LINGUIST List 13.3170

Tue Dec 3 2002

Review: Anthropological Ling: Tsitsipis (1998)

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  1. Alexander Rusakov, Tsitsipis (1998) Arvanitika (Albanian) and Greek in Contact

Message 1: Tsitsipis (1998) Arvanitika (Albanian) and Greek in Contact

Date: Tue, 03 Dec 2002 01:08:58 +0000
From: Alexander Rusakov <>
Subject: Tsitsipis (1998) Arvanitika (Albanian) and Greek in Contact

Tsitsipis, Lukas D. (1998)
A Linguistic Anthropology of Praxis and Language Shift:
Arvanitika (Albanian) and Greek in Contact.
Oxford University Press, xii+163pp, hardback ISBN 0-19-823731-6,
Oxford Studies in Language Contact.

Book Announcement on Linguist: 

Alexander Yu. Rusakov, St. Petersburg State University


The book is devoted to the problems of language shift on the example
of Arvanitika, a variety of Tosk Albanian spoken in Greece for more
than four centuries'' (1). The material for the study was gathered
through a fieldwork in two Albanian-speaking communities - Kiriaki in
Biotia and Spata near Athens. The basic concern of the author is,
however, theoretical - he aims at revealing the patterns of
correlation between language shift and a number of sociolinguistic,
pragmatic, ethno- historical and ideological factors; in this respect,
the views of Nancy Dorian and Susanne Hill are explicitly acknowledged
as theoretically crucial for the author. Along with the theoretical
issues, the very linguistic data are definitely of great interest -
although Arvanitika has been linguistically studied for more than 150,
and a number of renowned linguists have contributed to that study
(Reinhold 1855; Meyer 1896; Weigand 1926; Phourikis 1932-33; Haebler
1965; Hamp 1961; et al.; from sociolinguistic point of view: Trudgill
1978; Trudgill & Tzavaras 1977), Arvanitika is not yet adequately
described in all its versatility, and there is a visible shortage of
available dialectal texts, and contemporary ones in the first
place. However, this dialect is crucial for the understanding of some
processes in the history of Albanian in general (Hamp 1961 et al.;
Joseph 1999). In this respect, the book under review is not only
useful for the study of sociolinguistics, language contacts and
linguistic ecology, it is also interesting for the specialists in
Albanian and - more generally - Balkan linguistics.

The book is based on a number of previous articles by the author. It
consists of seven chapters.

1. Introduction: Theoretical Discussions and Research Focus
(1-7). This chapter contains an introduction of those theoretical
concepts, that are relevant for the whole investigation. This are,
first of all, SOCIETAL PRAXIS, that is, the sphere in which a language
is functioning. With respect to this notion, the author indicates that
''after a language has made its way to obsolescence with regard to its
referential adequacy, other functions, pragmatic in nature, remain''
(3, cf. Mertz 1989: 103-16); this statement is in a certain way basic
for the further discussion. Accordingly, the speakers of a dialect are
divided into FLUENT and TERMINAL (= semi-speakers according Nancy
Dorian); besides, such crucial notions as SUBORDINATION (and SELF-
DEPRECATION, which is related to it) and HETEROGLOSSIA, which are
comprehensively discussed in the following chapter.

2. On the Politics of Change (8-20). This chapter introduces, as it
were, the setting in which further action takes place. Some basic
facts on the Albanians in Greece are provided, their self-nomination
and the name for the Greek language used by them are
discussed. Further on, within the frames of the history of Albanian
community in Greece, the authors proceeds to the processes of
subordination (without oppression) and self-deprecation (related to
the former process), on the one hand, and heteroglossia, in which the
Greek language plays the role of POWER CODE and Arvanitika, the role
of SOLIDARITY CODE, on the other hand. The linguistic situation in
the communities at issue leads to the establishment of ''a certain
kind of METAPRAGMATIC AWARENESS in which an ethno-ideological view of
language equates the use of Greek forms in the intracommunity sphere
of communication with affectation'' (15).

Finally, the chapter contains a sociological and sociolinguistic
description and comparison of two communities, namely, more
industrialized Spata and more patriarchal Kiriaki. It may be noticed,
however, that a consistent comparison of linguistic data from these
two communities was beyond the scope of the author's objectives.

