|Native to||United Kingdom, Australia, US, South Africa|
|unknown (undated figure of 200,000)|
Angloromani or Anglo-Romani (literally "English Romani", or Rummaness) is a language combining aspects of English and Romani, which is a language spoken by the Romani people; an 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 Romani and English. The original Romani language was spoken in England until the late nineteenth century; perhaps a generation longer in Wales. It was replaced by English as the everyday and family language of British Romani, but this does not mean the language disappeared entirely. Words of Romani origin were still used as part of a family-language. Words which are occasionally inserted into English conversation are referred to in linguistic literature on Romani as 'Para-Romani': the selective retention of some Romani-derived vocabulary following the disappearance of Romani as an everyday language of conversation.
Anglo-Romani is thus used as an evocative vocabulary, than a ‘language’ in the strict sense. It is used within the framework of Gypsy-English conversation, English sentences, with Gypsy specific English grammar and pronunciation, thus: The mush was jalling down the drom with his gry. means 'The man was walking down the road with his horse.'
Edinburgh slang also contains a large number of Romani-derived words. A few words, like pal (originally ‘brother’), chav (originally 'Romanichal boy', cognate with Chavo in Romani proper), lollipop (originally 'candy apple') have entered common English usage.
Historical documentation of English Romani
Until relatively recently[vague], Anglo-Romani received very little study from the academic community. However a recent discovery of a documents (Winchester confessions) c. seventeenth century, indicates, British Romani was itself a dialect of the northern branch of Romani sharing a close similarity to Welsh Romani. However, the language in a modern context has deteriorated from the Indic based vocabulary, morphology, and influences from Greek and other Balkan languages of seventeenth century to a Para-Romani dialect typical of modern Anglo-Romani with sentence endings influenced by English, while Welsh Romani retains the original grammatical system.
Historically the variants of Welsh and English Romani, constituted the same variant of Romani, share characteristics and are historically closely related to dialects spoken in France, Germany (Sinti), Scandinavia, Spain, Poland, North Russia and the Baltic states. Such dialects are descended from the first wave of Romani immigrants into western, northern and southern Europe in the late Middle Ages. Few documents survive into modern times, the (Winchester confessions) c.1616 highlight the variant of English Romani and contains a high number of words still used in the modern Northern European Romani dialects and until recently Welsh Romani; Examples include; Balovas (pig meat bacon), Lovina (beer, alcohol), ruk (tree), Smentena (cream), Boba (beans) and Folaso (glove) and all such words occur in all western dialects of Romani, with little English loanwords present.
However the Winchester confessions, highlights English grammatical structures, were influencing speakers of English Romani (within a London context where the document was sourced) to an (adjective-noun) configuration rather than the (noun-adjective) configuration of other Romani dialects, including modern Welsh Romani. The document suggests a complete separation between Thieves' Cant, and the variant of English Romani of the time. This has particular implication when dating the origin and development of Anglo-Romani and split from Welsh Romani. One such study believes English Romani speakers gradually lost its distinctive syntax, phonology and morphology. While other leading contemporaries believes Anglo-Romani developed relatively recently to the Romani communities arrival in the sixteenth century, in a similar development to the Pidgin or Creol languages.
Anglo-Romani was already developing in the seventeenth century, although this change from the original English Romani was unclear. The (Winchester Confessions) disproves a sudden morphological change). and favours a strict linguistic separation between a Canting language and English Romani whose speakers used a separate and distinct Romani language when speaking amongst themselves. A situation which existed one hundred years later as testified by James Poulter 1775 as “the English Gypsies spoke a variant of their own language that none other could understand”, indicating the language was distinct from the common “Canting tongue” of England. Romani of that time was a language of every day communication, of practical use, and not a secret language.
The original Romani was used exclusively as a family or clan language, during occasional encounters between various Romani clans. It was not a written language, but more a conversational one, used by families to keep conversations amongst themselves in public places such as markets unintelligible to others. It was not used in any official capacity in schools or administrative matters, and so lacked the vocabulary for these terms. Such terms were simply borrowed from English. However, to still keep the language undecipherable to outsiders, the Romani speakers coined new terms that were a combination or variation of the original English terms. For example, a ‘forester’ is called veshengro, from the Romani word for ‘forest’, vesh; a ‘restaurant’ is a habbinkerr from the words habbin ‘food’ and kerr ‘house’, thus literally ‘foodhouse’; and a ‘mayor’ is a gavmoosh, from the words gav ‘village, town’ and moosh ‘man’, literally ‘town-man’. Gradually, British Romani began to give up their language in favour of English, though they retained much of the vocabulary, which they now use occasionally in English conversation – as Angloromani.
