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Domari language

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Title: Domari language  
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Subject: Romani language, Languages of Sudan, Bedawi Arabic, Lyuli, Languages of Egypt
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Domari language

Native to Israel, Turkey, Azerbaijan, Jordan, Sudan, and perhaps neighboring countries[1]
Native speakers
moribund?  (2012)[1][2]
Language codes
ISO 639-3 rmt
Glottolog doma1258[3]

Domari is an Indo-Aryan language, spoken by older Dom people scattered across the Middle East. The language is reported to be spoken as far north as Azerbaijan and as far south as central Sudan, in Turkey, Israel, Palestine, Jordan, Syria and Lebanon.[1] Based on the systematicity of sound changes, we know with a fair degree of certainty that the names Domari and Romani derive from the Indian word ḍom.[4]

Domari is also known as "Middle Eastern Romani", "Tsigene", "Luti", or "Mehtar". There is no standard written form. In the Arab world, it is occasionally written using the Arabic script and has many Arabic and Persian loanwords.[5] Descriptive work was done by Yaron Matras (1996)[6] who published a comprehensive grammar of the language along with an historical and dialectological evaluation of secondary sources (Matras 2012).


The best-known variety of Domari is Palestinian Domari, also known as "Syrian Gypsy", the dialect of the Dom community of Jerusalem, which was described by R.A. S. Macalister in the 1910s. Palestinian Domari is an endangered language, with fewer than 200 speakers, the majority of the 1,200 members of the Jerusalem Domari community being native speakers of Palestinian Arabic.

Other dialects include:

Some dialects may be highly divergent and not mutually intelligible. Published sources often lump together dialects of Domari and the various unrelated in-group vocabularies of diverse peripatetic populations in the Middle East. Thus there is no evidence at all that the Lyuli, for example, speak a dialect of Domari, not is there any obvious connection between Domari and the vocabulary used by the Helebi of Egypt (see discussion in Matras 2012, chapter 1).

Comparison with Romani

Domari was once thought to be the "sister language" of Romani, the two languages having split after the departure from the Indian subcontinent, but more recent research suggests that the differences between them are significant enough to treat them as two separate languages within the Central zone (Hindustani) group of languages. The Dom and the Rom are therefore likely to be descendants of two different migration waves out of India, separated by several centuries.[8][9]

There are nevertheless remarkable similarities between the two beyond their shared Central zone Indic origin, indicating a period of shared history as itinerant populations in the Middle East. These include shared archaisms that have been lost in the Central Indo-Aryan languages over the millennium since Dom/Rom emigration, a series of innovations connecting them with the Northwestern zone group, indicating their route of migration out of India, and finally a number of radical syntactical changes due to superstrate influence of Middle Eastern languages, including Persian, Arabic and Byzantine Greek.


Numerals in the Romani, Domari and Lomavren languages, with Hindi and Persian forms for comparison.[10] Note that Romani 7–9 are borrowed from Greek.
Hindi Romani Domari Lomavren Persian
1 ek ekh, jekh yika yak, yek yak, yek
2 do duj lui du, do
3 tīn trin tærən tərin se
4 cār štar štar išdör čahār
5 pāñc pandž pandž pendž pandž
6 che šov šaš šeš šaš, šeš
7 sāt ifta xaut haft haft
8 āţh oxto xaišt hašt hašt
9 nau inja na nu nuh, noh
10 das deš des las dah
20 bīs biš wīs vist bist
100 sau šel saj saj sad


  1. ^ a b c Matras (2012)
  2. ^ Ethnologue estimates 4 million, with 2.3 million in Egypt and 1.3 million in Iran (rmt). However, these are the number of people considered 'Gypsies', regardless of the language they speak. There is no attestation of Domari speakers in Egypt or in Iran. (See Matras 2012.)
  3. ^ Nordhoff, Sebastian; Hammarström, Harald; Forkel, Robert; Haspelmath, Martin, eds. (2013). "Domari". Glottolog 2.2. Leipzig: Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology. 
  4. ^
  5. ^ The Gypsies of Lebanon: A DRC Update, April 2000, by Dr. G. A. Williams
  6. ^ [1]
  7. ^
  8. ^ What is Domari?, retrieved 2008-07-23 
  9. ^ ON ROMANI ORIGINS AND IDENTITY, retrieved 2008-07-23 
  10. ^ after Ian Hancock, On Romani Origins and Identity, RADOC (2007)[2]

Further reading

  • Herin, B. (2012). "The Domari language of Aleppo (Syria)" Linguistic Discovery 10 (2), 1-52.
  • Matras Y. (1999). "The state of present-day Domari in Jerusalem." Mediterranean Language Review 11, 1–58.
  • Matras Y. (2002). Romani: a linguistic introduction. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
  • Matras, Y. (2012). A grammar of Domari. Berlin: De Gruyter Mouton (Mouton Grammar Library).

External links

  • Windfuhr Gernot L. Gypsy ii. Gypsy Dialects in Encyclopædia Iranica, Online Edition. 2002.
  • Description of Domari from the Romani Project
  • Learning Domari - from the Dom Research Centre
  • More Information and Official Website of the Dom People
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