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Autor: Marian Nuţu Cârpaci         Ediţia nr. 2573 din 16 ianuarie 2018        Toate Articolele Autorului

The History of the Romani Alphabet
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In 1990, 21 people in Warsaw signed a declaration, on behalf of more than a million Roma in Romania, accepting a literacy-destroying alphabet. Millions of Roma in the world did not know that these people decided on the adoption of a mixture of dialects, based on the Arli dialect, before the 1980s. This dialectal mix was decided by Saip Yusuf, obviously a speaker of Arli Romani, a dialect completely incomprehensible to the Roma in Romania, the country where the largest Roma population in Europe lives. Thus it was totally undemocratic.  
In the image above, we see the signatures of the participants. The scans of the document can be found at  
We will now elucidate the history of this mysterious character, Shaip Yusuf.  
In Shaip Yusuf's book, Romani gramatika (Naša Kniga, Skopie 1980), we read how 5 people decided which Romani language should be spoken by the Romanian Roma, specifically, a mixture of 3(!) Serbian dialects. These dialects are not understood by the Roma in Romania.  
"This grammar and lexicon is constructed from the dialects of Arli, Djambashi and Burgudji ... and from these dialects we expect to come the literary language of the Roma in [Macedonia and Serbia, etc.] and other places where the Roma live. "  
It is signed by the Roma writer Shaip Yusuf and references W.R. Rishi (Indian), Krim Toshev, Nedat Jasar, Nusret Sehaar.  
"... The authors ... who created a symbolism for the sounds heard in the Arli and Djambashi dialects, concluded that they are the same words as those of the Macedonian Roma, and to a great extent, those in Serbia and Kosovo. These dialects should be taken as a basis for future Romani literature." (P. 18)  
These plans to standardize the Romani language began more than 10 years before the Warsaw Convention in 1990. What defies logic and common sense is the decision to adopt an international language made by 4 people without millions of Roma knowing about it. These millions of Roma speak over 1000 dialects, which differ in pronunciation and even in some of their grammatical rules. They did not take into account the fact that the Roma in Romania only understand their own dialects. The phonology of the Romani languages differs from tribe to tribe. Even within the same dialect there may be different pronunciations for the same words. When Kalderash Roma from Romania encounter Arli Roma from Sofia or Kosovo, the Kalderash Roma hardly understand anything because there are major dialectal differences.  
The alphabet, in the initial form proposed in Shaip Yusuf's book, was copied identically from the strictly phonetic one used by Sampson (1920s), except for the Greek letters Theta and Delta, evidently an invention of the Warsaw Committee in 1990. The so-called research on the creation of a Romani language alphabet is a bold statement that is based on a lie, because we find Sampson (amongst other early researchers of Romani language) using the same symbols for Romani pronunciations as those used currently. In fact, in Sampson's book, we find almost all of the characters used today for the common alphabet of the Romani language, but which is not suitable for all Romani dialects, which are very numerous and different in how they pronounce the same words or in their grammatical rules. W. R. Rishi is cited as a reference for Shaip Yusuf's book, but in those days Mr. W. Rishi had only written a book comparing Hindi and Romani, with only 65 pages. It is very curious why Mr. Yusuf did not say a word about Mr. Sampson's book, in which he used the phonetic characters that are used today as an official alphabet (which none of the native Romani speakers can understand). The book by Mr. John Sampson, The Dialect of the Gypsies of Wales (1926), is a treasure of comparative linguistics between Hindi, Sanskrit and Romani, numbering more than 650 pages. Can it be compared to W. R. Rishi's book, Multilingual Romani Dictionary, with only 65 pages?  
We encounter Mr Saip Yusuf in Warsaw in 1990, when the common alphabet and language were adopted.  
Here is the list of people who decided before 1980, in the absence of millions of Roma, which language and which alphabet should be used:  
Shaip Yusuf and his references, W. R. Rishi (Indian), Krim Toshev, Nedat Jasar, and Nusret Sehaar.  
And the list of people, completely unknown to millions of Roma, who signed the alphabet decided in Warsaw:  
Sait Balic, Rajko Djuric, Georgi Demeter, Saip Yusuf, Mozes Heinschink, Andreej B. Lewkowicz, Ignacy Danka, Rene Gsell, Leksa Manus, A. Joshi, Iliaz Sabani, S.K. Thakar, Marcel Courthiade, Ian Hancock, Daroczi Agnes, Tadeusz Pobozniak , Lew Czerenkow, Viktor Kuptilow on behalf of UNESCO, Emil Scuka, and Stanislaw Stankiewicz.  
