Romani language
Overview
 
Romani or Romany, Gypsy or Gipsy is any of several languages of the Romani people. They are Indic, sometimes classified in the "Central" or "Northwestern" zone, and sometimes treated as a branch of their own.

According to Ethnologue
Ethnologue
Ethnologue: Languages of the World is a web and print publication of SIL International , a Christian linguistic service organization, which studies lesser-known languages, to provide the speakers with Bibles in their native language and support their efforts in language development.The Ethnologue...

, seven varieties of Romani are divergent enough to be considered languages of their own. The largest of these are Vlax Romani (about 900,000 speakers), Balkan Romani
Balkan Romani
Balkan Romani is group of dialects of the Romani language spoken in various Balkan countries.-Dialects:The Balkan dialects are split into two main groups, a northern group and a southern group :...

 (700,000), Carpathian Romani (500,000) and Sinti Romani
Sinti-Manouche language
Sinti-Manouche is the variety of Romani spoken by the Sinti people in Germany, France, Austria, some parts of northern Italy and other adjacent regions...

 (300,000).
Analysis of the Romani language has shown that it is closely related to those spoken in the central and northern Indian subcontinent.
Encyclopedia
Romani or Romany, Gypsy or Gipsy is any of several languages of the Romani people. They are Indic, sometimes classified in the "Central" or "Northwestern" zone, and sometimes treated as a branch of their own.

According to Ethnologue
Ethnologue
Ethnologue: Languages of the World is a web and print publication of SIL International , a Christian linguistic service organization, which studies lesser-known languages, to provide the speakers with Bibles in their native language and support their efforts in language development.The Ethnologue...

, seven varieties of Romani are divergent enough to be considered languages of their own. The largest of these are Vlax Romani (about 900,000 speakers), Balkan Romani
Balkan Romani
Balkan Romani is group of dialects of the Romani language spoken in various Balkan countries.-Dialects:The Balkan dialects are split into two main groups, a northern group and a southern group :...

 (700,000), Carpathian Romani (500,000) and Sinti Romani
Sinti-Manouche language
Sinti-Manouche is the variety of Romani spoken by the Sinti people in Germany, France, Austria, some parts of northern Italy and other adjacent regions...

 (300,000).

Classification and status

Analysis of the Romani language has shown that it is closely related to those spoken in the central and northern Indian subcontinent. This linguistic relationship is believed to indicate the geographical origins of the Romani people (Roma, Sinti
Sinti
Sinti or Sinta or Sinte is the name of a Romani or Gypsy population in Europe. Traditionally nomadic, today only a small percentage of the group remains unsettled...

, etc.). Loanwords in Romani make it possible to trace the pattern of their migration westwards. They came originally from the Indian subcontinent
Indian subcontinent
The Indian subcontinent, also Indian Subcontinent, Indo-Pak Subcontinent or South Asian Subcontinent is a region of the Asian continent on the Indian tectonic plate from the Hindu Kush or Hindu Koh, Himalayas and including the Kuen Lun and Karakoram ranges, forming a land mass which extends...

 or what is now northern India
India
India , officially the Republic of India , is a country in South Asia. It is the seventh-largest country by geographical area, the second-most populous country with over 1.2 billion people, and the most populous democracy in the world...

 and parts of Pakistan
Pakistan
Pakistan , officially the Islamic Republic of Pakistan is a sovereign state in South Asia. It has a coastline along the Arabian Sea and the Gulf of Oman in the south and is bordered by Afghanistan and Iran in the west, India in the east and China in the far northeast. In the north, Tajikistan...

. The Romani language is usually included in the Central Indo-Aryan languages (together with Western Hindi
Hindi
Standard Hindi, or more precisely Modern Standard Hindi, also known as Manak Hindi , High Hindi, Nagari Hindi, and Literary Hindi, is a standardized and sanskritized register of the Hindustani language derived from the Khariboli dialect of Delhi...

, Bhili
Bhili language
Bhili is a Western Indo-Aryan language spoken in west-central India, in the region east of Ahmedabad. Other names for the language include Bhagoria and Bhilboli; varieties are Wagdi and Garasia. Bhili is a member of the Bhil language family, which is related to Gujarati and the Rajasthani language...

, Marathi
Marathi language
Marathi is an Indo-Aryan language spoken by the Marathi people of western and central India. It is the official language of the state of Maharashtra. There are over 68 million fluent speakers worldwide. Marathi has the fourth largest number of native speakers in India and is the fifteenth most...

