Bohemian Romany

Bohemian Romany

Bohemian Romany or "Bohemian Romani" is a dialect of Romany (a European Indo-Aryan language) formerly spoken by the Roma of Bohemia, the western part of today's Czech Republic. It became extinct after the World War II, due to extermination of most of its speakers in Nazi concentration camps.


Before their extermination in the 1940's, speakers of Bohemian Romany, the Bohemian Roma, were one of several nomadic populations of Bohemia. They lead a peripatetic (or semi-peripatetic) way of life, travelling around the country (especially during the warmer seasons of the year) and offering their services to the sedentary population of the Bohemian countryside. They were mostly horse-dealers, peddlars, tinners, and entertainers.

The first ancestors of Bohemian Roma probably arrived in Bohemia in the 16th and 17th centuries, from Slovakia via Moravia. Small-scale migration of Roma from Slovakia to the Czech Lands (as well as backwards) continued throughout the following centuries. The Bohemian Roma have always been a numerically insignificant minority. In 1939, there were ca. 6,000 people of different Roma groups in the territory of today's Czech Republic (Nečas 1995). Of these, a smaller fraction, perhaps some 2,000 people, lived in Bohemia. The proportion of different Roma groups in this figure is unknown, though the estimate of 500-1,500 of Bohemian Roma cannot be wildly off the mark.

Other Roma groups in Bohemia, who spoke different dialects of Roma than the Bohemian Roma, included the Sinti and a few families of the Kalderar (or Kalderaš) Roma. The Sinti appear to have been the first Roma group to be established in the region, some of them arriving from southeastern Europe as early as in the 15th century; they mostly inhabited the German-speaking parts of Bohemia. The Kalderar, on the other hand, were relatively late newcomers, having had migrated from Wallachia in the second half of the 19th century. In addition, there were also several non-Roma peripatetic groups in Bohemia, who spoke Czech or German or argots based on these languages.

The self-ethnonym of Bohemian Roma was simply "Rom" (plural "Roma"). They were called "Hungarians" by the Sinti; this probably reflects their origin in Slovakia, which was then part of Hungary. They were called "Poles" ("Poljako", plural "Poljača") by the Kalderar, which is one of the ethnonyms the Kalderar use to refer to different Roma groups. The sedentary population referred to all peripatetic groups, including Bohemian Roma, as "gypsies": "cikáni" in Czech or "Zigeuner" in German.

In the early 20th century, Bohemian Romany was, at least in some groups of Bohemian Roma, gradually becoming a non-native ethnic language, acquired in late childhood and used mostly for secretive purposes (cf. Lesný 1916: 214–216, Lípa 1960: 50). Clearly, a development had started toward a Para-Romany variety, that is, a specialized non-native variety spoken by Roma, which has the grammar of a majority language (Czech in this case) as well as an access to Romany-derived lexicon (Elšík 2003: 44).

The Nazi genocide of Roma and Sinti in the 1940's brought about radical death of all Romany dialects of pre-war Bohemia, including Bohemian Romany. Only ca. 600 (i.e. 10% of) Czech Roma and Sinti survived the genocide (Nečas 1995), including perhaps a hundred of Bohemian Roma. Bohemian Romany ceased to be used by the survivors due to a complete social disintegration of their communities, and they ceased to transmit the language to their children. The last known speaker of Bohemian Romany died in 1970's (Hana Šebková, p.c.).

The historical group of Bohemian Roma must be distinguished from those Roma groups that live in Bohemia presently. The latter are post-World War II immigrants from Slovakia (especially Romungro), who do not speak Bohemian Romany.

Dialect classification

Bohemian Romany belongs to the North Central dialect group of Romany. It is most closely related to Moravian Romany and West Slovak Romany, together with which it forms the Western subgroup of North Central Romany. Although clearly a North Central dialect, Bohemian Romany also shares a few features with the Sinti dialects of Romany. In some cases, these are due to diffusion from Sinti into Bohemian Romany. While Bohemian Romany would have been intelligible to speakers of other North Central dialects, there is evidence that there was no inherent intelligibility between Bohemian Romany and Sinti.


Bohemian Romany shares with other dialects of Romany much of its Indo-Aryan vocabulary as well as numerous early loanwords from Western Iranian languages (Persian and/or Kurdish), Armenian, Ossetic, and Greek. In addition, it shares with the other North Central dialects of Romany the layer of loanwords from South Slavic languages, Hungarian, and Slovak. Finally, the most recent loanwords originate in Czech.

Examples of loanwords
* West Iranian: "angrusťi" "ring", "baxt" "luck", "čupňi(k)" "whip"
* Armenian: "burnek" "handful", "grast" "horse"
* West Iranian or Armenian: "čekat" "forehead"
* Ossetic: "círax" "shoe, boot", "xólov" "trousers"
* Greek: "amoňis" "anvil", "armin" "cabbage", "efta" "seven", "foros" "town", "ľiťhi" "fruit tree", "paxoň-" "freeze"
* South Slavic: "caklo" "glass", "doha" "enough", "dugo" "long", "duma" "speech", "vičin-" "shout"
* Hungarian: "bugaris" "spider" (< "beetle"), "dilos" "noon", "faďin-" "freeze"
* Slovak: "čapláris" "inn keeper"
* Czech: "mořos" "sea"
* Slovak or Czech: "hrobos" "grave", "národos" "friend" (< "nation")

Text sample

"Ehas jekh čorro rom. Kerelas buťi. Kana kerelas, kerďas dešupandž karfa, the diňas len peskra romňake, kaj te džal jarreske. Kana vaš oda jarro geľas, avľas, thoďas, ušanďas xumer. Pale kerďas mačiki, thoďas len pro čáro. Bešte pr-oda čáro bištheštar maťha. Phenďas o rom peskra romňake: "Dikhes romňije, me som murš, kaj bištheštar maťhen tel jekha dabate našavava." E romňi phenďas: "Me džanav, kaj hi meg feder murš meg sal tu, kaj čivela peskri thaľik pro šipkos, kaj la lela tel, aňi na čalavela."


