ARTICLE FROM LATEST BOOK: ROMA AND THE ROMANI LANGUAGE"
STANDARDIZED ROMANI LANGUAGE
Since the end of the last century, Roma increasingly wish to have teaching of the Romani language at schools, while living in certain places democratic countries. At first it was proposed to be taught as an elective subject, later as a mother tongue, just like other people who are pursuing an education in their mother tongue. Finally, people think about Romani language teaching at the university level, where the lectures will be totally delivered in Romani, where possible. But, as Roma live in different countries, such an educational plan is becoming very difficult. In some countries, where Roma live in Romani neighborhoods, such an educational framework is much easier to realize, whereas in other places, where Roma live far away between different states, organizing such education is much more difficult.
The educational framework in Romani language has encouraged Romani people to write books intended to be shared with other countries.
In each and every country, there were one or more Romani intellectuals or activists who, through their voluntary humanitarian activities, achieved to introduce the Romani language in the school system. For that purpose, many books have been written in and about the Romani language, which neither from the quality nor from the viewpoint of reality, correspond with what should really be done, and such initiatives made Romani people think and discuss how to establish a common and unique system for teaching the Romani language throughout the World.
In order to establish such a system, as a first step, initially it was needed to analyze all Romani dialects and to come up with a standardized Romani language which will be close to all Romani dialects (and above all) Romani grammar.
When speaking about a standardized Romani language, many Roma or non-Roma who are dealing with the Romani language and who intend to standardize the language, are waiting and expect others to do this favor for them. This indicates that, although these people have acquired much respect for Roma and the Romani language, they are not ready to discuss this topic. These people have written their works in non-Romani languages and therefore their knowledge is insufficient to standardize the language. Very few Roma remain who can do this work in the way it should be done, but unfortunately the mutual respect between Roma is very low, and as they hear other people’s ideas, they present it as theirs. Therefore they fail and loose the others along the way, who may be competitors in this topic. These Roma want to standardize the Romani language in their dialect without thinking of Romani grammar.
Although there were many attempts to standardize the Romani language, the first serious attempt of standardizing the Romani language was undertaken by Dr. Marcel Courthiade from France (more about other attempts in the book ” Roma and Romani language”).
This Romani linguist who researched many Romani dialects, initiated a great revolution to standardize the Romani language through his motto ”All Roma will write the same and every Roma will read in his or her own dialect” and he made many Roma believe in his idea. The insufficient knowledge of Romani people about the Romani language and grammar made them hesitate to confront his idea. No one denied that Marcel Courthiade is acting politically with Roma as well as with Romani grammar. Marcel’s politics was brought to light after the 4th International Romani Union Congress, because before that time, Roma were writing in their dialects, and were not dealing seriously with Romani grammar. After this congress Roma started thinking otherwise and started to believe in Marcel’s politics. Let me tell a little more about these political attempts.
1. In the Romani language, some people speak with k, and others speak with q (/tʃ/), for example kher “house” and qher (pronounced /tʃher/). In such cases Marcel in his system chooses kher and gives priority to those pronouncing these words with k. But when the consonant k is in the middle of the word, then the letter q (/tʃ/) is added and should be read as k or q (tʃ) depending on the dialect one speaks. But if we see where these words derive from, we will recognize the politics, as for example: tuke (/tuke/) and tuće(/tutʃe/) he writes as tuqe (/tutʃe/). Until this point everything is all right but if we see where this word comes from, we will see that this word comes from the question word kaske (“to whom”). Here we see that the last two letters of the word end with -ke and the response should be with -ke, tuke (/tuke/) and not tuqe (/tutʃe/).
- Kaske ka de akala mare?
- To whom will you give these loaves of bread?
- To you
The same applies to the questions: Kaski, kasko “Whose”; The response is: olaki, olako “his”.
2. In the words gelum (/gelum/) and jelum (/dʒelum/) “I have gone” as many different dialects are using, he has written the expression gelem with g. But when the letter is in the middle of the word, then q (/tʃ/) should be replaced with g or j (/dʒ/), where we clearly see the politics.
These are some of variants through which Marcel has misled the Roma and has done politics with Roma so as with Romani grammar.
In order to tell the truth about the Romani language, I have written a short book “Standardized Romani Language” some years ago, in which I have stated the most important issues to standardize the language. The entire work was published on the internet, so that everyone can have free access in order to explain the reality, but even though many Roma have seen it, nobody wanted to support, not that the system is wrong but because they did not want to disdain themselves.
After many years, all those who did not support my idea of a Standardized Romani language where gathered in Sarajevo (Bosnia 30. 07. 2011.), led by Dr. Rajko Djuric, where they have decided to standardize the Romani language. This duty has been given to Dr. Rajko Djuric and Dr. Latif Demiri, and at the end it came out that they supported everything that has been written in my book “Standardized Romani Language”. In order not to do it 100 percent as I said, they have used the Serbian alphabet for Romani and again gone away from the reality.
