These days, a lot of minority languages are declining in use. Preserving their language as well as their culture is a challenging task and the only hope for ensuring the survival of the language is to find a way of keeping it in use whilst also encouraging other people to start speaking it. This is easier said than done, but one group who may have found a solution is the Griko people of Salento and Calabria in Southern Italy.
Griko, sometimes called Salentino-Calabrian Griko, is a historic dialect that is now on the verge of extinction. The word Griko is used as an umbrella term which represents two Italian dialects: Griko in Salento, and Calabrian Greek. Its exact origins are unknown as many language experts and historians have been unable to prove where its Greek influence comes from, but it has also been strongly influenced by the Italian language. For this reason, the Greek and Latin alphabets are both used by the Griko people and the community’s everyday life is a mixture of Italian and Greek culture.
The Italian dialect of Griko has been in decline for a long time and despite the country’s government allowing it to be taught in schools and recognising it as a minority language in 1999, the Griko dialect remains a language which is predominantly spoken by people over the age of 50.
However, the language is still alive today and one of the main reasons for this is the musical tradition that exists among the Griko people. Even though the dialect is in decline, Griko folk music remains popular in Greece and many music festivals and events are organised to promote its use.
It’s difficult to know what the fate of the Griko dialect will be, but its chances of survival have certainly been boosted by the music of Griko people.
Are you curious about what this dialect and this style of music actually sound like?
Then listen to this traditional Griko song in this week’s Music Fix!
- The Local IT, ‘How music is keeping one southern Italian dialect alive’. Available here [Accessed 23/10/17].
- Greek News, ‘Who are the Griki and what is their language’. Available here [Accessed 24/10/17].
Written by Liam Kennedy – Schuman Trainee at the Terminology Coordination Unit of the European Parliament. Graduate of Journalism with a Language (French) at Dublin Institute of Technology. Currently completing a Masters in Translation Studies at University College Cork.