This book "asserts that the origin and spread of languages must be examined primarily through the time-tested techniques of linguistic analysis, rather than those of evolutionary biology" and "defends traditional practices in historical linguistics while remaining open to new techniques, including computational methods" and "will appeal to readers interested in world history and world geography."
Date: Mon, 06 Mar 2006 03:41:08 +0100 From: Viktor Elšík Subject: General and Applied Romani Linguistics
EDITORS: Schrammel, Barbara; Halwachs, Dieter W.; Ambrosch, Gerd TITLE: General and Applied Romani Linguistics SUBTITLE: Proceedings from the 6th International Conference on Romani Linguistics SERIES: LINCOM Studies in Indo-European Linguistics H29 PUBLISHER: LINCOM Europa YEAR: 2005
Viktor Elšík, Department of Linguistics and Finno-Ugric Studies, Charles University, Prague
The book under review is a proceedings volume from the Sixth International Conference on Romani Linguistics held in 2002 in Graz, Austria. The editors of this volume, who are all affiliated with Karl- Franzens-Universität in Graz (the first named editor is, in addition, a PhD student at the University of Manchester), were also the organizers of the conference. The volume consists of 15 papers on Romani, an Indo-Aryan language spoken by Roms and related groups (''Gypsies'') in Europe and beyond, plus an ''Introduction'' (pp. 1-6) by two of the editors, Barbara Schrammel and Dieter W. Halwachs.
The remaining papers are grouped into five thematic sections. Section 1 contains two papers on Romani dialectology. Yaron Matras, in his ''The classification of Romani dialects: a geographic-historical perspective'' (pp. 7-22), argues for a structure diffusion model of Romani dialects, and against a strictly genealogical, migration-based, model, which has been common in Romani linguistics. The author exemplifies major diffusion processes within Romani and provides them with an historical interpretation. Birgit Igla's paper ''Sinti-Manuš: aspects of classification'' (pp. 23-42) looks into the internal diversity and external connections of a particular dialect group of Romani spoken in and around Germany, arriving at the conclusion that the group is ''astonishingly homogeneous'' (p. 40).
The descriptive Section 2 starts with ''The Plaščuny and their dialect: preliminary notes'' (pp. 43-47) by Lev N. Cherenkov. This paper is a brief report on a little known Rom group of southern Russia, with some remarks on their Romani dialect. The author's preliminary analysis of the scarce linguistic data suggests that the variety is closely related to the so-called North Central dialects of Romani, which are otherwise spoken in and around Slovakia. Irene Sechidou's ''The dialect of Ajios Athanasios'' (pp. 48-59) is a more substantial sketch, covering phonology and morphology, but not syntax, of a previously undescribed Romani dialect spoken in a neighbourhood of the city of Serres, Greece. ''The vestiges of Caló today'' (pp. 60-78) by Ignasi- Xavier Adiego is a descriptive study of what has remained of Spanish Caló, the secret Gypsy ethnolect of Spanish with numerous lexical and some grammatical borrowings from Romani. Unlike most of the 20th century Caló research, this paper provides original and reliable data acquired through fieldwork. Zoran Lapov's ''The Romani groups and dialects in Croatia: with a special emphasis on the Romani borrowings in the Croatian language'' (pp. 79-89) presents an overview of the numerous subethnic Rom groups in Croatia, including notes on their ethnolinguistic vitality. In the second part of the paper, the author analyzes 13 Romani loanwords in colloquial Croatian.
Consisting of five papers, the historical linguistic Section 3 is the largest of all. Desislava Draganova's ''Turkish verbs in Bulgarian Romani'' (pp. 90-98) is a comparative study on patterns of morphological integration of Turkish loanverbs in four Romani dialects of Bulgaria. The paper shows that although loanverbs from Turkish generally retain much of their source language inflection in Romani, Turkish morphology is subject to various language-internal (and dialect-specific) restructuring processes. Using a sample of three Romani dialects of Austria, Barbara Schrammel's ''Borrowed verbal particles and prefixes: a comparative approach'' (pp. 99-113) explores the role of language contact in the development of directionality and actionality markers in Romani, including their contact-induced grammaticalization from spatial adverbs. Helena Pirttisaari adopts ''A functional approach to the distribution of participle suffixes in Finnish Romani'' (pp. 114-127), showing how paradigm analogy, iconicity, and typological convergence with Finnish conspire in triggering the extension of a borrowed (Greek-derived) participle suffix into the indigenous (Indo-Aryan) lexicon. Norbert Boretzky, in his paper ''Metathesis and other, functionally related, sound changes in Romani'' (pp. 128-143), classifies the rather numerous instances of metathesis, prothesis and aphaeresis in the development of Romani and its dialects. He adopts a functional view of these phonological changes, relying on Vennemann's (1988) findings concerning universal preferences for syllable structure. Gitte Grønning Simonsen's paper tracks down the ''Semantic changes in body parts from Sanskrit to Romani'' (pp. 144-149), more precisely to the extinct but well described Welsh Romani.
Section 4 on computational linguistics contains a single contribution, ''ROMTWOL: an implementation of a two-level morphological processor for Finnish Romani'' by Kimmo Granquist (pp. 150-162). Though the paper describes the formal structure of a language-specific implementation of a morphological parser, it also entails a rather detailed and useful sketch of inflectional morphology of Finnish Romani, an underdescribed and rather aberrant Romani variety.