In the book by Dr. Rajko Djuric “Standardized Romani Language”, written in the Serbian language (it can be seen that he disagreed with Latif, because he has described the system on his own), the author brings out these issues and, consciously or not, he contradicts his “Romani Grammar” written in the Serbian language, translated into Romani by Aliya Krasniqi in the Gurbeti dialect. I will just show some of the issues which appear in my book which were borrowed by Dr. Rajko Djuric who opposed me and now even himself.
In order to standardize the Romani language he says that the varieties should use the forms below:
K instead of Q/tʃ (kerel “he does” and not qerel/tʃerel);
T instead of C (tikno “little”, not cikno);
Kh instead of Qh/tʃh (kher “house”, not qher/tʃher);
Qh/tʃh instead of Sh/ʃ (qhib/tʃhib “tongue, language”, not shib/ʃib);
G instead of j/dʒ (gili “song”, not jili/dʒili);
D instead of j/dʒ (dive “day”, not jive/dʒive);
J/dʒ instead of Dž/dʒdʒ (dʒivdo not dʒdʒivdo);
L instead of Lj (lil “letter” not ljil)…
After seeing all this written above and everything I have noticed in the writing of different dialects, I decided to explain further how the Romani language should be standardized, seeing that is the right time now.
Knowing that it is difficult to convince all Roma to learn through one particular system (Roma do not want to lose their dialects, as they consider their own dialect as their personal wealth, and the most valuable variety, they want to keep it), I also find it difficult to deal with this social reality. It is also difficult because Roma do not have a state of their own, where the language would be official and the dialects would remain as their domestic languages, but even now, when there will be a unified system, it is possible to preserve the dialects having them taught at universities.
It would be great to have a system which would include everyone’s dialect, but that does not exist in Romani grammar. However, it is also known that many countries standardized their languages without including all the dialects and this is very natural. We should take examples from the others how they standardized their languages and to apply the same in order not to differ from other countries.
It is interesting to see that the systematic nature of our language is very close to Turkish language, where even in the Turkish language there are dialects using differently the leter k and q/tʃ (köy-ҫöy “village”, iki – iҫi “two”), g and j (/dʒ/) (gel-cel “to come”, gül-cül “rose”) etc. For the standard language, they also took k instead of q/tʃ, and g instead of j/dʒ. Also from the point of the vowel system, the Turkish language is very similar to Romani language. Vowels play an important role in both languages, so when words begin with a strong vowel, they also end with a strong vowel. When they begin with a soft vowel, they end with a soft vowel, as for example in Turkish: kasaba “city”, kelime “word”, kirli “dirty”, köylü “villager” etc. Looking for the nature of the Romani language, we found the opening which teaches us how to write and speak, if we want to standardize our language and have a unique written standard. Therefore what we will teach about standard Romani language, is not our system, we did not make it up, but the Romani language system made it itself. We have only investigated it and we wanted to share everything we have found out with those that do not know and want to have a standardized Romani language.
In order to write Romani words, we should look which speech sounds arebeing heard in the Romani language and to connect every sound with the same letter, which we use to write the particular speech sounds. Therefore we should distinguish speech sounds from letters.
In the Romani language, based on our investigations, 26-2 speech sounds can be heard, and those speech sounds are written with 24 letters. We will use the Latin alphabet for writing the Romani language and we will write these sounds in Latin alphabet. We have chosen the Latin alphabet because Roma live in all parts of the World and as the Latin alphabet is being used in the entire World, it is perceived as international alphabet.
The Romani alphabet has this order:
Aa, Bb, Cc, Dd, Ee, Ff, Gg, Hh, Ii, Jj, Kk, Ll, Mm, Nn, Oo, Pp, Qq, Rr, Ss, Shsh, Tt, Uu, Vv, Yy, Zz.
The minus two speech sounds are C and F, which were borrowed by Romani speakers from non-Roma languages. If we leave them out, only 24 speech sounds will then remain in the Romani language, which are written with 22 letters.
As you see, every speech sound is written with only one letter, but only the sound Sh (/ʃ/) has been written with two letters in order to skip the important ups and downs and is read as in given examples: shil (/ʃil/) “cold”, shudro (/ʃudro/) “cold”, shuko (/ʃuko/) “dry”; mursha (/murʃa/) “men”, trushalo (/truʃalo/) “thirsty”, ushlo (/uʃlo/) “guilty, in debt”etc.
Also the letter L has two functions and places two pronunciations, soft and strong L. The sound L is read as soft when it is placed between the letters/speech sounds i and e, as for example: lil “letter”, kali “black”, thuli “fat”; tele “under”, mule “extinct”, kale “dark (people)”etc..
The speech sound L is read as strong when placed before the letters-speech sounds a, o, u, for example in: laqo “handsome”, bala “hair”, amala “friends”; lolo “red”, kalo “black”, mulo “dead”; luludi “flower”, lugo, luno ”tall” etc.
There are some words which do not correspond with this system but the Roma who speak Romani, will not face any problem in reading.
This system was chosen as it was also used for other languages, which also facilitated the alphabet.
In order to facilitate the alphabet, the letter combinations th, ph, kh, qh, were not introduced as separate letters as they are read as two sounds, and each sound has one letter.
Every speech sound in the Romani language is written separately as it is being heard and every letter is pronounced as it is written, this means that Romani writing is phonetic
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