, Gujarati
Gujarati language
Gujarati is an Indo-Aryan language, and part of the greater Indo-European language family. It is derived from a language called Old Gujarati which is the ancestor language of the modern Gujarati and Rajasthani languages...

, Khandeshi, Rajasthani
Rajasthani language
Rajasthani Rajasthani Rajasthani (Devanagari: , Perso-Arabic: is a language of the Indo-Aryan languages family. It is spoken by 50 million people in Rajasthan and other states of India and in some areas of Pakistan. The number of speakers may be up to 80 million worldwide...

, etc.).

It is still debated whether the origin of the name Sinti is the same as that of the toponym for the Sindh
Sindh
Sindh historically referred to as Ba'ab-ul-Islam , is one of the four provinces of Pakistan and historically is home to the Sindhi people. It is also locally known as the "Mehran". Though Muslims form the largest religious group in Sindh, a good number of Christians, Zoroastrians and Hindus can...

 region of southeastern Pakistan and far western India (Rajasthan
Rajasthan
Rājasthān the land of Rajasthanis, , is the largest state of the Republic of India by area. It is located in the northwest of India. It encompasses most of the area of the large, inhospitable Great Indian Desert , which has an edge paralleling the Sutlej-Indus river valley along its border with...

 and Gujarat), around the lower Indus River
Indus River
The Indus River is a major river which flows through Pakistan. It also has courses through China and India.Originating in the Tibetan plateau of western China in the vicinity of Lake Mansarovar in Tibet Autonomous Region, the river runs a course through the Ladakh district of Jammu and Kashmir and...

 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
Comparative linguistics
Comparative linguistics is a branch of historical linguistics that is concerned with comparing languages to establish their historical relatedness....

 studies of the Romani language with various north Indian dialects and languages that the origins of the Romani people were traced back to India.

Romani and Punjabi
Punjabi language
Punjabi is an Indo-Aryan language spoken by inhabitants of the historical Punjab region . For Sikhs, the Punjabi language stands as the official language in which all ceremonies take place. In Pakistan, Punjabi is the most widely spoken language...

 share some words and similar grammatical systems. A 2003 study published in Nature
Nature (journal)
Nature, first published on 4 November 1869, is ranked the world's most cited interdisciplinary scientific journal by the Science Edition of the 2010 Journal Citation Reports...

 suggests Romani is also related to Sinhalese, spoken in Sri Lanka
Sri Lanka
Sri Lanka, officially the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka is a country off the southern coast of the Indian subcontinent. Known until 1972 as Ceylon , Sri Lanka is an island surrounded by the Indian Ocean, the Gulf of Mannar and the Palk Strait, and lies in the vicinity of India and the...

. According to Oriental Society of Linguistics, Ancestral Studies and History (OSLASH), 2009 Romani is also related to the Divehi language spoken in the Maldives
Maldives
The Maldives , , officially Republic of Maldives , also referred to as the Maldive Islands, is an island nation in the Indian Ocean formed by a double chain of twenty-six atolls oriented north-south off India's Lakshadweep islands, between Minicoy Island and...

.

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
Kashmiri language
Kashmiri is a language from the Dardic sub-group and it is spoken primarily in the Kashmir Valley, in Jammu and Kashmir. There are approximately 5,554,496 speakers in Jammu and Kashmir, according to the Census of 2001. Most of the 105,000 speakers or so in Pakistan are émigrés from the Kashmir...

 and Shina
Shina language
Shina is a Dardic language spoken by a plurality of people in Gilgit-Baltistan of Pakistan and Dras in Ladakh of Indian-Administered Kashmir. The valleys in which it is spoken include Astore, Chilas, Dareil, Tangeer, Gilgit, Ghizer, and a few parts of Baltistan and Kohistan. It is also spoken in...

. 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
Domari language
Domari is an Indo-Aryan language, spoken by the Dom people across the Middle East, mainly in Iran and Egypt, but significant numbers of speakers are also found in India where they are known as Domba....

, 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.

The language is nowhere official, but is recognized as a minority language in many countries. Different variants of the language are now in the process of being codified in those countries with high Romani populations (for example, Slovakia
Slovakia
The Slovak Republic is a landlocked state in Central Europe. It has a population of over five million and an area of about . Slovakia is bordered by the Czech Republic and Austria to the west, Poland to the north, Ukraine to the east and Hungary to the south...

