The Geography of the Cemetery: A Sociolinguistic Approach

By Paraskevas, Cornelia | Studies in the Literary Imagination, Spring 2006 | Go to article overview

The Geography of the Cemetery: A Sociolinguistic Approach


Paraskevas, Cornelia, Studies in the Literary Imagination


A short distance from the front marble gate of the First Cemetery in Athens--the most "venerable cemetery" in Greece (Llewellyn-Smith 96)--a casual observer will notice the elaborate monuments and the long epitaphs in formal language that follows the classical tradition of praising the deceased by remembering his or her most important qualities (Fig. 1):

      Rizis Athinaion Esthlon ernos
   enthade tymbos patroos Elenin
   keythei apofthimenin Ioannou
   Koutsogianni thygatera damarta
   de Ioannou Kosmopoulou

      Ou pontou klydon
   oud'anemotrofa kymata
   Kosmopoulon olesan Ioannin
   Arhiatron Basilikou Nautikou
   thremma Messinias euandrou alla
   xronos pandamator

      Ton de lithon Demetrios
   kai Kimon yioi ethekan
   goneusin auton baion
   mnem'epigignomenois

      (From Athenian origin, here
   lies Eleni, daughter of Ioanni
   Koutsogianni and wife of Ioanni
   Kosmopoulou.

      Neither the rocking of the sea
   nor the wind-fed waves caused
   Ioanni Kosmopoulon to perish,
   Chief Medical Officer of the Royal
   Navy, brave son of Messinia, but
   time.

   This monument was erected by Demetrius and Kimon, sons, remembering
   the honorable lives of their parents.) (1)

[FIGURE 1 OMITTED]

The language is striking for its similarity to classical Greek in both sentence structure and word choice. For instance, consider the structure of this sentence: Ou pontou klydon oud'anemotrofa kymata Kosmopoulon olesan Ioannin. (Neither sea rocking nor wind-fed waves Kosmopoulon perished John; Neither the rocking of the sea nor the wind-fed waves caused Ioanni Kosmopoulon to perish.) The direct object (Kosmopoulon Ioannin) is not only separated by the verb (olesan) but actually precedes it, which is typical of constructions encountered in classical Greek. Similarly reminiscent of classical Greek are the words (damarta "wife," euandrou "brave," olesan "they lost") and the chosen form of the words used (goneusin "to the parents," epiggnomenois "remembering").

We will not find an epitaph like this at the cemetery of Kallithea--a community in the outskirts of Athens, founded by immigrants from Turkey after 1922. Since it is not a prestigious cemetery--no "members of prominent Athenian families ... are buried here"--we do not expect elaborate monuments and inscriptions, especially considering the observation that the "nature of the ritual display depends upon family income" and social standing (Dubisch 190, 194). Instead, we find here primarily "the repetitious row upon row of sameness" (Hamscher 21). The individual identity of the deceased is usually marked with a short epitaph in the low variety (dhemotike). For example: "PAO, I love you and when I die, I want the clover symbol on my grave" (Fig. 2).

[FIGURE 2 OMITTED]

The epitaph of the young PAO fan--the PAO soccer team represented with the clover leaf is written in the low variety and has none of the prestigious lexical and syntactic choices noted in the first epitaph; in fact, it contains spelling errors (k instead of ki, trifili instead of trifilli).

As these examples suggest, "death practices make statements about the living--where and how one is buried is an important part of one's place in society" (Bennett 123). Death is "an opportunity to display wealth and social accomplishments ... to make different kinds of statements," statements about the social identity of the deceased (Dubisch 195, 189). In Greek cemeteries, the most obvious statements about the socioeconomic level of the deceased are made implicitly--in the choice of cemetery and in the spatial arrangement of the graves within a cemetery--and explicitly--in the language of the epitaph and the design of the monument. In particular, a contrastive approach between epitaphs in the First Cemetery and those encountered in the Kallithea cemetery reveals that the epitaphs serve three purposes: as markers of personal identity (including economic resources and social class); as the written, socially accepted counterpart to the traditional lament songs that have been "restricted or even banned as part of an urban, more sophisticated attitude to death" (Holst-Warhalf 9)--in fact, I argue that the epitaphs in the non-prestigious Kallithea cemetery blend the folk tradition with the tradition of lament songs, thus creating a new genre, lament texts; and as a way of expressing the non-Western aspect of Greece, with their emphasis on emotions (as opposed to emphasis on rationality which is prevalent in Western society). …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA 8, MLA 7, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Note: primary sources have slightly different requirements for citation. Please see these guidelines for more information.

Cited article

The Geography of the Cemetery: A Sociolinguistic Approach
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen
Items saved from this article
  • Highlights & Notes
  • Citations
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA 8, MLA 7, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Search by... Author
    Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.