Balkan Romani

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Balkan Romani
Native toBulgaria, Greece, Kosovo[a], North Macedonia, Russia, Slovenia, Serbia, Croatia, Turkey
EthnicityRomani, Jerlídes (North Macedonia, southern Serbia).
Native speakers
563,670 (2013)[1]
200,000 L2 speakers
  • Arli, Dzambazi, East Bulgarian Romani, Greek Romani, Ironworker Romani, Paspatian, Tinners Romani, Ursári (Erli, Usari), Lovari
Language codes
ISO 639-3rmn
Romany dialects Balkan.svg

Balkan Romani (also known as Balkan Gypsy) is a specific dialect, spoken by groups within the Balkans, which include countries such as Albania, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Greece, Kosovo[a], North Macedonia, Serbia, Slovenia, Turkey, Romania etc. The Balkan Romani language is typically an oral language. This dialect is endangered because, not only is it looked down upon by other Europeans, but it only has about 763,670 speakers left in the world.[3]


Indo-European, Indo-Iranian, Indo-Aryan, Intermediate Divisions, Western, Romani, Balkan


Most of the people who speak Balkan Romani are Romani themselves. Another meaning of the prefix rom is someone belonging to the Romani ethnicity.[3] The Romani people are ultimately of Indian origin.[4] Speakers of the Balkan Romani language have constantly migrated throughout the years into all parts of Europe. Since these speakers have migrated to different parts of Europe, new dialects have formed. Although the Romani people originated in India, they are now widespread throughout all of Europe.[5]


Balkan dialects, also known as Balkan I, are spoken in Albania, Bulgaria, Greece, Iran, North Macedonia, Moldova, Romania, Serbia, Turkey and Ukraine. This group includes inter alia Arli Romani (Greece, North Macedonia), Sepečides-Romani (Greece, Turkey), Ursari Romani (Moldavia, Romania) and Crimean Romani (Ukraine).

Zis dialects, also called Balkan II, are a distinct subdivision within the Balkan group. Bugurdži, Drindari and Kalajdži Romani are spoken in North Macedonia, Kosovo and in northern and central Bulgaria.

Elšík uses this classification and dialect examples (geographical information from Matras ):

Geographical distribution[edit]

Sub-group Dialect Place
Southern Balkan Prizren Kosovo
Arli Greece, Albania, North Macedonia, Serbia
Prilep North Macedonia
Kyrymitika Ukraine [6]
Sofia Erli Sofia
Zargari Iran
Sepeči northern Greece, Turkey
Rumelian European part of today's Turkey, historically called Rumelia [7]
Northern Balkan Bugurdži North Macedonia, Serbia [8]
Razgrad Drindari northeastern Bulgaria
Pazardžik Kalajdži Bulgaria and immigrants in North Macedonia and Serbia


The sound inventory of Romani does not differ significantly from that of other European languages, most of which belong to the Indo-European family.

The consonant system of Balkan Romani differs in one significant aspect from those of other European languages: it has the aspirated plosives (aspirated stops) characteristic of Indian languages. In the case of Romani, these are the voiceless aspirated plosives /ph, th, kh/, which in the majority of Romani variants, at least at the beginning of a word, have a semantically distinct function.


Romani (Bugurdži, Macedonia) Romani (Arli, Macedonia) English
Lačho [to] saba[h]i. Lačho [o] sabalje. Good morning.
Lačho [to] zi[e]s. Lačho [o] dive. Good day.
Lačhi [ti] rat. Lačhi [i] rat. Good night.
Sar isi to anav? Sar si tiro anav? What's your name?
Mo anav isi Elvis. Mo anav si Elvis. My name is Elvis.
Isinom lošalo kaj avdom tut! Šukar te dikhav tut! Pleased to meet you!
Isinan prandime? Sijan li romnjakoro? Are you married?
Va, me isinom prandime. Va, me sijum romnjakoro. Yes, I'm married.
Na, me isinom biprandime. Na, me sijum biromnjakoro. No, I'm unmarried.
Me isi man raklija. Me si ma raklija. I have a girlfriend.
Number Romani Literal Meaning
1 jekh 1
2 duj 2
3 trin 3
4 štar 4
5 panc 5
6 šov 6
7 eftá 7
8 oxtó 8
9 enjá 9
10 deš 10
11 dešujekh 10 + 1
12 dešuduj 10 + 2
13 dešutrín 10 + 3
14 dešuštár 10 + 4
15 dešupánc 10 + 5
16 dešušóv 10 + 6
17 dešueftá 10 + 7
18 dešuoxtó 10 + 8
19 dešuenjá 10 + 9
20 biš 20
21 biš-te-jekh 20 + 1
22 biš-te-duj 20 + 2
23 biš-te-trin 20 + 3
24 biš-te-štar 20 + 4
25 biš-te-panc 20 + 5

Vocabulary and lexis[edit]

