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Domari language: Wikis


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Spoken in Iran, Egypt, India, other
Region Middle East, North Africa, Caucasus, Central Asia, India
Total speakers roughly 1.9 million, of which 1.3 million in Iran
Language family Indo-European
Language codes
ISO 639-1 None
ISO 639-2 inc
ISO 639-3 rmt

Domari is an Indo-Aryan language, spoken by the Dom people across the Middle East, mainly in Iran and Egypt, but significant numbers of speakers are also found in India where they are known as Domba.

Domari is also known as "Middle Eastern Romani", "Tsigene", "Luti", or "Mehtar". Dialects in include

Some dialects may be highly divergent and not mutually intelligible.

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.[1][2]

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.

There is no standard written form of Domari. In the Arab world, it is occasionally written using the Arabic script and has many Arabic and Persian loanwords.[2]

The best known variety of Domari is Palestinian Domari, also known as "Syrian Gypsy", the dialect of the Dom community of Jerusalem , which had been described by R.A. S. Macalister as early as during the 1910s Further descriptive work was done by Yaron Matras (1996)[3]. Palestinian Domari is an endangered language, with less than 200 speakers, the majority of the 1,200 members of the Jerusalem Domari community being native speakers of Palestinian Arabic.

Numerals in the Romani, Lomavren and Domari languages, with Hindi forms for comparison.[3]

Hindi Romani Lomavren Domari
1 ek ekh, jekh yak, yek yika
2 do duj lui
3 tīn trin tərin tærən
4 cār štar išdör štar
5 pāñc pandž pendž pandž
6 che šov šeš šaš
7 sāt ifta haft xaut
8 āţh oxto hašt xaišt
9 nau inja nu na
10 das deš las des
20 bīs biš vist wīs
100 sau šel saj saj

SIL Ethnologue breaks down the populations of speakers of the individual Domari dialect as follows:

  • Iran: 1,34 million speakers (2000 WCD), including a number of widely divergent dialects (Kurbati and Luli in western Iran, Karachi in northern Iran, besides Qinati, Yürük, Koli, Maznoug and Nawar)
  • Egypt: 0.23 million speakers (2004), Ghagar (Nawar) mainly in Dakahlia Governorate, northern Egypt, besides Helebi. The language is in the process of being marginalized by Egyptian Arabic
  • India: 0.2 million speakers (2000 WCD), consisting of speakers of the Domba and Wogri-Boli dialects mostly in Bihar, Assam, West Bengal, Uttar Pradesh, Punjab, Madhya Pradesh, Jammu and Kashmir and Orissa. In Bihar strongly assimilated to Bhojpuri
  • Libya: 32,000 speakers (2000 WCD) of the Helebi dialect
  • Turkey: 28,000 speakers (2000 WCD), mainly western Turkey, Karachi, Beludji and Marashi dialects. Note that Turkey also has significant Romani populations, and estimates regarding gypsies in Turkey often conflate the two groups (Gunnemark and Kenrick 1985).
  • Iraq: 23,000 speakers (2000 WCD) known as Zott.
  • Jordan: 5,000 speakers (2000 WCD), Nawar, Kurbat and Barake dialects.
  • Lebanon: 7,500 speakers reported in 1932.
  • Syria: 10,000 speakers reported in 1961, Nawari, Kurbat and Barake dialects
  • Israel and Palestinian Territories: 2000 speakers reported by Matras (1997), in rapid decline. Mostly in Jerusalem, but also in Bir Zeit and Gaza. Vocabulary is strongly influenced by Arabic and by Iranian languages.
  • Russia: Karachi dialect in the Caucasus, Luli and Maznoug dialects in Central Asia
  • Uzbekistan: Luli and Maznoug dialects
  • Sudan: Halabi and Ghajar clans


Further reading

  • 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.

External links



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