Two Cypriots from across the divide have come together to produce a joint dictionary of the dialects of their respective communities.
The ‘Joint Dictionary of Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot Dialect’ was written by Iakovos Hadjipieris, a Greek Cypriot Turkologist, and Orhan Kabatas, a Turkish Cypriot teacher of geography and history with a Masters degree in ancient Turkish. The dictionary has brought the common Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot words in a bilingual publication with some 3,500 entries reflecting commonality in our everyday language.
The dictionary goes beyond the listing of words and beyond a thesaurus. It is not confined to the etymology of words.
“For us this dictionary touches upon a common world of images, experiences and apperceptions. When for example a Cypriot – either a Greek Cypriot or a Turkish Cypriot – reads the word ‘palouzes’ or ‘halloumi’, he thinks of images, of production processes, recipes and these words evoke even memories. The bottom line is that each separate word is a representation of memories, a common story, a common place, a joint experience for each and every one,” said Kabatas.
Hadjipieris added, “It is also evident that the dictionary performs a social and historical role, contributing to the effort for peaceful co-existence of the two communities in Cyprus.”
He said the current edition was addressed to the Greek Cypriot community and a new edition is being prepared for the Turkish Cypriot community. The only difference between the two is the order of the two sections. In the first publication, the section with the Greek Cypriot dialect is first, followed by the Turkish Cypriot dialect’s dictionary. In the new edition, this will be reversed.
Hadjipieris pointed out that a number of common words have ceased to be in use and nowadays the dialect is mainly used as the language of communication between Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots who were born before 1974, whereas younger people opt for English as the language of communication. The authors devoted five years of their lives to compiling the dictionary and are both known for their love of the dialects.
Regarding the communication between Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots, Hadjipieris said that the over-55 age group had lived in mixed communities, therefore, there are Greek Cypriots, not in big numbers though, who speak the Turkish Cypriot dialect and can communicate with ease.
Turkish Cypriots are more knowledgeable about the Greek Cypriot dialect than the other way round, he noted.
The contact between the youth of the two communities began in 2003 with the opening of the crossing points. Their command of the English language is good enough to enable them to communicate freely, whereas their parents and especially grandparents communicate through the dialect.
Kabatas said the goal was to create historical memory for the young generation. Despite existing differences in the feelings of the two communities as regards nationality and beliefs, he noted, these common words are real proof of how they can create a climate of peace.
Asked whether increased contacts between the two communities or a Cyprus settlement could contribute to the preservation of the dialect, Hadjipieris said the reunification of the island could lead to a new linguistic and cultural beginning, which would not be confined to the framework of the dialect but it would also be based mainly on the educational system. Nowadays the Greek Cypriot dialect is poorer and Modern Greek has gained ground among the younger generations. A similar phenomenon is observed in the Turkish Cypriot community where the dialect is losing ground to the Turkish language.
Education is called upon to ensure that during the learning process of the official language the dialect is not forgotten. In this context, Kabatas suggests that poems, theatrical plays and other texts in the dialect are included in school anthologies.
Since the syntax of the two dialects is so close, it is only a matter of learning words in order to have everyday conversation, he says. Now one can understand the value of the Joint Dictionary, he added.
Hadjipieris said that while conducting research to establish the origins of a word, they crossed paths with Cyprus’ history: “We could say that through that process we could chart the historical periods that different languages and dialects met in Cyprus.
“We have come to the conclusion that it constitutes a marvellous historical and cultural mosaic full of diverse influences and inter-lending, which is generally accepted as a natural rule that applies to every living language and dialect. Both Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot dialects could not have been an exception to this rule. They carry a vocabulary which is the strong historic product of a cultural coexistence and a cultural crossover of four centuries in the area of Eastern Mediterranean.”