3. On Sociolinguistic Change (21-65). ''The focus here is on both the
structural and the sociolinguistic aspects of the shift'' (6). This
particularly informative chapter contains a compressive, but
nonetheless useful review of the linguistic condition of the dialect,
whereupon its conservative features, the patterns of adaptation of the
Greek vocabulary, the models of interference - phonetic first of all -
with Greek etc. are highlighted.

Further on, the author compares the speech genres, typical of
Arvanitika of the second half of 19th and beginning of 20th century,
that are registered in the texts collected by Reinhold, Meyer and
Phourikis (these are rather heterogeneous and encompass fairy tales,
playful songs, speech plays, gospel excerpts; they entail, thus, a
good preservation of full-fledged syntactic and morphological
structures) with the scarce condition of contemporary narrative
genres, that are poorly differentiated. A conclusion is made that a
shift from INTERNAL HETEROGLOSSIA (=fully functioning language) to
heteroglossia juxtaposing Greek and Arvanitika has taken place.The
following part is concerned with the structural changes
resp. variation in the dialect.

Based on sociolinguistic criteria the author distinguishes three types
Completed changes ''include those aspects of the Arvanitica
grammatical system that are not part of any synchronic variation of
the community'' (34). Completed changes in Arvanitika are exemplified
by the lack of admirative, fossilization of optative, and drastic
decrease of productive derivative models (which is a pronounced
symptom of language death, cf. for example Dressler 1996). It may
remarked in passing, however, that it is not quite evident that
Arvanitika had the category of optative in the past; ''some aspecrs of
the history of the mood remains obscure'' ( 34, n12).

CONTINUOUS CHANGES are such that the structures involved are ''less
produced and less recognized as we move from fluent to terminal
speakers'' (40). As an example of such a change the fate of Albanian
gerund in Arvanitika is discussed. The texts gathered by the author
have only four instances of constructions interpreted as gerundial;
out of these two have the ''tuke + finite form'' structure, and it is
not quite clear if these two utterances are simply agrammatical or
they correspond to the construction typical of the Greek dialects of
Albanian (this construction has been registered already by G.Meyer; it
is not, as it were, found in other Albanian dialects, cf. Cabej 1976:

An auxiliary experiment in which subjects were supposed to translate
sentences from Greek to Arvanitika with the use of gerundial
constructions and to recognize such constructions in the Arvanitika
sentences showed that the lower is the level of language competence of
a paticular speaker, the less is productivity of the gerundial
constructions. Unfortunately, the design of the experiment is
described very briefly.

The section devoted to discontinuous changes is particularly
interesting. It is based on the analysis of Greek-to-Arvanitika
translations provided fluent resp. terminal speakers. The two
inflectional domains are at issue, that reflect the basic features of
the Albanian grammatical system: the Nominal-Adjectival system
(including agreement) and the Verb system (including syntactic
subordination). Terminal speakers show the signs of utter
decomposition of the grammatical system: there are abundant cases of
omission of agreement markers, distortion of gender agreement,
reordering of NP components, blunders in verb inflection, a good deal
of disorder in the use of modal and tense forms, and numerous
instances of the so-called FANTASY MORPHOLOGY. In other words,
pronounced symptoms of the later stages of language shift are
observed. Summing up the ''sociolinguistic'' chapter, the author
concludes that the notion of COMPROMISE suggested by Nancy Dorian seem
applicable to the sociolinguistic situation in Arvanitika (cf. ''If in
a small linguistic community the threatened language does not face
puristic pressures a serviceable form of the language may well
continue in use. On the other hand, the lack of puristic stances
causes a relaxation of corrective constraints and so makes possible
the emergence of agrammatisms'', 63).

4. Performance and Ethnohistory (66-96). This chapter deals with the
speech behavior of fluent speakers. Their narrative performance
(''specific use of language by which the speaker assumes
responsibility for the display of communicative competence to an
evaluating audience'', 66) is characterized by three major devices:
NARRATIVE MARKERS (hearer- oriented expressions and ''formulaic
material which serves as a frame- opener for the performance of the
genre'', 72), SAME-LANGUAGE REPETITIONS (the device ''serves the
purpose of effecting a shift to a substantially new information unit
in the development of the narrative plot'', 73) and COUPLINGS
(instances of code switching). Besides, the author discusses those
obstacles that can be encountered by fluent speakers in the process of
narrative performance; these are first of all not appropriate conduct
of terminal speakers involved in the communication and possible
attendance of Greek monolinguals among the hearers.

