Romani Studies

Seven varieties of Arli: Skopje as a center of convergence and divergence of Romani dialects

Romani Studies (2017), 27, (1), 29–45.

Abstract

Before the 1963 earthquake, Skopje was home to Romani dialects representing three major groups: South Vlax (Džambaz), Balkan II (Kovač or Burgudži), and South Balkan I (Arli). According to local tradition, there were seven Arli dialects spoken in Skopje: Topaanli, Barutči, Madžur, Konopar, Prištevač, Gilanli, and Gavutno. The author’s research confirmed this. The article selects phonological, morphological, and lexical features based on words and features that speakers themselves find emblematic in an attempt to tease out the differences among these dialects. What emerges is a clear divide between Topaanli, the oldest urban dialect, and Gavutno, the most recently arrived village dialect. The other dialects show a range of features between these two, with Barutči, the earliest arrival, closest to Topaanli. The other four show sets of commonalities and differences associated with contact languages, dialect contact, and separate developments. The urban–rural divide emerges as particularly significant, but the picture that emerges is best described in terms of a wave model rather than a branching model.

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Friedman, Victor A.