Greek has been notorious for trying to purify the language. People tried to conserve the Attic Dialect which evolved to what is today called Katharevousa, which even means purified.

Historically, common citizens used the Koine dialect; while the Palace, education, official documents and even high end Personas used the Attic dialect. It was a state of diglossia for about 2 millenia. Koine's modern form Demotike did not achieve an easy and swift victory.

Have there been any similar controversies in other languages over whether or not to maintain a pure form of the language? Would Real Academia Española's activities count as an example?

  • 1
    Your example (Greek) is not about "purism". It's more a case of a conservative variety that is used alongside a more innovative vernacular. "Purism" is about removing what is perceived as foreign or vulgar, like coining new German words in order to remove French words, or new Turkish words in order to remove Arabic or Persan borrowings.
    – user23769
    Oct 12 '19 at 9:47
  • As A. Fournet said that is not purism. The case of katharevousa is wrongly described sometimes like a language replacement. None is speaking katharevousa today and even if one tries it sounds rather riddiculous. Greek still contains a considerable number of words from Latin and Turkish.
    – Midas
    Oct 12 '19 at 11:19
  • @ArnaudFournet The only difference is that Greek did not need to coin new Greek words to replace foreign words. Otherwise it was exactly that an attempt to regress to the pure Attic dialect which had no foreign influences. Demotike and Koine to a lesser extend had the problem that they were not pure. Why is it conservatism to regress to the pure language with no foreign influences but purism to coin new words. Katharevousa means exactly that Purifying. Oct 12 '19 at 13:21
  • 1
    @GeorgeNtoulos: Greek has many substratal words. We can presume that those come from Minoan or other languages spoken in Greece during neolithic and early bronze age era.
    – Midas
    Oct 13 '19 at 10:53
  • 1
    @Midas So Neolithic,Cycladic and Minoan. But could one(a modern linguist) identify a Neolithic, Cycladic or Minoan word in the Attic greek? We have gone up to Linear B but Linear A is a tottaly different story. But I need to say that many Nationalists or otherwise people obsessed with conserving the language are obsessed with Attic even it was not absoluttely pure. Oct 13 '19 at 11:01

In French, a quite recent example would be the Toubon Law. This law enforces the use of French in all official media, as a way to struggle against the massive use of English language. It followed a quite usual trend by the Académie Française of trying to coin French words to replace English neologisms that started by being adopted as-is. This often concerns new technologies, though not always.

The success was limited (and the law was made fun of by being called "loi AllGood") but some words survive. For instance French has baladeur which was coined as an almost exact translation of the word walkman, which was rendered obsolete by the success of this new word (well, granted, walkmans are now pretty obsolete objects themselves, nowadays). Prior to the law, the academy coined logiciel for software, which is now a standard.

This trend to "fight" against English language is much stronger in Québec, Canada, since the rest of the country speaks English. They will translate everything. For instance, in France french language, many US movies retain their original name, while the name will be translated in Québec french language. Another recent example, in french, the word télécharger used to mean download or upload, without clear distinction, leading to ambiguities. More and more, in France french language, télécharger means only download and uploader was coined, which is adding the french ending "er" to the english word. In constrast, for upload, Québec french language uses téléverser which is a portmanteau of télécharger and verser (to pour).

  • I am interested in attempts that ultimately failed or had limited success and were met with much opposition and resistance. As such Toubon Law is an excellent example. But was there any opposition from French academics of the French language( In Greece we had the Δημοτικιστές and Manolis Triantafyllides was one of them) or the opposition was restricted to common people? Mar 22 '20 at 23:08

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.