The comment thread to “Peaches in Cluj” is chock-full of fascinating historical and ethnographical detail, and I commend it to anyone with an interest in the minority populations of Eastern Europe. One comment in particular, by the learned and much-traveled zaelic, had a paragraph so interesting to me I’m posting it here as its own entry. I knew about the Armenians of Eastern Europe, but had never heard of Armeno-Kipchak, a term so obscure it gets only 29 Google hits. I’ve added links for the curious:

The Armenians entered in the late 1600 via the Ukraine and Volynia. There were already communities of them around the Black Sea but the Jelali Revolts in eastern Turkey around 1610 caused a flood of Anatolian Armenians to flee to the Ukraine, and thence to Moldavia (there are still some in Iasi and Suceava). Since Transylvania was a more peaceful choice in the 17th century, many moved there – a particularly corrupt Archbishop sold loyalty to the Austrians by accepting the authority of Rome but maintaining the rituals of the Armenian Church as specific Armenian Uniates. Armenian was basically only a liturgical language. The original Armenian emigrants spoke Armeno-Kipchak – basically Turkish vernacular but written in Armenian script – and today Armenian is only used in some church hymns, and I don’t know if Father Fogojan is still in charge of things up in Gheorgheni but I think he is the only priest fluent in the language (he lived mosty of his life on the Armenian Church island in the Venice Lagoon.)

I am also going to quote this sentence from the entry on “Armenian rite” (the liturgical practices observed by both the Armenian Apostolic (Orthodox) Church and the Armenian Catholics) from Merriam-Webster’s Encyclopedia of World Religions, because I love the sound of the Armenian titles so much:

For its worship services the Armenian rite is dependent upon such books as the Donatzuitz, the order of service; the Badarakamaduitz, the book containing all the prayers used by the priest; the Giashotz, the book of midday, containing the Epistle and Gospel readings for each day; and the Z’amagirq, the book of hours, containing the prayers and psalms of the seven daily offices, primarily matins, prime, and vespers.


  1. Mosty of the time I should spell check.

  2. I have been rooting around looking for my copy of “The Jewish Bride”, an Armeno-Kipchak poem from the 1700s, but I think it is stored in a cardboard box of really obscure books, along with my dictionary of Moldavian Ladino…
    But what that volume said was that the “Kipchak” was a bit of a misnomer. The language was simply the vernacular of Istanbul and the urban black sea turks of the time. The poem concerns an Istanbul Jewish girl who runs of with Dimo, an Istanbul Albanian. It has interesting parts when the Turkish speaking Christian crowds taunt the Jews (called ‘chufut’ in the text) about their false messiah (Sabetai Zvi) using the ladino term “hahamiko” (Ladino “sage” + ‘iko’ a common ladino diminutive.)
    Armeno-Kipchak has parallels in Karamanli, which is the Turkish language of the Cappodocian and Anatolian Greek christians. It is essentially Turkish written in Greek characters. There are also communities of “Urum” Greeks (Christians) speaking Turkish along the Ukrainian and Azov Black sea coasts. These regional versions of Turkish language (Crimean Tatar, Karaite Judeo-Turkish, and Krymchak Judeo-Tatar) are not 13th century imports of Anatolian turkish (like Gagauz) but probably reflect the older Cuman/Kipchak pre-Golden Horde Turkish tradition of the steppes.
    (*Steps down from soapbox. Bows.*)

  3. These little niche languages seem to be more common than you would think. There seem to be categories. For example, there’s a dialect of Polish written in Arabic script spoken by Polish Tatars who were military feudatories. Then there are various languages spoken by wanderers such as Gypsies (Romani), the Irish “Tinkers”, and the speakers of the “Rotwelsch” language which includes elements of both Romani and Yiddish. Then there are port languages or linga franca, which Armeno-kipchak might have been. Most of them seem to be dying out, of course.

  4. jean-pierre says

    Does anyone have anything to add about the Roma whom James Bond met in Istanbul, with whom he had a confrontation with some thugs? One of the things I like very much about Bond is that he spoke “Gypsy,.” Probably some dialect of Domari, or what?
    In an unrelated aside, the piece about the Armenians reminded me of a dear, intelligent, hard-boiled, genius of a woman, a red-headed Armenian girl who came from Chicago to study at a liberal arts college in downstate Illinois in the early 80’s. She stayed up into the wee hours of the night, chain-smoking cigarettes with her short black-haired feminist companion, in a diner at the base of a hotel on the edge of the town square. I’ve never heard from her since, but sometimes wonder how she fared, with her particle physics.

  5. Istanbul Gypsies generally speak Thracian Erdelesi, pretty much the same balkan Romani spoken in Bulgaria and Macedonia. I’ve met some who spoke Xoroxai, which is more like standard Lovari but spoken by Muslim Roma.
    In Erdilesi you get “na sinjom / na sinjas” (‘I am not, you are not’) and in Lovari “chi som / chi sas’.
    There aren’t any Domari in Turkey that I know of.