The major part of the chapter is devoted to a deep and meticulous
analysis of several narrative texts, in which narrative devices
(partially discussed above) are related to the development of the
plot. One of the main conclusions on this stage is that the
narratives are dialogical (in Bakhtin's terms) in nature, which
reflects ''the conflict between the two worlds, the traditional,
Arvanitika-dominant, and the modern, Greek-dominant'', 82); this
dialogical nature could manifest itself in code-switching, but not
entirely in it.

Language shift is reflected in a specific double-voiced character of
narratives, where ''the conflict [exists] between a positive cultural
stance towards Arvanitika and a pragmatism concerning sociocultural
and linguistic change'' (84); this conflict leads in a progress
towards the Greek language. The chapter is concluded by an interesting
analysis of a long narrative of an uncle J., one of the last fluent
speakers of the community of Livanates, where the Arvanitika is nearly
extinct. This uncle J. demonstrates a certain degree of agrammatism;
nonetheless, ''uncle J. furnishes a poetically complex speech
segment.... there is an ambiguity deriving from the sociological
condition of last, but not terminal speakers'' (95).

5. The Contextualization of Terminal-Speaker Discourse and the
Production of an Across-the-Border Voice: Beyond Grammar
(96-117). This chapter contains a discussion of the speech behavior of
terminal speakers. Analyzing the dialogues, in which - as a rule -
fluent speakers take part along with the terminal speakers, the author
characterizes the speech behavior of the latter as ACROSS-THE-BORDER
VOICE. Terminal speakers show almost complete loss of the referential
function of the language, Arvanitika is only used for the expression
of their attitudes towards the native language and their own speech
community. These attitudes are thoroughly analyzed in the chapter.

The texts produced by terminal speakers are characterized in the
chapter as SLIM TEXTS, that is, the texts that hold somewhat
intermediate position between formulae and long narratives.

6. The Coding of Linguistic Ideology and Arvanitika Language Shift
(118-143). While the two foregoing chapters are devoted to the
analysis of the texts produced by fluent resp. terminal speakers, the
6th chapter tackled the problem of linguistic ideology expressed in
these texts. The two types of ideological discourse are distinguished,
namely, CONGRUENT and CONTRADICTORY. The former corresponds to the
phenomenon of subordination (''I call congruent discourse the type of
linguistic ideology in which the hegemonic effects of subordination
show up: in this discourse speakers do not juxtapose the two codes of
their repertoire in any contradictory manner'', 120), the latter one
reflects the situation of heteroglossia (''I call contradictory
discourse the type of discursively surfacing linguistic ideology in
which the expression of the solidarity function of Arvanitika is
interrupted by the power function of Greek'', 120).

An analysis of several narratives representing the two distinguished
types is provided. With respect to the contradictory discourse an
important notion of PERFORMATIVE CONTRADICTION is introduced; this
terms refers to those cases in which the attitude of a speaker towards
a certain phenomenon undergoes a change in the process of
narration. In the analysis of the internal dialogical structure of
such narratives the author notably relies on the ideas of Bakhtin -
Volosinov (Volosinov 1973), in particular, he uses their terms of

In the second half of the chapter, an endeavor is made to decompose
the ideology expressed in the narratives into component NUCLEI. Four
nuclei (=ideas) are distinguished based on the analysis of the texts:
(1) ''In earlier times people suffered due to the harsh material
conditions prevailing then, but moral principles were kept in high
esteem...; (2) The calendrical order of socio-religious life was
strictly observed then as against today when it is not. (3) Social
roles were predeterminated by the norm so that things were not left to
the chancy turns of life as against today when we are witnessing a
moral loosening of human conduct... (4) The Arvanitika language was
once pure and people spoke without mixing their language with Greek
whereas today Arvanitika has become a bastard language'' (132). The
author notes that mentioning one of these nuclei often leads to the
evolvement of the others.

7. Concluding Remarks on Ideology and Shift: Language Ideology as a
Discursive and Reconstructible Phenomenon (144-146). This short
chapter summarizes the message of the book. It is emphasized that
language ideology is reconstructible phenomenon, that is analysis of
the arrangement of the elements of the narrative allows one to
reconstruct the speakers' views on the causal relationships between
the phenomena of spiritual and social life.


This book is extremely informative and essential. Despite its
relatively small size it contains a meticulous discussion of a
significant number of problems ranging from structural changes under
the process of language shift to linguistic ideology and the ways it
is expressed in narratives. The logical consistence of the discussion
of the data is undisputable, there is clear and ensuing structure of
author's thinking reflected in the ''plot'' of the book. Theoretical
conclusions are deeply grounded empirically.

