Romani language

Romani language

nativename=romani ćhib
states=The speakers of Romani are scattered throughout the world
speakers=4.8 million
fam4=Central Zone
nation=recognised as minority language in parts of:
flagicon|Republic of Macedonia Republic of Macedonia
lc1=rom|ld1=Romani (generic)|ll1=none
lc2=rmn|ld2=Balkan Romani|ll2=Balkan Romani language
lc3=rml|ld3=Baltic Romani|ll3=Baltic Romani language
lc4=rmc|ld4=Carpathian Romani|ll4=Carpathian Romani language
lc5=rmf|ld5=Kalo Finnish Romani|ll5=Kalo Finnish Romani language
lc6=rmo|ld6=Sinte Romani|ll6=Sinte Romani language
lc7=rmy|ld7=Vlax Romani|ll7=Vlax Romani language
lc8=rmw|ld8=Welsh Romani|ll8=Welsh Romani language

Romani or Romany, Gypsy or Gipsy [ [ Romany language - Britannica Online Encyclopedia ] ] (native name: "romani ćhib") is the language of the Romani people.

The Indo-Aryan Romani language should not be confused with either Romanian (spoken by Romanians), or Romansh (spoken in parts of southeastern Switzerland), both of which are Romance languages.

Classification and status

Analysis of the Romani language has shown that it is closely related to those spoken in central and northern India. This linguistic relationship is believed to indicate the Roma's and Sinti's geographical origin. Loanwords in Romani make it possible to trace the pattern of their migration westwards. They came originally from the Indian subcontinent or what is now northern India and parts of Pakistan. The Romani language is usually included in the Central Indo-Aryan languages (together with Western Hindi, Bhili, Gujarati, Khandeshi, Rajasthani etc.). It is still debated whether the origin of the name "Sinti" is the same as that of the toponym for the Sindh region of southeastern Pakistan and far western India (Rajasthan and Gujarat), around the lower Indus River or is a European loanword in Romani, recognizable as such in its morphological integration into the language (plural Sinte, feminine singular Sintica). It was primarily through comparative linguistic studies of the Romani language with various north Indian dialects and languages that the origins of the Roma people were traced back to India.

Romani, Panjabi, and Pothwari share some words and similar grammatical systems. A 2003 study published in "Nature" suggests Romani is also related to Sinhalese, [cite journal |last=Gray |first=R.D. |authorlink= |coauthors=Atkinson, Q.D. |year=2003 |title=Language-tree divergence times support the Anatolian theory of Indo-European origin |journal=Nature |volume=426 |issue=6965 |pages=435–9 |doi=10.1038/nature02029 |accessdate=2008-07-15 ] spoken in Sri Lanka.

In terms of its grammatical structures, Romani is conservative in maintaining almost intact the Middle Indo-Aryan present-tense person concord markers, and in maintaining consonantal endings for nominal case – both features that have been eroded in most other modern languages of Central India. It shares an innovative pattern of past-tense person concord with the languages of the Northwest, such as Kashmiri and Shina. This is believed to be further proof that Romani originated in the Central region, then migrated to the Northwest. Characteristic for Romani is the fusion of postpositions of the second Layer (or case marking clitics) to the nominal stem, and the emergence of external tense morphology that attaches to the person suffix. All of these features are shared between Romani and Domari, which has prompted much discussion about the relationships between these two languages.

The Romani language is sometimes considered a group of dialects or a collection of related languages that comprise all the members of a single genetic subgroup.

While the language is nowhere official, there are attempts currently aimed at the creation of a standard language out of all variants (such as those from Romania, the USA, Sweden). Also, different variants of the language are now in the process of being codified in those countries with high Roma populations (for example, Slovakia).


There are no sure historical documents about the early phases of the Romani language. The language is not directly cited in the epic "Shahnameh" by the eleventh century Persian poet Firdausi, who wrote about the 10,000 or 12,000 Desi musicians who were given in the fifth century C.E. by King Shankal of Kanauj (in Sindh) to Bahram Gur the King of Persia. Nevertheless, many have suggested that these people are the ancestors of the Roma.

