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Lecture | Sociolinguistics Series

Embodying Istanbul Greek: How language ideologies interact with speaker identities

Friday 5 March 2021
LUCL Sociolinguistics Series 2022/2023
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Contemporary sociolinguistic research increasingly considers the lived experiences of speakers through the concept of embodiment. In this presentation, I analyze metapragmatic discourse of Istanbul Greek (IG) to address the role of language ideologies in the embodiment of a minoritized speech community. Specifically, I explore how IG-speakers understand themselves as embodying characteristics of the dialect (e.g., heaviness), and how the dialect reinforces traits of the community (e.g., cosmopolitanism).

IG is a contact variety of Greek as spoken by the few remaining IG speakers indigenous to Istanbul. Turkish, French and other minority languages of Istanbul have influenced multiple levels of linguistic structure in IG (Hadodo, 2020). Extensive ethnographic fieldwork and sociolinguistic interviews with over 100 IG-speakers revealed that widespread multilingualism and contact-induced change on IG are viewed as demonstrating cosmopolitanism absent in other Greek communities. Furthermore, IG-speakers often use descriptors such as “heavy” or “closed-off” not only to characterize IG dialectal features such as velarized laterals, but also to discuss social behaviors of the IG community.

Through metapragmatic discourse, IG-speakers distinguish themselves from other types of Greeks based on language ideologies. Consequently, we can better understand community formation when considering how speakers view themselves as embodying distinct traits based on language usage.

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