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By Matras, Yaron

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The corresponding back vowels pose some classification difficulties. As we will see below, straightforward meaningful contrasts are difficult to establish, while at the same time these vowels stand out well as a group in contrast to neighbouring clusters. There are in fact reasons to view the mid-back cluster as a single phonemic value. Not only is ࣜ, but also ɬ, rather rare; but the latter is also highly predictable, as it is found mainly in positions preceding the semi-vowel segments Z and \.

In phonology, they both undergo a shift in the cluster /nt/ to /nd/, which is common in the region. The languages by now show differences in the realisation of the inherited medial stop – /r/ in Domari (JDUD ‘gone’), /l/ in Romani (JHOR) – but proceed toward a shared replacement of 22 Chapter 1: Introduction internal retroflex sounds through /r/ (OIA KDʼʼD, Domari [DU ‘bone’, Romani KHURM). It is very likely that the loss of voiced aspirated stops took place in contact with the Dardic languages (which also lose them), though its effects are different in the two languages: In Domari aspiration simply disappears and the voiced stops remain (OIA EKDJLQҮ, Domari EHQ ‘sister’), while in Romani voiced aspirates merge with voiceless aspirates (SKHQ), and word-internal aspiration is transferred to initial segments (OIA JDQGKD, Domari JDQ ‘stink’, Romani NKDQG).

For the Bahlawan population of metalworkers, Streck (1996: 295–297) documents several dozen words of Domari origin that are used as a “secret language” among group members, embedded into their local dialect of Arabic. In many cases, frozen grammatical inflections accompany the vocabulary items: LNLRVV ‘eye’ (N\RV ‘his eye), VDQWDVV ‘dog’ (VQRWDV ‘dog [direct object]’), NXWXUMHVV ‘European’ (NWXUDV ‘Christian [direct object])’, VKHULD ‘knife’ (߂LU\D ‘knife [direct object]’), SLUQ ‘nose’, VXWDUL ‘to sleep’ (VXWDUL ‘he/she sleeps’), TRWDUL ‘to steal’ (TDIWDUL ‘he/she steals’).

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A Grammar of Domari by Matras, Yaron

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