|Native to||Central and Eastern Europe and Romani diaspora|
|Native speakers||2.5 million (2000–2004)|
|Recognised minority language in|| Germany
|ISO 639-3||rom – inclusive code
rmn – Balkan Romani
rml – Baltic Romani
rmc – Carpathian Romani
rmf – Finnish Kalo
rmo – Sinte Romani
rmy – Vlax Romani
rmw – Welsh Romani
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Romani /ˈroʊməni/ (also Romany, Gypsy, or Gipsy; Romani: romani ćhib) is any of several languages of the Romani people belonging to the Indo-Aryan branch of the Indo-European language family. Many varieties of Romani are divergent and sometimes considered languages of their own. The largest of these are Vlax Romani (about 900,000 speakers), Balkan Romani (700,000), Carpathian Romani (500,000) and Sinti Romani (300,000). Some Romani communities speak mixed languages based on the surrounding language with retained Romani-derived vocabulary – these are known by linguists are Para-Romani varieties, rather than dialects of the Romani language itself.
Speakers of the Romani language usually refer to the language as řomani čhib "the Romani language" or řomanes "in a Rom way." This derives from the Romani word řom, meaning either "a member of the (Romani) group" or "husband". This is also where the term "Roma" derives in English, although some Roma groups refer to themselves using other demonyms (e.g. 'Kaale', 'Sinti', etc.). The English spelling "Rromani language" may also be found, reflecting a different transcription of the Romani phoneme ř.
Before the late nineteenth century, English-language texts usually referred to the language as the "Gypsy language".
Romani shares a number of features with the Central Indo-Aryan languages. The most significant isoglosses are the shift of Old Indo-Aryan r̥ to u or i (Sanskrit śr̥ṇ-, Romani šun- 'to hear') and kṣ- to kh (Sanskrit akṣi, Romani j-akh 'eye'). However, unlike other Central Indo-Aryan languages, Romani preserves many dental clusters (Romani trin 'three', phral 'brother', cf. Hindi tīn, bhāi). This implies Romani split from the Central Indo-Aryan languages before the Middle Indo-Aryan period. However, Romani shows some features of New Indo-Aryan, such as erosion of the original nominal case system towards a nominative/oblique dichotomy, with new grammaticalized case suffixes added on. This means that the Romani exodus from India could not have happened until late in the first millennium CE.
Romani also shows some similarity to the Northwest Indo-Aryan languages. In particular, the grammaticalization of enclitic pronouns as person markers on verbs (kerdo 'done' + me 'me' > kerdjom 'I did') is also found in languages such as Kashmiri and Shina. This evidences a northwest migration during the split from Central Indo-Aryan, consistent with a later migration to Europe.
Based on this data, Matras (2006) views Romani as "kind of Indian hybrid: a central Indic dialect that had undergone partial convergence with northern Indic languages."
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 Indo-Aryan languages.
Romani shows a number of phonetic changes that distinguish it from other Indo-Aryan languages—in particular, the de-voicing of voiced aspirates (bh dh gh > ph th kh), shift of medial t d to l, of short a to e, initial kh to x, rhoticization of retroflex ḍ, ṭ, ḍḍ, ṭṭ, ḍh etc. to r and ř, and shift of inflectional -a to -o.
After exiting the Indian subcontinent, Romani was heavily affected by European contact languages. The most significant of these was Byzantine Greek, which contributed lexically, phonemically, and grammatically to Early Romani (10th-13th centuries CE). This includes inflectional affixes for nouns, and verbs that are still productive with borrowed vocabulary, the shift to VO word order, and the adoption of a preposed definite article. Early Romani also borrowed from Armenian and Iranian languages.
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. 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) group of languages. The Dom and the Rom therefore likely descend from two different migration waves out of India, separated by several centuries.
|1||ek||ekh, jekh||yika||yak, yek||yak, yek||unum||aon|
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. According to 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 (700,000), Carpathian Romani (500,000) and Sinti Romani (300,000).
Some Romani communities, especially those on the western periphery of the Romani diaspora, use mixed languages with Romani-derived vocabulary rather than Romani proper. These varieties are known by linguists as Para-Romani.
The first attestation of Romani is from 1542 CE in western Europe. The earlier history of the Romani language is completely undocumented, and is understood primarily through comparative linguistic evidence.
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 (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 (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 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, but there are various theories. The influence of Greek, and to a lesser extent of the Iranian languages (like Persian and Kurdish) and Armenian, 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 Romani arrived in Europe 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.
