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View Diary: A Jew Gene Jamboree! (253 comments)

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  •  Welsh Gypsy... (3+ / 0-)

    I thought Gypsies stopped at Romania?  How do you trace Welsh Gypsies? Are they still a distinct minority?

    Intelligence is the new black.

    by chillindame on Fri Dec 04, 2009 at 04:58:00 PM PST

    [ Parent ]

    •  No, they didn't stop at Romania! (7+ / 0-)

      Romania is where they're most numerous, but they spread all over Europe. In particular, many of them moved to Spain, where they contributed greatly to the foundation of flamenco music; they were expelled from Spain along with the Jews and Muslims in 1492, and a subset of these expellees moved into Wales and formed a sizeable community. Nowadays the Welsh Gypsies have largely assimilated into the general population and abandoned the Romani language. For example, by the 1940s (when my grandmother came here), the family lived a settled life while maintaining various Gypsy traditions within the family. In fact the family didn't even self-identify as Gypsy anymore, and my grandmother was unaware of that identity until it was corroborated by genetic and genealogical evidence.

      "The work goes on, the cause endures, the hope still lives, and the dream shall never die." - Ted Kennedy

      by Lazar on Fri Dec 04, 2009 at 05:57:29 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  Gypsies (7+ / 0-)

      Are found throughout Europe and, indeed, throughout the world; there are many in North America.  

      Gypsy, though sometimes used as a generic name for any group of itinerant travelers doing odd jobs, actually refers specifically to the descendants of a group of wanderers who left India c. 1000 and passed through Persia into the Near East, Turkey, and passed from there  (c. 1400) to the Balkans and then into Western Europe.  They speak a group of related (but not always mutually intelligible) dialects which are clearly descended, in both vocabulary and structure, from the Middle Indic languages of medieval India; but in the course of their wandering, they picked up a great many words from other languages, including Persian, Greek, Serbian, and Romanian.

      It's been a long time since I studied the subject, but I recall that a fairly large part of the basic vocabulary was clearly Indic (e.g. the numbers from two to six, words for relationships and basic foodstuffs) but the bulk of the vocabulary was from other sources.  Sound-changes were fairly straightforward from their Prakrit sources; voiced murmured stops had become voiceless aspirates (a fairly important datum for comparative Indo-European studies, btw) and most aspiration was moved forward to the first available stop; there was a good deal of medial voicing and other kinds of stop lenition.  The verbal system is IIRC no longer split ergative, like Hindi, but more resembles Persian, though its morphological elements are certainly of Indian origin.  However, other dialects may differ from the one I studied.

      The question of "who is a Gypsy" is somewhat complicated by several factors, one social, others linguistic.  The social factor is that a lot of people who are not Gypsies by ancestry may take up an itinerant "gypsy" life for various reasons, and sometimes form large, mostly endogamous groups which are erroneously described as "gypsies" by various sources.  The Travellers of Ireland are one such group.  Among the linguistic factors are that (a) non-Gypsy groups may at various times have picked up a good deal of Gypsy vocabulary which has been incorporated in "cant" and similar argots in which a conglomerate vocabulary is used to baffle outsiders (some of this has even entered ordinary slang, like the word "pal" from Gypsy ph(r)al, from Indic bhrâtâ "brother"); (b) quasi-pidgins have arisen from contact between local languages and Gypsy, which are largely Gypsy in vocabulary, but match the local language in structure.  So groups using these languages straddle the boundary between non-Gypsy and Gypsy; and (c) there may be groups which are mostly or wholly Gypsy in ancestry, and in mode of life, but have totally or mostly lost their original language.

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