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Documentation and Description of Cappadocian


Language Cappadocian
Depositor Mark Janse
Affiliation Ghent University
Location Greece
Collection ID 0036
Grant ID PPG0033
Funding Body ELDP
Collection Status Collection online
Landing Page Handle


Summary of the collection

Cappadocian (also known as Asia Minor Greek) is a Greek-Turkish mixed language thought to have died in the 1960s until its rediscovery in 2005. According to our present knowledge, there are an estimated several hundred native speakers and possibly another several hundred semi-speakers living in three villages near Thessaloniki (Northern Greece) and Larissa (Central Greece). The documentation project provides, with the collaboration of local community members, an as comprehensive as possible documentation of present-day spoken Cappadocian, including digital recordings of every type of language usage, annotated transcriptions, a sociolinguistic survey and a comprehensive grammar and dictionary.


Group represented

Cappadocians, Mistiotes

Cappadocian is a language which originated as an indigenous Greek dialect during the post-Classical period, but became increasingly Turkicized after the Turkish conquest of Cappadocia by the Seljuks in the 11th and the Ottomans in the 13th century. After the Greek-Turkish war (1919-1922), Cappadocians were forced to migrate to Greece, where they were settled in various locations. Being subject to discrimination on the part of the local Greeks, the Cappadocians suppressed their language and gradually shifted to Greek until Cappadocian was reported dead since the late 1960s. It is still listed as ‘extinct’ in Ethnologue (16th ed., 2009) and in MultiTree (the digital library of language relationships of the Linguist List).

In 2005 Janse and Papazachariou discovered that Cappadocian had not died out, but had actually gone underground. A preliminary survey conducted in 2006 during a Cappadocian cultural festival called avústima (literally, “reunion”, from Turkish kavusmak) suggests that there may be a few hunderd full native speakers and possibly several hundreds of semi-speakers of Cappadocian in three homogeneous villages in Central and Northern Greece, but a reliable survey has yet to be made. The villages in question are Mandra near Larissa, and Xirohori and Agioneri near Thessaloniki.

Cappadocian is a seriously endangered language, since all the full native speakers are first and second generation, i.e. above the age of seventy. Greek has become the major language of communication, whereasCappadocian is almost exclusively used by elderly people in home situations.

The shifting identities of the Cappadocians (and their ranking) is probably best illustrated by the slogan on the lighters that were given to the participants of the 2006 avústima: “I am proud to be a Greek, Orthodox, Mistiot, from Asia Minor, Cappadocia”.


Language information

Cappadocian (Asia Minor Greek)


Special characteristics

Cappadocian is of typological interest, as it is a unique mixture of two typologically opposite languages. Turkish interference manifests itself at all levels: phonological (Turkish vowels & consonants, vowel harmony), morphology (agglutinative morphology in combination with inflectional), syntax (SOV word order), and lexicon (the incorporation of Turkish function words in the lexicon; kinship terminology is half Turkish, half Greek). Cappadocian also presents a puzzle for linguistic
classification. The most heavily Turkicized dialects can be considered mixed languages, whereas others would rather qualify as Greek dialects. The judgment of the speakers varies as well: some view Cappadocian as a Greek idiom, others as a Greek dialect (the distinction being ideological rather than purely linguistic). Elderly speakers usually refer to their language as ta paljá, i.e. “the old language” (suggesting a connection with “ancient”, i.e. Byzantine, Greek).


Other information

The depositor has an extended network of links with the speech communities and the local cultural organizations (Greek: syllogoi), as well as with the Pan- Hellenic Union of Cappadocian Societies (Panellinia Enosi Kappadokikon Somateion or PEKS, This umbrella organization connects all the local cultural organizations(mentioned on the website) and has a number of committees for the preservation of the cultural heritage of the Cappadocians.

Janse is in charge of the Committee on the Greek Dialects of Cappadocia. He has been invited as honorary speaker on the annual Cappadocian cultural festival called avústima (Janse in 2006, 2009 and 2010, Papazachariou in 2009; for more information cf.


Acknowledgement and citation

To refer to any data from the corpus, please cite the corpus in this way:

Janse, Mark. 2015. Documentation and Description of Cappadocian. Endangered Languages Archive. Accessed on [insert date here].

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