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LINGUIST List 24.1141

Thu Mar 07 2013

Review: Language Documentation; Historical Linguistics: Matras (2012)

Editor for this issue: Joseph Salmons <jsalmonslinguistlist.org>

Date: 30-Jan-2013
From: Bruno Hérin <b_herinyahoo.com>
Subject: A Grammar of Domari
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Book announced at http://linguistlist.org/issues/23/23-4078.html

AUTHOR: Yaron Matras
TITLE: A Grammar of Domari
SERIES TITLE: Mouton Grammar Library [MGL] 59
PUBLISHER: De Gruyter Mouton
YEAR: 2012

REVIEWER: Bruno Hérin, Université Libre de Bruxelles

This book is the first full-length grammatical description of the Domari
dialect spoken in Jerusalem. Domari is an Indo-Aryan language spoken
throughout the Middle East by isolated service providing populations whose
self-appellation is Dom. The volume will be of great interest to students of
Indo-Aryan languages and more generally anyone interested in the linguistic
diversity of the Middle East. All the speakers of Jerusalem Domari being
bilingual Domari/Arabic, this description offers also an insightful case study
in contact linguistics and as such should interest scholars involved in the
study of contact phenomena. The book consists of 14 chapters covering most
levels of linguistic analysis. The four last chapters include discussions of
the Arabic component, a selection of texts and a lexicon.

In Chapter 1, “Introduction”, Matras discusses background information such as
ethnographic data about the Dom and the sociolinguistics of the language. The
dramatic state of endangerment of Jerusalem Domari is striking: it is
estimated that only 10 to 20 fluent speakers are still alive. Matras further
discusses previous work on the language, largely restricted to word lists
dating back to the 19th century and a grammatical sketch of the very same
variety published at the beginning of the 20th century (Macalister 1914).
Fragmentary data about other varieties are also dealt with and the author
finally attempts to characterise the differences between southern and northern
dialects of Domari. Also discussed is the relation between Domari and Romani.
Romani is the Indo-Aryan language spoken by the Roma, and Domari has often
been referred to as a variety of Romani. This view clearly appears to be
inaccurate and there is “no evidence that Domari and Romani ever constituted a
single language, at any period in their development; but there is on the other
hand plenty of evidence that they underwent shared developments as a result of
sharing the same geo-linguistic environments during successive periods” (27).
Fieldwork was carried out in Jerusalem between 1996 and 2000. The linguistic
data on which the description is based consists of elicited material,
narratives and conversations. Although no particular theoretical model is
adhered to, two broad assumptions underlie this work. The first is that
pragmatics is considered a “method of analysis” and not merely a “single
component of language” (33). The second assumption pertains to Matras’
characterisation of what a language is. Domari being in many ways fusional
with its contact language Arabic, Matras defines it “as the repertoire
components that speakers activate when they define their discourse as
‘Domari’” (34-35).

In Chapter 2, “Phonology”, a structural account of Jerusalem Domari phonology
is provided. A system of seven short vowels is posited: /a, e, i, o, u, ɔ, ʌ/.
Although minimal pairs are hard to find, length is distinctive and five long
vowels are identified: /ā, ē, ī, ō, ū/. The consonantal system largely
reflects that of the contact language, Arabic. This materialises in the
presence of a set of two pharyngeals (/ħ/ and /ʕ/) and a set of pharyngealised
consonants. Interestingly, pharyngealisation also spread to pre-Arabic items.
Nevertheless, Domari maintained distinctions absent from Arabic such as /b/ -
/p/ and a three way distinction between /k/, /g/ and uvular /q/.
Suprasegmental phonology is dealt with only in a paragraph on stress. Matras
concludes with an insightful paragraph about historical phonology, situating
Domari in the Indo-Aryan group.