The following remarks are not in intended as polemic; rather, they are
questions and suggestions that arise inevitably in the process of
reading an interesting and informative scholarly research.

Although the distinction of fluent and terminal speakers seems quite
convincing as such, the very consistency of the former group needs
some clarification. On page 140 the author makes an interesting remark
that (some?) ''Arvanitika-dominant bilinguals make frequent errors in
Greek''. Thus the question arises if there is a group of balanced
bilinguals, and if yes, how can their performance be characterized. It
remains somewhat unclear, if the speakers of Arvanitika are homogenous
enough with respect to the linguistic ideology, that can be understood
based on their narratives, in other words, if there are any
discrepancies or gradations between speakers as regards their
ideology. The very possibility of the ideological heterogeneity of a
speech community, that is, the possibility of the co-existence of
several subgroups of a community differing in their metalinguistic
awareness with respect to the ''dialect vs. standard language'' or
''first language vs. second language'' opposition is quite imaginable
(cf. Rusakov, Sai forthcoming for the description of such a

It would be crucial for the understanding of the sociolinguistic
patterns of language use in the speakers of Arvanitika to make an in-
depth study of the processes of code-switching in the speech of
different groups of these speakers. Besides, it could have been
appropriate to provide a general description of the narrative
material: it remains unclear what kind of narrative plots are
encountered along with those discussed in the book (if there are any
at all?).

The author clearly aimed at the description of the situation of
language shift in Arvanitika and not at understanding whether the
patterns revealed are generally typical of sociolinguistic situations
characterized by a strong functional distribution of two (or more) co-
existing languages. However, in the course of moving along his line of
argumentation the author repeatedly draws reader's attention to
various sociolinguistically similar situations. It could have been
germane to bundle together these typological observations in order to
create a kind of a background for the discussion of particular
phenomena revealed in Arvanitika communities.

Needless to say that all these remarks to do not change the fact that
this book by Lucas Tsitsipis deserves a very high evaluation.


Cabej, Eqrem. Studime gjuhesore. V. 1, Prishtine, 1976.

Dressler, Wolfgang. 1996. Language Death. In Singh, Rajendra, ed., 
Towards a Critical Sociolinguistics. Amsterdam: Benjamins, 195-210.

Haebler, Claus. 1965. Grammatik der Albanischen Mundart von Salamis. 
Wiesbaden: Otto Harassowitz.

Hamp, Eric P.1961. On the Arvanitika dialects of Attica and the 
Megari. Balkansko Ezikoznanie) Linguistique Balkanique), 3, 101-106.

Joseph, Brian D. 1999. Comparative perspectives on the place of 
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Kinotiton. Vol. II. Livadia: EXANDAS, 208-214.

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der in Griechenland gesprochenen Albanesischen Mundarten (Wien: Wiener 
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Mertz, Elizabeth. 1989. Sociolinguistic Creativity: Cape Breton 
Gaelic's linguistic ''tip''. In: Dorian, Nancy (ed.). Investigating 
Obsolescence: Studies in Language Contraction and Death. Cambridge: 
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Phourikis 1932-33; The Greek-Albanian dialect in Attika [in Greek]. 
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Reinhold, Carol H. 1855. Noctes Pelasgicae. Athens: Typis Sophoclis 

Rusakov, Alexander & Sergei Sai. Forthcoming. On metalinguistic 
awareness and self-identification of a dialect speaker.

Trudgill, Peter. 1978. Creolization in reverse: reduction and 
simplification in the Albanian dialects of Greece. Transactions of the 
Philological Society, 1976-7, 32-50.

Trudgill, Peter & Tzavaras, George. 1977. Why Albanian-Greeks are not 
Albanians: Language shift in Attica and Biotia. In: Giles, H. (ed.). 
Language, Ethnicity and Intergroup Relations, New York: Academic Press. 

Volosinov, Valentin N. 1973. Marxism and the Philosophy of Language, 
trans. L.Matejka and I.R.Titunik. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University 

Weigand, Gustav. 1926. Das Albanische in Attika. Balkanarchiv, 2, 167-


Alexander Yu. Rusakov is assistant professor at the St. Petersburg
State university, department of General Linguistics. His research
interests include language contacts, historical linguistics, Balkan
linguistics, Albanian language, Romani.
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