Doctoral Thesis Progress Report

Home > Thesis
Draft: 1995-7-15

Nick Nicholas; Department of Linguistics & Applied Linguistics, University of Melbourne, Parkville 3052, Victoria, AUSTRALIA.

Thesis topic: The Story of pu: the grammaticalisation and sociolinguistics of a Modern Greek complementiser.

Supervisor: Dr Jean Mulder.
  1. The functions of (o)pu.
  2. The diachrony of (o)pu.
  3. The Balkan context for (o)pu.
  4. The diatopy (dialectical distribution) of (o)pu.
  5. (O)pu and diglossia.
  6. (O)pu and the koineisation of Modern Greek.
  7. Pu in Contemporary Modern Greek
  8. Progress
  9. Results so far
  10. References

The transition from Classical to Modern Greek was marked by a variety of changes--including a range of grammaticalisations,[1] giving rise to several function words widely used in Modern Greek. The most noteworthy of these grammaticalisations were:

Of these grammaticalised particles, na and pu in particular have spread in function to such an extent in Modern Greek that, almost every time a subordinate clause needs to be attached to a matrix, either na or pu will turn up. Indeed, frequently they will both turn up, either in competition or in complementary distribution.

Of the aforementioned grammaticalisations, na and tha are well documented diachronically, and are widely cited as examples of grammaticalisation.[2] The grammaticalisation of pu from relative adverb to relativiser is also fairly well known (Bakker 1974). However, there does not seem to be any systematic treatment of the diachrony of pu, covering the period after it became a relativiser (ca. 500 AD according to Bakker, although ambiguous instances date back to 95 AD.) Christidis' work in the '80s on the synchronic distribution of pu (Christidis 1981; Christidis 1982; Christidis 1983; Christidis 1986) is a welcome start. However, although he appeals to grammaticalisation theory, Christidis considers neither the diachronic career nor the diatopy of the particle. Instead, he exploits the property of grammaticalisation known as persistence (Hopper and Traugott 1993 :3), whereby the etymology of a grammaticalised word constrains its subsequent grammatical functions. This means that Christidis examined only the endpoints of the grammaticalisation of (o)pu, but not the interval in between.

In this study, I intend to document the fortunes of the particle pu since 500 AD--concentrating on its non-relativiser functions, which I consider subsequent to its grammaticalisation as a relativiser. The pecularities of Greek linguistic history mean that any account of the history of pu will not be limited to a straightforward account of language-internal change. Three language-external factors have been at work on pu: language contact in the Balkans; the koineisation of Modern Greek dialects; and Modern Greek diglossia. Therefore, my thesis will have the following outline:

1. The functions of (o)pu.

In order to examine the extent of grammaticalisation of (o)pu, I require as a starting point a taxonomy of the grammatical functions of pu in Modern Greek. I will base my taxonomy on work by Tzartzanos (1991 [1946, 1963]) and Mackridge (1985). In brief, pu has the following functions in Modern Greek:

  1. A relative locative adverb, indefinite or definite. This is the original meaning of (o)pu, and has remained phonologically unreduced as ópu.
  2. A relativiser; pu is indeclinable, and comparable to English relativiser that or Hebrew relativiser asher. In some variants , it is a generalising relative, meaning 'the kind of... that'; in Contemporary Standard Modern Greek (CSMG), the irrealis na also needs to be present. In early Modern Greek (but not in CSMG) it could also serve as a headless relative.
  3. Pu can also act as a 'pseudo-relativiser', modifying adverbs of place or time.
  4. As a complementiser, pu is factive, and usually in complementary distribution with na. Note that pu is marked for factivity; the unmarked realis complementiser is oti or pos. The class of predicates pu can appear with coincides with the class of predicates identified in the linguistic literature on presupposition. Such predicates are also signalled by the Serbo-Croat complementiser shto, subjunctive complements in Spanish, and no-complements in Japanese (Christidis 1981). Pu can appear in the following contexts:
    1. After predicates of emotion (True factives (Karttunen 1971)). In this context, only pu and na are acceptable in CSMG; the unmarked realis complementisers pos and oti are not, although pos does occur in such contexts in literature written earlier this century.
    2. After predicates of perception and knowledge (Semi-factives (Karttunen 1971); Assertive factives (Hopper 1975)). Pu is in contrastive distribution with oti/pos; in free variation with na in affirmative statements; and in constrastive distribution with na in negative statements.
    3. After (non-factive) predicates of saying. This usage appears to be unacceptable in CSMG, but is frequent in Greek dialects.
  5. As a connective introducing sentential adjuncts; its usage appears to be restricted to colloquial registers. The adjuncts can be causal,[3] resultative, contrastive, or temporal.
  6. Opú can be used as a textual connective with the meanings 'and', 'so', 'but', or 'finally'; this usage seems limited to the Ionian islands.
  7. Pu can be preceded by a closed class of prepositions or subordinators. It can also appear in other collocations, mainly with adverbs.
  8. Finally, pu can appear in combination with na to introduce irrealis adjuncts and complements; these include potential result clauses, concessive clauses, optative clauses, and non-referential relative clauses.
Note that pu is frequently ambiguous between these various functions. Indeed, in discussing adjunctiviser and complementiser functions of pu, Mackridge concludes "it may be that most speakers would consider pu to be no different from a relative pronoun in such circumstances." (Mackridge 1985 :254)

