Mitrovica Romani Between reality and virtuality

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Introducing Radio Romani Mahala chat and its users

              Daniele Viktor Leggio
      About this presentation
• Background information about Roma in
  Kosovo and in Mitrovica in particular
• Presentation of Radio Romani Mahala
• Brief outline of my research
• Presentation of preliminary findings
• Discussion of some ethical issues
 Roma in Kosovo: demographics
• According to the 1981 census Roma accounted for 2.2% of
  Kosovo population
• Actual figures were most likely higher, around 10% of the
  total population
• Mostly sedentarised with the highest concentrations in the
  main towns of the region (Priština, Mitrovica, Gnjilane,
  Prizren, Peć, Uroševac)
• Engaged in
   – traditional activities (musicians, craftsmen, peddlers)
   – working class jobs (workers, builders, cleaners, low-level
   – few families run small businesses (restaurants, textile and
     household shops).
                                              (Pettan 2002; Lapov 2005)
   Roma in Kosovo: languages and identities

• Groups defined themselves mainly according to religion and
• Religious affiliations
   – Muslims (Xoraxane)
   – Orthodox Christians (Dasikhane)
   – Catholics (Katolikurija)
• Language affiliations
   – Arli: autochthonous, historically sedentary, speaking Balkan dialects
   – Gurbeti/Gabeli: historically semi-nomadic, speaking Vlax dialects,
     originating in the Walachia-Moldavia region
   – Aškali: Arli who had shifted to Albanian, they refused
     affiliation with Roma
   – Other groups, numerically less relevant, had shifted to Turkish or
        Kosovo linguistic situation
• Four main languages spoken in the area
    – Serbo/Croatian (Serbs, Croatians, Montenegrins, Muslimani and Roma)
    – Albanian (Albanians and Aškali)
    – Turkish (Turks and Roma)
    – Romani (Roma)
• Widespread Serbo/Croatian -Albanian bilingualism
• Multilingualism among Roma and Turkish
• Turkish spoken mainly in urban areas. Competence in Turkish regarded
  as a sign of longer urbanization, both among Roma and non-Roma
• Serbo/Croatian, Albanian and Turkish officially recognised. Instruction
  and media in all three languages
• Romani not officially recognised but present in the media (radio and
  TV). Education in Romani not available
                                                               (Pettan 2000)
             Mitrovica Roma
• According to official figures was the second
  biggest Roma community in Kosovo (4299
  people, Pettan 2002)
• Almost entirely constituted by Xoraxane
• Gurbeti/Gabeli main group, followed by Arli.
  Few of the latter had shifted to Albanian, although
  not claiming an Aškali identity (Lapov
• They mainly lived in the Romani mahala (Gypsy
  district) on the bank of the river Ibar
                     The diaspora
• Late 1970‟s - early 1990‟s
   – Economic crisis in former Yugoslavia: extended families migrate to
     Western Europe for periods of six months up to two years
   – Having earned enough they return to Mitrovica
• 1990‟s
   – Ethnic conflict in former Yugoslavia: the number of out-migrant
   – Returns to Mitrovica decrease
   – Family members still in Mitrovica try to join those abroad
• 1999 onwards
   – NATO bombings on Serbian positions destroy the Romani Mahala
   – The entire community leaves Mitrovica and joins those abroad (Italy,
     France, Belgium, Luxemburg, Germany)
   – Movements between these countries continue as families try to reunite
 Linguistic consequences of diaspora
• Younger generations in Arli families shifting from Balkan
  dialects or Albanian to the Vlax dialect of the majority (Lapov
  2005, Leggio 2009)
• Generational change in contact languages
   – Prior to 1970‟s: Serbo/Croatian, Albanian. Elderly people Turkish as
   – 1970‟s to 1990‟s: Serbo/Croatian, Albanian, Italian, French, German.
