Balkan Romani

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Balkan Roma
Balkaniko Romanes
Native toBulgaria, Romania, Greece, Kosovo, North Macedonia, Russia, Slovenia, Serbia, Croatia, Turkey, Bosnia and Herzegovina
EthnicityRoma, Jerlídes (North Macedonia, southern Serbia).
SpeakersL1: 600,000 (2013)[1]
L2: 200,000[1]
  • Arli, Dzambazi, East Bulgarian Romani, Greek Romani, Ironworker Romani, Rumelian, Sepečides, Tinners Romani, Ursári (Erli, Usari), Lovari, Zargari
Language codes
ISO 639-3rmn
ELPBalkan Romani

Balkan Roma, Balkaniko Romanes, or Balkan Gypsy is a specific non-Vlax dialect of the Romani language, spoken by groups within the Balkans, which include countries such as Albania, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Greece, Kosovo, North Macedonia, Serbia, Slovenia, Turkey etc. The Balkan Romani language is typically an oral language.


Most of the people who speak Balkan Romani are Roma themselves. Another meaning of the prefix rom is someone belonging to the Roma ethnicity.[2] The Roma are ultimately of Indian origin.[3] 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 Roma originated in India, they are now widespread throughout all of Europe.[4]


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, Serbia 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 [5]
Sofia Erli Sofia
Zargari Iran
Sepeči northern Greece, west Thrace, east Thrace Turkey
Rumelian European part of today's Turkey, historically called Rumelia [6]
Northern Balkan Bugurdži North Macedonia, Serbia [7]
Razgrad Drindari northeastern Bulgaria
Pazardžik Kalajdži Bulgaria and immigrants in North Macedonia and Serbia


Balkan Romani retains the aspirated consonants /pʰ, tʰ, tʃʰ, kʰ/ of other Indic languages. These are distinctive in the majority of Romani varieties.


Balkan Romani does not have a written standard. There has been an attempt at standardization, at a 1992 conference in North Macedonia, based on the Arli diaalect and using the Latin script. /x/ and /h/ are distinctive in some dialects, but not in the Arli dialect and so are not distinguished in writing. the two rhotics are also not distinguished. Schwa is rare in Arli; where it does occur, it is substituted with the vowel of Džambaz or some other dialect, e.g. vërdonvurdon 'wagon'. Aspiration in a root is always written, e.g. jakh 'eye'. Final devoicing is not written, e.g. dad 'father'. Palatalization is not written, e.g. buti 'work' (not buči etc.), kerdo 'done' (not ćerdo etc.), pani 'water' (not pai etc.).[8]

The proposed alphabet is as follows:[8]

a b c č čh d dž e f g h i j k kh l m n o p ph r s š t th u v ž


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. 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]

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


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]


  1. ^ a b Balkan Roma at Ethnologue (25th ed., 2022) Closed access icon
  2. ^ Silverman, Carol (14 February 2012). Romani Routes: Cultural Politics and Balkan Music in Diaspora. Oxford University Press. ISBN 9780199910229. Retrieved 15 December 2017 – via Google Books.
  3. ^ Brian D. Joseph (2003). W. Frawley (ed.). "THE BALKAN LANGUAGES" (PDF). Oxford International Encyclopedia of Linguistics. 1. The Ohio State University: Oxford University Press: 153–155.
  4. ^ Matras, Yaron (1 June 1995). Romani in Contact: The history, structure and sociology of a language. John Benjamins Publishing. ISBN 9789027276483. Retrieved 15 December 2017 – via Google Books.
  5. ^ Ventcel’, Tat’jana V. & Lev N. Čerenkov. 1976. “Dialekty cyganskogo jazyka”. Jazyki Azii i Afriki I, 283-332. Moskva: Nauka.
  6. ^ "Rumelia - historical area, Europe". Retrieved 15 December 2017.
  7. ^ "Romani Dialects". ROMLEX. Karl-Franzens-Universität
  8. ^ a b Victor Friedman (1995) 'Romani standardization and status in the Republic of Macedonia', in Matras ed. Romani in Contact
  9. ^ "100 Years of Gypsy Studies" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 4 May 2012. 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. doi:10.3828/rs.2013.5. S2CID 143457957. Retrieved 15 December 2017 – via Project MUSE.
  11. ^ "The Banff Papers" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 15 March 2016. Retrieved 15 December 2017.
  12. ^ Gardani, Francesco; Arkadiev, Peter; Amiridze, Nino (11 December 2014). Borrowed Morphology. Walter de Gruyter GmbH & Co KG. ISBN 9781614513209. 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. ISBN 9027236615. Retrieved 15 December 2017 – via Google Books.

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