Travel among Endangered Languages in Europe: Griko dialect (III)

Finally, we met two very interesting guys who joined us specifically to speak about the issues around Griko Language. One of them, who is a paeditric, belongs to the only family left in Bova Marina whose younger members still speak in Griko. For us, it was sad to hear this.

On the other hand, it was heart-warming to meet people who believe that the future of their variety lies in using the same alphabet of modern greek language, keeping their own words, expressions, phraseology, phonetics, idioms, etc.

Actually he invented a new form in order to Greek people undestand Griko variety. When they write a sentence with words just in Griko variety, they put a modern Greek word in brackets. For example, imagine we are using a word in Scottish English (e.g. Mankit) whose meaning is “dirty” that people from London may not understand, following this technique they would write a sentence like that:

The car is Mankit(dirty)

This way helps people read, and keep the richness and the beauty of the varieties of the language.


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Travel among Endangered Languages in Europe: Griko dialect (II)

This Calabrian Griko language is spoken in nine villages of the Calabria Region: Bova Superiore, Roghudi, Gallicianò, Chorìo di Roghudi and Bova Marina, as well as four districts in the city of Reggio Calabria, but its population is significantly smaller, supposedly around 2000.

Here you can see a map


When we arrived at Bova Marina, we were looking for people worried about this Endangered Language and we eventually found “Istituto Studi Ellenofoni” (see below in the photo), where we met very friendly people who gave us very interesting information about Griko language such as, the current number of speakers, the villages where the language is spoken, different activities organized by the mentioned Istituto and for us a very fascinating issue: How should this language be written?

They told us that there are two different ways of writing Griko:

  • People who write Griko following the Italian alphabet
  • People who write Griko following the modern Greek alphabet


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Travel among Endangered Languages in Europe: Griko dialect (I)

A couple of years ago we visited the Italian region of Calabria and Salento in Italy. We were looking for an endangered language called Griko dialect which is spoken in this part of Italy. There are two different hypothesis that explains of the origins of this variety of Greek. According to some researchers, Griko comes from Greek colonisation of Southern Italy and Sicily in the 8th century BC. The other hypothesis states that Griko’s origin lies in Medieval Greek.

Anyway, it’s just amazing that in XXI century Europe, there are still remainings of Ancient or Medieval Greek civilization in the south of Italy. And that their language is still spoken by some people who, in some cases, are very proud of their cultural heritage and identity.

As it happens with most places in the world with several endangered or minorized languages that share the same territory, older people are able to speak it but don’t pass on this treasure to the younger generations; as a result, young people only speak the language almost always used by the economic and political ellites. Fortunately, there are also some young people who refuse to lose this treasure and decide to learn it, speak it, and promote it. Ultimately, they are working in favour of cultural biodiversity.

When we first got there, it was difficult for us to distinguish between Griko dialect and another kind of Italian varieties, called by locals as “dialects”. We had the opportunity of eventually hearing native speakers both in Calabria and Salento.  

Here is a video that illustrates the current Griko situation

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People worried about Endangered Languages

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How many Endangered Languages are there in Europe?

Quite a few, actually.

This is a completely unknown and ignored treasure. If theses languages disapear, old traditions and knowledge of the world will also go away with them. For this reason, it’s important to join Human Language Technologies (spell-checkers, machine translation tools, grammar checkers, etc.) in order to empower their speakers to keep using them.

First of all, we are going to show you a list of these amazing languages and their varieties classified by status of Endangeredness:

  • Vulnerable: Most children speak the language, but it may be restricted to certain domains (e.g., home).
  • Definitely endangered: Children no longer learn the language as mother tongue in the home.
  • Severely endangered: Language is spoken by grandparents and older generations; while the parent generation may understand it, they do not speak it to children or among themselves.
  • Critically endangered: The youngest speakers are grandparents and older, and they speak the language partially and infrequently.

You can check the list on this link


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Why should endangered languages be saved?

“Language is the dress of thought,” Samuel Johnson once said.


About 6,000 different languages are spoken around the world. But the Foundation for Endangered Languages estimates that between 500 and 1,000 of those are spoken by only a handful of people. And every year the world loses around 25 mother tongues. That equates to losing 250 languages over a decade – a sad prospect for some.

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Endangered Languages world wide

Here you can see a map of Endangered Languages world wide:

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