     Often not achieving good competence in any of them
   – After 1999: Italian, French and German depending on the country of
• Generational change in instruction and literacy
   – Prior to 1970‟s: generally attend school until mandatory age (14).
     Literacy in Serbo/Croatian and Albanian
   – 1970‟s to 1990‟s: irregular school attendance in different countries.
     Generally basic literacy in a range of languages
   – After 1999: attending school and acquiring literacy on the language of
     the country of settlement
  Mitrovica Romani on internet
• In 2004 a group of young musician settled in
  France establishes a web radio named Radio
  Romani Mahala
• The radio also host a real time chat, a
  simplified version of instant relay chat rooms
• Younger members of the community with
  access to internet regularly “meet” at Romani
                 My PhD research
• In depth analysis of the spelling
   –   Relation with previously developed spellings
   –   Variation among users
   –   Acceptance/refusal of variation
   –   Implications for current theories on language
• Usage of emoticons, acronyms and other features of CMC
• Language and identity issue
   – How spelling and chosen variety relates to/flags group identity?
   – Attitudes towards outsiders (both Roma and non-Roma)
   – What role chatting on Radio Romani Mahala plays in
     establishing/maintaining a diasporic identity
                         Writing Romani
•   State backed periodicals in USSR (1930‟s); literary editions and Bible translations (post
    WWII); activist newsletters (1970‟s-80‟s)
•   Intensification of Romani publications during the 1990‟s
•   Codification mainly pursued for emblematic purposes, but communicative functions started to
•   Decentralised codification process. Diverse yet compatible spellings emerged, based on the
    immediate spoken variety
•   Problematic sounds
     – Aspirated consonants /kh, čh, ph, th/
     – Palatals /č, dž, ž, š/
     – In some dialects palatalised consonants /d‟, g‟, l‟/ and schwa
•   Overall preference for spellings based on the Roman alphabet for Slavic languages and
    the academic transcription. Thus
     – using the same characters shown above
     – j to mark palatalisation
     – e or nothing for schwa
•   When Slavic characters are not available usage of English-like spelling (i.e.: ch, sh,)
                                                                                  (Matras 1999)
   Radio Romani Mahala spelling
• Aspirated consonants not marked (probably due to increasing lack of
  salience in speech Lapov 2005, Leggio 2009)
    – kanika /khanika/ „nobody.OBL‟
    – cere /čhere/ „at.home‟ ~ cere /čere/ „you(SG) do‟
    – pral /phral/ „brother‟ ~ pal /pal/ „above‟
• Palatals
    – /č/ spelled as c irrespectively of following vowel, i.e.: lace /lače/ „to her‟. Both
      French/Italian influence and Serbo/Croatian usage on CMC and text messages
    – /dž/ spelled as g irrespectively of following vowel, i.e.: gogaver /godžaver/
      „smart‟. French/Italian influence
    – /ž/ spelled as z, i.e.: zensko /žensko/ „female‟. Serbo/Croatian usage on CMC
      and text messages
    – /š/ spelled as s, i.e.: sai /šaj/ „possible‟. Serbo/Croatian usage on CMC and text
• Palatalised consonant not marked. More rarely followed by j, i.e.: dive ~
  djive /d‟ive/ „day‟
• Schwa not represent or represented as e i.e.: brs ~ bers /bǝrš/ „year‟
                     Spelling variation
• Quite consistent among all users
   –   Occasional occurrences of sh and ch for /š/ and /č/
   –   Occasionally w for /v/ (German), ci for /č/ (Italian)
   –   Occasional usage of c for /š/ and /dž/
   –   Variation between d and g for /d‟/
   –   Variation between i and j for /j/
• Generally tolerated, however some users correct others

   MevlanBoss: djjjjjjjj caj 1 giliiiiiiiii - dj, please a song!
   TheBossAndBest: caj na caj saj - ‘caj’? Not ‘caj’, it’s ‘saj’

