Tasos Chatzikonstantinou: "Verbal acts in the Songs of the Old Greek Underworld"

On Monday February 25th, The Workshop on Language Variation and Change is pleased to have Tasos Chatzikonstantinou present his talk entitled "Verbal acts in the Songs of the Old Greek Underworld".  The talk will be at 2 PM in Social Sciences 302.  Please note the later time for this week only.  As always, refreshments will be served.  We look forward to seeing you!



In this talk I discuss the discourse patterns that emerge in the lyrics of Rebetiko, an urban folk music genre that flourished in the port of Athens in the early 20th century. In the 1920s, a ghetto sub-culture was formulated around that part of the city that included people who were living on the margins of the Athenian society as well as thousands of Greek immigrants who arrived from Asia Minor (Emery, 2000). I will show that as a particular conceptualization of authenticity was established within this community (Damianakos, 1985; Tragaki, 2007), this social reality was reflected in the lyrics of Rebetiko.


I focus on cases that I consider to be instances similar to dissing, a verbal expression of disrespect towards deviations from a specific conceptualization of authenticity. This discourse pattern is also employed by other music genres (e.g. Hip Hop) where authenticity is central to their ethos (Androutsopoulos & Scholz, 2002). Another indication of authenticity is suggested to be the particular slang that was developed within the community under discussion (Petropoulos, 1967) and which was extensively used by Rebetiko artists in order to give an authentic “street” flavor to their songs (Holst, 1990).  I will argue that the moment Rebetiko became commercialized the extensive use of slang was, in part, a strategy to retain alive the Rebetiko conceptualization of authenticity though its genuine connection with the authentic sub-culture had been weakened.