BilingBank Greek-French Hatzidaki Corpuss

BilingBank Greek-French Hatzidaki Corpus

Aspa Hatzidaki (Aspasias Chatzidaki)
Department of Primary Education
University of Crete

Participants: 34
Type of Study: naturalistic
Location: Belgium
Media type: audio
DOI: doi:10.21415/T5K60D

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Citation information

Publications using these data should cite:

Hatzidaki, A. (1994). Ethnic language use among second-generation Greeks in Brussels. Unpublished doctoral dissertation. Vrije Universiteit, Brussels.

Project Description

The data contained in this corpus were used in Hatzidaki (1994). The purpose of the investigation which took place among the second-generation Greeks living in Brussels was to examine their linguistic behavior with a view to discovering to what degree they maintain the use of the ethnic language, and how they alternate between French and Greek in their daily interaction (to the extent that they do use Greek in spontaneous conversation). The data collection took place between January 1991 and October 1992 and consisted of three complementary techniques: the taperecording of speech events such as interviews, participant observation, and the compilation of network lists.

Thirty-four second-generation informants (19 male, 15 female) took part in the study. The following table groups participants together and provides information on their sex, age, and occupation at the time of the study.

All our informants belonged to the category of “early bilinguals” (although two of them, Petros and his sister Irene, were not born in Belgium but acquired the French language in their early school years). It is difficult to be more precise and to place the informants in the category of “consecutive” or “successive” bilinguals, because they were not always able to provide reliable answers to the question of how they learned their two languages and when they started using one or the other for the first time. Differences in their learning experiences, differences in time and type of language exposure time all together made it difficult to say with certainty what their first language was. On the whole, most of our informants seemed to have experienced a positive, additive form of bilingualism, even though the Greek spoken by the majority is not comparable to Standard Greek in many ways; the speech of second-generation Greeks is markedly different from the norm for Modern Greek, as their variety of the ethnic language manifests certain distinctive features on all linguistic levels. Some of these features even appear with some systematicity.

Irrespective of the structural deviations from the norm, the participants’ overall competence in Greek was sufficient for communication purposes. The active involvement of Greek authorities and the Greek Orthodox Church, frequent visits to Greece, and the availability of Greek-language press and media provided ample opportunity to develop oral and literacy skills in the ethnic language. If our informants’ competence in Greek varied from poor to very good, their competence in French was higher, by their own admission. They could be safely considered French-dominant bilinguals, something that is true for the totality of second-generation Greeks in Brussels (apart from those few who have been educated in Dutch, of course). This means that French was the language that served most functions in their everyday life, the language they felt more comfortable in, and the language they mastered best. The dominance of the French language was due to the nature of the children’s socialization and the functions fulfilled by the two codes in question. For those who still attended Mother Tongue Classes, Greek was the language of instruction for a few hours twice a week. Apart from that, they used it with family and friends to varying degrees. All other linguistic activity, be it receptive or productive, took place in French. This functional separation of codes, which they experienced since their infancy, firmly established the dominance of French. They definitely did not speak Greek as well as they spoke French. Their French is as good as that of any native speaker of their background.

Informants were asked to rate their Greek proficiency on two aspects, and the mean of the score for oral proficiency and literacy skills gave the informant’s proficiency score. It was decided to consider as “more proficient speakers” those informants who gave themselves between 2.5 and 4 and “less proficient speakers” those who rated themselves between 1 and 2.5. When the mean turned out to be exactly 2.5, the final placement of the informant was left to the researcher’s discretion. The criteria on which this judgment was based were the following: A “more proficient” speaker of Greek did not manifest disfluency phenomena indicating incompetence, made very few or no grammatical mistakes, used the appropriate words most of the time, and did not switch frequently out of incompetence. On the other hand, the speech of “less proficient” speakers of Greek manifested more clearly the dominance of French. In contrast to “more proficient” speakers, it was fraught with pauses, hesitations, grammatical mistakes, poor word selection, and competence-related code switching. The more proficient speakers were Miltos, Lazaros, Orestis, Katerina, Elissavet, Ilias, Petros, Alexandra, Yannia, Andreas, Vassilis, Yorgos, Fotis, and Nikos. The other speakers can be classed as less proficient.

The participants came from several social groups. These included the Sphynx Café group, the Hellenic Community group, the Association group, the foursome group, the students group, and Orestis and Alexandra. Full details regarding the social structure and language usage in these different groups can be found in Hatzidaki (1994).

The results of the quantitative study of language choice in our data led to the conclusion that more proficient speakers used significantly more Greek during monitored situations (mean: 91%) than their less proficient counterparts (mean: 60%). This discrepancy can be attributed to the former group’s higher competence and greater practice in the ethnic language, which permitted them to conduct a long conversation with almost no French elements. Less proficient speakers in our sample, on the other hand, rarely found themselves in situations where the use of Greek was called for. However, the number of speakers on whom data are available is too small to draw any significant conclusions. Again, more proficient speakers manifest a more homogeneous behavior, which is natural in view of their consistency in using Greek.

StefanosM14High school student
DimitrisM16High school student
LazarosM16Studying hotel management
TassosM18High school student
PavlosM18Studying hotel management
KostasM20Studying car mechanics
NikosM20Studying chemistry
AndreasM21Running bookshop, studying PoliSci
SpirosM22Car mechanic, cook
YannisM22Studying computers, waiter
OrestisM23Studying car mechanics
MichalisM24Studying Economics
MiltosM24Telecommunications engineer
ChristosM29Degree in Economics
PetrosM29Mechanical Engineering
ThaliaF14High school student
ZoeF15High school student
RoulaF16High school student
NatasaF18Studying linguistics
VeraF19Studying linguistics
SofiaF20Studying linguistics
KaterinaF20Studying linguistics
MariaF21Studying accounting
VoulaF21Going to secretarial school
OlgaF21Studying linguistics
ElissavetF25Ergonomics, unemployed
IreneF26Studying pharmaceutics