Today's dialects of Romani are differentiated by the vocabulary accumulated since their departure from Anatolia, as well as through divergent phonemic evolution 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.
Dialect differentiation began with the dispersal of the Romani from the Balkans around the 14th century and on, and with their settlement in areas across Europe in the 16th and 17th centuries. The two most significant areas of divergence are the southeast (with epicenter of the northern Balkans) and west-central Europe (with epicenter Germany). The central dialects replace s in grammatical paradigms with h. The west-northern dialects append j-, simplify ndř to r, retain n in the nominalizer -ipen/-iben, and lose adjectival past-tense in intransitives (gelo, geli > geljas 'he/she went'). Other isoglosses (esp. demonstratives, 2/3pl perfective concord markers, loan verb markers) motivate the division into Balkan, Vlax, Central, Northeast, and Northwest dialects.
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. The main distinction between the two groups is the degree to which their vocabulary is borrowed from Romanian. 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.
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 in northern, western and southern Europe, most of Poland, Russia and the Baltic States
- Central Romani dialects from southern Poland to Hungary and from eastern Austria to Ukraine
- Balkan Romani dialects
- Vlax Romani dialects
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) those with only a Romani vocabulary grafted into a non-Romani language (normally referred to as Para-Romani).
A table of some dialectal differences:
|First stratum||Second stratum||Third stratum|
The first stratum includes the oldest dialects: Mećkari (of Tirana), Kabuʒi (of Korça), Xanduri, Drindari, Erli, Arli, Bugurji, Mahaʒeri (of Pristina), Ursari (Rićhinari), Spoitori (Xoraxane), Karpatichi, Polska Roma, Kaale (from Finland), Sinto-manush, and the so-called Baltic dialects.
The third comprises the rest of the so-called Gypsy dialects, including Kalderash, Lovari, Machvano.
Mixed languages 
Geographic distribution 
Romani is the only Indo-Aryan language spoken almost exclusively in Europe (apart from emigrant populations).
The most concentrated areas of Romani speakers are found in southeastern and central Europe, in particular in Macedonia, Bulgaria, Romania, and Slovakia. Although there are no reliable figures for the exact number of Romani speakers, it may be the largest minority language of the European Union.
The following table shows the distribution of Romani speakers in Europe according to Bakker et al. (2000). The last column shows the percentage of Romani speakers in the Romani population in each country.
|Bosnia and Herzegovina||40,000||90%|
|Republic of Macedonia||53,879||71.5%|
The language is recognized as a minority language in many countries. At present the only place in the world where Romani is employed as an official language is the Municipality of Shuto Orizari within the administrative borders of the Macedonian capital of Skopje.
Different variants of the language are now in the process of being codified in those countries with high Romani populations (for example, Slovakia). There are also some attempts currently aimed at the creation of a unified standard 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 (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, 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 as well, including such terms as vremea (weather, time), primariya (town hall), frishka (cream), sfïnto (saint, holy). Hindi-based neologisms include bijli (bulb, electricity), misal (example), chitro (drawing, design), lekhipen (writing), while there are also English-based neologisms, like printisarel < "to print".
Romani is now used on the internet, in some local media, and in some countries as a medium of instruction.
Historically, Romani was an exclusively unwritten language. The overwhelming majority of academic and non-academic literature produced currently in Romani is written using a Latin-based orthography. Among native speakers, the most common pattern for individual authors to use an orthography based on the writing system of the dominant contact language: thus Romanian in Romania, Hungarian in Hungary and so on. A currently observable trend, however, appears to be the adoption of a loosely English-oriented orthography, developed spontaneously by native speakers for use online and through email. Most linguists adhere to a system Hancock calls Pan-Vlax.