Representing India were: W. R. Rishi (creator of the Romani flag), A. Joshi, and S. K. Thakar.  
None of these gentlemen have studied the 1000+ Romani dialects in comparison with Indian languages (over 300) to determine their degree of similarity, and to decide which elements of Romani are shared, from the viewpoint of grammar and lexicon, with the languages of India. But the decision was taken, based on Marcel Courthiade's Ph.D. (1995), that dialects in Stratum I (decided by this gentleman to be the oldest) were preferred for study in the Romani language department of the University of Bucharest.  
Here are the dialects superior to the Kalderash dialect:  
The first stratum includes the oldest dialects: Mećkari (of Tirana), Kabuʒi (of Korça), Xanduri, Drindari, Erli, Arli, Bugurji, Mahaʒeri (of Pristina), Ursari (Rićhinari), Spoitori (Xoraxane), Karpatichi, Polska Roma, Kaale (from Finland), Sinto-manush, and the so-called Baltic dialects.  
In the second there are Ćergari (of Podgorica), Gurbeti, Jambashi, Fichiri, Filipiʒi (of Agia Varvara)  
The third comprises the rest of the so-called Gypsy dialects, including Kalderash, Lovari, Machvano.(  
Mr. Marcel Courthiade established on the basis of a comparison of only 9(!) words which dialects are correct. No one in this world can declare the correctness of a dialect without comparing it with the original language, in our case the languages ​​of India. We note that this gentleman named as superior dialects exactly the same dialects that Saip Yusuf chose as the basis for the creation of a literary Romani language. Without any study to establish correspondence with the Indian languages!!!! Marcel Courthiade placed the other Romani dialects (hundreds of them) into Stratum III, because they use the (supposedly) Greek suffix -imos. Courthiade did not know that they also use the Stratum I suffix -ibe in parallel with the Stratum III suffix -imos, in at least one instance: HAMOS / HABE. Namely, Kalderash speakers in the past used -ibe too, but they chose -imos in preference. My upcoming article demonstrates that the -imos suffix is Indian and Indo-European. So, placing the Kalderash dialect at the tail-end of his classification, just because of a single suffix, is unfounded from a scientific point of view.  
Mr. Gheorghe Sarău took up the unscientific division determined by Courthiade in his book, The Roma, India and the Romani Language (pages 140-141). Here's what Mr. Gheorghe Sarau says in the above-named book, on page 141:  
"As is easily observed, the dialects of the Spoitori and Ursari of Romania are placed in the first stratum of Romani dialects. In fact, their inclusion among these dialects was based on our claims (argued on the basis of facts of language and, in particular, following the publication of the article "Remarques sur les méthodes d'enseignement de la langue rromani dans les écoles roumaines" (comments on Romani language teaching methods in Romanian schools), with translations into English, Spanish and German, in the publication "Interface" of the René Descartes University in Paris (Sarau 1994 d, 9-12)."  
On page 139, Mr. Gheorghe Sarau summarizes the work of Courthiade as follows:  
"The idea of ​​such a classification is motivated, starting from the realities in the field, by the perceived differences between one dialect and another, which cannot be clearly denominated on the basis of isoglosses, precisely because of their characteristics fixed, as a result of the settlement of the speakers, who represent the various dialects from their respective dialectal areas, at different moments in history. Thus, Marcel Courthiade condenses the dialectal diversity of Romani into three successive layers of expansion and, within each of them, allows the existence of some traditional dialectal subdivisions (1995, 85-86). The author presents some of the main distinctive features of the dialects in Stratum I, the most archaic, and of the dialects in layers II-III, the newer ones..."  
What is an isogloss? Here's what wikipedia says:  
"An isogloss, also called a heterogloss, is the geographic boundary of a certain linguistic feature, such as the pronunciation of a vowel, the meaning of a word, or the use of some syntactic feature."  
Here's what Mr. Gheorghe Sarau says:  
"Due to the long-standing nomadic lifestyle of the speakers, dialectal divisions structured on geographically delimited isoglosses are unsuitable for describing dialectical divisions of the Rromani languages, and it is preferable to define three layers of evolution with their respective geographic extents." (The Roma, India and the Romani language, pp 159-160)  
But why were they unsuitable? Simply, because there are many dialects, and they were difficult to study. "We'd better reduce them, as the Roma are so uneducated and will have an intellectual orgasm when they see difficult words like 'isoglosses'. The Roma do not know the book, we can mislead them". In other words, Marcel Courthiade adopted in his Ph.D. thesis (Dialectological Structure of the Rromani Language, 1995), that which Saip Yusuf ordered.  
