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Romani in Britain

Romani in Britain: The Afterlife of a Language

Copyright Date: 2010
Pages: 272
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  • Book Info
    Romani in Britain
    Book Description:

    Romani is one of Britain's oldest and most established minority languages. Brought to the country by Romani immigrants from continental Europe in the sixteenth century or even earlier, it was spoken in its old, inflected form as a family and community language until the second half of the nineteenth century, when it yielded to English. But even after its decline as the everyday language of English and Welsh Gypsies, Romani continues to survive in the form of a vocabulary that is used to express an 'emotive mode' of communication among group members. This book examines British Romani in its historical context and in its present-day form, drawing on recordings and interviews with speakers. It documents the Romani vocabulary and its usage patterns in conversation, offering insight into the processes of language death and language revitalization. The volume includes an extensive lexicon of Angloromani as a helpful reference.

    eISBN: 978-0-7486-4369-1
    Subjects: Linguistics

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. List of Figures, Tables and Maps
    (pp. vii-viii)
  4. List of Abbreviations
    (pp. ix-x)
  5. Preface
    (pp. xi-xvi)
  6. 1 Angloromani: A Different Kind of Language?
    (pp. 1-30)

    Britain has at least three distinct ethnic minorities that are usually referred to as ‘Travellers’ or ‘Gypsies’: the English (and Welsh) Gypsies, the Irish Travellers and the Scottish Travellers. They are all best recognisable by their preference for living in caravans (‘trailers’) in either temporary or semipermanent dwelling sites and by their traditional specialisation in itinerant service-providing occupations. Members of the first group usually refer to themselves in everyday conversation as ‘Gypsies’, or more specifically as ‘English Gypsies’ (or in some families ‘Welsh Gypsies’). They have a special vocabulary that they use in interaction among themselves, which they call ‘Romanes’....

  7. 2 The Roots of Romani
    (pp. 31-56)

    The form of Romani that was first documented in Britain (see Chapter 3) was clearly closely related to the varieties of the language that continue to be spoken all across the European continent. By carrying out systematic comparisons of Romani language samples recorded from Gypsies in different locations in Europe with other languages selected almost at random, scholars in the second half of the eighteenth century were able to establish an affinity between Romani and the Indo-Iranian language group, and more specifically with the languages of India (Marsden 1785, Rüdiger 1782). The actual breakthrough came with Rüdiger’s lecture delivered in...

  8. 3 The Historical Position of British Romani
    (pp. 57-94)

    Romani Gypsies, referred to as ‘Egyptian pilgrims’ in older sources, are known to have been present in Scotland in 1506 at the very latest, when they sought the protection of the king on a journey to Denmark (Simson 1866: 98), and may have settled in Scotland as early as 1460. According to Winstedt (1915: 129), the earliest reference to Gypsies in England is in a work of Sir Thomas More, who mentions an ‘Egypcian’ woman who told fortunes in Lambeth in 1514. A subsequent reference from 1687 confirms the wedding of Robert Hern and Elizabeth Bozwell, ‘king and queen of...

  9. 4 The Structural Composition of Angloromani
    (pp. 95-129)

    The discussion in the following two chapters (as well as the documentation of Romani vocabulary in Appendix I) drawns on a corpus of interview recordings, carried out mainly between 2005 and 2008 with around forty individuals who describe themselves as English or Welsh Gypsies. They live in various parts of England and Wales, including the Northeast (County Durham and West Yorkshire), the Northwest (Lancashire and Cheshire), south Wales, West Midlands, Staffordshire, Leicestershire, Oxfordshire and Surrey. The great majority reside in mobile caravans (‘trailers’) but have usually been based in the same caravan site for a generation or even longer. Some...

  10. 5 The Conversational Functions of Angloromani
    (pp. 130-166)

    A central role in the formation process of mixed languages has been attributed by many writers to the conscious, emotional flagging of identity and group solidarity in small populations. Bakker (1997) regards mixed languages as an opportunity to flag ethnic admixture in populations of mixed households such as the Cree-French Michif (Métis) of Canada and in socially isolated peripatetic communities, while Golovko (2003) sees playful language mixing for the purpose of entertainment as a key tool in the formation of mixed in-group codes such as Copper Island Aleut. Thomason (1995, 1999), too, makes some remarks in a somewhat similar direction,...

  11. 6 Conclusions: The Decline, Death and Afterlife of a Language
    (pp. 167-175)

    Opinions are split as to what constitutes the most appropriate format for describing Para-Romani varieties. The more traditional mode of documenting them has been in the form of a dictionary or word list, perhaps accompanied by some example phrases indicating the manner in which words are embedded structurally in sentences in the mainstream or ‘host’ language. Others have attempted to write proper reference grammars of Para-Romani varieties, emphasising both the presence of creative word formation strategies and some features that differ from the typical structures of the host language (see Ladefoged 1998, Carling’s contribution to Lindell & Thorbjörnsson-Djerf 2008). In a...

  12. Appendix I Lexicon of Angloromani
    (pp. 176-217)
  13. Appendix II Predecessor expressions by origin
    (pp. 218-231)
  14. References
    (pp. 232-241)
  15. Author Index
    (pp. 242-243)
  16. Subject Index
    (pp. 244-256)