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Gypsy Dialect

Who uses this dialect?

This is the dialect used by Gypsy characters. It is essentially a modified Russian.

Rhythm and Music

This dialect has a bouncy rhythm to it. Picture in your head a band of gypsies, sitting around a campfire enjoying themselves in dancing and telling stories.


There are some additional syntactical changes involved with this dialect.
  1. Nominative pronouns are dropped wherever possible. Thus:

    I was telling him to run.
    Was telling him to run.

  2. Definite and indefinite articles are also dropped.

    Misha was eating an apple.
    Misha was eating apple.

  3. Instead of "yes," say "aiwa," or "da, da." ("Aiwa" is also a most excellent substitution for the Dreaded-O-and-K.)
  4. Gypsies tend to use the "-ing" form of verbs. So instead of saying "Thank you," a Gypsy might say "Thanking you."

Sound Changes

Each of the links below is a ".mp3" file demonstrating a sound change. Listen to the example as many times as you need to, repeating it on your own afterwards. Take as much time as you need to with each sound. If you take the examples in order, you will sometimes run into sounds you haven't gotten to yet. Don't worry about it, just do the best you can until you've gone through all the sounds. Then go back and listen to the examples again, and make whatever corrections you need to.

I have included notes where appropriate.

  1. Let's start with some vowel sound changes. First of all, the short "i" in words like "fish" and "little" becomes a long "e," as in "beet."
    'Tis difficult to hit an invisible fish.

  2. The short "e" in words like "fetch" usually gets what is known as a glide before it. The effect is like adding a "y" sound just before the vowel. Note: This change is more or less pronounced depending on what sound preceeds the vowel.
    Tell the men to fetch twenty eggs.

  3. Time for a few subtle changes: The "a" in words like "man" and "flag" gets a slight flavoring of the short "e" in "egg."
    Flap not thy hand like that.

  4. The "oo" sound in "food" and "soup" becomes a bit shorter, more precise.
    Do tell the Duke's student what a fool is due.

  5. The long "o" sound in words like "toad" is also shortened.
    The toad sat alone in the boat.

  6. The short "u" sound in words like "pull" and "push" becomes an "oo" sound.
    Gypsy wagon was so full, that could not be pushed nor pulled.

  7. The "er" sound in words like "her" becomes an "ur" sound, almost like "your."
    The third bird went 'round the world.

  8. Moving on to consonant changes, the 'r' sound is rolled very slightly.
    His heart could not endure the rebuke of the girl.

  9. There are three changes that only occur at the ends of words: "b" becomes "p," "d" becomes "t," and "g" becomes "k."
    Gypsy King pulled his robe on over his head.

  10. The "z" sound in "noise" or "tries" becomes an "s" sound.
    Gypsy rose blooms at the sound of applause.

  11. The "zh" sound in words like "vision" becomes an "sh" sound.
    Babushka had visions of fissures opening in the road.

  12. Initial "w" becomes a "v," much like in German.
    The fool cannot tell whiskey from vodka from water.

  13. The hard "th" in "this" becomes a "d." Soft "th" as in "thick" becomes a "t."
    Thou art nought but a thistle in my thumb.

  14. Initial "h" gets a little more breath than in English.
    He hath good history with horses.

Tag Line.

Finally, here's a line from Love's Labour's Lost to practice with. I recommend using this line to get into dialect before rehearsal or performance.
Say to her we have measured many miles to tread a measure with her on this grass.

And there you have it, all the chages you will be needing to peak like a Gypsy. I wish you joy of it!

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