Its origins are in India, and the core of the vocabulary and grammar still resemble modern Indian languages like Urdu, Kashmiri, or Punjabi. Linguists have been investigating the dialects of Romani since the second half of the eighteenth century, and although there are no ancient written records of the language, it has been possible to reconstruct the development of Romani from the medieval languages of India to its present forms as spoken in Europe. Although the language remains similar at its core, it is sometimes quite difficult for Romani people from different regions to understand one another if they have not had any exposure to other dialects before.
Every region where Angloromani is spoken is characterised by a distinct colloquial English style; this often leads outsiders to believe that the speech of Romnichals is regional English. The distinct rhotic pronunciation of some Angloromani varieties also means that many outsiders perceive Romnichals to be from the West Country because West Country English is also rhotic. Indeed, many Romnichals from the south of England or the Midlands region have a slightly West Country sounding accent; in fact it is a southern Romnichal accent.
Within Anglo-Romani three dialects are identifiable:
- Scottish Anglo-Romani (the variant spoken by descendants of Anglo-Romani in Scotland, particularly the Scottish Borders, Edinburgh and Glasgow). Scottish Anglo-Romani is not to be confused with the Scots-based Scottish Cant or the Gaelic-based Beurla Reagaird.
- North Welsh Romani Kalè
- South Welsh Romani and English Romani (identical)
These dialects are based on where various groups originally settled when moving to the UK. The members of these groups consider not only their dialects to differ, but also that they are of different ethnic groups. At the time of settlement, these divisions were somewhat reflective of geographic location. They did travel, but until travel became modernized, the migrations were relatively local 
There is a certain amount of post-creole continuum in Anglo-Romani. A (ever-dwindling) small population of Romnichals have knowledge of the purer form of English Romani, which was spoken by the Kale of Wales until 1923. These people are able to converse fluently in unbroken English Romani, which is the acrolect that informs the vocabulary of all Angloromani variants.
Phonology and syntax
Romani had a phonemic distinction between two /r/s - a flap and a voiced uvular fricative - which in Anglo-Romani has been lost and replaced by a single rolled /r/. Anglo-Romani has also lost the phonemic distinction between aspirated and non-aspirated stops. Overall, Anglo-Romani consonants reflect the standard British English consonantal system with these exceptions:
- Anglo-Romani includes the consonant /x/ in certain dialects.
- Anglo-Romani may sometimes be rhotic even in parts of the country that are non-rhotic. In other cases, it is non-rhotic like English non-rhotic dialects; for example, in Romani terno "young" (passing through the stage tarno) can be rendered as tawno.
Romani allowed for two word orders - SVO and VSO. Anglo-Romani has only SVO word order. Negation in Anglo-Romani is achieved through the use of the word kek, i.e.
- măndī can kek ker lĭs - “I can’t do it”
- there’s kekə pani left in kŭvə kurī - “there’s no water left in this bucket”
“Be” is optionally deleted
- tūte kūšta diken muš - “you (are a) fine looking man”
- tūte rinkna râne - “you (are a) pretty lady”
Reduplication is employed for emphasis, as in:
- dūvrī - “distant”
- dūvrī-dūvrī - “very distant”
Up to 1547, the Romani language was an inflected language, employing two genders, plurality and case marking. Anglo-Romani is first referenced in 1566-67. Around 1873, Romani personal pronouns became inconsistently marked, according to Leland, who also notes that case distinction began fading overall, and gender marking also disappeared. Borrow notes that in 1874, some Romani speakers were still employing complete inflection, while some were adapting the English syntax with Romani lexicon. It seems to be around 1876 that gender distinction was no longer seen, however continued use of Romani plural forms was noted, along with English verb conjugation. 1923, when some plural still being used on nouns, but English prepositions are used instead of Romani postpositions. Current usage has lost almost all Romani morphology and instead uses English morphology with Romani lexical items.
Samples of Angloromani
The Anglo-Romani Project, an initiative of the Romani community of Blackburn and the Lancashire Traveller Education Service, has samples of Anglo-Romani conversation as well as documentation, which it has collected with the aim to document the Anglo-Romani lexicon in its regional and dialectal variation. Samples of conversation and their meaning can be found here. Samples of Anglo-Romani, Audio files
Some common phrases
|Kushti Divvus||Hello (literally 'Good Day')|
|Sashin?||How are you?|
|Mandi adusta kushti||I am very well|
|Parakro tutti, tutti shin kushti?||Thank you, and are you well?|
|Owli, mandi kushti?||Yes, I'm fine too.|
|Tutti rokker Rummaness?||Do you speak Arbërisht?|
|Katar kai tutti jells?||Where are you from?|
|Mandi poshrat||I'm half Gypsy|
|Mandi tatchi rummani||I'm full Gypsy|
|Adusta salla jan tutti||Pleased to meet you|
|Dik tutti kullika divvus||See you tomorrow|
|Tutti mandi rokker sigges||We'll speak soon|
|So tutti's nav?||What's your name?|
|Mandi's nav Maria||My name is Maria|
Lord's prayer sample text:
- Moro Dad, so see adre mi Duvelesko keri, te wel teero kralisom, too zee be kedo adre chik, jaw see adre mi Duvelesko keri. Del mendi kova divvus moro divvusly mauro, ta fordel mendi moro wafedo-kerimus, pensa mendi fordels yon ta kairs wafedo aposh mendi, ta lel mendi kek adre wafedo-kerimus. Jaw keressa te righer mendi avri wafedo. Jaw see ta jaw see.
