Domari language

Nowadays, Domari language is a topic that has gained great relevance in today's society. In an increasingly globalized and connected world, Domari language has become a topic of interest to a wide range of people. From professionals and academics to the general public, interest in Domari language has been increasing and its importance has been reflected in various areas of daily life. Whether in the workplace, social, technological or cultural sphere, Domari language has significantly impacted how we relate to and understand the world around us. In this article we will explore in detail the importance of Domari language and its influence on today's society.

Dōmʋārī, Dōmʋārī ǧib, Dômarî ĵib, دٛومَرِي‎, דּוֹמָרִי
Native toAzerbaijan, Mauritania, Iran, Iraq, Israel, Lebanon, Egypt, Libya, Tunisia, Algeria, Morocco, Palestine, Syria, Turkey, Jordan, Sudan, and perhaps neighboring countries
RegionMiddle East and North Africa, Caucasus, Central Asia
Native speakers
280,000 (2015)
  • Northern Domari
  • Southern Domari
Latin, Arabic, Hebrew
Language codes
ISO 639-3rmt
Domari is classified as Severely Endangered by the UNESCO
Atlas of the World's Languages in Danger

Domari is an endangered Indo-Aryan language, spoken by Dom people scattered across the Middle East and North Africa. The language is reported to be spoken as far north as Azerbaijan and as far south as central Sudan, in Turkey, Iran, Iraq, Israel, Palestine, Jordan, Egypt, Sudan, Libya, Tunisia, Algeria, Morocco, Syria and Lebanon. Based on the systematicity of sound changes, it is known with a fair degree of certainty that the names Domari and Romani derive from the Indo-Aryan word ḍom. Although they are both Central Indo-Aryan languages, Domari and Romani do not derive from the same immediate ancestor. The Arabs referred to them as Nawar as they were a nomadic people that originally immigrated to the Middle East from the Indian subcontinent.

Domari is also known as "Middle Eastern Romani", "Tsigene", "Luti", or "Mehtar". There is no standard written form. In the Arab world, it is occasionally written using the Arabic script and has many Arabic and Persian loanwords. Descriptive work was done by Yaron Matras, who published a comprehensive grammar of the language along with a historical and dialectological evaluation of secondary sources.

Domari is an endangered language, as there is currently pressure to shift away from it in younger generations, according to Yaron Matras. In certain areas such as Jerusalem, only about 20% of the Dom people speak the Domari language in everyday interactions. The language is mainly spoken by the elderly in the Jerusalem community. The younger generation are more influenced by Arabic, therefore most only know basic words and phrases. The modern-day community of Doms in Jerusalem was established by the nomadic people deciding to settle inside the Old City from 1940 until it came under Israeli administration in 1967 (Matras 1999).


The best-known variety of Domari is Palestinian Domari, also known as "Syrian Gypsy", the dialect of the Dom community of Jerusalem, which was described by R.A. S. Macalister in the 1910s. Palestinian Domari is an endangered language, with fewer than 200 speakers, the majority of the 1,200 members of the Jerusalem Domari community being native speakers of Palestinian Arabic.

Other dialects include:

Some dialects may be highly divergent and not mutually intelligible. Published sources often lump together dialects of Domari and the various unrelated in-group vocabularies of diverse peripatetic populations in the Middle East. Thus, the Ghorbati and Lyuli were previously thought to speak a dialect of Domari. There is also no obvious connection between Domari and the vocabulary used by the Helebi of Egypt (see discussion in Matras 2012, chapter 1).


In the 1940s, the Dom began to abandon their nomadic culture and began settling and working in the local economy. This led to the next phenomenon: the assimilation of Dom children in the primary school system, which marked the first generation to grow up in an academic environment alongside Arab children. Consequently, this 1940 generation do not fluently speak the Domari language. Arabic replaced their native Domari, and became the language of cross-generation communication. In Jerusalem, it is estimated there are about 600-900 members of the Dom population in Jerusalem. Less than 10% can effectively communicate in Jerusalem Domari.

Comparison with Romani

Domari was once thought to be the "sister language" of Romani, the two languages having split after the departure from the Indian subcontinent, but more recent research suggests that the differences between them are significant enough to treat them as two separate languages within the Central (Hindustani) group of languages. The Dom and the Rom are most likely to be descendants of 2 different migration waves out of India, separated by several centuries. According to Matras:

There is, in other words, no evidence that Domari and Romani ever constituted a single language, at any period in their development: but there is on the other hand plenty of evidence that they underwent shared developments as a result of sharing the same geo-linguistic environments during successive periods.