2. The diachrony of (o)pu.

Minimal vernacular Greek text was written between vii AD and xii AD--and according to Bakker (1974), none of it contains opu as a relativiser, a usage felt to be too vulgar for the dignity of inclusion in written Greek. I have confirmed this in my own investigation of texts from the time; even where the influence of opu might be discerned through hypercorrection (for example, in the Southern Italian legal documents from x-xii AD collected by Trinchera (1865) and Cusa (1869-1882)), it is the relativiser function of opu discernable at work, not the complementiser or adjunctiviser. Therefore, my account will begin with the twelfth century.

The major focus of my diachronic research is to ascertain how far (o)pu had grammaticalised by xii AD, and how far it grammaticalised afterwards. For those areas where (o)pu was not yet used in xii AD, we should expect to have textual evidence of the subsequent reanalysis and spread of (o)pu; I will document and analyse this evidence, from the perspective of current grammaticalisation theory. For those areas where (o)pu was already in use in xii AD, an internal reconstruction of the reanalysis processes involved is still possible, and I will attempt this.

My methodology will involve selecting vernacular texts at regular intervals from the period under investigation. My purely diachronic account finishes at 1850 (the Greek State was established in 1833), from which point no diachronic account of vernacular Greek can proceed in isolation from an account of its sociolinguistics. (See below.)

Where possible, the texts selected should be prose narrative.[4] At the moment, I am using 13 texts or groups of text, beginning with the semi-vernacular poems by Michael Glykas (1158/9) and Ptokhoprodromos (1170s), and ending with Makriyannis' Memoirs (1829-ca. 1850). I hope to supplement this data with material gathered in the preparation of Emmanuel Kriaras' Dictionary of Mediaeval Greek Vernacular Writing (Kriaras 1969-1993), archived in Salonica.

In the early part of this period, most texts are somehow 'corrected', displaying interference from the learned idiom. Indeed, the earliest texts are regarded as outright macaronic (Browning 1978). Therefore, any statistics on the relative ratio of occurences of opu against other particles would be meaningless. (As Browning (1983) warns, this is a trap that no less a linguist than Psichari fell into.) So my investigations in the earlier texts will be qualitative, rather than quantitative: what are the trends in the usage of opu, and what occurences of opu point to reanalysis.

Later texts (starting xv AD) yield a somewhat clearer picture of the vernacular. So beginning with Makhairas' Chronicle (after 1432) and diplomatic correspondence of late xv AD from Miklosich & Müller's (1961 [1871]) collection, I will also be quantitatively investigating the spread in functionality (if any) of opu.

3. The Balkan context for (o)pu.

Modern Greek is part of the Balkan Sprachbund, perhaps the most famous instance of extensive areal contact between languages not immediately related genetically. As a result of this contact, languages participating in the Sprachbund--Modern Greek, Albanian, Bulgarian, Macedonian, Serbo-Croat and Rumanian--share many grammatical features. An overlap between relativisers and complementisers is one of these. Standard Bulgarian (Rudin 1985) has a relativiser deto derived from kydeto 'where' (as was the case with (o)pu < hópou 'where'); in some Bulgarian dialects, it acts as a generic complementiser--while in other dialects, complementiser che acts as a relativiser.

