation of 700 Euros, based on ethnographic interviews. She is interested in examining whether there is a correlation between a phonetic and a syntactic linguistic variable and independent variables related to the socio-demographic profile of the interviewees, as well as the situational and linguistic context. She argues that the linguistic variables under study reflect a distinction between conscious and unconscious speech. According to her, unconscious linguistic variables correlate with social and interactional variables such as the prospect of finding a job in Greece or abroad, their stance towards the austerity measures taken by the Greek government and/or the topic of discussion, whereas factors that are related to the interviewees’ identity appear to be much less influential. The author concludes that uncertainty is a key element of the generation’s identity, which is evident in both their linguistic behaviour and their metalinguistic comments on their social group.

The last chapter of the section focuses on a relatively recent event, that of “Greek December” of 2008, and its representation in political and media discourse. George Polymeneas uses a critical discourse analytic approach to study the Prime Minister’s addresses related to the event and newspaper reports on them. He finds that the Prime Minister manages to represent “Greek December” and the social actors involved in a way favourable to his political party through particular linguistic choices such as grammatical metaphor and transitivity. His aim is to depoliticize the event and to achieve consensus against the protestors, who are thus perceived as enemies to society. The author argues that in his third address the PM adopts a new approach, that of the newspapers, by presenting the conflict as one between the government and other political parties. Although newspaper reports present the PM’s addresses differently, according to their stance towards the governmental party, both supportive and opposing newspapers collaborate with him towards the ideological narrowing of the event. The discourse used becomes increasingly informal, contributing to the representation of “Greek December” as an ordinary event, related to political party conflict.

The section on phonetics and phonology includes three experimental studies that explore segmental and supra-segmental phenomena. The first examines gemination in Cypriot Greek, the second studies the prosodic correlates of phonological boundaries and the last explores the interface of prosody and information structure. In Chapter 9 Spyros Armosti investigates the acoustic correlates of post-lexical gemination of plosives and affricates in Cypriot Greek, a topic that has not been thoroughly explored previously. Cypriot Greek plosive and affricate lexical geminates are rather unusual, as they are distinguished from singletons by both longer closure and longer release. Plosive and affricate post-lexical gemination is impressionistically reported in the literature to differ from lexical gemination in its phonetic realisation, something which has not been subjected to empirical confirmation. Armosti’s study finds that, while Cypriot Greek plosive and affricate geminates are longer than their singleton counterparts in terms of closure duration and ACT (i.e. frication and/or aspiration), post-lexical gemination (or super-gemination) is achieved by elongation of closure duration. Thus, longer closure duration can be considered the main cue to geminates (be they lexical or post-lexical), while ACT functions as an enhancing correlate for the lexical contrast between singleton and geminate non-continuants.

Evia Kainada examines the effect of prosodic boundary strength on the resolution of vowel hiatus in Modern Greek, by conducting two experiments. The first tested the production of instances of vowel hiatus in gradually stronger prosodic boundary environments, while the second tested the perception of these productions by native speakers of Modern Greek. Although such connected speech processes as hiatus resolution have been used as cues for the identification of prosodic constituents, the results from both experiments show that vowel hiatus resolution in Modern Greek is a gradient process above the prosodic word level. Thus, vowel hiatus resolution cannot act as a clear phonological marker of prosodic constituency, i.e. its resolution is not confined within a certain prosodic level. Specifically, the acoustic analysis of the production experiment showed varying degrees of assimilation between the two vowels with gradually less assimilation and less instances of complete vowel deletion higher in the hierarchy, a result which was corroborated by the perceptual analysis.

Charalambos Themistocleous studies the effects of focus and topic on the alignment and scaling of pitch accents in Standard Modern Greek and Cypriot Greek, elicited in comparable environments. The study examines the effects of contrastive topic, contrastive focus, information focus and broad focus on the acoustic manifestation of pitch accents. Contrary to previous studies proposing that the information structure categories are associated with different tonal units (or pitch accents), the results suggest that meaning has only random effects on the acoustic representation of speech melody and manifests itself mostly through tonal prominence distinctions. Thus, it argues for a binary distinction between postlexically stressed constituents that are associated with focus and contrastive topics and non-postlexically stressed constituents, associated with non-contrastive topics. Pitch accent form is not defined by meaning categories but by the overall syntactic structure of the tune and the placement of postlexical prominence in the utterance. Consequently, the meaning of the Information Structure categories is not resolved by prosody but by higher domains. Furthermore, this study discusses the implications of the results for the understanding of the relation of meaning and prosody in Greek and makes proposals about tonal structure with crucial ramifications on the current autosegmental model of intonation.

