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Greek Romany as a Written Language: A Text in Greek Transcription Gordon M. Messing When studies of the Gypsies first began to appear in the 19th century, the human subjects described in these scholarly works were scarcely in a position to appreciate what the learned authors had to say. They were wholly illiterate, and even by the beginning of the 20th century, literate Gypsies were rare. Since then, however, and particularly after the Second World War, there has been a vast increase in literacy among European Gypsies, especially among those setded in urban areas where the children are increasingly compelled to attend school at least for basic instruction. This post-war generation has also been increasingly politically aware; many of them are eager to press for full civil rights and to demand the recognition long denied to them as a legitimate minority in European society. Economic factors are also at work: the older traditional handicrafts are no longer profitable everywhere, so Gypsies are more and more earning a living by taking jobs that integrate them into the concerns of other nationals of their host country. As a by-product of these developments, some literate Gypsies are starting to write and publish newspaper articles, songs, stories, and poetry in Romany to mark their liberation, and a few are even entering the professional ranks. AU of these circumstances hold true in Greece to some extent. But Greece, poised in its usual uneasy relationship with minorities, has not progressed as rapidly in this respect as Yugoslavia, for example. Greek Gypsy children nowadays are certainly more likely to complete some classes of Greek school, and in the larger communities, especially in Athens and Thessaloniki, there are some more educated Gypsies. As yet, however, use of Romany as a written language has barely begun. There are some reliable indications all the same that if and when texts appear in Greek Romany, they will be written in the Greek alphabet, the only one known to most speakers. In the present article, I wish to look carefully into the approJournal of Modern Greek Studies, Volume 9, 1991. 83 84 Gordon M. Messing priateness of a written mode of transmission for a language which has hitherto existed only as a means of oral interchange. A few years ago, I had an opportunity to examine several short texts of Romany songs recorded in Athens. At that time Greek law required that any recordings made in Greece in a language other than Greek can be authorized only if text and translation are furnished beforehand, presumably to the police or a competent ministry. These texts were in Greek transcription; they presented in miniature the same phonetic limitations which I shall discuss below in relation to a more substantial text containing various lexical and grammatical features to which I shall refer insofar as they supplement my glossary of Greek Romany. ' Let me express my gratitude here to Ms. Kathryn Kozaitis, who is now completing a University of Michigan dissertation dealing with the Gypsies of AgÃ-a Varvára. Thanks to her, a Greek text furnished by myself was turned into Romany by her informants. This is not a word-for-word version, but it is clear that considerable thought went into some of the details. As normally occurs in this dialect of Romany, many Greek words turn up in the Romany text together with a fair number of Turkish borrowings.2 The Greek text which follows was derived from an Athens newspaper account of a sensational crime, here slightly rewritten. I add a fairly literal translation for purposes of comparison with the endproduct . ΚάτιφοβεϕόÎ-γινεπϕοχτÎ-ςτοβϕάδυκατάτιςεφτάστηγειτονιάμας.H ξαδÎ-λφημου,ηΜαϕία,μιακοπÎ-λλαδεκάξιχϕονών,βγήκεαπ'τοσπίτι τηςγιανααγοϕάσειασπιϕίνεςστοφαϕμακείο.ΚϕυμμÎ-νοςκάπουεκεί κοντά,οΚώστας,οαϕϕαβωνιαστικόςτηςαπόπϕιν,τηνπεϕίμενε.Ως Ï€Î-ϕυσι,εκείνοςήτανναυτικόςαλλάτώϕαδενÎ-χειπιαδουλειά.Όταν τοναντίκϕυσεηκοπÎ-λλα,φοβήθηκεκαιπϕοσπάθησενατοναποφϕγει. Τότε της είπε, «Δεν Î-χεις αγάπη μÎ-σα σου;» ΣκÎ-φτηκε λίγο και του απάντησε,«ΗαγάπημουγιασÎ-ναÎ-σβησε.»ΘÎ-λησετότεναμάθειαν υπάϕχειάλλοςάντϕαςστηζωήτης.Τουείπε,«ΤίσενοιάζειεσÎ-να τώϕα;»ΑμÎ-σωςÎ-γινεαυτόςÎ-ξωφϕενών.Τηνάϕπαξεαπόταμαλλιάκαι τηνÎ-συϕεδυοτετϕάγωναμακϕϕτεϕα.Έπειτατηχτυποϕσεμεμανίαμ' Î-ναψαλίδι,δενξÎ-ϕωπόσεςφοϕÎ-Ï‚.Στουςπεϕαστικοϕςπουμαζεϕτηκαν γϕϕωτουφώναξε,«Όποιοςμεπλησιάζει,θατονσφάξω!»HκαημÎ-νη ηΜαϕία,πουπήγανλίγοαϕγότεϕαστονοσοκομείοσεκακήκατάσταση, μποϕείναχάσειτοφωςτης.OΚώστας,κϕατώνταςακόματοψαλίδι, βουτηγμÎ-νοστααίματατηςΜαϕίας,πήγεκαιπαϕαδόθηκεστους αστυνομικοϕς. Something dreadful occurred in our neighborhood night before last around seven o'clock. My cousin Maria, a girl of sixteen, left her house in order to buy aspirin at the pharmacy. In hiding somewhere nearby, Greek Romany 85 her former fiancé Kostas was waiting for her. Until last year he was a sailor, but now he no longer has a job. When the girl encountered him, she was frightened and tried to avoid him. Then he said to her, "Don't you have any love inside you?" She reflected a bit and answered him, "My love...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1086-3265
Print ISSN
0738-1727
Pages
pp. 83-92
Launched on MUSE
2010-06-24
Open Access
No
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