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Author Topic: MAGNA GRAECIA  (Read 6885 times)
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Posts: 41646

« on: September 25, 2008, 10:19:22 am »

General history and history of the language

Towards the end of the 13th century, the political and cultural decline of the Byzantine Empire engulfed the Hellenism of Calabria in a crisis, which it withstood very effectively until the 15th century. From that time on, the various Romance dialects began to prevail in everyday interaction, especially in the urban centres that were open to external influences. There were even scattered pockets of bilingualism in the more remote towns and villages.

Italian and its regional dialects spread like wildfire among the population, due to their far superior social and cultural standing to that of Calabrian Greek. The results of this were a reduction to about twelve in the number of villages where Grico was still in common use at the start of the 19th century and the emergence of a situation of general bilingualism. Thus the first general census conducted in Italy after unification identified only seven Greek-speaking communes in Calabria, which represented some 8,000 people.

Universal schooling in Italian after the Second World War, compulsory military service, the law of 1901 granting freedom to emigrate (which caused serious depopulation throughout southern Italy) and the growing influence of the Italian mass media put an end to the bilingualism that had existed since the 17th century and reduced Greek to a dead language as far as social intercourse between communities was concerned.

Initiatives designed to promote the language were launched in the late fifties, thanks to the growing awareness of some intellectuals from the middle classes in Reggio di Calabria and Bova Marina and the interest shown by foreign researchers such as Rohlfs. A group of university students from Bovesia, for example, published a pamphlet entitled La Ionica.

In 1970, the group reconstituted itself as the La Ionica Cultural Circle, and the pamphlet became a periodical, in which poetry and prose in Italian and Greek are published.

The La Ionica Cultural Circle establishes contacts with the Greek speakers of Grecia Salentina, which brought about the creation of the UGIM (Unione dei Greci dell'Italia Meridionale). That association unsuccessfully petitioned the Regional Tourist Office for the introduction of bilingual road signs and five minutes' broadcasting time on Radio Cosenza. The private radio stations Radio Bova, Radio MÚlito and Radio San Paolo in Reggio di Calabria proved to be more sympathetic.

The Greek Government, through the International Association of Greek Speakers (SFEE), has established close links with La Ionica and invites the Grico children from Calabria every year to attend summer camps in Greece. At the present time there are several Grico cultural groups: ZoÝ ce glossa (Life and Language) in Reggio di Calabria, Cinurio Cosmˇ (New World) and Jal˛ tu V˙a in Bova Marina, CUMELCA in Gallician˛ and Roghudi and Apodiafßzi (Daybreak) in Bova Superiore.

These groups have organized various different activities to promote the language: conferences on the Calabrian Greek language - one of which spawned the Istituto Regionale Superiore di Studi Ellenofoni in August 1993 - poetry prizes in 1990, 1991 and 1992, cultural exhibitions and the publication of the periodicals I Riza and CUMELCA.
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