However, research carried out already in the nineteenth century by Pott (1845) and Miklosich (1882-1888) showed this to be unlikely. The Romani language proves to be a New Indo-Aryan language (NIA), not a Middle Indo-Aryan (MIA), as it would have to be to fit Firdausi's scheme. The principal argument favouring a migration during or after the transition period to NIA is the loss of the old system of nominal case, and its reduction to just a two-way case system, nominative vs. oblique. A secondary argument concerns the system of gender differentiation. Romani has only two genders (masculine and feminine). Middle Indo-Aryan languages (named MIA) generally had three genders (masculine, feminine and neuter), and some modern Indo-Aryan languages retain this old system even today. It is argued that loss of the neuter gender did not occur until the transition to NIA. Most of the neuter nouns became masculine while a few feminine, like the neuter अग्नि (agni) in the Prakrit became the feminine आग (āg) in Hindi and "jag" in Romani. The parallels in grammatical gender evolution between Romani and other NIA languages have been cited as evidence that the forerunner of Romani remained in the Indian Subcontinent until a later period, perhaps even as late as the tenth century.

There are no historical proofs to clarify who the ancestors of the Roma were or what motivated them to emigrate from the Indian subcontinent, but there are various theories. The influence of the Greek language (and to a lesser extent of the Iranian languages, like Persian, Kurdish and of the Armenian language), points to a prolonged stay in Anatolia after the departure from South Asia.

The Mongol invasion of Europe beginning in the first half of the thirteenth century triggered another westward migration. The Roma arrived in Europe and afterwards spread to the other continents. The great distances between the scattered Roma groups led to the development of local community distinctions. The differing local influences have greatly affected the modern language, splitting it into a number of different (originally exclusively regional) dialects.

Today Romani is spoken by small groups in 42 European countries [] . A project at Manchester University in England is transcribing Romani dialects, many of which are on the brink of extinction, for the first time. []

Modern language

Today's dialects of Romani are differentiated by the vocabulary accumulated since their departure from Anatolia, as well as through divergent phonemic evolutions and grammatical features. Many Roma no longer speak the language or speak various new contact languages from the local language with the addition of Romani vocabulary.

A long-standing common categorisation was a division between the "Vlax" (from "Vlach") from "non-Vlax" dialects. "Vlax" are those Roma who lived many centuries in the territory of Romania. The main distinction between the two groups is the degree to which their vocabulary is borrowed from Romanian. Vlax-speaking groups account for the greatest number of speakers (between half and two-thirds of all Romani speakers). Bernard Gilliath-Smith first made this distinction, and coined the term "Vlax" in 1915 in the book "The Report on the Gypsy tribes of North East Bulgaria". Subsequently, other groups of dialects were recognized, primarily based on geographical and vocabulary criteria, including:

*Balkan Romani: in Albania, Bulgaria, Greece, Republic of Macedonia, Moldova, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro, Serbia, Romania, Turkey and Ukraine
*Romani of Wales"
*Romani of Finland
*Sinte: in Austria, Croatia, the Czech Republic, France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Poland, Serbia, Montenegro, Slovenia, and Switzerland
*Carpathian Romani: in the Czech Republic, Poland (particularly in the south), Slovakia, Hungary, Romania, and Ukraine
*Baltic Romani: in Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland (particularly in the north), Belarus, Ukraine and Russia
*Turkish dialects:
**Thraki (Thrace) dialect (Thrace, Uskudar, a district on the Anatolian side of the Bosphorus): most loanwords are from Greek
**Anatolian dialect. Most loanwords are from Turkish and Persian
**Posha dialect, Armenian Gypsies from eastern Anatolia mostly nomads although some have settled in the region of Van, Turkey. The Kurds call them "Mytryp" (settled ones).

In the past several decades, some scholars have worked out a categorisation of Romani dialects from a linguistic point of view on the basis of historical evolution and isoglosses. Much of this work was carried out by Bochum-based linguist Norbert Boretzky, who pioneered the systematic plotting of structural features of Romani dialects onto geographical maps. This culminated in an Atlas of Romani Dialects, co-authored with Birgit Igla, which appeared in 2005 and plots numerous isoglosses onto maps. At the University of Manchester, similar work has been carried out by linguist and former Romani-rights activist Yaron Matras, and his associates. Together with Viktor Elšík (now of Charles University, Prague), Matras compiled the Romani Morpho-Syntax database, which is the largest compilation of data on the dialects of Romani. Parts of this database can be accessed online via the webpage of the Manchester Romani Project. Matras (2002, 2005) has argued for a theory of geographical classification of Romani dialects, which is based on the diffusion in space of innovations. According to this theory, Early Romani (as spoken in the Byzantine Empire) was brought to western and other parts of Europe through population migrations of Rom in the 14th-15th centuries. These groups settled in the various European regions during the 16th and 17th centuries, acquiring fluency in a variety of contact languages. Changes emerged then, which spread in wave-like patterns, creating the dialect differences attested today. According to Matras, there were two major centres of innovations: some changes emerged in western Europe (Germany and vicinity), spreading eastwards; other emerged in the Wallachian area, spreading to the west and south. In addition, many regional and local isoglosses formed, creating a complex wave of language boundaries. Matras points to the prothesis of j- in aro > jaro 'egg' and ov > jov 'he' as typical examples of west-to-east diffusion, and of addition of prothetic a- in bijav > abijav as a typical east-to-west spread. His conclusion is that dialect differences formed in situ, and not as a result of different waves of migration.

