Katharevousa (Greek: Καθαρεύουσα, [kaθaˈrevusa], lit. "puristic [language]"), is a conservative form of the Modern Greek language conceived in the early 19th century as a compromise between Ancient Greek and Dimotiki of the time. Originally, it was widely used both for literary and official purposes, though seldom in daily language. In the 20th century, it was increasingly adopted just for official and formal purposes, until Dimotiki became the official language of Greece in 1976 and Andreas Papandreou abolished the polytonic system of writing in 1981.
Katharevousa was conceived by the intellectual and revolutionary leader Adamantios Korais.1 A graduate of the University of Montpellier, Korais spent most of his life as an expatriate in Paris. Being a classical scholar, he was repelled by the Byzantine and later influence on Greek society and was a fierce critic of the clergy and their alleged subservience to the Ottoman Empire.2 He held that education was a prerequisite to Greek liberation.
Part of its purpose was to mediate the struggle between the "archaists" favouring full reversion to archaic forms, and the "modernists". The name "Katharevousa" implies a pure form of Greek as it might hypothetically have evolved from ancient Greek without external influences.
Katharevousa was widely used in public documents and whatever was conceived as work of formal activity by Greek scholars. In modern Greek colloquial connotation, the word katharevousa has come to mean "formal language".
In later years, Katharevousa was used for official and formal purposes (such as politics, letters, official documents, and newscasting), while Dimotiki (δημοτική), 'demotic' or popular Greek, was the daily language. This created a diglossic situation whereby most of the Greek population was excluded from the public sphere and advancement in education unless they conformed to Katharevousa. In 1976, Dimotiki was made the official language, and in 1981 Andreas Papandreou abolished the polytonic system of writing; by the end of the 20th century full Katharevousa in its earlier form had become obsolete. Much of the vocabulary of Katharevousa and its grammatical and syntactical rules have influenced Dimotiki, so that the project's emphasis has made an observable contribution to the language as it is used today. Modern Greek might be argued to be a combination of the original Dimotiki and the traditional Katharevousa as stressed in the 19th century, also with institutional input from Koine Greek. Amongst Katharevousa's later contributions is the promotion of classically based compounds to describe items and concepts that did not exist in earlier times, such as "newspaper", "police", "automobile", "airplane", "television" and many others, rather than borrowing new words directly from other languages.
The Church of Greece, the Church of Cyprus, and the Greek Orthodox patriarchates of Constantinople, Alexandria and Jerusalem, still use Katharevousa in official communications. The daily newspaper Estia, circulation 3900, is also written in Katharevousa.
This is a text sample of Katharevousa from the Great Greek Encyclopedia, published in 1930. The text has to do with Adamantios Korais's relations with the Greek Church. It is rendered in Dimotiki and translated into English.
- Katharevousa: Ἡ δ' ἀπὸ τῆς Ἑλλάδος ἀποδημία του ἐγένετο πρόξενος πολλῶν ἀδίκων κρίσεων περὶ προσώπων καὶ πραγμάτων καὶ πρῶτα πρῶτα τῆς περὶ ἧς ἀνωτέρω ἔγινε λόγος πρὸς τὸν κλῆρον συμπεριφορᾶς του. Ἂν ἔζη ἐν Ἑλλάδι καὶ ἤρχετο εἰς ἐπικοινωνίαν πρὸς τὸν κλῆρον καὶ ἐγνώριζεν ἐκ τοῦ πλησίον ὄχι μόνον τὰς κακίας, ἀλλὰ καὶ τὰς ἀρετὰς αὐτοῦ, ὄχι μόνον πολὺ θὰ συνετέλει εἰς διόρθωσίν τινων ἐκ τῶν κακῶν ἐν τῇ Ἐκκλησίᾳ ἐχόντων, ἀλλὰ καὶ δὲν θὰ ἤκουεν ὅσα ἤκουσεν ἐκ τῶν ὑπερβολικῶν κατὰ τοῦ κλήρου ἐκφράσεών του.4
- HĒ d' apò tē̂s Helládos apodēmía tou egéneto próxenos pollō̂n adíkōn kríseōn perì prosṓpōn kaì pragmátōn kaì prō̂ta prō̂ta tē̂s perì hē̂s anōtérō égine lógos pròs tòn klē̂ron symperiphorâs tou. Àn ézē en Helládi kaì ḗrcheto eis epikoinōnían pròs tòn klē̂ron kaì egnṓrizen ek toû plēsíon óchi mónon tàs kakías, allà kaì tàs aretàs autoû, óchi mónon polỳ thà synetélei eis diórthōsín tinōn ek tō̂n kakō̂n en tē̂i Ekklēsíāi echóntōn, allà kaì dèn thà ḗkouen hósa ḗkousen ek tō̂n hyperbolikō̂n katà toû klḗrou ekphráseṓn tou.
- Modern Standard Greek: Η αποδημία του από την Ελλάδα έγινε πρόξενος πολλών άδικων κρίσεων για πρόσωπα και πράγματα και πρώτα πρώτα, για την οποία έγινε λόγος παραπάνω, της συμπεριφοράς του προς τον κλήρο. Αν ζούσε στην Ελλάδα και ερχόταν σε επικοινωνία με τον κλήρο και γνώριζε από κοντά όχι μόνο τις κακίες, αλλά και τις αρετές αυτού, όχι μόνο θα συντελούσε πολύ στη διόρθωση μερικών από τα κακά που υπάρχουν στην Εκκλησία, αλλά και δεν θα άκουγε όσα άκουσε εξαιτίας των υπερβολικών εκφράσεών του εναντίον του κλήρου.
- Ē apodēmía tou apó tēn Elláda égine próxenos pollṓn ádikōn kríseōn gia prósōpa kai prágmata kai prṓta prṓta, gia tēn opoía égine lógos parapánō, tēs symperiphorás tou pros ton klḗro. An zoúse stēn Elláda kai erchótan se epikoinōnía me ton klḗro kai gnṓrize apó kontá óchi móno tis kakíes, allá kai tis aretés autoú, óchi móno tha synteloúse polý stē diórthōsē merikṓn apó ta kaká pou ypárchoun stēn Ekklēsía, allá kai den tha ákouge ósa ákouse exaitías tōn yperbolikṓn ekphráseṓn tou enantíon tou klḗrou.
- English: His expatriation from Greece was a cause for many unjust judgements about situations and people and mainly for his behaviour towards the clergy, which was discussed above. If he had lived in Greece and been in contact with the clergy and known closely not only its turpitude but also its virtues, not only would he have contributed greatly to correcting some of the problems within the Church, but he would not have listened to that which he listened to due to his exaggerated sentiments against the clergy.
- Stavro Skendi (April 1975). "Language as a Factor of National Identity in the Balkans of the Nineteenth Century". Proceedings of the American Philosophical Society 119 (2): 186–189. JSTOR 986634.
- Adamantios Korais, Αδελφική Διδασκαλία, pages 3sq.
- The Phenomenon of Diglossia: Language and National Identity, interview with Peter Mackridge
- Great Greek Encyclopedia, Vol. XIV page 864, 1930