      GIVE Guest832 – You haven’t let me wish you happy birthday, Guest 832!
   $(StudioBenny)$: SENAD DIVE NA GIVE – Senad! ‘Dive’ not ‘give’!
                   CMC features
• No usage of emoticons
• No usage of punctuation
• Capitalisation not considered speaking loud
• Written out laugh and emphatic repetition of letters,
  i.e.: jasaaaaa „c‟monnnnn‟
• Acronyms only appearing when using contact
    – zdr „hello!‟ for Serbo/Croatian „zdravo‟
    – ki6 „who are you?‟ for Italian „chi sei?‟
    – msn „messenger address‟ (internet slang)
               Language choice
• Consistent usage of Mitrovica Romani
• Few occurrences of other languages
• Tolerance for exchanges in other languages depends
   – the DJ broadcasting at a given moment
   – how “crowded” the chat is
TheBossAndBest: Gakxxii, jeu peu te pose une kestion frero
       Gakxxii, can I ask you a question, brother?
Romani-Mahala: ici don le radio on parle tous romane merci
              Here on the radio we all speak Romani, thanks!
Exchanges on Radio Romani Mahala
• Jokes
• News exchanges
• Gossiping
• Recurring “shoutings” (jasa, opsa) to cheer users joining the chat or the
  broadcasting of popular songs
• Attempts at identifying off-line acquaintances through questions about
    –   Origin
    –   Place of residence
    –   Age
    –   Family relationships
• Exchanges of instant messaging addresses (consistent usage of
  Windows Live Messenger) to carry out private conversations
• Rough language and aggression sanctioned. The DJ‟s act as moderators
  and can ban users
• Web page structured as a memorial of the lost homeland
• Constant research for off-line acquaintances
• Consistent choice for Mitrovica Romani
• This suggests participation on Radio Romani Mahala chat is crucial in
  maintaining the group cohesion and identity
• Consistent spelling but variation generally tolerated
• Differences with Romani spellings on printed sources and asynchronous
  web content mostly due to the nature of the medium
• This suggests
    – awareness of other attempts at writing Romani
    – new technologies foster a bottom-up approach to language codification
    – language codification may effectively be pursued outside the nation-state
• Apparent lack of awareness of net-iquette
• No usage of emoticons
• This suggests users scarcely interact with non-Roma on internet
                    Research plan
• Look for other instances of written Romani on
   – YouTube comments on videos
   – On-line TV channels
   – Personal pages on Windows Live
• Conduct participant observation to
   – Understand the group dynamics
   – Recruit interviewees
• Interviews, to be conducted on line, will focus on
   – Awareness of other cases of Romani codification
   – Participation on non markedly Roma chat-rooms and networks
   – Perceived relation between writing Romani, on-line socialising and the
     group identity
                  Ethical issues
• For cultural reasons Roma are generally unwilling to
  sign forms
• Even if accepting to sign, potential informant rarely
  have access to printing and scanning facilities
• School of Languages, Linguistics and Cultures ethical
   – do not allow for participation on chat-rooms
   – do not require a signed consent form for interviews
• School of Social Sciences ethical guidelines
   – allow for participation on chat-rooms
   – mandatory require a signed consent form for interviews
DANET, B. & HERRING, S.C. (2007) The Multilingual Internet. Language,
  culture and communication online, Oxford: Oxford University Press
LAPOV, Z. (2004) Vaćaré Romané? Diversità a confronto: percorsi delle
  identità Rom, Milano, Franco Angeli
LEGGIO, D.V. (2009) The dialect of the Mitrovica Roma, MA Dissertation,
  University of Manchester
MATRAS, Y. (1999) Writing Romani: the pragmatics of codification in a
  stateless language. Applied Linguistics, 20/4: 481-502
PETTAN, S. (2000) Gypsies, music and politcs in the Balkans: a case study
  from Kosovo. IN BAUMAN, M. P. (Ed.) Music, Language and Literature
  of the Roma and Sinti, Berlin, VWB: Verlag für Wissenschaft und Bildung.
PETTAN, S. (2002) Roma muzsikusok Koszovóban: kölcsönhatás és
  kreativitás / Rom Musicians in Kosovo: interaction and creativity,
  Budapest, Magyar Tudományos Akadémia Zenetudományi Intézet /
  Institute for Musicology of the Hungarian Academy for Sciences

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