In Chapter 3, “Parts of speech and grammatical inflection”, the author departs
from a categorisation purely based on semantic-pragmatic criteria because it
blurs the relation between function and morphosyntactic properties and adopts
a characterisation based on inflection. Word classes are thus identified
according to their inflectional properties. Matras isolates eight paradigmatic
categories: gender, number, Layer I case marking, Layer II case marking,
person inflection, TMA markers, an indefiniteness marker and non-verbal
predication markers. Combining these paradigmatic categories with inflectional
properties, Matras identifies the following parts of speech: noun,
demonstrative, interrogative, indefinite, personal pronoun, local relation
expression, adjective, numeral, gerund, participle, 3SG past tense verb,
finite verb, adverb, and particle. None of these categories are inflectionally
identical (particles remain uninflected). In the remainder of the chapter,
Matras reviews these paradigms considering the following macro-categories:
inflection, TMA, gender-number-person and non-verbal predication.

In Chapter 4, “Nouns and nominal inflection”, Matras starts with nominal
derivation and identifies a limited number of suffixes such as -īš to create
verbal nouns from verbal roots, and -wāy to derive abstract nouns from
adjectives.. On the whole, the only truly productive derivational suffix in
Jerusalem Domari is the feminine ending -ī and derivation is a marginal
procedure in expanding the lexicon. Broadening is sporadically attested: qarwi
“bitter (F)” > “coffee”, nohra “red” > “tomato” and “Englishman”. There are
two genders: masculine and feminine. Masculine nouns most often end in -a and
feminine nouns in -ī. Nouns can also end in a consonant, in which case gender
is not predictable. Gender governs agreement patterns of demonstratives,
adjectives and past-tense verbs in the 3SG. Matras also makes clear that
previous statements that Domari kept the neuter are inaccurate. Plural is
marked on nouns by the ending -e and extends to demonstratives, adjectives,
and numerals. Plural marking is also instantiated in oblique cases through the
ending -an. This ending is, according to Matras, also used to mark other
categories such as the free 3SG pronoun pandži pl. pandžan bound pronouns
-o/-i-m-an (1PL), -o/-i-r-an (2PL), -o/-i-s-an (3PL) . Jerusalem Domari also
imports the plural form of items borrowed from Arabic and frequently marks
them with the ending -e: dakākīn-e (< Arabic dukkān “shop” plural
dakākīn; Arabic relies mostly on non-concatenative morphology to form the
plural). Gender marking is neutralised with inherited numerals (dī “two” and
taran “three”), while numerals imported from Arabic below ten impose plural
agreement (as in Arabic). The language exhibits an indefiniteness marker -ak,
similarly found in other Indo-Aryan languages and in Kurdish, a former contact
language of Jerusalem Domari. Definitness is overtly expressed only in
differential object marking whereby the noun in object position is marked for
oblique case if it is definite. The remainder of the chapter deals with case
marking and possessive bound pronouns. Case marking in Domari is very similar
to what is found in other Indo-Aryan languages, most notably Romani. Matras
identifies three layers. Layer I markers developed directly from Old
Indo-Aryan and mark a nominative/oblique opposition. Layer II markers are a
set of markers that arose out of the integration of Middle Indo-Aryan
postpositions, while Layer III consists of borrowed Arabic postpositions.
Layer I oblique marking is sensitive to gender, roughly masculine -as and
feminine -a. Gender is neutralised in the plural with a common marker -an.
Layer I marks definite objects and mediates between the noun and Layer II
markers. Matras identifies five Layer II cases and six markers (two of them
alternate). Domari marks possession on nouns by bound pronouns that also
attach to verbs and a closed set of “local relations expressions” (164). When
bound pronouns are attached, oblique marking is apparent in the singular, but
not in the plural: bar-om “my mother (NOM)”, bar-im- “my brother (OBL)”,
bar-oman “our brother (NOM/OBL)”.

In Chapter 5, “Noun modifiers”, Matras starts with genitive constructions. The
main constituent order in present-day Jerusalem Domari is head-modifier, while
older sources refer to modifier-head, now marginal. This change is explained
by convergence towards Arabic in which the order head-modifier prevails. The
rest of the chapter deals with demonstratives, numerals, adjectives and
quantifiers. The lengthiest part treats numerals, since Jerusalem Domari has
borrowed all numerals above five wholesale from Arabic. The outcome is an
entire Arabic grammatical sub-system integrated into Jerusalem Domari, making
a synchronic account complex. Matras opportunely summarises the agreement
patterns saying that “The first, consisting of inherited ‘2-3’, neutralises
morphological plurality on the noun. The second, consisting of Arabic-derived
‘4-10’, requires morphological plurality on the noun. The third, also from
Arabic, covers numerals above ‘10’, and again neutralises plurality marking on
the noun.” (200). Matras identifies a class of adjectives that inflect for
gender and number. Here also the older order modifier-head is disappearing in
favour of the Arabic order head-modifier. A striking point is the reliance of
speakers of Jerusalem Domari on Arabic items for comparative forms: tilla
“big” but Arabic akbar “bigger”.

