Cognitive relations between Greek Cypriot speakers and languages

Savvi ANTONIOU , University of Burgundy


This paper deals with the cognitive relations between the Greek Cypriot speaker with the languages of their linguistic environment. Studying these relations can only be done synchronically as they are subject to change, modify, even stop to exist as time passes. However, a short description of this particular speaker’s past is inevitable as it shows how these specific languages have been installed to this small island but also how mentalities either positive or negative have been created towards those languages (Tsiplakou et al 2011, Ioannidou 2012). We are referring to the following five linguistic codes : the Cypriot, the Greek, the English, the French and the Turkish. Even though these five codes cross the Cypriot Greek speaker’s linguistic path they do not maintain the same linguistic and psycho-linguistic relations with all of them.

A question is immediately raised : how can we study the cognitive relations between a speaker and a language ? Among with the studies of theoretical linguistics, there is this new theory called the theory of linguistic neoteny. The French linguist Samir Bajrić, provides the means to explore this question in detail. In biology, the word “neoteny” describes the retention of juvenile features in the adult organism. The theory of linguistic neoteny (Bajrić Samir 2013 (2009)) describes precisely that speaker who learns a new language but he/she is not able to find his/her new linguistic and ontological identity and remains inevitably an unconfirmed speaker. According to this theory an in esse language is the language where the speaker feels comfortable to express himself. It is where he or she has managed to find his/her linguistic identity and understands and respects the language boundaries. Speaking a language means existing in this language and this speaker called confirmed speaker is the one who possesses a developed linguistic intuition (Bajrić 2005) which dictates him/her when to speak, what to say but also where to remain silent.

With the help of this theory we search to find out what is happening in the case of the multilingual Greek Cypriot speakers and uncover the relations between them and the five languages mentioned above. In which language has this speaker found their linguistic and ontological identity ? Obviously, these relations differ from speaker to speaker however, dividing the participants to age groups we search for patterns formed in each age group and then compare these patterns between the different age groups. The methodology used is the one of a mixed method of both qualitative and quantitative approach, using questionnaires, interviews, and field observation. The aim of this research is to examine the psycholinguistic side of the learner. By doing so, it will hopefully help other linguists but also foreign languages teachers better understand what is going on, cognitively and linguistically, to speakers when they acquire another language. We observe these speakers from a very different perspective, stressing at the same time that learning a language is much more than grammar and vocabulary.