— Yaron Matras, A Grammar of Domari

There remain similarities between the two, aside from their shared Central zone Indic origin, indicating a period of shared history as itinerant populations in the Middle East. These include: shared archaisms, which have been lost in the Central Indo-Aryan languages over the millennia since Dom/Rom emigration, a series of innovations connecting them with the Northwestern zone group, indicating their route of migration out of India, and a number of radical syntactical changes, due to superstrate influence of Middle Eastern languages, including Persian, Arabic and Byzantine Greek.



There are five main vowel sounds; however, this inventory shows the variation and quantity of short vowels. Most are interchangeable with a vowel sound next to it; however, all of the sounds produced above are identical to the local Palestinian Arabic.

Front Central Back
High ɪ ʊ
Mid ɛ ə ~ ~ ɔ
Low ɑ


Most of these consonants are influenced by Palestinian Arabic such as gemination; however, consonants such as [p], [ɡ], [] and [h] are not found in the local dialect. There is speculation among linguists that these sounds are considered a part of the pre-Arabic component. Alveopalatal affricates such as [] and [] are also consonants that differ in sound from Arabic.

Bilabial Labio-
Dental Post-
Palatal Velar Uvular Pharyngeal Glottal
plain phar.
voiceless p t̪ˤ t͡ʃ k q ʔ
voiced b d̪ˤ d͡ʒ ɡ (ɢ)
Fricative voiceless (ɸ) f s̪ˤ ʃ x (χ) ħ h
voiced (β) v z̪ˤ ʒ ɣ (ʁ) ʕ
Nasal m (ŋ)
Approximant (ʋ) j w
Flap ɾ


The biggest difference in expression of language between Arabic and Domari is where the stress is placed. Arabic has phoneme-level stress while Domari is a language of word-level stress. The Domari language emphasizes stress on the final syllable, as well as grammatical markers for gender and number. Most nouns, besides proper nouns, adopted from Arabic sound distinct because of the unique stresses in Domari. Domari is thought to have borrowed many words and grammatical structures from Arabic; however, this is not entirely true. Complex verbs and most core prepositions did not transfer into the realms of grammar of the Domari language. The syntactic typology remains independent of Arabic influence. It also important to note that the numerals used by the Doms were inherited from Kurdish. Even though Domari was influenced by local Arabic, the language also felt the impacts of Kurdish and certain dialects of Iranian in the grammar of the language.


Here is a table of the numerals (1–10, 20, and 100) in Hindi, Romani, Domari, Lomavren, Kurdish and Persian for comparison.

Numeral Hindi Romani Domari Lomavren Kurdish Persian
1 ek ekh, jekh yek, yika yak, yek yak yek
2 do duj luy du do
3 tīn trin tirin tərin se se
4 cār štar ŝtar iŝdör čwar, čar čahār, čār
5 pāñc pandž panĵ penĵ penc panǰ
6 che šov ŝaŝ ŝeŝ ŝaŝ šeš
7 sāt ifta hawt, hoft haft hawt haft
8 āṭh oxto hayŝt, haytek haŝt hašt hašt
9 nau inja nu nu no nuh, noh
10 das deš dez las da dah
20 bīs biš wîs vist bist bist
100 sau šel say say sa(d), sat sad


  1. ^ a b c d Matras 2012.
  2. ^ Domari at Ethnologue (19th ed., 2016) Closed access icon
  3. ^ Herin 2016.
  4. ^ "History of the Romani language". Romani Project. University of Manchester. Archived from the original on 2023-01-26. Retrieved 20 December 2017.
  5. ^ a b "Domari". CiteSeerX
  6. ^ Matras 2000.
  7. ^ Williams 2000.
  8. ^ Matras 1996.
  9. ^ a b c Matras 1999.
  10. ^ Rao n.d.
  11. ^ Matras 2005.
  12. ^ Hancock n.d.
  13. ^ "What is Domari?". Romani Project. University of Manchester. n.d. Archived from the original on 2010-11-20. Retrieved 2008-07-23.
  14. ^ Hérin 2013.
  15. ^ Friedman 2014.
  16. ^ Herin 2012a.


Further reading

External links