|Region||Himarë, Albania; Greece|
|at least 8,000 (2008)|
Himariote Greek (Greek: Χειμαρριώτικη διάλεκτος or Xειμαρριώτικα) is a dialect of the Greek language that is mainly spoken by ethnic Greeks in the Himarë region of Albania. Despite the small distances between the towns in the region, there exists some dialectal variation, most prominently in accent.
Despite the fact that the Greek community in Himarra resides at the northern end of the Greek-speaking world, in a region known among Greeks as Northern Epirus, the Himariote dialect is a southern dialect of the Greek language. Although links with the Greek dialects spoken in Apulia and Mani have been suggested, the exact provenance of Northern Epirote dialects remains obscure. According to Greek linguist Vayacacos, Himariote, as a subbranch of the Northern Epirote dialects, is classified as a southern dialect, but the two towns next to Himarë, Dhërmi and Palasë, speak a semi-northern dialect.
Because of the region's geography and isolation, the local dialect in the Himarë region became separated from the surrounding dialects and underwent a slower evolution, preserving a more conservative and faithful picture of the medieval Greek vernacular. According to Greek professor Anagnostopoulos, this dialect, like other conservative forms of modern Greek, such as the Maniot dialect, was spoken by populations that lived in virtual autonomy during Ottoman rule. Another linguistic analysis suggests that Himarë was colonised by Apulian Italiots after the Turkish raid on Otranto in 1480, but this position is vigorously questioned. Moreover, it has been claimed by both local and Albanian scholars, that there are parallels with the local idioms spoken in Crete as well as in nearby Corfu.
Usage and settings
Himariote is primarily spoken in the town of Himarë, as well as in the nearby coastal towns of Dhërmi and Palasa. In spite of the short distances between these towns, there are differences in the accents of the dialect in every town. Himariote also uses some borrowed words from the Tosk Albanian dialect.
A common characteristic of Northern Epirote, as well its Himariote subbranch, is the use of the archaic disyllabic -ea form. Moreover, the phoneme /s/ is pronounced in a slightly different way, depending on the town: in Dhërmi as a soft /ś/; in Palasa as a half-hard /š’/ while in the town of Himarë as a hard /š/. The people who originate from Himarë pronounce also /ķ/ as /ć/.
History and politics
During the communist era in Albania, the country's borders were sealed for 45 years (1945–1990), while Himarë remained outside of the so-called Greek minority zone, which the Albanian state recognized as Greek populated regions. In accordance with the communist Albanian policy of unification and homogenization, the use of the Greek language in Himarë was forbidden in public, and many Greek-speaking people were forced to move to places in northern or central Albania. As a consequence, Greek schools in the Himarë area were closed, and the local communities stuck to their language, which slowly became archaic and no longer functional when they started to emigrate to Greece (1991) in the aftermath of the communist regime's collapse.
After the fall of communism, a considerable number of the population from Himarë migrated to Greece where it largely adopted standard Greek. At present they are still not considered as part of the recognized Greek minority by the Albanian state, while on the other hand they are counted as ethnic Greeks according to the Greek migration policy.
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