The Pan-Vlax system is as follows:
|A a||/a/||akana now|
|B b||/b/||bal hair|
|C c||/ts/||cìrdel he pulls|
|Ć ć||/tʃ/||ćaćo true|
|Ćh ćh||/tʃʰ/||ćhavo gypsy boy|
|D d||/d/||drakh grape|
|E e||/e/||efta seven|
|F f||/f/||feder better|
|G g||/ɡ/||guruv ox , bull|
|H h||/h/||heroj thigh|
|X x||/x/||xarno short|
|I i||/i/||iv snow|
|J j||/j/||jag fire|
|K k||/k/||kilo stake|
|Kh kh||/kʰ/||khoro pitcher|
|L l||/l/||laćho good|
|M m||/m/||men neck|
|N n||/n/||nilaj summer|
|O o||/o/||oxto eight|
|P p||/p/||patrin leaf|
|Ph ph||/pʰ/||phuro old|
|R r||/r/||rukh tree|
|Rr rr||/r/||rroj spoon|
|S s||/s/||somnakaj gold|
|Ś ś||/ʃ/||śukar sweet/good/nice|
|T t||/t/||tato hot|
|Th th||/tʰ/||them land|
|U u||/u/||uśt lip|
|V v||/ʋ/||va yes|
|Z z||/z/||zèleno green|
|Ź ź||/ʒ/||źòja Thursday|
|Ʒ ʒ||/dʒ/||ʒukel dog|
The use of the above graphemes is relatively stable and universal, taking into account dialectal mergers and so on. However, in certain areas there is somewhat more variation. A typically diverse area is in the representation of sounds not present in most varieties of Romani. For example, the centralised vowel phonemes of several varieties of Vlax and Xaladitka, when they are indicated separately from the non-centralised vowels, can be represented using ə, ъ or ă. Another particularly variant area is the representation of palatalised consonants, which are absent from a number of dialects. Some variant graphemes for /tʲ/ include tj, ty, ć, čj and t᾿. Finally, the representation of the phoneme /ɻ/ (the reflex of the Sanskrit retroflex series), which in several dialects has been merged with /r/, tends to vary between rr, ř and rh, and sometimes even gh, with the first two being the most frequently found variants.
The English-based orthography commonly used in North America is, to a degree, an accommodation of the Pan-Vlax orthography to English-language keyboards, replacing those graphemes with diacritics with digraphs, such as the substitution of ts ch sh zh for c č š ž.
An orthographical standard intended for cross-dialect use was introduced by Marcel Courthiade in 1989 and has been adopted by the International Romani Union. However, the IRU standard has yet to find a broad base of support from Romani writers. One reason for the reluctance to adopt this standard, according to Canadian Rom Ronald Lee, is that the proposed orthography contains a number of specialized characters not regularly found on European keyboards, such as θ and ʒ.
The International Standard orthography, uses similar conventions to the Pan-Vlax system outlined above. Several of the differences are simply graphical, such as replacing carons with acute accents, transforming č š ž into ć ś ź. However, its most distinctive feature is the use of "meta-notations", which are intended to cover cross-dialectal phonological variation, particularly in degrees of palatalisation; and morpho-graphs, which are used to represent the morphophonological alternation of case suffixes  in different phonological environments. The three "morpho-graphs" are ç, q and θ, which represent the initial phonemes of a number of case suffixes, which are realised /s/, /k/ and /t/ after a vowel and /ts/, /ɡ/ and /d/ after a nasal consonant. The three "meta-notations" are ʒ, ŏ and ă, the realisation of which varies by dialect. The latter two, for example, are pronounced /o/ and /a/ in Lovaricka, but /jo/ and /ja/ in Kalderash.
The Romani sound system is not highly unusual among European languages. Its most marked features are a three-way contrast between unvoiced, voiced, and aspirated stops: p t k č, b d g dž, and ph th kh čh, and the presence in some dialects of a second rhotic ř, realized as uvular [ʀ], a long trill [r:], or retroflex [ɽ] or [ɻ].
The following is the core sound inventory of Romani. Phonemes in parentheses are only found in some dialects:
Eastern and Southeastern European Romani dialects commonly have palatalized consonants, either distinctive or allophonic. Some dialects add the central vowel ə or ɨ. Vowel length is often distinctive in Western European Romani dialects. Loans from contact languages often allow other non-native phonemes.
Conservative dialects of Romani have final stress, with the exception of some unstressed affixes (e.g. the vocative ending, the case endings added on to the accusative noun, and the remoteness tense marker). Central and western European dialects often have shifted stress earlier in the word.
|sg. nom.||sg. acc.||pl. nom.||pl. acc.|
Other cases are expressed through suffixation to the accusative stem. These are: -te/-de (locative and prepositional), -ke/-ge (dative), -tar/-dar (ablative), -sa(r) (instrumental and comitative), and -ker-/-ger- (genitive). Romani shows the typically Indo-Aryan pattern of the genitive agreeing with its head noun, thus čhav-es-ker-o phral 'the boy's brother', čhav-es-ker-i phen 'the boy's sister'.
The indefinite article is often borrowed from the local contact language.
Valency markers are affixed to the verb root either to increase or decrease valency. There is dialectal variation as to which markers are most used; common valency-increasing markers are -av-, -ar-, and -ker, and common valency-decreasing markers are -jov- and -áv-. These may also be used to derive verbs from nouns and adjectives.