In a series of articles (beginning from 1982), Marcel Courthiade proposed a different kind of classification. He concentrates on the dialectal diversity of Romani in three successive strata of expansion, using the criteria of phonological and grammatical changes. Finding the common linguistic features of the dialects, he presents the historical evolution from the first stratum (the dialects closest to the Anatolian Romani of the 13th century) to the second and third strata. He also names as "pogadialects" (after the "Pogadi" dialect from Great Britain) those which have only a Romani vocabulary grafted into a non-Romani language.

A table of some dialectal differences:

ee also

*Romani writing systems
*Caló, or Ibero-Romani.
*Romano-Serbian language
*Bohemian Romani
*Angloromani language
*Baltic Romani language
*Domari language
*Lomavren language
*North Central Romani
*Tarish language
*Vlax Romani language
*Welsh Romani language
*Scandoromani (Tavringer)
*Kalo Finnish Romani language

Notes and references

* Bakker Peter et al. 2000. "What is the Romani language?" Hatfield: University of Hertfordshire Press.
* Hancock, Ian. 2001. "Ame sam e rromane džene / We are the Romani People." The Open Society Institute, New York.
* Lee, Ronald. 2005. "Learn Romani Das-dúma Rromanes" Hatfield: University of Hertfordshire Press
* Masica, Colin. 1991. "The Indo-Aryan Languages." Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
* Matras, Yaron. 2002. "Romani: A linguistic introduction." Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
* Sarău, Gheorghe. 1997. "Rromii, India şi limba rromani." Bucureşti.
* Sarău, Gheorghe. 2000. "Dicţionar rrom-român / Dikcionaro rromano-rumunikano." Dacia, Cluj-Napoca. ISBN 973-35-0987-6.

External links

(Note: For links to a variety of Romani media, chatroom and history and culture sites, see in particular the [ links pages] of the Manchester University Romani project.)
* [ A discussion about standardization]
* [ Detailed discussion of the language]
* [ Gelem gelem] - International Roma anthem: text, translation and sound recordings
* [ Lord's Prayer in Vlach Romani]
* [ Outline of Romani Grammar (Victor A. Friedman)]
* [ Partial Romani/English Dictionary] (Compiled by Angela Ba'Tal Libal and Will Strain)
* [ Roma / Gypsies: Language] (The World Wide Web Virtual Library)
* [ Romacilikanes - The Romani dialect of Parakalamos] (Y. Matras)
* [ Romani] (Encyclopedia of Language and Linguistics article, by Y. Matras)
* [ Romani Archive and Documentation Center]
* [ Romani in Europe]
* [ Romani language tree]
* [ Romani Lila] - online catalogue of about 15,000 books, articles etc. on Roma and Romani
* [ Romani Origins - Veda encyclopedia]
* [ Romani page by Fergus Smith]
* [ Romani project at Karl-Franzens-University in Graz]
* [ Romani project at Manchester University]
*Romano-Kalo grammar (parts, in Spanish) by Juan de Dios Ramírez Heredia: [ A Propósito de Nuestro Idioma] / [ Gramática Gitano (4)] / [ Gramática Gitano (5)]
* [ The classification of Romani dialects: A geographic-historical perspective] (Y. Matras)
* [ The future of Romani: Toward a policy of linguistic pluralism] (also [ here] ) (Y. Matras)
* [ Learn Romani]
* [ The Rroma] - contains language information
* [ The status of Romani in Europe] - Report submitted to the Council of Europe’s Language Policy Division, October 2005 (Yaron Matras)
* [ Vikipidiya] - Romani language Wikipedia
* [ University of Hertfordshire Press] – Publisher of a large range of Romani Studies books
* [ Vocabulary in four languages, Romani, Romanian, Italian, English, with drawings by Daniel Dumitrescu, Vandana Culea]

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