Turkish lexical influence is a defining and extremely important part of the Romani dialect in the Balkans. Most of the words however, originate from Persian origin. Loans from Persian, Armenian, and Byzantine Greek make up the pre-European lexicon. Ultimately, it is hard to trace the definite origin of all the words because the words of Balkan Romani originate from many sources and the sources of those languages creates a complex puzzle.[9]


Turkish grammar plays a large role in Balkan Romani. The use of Turkish conjugations is widely embedded within Balkan Romani and oftentimes, it is difficult to tell the difference between the grammar of the two languages depending on geography. Balkan Romani has compartmentalized grammar[10] originating from Turkish verbal paradigms along with some Greek influence.[11] Much of the morphology of the language has Greek and Turkish origins, which is why the language is viewed by many professionals as a "mixed" language and thus it is hard to see where one language ends and the other begins. All Romani dialects use Greek derived nominal endings, masculine nouns and loan nouns.[12]


The morphology of the Balkan Romani language is again heavily influenced by both the Turkish and Greek languages. Many people view this language as a sort of melting pot because there are so many different influences on it. Turkish and Greek might be the most influential languages on Balkan Romani but other languages, such as Armenian, have also influenced it. Part of the substrate of Balkan Romani appears to be derived from medieval northern Indian languages.[13]

Writing systems[edit]

Balkan Romani has traditionally been an oral language, but recently, there is a growing amount of effort to decode and standardize the language.

Balkan Romani written with Cyrillic script.


А а Б б В в Г г Д д Е е Ё ё Ж ж З з И и Й й К к Кх кх
Л л М м Н н О о П п Р р С с Т т У у Ф ф Х х Ц ц Ч ч Ш ш
Ы ы Ь ь Э э Ю ю Я я

Romani Alphabet:

Used in most Romani communities.

A a Ä ä B b C c Ć ć Č č D d E e Ê ê F f G g Ğ ğ H h I i Î î
J j K k K k L l L l M m N n N n O o Ö ö P p Ṗ ṗ Q q R r R r
R r S s S s S s T t T t U u U u V v W w X x Y y Z z Z z Z z


  1. ^ a b Kosovo is the subject of a territorial dispute between the Republic of Kosovo and the Republic of Serbia. The Republic of Kosovo unilaterally declared independence on 17 February 2008, but Serbia continues to claim it as part of its own sovereign territory. The two governments began to normalise relations in 2013, as part of the 2013 Brussels Agreement. Kosovo is currently recognized as an independent state by 98 out of the 193 United Nations member states. In total, 113 UN member states recognized Kosovo at some point, of which 15 later withdrew their recognition.


  1. ^ Balkan Romani at Ethnologue (19th ed., 2016)
  2. ^ Hammarström, Harald; Forkel, Robert; Haspelmath, Martin, eds. (2017). "Balkan Romani". Glottolog 3.0. Jena, Germany: Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History.
  3. ^ a b Silverman, Carol (14 February 2012). "Romani Routes: Cultural Politics and Balkan Music in Diaspora". Oxford University Press. Retrieved 15 December 2017 – via Google Books.
  4. ^ Brian D. Joseph (2003). W. Frawley (ed.). "THE BALKAN LANGUAGES" (PDF). Oxford International Encyclopedia of Linguistics. The Ohio State University: Oxford University Press. 1: 153–155.
  5. ^ Matras, Yaron (1 June 1995). "Romani in Contact: The history, structure and sociology of a language". John Benjamins Publishing. Retrieved 15 December 2017 – via Google Books.
  6. ^ Ventcel’, Tat’jana V. & Lev N. Čerenkov. 1976. “Dialekty cyganskogo jazyka”. Jazyki Azii i Afriki I, 283-332. Moskva: Nauka.
  7. ^ "Rumelia - historical area, Europe". Retrieved 15 December 2017.
  8. ^ "Romani Dialects". ROMLEX. Karl-Franzens-Universität
  9. ^ "100 Years of Gypsy Studies" (PDF). Retrieved 15 December 2017.
  10. ^ Friedman, Victor A. (6 June 2013). "Compartmentalized grammar: The variable (non)-integration of Turkish verbal conjugation in Romani dialects". Romani Studies. 23 (1): 107–120. Retrieved 15 December 2017 – via Project MUSE.
  11. ^ "The Banff Papers" (PDF). Retrieved 15 December 2017.
  12. ^ Gardani, Francesco; Arkadiev, Peter; Amiridze, Nino (11 December 2014). "Borrowed Morphology". Walter de Gruyter GmbH & Co KG. Retrieved 15 December 2017 – via Google Books.
  13. ^ Matras, Yaron; Bakker, Peter; Ki?u?chukov, Khristo (1 January 1997). "The Typology and Dialectology of Romani". John Benjamins Publishing. Retrieved 15 December 2017 – via Google Books.
Romany dialects Balkan.svg

External links[edit]