Plant names in modern Greek
Studying plant names in modern Greek presents the same difficulties as in other languages (coexistence of truly popular names, scholarly names and copies from Latin), but they are worsened by a language controversy that has lasted for a century.
In fact, there are two kinds of language in Greece. The "popular" or demotic (δημοτική) language has been spoken by people for several centuries. It has no spirit and knows only one accent, and includes many borrowings from Turkish and Italian. When Greece got liberated from the Ottoman domination in the 19th century, part of its elites wanted to restitute a "purist" ou katharevousa (καθαρεύουσα) language intended to be as near as possible to ancien Greek with all its accents, and with a vocabulary expurgated from foreign borrowings (which are many for cultivated plants). Katharevousa remained the official written language up to 1976, and all the books and theses were written in that language form.
Since 1976, demotic has become the official language, integrating many words from katharevousa in the register of abstract, scholarly or institutionnal words (ancien Greek playing for modern Greek the same role as Latin for Roman languages). Since 1982, modern Greek is written in the monotonal system, which allows only one accent instead of three previously (plus hard and soft spirits). For more details, see: Wikipedia
Note that pronounciation has always been that of demotic.
The situation with plant names is even more complex. Botanists tended to create 'scientific' Greek names by translating Latin names into katharevousa and when mentioning demotic popular names, tended to dress them in a katharevousa way. A good example is Gennadios, who wrote in 1959, before the reform. E.g.:
- Oryza sativa. Ὄρυζα ἣ ἥμερος - Oruza hê hêmeros [oriza i imeros] : the fruit is known popularly as ὀρύζιον - orizion. (The right demotic name is ρύζι - rizi, the initial vowel and the termination having been dropped a long time ago.)
- Brassica oleracea. Κράμβη ἡ λαχανώδης - krambê hê laxanôdês [kramvi i laxanodhis]; popularly known as λάχανον - laxanon. (The right demotic name is λάχανο - laxano, the termination having been dropped a long time ago.)
The right name forms can be found in recent dictionaries (e.g. Mikhiotis).
- Andriotis N. P., 1990. Etimologiko lexiko tis koinis neoellinikis. [Etymological dictionary of modern Greek]. ed. 3. Thessalonique, Instituto neoellinikôn spoudôn. 436 p. ed. 1 : 1951. ed. 2 : 1967, 1971. ed. 3 : 1983, 1988, 1990.
- Gennadios P.G., 1959. Lexikon Phytologikon. [Botanical lexicon]. ed. 2. Athènes, Moskos Gkiourdas. 2 vol. 1042 p.
- Heldreich Theodor von, 1862. Die Nutzpflanzen Griechenlands. Mit besonderer Berücksichtigung der neugriechischen und pelagischen Vulgarnamen. Athènes, Karl Willberg. 104 p. [Albanese ('Pelagic') names are included].
- Heldreich Theodor von, 1909. Lexiko tôn dimôdôn onomatôn tôn phytôn tis Ellados. [Dictionary of popular plant names of Greece]. 254 p. Reprint Athenes 1980.
- Mikhiotis Khar. Th., 1975. Neotaton lexikon tis neoellinikis ghlossis (katharevousis kai dimotikis) [New lexicon of the modern greek language (katharevousa and demotic). Athens, Kastalia. 1126 p.