Chapter 6, “Pronominal categories” starts with personal pronouns. These can be
free or bound. Intricacies arise when describing case marking on personal free
pronouns in Jerusalem Domari, as these are the outcome divergent historical
processes involving free and bound forms, Layer II markers and a set of “local
relations expressions” whose etymology is rather opaque. Pronominal
demonstratives are treated in this section (adnominal use is described in
Chapter 5). Two series, “proximate” and “remote”, that both inflect for
gender, number and case are identified. Opposition of distance is neutralised
only in the nominative case for F.SG. and PL. Matras further provides a rather
thorough pragmatically oriented description of the use of demonstratives.
Interesting is the existence in Jerusalem Domari of third person “enclitic
subject pronouns” (225) that attach to the interrogative kate “where” and the
presentative haṭe: kate-ta “where is he?” and haṭe-ta “there he is”. Also
noteworthy is the use of what Matras calls “Arabic referential devices” (226).
These are Arabic bound pronouns whose selection is compulsory with the
borrowed Arabic particle iyyā- (a pronominal object carrier) and the Arabic
pseudo-verb bidd- “want”. The interrogatives are mostly inherited, although
qadēš (< Arabic qaddēš) “how much” and waqtēš “when” (< rural
Palestinian Arabic waktēš) are commonly found. For indefinites, Jerusalem
Domari relies mostly on Arabic material, except ekak “someone”, kiyak
“something” and šinak “a little”. The same goes for the expression of
reflexive and reciprocal constructions.

Chapter 7, “Verb inflection, modals and auxiliaries” is a detailed analysis of
verbal morphology. The Domari verb consists of a lexical root to which
derivation, aspect/modality, subject, object, and tense markers are suffixed
in a linear order. Jerusalem Domari derives verbs from non-verbs by
incorporating the markers -ka(r)- and -(h)o-/-(h)r- from the verbs ka(r)- and
(h)o-/(h)r- meaning respectively “do” and “become”. This process is used to
integrate Arabic verbs. The use of the former or the latter is governed
roughly by transitivity. Along with Romani, Domari is the only New Indo-Aryan
language that has kept a present tense conjugation based on the suffixation of
subject markers descending from Middle Indo-Aryan, while the past tense
conjugation was remodelled from participial forms. Jerusalem Domari has three
markers used in existential constructions: the root ho- to express a change of
state, ašti to express existence and possession, and a set of predication
markers. The rest of the chapter deals with the expression of tense, aspect
and modality. Domari has no infinitive and, like other languages of the
region, relies on subjunctive marking in embedded non-factual predication. In
the area of modals and auxiliaries, it is striking to see that Jerusalem
Domari draws almost exclusively on Arabic material with the sole exception of
the inherited root saka- “to be able”.

In Chapter 8, “Local and temporal relations”, the author describes how
Jerusalem Domari expresses spatial, temporal relations, thematic roles because
the devices used in the expression of these semantic categories largely
overlap. These are Layer II markers, a set of “inherited spatial expressions”
that exhibit a variety of syntactic behaviours, “person-inflected case
markers” and up to 24 Arabic prepositions (294). The expression of the subject
and object roles are first covered then peripheral source and association, and
spatial and temporal relations.

