By Georgia Vassiliou
Two Cypriots from across the divide have come together to produce a common dictionary of the dialects of their respective communities.
The result not only provides insight into the linguistic similarities of the two dialects, but it could also serve as a springboard for greater rapprochement, especially among the younger generation, they said.
The “Joint Dictionary of Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot Dialect” was written by Iakovos Hadjipieris, a Greek Cypriot Turkologist, and Orhan Kabatas, a Turkish Cypriot professor of geography and history with a master’s degree in Ancient Turkish. The dictionary has brought together the common Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot words in a bilingual publication with some 3,500 entries reflecting the commonalities in our everyday language.
The dictionary was launched during special events held in government-controlled areas and similar events will soon follow for the Turkish Cypriot community.
“The number of people attending the presentations exceeded our expectations,” Hadjipieris said and pointed out that people of all ages, young and old, seemed familiar with the theme of the dictionary. They all seemed to be aware of the existence of our common linguistic wealth, which however has not been listed or written down and its etymology is not repeated in any scientific publication.
They had started working on the project believing it would spark interest in the fact that so many words are used in the dialects and the audience on the Greek Cypriot side responded positively, Kabatas said.
The dictionary goes beyond a list of words and beyond a thesaurus. It is not limited to the etymology of words.
“For us, this dictionary touches on a common world of images, experiences and perceptions. When, for example, a Cypriot – either a Greek Cypriot or a Turkish Cypriot – reads the word “palouzes” or “halloumi”, he thinks of images, production processes, recipes and these words even evoke memories. The bottom line is that each separate word is a representation of memories, a common story, a common place, a common experience for everyone, ”Kabatas said.
Hadjipieris also stressed that the public appreciated that the dictionary was a scientific work that would add to the Cypriot bibliography as well as research related to the language and dialect.
“It is also evident that the dictionary plays a social and historical role, contributing to the effort of peaceful coexistence of the two communities in Cyprus,” he said, adding that all Cypriots shared a common goal and desire to create communication channels. between the two communities who will contribute to the effort to straighten out their relations.
Hadjipieris said that just months after its publication, the book was adopted by readers in Cyprus and the Diaspora.
“This is the main characteristic of our work,” he added, explaining that if it is a purely scientific project, contributing to the science of linguistics and dialectology, he was aware however not the history and social conditions of Cyprus nor the need to promote peace. and peaceful coexistence.
When asked if the dictionary has been presented to the Turkish Cypriot community and their reaction, Kabatas said it will soon be published in the north. He noted that in the meantime, interest in the Turkish Cypriot community is limited to a small group of intellectuals.
However, he was optimistic that when the dictionary was published, the response from the Turkish Cypriots would be equally positive.
Hadjipieris said that the current edition is aimed at the Greek Cypriot community and a new edition is being prepared for the Turkish Cypriot community. The only difference between the two is the order of the two sections. In the first publication, the section with the Greek Cypriot dialect is the first, followed by the dictionary of the Turkish Cypriot dialect. In the new edition, this will be reversed.
Turkish Cypriots have taken notice of the first publication since it appeared in the media, he said and added: “We have already received comments from friends and we expect a similar warm welcome,” Kabatas said.
Hadjipieris pointed out that a number of common words have ceased to be used and that today the dialect is mainly used as a language of communication between Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots born before 1974, while younger opt for English as the language of communication. . Hadjipieris and Kabatas have devoted five years of their lives to writing the dictionary and are both known for their love of dialects.
“Indeed, it seems that a large number of words common in the two dialects are no longer used. Other words point in the same direction. Nevertheless, we must not neglect the common words still used by the two communities, ”said Hadjipieris.
Kabatas, on the other hand, spoke of an erosion of the common word pool that took place after the communication channels were closed. “We observe that the older generations have reserved and safeguarded the common vocabulary, values, attitudes and discourse,” he said.
Regarding communication between Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots, Hadjipieris said the over-55s group had lived in mixed communities. Therefore, there are Greek Cypriots, though not in large numbers, who speak the Turkish Cypriot dialect and can communicate easily.
Turkish Cypriots know the Greek Cypriot dialect better than the reverse, he noted.
Contact between young people from the two communities began in 2003 with the opening of the crossing points along the UN-monitored buffer zone that separates the Turkish-occupied areas of northern Cyprus from the southern part of the country. government-controlled island.
Their command of the English language is good enough to allow them to communicate freely, while their parents and especially their grandparents communicate through the dialect. This phenomenon should not be interpreted as a threat to the dialect, he says.
Kabatas said the goal was to create a historical memory for the younger generation. Despite the existing differences in the feelings of the two communities regarding nationality and beliefs, he noted, these common words are real proof of how they can create a climate of peace.
Asked whether increased contacts between the two communities or a Cypriot settlement could help preserve the dialect, Hadjipieris said reunification of the island could lead to a new linguistic and cultural departure, which is not limited to not in the context of the dialect but it would also rely mainly on the education system. Nowadays, the Greek Cypriot dialect is poorer and modern Greek has gained ground among the younger generations. A similar phenomenon is observed in the Turkish Cypriot community where the dialect is losing ground against the Turkish language.
Education is called upon to ensure that during the process of learning the official language, the dialect is not forgotten. In this context, Kabatas suggests that poems, plays and other texts in dialect be included in school anthologies.
Since the syntax of the two dialects is so close, it’s just a matter of learning words to have an everyday conversation, he says. Now one can understand the value of the joint dictionary, he added.
“I would also like to emphasize that this common wealth is a meeting point between the two dialects. While the mother tongues, modern Greek and Turkish, move in parallel and do not meet, the local dialects, Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot, intercept each other and this is attributed to the elements constituting their common cultural tradition ”, a he explained.
Kabatas expresses the opinion that the common vocabulary was created at a time when prejudices did not prevail but that today it is difficult to bring words to life in both communities, which have been affected by historical developments.
When asked if one could trace through the etymology of the words included in the Dictionary not only the linguistic past but also the historical and cultural past of the island, Hadjipieris said that in fact, by leading research to establish the origins of a word, they crossed paths with the history of Cyprus. In other words, he says, “we could say that through this process we could trace the historical periods in which different languages and dialects met in Cyprus.”
“We have come to the conclusion that it constitutes a wonderful historical and cultural mosaic full of diverse influences and mutual loans, which is generally accepted as a natural rule that applies to every living language and dialect. The Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot dialects could not be an exception to this rule. They carry a vocabulary which is the strong historical product of a cultural coexistence and of a cultural crossing of four centuries in the space of the Eastern Mediterranean. (ANC)