). There are also some attempts currently aimed at the creation of a unified standard language
Romani language standardization
There are independent groups currently working toward standardizing the Romani language, including groups in Romania, Serbia, the USA, and Sweden.-Where it is being pursued:A standardized form of Romani is used in Serbia...

.

History

There are no known historical documents about the early phases of the Romani language.

Linguistic evaluation carried out in the nineteenth century by Pott (1845) and Miklosich (1882–1888) showed the Romani language to be a New Indo-Aryan language (NIA), not a Middle Indo-Aryan
Middle Indo-Aryan languages
The Middle Indo-Aryan languages are the early medieval dialects of the Indo-Aryan languages, the descendants of the Old Indo-Aryan dialects such as Vedic & Classical Sanskrit, and the predecessors of the late medieval languages such as Apabhramsha or Abahatta, which eventually evolved into the...

 (MIA), establishing that the ancestors of the Romani could not have left India significantly earlier than AD 1000.

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
Grammatical gender
Grammatical gender is defined linguistically as a system of classes of nouns which trigger specific types of inflections in associated words, such as adjectives, verbs and others. For a system of noun classes to be a gender system, every noun must belong to one of the classes and there should be...

 (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
Prakrit
Prakrit is the name for a group of Middle Indic, Indo-Aryan languages, derived from Old Indic dialects. The word itself has a flexible definition, being defined sometimes as, "original, natural, artless, normal, ordinary, usual", or "vernacular", in contrast to the literary and religious...

 became the feminine आग (āg) in Hindi
Hindi
Standard Hindi, or more precisely Modern Standard Hindi, also known as Manak Hindi , High Hindi, Nagari Hindi, and Literary Hindi, is a standardized and sanskritized register of the Hindustani language derived from the Khariboli dialect of Delhi...

 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 on the Indian subcontinent until a later period, perhaps even as late as the tenth century.

There is no historical proof to clarify who the ancestors of the Romani were or what motivated them to emigrate from the Indian subcontinent
Indian subcontinent
The Indian subcontinent, also Indian Subcontinent, Indo-Pak Subcontinent or South Asian Subcontinent is a region of the Asian continent on the Indian tectonic plate from the Hindu Kush or Hindu Koh, Himalayas and including the Kuen Lun and Karakoram ranges, forming a land mass which extends...

, but there are various theories. The influence of Greek
Greek language
Greek is an independent branch of the Indo-European family of languages. Native to the southern Balkans, it has the longest documented history of any Indo-European language, spanning 34 centuries of written records. Its writing system has been the Greek alphabet for the majority of its history;...

, Turkish
Turkish language
Turkish is a language spoken as a native language by over 83 million people worldwide, making it the most commonly spoken of the Turkic languages. Its speakers are located predominantly in Turkey and Northern Cyprus with smaller groups in Iraq, Greece, Bulgaria, the Republic of Macedonia, Kosovo,...

, and to a lesser extent of the Iranian languages
Iranian languages
The Iranian languages form a subfamily of the Indo-Iranian languages which in turn is a subgroup of Indo-European language family. They have been and are spoken by Iranian peoples....

 (like Persian
Persian language
Persian is an Iranian language within the Indo-Iranian branch of the Indo-European languages. It is primarily spoken in Iran, Afghanistan, Tajikistan and countries which historically came under Persian influence...

 and Kurdish
Kurdish language
Kurdish is a dialect continuum spoken by the Kurds in western Asia. It is part of the Iranian branch of the Indo-Iranian group of Indo-European languages....

) and Armenian
Armenian language
The Armenian language is an Indo-European language spoken by the Armenian people. It is the official language of the Republic of Armenia as well as in the region of Nagorno-Karabakh. The language is also widely spoken by Armenian communities in the Armenian diaspora...

, points to a prolonged stay in Anatolia
Anatolia
Anatolia is a geographic and historical term denoting the westernmost protrusion of Asia, comprising the majority of the Republic of Turkey...

 after the departure from South Asia.

The Mongol invasion of Europe
Mongol invasion of Europe
The resumption of the Mongol invasion of Europe, during which the Mongols attacked medieval Rus' principalities and the powers of Poland and Hungary, was marked by the Mongol invasion of Rus starting in 21 December 1237...

 beginning in the first half of the thirteenth century triggered another westward migration. The Romani arrived in Europe
Europe
Europe is, by convention, one of the world's seven continents. Comprising the westernmost peninsula of Eurasia, Europe is generally 'divided' from Asia to its east by the watershed divides of the Ural and Caucasus Mountains, the Ural River, the Caspian and Black Seas, and the waterways connecting...

 and afterwards spread to the other continents. The great distances between the scattered Romani 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.