In Chapter 9, “Clause structure”, Matras first examines “Nominal clauses”
whose canonical form consists of two nominal components. The first “takes on
the subject-topic role” (313) and is usually sentence initial whereas the
second is marked with a predication marker. In a pragmatically oriented way,
information structure is described as a tripartite division of an utterance:
pre-verbal field, finite verb and post-verbal field. Information structure in
Jerusalem Domari largely reflects that of the contact language. Matras further
describes interrogative and imperative clauses. Complex clauses are shown to
rely exclusively on Arabic conjunctions and connectors. There is thus
wholesale replication from Arabic for relativisation, complementation,
causality, and conditionals. The last part deals with negative clauses.
Jerusalem Domari exhibits split negation in the present tense, with the
prefixation of the inherited marker n- and the accented suffix -eʔ. The marker
n- often drops -eʔ is left alone to mark negation. Such a pattern also appears
to be a case of convergence towards the Palestinian Arabic pattern. Negation
in the subjunctive/imperative and the past tense relies also on n- and is
interchangeable with Arabic ma-. Jerusalem Domari also borrowed other Arabic
negation morphemes such mišš, mostly used in non-verbal predication, and the
second element of the Arabic split-negation morpheme -š.

In Chapter 10, “Adverbs and particles”, are defined as a “fuzzy and
ill-defined category” that includes elements whose “common feature is their
lack of inflectional morphology and their tendency to have modifying scope
over an entire propositional content” (352). Here also it is striking to see
that Jerusalem Domari relies heavily on Arabic, with the exception of a
limited number of inherited items such as ghay “well”, bol “much”, ihni “so”,
and other local and temporal adverbs. An interesting borrowing is the focus
particle gēna “also”, derived from Turkish. Other particles such as
interjections, quotation particle, modal particles, fillers and tags are all
replicated from Arabic. Matras traces the “quotation particle” (359) qal back
to the Arabic verb qāl “he said” and its grammaticalisation path from an
inflected verb to an uninflected particle is specific to Domari and unattested
in Palestinian Arabic.

Chapter 11, “The Arabic component”, reviews all the grammatical structures
that, though replicated from Arabic, “constitute a stable and integral part of
the structural inventory of Domari” (368). Matras being also very active in
the field of contact linguistics (Matras 2009), it comes as no surprise that
this chapter draws primarily on his research and is well integrated into the
grammatical description. Categories that are prone to replication are treated
first. These are lexicon, phonology and discourse markers. Amongst the
borrowed lexical items, one finds also terms that overlap with the inherited
lexicon. These are borrowed in their original phonological shape, making the
Arabic inventory available to speakers. As far as discourse markers are
concerned, Matras notes that there is now ample evidence that this category is
amongst the most prone to replication. His main argument is that bilingual
speakers in bilingual communities tend to reduce the burden of keeping to the
two systems apart by generalising “just one set of interaction-regulating
structures across the repertoire” (371). As far as morphological and syntactic
borrowing is concerned, Matras reminds us that derivational morphology is more
easily borrowed than inflectional morphology. It thus appears strange that
Domari doesn’t seem to have borrowed any ‘derivational segment’ from Arabic.
The first explanation for this is that speakers of Domari largely integrate
Arabic roots into their speech, rendering the borrowing of inflectional
morphology redundant. The second reason is that Arabic makes only limited use
of concatenative morphology and isolating derivational morphemes is
impossible. While the identification of Arabic-derived morphemes is
impossible, the integration of free function words is widely attested
(relativiser, complementiser, auxiliaries, and conjunctions). This also
extends to the syntax and semantics of phrases, clauses, sentences, simple and
complex. Matras calls this “convergence in form-function mapping” or “pattern
replication” (374), as opposed to “matter replication” (Matras 2009). Domari
is characterised as a language with “heavy borrowing” (377). Such a notion is,
although somewhat impressionistic, justified in the case of Jerusalem Domari
because the extent of borrowing goes beyond structures that are easily
transferred in contact situations. We find thus the total replication of
“Arabic local and temporal expressions” (377), Arabic core prepositions such
as maʿ “with”, min “from”, and paradigm inflections of a group of “aspectual
and modal auxiliaries”. From a “system-oriented” point of view (379), there
are two different types of Arabic-derived material. The first is elements for
which Domari has no internal alternative. The second type is categories for
which Domari possesses inherited options. The question of when one is dealing
with borrowing versus code-switching in the context of Jerusalem Arabic is
quite complex and Matras suggests that it should be seen as a continuum.
Typically, borrowings will be the first type, morphologically integrated into
Domari, while code-switching is defined as “optional insertions of words as
well as entire phrases and utterances, often intentionally for special
conversational and stylistic effects” (381-382). In conclusion, although it
may be tempting to consider Jerusalem Domari a mixed language, such a
characterisation is improper because the Arabic and Indic components are not
complementary and their use is stylistically contrastive. This massive
intertwining of both components leads Matras to conclude that “languageness”
in multilingual contexts should not be considered in terms of separate systems
but rather focus on “speakers’ modes of negotiating their entire personal and
collective repertoires of linguistic and communicative structures” (390).