Borrowed verbs from other languages are marked with affixes taken from Greek tense/aspect suffixes, including -iz-, -in-, and -is-.
The verb stem (including derivation markers) by itself has non-perfective aspect and is present or subjunctive. Depending on the dialect, the suffix -a marks the present, future, or conditional. There are many perfective suffixes, which are determined by root phonology, valency, and semantics: e.g. ker-d- 'did'.
There are two sets of personal conjugation suffixes, one for non-perfective verbs, and another for perfective verbs. The non-perfective personal suffixes, continued from Middle Indo-Aryan, are as follows:
These are slightly different for consonant- and vowel-final roots (e.g. xa-s 'you eat', kam-es 'you want).
The perfective suffixes, deriving from late Middle Indo-Aryan enclitic pronouns, are as follows:
Verbs may also take a further remoteness suffix -as/-ahi/-ys/-s. With non-perfective verbs this marks the imperfect, habitual, or conditional. With the perfective, this marks the pluperfect or counterfactual.
Romani loanwords in English 
Romani has lent several words to English such as pal (ultimately from Sanskrit bhrātar "brother") and nark "informant" (from Romani nāk "nose"). Other Romani words in general slang are gadgie (man), shiv or chiv (knife). Urban British slang shows an increasing level of Romani influence, with some words becoming accepted into the lexicon of standard English (for example, chav from an assumed Anglo-Romani word, meaning "small boy", in the majority of dialects).
Occasionally loanwords from other Indo-Iranian languages such as Hindi are mistakenly labelled as Romani due to surface similarities (due to a shared root), such as cushy, which is from Hindi (itself a loan from Persian kuš) meaning "excellent, healthy, happy".
See also 
- Romani orthography
- Bohemian Romani
- Zargari Romani
- Laiuse Romani
- North Central Romani
- Balkan Romani
- Kalo Finnish Romani language
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- Matras (2006, History)
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- after Ian Hancock, On Romani Origins and Identity, RADOC (2007)
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- Matras (2006, Dialect diversity)
- Norbert Boretzky: Kommentierter Dialektatlas des Romani. Wiesbaden: Harrassowitz, 2004 p. 18-26
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- Halwachs, Dieter W. (2004). "Speakers and Numbers". ROMBASE. Graz, Austria: University of Graz.
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- Kamusella, T. Language in Central Europe's History and Politics: From the Rule of cuius regio, eius religio to the National Principle of cuius regio, eius lingua? Journal of Globalization Studies. Volume 2, Number 1, May 2011 
- Matras, Yaron (2002). Romani: A Linguistic Introduction, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. ISBN 0-512-02330-0.
- Hancock, Ian (1995). A Handbook of Vlax Romani, Columbus: Slavica Publishers. ISBN 0-89357-258-6.
- Courthiade, Marcel. 1989. La langue Romani (Tsigane): Évolution, standardisation, unification, réforme. In:Language Reform. History and Future, Vol IV, edited by Fodor, I. & Hagège, C. Hamburg: Helmut Buske Verlag. 87-110.
- Matras, Yaron (1999). Writing Romani: The pragmatics of codification in a stateless language. Applied Linguistics, vol. 20, pp 481-502.
- Lee, Ronald (2005). Learn Romani: Das-dúma Rromanes, Hatfield: University of Hertfordshire Press. ISBN 1-902806-44-1.
- Whether these endings are to be analysed as postpositions or case endings is still a matter of debate in Romani linguistics. See, for example, Hancock (1995) and Matras (2002) for varying approaches.
- Matras, Yaron (1999). Writing Romani: The pragmatics of codification in a stateless language. Applied Linguistics, vol. 20, pp 481-502.
- Matras (2006, The sound system)
- Matras (2006, Morphology)
- Matras (2006, Syntax)
- Hoad, TF (ed.) Oxford Concise Dictionary of Etymology (1996) Oxford University Press ISBN 0-19-283098-8
|Romani language edition of Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia|
- Romani project at Manchester University, with a collection of downloadable papers about the Romani language and a collection of links to Romani media
- Outline of Romani Grammar—Victor A. Friedman
- Partial Romani/English Dictionary—Compiled by Angela Ba'Tal Libal and Will Strain
- ROMLEX Lexical Database of different dialects of Romani
- Romani Swadesh list of basic vocabulary words—from Wiktionary's Swadesh list appendix
- "Romani language in Macedonia in the Third Millennium: Progress and Problems", Victor Friedman.
- "The Romani Language in the Republic of Macedonia: Status, Usage and Sociolinguistic Perspectives, Victor Friedman.