Vol 1 No 3 Fall/Winter 2000
Learning Domari - Unit 2
Compiled by Dr. Donald Kenrick
Do these people I know speak Domari? (2)
In Egypt there are three dialects spoken by Gypsy-like clans: Domari, European Romani and a variety of Arabic which some people call Sim. The majority of people called 'Ghajar' by Egyptians do not speak Domari but Sim using many words which are not known to the Egyptians. A better clan name to use for them would be Helebi.
Examples of these words are:
|mebradish or masaqiash||cold|
These words are suggested to see if particular Gypsies are in fact Helebi. Sim is still considered to be a secret
language and attempts to learn the vocabulary may be misunderstood.
How to learn Domari
This course is not designed for you to study all the units and then go out speaking fluent Domari. Like the sister course Learn Romani it is to be used alongside work with a Domari 'informant.'
I suggest you start each session by speaking Domari for as long as possible, using your existing knowledge. After formal greetings, ask about health, discuss the weather. Then use some of the words (below). Then move on to new work. Get sentences, short accounts of what your informant did yesterday or will do later today. Compare these with the grammar in the lessons. If something does not correspond to the lessons, the Domari speaker is right. This may be because of dialect differences, older people preserving old traditional (historical) forms, younger people changing the language, or something that will be made clear in a later unit. Then tell him/her what you are doing or did. Note any corrections. Build up your own dictionary with each word illustrated by a sentence if possible.
A note on pronunciation
The units do not generally point out long and short vowels (or indeed medium length vowels), or the 'neutral' vowel - as the second vowel in English 'father'. This is partly because of the difficulty of sending this information clearly for those of you who are receiving the units by e-mail system without accents; just as underlining and bold letters disappear. But you can work out a way for yourself where length is important for understanding: a long vowel as -aa- for example. Also you can mark the stress with what the French call an acute accent. (accent aigu).
THE NOUN AND ITS ENDINGS
Masculine and feminine
Those learners who have studied French, German or Spanish will not be surprised to find that every object (not just a person) is treated grammatically as if it was either masculine or feminine. Think of le pain and la pomme.
This does not mean that Dom or French speakers think, for example, that 'bread' is masculine and 'water' feminine. We could divide words into say group A and group B but there is an established convention in language teaching to use the terms 'masculine' and 'feminine'. Masculine and feminine nouns referring to objects do affect other words in the sentence in the same way as do the words for male or female persons.
Group A (masculine) nouns end in -a, -o or a consonant
Group B (feminine) nouns usually end in -i or a consonant.
Some dialects also have a traditional (historical) neuter gender ending in a consonant
Look at the examples below.
|kadja||non-Dom (compare Romany 'Gorgio')||kadji||non-Dom woman|
|kushtota zaro||little boy||kushtoti lafti||little girl|
A common way of forming the plural is by changing the endings -o or -a to -e or adding -e to a noun ending in -i.
For example kadja becomes kajje, kadji becomes kadjie, zaro becomes zare, and lafti beomes laftie.
Endings (case endings ) for the noun
Nouns have endings where often English uses a preposition before the noun.
For example 'in (a) village' becomes 'village-in'
First you need to learn the forms a noun takes when it is the object of an action.
Most nouns ending in -a and -o add -s
Most nouns ending in a consonant add -as*
* This 'a' is very short and should be pronounced as the 'er' in father.
Exceptions will be listed in a later unit
Nouns ending in -i add -a
Examples of the changes when a noun is the object of an action:
These changes should always be made when the noun is a person or animal. They can be ignored for the present
by the beginner when the noun is a thing. More on this in a later unit.
But when we add the so-called case endings they are normally added to this object (accusative) form.
In this unit we only look in detail at one case ending -ma (in, with an instrument).
kuri is 'house'
I saw the house can be:
But 'in the house' has the ending 'ma' added to the form 'kuri-a'
kuri-a-ma means 'in the house'
kuri-a-man-ma means 'in our house' (also kuri-a-min-ma)
Note the usage: Dom-as-ma or Domariy-as-ma = in the Domari language
The past tense of verbs
First revise the endings of the verb in the present in Unit 1 (nanami etc). Make sure you know them by heart.
Many verbs form the past by adding -d- to the stem (basic form) of the present and then a set of endings which are not the same as those used in the present. You will see they are the same as those of 'stom' given in Unit 1 ('I am' or in some dialects 'I was').
|nandom||I brought||nanden||we brought|
|nandor||you brought||nandes||you* brought|
|nanda||he brought||nande||they brought|
The endings below are normally added after -s or -a
|-ma||in, with (a thing)|
|-sanni||with (together with a person)|
|kir||milk (sometimes = cheese)|
|kirwi||coffee (also qahwa, qahve* - from Arabic)|
|pani||water (also me)|
* ahwe in Jerusalem. If your native language is French you will need to consciously put a glottal stop (see
pronunciation guide in Unit 1) at the beginning. ?ahwe.
In general any word borrowed from Arabic will be in the pronunciation of the local dialect.
In this unit, and indeed in later units, I am making use of the analysis of grammar in Matras' article "The state of Present-Day Domari in Jerusalem" in Mediterranean Language Review (Wiesbaden) 11 (1999). This reflects changes in the language over the years and also gives a more detailed analysis than did Macalister. I have however simplifed some of the explanations for the benefit of the learner with little previous experience of studying languages or of linguistic terminology.
Keep the vocabulary and sentences you are collecting rolling in. Although I have no intention of writing a study of the dialects of Domari, it would be helpful to know where these come from - country and name of the clan (Dom, Gorbat etc) and the age of the informant.
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