In Shtokavian Serbo-Croat,[5] particularly in Serbia, the parallels are even more striking (van der Auwera and Kuchanda 1985). Etymologically, shto means 'what?', not 'where'; however, its functions include that of relativiser (headless and not); factive complementiser; adjunctiviser in combination with prepositions, as in poshto 'after' and izuzev shto 'except that'; and (rarely) temporal adjunctiviser ('when', 'as soon as'). In effect, its functions almost coincide with those of pu; and it is no surprise that shto as a factive complementiser is more frequent in Serbian than in Croatian (Mønnesland 1972). (Serbian participates in the Sprachbund to a greater extent than Croatian (Comrie 1981 :198).)

So clearly, it would be unwise to investigate the history of pu in isolation from the history of deto and shto.[6] A full account of the history of pu must incorporate a thorough diachronic and dialectological survey not only of pu, but also of deto and shto, in order to trace the areal 'currents' of connectives, and how and when they diffused in the Balkans. Such a full account is probably not feasible in the time-frame of my research, and would require much original research: for instance, as van der Auwera & Kuchanda (1985:953) found, "unfortunately, little or no detailed work has been done on the history of shto-C [complementiser-shto]." So while I hope to make a start in investigating the areal component of the story of (o)pu, drawing on whatever research in the area is already available, I do not intend to perform primary Balkanological research for this thesis.

4. The diatopy (dialectical distribution) of (o)pu.

It is clear that in some dialects of Modern Greek pu is used more widely than in others--in particular, more widely than in Contemporary Standard Modern Greek (CSMG). The extended usage of pu in the Ionian Islands (as a textual connective) and Istanbul Greek (as a generic complementiser), certainly, are consistent with pu becoming further grammaticalised in those dialects. A diatopic account of pu is thus a necessary complement to a diachronic account of its grammaticalisation. Since Greek dialectology has tended to concentrate on the lexicon, such an investigation would fill in an unexplored area of Greek linguistics--all the more so since Ionian Island Greek and Istanbul Greek, being closely related to Standard Modern Greek, have been ignored by Greek dialectologists (see Newton (1972), Kondosopoulos (1981) for discussion.)

To investigate the usage of (o)pu in Greek dialects, I intend to consult the extensive archives of the Historical Dictionary Section of the Academy of Athens. The main type of text collected by Greek dialectologists are fables; the narrativity of such texts make them comparable to the diachronic texts investigated. Most Greek dialects are now moribund, so fieldwork would be difficult--although it may prove necessary if there are significant gaps in the data at the Academy's archives.

Australia may well prove a better terrain for Greek dialectological research than Greece itself; there is less institutional pressure here for Greeks to conform to Standard Greek norms. The influence of the old dialects can also still be discerned in regional variants of CSMG; I may attempt to use these current variants to support my dialectological research.

At the end of my research, I hope to have a set of isoglosses for the various functions of (o)pu, which may cast some light on the geographical[7] (and possibly cross-linguistic) spread of these functions.

5. (O)pu and diglossia.

The other famous language-external factor at work in the evolution of (o)pu has been Greek diglossia (Browning 1982; Mackridge 1990). From the inception of the Modern Greek State in 1833 until 1975, the official language of the State was Puristic Greek (katharevousa). Puristic was initially designed by Greek intellectual Adamantios Coraïs as a compromise between the vernacular and Classical Greek, whose revival was being advocated in the late eighteenth century. But as Puristic became entrenched in Greek cultural life, it moved closer (though at times haphazardly) to Classical models. Beginning in the 1880s, the demoticist movement advocated the use of the vernacular language, Demotic, instead of Puristic. While their success in literature was immediate, their sway in education varied with the Greek political situation; and certain fields of Greek life (notably the law and the sciences) remain bastions of Puristic to this day.

The issue of diglossia has become intensely politicised in Greece, and most major modern Greek linguists have become embroiled in it in some way. Diglossia is typically portrayed as an 'Us-And-Them' battle between reactionaries and progressives, which the progressives have ultimately won. In fact, Greek diglossia has been a rather more complex phenomenon, and certain facts need to be borne in mind:

To investigate the interaction of diglossia and (o)pu, I will be quantitatively analysing texts written since 1850, from a variety of registers and genres. While the story of pu told in the previous sections has been one of expansion, I expect this section and the next to document a restriction of its functionality, where its full functionality is retained only in more colloquial registers. In particular, I intend to investigate whether there is any correlation between the functions of pu avoided in formal registers (and felt to be 'low' by native speakers), and how recently these functions of pu were introduced into the language.

