13 July 2010

a glimpse of Rodi

For the enjoyment of we conlangers who enjoy borrowing words from a large number of sources, here is an example of a natural language (or perhaps a semi-intentional argot) which took that same approach. Its name is Rodi, and it is/was spoken by a quasi-Romany or para-Gypsy band of people in Norway. Its vocabulary contains some words of Asian origin and loans "from almost all European languages."

source--> The Nordic languages: an international handbook of the history of the North Germanic languages
authors: Bandle, Braunmüller, Jahr, Karker, Naumann, & Teleman
publisher: Walter de Gruyter, 2005
pages: 1936-1938

As was made clear by Iversen (1945, 14), "Norw. Romany and Norw. Rodi (Rotwelsch) are two different idioms, which should well be distinguished from each other"...

With reference to the difference between the baro-vandringar ("great travllers) and the tikno-vandringar ("small travellers"), Iversen in his description of the Rodi (Rotwelsch) language in Norway points to the ethnic background of the two groups. The forefathers of the baro-vandringar were mostly genuine Gypsies; they had kept their tribal solidarity alive fairly well, had avoided external marriages, and might still claim to have some of the genuine Gypsy blood in their veins. This is not at all the case with the tikno-vandringar who "actually possess no tribal pride -- for obvious reasons, as from an ethnological point of view, they are simply Norwegians born and bred, though from of old with a certain alloy of foreign elements, especially -- as it would seem -- Germans and Romanies"...

The sound system in Rodi is Norwegian throughout, whereas Romani phonology still has markers of its alien origin... Stress falls mainly upon the first syllable in Rodi (as in most Norwegian words); in Romani it is frequently placed on the last or the penultimate syllable. In Rodi plural endings are the same as the dialect forms in the area where the Rodi speakers have been born or have been travelling around. In Romani the endings are mostly invariable and independent of the local Norwegian language...

As far as the vocabulary is concerned, one could say that "Romani has kept more firmly to the traditional, the old and the inherited in the stock of words, whereas Rodi has shown a great ability to adopt from outside and to create from inside" (Iversen 1945, 250). Among the loans from Romani in Rodi vocabulary are a number of words of Asian origin (Indian, Persian, and Armenian). Some of these words are kept alive in Rodi, but seem to be dead in the language which Rodi borrowed them from, viz Romani.

Besides these, we also find loans from almost all European languages: Greek, Italian, Spanish, French, English, Dutch, German, Swedish, Danish, Lappish, Finnish, and from West-Slavic languages. In Norwegian Rodia there are also ca. 50 words from Latin, e.g. anum `year', astro `star', kannis `dog', matrum `mother', tönnik `shirt', vesper `evening'. Between the two regional varieties of Rodi, the South (Sørlandet) and the Southwest (Sørvestlandet), Iversen (1945, 251f.) also reports some minor differences, for example in the word stock. The "small travellers" in Sørlandet have a considerably richer vocabulary than their colleagues in the west.

Today both Norwegian Romani and Rodi (Rotwelsch) are threatened languages and must be considered dying idioms (Wiggen 1996, 153f.; Iversen 1945, 252).

"Iversen 1945" refers to
Iversen, Ragnvald (1945)
Secret Languages in Norway II.

OMG, a series of books called Secret Languages in Norway… must have… drool.

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