Domari and Romani language

Domari was once thought to be the "sister language" of Romani, the two languages having split after the departure from the Indian subcontinent, but more recent research suggests that the differences between them are significant enough to treat them as two separate languages within the Central zone (Hindustani
Hindustani language
Hindi-Urdu is an Indo-Aryan language and the lingua franca of North India and Pakistan. It is also known as Hindustani , and historically, as Hindavi or Rekhta...

) group of languages. The Dom and the Rom are therefore likely to be descendants of two different migration waves out of India, separated by several centuries.

Dialects

Today's dialects of Romani are differentiated by the vocabulary accumulated since their departure from Anatolia
Anatolia
Anatolia is a geographic and historical term denoting the westernmost protrusion of Asia, comprising the majority of the Republic of Turkey...

, as well as through divergent phonemic evolution
Sound change
Sound change includes any processes of language change that affect pronunciation or sound system structures...

 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 people who lived many centuries in the territory of Romania in slavery
Slavery in Romania
Slavery existed on the territory of present-day Romania from before the founding of the principalities of Wallachia and Moldavia in 13th–14th century, until it was abolished in stages during the 1840s and 1850s. Most of the slaves were of Roma ethnicity...

. The main distinction between the two groups is the degree to which their vocabulary is borrowed from Romanian
Romanian language
Romanian Romanian Romanian (or Daco-Romanian; obsolete spellings Rumanian, Roumanian; self-designation: română, limba română ("the Romanian language") or românește (lit. "in Romanian") is a Romance language spoken by around 24 to 28 million people, primarily in Romania and Moldova...

. 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. The Vlax dialect group, now seen as just one of about ten groups (see below), has nevertheless become very widespread geographically.

Geographic distribution

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 isogloss
Isogloss
An isogloss—also called a heterogloss —is the geographical boundary of a certain linguistic feature, such as the pronunciation of a vowel, the meaning of a word, or use of some syntactic feature...

es. 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.

According to this classification, the dialects are split as follows:
  • Northern Romani dialects
    Northern Romani dialects
    Northern Romani is group of dialects of the Romani language spoken in various Northern European, Central European and Eastern European countries.-Dialects:...

    in northern, western and southern Europe, most of Poland, Russia and the Baltic States
    Baltic states
    The term Baltic states refers to the Baltic territories which gained independence from the Russian Empire in the wake of World War I: primarily the contiguous trio of Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania ; Finland also fell within the scope of the term after initially gaining independence in the 1920s.The...

  • Central Romani dialects
    Central Romani dialects
    Central Romani is group of dialects of the Romani language spoken from southern Poland to Hungary and from eastern Austria to Ukraine.-Dialects:...

    from southern Poland to Hungary
    Hungary
    Hungary , officially the Republic of Hungary , is a landlocked country in Central Europe. It is situated in the Carpathian Basin and is bordered by Slovakia to the north, Ukraine and Romania to the east, Serbia and Croatia to the south, Slovenia to the southwest and Austria to the west. The...

     and from eastern Austria
    Austria
    Austria , officially the Republic of Austria , is a landlocked country of roughly 8.4 million people in Central Europe. It is bordered by the Czech Republic and Germany to the north, Slovakia and Hungary to the east, Slovenia and Italy to the south, and Switzerland and Liechtenstein to the...

     to Ukraine
    Ukraine
    Ukraine is a country in Eastern Europe. It has an area of 603,628 km², making it the second largest contiguous country on the European continent, after Russia...

  • Balkan Romani dialects
    Balkan Romani
    Balkan Romani is group of dialects of the Romani language spoken in various Balkan countries.-Dialects:The Balkan dialects are split into two main groups, a northern group and a southern group :...

  • Vlax Romani dialects
    Vlax Romani language
    Vlax Romani is a dialect group of the Romani language. Vlax Romani varieties are spoken mainly in Southeastern Europe by Romani people. Vlax Romani can also be referred to as an independent language or as one dialect of the Romani language. Vlax Romani is the most widely-spoken dialect subgroup of...



