Academic journal article Romani Studies

The First Caló Dictionary Ever Published in Spain (Trujillo 1844): An Analysis of Its Sources

Academic journal article Romani Studies

The First Caló Dictionary Ever Published in Spain (Trujillo 1844): An Analysis of Its Sources

Article excerpt

In the present article an assessment is attempted of the real value of Enrique Trujillo's Vocabulario de la lengua gitana (Sevilla 1844), the first Romani dictionary published in Spain. This work is generally taken as an original and valuable one, due to its independence from Borrow's dictionary and to its pioneering character. I will try to demonstrate that the notion that Trujillo's dictionary is original is unmerited. First, I will show that it depends on at least two sources, one of which is another work by Borrow, and that the use that Trujillo made of these sources was so clumsy that it seriously questions the reliability of the entire work. Second, I will suggest that there was a third, non-extant source which was common to Trujillo and Borrow and which accounts for a significant proportion of the words. Finally, some relevant words found only in Trujillo's dictionary will be analysed.

Keywords: Romani linguistics, Para-Romani, Spanish Romani, Spanish Caló, mixed Romani dialects, Caló dictionaries


Since the 1840s, a series of dictionaries of Spanish Romani (known as Caló) have been published, some of which contain not only words but also texts. Given that Caló is now on the verge of extinction, these dictionaries represent an important source for broadening our knowledge of this mixed Romani dialect. However, examining these vocabularies is like crossing a minefield: there are serious doubts about their reliability. There are several reasons for this, though we do not have time to discuss them here; I will merely list them. First, the Caló that they record is not only the true Caló spoken by Spanish Gypsies, but also a very artificial form created by non-Gypsy dilettanti (known as the 'Aficionados' or 'los de la Afición'), a sort of 'literary' language in which erroneous and false words were added.1 Second, this already confusing panorama was compounded by George Borrow, whose works were also used by the authors of these dictionaries. Third, all these dictionaries were compiled unscientifically. It is very probable that in most cases the authors worked without any contact with Caló speakers, using only indirect information or, in the more recent dictionaries, simply by copying the earlier ones. For some years now, I have been working on these dictionaries in an attempt to establish clearly which data can be taken as reflecting the true Caló spoken by Spanish Gypsies and which cannot. In this article, I will present some results obtained in my study of the mother of them all, the dictionary that began the tradition of Caló-Spanish or Spanish-Caló dictionaries in Spain.

The first dictionary of Spanish Romani to be published in Spain dates from 1844. It was entitled the Vocabulario de la lengua gitana (Vocabulary of the Gypsy language), edited, and probably written, by Enrique Trujillo. This Spanish-Caló dictionary came out only three years after the publication in London of the very first complete dictionary of Spanish Romani, the lexicon that George Borrow included in his famous book The Zincali; or an account of the Gypsies of Spain (Borrow 1841).2

We owe to Paul Bataillard (1884) the first assessment of Trujillo's dictionary and also of the other dictionaries published until that date, the works by Jiménez (1846), Campuzano (1848), D. A. de C (1851), and Mayo (1867). Although Bataillard confessed that he had not compared the works in detail, he came to the conclusion that the authors had copied from each other. In his view, the most valuable was Trujillo's, due to its pioneering character and to its independence from Borrow's vocabulary.3

Bataillard's appraisal was seconded by Carlos Claveria in his work on Gypsy loanwords in Spanish (Claveria 1951). Claveria stated that Trujillo's dictionary 'probably (. . .) was compiled with absolute independence from Borrow's' (Clavería 1951: 13), and strengthened this assertion elsewhere in his book by quoting Bataillard word for word. …

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