Comparison of Angloromani, European Romani, Indian languages and Slang English
|Angloromani||European Romani||English||Indian/Pakistani languages||Slang English|
|Chav||Chavo||Child, Son, Boy (all specifically used for Gypsies and not non-Gypsies)||Bacha (Hindi-Urdu) to Vacha [Rajasthani] (Romani employs a syllable reversal technique typical of Indic languages)||Chav (meaning a rough youth deriving from a derogatory usage of the word chav to refer to a Gypsy Boy)|
|Lollipobbul||Laliphabai||Candy Apple (British English 'Toffee Apple') (or 'red apple')||Lal phal (red flower)||Lollipop|
|Gavver||Gavengro||Policeman (or Villager)||Gavaandi (Punjabi)||Gaffer|
|Jib||Chib||Language/Tongue||Jeeb (Tongue)||Gibber (to speak nonsense, originally a slur against Gypsies who were perceived to be speaking nonsense when conversing in Romani)|
|37||man (adult male)||mush|
|38||man (human being)||mush|
|58||bark (of a tree)|
|123||to lie (as in a bed)|
|124||to sit||besh telly|
|126||to turn (intransitive)|
|191||sharp (as a knife)|
|192||dull (as a knife)|
- Angloromani reference at Ethnologue (17th ed., 2013)
- The Romani Project, Manchester
- BBC Website ‘Languages of the UK’, 2004.
- Kenrick. Donald. S. (1971) The sociolinguistics of the development of British Romani. In current changes of British Gypsies and their place in international patterns of development. Thomas Action, ed.
- Sampson. J. (1926) The Dialect of the Gypsies of Wales. Oxford. Chlarendon Press.
- Bakker (1997) Review of McGowan, The Winchester Confessions. Journal of the Gypsy Lore Society. Fifth series, 7. (1): 49-50.
- Sampson. J. (1926) The Dialect of the Gypsies of Wales. Oxford. Chlarendon Press.
- Smart B.C. and H.T. Crofton (1875) The Dialect of the English Gypsies. London: Asher & Co.
- Alan McGowan (1996), The Winchester confessions 1615–1616. Romani and Traveller History Society.
- Hancock. Ian. F. (1971). Comment on Kenrick. In Proceedings in the research and conference of policy the National Gypsy Council. Thomas action, ed. Oxford national Gypsy education council.
- Baaker (2002) An early vocabulary of British Romani (1616): A linguistic analysis. Romani studies 5. vol 12.
- BBC Website ‘Languages of the UK’, 2004.
- AngloRomani, The Mixed Language of Romani Peoples, Krislyn McWilliams, Manuela Nelson, & Meghan Oxley
- George Borrow's Romani. Ian Hancock, Dileep Karanth. Danger! Educated Gypsy: Selected Essays. P.173
- Anglo-Romani dictionary: includes transcriptions showing non-rhotic pronunciations
- Acton, Thomas. 1989. The Value of “Creolized” Dialects of Romanes. In International Symposium Romani Language and Culture. Sarajevo.
- Acton, Thomas and Gerwyn Davis. 1979. Educational Policy and Language Use Among English Romanies and Irish Travellers (Tinkers) in England and Wales. International Journal of the Sociology of Language 19-22: 91-110.
- Acton, Thomas, Vangelis Marselos, and Laszlo Szego. 2000. The Development of Literary Dialects of Romanes, and the Prospects for an International Standard Dialect. In Language, Blacks, and Gypsies, eds. Thomas Acton and Morgan Dalphinis. London: Whiting and Birch.
- Borrow, George. 1923. Romano Lavo-Lil. London: Hazell, Watson, and Viney, Ld.
- Deterding, David. 1997. The formants of monophthong vowels in Standard Southern British English pronunciation. Journal of the International Phonetic Association 27: 47-55.
- Hancock, Ian. 1996. Duty and Beauty, Possession and Truth: The Claim of Lexical Impovershment as Control. In Gypsies: A book of interdisciplinary readings, ed. Diane Tong. New York: Garland Publishers.
- "Anglo-Romani" University of Washington USA.
- Manchester University Romani Project