Which of the Greek dialects sound harsh to a standard Greek speaker?

A most commendable question; and you’d think a Greek dialectologist would be ideally placed to answer this.

You would be wrong. Precisely because I’m used to dialects, it’s hard for me to make aesthetic judgements on them.

But let me attempt to at least posit why certain dialects might be considered harsh.

1. Cappadocian

It’s doubtful that most Greeks have ever even heard Cappadocian. Cappadocian is moribund, Cappadocians never had the numbers that Pontians had in Greece, and many Cappadocians had already shifted to Turkish before the population exchanges. So the full extent of my experience of what Cappadocian sounds like is the “Anatolian” (from Kayseri) in the 1830s dialect comedy Babel.


The Anatolian is introduced at 5:30, and yes, the very first thing he asks for is pastırma kayserili.

I’m guessing that Cappadocian will sound harsh to Greeks, because it sounds Turkish: language contact was most advanced there (even to the extent in places of vowel harmony). At an impressionistic level, it’s quite breathy, and the /a/ is back.

Then again, this recording of Pharasa [Çamlıca, Yahyalı] speakers in Greece doesn’t sound anywhere near as harsh as the music hall stereotype:

The other Anatolian dialect Pontic, by contrast, does not sound particularly harsh to me. At least, I don’t think so. Because the intonation really does soak in from the prestige language. Contrast below a newscast in Pontic in Greece (which sounds identical to Athens newscaster Greek), and a Russian Pontian speaker (who sounds, well, Russian):

EDIT: Just got this recording of Silli dialect (near Konya). Not unpleasant, but not very Greek-sounding, either:

2. Northern Greek

Northern Greek doesn’t sound particularly guttural or abrupt, but it is missing a lot of vowels. That makes it sound, at least, crunchy.

Here’s an interview with someone from Lesbos.

3. Assibilating dialects Greek

Assibilation is the process whereby non-sibilants become sibilants; in particular, tsitakismos (as the Greeks call it) is the subset of that process, whereby front [c] goes to a sibilant like [tʃ] or [tɕ]; palatalisation also made [s] go to [ʃ] in a lot of dialects.

Standard Greek doesn’t have Postalveolar consonants, and I’d fancy that any dialect that does have them would sound harsh to Standard Greek speakers.

That’s most dialects of Greek. Cretan, Cypriot, most Northern dialects, Pontic, Cappadocian, Italiot.

3. Standard Greek

Or at least, Peloponnesian, which is what Standard Greek is based on.

Ha! The rapid-fire intonation is what I have in mind. I don’t know for a fact what Standard Greek sounded like to Cretans or Cypriots when they first heard it, before they associated it with officialdom. But given how sing-song Cretan and Cypriot is, I imaging “harsh” would be one word.

Which Byzantine stronghold was the last to survive the Ottoman conquest?

The last Greek-ish state to fall to the Ottoman Empire was the Principality of Theodoro, in 1475. You know of it as Gothia: it’s in the Crimea, where Gothic survived to be recorded in the 16th century, before yielding to Greek. The Greek of the Crimea in turn survives as Mariupol Greek.

But the Principality of Theodoro was not a Byzantine outpost; it started as part of the Empire of Trebizond, before becoming autonomous. The Empire of Trebizond, which held out until August 1461, started out claiming to be a successor state of the East Roman Empire, after the Fourth Crusade. The Empire of Nicaea and the Despotate of Epirus did too. But Nicaea was the empire that ended up taking Constantinople back; so its claim was the claim that counted. And, Wikipedia informs me,

In 1282, John II Komnenos stripped off his imperial regalia before the walls of Constantinople before entering to marry Michael’s daughter and accept his legal title of despot. However, his successors used a version of his title, “Emperor and Autocrat of the entire East, of the Iberians and the Perateia” until the Empire’s end in 1461.

