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Gypsies in Jerusalem: language

Contributed by Toine Van Teeffelen on 01.12.2009:

From the new Domari website

While related to both Punjabi of India and Romany of the Easter European Gypsies, Domari is the language unique to Middle Eastern Gypsies. It is highly influenced by Arabic, and exists in many different dialects throughout the Middle East. In Jerusalem only a few hundred speakers remain, mostly over the age of 60, but in Iran there are over a million speakers of the various dialects of Domari.

Traditionally, Domari is considered one of three main varieties of Gypsy languages, along with Romany and Lomavren (of the Armenian Gypsies, or Lom). According to the Romani Project based at the University of Manchester, the Domari and Romany languages, while related, are not sister languages, as they were once thought. Instead, they split before the Gypsy people left India. The language, according to Dr. Ian Hancock, also indicatses that Domari-speaking people left the Indian subcontinent before either Roma or Lom did.

In 1909-1914, R.A.S. Macalister described Domari as spoken by the Palestinian Dom peoples. Earlier ethnolinguists, such as Ulrich Seetzen and August Pott, also recorded elements of Domari. In the 1990s, Professor Yaron Matras wrote a lexicon of Domari in Jerusalem, with the assistance of Amoun Sleem and her family.

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