Contributors include leading historical linguists, contact linguists and typologists, among them Carol Myers-Scotton, Sarah Grey Thomason,William Croft, Thomas Stolz, Maarten Mous, Ad Backus, Evgeniy Golovko, Peter Bakker, Yaron Matras.
Chapters partly adopt a comparative approach covering all major dialects of the language, and are partly devoted to single-dialect corpuses. Special attention is given to the Czech/Slovak and Hungarian varieties, to previously undescribed dialects from Bulgaria and Turkey, to codified varieties in Macedonia, and to the variety of dialects discussed in the popular works of the Victorian author George Borrow. An extensive Introduction outlines the principal morphosyntactic features of the language and provides a classification of Romani dialects, including an overview of those mentioned in the volume.
The book takes a typological approach to markedness, viewing it as a hierarchy among values that is conditioned by conceptual and cognitive universals. But it introduces a functional-pragmatic notion of markedness, as a grammaticalised strategy employed in order to priositise information. In what is referred to as 'dynamic', such prioritisation is influenced by an interplay of factors: the values within a category and the conceptual notions that they represent, the grammatical structure onto which the category values are mapped, and the kind of strategy that is applied in order to prioritise certain value. Consequently, the book contains a thorough survey of some 20 categories (e.g Person, Number, Gender, and so on) and their formal representation in various grammatical structures across the sample. The various accepted criteria for markedness (e.g. Complexity, Differentiation, Erosion, and so on) are examined systematically in relation to the values of each and every category, for each relevant structure. The outcome is a novel picture of how different markedness criteria may cluster for certain categories, giving a concrete reality to the hitherto rather vague notion of markedness. Borrowing and its relation to markedness is also examined, offering new insights into the motivations behind contact-induced change.