How do you feel when a foreigner speaks in your local accent/dialect? Are you offended when a foreigner imitates your local accent?

Intellectually, I want to love it.

Regrettably, being human, I freak out. Not much, just slightly, Uncanny valley-style.

Ross Daly for example is an Irishman who has lived in Crete for four decades, and a practitioner of Cretan folk music (among others). Having gone to the Cretan highlands to learn Cretan music, he speaks Greek like a Cretan highlander. And when he is interviewed on Greek TV, my reaction is… something… is… wrong here…

Like I say, intellectually, it is beyond awesome that an Irishman speaks better Cretan dialect than I can ever hope to. But the reptilian brain is tuned to using accent as an in-group marker, and it finds it jolting to see the clash between ostensive ingroup and outgroup characteristics.  Like Patrick Edwin Moran said: “orange” written in purple ink.

And yes, I have the same reaction when I see the kids of African immigrants speaking idiomatic Greek on TV. And no, I am not intellectually proud of that.

I was much cooler about the Japanese PhD student whose Australian English accent was impeccable, even though she learned English as an adult. Partly because it was obvious what was happening: her accent was identical to her PhD supervisor’s, down to the intonation. (It was, after all, a phonetics PhD.)

And partly because non-ethnic-Anglos speaking English is rather less unusual than non-ethnic-Greeks speaking Greek. I didn’t bat an eyelid at Albanians speaking Greek like natives, after all. They look Greek. 🙂

I’ve inflicted that Uncanny Valley reaction in reverse, so that’s karmic revenge for you. I was speaking to a gelati seller in Lake Gardo, in my cod Italian, only to be asked “have you come from Friuli?” She could work out that I wasn’t from around there—so she assumed I was from the next district along. (The one that doesn’t speak Italian. 🙂

How do Greeks feel about references to Ancient Greece?

Depends, as with many of these things.

Yes, there is the reaction you mention. You will occasionally get Greeks (and non-Greeks) reminding you that the Roman Empire kept going for 1000 years after 476, thank you very much—though the relation of Greeks to Byzantium is more complicated than that.

There is the haunting feeling that we’ll never measure up to the ancient Greeks (one that the Byzantines shared).

There’s the reaction against that, with “we’re sick of hearing about the ancient Greeks”. You won’t get much of that aired to non-Greeks, but if you google  Αρχαίοι Ημών Πρόγονοι (“Our Ancient Ancestors” in Katharevousa) and can translate what is being said, much of it makes fun of Greek ancestor-worship.

It’s a profoundly ambivalent relationship. The unlettered peasants 300 years ago had a much more straightforward relationship with the Hellenes: they were this race of pagan giants, the folk who built all them ruins; and they died out because they fell over, and couldn’t get back up…

EDIT: See also Do many modern Greeks feel a sense of failure or perhaps inferiority when compared with their ancient Greek ancestors? (where I say pretty much the same.)

Do the Cypriot Greeks speak Turkish, and vice versa?

My dad had to learn a bit of Turkish when he was working as a nurse in the (very) early 60s. By and large, no. I understand that in the past, a lot more Turks spoke Greek than Greeks spoke Turkish…

Did the f word (or an equivalent) exist in the middle ages?

The Middle English Dictionary Needs a Fucking Update: earliest attestation 1310, but it must have existed earlier. (Met the blogger 20 years ago, glad to see he’s kept the faith.)

swive – Wiktionary was arguably more popular.

What language uses 7’s and !’s?

Squamish language uses <7> conventionally to substitute for IPA <ʔ>, and I can imagine other languages doing so if their Romanisation was influenced by  linguists. Squamish doesn’t use <!>, which turns up in Khoisan languages for clicks (Exclamation mark). Not convinced there’s a language that uses both, but who knows…

For the same reason of practicality, <8> substitutes in Wyandot language for <ȣ>: Ou (ligature).

What is the difference in Greek between κοίταζε and κοίταγε?

In practice: none. κοιτάω and κοιτάζω both mean “to look”, and are just morphological variants—of a kind quite common in Middle Greek, as new present tenses were being reconstructed from aorists. (Both -αζω and -αω verbs could have -ασ- aorists; so working backwards, you could end up with either present tense.)

There’s a slight register colouring in κοίταγε: for -αω verbs, Standard  Modern Greek exceptionally uses a Northern Greek imperfect ending, -ουσ-, whereas Peloponnesian (on which  Standard  Modern Greek is based) uses -αγ-. This means that κοίταγε sounds more informal than κοιτούσε, whereas κοίταζε is unmarked.

What does it feel like to speak an almost extinct language? Does one feel a responsibility to carry it on to future generations? Does one try to practice it and not forget it?

I’ll quote what someone else in that position said (originally posted about on my blog: .sig quoting Marcel Cohen, corrected; see also Language Regained).

Marcel Cohen was a Jewish author writing in French. His first language was Judaeo-Spanish (aka Djudio, Ladino), which he barely remembered as an adult. As a one-off, he wrote a memoir in Ladino in 1985, with a parallel French translation.

At the start of the book, he writes what it feels like to use a nearly extinct language:

“Dear Antonio. I’d like to write to you in Djudio, before the language of my ancestors is completely extinguished. You can’t imagine, Antonio, what the death agony of a language is like. You seem to discover yourself alone, in silence [every day that God grants you]. You’re sikelioso [sad], without knowing why. What I’m going to record here is more or less what my mind retains of the five centuries that my ancestors spent in Turkey. I was born in Asnieres, a suburb of Paris, and my parents were in their thirties when they came to live in France. They spoke French perfectly. At the time it was the language of all the Jews of the former Ottoman Empire. They learned it at an early age in the schools of the Alliance israelite universelle, then in Istanbul at the Lycée de Galata Sarail. How could they not have loved France. This didn’t by any means stop them from speaking Judeo at home. And so it was that listening to them I was immersed in the language, without exactly speaking it myself.”

The phrase in brackets was left out in the French translation by the author: it was something the author felt that a Ladino-speaker could say, but a French-speaker could not (Laïcité and all that.)