6. (O)pu and the koineisation of Modern Greek.

An enormous amount of attention has been paid to Greek diglossia, both by linguists and laypeople. However, another sociolinguistic phenomenon which has proven formative for CSMG has been largely ignored. This is the koineisation of Modern Greek dialects into Standard Modern Greek, which is thought to have occured in Athens from the 1830s onwards.[9] Statements to the effect that Standard Modern Greek is an admixture of Peloponnesian, Heptanesian and Istanbul Greek are frequently made in the literature, but are rarely elaborated upon. In his introduction, Mackridge (1985) notes that a linguistic history of Greek in the 19th century is one of the most pressing gaps to be filled in Greek linguistics.

Several issues in the recent development of pu have a direct bearing on the history of the koineisation of Greek. For example, the phonological reduction opú-> pu seems to have taken place suspiciously quickly. While pu is attested as early as xiii AD (in a poem by Mevlânâ Jelâl ed-din Rumi), it is extremely rare throughout the millenium; in Makriyannis' Memoirs, written between 1829 and 1851, the proportion of opú to pu is still 1610:15--pu making up just 1% of all occurences of the lexeme (Kyriazidis, Kazazis and Brehier 1992). In modern literary Demotic however, from Psichari in the mid 1880s onwards, opú is unknown. Such a rapid linguistic change points towards an external cause--dialect contact--rather than to any language-internal process.

Another issue tied in with koineisation is the apparent confusion about choice of complementisers late last century and early this century. As seen, in several modern Greek dialects (including Istanbul Greek), (o)pu has spread from being a complementiser marked for factivity to becoming the generic complementiser. Furthermore, there are certain contexts (namely, after predicates of emotion) where the unmarked realis complementisers, oti and pos, are unacceptable in CSMG. However, some early Demotic literature uses pos precisely where CSMG would disallow it; and reportedly this usage persists in some peoples' idiolects. This could either be the peculiarity of a particular dialect, or originate as a hypercorrection by speakers whose own dialect uses (o)pu more extensively than CSMG. In my research, I aim to address this question.

Research on Modern Greek koineisation is inextricably bound with research on the interplay between puristic and vernacular Greek; any linguistic data from the 1830s onward will show evidence of both. Such research will also need to consider how the latest Greek koine is related to the two earlier Modern Greek koines that have been posited in the literature. (The language of both late Byzantine vernacular literature and modern folk song display a relative lack of typical dialectal features (Browning 1978; Triandafyllidis 1981 [1938]).) Therefore, I will need to draw on research performed for other sections of the thesis: analysis of Byzantine texts; folk song texts; samples of Greek dialect (which, however, tend to be rather thin on the ground for dialects related to CSMG, as dialectologists did not find anything interesting about them); and vernacular texts from the past two centuries. This line of research should prove a substantial original contribution to the history of a phenomenon little investigated by Greek linguists.

7. Pu in Contemporary Modern Greek

Finally, I will investigate the endpoint of all these linguistic and sociolinguistic processes--the status of pu in CSMG--by performing quantitative analysis on corpora of contemporary texts, in a variety of registers. There has been a tendency in Greek linguistics to use folk song and literature almost exclusively as a source of information; this is based on a 'reverse purism' amongst demoticists, who considered the 'uncontaminated' language of folk song the normative ideal for demotic Greek.[10] For example, Tzartzanos' classic Syntax considers "everyday speech itself as this is current in the main urban centres of Greece" only after folk song and contemporary literature (Tzartzanos 1991 [1946, 1963]). More recent work (Goutsos, Hatzidaki and King 1994) has started to look more closely at Greek as it is actually spoken--something essential to gaining an accurate picture of CSMG, rather than of the demoticists' prescriptive ideal.

The value of this research for Greek linguistics is clear. For general linguistics, the history of pu provides not only a case study in grammaticalisation (diachronically, diatopically, and within the synchronic system of CSMG), but, more importantly, a study in how grammaticalisation can come into conflict with the extralinguistic forces of koineisation and diglossia; and how grammaticalisation spreads within a Sprachbund.

8. Progress

In this past year, I have:

9. Results so far

While I cannot make any definitive statements until I have scrutinised the material I intend to collect in Greece, my investigations so far lead me to the following conclusions:


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Created: 1995-7-15; Last revision: 2003-4-12