  6. OK, when I google “erdelesi” I just get a German page talking about “das Erdelesi-Fest der Roma.” What is it, and does it have any connection with Erdély (the Hungarian name for Transylvania)?

  7. Try ‘arlije’ gypsies. Also Erdelezi, Ardelezi. From the turkish for “local”. Refers to the south balkan, non-vlach dialects of Romani. No connection with Erdely.
    Transylvanian dialects are generally vlach, but there is a strong local gypsy community (including musicians and settled gypsies) that uses a very old dialect related to the Sinti conjugations in western Europe “me hom, tu hal, vo hi” where vlach has “me som, tu san, vo si” (I am, you are, etc.)
    Have you tried googling Armeno-Kipchak-Romanes yet?

  8. Didn’t turn up anything involving “Kipchak,” but your explanation was pretty much what I needed. I did run across this page, a classification of Rom groups; does it make sense to you? Meanwhile, “arlije” takes me to this interesting chart and this page with a section on the Arlije in Austria: “Arlije is the name of a heterogeneous Roma group from the southern Balkans. As Muslims they form part of the southern Balkan-western Rumelian cultural tradition… As opposed to the Kalderaš, “escaping from being wage earners” is no big issue to the Arlije…” Also this Spanish page on the classification of Romanes dialects, which calls Arlije-Romaní “el dialecto mayor con variedades bastante diferentes.” I can’t find an etymology for Arlije, though (none of my Turkish dictionaries have anything remotely similar).

  9. All very neat stuff. Rom from within the old Ottoman empire had it easier in a sense – as Muslims they weren’t at the bottom of the social heap. I Skopje, for example, they weren’t considered the lowest class in the town. Th ALbanians were. Rom were members of respected “middle class” organisations such as the dervish brotherhoods. In Istanbul there is a street of Gypsies right in the smart neighborhood of Cihangir in Beyoglu. You wouldn’t see that in a European town.
    Also, Romani dialectology has still not been well defined. Aaron Matras is now organizing a survey of Romani dialects. While I was in CLuj in January I sat in on one session when my friend Gabor Loli – a Gaboresti Kalderash – (these guys even have their own web site! working with two linguists.

  10. Paul kutscera says

    Interesting comments.
    I think you are incorrect about Gagauz; I believe it is a remnant of Kipchak. This dialect of Polish written in Arabic characters, is this still a spoken language? Where are these speakers now?

  11. Wikipedia has articles on Armeno-Kipchak in various languages now (although not in English). The most detailed ones seem to be in Turkish and Russian.

  12. Great, thanks for updating the thread!

  13. David Marjanović says

    This dialect of Polish written in Arabic characters, is this still a spoken language? Where are these speakers now?

    “Throughout centuries they resisted assimilation and kept their traditional lifestyle. While they remained very attached to their religion, over time however, they lost their original Tatar language, from the Kipchak group of the Turkic languages, and for the most part adopted Belarusian, Lithuanian and Polish. There are still small groups of Lipka Tatars living in today’s Belarus, Lithuania and Poland, as well as their communities in United States.”

  14. David Marjanović says


  15. sandor szava says

    There is no evidence that Transilvanian Armenians ever spoke Armeno-Kiptchak, although it is reasonable to assume that their ancestors in Crimea in the 13th/14th century had a good command of Kiptchak which was the lingua franca in the armenian colony of Caffa. However, by the time they arrived in Transilvania (1672) they spoke turkish, vlach (romanian) and a particular Armenian dialect which is known by armenologists as “ardial” and which was still in use in the 19th century. My great grandfather stillspoke it fluently. In Transilvania the last (fluent) speakers probably died out in the 1920’s or 30’s, in Poland (Kuty) where they spoke the same dialect some old native speakers survived until the 1980’s. Father Fogoljan spoke standard western armenian which he learned at the Mechitarist seminary, perhaps he knew one or two old “ardial” expressions that he had picked up from the old folks back home but I am sure he did not speak the old dialect any more. “Ardial” contains many turkish loan words (but not kiptchak) and is very similar to the one of the Nor Nakhitchevan Armenians whose ancestors also came from Caffa, Even the turkish loan words in both dialects are the same, so it seems that the “ardial” dialect in its present form was already used by the Crimean Armenians in the 13th century.

  16. Edward Demiraiakian says

    I never hear much about the 50 or so Lavoren Speakers of Armenia. They are Kenchu (Gypsy), and they speak an earky dialect with Gypsy (Roma) words but Armenian grammar.

  17. Kimberly Burnham says

    I am collecting words for “peace” for a brain health project. Does anyone know how to say “peace” in Krymchak Judeo-Tatar or other lesser-known languages of the area?

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