Little did Mark Janse know that what had started as a spinoff from his doctoral thesis would, more than a decade later, lead him to discover a Greek-related language that most of his fellow linguists had for decades written off as extinct.
In 2005, a couple of years after he first presented his research, Janse in 2005 received an astonishing email from a colleague at the University of Patra. Attached was a recent recording of a man saying: ‘Pateram doeka fesa epci’ (My father had 12 children). Immediately recognizing that these four words were Cappadocian, Janse found himself in tears. ’The next day, I booked a flight to Greece, and with my colleague I travelled to the village of Mandra. We really thought we were going to find the last speaker of Cappadocian.’
To their surprise they discovered that the whole village spoke Cappadocian.
In 2006 Janse spoke at an annual reunion, in Greek and a little in Cappadocian. ‘There were 5000 people there. Whenever I started saying something in Cappadocian, there was great applause. At the end, many old people were in tears, hugging and kissing me afterwards.’
He says that the sight of a foreign professor telling them that they ought to be proud of their language and culture moved them deeply, as for years Greek society had made them feel ashamed of their language because of its marked Turkish influence.