So it depends on whether, by Byzantine, you mean “part of the empire calling itself Roman, and whose capital was Constantinople”; “successor state of the pre-1204 Roman Empire whose capital was Constantinople”; or “state whose official language was Greek”. I don’t feel comfortable calling a state Byzantine if it doesn’t have Byzantium.

Now, the Byzantine Empire in 1453 consisted of Constantinople and a bit of the Peloponnese, around Mystras. The Despotate of the Morea was a province of the Byzantine Empire, that remained in Greek hands past 1453, under Demetrios Palaiologos and Thomas Palaiologos, brothers of Constantine XI. Not that they called themselves emperors after 1453, and not that they did much keeping of the Morea in Greek hands: they invited the Ottomans in to subdue a revolt by Albanians, right after the fall of Constantinople: Morea revolt of 1453–54

Mehmed had enough when the Palaiologos brothers started fighting each other. Mystras surrendered to Mehmed the Conqueror in 1460. The very last fortress of the Despotate, Salmeniko Castle, held out until July 1461 under Graitzas Palaiologos.

I don’t want to dignify the post-1453 Despotate of the Morea with the name Byzantine; but unlike Theodoro and Trebizond, there really isn’t anything else to call it. And Thomas Palaiologos was recognised in the West as the rightful heir of the Byzantine Empire.

So, thanks Dimitris Sotiropoulos, for the question: I learned something new today!

What is the opposite of a girl?

Not satisfied completely with any of the answers, though C.S. Friedman and Michael Alvis are closer to my thinking, and Mack Moore and Kalo Miles are further.

Celia is closest in her initial formulation (which Michael does not contradict):

Opposites are paired items *in the same conceptual category*, with perfectly opposing (non-overlapping) qualities. To be one is to not be the other.

But the qualities not being overlapping is the most prototypical instance of opposition; you can have opposites on a cline, where there is no clear dividing line. The most clear instance of that is big and small, which are entirely subjective qualities (big and small relative to what?), and which are on a sorites scale (how many centimetres do you add to a dog’s height before it turns from small to big?)

So the fact that there is a cline of age, from infant to girl to maiden to woman to crone, is irrelevant. A woman can still be the opposite of a girl, particularly if we isolate the conceptual category as being not age, but (as Michael identified) womanhood, whether that is female + adulthood, or sexual maturity, or any of the murkier cultural constructs associated with girlhood and womanhood.

Mack’s notion that

The concept of “opposite” is geometric, geographic, or mathematical, not linguistic nor conceptual. In the observable world, few things have any actual opposite.

… well, I’ll just say that no linguist uses opposite in that extremely restrictive sense, and no layperson did either. If they did, big and small would not be opposites, because big and small are entirely conceptual and not geometric concepts (since they are subjective and contextual).

And “I’m an individual, I’m not a construct, you can’t put me in a pigeonhole”—that’s wishful thinking. Binary categories are how we understand the world. Intersex or queer individuals challenge the universal applicability of the binary category of gender; they don’t undo everyone else’s acceptance of that cultural construct for themselves.

I don’t like Michael’s answer, because I think the native speaker’s understanding of “opposite of girl” is far less refined most of the time. (It is, after all, a lay understanding.) But he is closer than Celia, in identifying that the conceptual category that the oppositeness is defined on is contextual, and in identifying several conceptual categories that it is aligned to.

If the context is sexual maturity, or adulthood, or other murkily related stuff, the opposite of girl is woman.

If the context is gender, the opposite of girl is boy.

By default? I’d say by default the opposite of girl is boy. There’s a reason Kalo Miles jumped to it. If for no other reason, because if you want to emphasise someone’s non-adulthood rather than their female gender, you don’t say “she’s only a girl!” You say “she’s only a child!”

EDIT: Oh, and the opposite wouldn’t be girls: we don’t consider inflection as making an opposite of a word. Opposites involve stems. Dictionary words, if you like. Baked in meaning.