©Ian Hancock, 1997, all rights reserved. Originally published in T.A. Acton and A. Mundy (eds.), Romani culture and Gypsy identity (University of Hertfordshire Press, Hatfield, 1997), pp. 180–7.
Language is essentially the control of thought. It becomes impossible for us to direct our future until we control our language. The sense of language is in precision of vocabulary and structure for a particular social context. (Asante, 1988: 31).
The manipulation by societies in power of the identities of subordinate groups is achieved in many ways. One such way is through discriminatory legislation, such as that enacted against the Romani people in almost every land, including the US. Another is through media representation, both factual and fictional. This last category, the portrayal of ‘Gypsies’ in poetry, film and novels, is the most effective in establishing such negative feelings because they are absorbed subliminally by children, at a time when they are most susceptible to acquiring the attitudes of mainstream society. Apart from descriptions of Romani people and their life, which are legion, the Romani language has also been the target of comment, invariably worded as fact rather than supposition. In his Tales of the Real Gypsy, Paul Kester gives his readers those ‘real’ facts about it (1897: 305):
Continue reading “Duty and beauty, posession and truth: the claim of lexical impoverishment as control” – Ian Hancock