* Boretzky, Norbert. 1999. Die Gliederung der Zentralen Dialekte und die Beziehungen zwischen Südlichen Zentralen Dialekten (Romungro) und Südbalkanischen Romani-Dialekten. In: Halwachs, Dieter W. and Florian Menz (eds.) "Die Sprache der Roma. Perspektiven der Romani-Forschung in Österreich im interdisziplinären und internazionalen Kontext". Klagenfurt: Drava. 210–276.

* Elšík, Viktor. 2003. Interdialect contact of Czech (and Slovak) Romani varieties. "International Journal of the Sociology of Language", 162, 41–62.

* Ješina, Josef. 1886. "Romáňi čib oder die Zigeuner-Sprache (Grammatik, Wörterbuch, Chrestomathie)". Leipzig: List and Francke.

* Lesný, Vincenc. 1916. Cikáni v Čechách a na Moravě [Gypsies in Bohemia and Moravia] . "Národopisný věstník českoslovanský" 11, 193–216.

* Lípa, Jiří. 1960. Poznámky k otázce cikánských prvků v českém argotu [Notes on Gypsy elements in the Czech secret cant] . In: "Rusko-české studie, Sborník Vysoké školy pedagogické v Praze, Jazyk a literatura 2", 47–56. Praha: Státní pedagogické nakladatelství.

* Puchmayer, Anton Jaroslaw. 1821. "Románi čib, das ist: Grammatik und Wörterbuch der Zigeuner Sprache, nebst einigen Fabeln in derselben. Dazu als Anhang die Hantýrka oder die čechische Diebessprache". Prag: Fürst-erzbischöflichen Buchdruckerey.

* Nečas, Ctibor. 1995. "Romové v České republice včera a dnes" [Roma in the Czech Republic in the Past and the Present] . Olomouc: Vydavatelství Univerzity Palackého.

* Vymazal, František. 1900. "Cikánsky snadno a rychle" [Easy and Quick: the Gypsy Language] . Praha: Bačkovský.

See also

* North Central Romany
* Romany
* Roma Holocaust

External links

Wikimedia Foundation. 2010.

Look at other dictionaries:

  • Romany Marie — Marie circa 1948 Marie Marchand (May 17, 1885 February 20, 1961), known as Romany Marie, was a Greenwich Village restaurateur who played a key role in bohemianism from the early 1900s through the late 1950s in New York City s Manhattan. Contents …   Wikipedia

  • Bohemian — Synonyms and related words: Arab, Bedouin, Romany, Zigeuner, affable, beat, beatnik, breakaway, casual, cordial, degage, deviant, dissenter, dropout, easy, easygoing, eccentric, familiar, far out, flower child, folksy, freak, free and easy,… …   Moby Thesaurus

  • North Central Romany — or North Central Romany , dated: Carpathian Romany or Romungro (or Hungarian Roma : Rom + Ungro Fact|date=October 2008), is one of a dozen major dialect groups within Romany, an Indo Aryan language of Europe. The North Central dialects of Romany… …   Wikipedia

  • The Bohemian Girl — is an opera composed by Michael Balfe with a libretto by Alfred Bunn. The plot is loosely based on a Cervantes tale, La Gitanilla .The opera was first produced in London at the Drury Lane Theatre on November 27 1843. The production ran for 100… …   Wikipedia

  • Roma people — Infobox Ethnic group group = Roma image caption = Khamoro Roma Festival Prague 2007 flag caption = Flag of the Roma people pop = 15 million or more region1 = flagcountry|IND pop1 = 5,794,000 ref1 = lower| [cite… …   Wikipedia

  • gipsy — Gypsy Gyp sy (j[i^]p s[y^]), n.; pl. {Gypsies} (j[i^]p s[i^]z). [OE. Gypcyan, F. [ e]gyptien Egyptian, gypsy, L. Aegyptius. See {Egyptian}.] [Also spelled {gipsy} and {gypsey}.] 1. One of a vagabond race, whose tribes, coming originally from… …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • gypsey — Gypsy Gyp sy (j[i^]p s[y^]), n.; pl. {Gypsies} (j[i^]p s[i^]z). [OE. Gypcyan, F. [ e]gyptien Egyptian, gypsy, L. Aegyptius. See {Egyptian}.] [Also spelled {gipsy} and {gypsey}.] 1. One of a vagabond race, whose tribes, coming originally from… …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • Gypsies — Gypsy Gyp sy (j[i^]p s[y^]), n.; pl. {Gypsies} (j[i^]p s[i^]z). [OE. Gypcyan, F. [ e]gyptien Egyptian, gypsy, L. Aegyptius. See {Egyptian}.] [Also spelled {gipsy} and {gypsey}.] 1. One of a vagabond race, whose tribes, coming originally from… …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • Gypsy — Gyp sy (j[i^]p s[y^]), n.; pl. {Gypsies} (j[i^]p s[i^]z). [OE. Gypcyan, F. [ e]gyptien Egyptian, gypsy, L. Aegyptius. See {Egyptian}.] [Also spelled {gipsy} and {gypsey}.] 1. One of a vagabond race, whose tribes, coming originally from India,… …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • Arab — Synonyms and related words: Bedouin, Bohemian, Romany, Zigeuner, beach bum, beachcomber, beggar, bo, bum, bummer, dogie, gamin, gamine, guttersnipe, gypsy, hobo, homeless waif, idler, landloper, lazzarone, loafer, losel, mudlark, nomad, piker,… …   Moby Thesaurus