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 of Great Britain
Great Britain
Great Britain or Britain is an island situated to the northwest of Continental Europe. It is the ninth largest island in the world, and the largest European island, as well as the largest of the British Isles...

) those which have only a Romani vocabulary grafted into a non-Romani language (normally referred to as Para-Romani
Para-Romani
Para-Romani is a term used in Romani linguistics to refer non-Romani languages adopted by Romani communities but with considerable admixture from Romani. Some Para-Romani have no structural features at all, taking only the vocabulary from Romani. The technical term in linguistics for such a...

).

A table of some dialectal differences:
First stratum Second stratum Third stratum
phirdom, phirdyom
phirdyum, phirjum
phirdem phirdem
guglipe(n)/guglipa
guglibe(n)/gugliba
guglipe(n)/guglipa
guglibe(n)/gugliba
guglimos
pani
khoni

kuni
pai, payi
khoi, khoyi

kui, kuyi
pai, payi
khoi, khoyi

kui, kuyi
ćhib shib shib
jeno zheno zheno
po po/mai mai


The first stratum includes the oldest dialects: Mećkari (of Tirana
Tirana
Tirana is the capital and the largest city of Albania. Modern Tirana was founded as an Ottoman town in 1614 by Sulejman Bargjini, a local ruler from Mullet, although the area has been continuously inhabited since antiquity. Tirana became Albania's capital city in 1920 and has a population of over...

), Kabuʒi (of Korça
Korča
Korča is a village in the municipality of Hadžići, Bosnia and Herzegovina.-References:...

), Xanduri, Drindari, Erli, Arli, Bugurji, Mahaʒeri (of Pristina
Pristina
Pristina, also spelled Prishtina and Priština is the capital and largest city of Kosovo. It is the administrative centre of the homonymous municipality and district....

), Ursari (Rićhinari), Spoitori (Xoraxane), Karpatichi, Polska Roma, Kaale (from Finland
Finland
Finland , officially the Republic of Finland, is a Nordic country situated in the Fennoscandian region of Northern Europe. It is bordered by Sweden in the west, Norway in the north and Russia in the east, while Estonia lies to its south across the Gulf of Finland.Around 5.4 million people reside...

), Sinto-manush, and the so-called Baltic
Baltic countries
The term Baltic states refers to the Baltic territories which gained independence from the Russian Empire in the wake of World War I: primarily the contiguous trio of Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania ; Finland also fell within the scope of the term after initially gaining independence in the 1920s.The...

 dialects
.

In the second there are Ćergari (of Podgorica
Podgorica
Podgorica , is the capital and largest city of Montenegro.Podgorica's favourable position at the confluence of the Ribnica and Morača rivers and the meeting point of the fertile Zeta Plain and Bjelopavlići Valley has encouraged settlement...

), Gurbeti, Jambashi, Fichiri, Filipiʒi (of Agia Varvara
Agia Varvara
Agia Varvara The area was mainly made up of farmlands. Mixed farming was common. Urban development replaced much of the farmlands between the 1940s and the 1970s. Today, most of the municipality are urbanized or residential. The rocky landscape of Aigaleo with a few bushes and pine forests lies to...

)

The third comprises the rest of the so-called Gypsy dialects, including Kalderash, Lovari, Machvano.

Mixed languages

Some Romanies have developed creole language
Creole language
A creole language, or simply a creole, is a stable natural language developed from the mixing of parent languages; creoles differ from pidgins in that they have been nativized by children as their primary language, making them have features of natural languages that are normally missing from...

s or mixed language
Mixed language
A mixed language is a language that arises through the fusion of two source languages, normally in situations of thorough bilingualism, so that it is not possible to classify the resulting language as belonging to either of the language families that were its source...

s (chiefly by retaining Romani lexical item
Lexical item
A Lexical item is a single word or chain of words that forms the basic elements of a language's lexicon . Examples are "cat", "traffic light", "take care of", "by-the-way", and "it's raining cats and dogs"...

s and adopting second language grammatical structures), including:
  • in Northern Europe
    Northern Europe
    Northern Europe is the northern part or region of Europe. Northern Europe typically refers to the seven countries in the northern part of the European subcontinent which includes Denmark, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Norway, Finland and Sweden...

    • Angloromani (in British Isles
      British Isles
      The British Isles are a group of islands off the northwest coast of continental Europe that include the islands of Great Britain and Ireland and over six thousand smaller isles. There are two sovereign states located on the islands: the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland and...

