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Endangered languages in contact: Domari in its ethnographic and cultural context

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Domari is the name of a language spoken by peripatetic communities across the Middle East, currently attested mainly in Syria, Lebanon, Jordan and Palestine. The paper focuses on the variety spoken in Jerusalem, which is the only one to have been documented extensively (Matras 2012). Domari is an Indic language, which shows some archaic features, but also a language that has been heavily influenced by contact, especially with Arabic. The language was already endangered when I began my documentation in Jerusalem in 1996, and is now moribund, and probably has just one single living fluent speaker and a few semi-speakers. My paper discusses the ethnographic setting, the language’s history and the reasons for its abandonment, and touches on some theoretical dilemmas of linguistic description and analysis that arise through the wholesale import of entire structural categories from Arabic into Domari.

Yaron Matras is Professor of Linguistics at the University of Manchester. His research interests include language contact, urban multilingualism, linguistic typology, dialectology and language documentation, and he has worked on various languages of the Middle East including Kurdish, Arabic, and Domari.

This talk is part of the Cambridge Endangered Languages and Cultures Group series.

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