Chapter 12, “Samples of talk”, contains five texts with translations and
morphological glossing. Happily, the corresponding audio files are accessible
on the publisher’s website.

Chapter 13, “Notes on the Domari lexicon”, discusses the nature of the lexicon
in the recordings. Strikingly, only one third of the items are of pre-Arabic
origin, comprising inherited (Indo-Aryan), Iranian and Turkic items. This is
balanced however by the fact that basic vocabulary “shows much higher
dependency on inherited lexemes” (428).

Chapter 14, “Domari vocabulary”, provides a glossary of the material retrieved
from the corpus. Matras provides a translation, part of speech and language of
origin (Arabic, Turkish, Kurdish and Persian).

This work offers a thorough description of the variety of Domari spoken in
Jerusalem. The time-depth between the fieldwork (late 1990s) and this
publication clearly indicates that the author provides us a mature analysis,
patiently refined over a decade. Jerusalem Domari is a highly endangered Indic
language in intense contact, whose last speakers are all bilingual in
Palestinian Arabic and it exhibits layers of mainly Kurdish elements and more
marginally Persian and Turkish. The author clearly demonstrates an in-depth
expertise in the fields required to deal with this configuration: contact
linguistics, intimate knowledge of Palestinian Arabic and previous contact
languages of Jerusalem Domari, and knowledge of languages with parallel
profiles such as Romani.

The coverage of grammatical structures is relatively comprehensive and the
general function-to-form organisation will help typologists quickly find their
way around. The only area that receives limited attention is suprasegmental
phonology and a more detailed analysis of stress assignment and intonational
patterns would have been welcome. For instance, Matras states that it is not
possible to recognise borrowings on phonological grounds because the phonology
of Arabic was integrated wholesale into Domari (381). However, the language
seems to have kept a separate lexical stress pattern. Accordingly, items
integrated into Domari should be stressed differently than in Arabic (as
acknowledged on page 62). A discussion of stress assignment in verbs borrowed
from Arabic could also provide further evidence about the degree of structural
integration between the two components of complex verbs.

As far as the current contact language is concerned, the author clearly
demonstrates a deep knowledge of Palestinian Arabic, which allows him to
provide us with a thorough analysis of the interactions between Domari and
Arabic. The extent of intertwining between the two languages is so great that
one may be tempted to say that writing about the grammar of Jerusalem Domari
is also about writing about the grammar of Jerusalem Arabic. Arabic
dialectology is a very active field and many reliable descriptions covering
most of the varieties of Arabic are available. References to these works may
have given in some cases further explanations about the semantics of
Arabic-derived material. This can be exemplified with the particle atāri
(360-361), commonly found in the eastern dialects of Arabic, about which
Matras says that “its original lexical meaning is one of approximation --
‘just like’ --”. The meaning of this particle is indeed opaque but recent
studies shed new light on it and describe it as an “evidential presentative”
(Henkin 2010:141-142). Apart from these two minor remarks on phonology and
references to works in Arabic dialectology, the book is written in a clear and
rich style which makes it easy to read. It will benefit everyone interested in
language contact, Indo-Aryan languages, including students of Romani, and
other ‘Gypsy’ languages. Also valuable to the field of grammaticography is the
author’s efforts to put pragmatics at the centre of linguistic description.

Matras, Yaron. 2009. Language Contact. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Henkin, Roni 2010. Negev Arabic. Wiesbaden: Harrassowitz.

Herin, Bruno. 2012. The Domari Language of Aleppo (Syria). Linguistic
Discovery 10.2. 1-52.

Dr Bruno Hérin teaches Arabic at the Université Libre de Bruxelles (Brussels,
Belgium). His research is on Arabic dialectology, and on minority languages of
the Middle East.
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