Saving the ‘vanishing vocabulary’ of Cyprus

A groundbreaking common dictionary of the island’s shared dialect was launched in the capital last month to document the vanishing vocabulary once used by both communities.

Greek Cypriot Turkologist Iakovos Hadjipieris and Turkish Cypriot teacher and ancient Turkish expert Orhan Kabatas based their 663-page publication on previously individually published dictionaries by Mr Kabatas in 2007 and the late Kyriacos Hadjioannou.

“We took the Greek words that we gave to the Turkish Cypriots and the Turkish words that they gave us and we joined them into one, because we both understand them,” Mr Hadjipieris said.

“Most of the time, the interpretation is similar but some are different or may even mean the opposite. It’s a matter of loaning and how we perceive it.

“Some words have been left out and will enrich a second edition with the help of readers.”

He added that the latest “borrowings” were English, yielding the common word “clutch” and listed sources from the Ottomans, Venetians, Franks, Ancient Greeks and Byzantines to Persians, Arabic and old Turkish.

Mr Hadjipieris continued: “A disappearing older Turkish Cypriot generation may only speak Greek. Their children, now aged 50-60, know both languages, but their children only speak Turkish.

“We have aunts who left for England and came back knowing only Greek. Their children speak Greek and English but the grandchildren only know English and cannot speak to their grandparents.”

Mr Kabataş said: “Our work fills an important gap. Our language has lived in the shadow of nationalism for years. We have shown that borrowed words can be reborn and borrowed back again and that the study of language offers us a new and alternative history.”

The Common Dictionary of Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot Dialect is priced at 40 euros and is available in bookshops across the island.

By Anne Canalp for Cyprus Today

Book signing in Cyprus The Common Dictionary

About Salahi Misal 551 Articles
Was born and raised in London and first came to North Cyprus as a child where he lived for two and a half years. The Island left a long lasting impression on him, for after travelling the world and experiencing many different cultures and ways of life, Cyprus was always there. Sal, as his friends call him, has always had a passion for Art & Design and studied the subject for over ten years and resulted in him specializing in the design and production of contemporary furniture. He has worked in this field for twenty years now. After not having visited the Island for fifteen years he followed his heart back to North Cyprus, where he’s lived for the last four years. Now Sal works on a creative basis for NC Magazine.