The last section of the book combines papers from two different fields, neurolinguistics and language teaching. Both papers in the first field focus on the description of aphasic speech, while both papers in the field of language teaching deal with various types of prefabricated language, idioms and lexical clusters respectively. Chapters 12 and 13 offer a complementary view of aphasic speech, since the authors follow a different approach. Michaela Neratzini examines the production of direct object clitics by a non-fluent Greek-speaking individual with aphasia. The data studied come from a sentence completion task, which was designed to test clitic production across three conditions (indicative, subjunctive, imperative). The latter are related in Greek to particular placements of the clitics (i.e. pre-verbally with indicative and subjunctive forms and post-verbally with imperative forms). The findings of the study suggest that clitic production is severely impaired in agrammatic aphasia and that difficulties are more prominent in the case of post-verbal rather than pre-verbal clitics. Moreover, the main error type, which was manifested across conditions, was clitic omission, a finding which is in line with previous research. Based on these findings, the author argues that syntactic movement, especially the one related to post-verbal clitic placement, is a crucial factor underlying language deficits in agrammatic aphasia. These results, in her view, do not support hierarchical accounts, such as the Tree Pruning Hypothesis, or accounts that attribute impairments in agrammatic aphasia to syntactic operations that cause a change in the basic word order, such as the Derived Order Problem-Hypothesis, but concur with the extended Derived Order Problem-Hypothesis, which attributes difficulties to the application of multiple movement operations.

Maria Varkanitsa aspires to broaden the scope of current research on Greek aphasia, by analyzing connected speech of six fluent and non-fluent patients. Aphasic speech production underwent quantitative analysis in terms of four measures (lexical selection, sentence productivity, grammatical accurancy and discourse productivity), as well as error analysis, according to which six error types were identified (phonological, morphosyntactic, lexical and semantic errors, neologisms and circumlocutions). The results of the analyses give a detailed account of the speech production of patients with fluent and non-fluent aphasia. In particular, the speech production of fluent patients seems to be closer to that of normal speakers, presenting, however, less complexity and a large number of lexical and semantic errors, as well as morphosyntactic errors concerning agreement. On the other hand, the speech of patients with non-fluent aphasia is observed to diverge more from the speech of normal speakers in terms of sentence length and complexity, restricted use of parts of speech and occurrence of a large number of phonological, syntactic and morphological errors. On the basis of these findings, Varkanitsa suggests that, contrary to many studies in the literature, patients with aphasia may present mixed error patterns and error types may not be exclusively associated with specific aphasia types. Moreover, she emphasises the fact that the majority of morphosyntactic errors produced by both aphasic groups concern determiner-noun and adjective-noun agreement, a subject which has not been extensively examined in the Greek literature.

Moving to the field of language teaching, in Chapter 14 Georgia Sykara investigates idiom comprehension of second language learners of Greek. In order to determine the factors that have an impact on idiom comprehension, she uses a two task questionnaire to test the knowledge of intermediate and advanced students of Greek as a second language. Both tasks include equal number of idioms, manifesting different degrees of transparency (namely, transparent, semi-transparent, semi-opaque and opaque idioms), while they differ in the presentation of idioms in or out of context. Her findings show that there are three major factors affecting the way language learners comprehend idioms, namely the degree of transparency (the more transparent the idiom, the more easily it is understood), the existence of a particular context and the learners’ language level (advanced students performed better than intermediate ones). These observations confirm prior findings of the relevant literature concerning English idioms and underline the necessity for the adoption of a new approach in the teaching of Greek idioms to second language learners.

The last chapter of the book comprises a corpus-linguistic contrastive analysis of lexical clusters in Greek and English with the aim of contributing to the teaching of phraseology in the two languages. Hector Ferlas examines the frequency and function of lexical clusters, i.e. sequences of words which significantly occur in a corpus of texts, and proposes a functional categorization of them. This is the first extensive study of lexical clusters in Greek, producing interesting contrastive findings. Thus, spoken English is found to contain many more lexical clusters than spoken Greek. In addition, Greek seems to favour title and personal clusters, while English prefers the use of grammatical clusters. Furthermore, only a few clusters in the data seem to correspond between the two languages. For this reason, the author points out that this finding has to be taken into account when teaching prefabricated language to students of both Greek as a first language and Greek as a second/foreign language. Drawing on these findings, he discusses the treatment of lexical clusters and prefabricated language in school textbooks and textbooks of Greek as a second/foreign language and concludes that more research is needed in order to incorporate linguistic findings on prefabricated language in the teaching of Greek.

Finally, we would like to thank the contributors for their hard work and patience through several drafts and revisions of their papers. We are also grateful to the following scholars for their valuable help and advice in various phases of the project: Argiris Archakis, Amalia Arvaniti, Angeliki Athanasiadou, Mary Baltazani, Monika Bednarek, Spyridoula Bella, Dionysis Goutsos, Kleanthes Grohmann, Stamatia Koutsoulelou, Marina Mattheoudakis, Amalia Moser, Dimitris Papazachariou, Periklis Politis, Dominic Stewart, Marina Terkourafi, Arhonto Terzi, Nina Topintzi, Villy Tsakona, Stavroula Tsiplakou and Spyridoula Varlokosta. Our special thanks to Chris Lees for his help in the manuscript’s editing.