Learning Arvanitic in Late 19th and Early 20th Century Greece: Linguistic Maintenance and Cultural Idiosyncrasies in Greece’s Arvanitic Speaking Communities

Theodore Zervas


Recent studies on modern Greece have explored the topic of Greek minorities, specifically non-Greek or multilingual groups such as the Arvanites (Albanians), Vlachs (Aromanians), and Slavic-speaking groups. Many of these groups avoided being fully Hellenized for several centuries. There are many reasons why these groups maintained some of their original linguistic and cultural character, while identifying themselves as being Greek. Arguably, the Arvanites have maintained their language more so than many other Greek minority groups (Clogg 2002). The Arvanitic language was taught to members of the community in informal learning settings, in an environment that was convivial and personal. The community also developed stories and songs in the Arvanitic language. My paper begins by looking at the historical origins of the Arvanites in Greece; it then looks at Markos Botsaris, Panayiotis Kupitoris and Anastas Kullurioti’s early attempts to document and teach the language in Greece. Following this, my paper examines several ballads and children’s songs that were learned by Arvanite children in their communities. I conclude with a discussion on how the Arvanitic language has survived in Greece up to today.


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