The sociolinguistic Section 5 starts with Victor A. Friedman's ''The Romani language in Macedonia in the third millennium: progress and problems'' (pp. 163-173). The paper describes the de-central, usage- based process of Romani standardisation in Macedonia and examines the challenges a stateless and non-territorial language like Romani poses to established models of language planning. Jelena Petrović and Lada Stefanović's ''Sociolinguistic aspects of language of Roma refugees from Kosovo: a comparative study'' (pp. 174-181) presents an overview of salient sociolinguistic issues in various groups of Kosovo Roms in Slovenia and parts of Serbia. The overview also includes groups such as Ashkali, whose members deny Rom ethnicity. The final paper in the volume, Elena Marushiakova and Vesselin Popov's ''Communications between nomadic Gypsy groups'' (pp. 182- 187), explores the patterns of out-group communication in three traditionally nomadic Rom groups of Bulgaria, showing how socioeconomic and cultural factors strongly disfavour linguistic contacts between different nomadic groups, and between nomadic groups and groups of sedentary Roms.
Let me start with the defects of the book. First, I have a slight problem with the editor's characterization of Section 2 as containing ''descriptive studies on Romani varieties'' (p. 4), since only two papers out of four actually describe the structure of a Romani variety. Although Adiego's paper on Spanish Caló is a description of a variety that (a) is spoken by Gypsies, (b) contains a Romani-derived lexical component, and (c) is referred to as ''Spanish Romani'' by the author himself, Caló is *not* a variety of Romani in the genealogical sense; it is a variety of Spanish. Another contribution that does not seem to fit in Section 2 is Lapov's paper on Croatian Romani: the paper is basically sociolinguistic, although it also contains an appendix on Romani loanwords in Croatian, and so it would perhaps better fit the sociolinguistic Section 5. Unfortunately, I have not been able to see the academic relevance of Lapov's personal notes such as ''Šaban [a popular Romani singer] 'confessed' to me that 'the Zagreb audience is super!''' (p. 83).
Second, the editors could have done a better job with the English of some of the contributions. For example, the context reveals that the modal in ''improving sound change *must not* take place'' (p. 139; emphasis mine) was intended to express negated necessity (''need not'') rather than necessity of a negated proposition, but this confusing interference from the author's native German has remained uncorrected. Also, there is certain sloppiness with regard to diacritics in the graphical representation of some languages, almost exclusively in references. For example, while the Czech surname Elšík is spelled correctly in two contributions, three contributors have used Elšik (e.g. pp. 6, 41, 59) and one Elsik (e.g. p. 140). It should be the task of the editors to correct such misspellings, unless they want to arouse the cultural sensitivity of a potential reviewer.
There are not many factual errors in the volume. Corrections of some of those I have noticed follow: East Slovak Romani does *not* possess productive causatives (pp. 9- 10), and the lexeme 'day' does *not* show de-palatalisation of its initial dental in this dialect (p. 13); The Slavic-derived feminine suffix /-əc-/ may combine with indigenous noun bases in Sinti-Manuš (p. 23), e.g. /džen-əc-a/ 'female person' in Austrian Sinti; The North Central, but *not* the South Central, dialects possess the suppletive copula stem in /av-/ (p. 35); The lexeme /sapano/ 'wet' does exist in most North Central dialects (p. 39), although it is not documented in easily accessible sources; most modern varieties of Finnish Romani do possess a ''new'' infinitive of subjunctive origin (p. 40); and more.
Being a proceedings volume from a conference with such a general theme as 'Romani linguistics', the volume under review inevitably contains thematically and methodologically diverse contributions. The publisher's squib on the book's cover is quite correct in stating that ''[t]he collection reflects recent trends in Romani linguistics''. Apart from continuing efforts in documenting undescribed or underdescribed Romani varieties and in dialect classification, there is also a growing body of theoretically oriented contributions, which may be of interest to general sociolinguists, typologists, historical linguists and, especially, experts in language contact. All these subdisciplines are indeed represented in the volume. Several contributors made use of one of two major electronic resources that have recently become available for students of Romani, the Romani Lexical Database (ROMLEX) and the Romani Morphosyntactic Database (RMS). This is in line with another salient trend in Romani linguistics, viz. the use of modern technology for language documentation and research dissemination.
On the one hand, the volume suffers the usual proceedings' weakness of containing papers of unequal depth of analysis. On the other hand, there are several excellent contributions by junior researchers as well as by leading figures in Romani linguistics. If I were to highlight a single paper in this volume, I would choose Schrammel's well-thought-out and well-written paper on the contact- induced development of directionality and actionality markers in Romani. In my view, no one who works on Romani can afford to miss the book, which also contains several contributions that will be inspiring to linguists from outside the field of Romani studies.
RMS = 'The Romani Morphosyntactic Database'. Ed. by Viktor Elšík & Yaron Matras. University of Manchester.
ROMLEX = 'ROMLEX: Romani Lexical Database'. Ed. by Yaron Matras, Dieter W. Halwachs & Peter Bakker. http://romani.uni- graz.at/romlex.
Vennemann, Theo. 1988. 'Preference laws for syllable structures'. Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter.
ABOUT THE REVIEWER:
ABOUT THE REVIEWER
Viktor Elšík has worked as Research Assistant in the linguistics departments of the University of Manchester (1998-2004) and Charles University, Prague (since 2004). He has been involved in several international projects on language contact and linguistic typology, and has done extensive fieldwork on Romani. His publications include a book on Markedness and language change: the Romani sample (with Yaron Matras, Mouton de Gruyter 2006).