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Katharevousa ( , , lit. "purifying [language]"), is a form of the Greek language conceived in the early 19th century by Greek intellectual and revolutionary leader Adamantios Korais (1748–1833). A graduate of the University of Montpelliermarker in 1788, Korais spent most of his life as an expatriate in Parismarker. Being a classical scholar, he was repelled by the Byzantine and later influence on Greek society and was a fierce critic of the ignorance of the clergy and their subservience to the Ottoman Empire. He held that education was a prerequisite to Greek liberation.

Katharevousa was set at a midpoint between Ancient Greek and the Modern Greek of the time. It stressed both a more ancient vocabulary and a simplified form of the classical grammar.

Part of its purpose was to mediate the struggle between the "archaists" favouring full reversion to archaic forms, and the "modernists". The name "Katharevousa" implies a pure form of Greek as it might hypothetically have evolved from ancient Greek without external influences.

History

The first known use of katharevousa is in a work by the Greek polymath Nikephoros Theotokis, in 1796.

Katharevousa was widely used in public documents and whatever was conceived as work of formal activity by Greek scholars. In modern Greek colloquial connotation, the word katharevousa has simply come to mean "formal language".

In later years, Katharevousa was used for official and formal purposes (such as politics, letters, official documents, and newscasting), while Dimotiki (δημοτική), 'demotic' or popular Greek, was the daily language. This created a diglossic situation whereby most of the Greek population was excluded from the public sphere and advancement in education unless they conformed to Katharevousa. In 1976, Dimotiki was made the official language and by the end of the 20th century full Katharevousa in its earlier form had become obsolete. However, many grammatical and syntactical rules that Katharevousa had adopted, and much vocabulary from the Katharevousa strand, have come into contact with Dimotiki during the two centuries of its existence, so that the project's emphasis has made an observable contribution to the language as it is used today. One may suggest that the Modern Greek of today is no longer the Dimotiki of old, but rather set midway between it and the traditional Katharevousa as stressed in the 19th century, with the continuing influence of Koine Greek. Amongst Katharevousa's later contributions is the promotion of classically based compounds to describe items and concepts that did not exist in earlier times, such as "newspaper", "police", "automobile", "airplane", "television" and much else, rather than borrowing words directly from other languages.

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