I, after 25 years of comparative study between the Romani dialects and 300 Indian dialects, have come to the conclusion that the Roma brought the current pronunciations and grammar from India. I will be publishing my book on this shortly. Therefore, we cannot declare one dialect better than others. All Romani dialects are treasures of both Indian, and universal, culture. Only their speakers are entitled to speak about them, because they know them best. An outsider, no matter how many studies he has made, will not know what a native Rom knows about his language.  
Dushlo dikhipen – a milked view???  
Here's what was falsely said about the Roma who complained that their dialects were not taken into account, in 2005, Lanciano-Pietraferrazzana, in the conference, Kidipe e Ćhibǎqe Komisiaqi An-o 6-to RROMANO KONGRESO, Pietraferrazzana, 2004-10-09:  
d) But śundǒl an-i Evròpa pal-i “ćingar e dialektenqi”, maj but katar-o muj e manuśenqo, save na vakǎren rromanes khere an-i famìlia thaj naj len duślo dikhipen an-i praktikani dialektològia : aver isi i naturàlo diferenciàcia e dialektenqi anda jekh ćhib, aver isi kana anda verver Thema bisterdǒn verver kotora e ćhibǎqe leksikaqe. (Source: 2005-RR-kongreso (1)  
"Much is heard in Europe about the 'dialect argument', mainly from the mouth of the people who do not speak Romani at home in the family, and they do not have a milked view of practical dialectology: another is the natural difference of dialects within one language, another is when in various countries various parts of the language's lexicon are forgotten."  
We do not know what milking cows has to do with the distorted view of the Romani lexicon. Dushlo means "milked" (masculine); maybe they meant to say dudalo - "bright", "clear". Only a cow can be dushli -- "milked", never a bull. The geni(t)al expression "duślo dikhipen" says a lot about the linguistic abilities of those who published the document. It would not make sense for people who do NOT speak Romani at home to have any objection against the language invented by Marcel Courthiade & Company. On the other hand, no-one can know all the Romani dialects, for the simple reason that there are more than 1000 of them!  
Article I at the congress spoke in the same false tone:  
"I ćhib rromani nane o theripe jekhe manuśesqo ni jekhe grupaqo; oj si o barvalipe sa e Rromenqo anda sa o sundal/lùmia thaj naśti te ovel objèkto kaj te barvalǒn gaʒikane struktùre an-o ziand e Rromenqo. Si te arakhlǒl jekh fòrma kaj te ovel labǎrdi i rromani ćhib vaś-o laćhipe e rromane ćhavenqo aj na te keren nesave manuśa personàlo indùstria laça."  
"The Romani language is not the possession of one person or of one group; it is the wealth of all Roma in all of the world and cannot be an object by which gadjikane [non Roma] structures are enriched to the detriment of the Roma. A form must be found in which the Romani language is used for the good of Roma children and not for anyone to make a personal industry out of it. "  
So much two-faced-ness in this distinguished era of the Romani language! In Warsaw, the alphabet was adopted without the Roma in Romania being consulted democratically. Indeed, competition is fierce, and the language is no longer the property of the Roma, but of the Kashtale and the Gadje, as they brilliantly recognize in "From Victimhood to Citizenship: the Path of Roma Integration":  
"One of the cultural markers most often considered as the basis for identity is language. As far as the speech of the Roma is concerned, the usual reference is the Romani language. For all that, the Romani language is NOT the language of 'the Roma.'"  
The assertion "the Romani language is NOT the language of 'the Roma'" can also be interpreted as a subtle acknowledgement of the fact that those who declare themselves Roma are not authentic Roma. And the enrichment of non-Roma structures based on the Romani language is an interesting topic of discussion, it being known that the majority of teachers of Romani are not native Roma.  
Article III is intended to require UNESCO to accept what these distinguished unelected representatives of the Roma say:  
"Te ispidas o UNESCO aj i CIEMEN kaj te ovel buxlǎrdo an-i avindi Deklaràcia vaś-e Ćhibutne Hakaja kotar-i Barcelòna o than e rromane ćhibǎqo thaj avere ćhiběnqo bi kompaktone teritoriaqo."  
"Let us compel/encourage UNESCO and CIEMEN that, in the forthcoming Barcelona declaration on linguistic rights, ​​the place of the Romani language and of other non-territorial languages should be enlarged."  
