chapter
Gypsies
Pages 5

The term ‘Gypsy’ is used in Anglo-American anthropology for †endogamous communities who refer to themselves variously as Rom, Sinti, Manush, Kale, etc. and live scattered throughout Europe and North America (Salo 1990), in parts of Southern and Central America, Northern Africa and Southern Africa (Encyclopedia of World Cultures 1992). ‘Gypsy’ derives from the misnomer ‘Egyptian’, which resulted from the erroneous notion that ‘Gypsies’ originally came from Egypt. Philologists examining the dialects of the Romanes language spoken among these communities in the eighteenth century discovered their Indic structure. Lexically the six to seven major contemporary dialects of Romanes have been largely influenced by diverse European languages, in addition to Persian, Greek, Armenian and probably Arabic. This points to a westward migration from South Asia at an as yet unknown period. Although some Gypsies such as the Kale of Spain (the ‘Gitanos’) no longer speak Romanes, for most groups some Romanes dialect is mother tongue.