      )
    • Scandoromani
      Scandoromani
      Scandoromani , also known as Tavringer Romani and the Tattare language, is a North Germanic based Para-Romani. It is currently spoken by the Norwegian and Swedish Travellers, a Romani minority community, in Sweden and Norway ."Scandoromani" is a term coined by academics...

       (in Scandinavia
      Scandinavia
      Scandinavia is a cultural, historical and ethno-linguistic region in northern Europe that includes the three kingdoms of Denmark, Norway and Sweden, characterized by their common ethno-cultural heritage and language. Modern Norway and Sweden proper are situated on the Scandinavian Peninsula,...

      )

  • in Central
    Central Europe
    Central Europe or alternatively Middle Europe is a region of the European continent lying between the variously defined areas of Eastern and Western Europe...

     and Eastern Europe
    Eastern Europe
    Eastern Europe is the eastern part of Europe. The term has widely disparate geopolitical, geographical, cultural and socioeconomic readings, which makes it highly context-dependent and even volatile, and there are "almost as many definitions of Eastern Europe as there are scholars of the region"...

    • Lomavren
      Lomavren language
      Lomavren is a nearly extinct mixed language, spoken by the Lom people that arose from language contact between proto-Romani-speaking people and the Armenian language.-Linguistic features:...

       (in Armenia
      Armenia
      Armenia , officially the Republic of Armenia , is a landlocked mountainous country in the Caucasus region of Eurasia...

      )

  • on the Iberian Peninsula
    Iberian Peninsula
    The Iberian Peninsula , sometimes called Iberia, is located in the extreme southwest of Europe and includes the modern-day sovereign states of Spain, Portugal and Andorra, as well as the British Overseas Territory of Gibraltar...

    :
    • Erromintxela
      Erromintxela
      Erromintxela is the distinctive language of a group of Roma living in the Basque Country, who also go by the name Erromintxela. It is sometimes called Basque Caló or Errumantxela in English; caló vasco, romaní vasco, or errominchela in Spanish; and euskado-rromani or euskado-romani in French...

       (in the Basque Country)
    • Spanish Caló
      Caló (Spanish Romani)
      Caló is a language spoken by the Spanish and Portuguese Romani. It is a mixed language based on Romance grammar, with an adstratum of Romani lexical items through language shift by the Romani community. It is often used as an argot, a secret language for discreet communication amongst Iberian...

    • Portuguese Calão

  • in South-Eastern Europe
    • Romano-Greek
      Romano-Greek language
      Romano-Greek is a nearly extinct mixed language , spoken by the Romani people in Greece that arose from language contact between Romani speaking people and the Greek language. Typologically the language is structured on Greek with heavy lexical borrowing from Romani....

    • Romano-Serbian
      Romano-Serbian language
      The Romano-Serbian language is a mixed language resulting from language contact between Serbian Serbo-Croatian and Romani in Serbia and distinct from the Vlax Romani dialects spoken in Serbia....


Distribution

The following table shows the distribution of Romani speakers in Europe according to Bakker et al. (2000) http://romani.uni-graz.at/rombase/cd/data/lang/gen/data/numbers.en.pdf. The last column shows the percentage of Romani speakers in the Romani population in each country.
Country Speakers %
Albania 90,000 95%
Austria 20,000 80%
Belarus 27,000 95%
Belgium 10,000 80%
Bosnia and Herzegovina 40,000 90%
Bulgaria 600,000 80%
Croatia 28,000 80%
Czech Republic 140,000 50%
Denmark 1,500 90%
Estonia 1,100 90%
Finland 3,000 90%
France 215,000 70%
Germany 85,000 70%
Greece 160,000 90%
Hungary 260,000 50%
Italy 42,000 90%
Latvia 18,500 90%
Lithuania 4,000 90%
Republic of Macedonia 215,000 90%
Moldova 56,000 90%
Montenegro 30,000 90%
Netherlands 7,000 90%
Poland 4,000 90%
Romania 1,030,000 80%
Russia 405,000 80%
Serbia 380,000 90%
Slovakia 300,000 60%
Slovenia 8,000 90%
Spain 1,000 1%
Sweden 9,500 90%
Turkey 280,000 70%
Ukraine 113,000 90%
United Kingdom 1,000 0.5%

Writing and literature

Though there were some writers who compose in Romani (mainly in Eastern Europe), there used to be no historical tradition of writing in Romani. One of the reasons for its survival was its usefulness as a secret language or argot
Argot
An Argot is a secret language used by various groups—including, but not limited to, thieves and other criminals—to prevent outsiders from understanding their conversations. The term argot is also used to refer to the informal specialized vocabulary from a particular field of study, hobby, job,...

