Kaliarda XV: Triantafyllidis’ Glancing Mention

By: | Post date: 2017-12-02 | Comments: 1 Comment
Posted in categories: Linguistics, Modern Greek

Petropoulos in his second edition accused the linguist Manolis Triantafyllidis of academic dishonesty, in the minimal information he gave about Kaliarda in his work on cants (which we saw included his important work on the builders’ cant Dortika, which is also based on Romani); he claims Triantafyllidis had researched Kaliarda extensively, but was too scared to publish anything.

Whether or not that is true, the information Triantafyllidis gives is indeed minimal, and what little he said seems to have led to some persistent misunderstandings. But his summary work on cants1 is quite impressive when it comes to all cants but Kaliarda, as we saw in the previous post; and it’s the more impressive because it originated as a talk, given in 1947.

This is the glancing mention he makes of Kaliarda in that talk.

p. 315. In reviewing professional cants, Triantafyllidis found the following word counts for countries of origin—allowing for unclear etymologies, and for the regional variation in cants and the languages they were in contact with: 58 Slavic, 38 Aromanian, 10–12 Italian (mainly in the cants of Ioannina), 9 Turkish, 7 Arvanitika, 5–7 Romani, 2 Ladino, 1 Hebrew.

If we add Dortika and some others, the picture changes to the benefit of Romani and Italian. In mangika [= Koutsavakika] idioms, which were formed in urban centres, there are fewer foreign words. It is worth noting that Italian is sometimes used to express more abstract [“higher”] concepts, while Romani is mainly used for concepts relating to suspect business, and is usual in so called verba erotica.

Footnote: In Greek such words appear in the language of the effeminate and prostitutes, lubinistika (from Romani lubni). That idiom, outside of Greek words, also has Romani and Italian words.

… That’s it.

It’s not much, but it’s still interesting to comment on this, as another early witness to Kaliarda, 20 years before Petropoulos. (The following post on the paper by Minniti-Gonias, about Italian words in Kaliarda, has more to say about what Triantafyllidis said.)

  • Triantafyllidis uses lubinistika to refer to Kaliarda, the same word Petropoulos first heard of Kaliarda as, a few years earlier. (1947 in fact is when Petropoulos was learning Kaliarda in the Great Salonica park. Triantafyllidis at Aristotle University would have been a few kilometres away.)2 In fact, lubinistika does seem to be the most common word for Kaliarda before Petropoulos.
  • Ioannidou’s 1977 report that Kaliarda was spoken by female prostitutes presumably originates here. Petropoulos dismissed it, but we have just seen a claim that was true from 1934. (And a future post will given even more direct confirmation, from an Athens policeman.)
  • The claim which people keep having to refute, that Kaliarda is mainly a language about sex, also seems to have originated here, if only through the allusion that Romani is the language used for vocabulary about sex. As we have seen, Romani is used for a lot more than vocabulary about sex in Kaliarda, and Kaliarda in full flower was indeed a language that covered a lot of ground (though the vestigial use of the language in parodies and in emblematic use does focus on the dirty words).
  • I didn’t mention it, but Kyuchukov & Bakker expressed surprise that Romani was the basis of a gay cant, given the traditional sexual conservatism of the Rom. The Rom working as prostitutes in the Ottoman Empire, that were at the start of Kaliarda, were of course working far from the censure of their relatives. Triantafyllidis’ blanket claim that Romani is used for criminal and sexual concepts doesn’t make much sense outside of Kaliarda—it’s not what the little Dortika he has published looks like; and it seems to be a superficial conclusion.
  • Triantafyllidis mentions Italian and Romani, which Montoliu has established are the main sources of Kaliarda vocabulary, along with Turkish. He does not mention English and French. It is quite plausible that English only took hold in Kaliarda between 1947 and 1971, with the rise of English as a prestige language. French would have been harder to miss; there’s still less French than Italian, but I wonder whether Triantafyllidis ignored the French element because upper class Greek, too, had been deluged with French loans.

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    1. Manolis Triantafylidis. 1953. Ελληνικές συνθηματικές γλώσσες [Greek secrecy languages]. Ελληνικά 4: 661–684. In his Άπαντα [Collected Works]: 2; 299–320.

    2. Request to readers: where is the Μεγάλο Πάρκο Θεσσαλονίκης?

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