Vol 2 No 5 Fall/Winter 2006

Learning Domari - Unit 5

Compiled by Dr. Donald Kenrick

Domari is the langage widely spoken by clans in the Middle East having a similar life style to the Roma of Europe. The language, too, is related. I described the basic grammar of Domari in earlier numbers of Kuri. New readers can download those lessons.

Learning Domari

Unit 1, Kuri, Vol 1, Number 2
Unit 2, Kuri, Vol 1, Number 3
Unit 3, Kuri, Vol 1, Number 4
Unit 4, Kuri, Vol 1, Number 7
What is Domari? Kuri, Vol 1, Number 5
Domari--a translation exercise Kuri, Vol 2, Number 2

An important point

Domari sentences in the units do not start with a capital letter and question marks are not used. That is because some of the capitals represent Arabic emphatic letters (D K T as opposed to d k t) and the question mark (?) is used for the glottal stop (=Arabic hamza or as in Cockney bu'er--for 'butter'.)

Revision - noun endings

When a noun is the object of an action (in the accusative case), we usually add -s (or -as).
Nouns ending in -i, add -a. Example follows:

Dakardom lachi-a I saw a girl.

Five further endings can be added AFTER the -(a)s or -a. Three of them have been covered in the earlier units and they were:

ma (in/with); ta (to - motion); and ki (from). Examples follow:

kuri-a-ma in the house
Domari(y)-as-ma in (the) Domari (language)
garom kam-as-taI went to work
pardom mona(s) uyar-ma u mindom kur-i-a-taWe bought bread in the town/market and went home.
min siri-s-kifrom his head, from the head

The last example has Arabic min (from) which is not strictly necessary as -ki on its own would mean 'from'. Readers who already know European Romani will be used to the way these endings are added; for example, in Romani:

dikhlom rakesI saw a boy
and the -es is retained as an 'infix' in:
dem o lil e rakleskeI gave the book to the boy.

Two new noun endings

I deal here with the two remaining endings for the noun. The first is -sanni (often shortened to -san) The meaning is 'with (a person)'

shirdom bay-im-sanI spoke with my father
shirdom lachi-a-sanI spoke with the girl

The infix -s is not used after 'bay' because of the ending -im (my). To translate 'with an object' use -ma. Example follows:

laurie-s-mawith a stick

The final noun ending is -ke, meaning 'to' (not used for motion except by some younger speakers) or 'for.'

Macalister (the first outsider to describe this dialect in detail) called this the "directive" case while Matras prefers the term "benefactive." Both terms indicate how it is used. Matras gives an example from Jerusalem:

Tu qayish putr-im-keServe food for my son

Comparison of adjectives

Comparison in English is expressed with an ending (long, longer) or with 'more', e.g., she is more intelligent than her brother.

In Domari the word 'bol' (much/very) is used to express a comparison. An example follows:

Lachi janari Tatwari guzel, bar-os janari guzel bol.
The girl knows Arabic well, her brother knows (it) very well, i.e., better.

Often Arabic comparatives are used, e.g., ahsan min (better than).

Relative pronoun

An example of a sentence with a relative pronoun in English is "where is the bread which (that) you bought?" 'Which' is a relative pronoun.

In Domari the Arabic word 'illi' is borrowed for this purpose. An example follows:

ka mona illi landur-usWhere is the bread which you bought (it)?

The -us can be omitted.

Note that the word for 'is' is left out (as are usually the words for 'am' and 'are').

Note also that 'the' is not normally expressed (mona = the bread). If there is no 'ek' (a) before the noun (e.g., ek mona - a loaf), it can be taken as being 'the xx'.

Revision of the verb

I move on to the verb (or action word). From the root verb par- (meaning to take or buy), if you remember the earlier lessons you should be able to say in the present, "I am taking", "you are taking" (singular and plural), "he is taking," "we are taking," and "they are taking."

From the present tense forms you can make: "I used to take," "I was taking," "we are taking," and "they are taking."

From the present tense forms you can make: "I used to take," "I was taking," "I will take," and "I would take."

If you are new to the language, look at Units 1 and 3 (Kuri, Vol 1, Numbers 2 and 4) or the summary table at the end of this unit.

A tale

asta yikaki chona, rabi'-kerda di saba' ta tilla hre.
asti ghulaki, Hrib-kerdi ek dei.
minda Halos chona, laherda ghuli illi Hrib-kerdi dei.
ari ghuli, laherdi chonas.
wart-kerda di saba'an
minde ghulia, shakf-kerdend-is

There was one boy, he grazed two lions until they became big.
There was a ghoul, she destroyed a village.
The boy took himself off, he saw the ghoul who destroyed the village.
The ghoul came, she saw the boy.
He let loose the two lions,
They took the ghoul, they made her [into] pieces.

Notice the several compound verbs with ker- (do, make) and an Arabic word, e.g., Hrib-kerdi.
hre = past 3rd person plural of homi

Regular verb in the present and past tenses

nanami (I)kerdom
nanani (we)kerden
nanasi kerdes
nanandi kerde

Future: nanyami
Imperfect (past continuous): nanama
Subjunctive: nanam
Negative present: in naname?

Further reading

R. Macalister The Language of the Nawar or Zutt. Gypsy Lore Society 1914

Yaron Matras - article in Mediterranean Language Review Wiesbaden 1999, Number 11, and two legends in Romani Studies, the Journal of the Gypsy Lore Society, 2000, Volume 10, Number 1

Ian Hancock in Thomas Acton (ed.). Scholarship and the Gypsy Struggle. University of Hertfordshire Press. Pages 9 through 11.