. Printed anthologies of Romani folktales and poems began in the 20th century in Eastern Europe, using the respective national scripts (Latin or Cyrillic).

An orthographical standard intended for cross-dialect use was introduced by Marcel Courthiade in 1989 and has been adopted by the International Romani Union
International Romani Union
The International Romani Union is an organization active for the rights of the Romani people. Its seat is in Prague....

.

Standardization

Groups in several countries—including Romania
Romania
Romania is a country located at the crossroads of Central and Southeastern Europe, on the Lower Danube, within and outside the Carpathian arch, bordering on the Black Sea...

, Serbia, Montenegro, the United States, Sweden, and elsewhere—are currently working independently of each other toward standardizing the Romani language.

A standardized form of Romani is used in Serbia, and in Serbia's autonomous province of Vojvodina Romani is one of the officially recognized languages of minorities having its own radio stations and news broadcasts.

In Romania, a country with a sizable Romani minority
Roma minority in Romania
The Roma constitute one of the major minorities in Romania. According to the 2002 census, they number 535,140 people or 2.5% of the total population, being the second-largest ethnic minority in Romania after Hungarians...

 (2.5% of the total population), there is a unified teaching system of the Romani language for all dialects spoken in the country. This is primarily a result of the work of Gheorghe Sarău
Gheorghe Sarău
Gheorghe Sarău is a Romanian linguist specialized in the Romani language. He is the author of several Romani textbooks and plays an important role in the process of standardization of the Romani language.He studied at the Faculty of Foreign Languages and Literatures, University of Bucharest,...

, who made Romani textbooks for teaching Romani children in the Romani language. He teaches a purified, mildly prescriptive language, choosing the original Indo-Aryan words and grammatical elements from various dialects. The pronunciation is mostly like that of the dialects from the first stratum. When there are more variants in the dialects, the variant that most closely resembles the oldest forms is chosen, like byav, instead of abyav, abyau, akana instead of akanak, shunav instead of ashunav or ashunau, etc.

An effort is also made to derive new words from the vocabulary already in use, i.e., xuryavno (airplane), vortorin (slide rule), palpaledikhipnasko (retrospectively), pashnavni (adjective). There is an ever-changing set of borrowings from Romanian
Romanian language
Romanian Romanian Romanian (or Daco-Romanian; obsolete spellings Rumanian, Roumanian; self-designation: română, limba română ("the Romanian language") or românește (lit. "in Romanian") is a Romance language spoken by around 24 to 28 million people, primarily in Romania and Moldova...

 as well, including such terms as vremea (weather, time), primariya (town hall), frishka (cream), sfïnto (saint, holy). Hindi
Hindi
Standard Hindi, or more precisely Modern Standard Hindi, also known as Manak Hindi , High Hindi, Nagari Hindi, and Literary Hindi, is a standardized and sanskritized register of the Hindustani language derived from the Khariboli dialect of Delhi...

-based neologisms include bijli (bulb, electricity), misal (example), chitro (drawing, design), lekhipen (writing), while there are also English
English language
English is a West Germanic language that arose in the Anglo-Saxon kingdoms of England and spread into what was to become south-east Scotland under the influence of the Anglian medieval kingdom of Northumbria...

-based neologisms, like printisarel < "to print".

Language standardization is presently also being employed in the revival of the Romani language among various groups (in Spain, Great Britain, and elsewhere), which have ceased to speak the language. In these cases, a specific dialect is not revived, but rather a standardized form derived from many dialects is learned.

Romani loanwords in English

Romani has lent several words to English, including pal and possibly lollipop. Additional Romani words are sometimes used as slang, such as gadgie (man), shiv or chiv (knife), cushty or cooshtie (good - likely related to "cushti" in Hindi which means happy/good). Some Romani words have entered regional dialects, such as radge (adj. bad or angry, noun a state of irritation) in northeast England and southeast Scotland; jougal (dog) in southeast Scotland; as well as paani (water) and bewer (woman) in West Yorkshire
Yorkshire
Yorkshire is a historic county of northern England and the largest in the United Kingdom. Because of its great size in comparison to other English counties, functions have been increasingly undertaken over time by its subdivisions, which have also been subject to periodic reform...

 in England, also seen as beor in Cork
Cork (city)
Cork is the second largest city in the Republic of Ireland and the island of Ireland's third most populous city. It is the principal city and administrative centre of County Cork and the largest city in the province of Munster. Cork has a population of 119,418, while the addition of the suburban...

onian slang within Hiberno-English
Hiberno-English
Hiberno-English is the dialect of English written and spoken in Ireland .English was first brought to Ireland during the Norman invasion of the late 12th century. Initially it was mainly spoken in an area known as the Pale around Dublin, with Irish spoken throughout the rest of the country...