Article IV aims to compel the Roma to accept the language and the alphabet against their will, just because these gentlemen have experence at milking the language (o dushlipen la chibiako):  
"Te kerdǒl implementàcia e khetane rromane alfabetaqi, nakhindor prdal personàlo thaj politikane ćingara an-e verver Thema, odolesqe so i barvali eksperiènca, misalaqe an-e Rumùnia, an-i Itàlia aj Frànca, an-i Serbia, an-i Albània, an-i Kosòva thaj kola sikavdas so akaja alfabèta si la evroputni dimènsia thaj baro rendimènto an-i relàcia lekhavipen-drabaripen. Lokhǎrel i komunikàcia thaj del pativ sa e lektenqe."  
"That the common Romani alphabet be implemented, bypassing personal and political quarrels in other nations, because a rich experience, for example in Romania, Italy, France, Serbia, Albania, Kosovo, etc., has demonstrated that this alphabet has a European dimension and great benefit in the reading-writing relationship. To ease communication and respect all dialects."  
The author, in his enthusiasm, forgot to write "dialektenqe", and wrote "lektenqe", but we can forgive him that, it is not a major mistake. It is simply that we want Mr. Gheorghe Sarau to correct the work and to give a commendation to the drunken writer for his Olympian enthusiasm. In fact, the "alphabet" does not honor any dialect, for the simple reason that it cannot cover the phonology of all dialects. The dialects of the Roma are very varied. Examples of words that can (not) be written with the Courtiade alphabet, but the Roma do not understand them, because they have never heard them pronounced in that way in their home community:  
Makhi, maci, mathi -- fly / drunk.  
Buti / buci / buki / butsi -- work.  
Ghi, ji, dzi, vogi, ogi, vogi, odzi -- spirit.  
Bahtalo, bastalo -- fortunate.  
The list could be continued indefinitely. What Mr. Courthiade does not know is that in India, pronunciation is the same, namely, we find all the Romani pronunciations there. That is to say, in India "fly" is pronounced both "makhii", and "macii". In other words, the dogma of adopting a single alphabet and dialect is worthless. Because the Roma came with their dialects in their current form from India. That strikes at the heart of Courthiade's theory, that the Romani language has acquired the current transformations in Europe. Mr. Courthiade divided the Romani language into three linguistic strata, of which the last stratum, the most corrupt and unworthy of being a literary language, in his opinion, is that of Kalderash and Lovari. Courthiade was able to dogmatize this after comparing only 9 Romani words with dialectal variants. Without comparing them with the Indian languages.  
Article VIII talks about BIG BROTHER, the Romani version:  
"Te vazdinǒl jekh rromane-ćhibǎqo kontèksto, kana barǒl o ćhavorro, te ovel les śajutnipen te lel ʒanimàta, siklǒmàta thaj khelimàta vi p-i rromani ćhib, vi p-e gaʒikane ćhibǎ, kaj te dikhǒl normal e dadenqe aj e dajenqe te vakǎren rromanes khere penqe ćhavorrença. Nùmaj anda kasave trujalimàta śaj te pheras e dajenqi thaj e dadenqi godi kaj te na ćhinen i rromani ćhib."  
"That there be constructed a Romani language context, when the child is growing up, so that he/she has the possibility to acquire knowledge, education and games in both Romani and foreign languages, so that it seems normal to the fathers and mothers to speak Romani at home with their children. Only in these circumstances will we be able to fill the minds of the parents so that they do not cut [separate] the Romani language. "  
This article, if it appeared without the others, would be good. But the Romani language to which it refers is a language invented by Marcel Courthiade. The Roma do not understand it.  
Signatories to those articles: Margarita Reiznerová, Kasum Cana, Bajram Haliti, Agim Saiti, Santino Spinelli, Marcel Courthiade, Florina Zoltan, Valdemar Kalinin, Ali Krasnići, Florin Cioabă, Normunds Rudevičs & Zlatko Mladenov.  
Gheorghe Sarău, Romii, India și limba Romani, editura Kriterion, 1998.  
Saip Yusuf, Romani gramatika, Naša Kniga, Skopje, 1980.  
Studia Romologica 2/2009.  
Translated from Romanian by Dr. Natalia Ivend  
Referinţă Bibliografică:
The History of the Romani Alphabet / Marian Nuţu Cârpaci : Confluenţe Literare, ISSN 2359-7593, Ediţia nr. 2573, Anul VIII, 16 ianuarie 2018.

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