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Competing discourses in the debate on place names in Cyprus

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This paper discusses discourses around language and nation as articulated in a public debate on the orthography of place names in Cyprus, triggered during the implementation stage of the standardisation/transliteration process in the 1990s. Adopting a language ideologies framework, the discussion is based on two related premises, first, language debates are indexical of deeper social conflicts and are deeply seated in the history and politics of a specific territory/community, and second, the discourses drawn upon to support/contest a particular orthographic convention are loaded with political, moral and/or historical concerns. I argue that the debate in question can be conceptualised as (partially) the outcome of a conflict between different constructions of a political discourse, here identified as national and community discourses. The focus here is on the different rationalisations of language and identity each of these entails and on their implications for (i) the inclusion/exclusion of the Cypriot Greek dialect from the standardisation process, (ii) the symbolic inclusion/exclusion of the Other from constructions of Greek Cypriot identity. The data consists of a corpus of newspaper texts covering the period of the peak of the debate, 1994–1995. For the analysis, I draw selectively on insights and tools from discourse analytical work in the traditions of linguistic anthropology and CDA to examine discursive links between language, place names and issues such as history, identity and tradition.
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Keywords: Other; discourses; language debates; language ideologies; orthography; place names

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: April 9, 2010

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