. Urban British slang shows an increasing level of Romani influence, with some words becoming accepted into the lexicon of standard English (for example, chav
Chav
A chav is a term that is used in the United Kingdom to describe a stereotype of teenagers and young adults from an underclass background.-Etymology:...

from an assumed Anglo-Romani word, meaning "small boy," in the majority of dialects).

See also

  • Romani orthography
  • Caló
    Caló (Spanish Romani)
    Caló is a language spoken by the Spanish and Portuguese Romani. It is a mixed language based on Romance grammar, with an adstratum of Romani lexical items through language shift by the Romani community. It is often used as an argot, a secret language for discreet communication amongst Iberian...

     or Ibero-Romani
  • Romano-Serbian language
    Romano-Serbian language
    The Romano-Serbian language is a mixed language resulting from language contact between Serbian Serbo-Croatian and Romani in Serbia and distinct from the Vlax Romani dialects spoken in Serbia....

  • Bohemian Romani
    Bohemian Romani
    Bohemian Romani or Bohemian Romany is a dialect of Romani formerly spoken by the Romanies of Bohemia, the western part of today's Czech Republic...

  • Angloromani language
    Angloromani language
    Angloromani or Anglo-Romani is a language combining aspects of English and Romani, which is a language spoken by the Romani people; a ethnic group who trace their origins to the Indian subcontinent. Angloromani is spoken in the UK, Australia, the US and South Africa.The language combines a mix of...

  • Baltic Romani language
  • Domari language
    Domari language
    Domari is an Indo-Aryan language, spoken by the Dom people across the Middle East, mainly in Iran and Egypt, but significant numbers of speakers are also found in India where they are known as Domba....

  • Laiuse Romani
    Laiuse Romani
    Laiuse Romani was a Romani variety spoken in Estonia. It was a mixed language based on Romani and Estonian.The Romani people first appeared to Estonia in the 17th century. Tale says they were first part of Swedish King Charles XII's Gypsy orchestra which he, after spending a winter in Laiuse, left...

  • Lomavren language
    Lomavren language
    Lomavren is a nearly extinct mixed language, spoken by the Lom people that arose from language contact between proto-Romani-speaking people and the Armenian language.-Linguistic features:...

  • North Central Romani
    North Central Romani
    North Central Romani is one of a dozen of major dialect groups within Romani, an Indo-Aryan language of Europe. The North Central dialects of Romani are traditionally spoken by some subethnic groups of the Romani people in Hungary, the Czech Republic, Slovakia , southeastern Poland, the...

  • Balkan Romani
    Balkan Romani
    Balkan Romani is group of dialects of the Romani language spoken in various Balkan countries.-Dialects:The Balkan dialects are split into two main groups, a northern group and a southern group :...

  • Vlax Romani language
    Vlax Romani language
    Vlax Romani is a dialect group of the Romani language. Vlax Romani varieties are spoken mainly in Southeastern Europe by Romani people. Vlax Romani can also be referred to as an independent language or as one dialect of the Romani language. Vlax Romani is the most widely-spoken dialect subgroup of...

  • Welsh Romani language
    Welsh Romani language
    Welsh Romani is a variety of the Romani language which was spoken fluently in Wales until at least 1950. It was spoken by the Kale group of the Romani people who arrived in Britain during the 15th century. The first record of Gypsies in Wales comes from the 16th century...

  • Scandoromani
    Scandoromani
    Scandoromani , also known as Tavringer Romani and the Tattare language, is a North Germanic based Para-Romani. It is currently spoken by the Norwegian and Swedish Travellers, a Romani minority community, in Sweden and Norway ."Scandoromani" is a term coined by academics...

  • Kalo Finnish Romani language

External links


Suggested further reading

(A lexicon and grammatical overview of Swedish Scandoromani; includes several Traveller song texts in extenso)
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