Jud Nirenberg: A New Reason to Put Aside the Old Slander against Romani
For decades, there has been an often-repeated fantasy that Roma do not plan for their own futures in the same way as others – that Roma care less about education, about jobs or saving money or spending money they don’t have to care for their homes – because the Romani language lacks a future tense. Having no way to speak about the future means not thinking about future consequences of today’s economic decisions, goes the theory. This idea has always been absurd. Firstly, the idea is based upon the myth that Romani does not have a future tense, whereas all dialects of Romani do have future, present and multiple past tenses. In most dialects, Romani regular verbs form the future tense with a suffix.
Secondly, the idea is stupid because of its bigotry; whereas the story that Romani does not have a future tense is false, there really are languages without future tenses and nobody ever says that the speakers of such languages are savages without an ability to plan ahead. Chinese, for example, really does not have a future tense. In Mandarin Chinese, I save money yesterday, I invest today and I trade bonds tomorrow.
Now, as the result of recent research by American behavioral economist Keith Chen, we find a third reason why the accusation against Romani speakers is so wrong. According to Chen, it is the cultures/countries without a distinct future tense that have the best savings patterns. See the presentation of his findings, though he does not specifically mention Romani, here: http://www.ted.com/talks/keith_chen_could_your_language_affect_your_ability_to_save_money?language=en
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