Glottocode: none; ISO: 639/3; Self-denomination: Bugurdži(de)s/Burgudži(de)s, Kovači, Arabadžides/Rabadžides

Bugurdži Romani is a dialect of Romani (Indo-Aryan language of Indo-European origin) spoken primarily in Kosovo and North Macedonia. As a result of the economic migration that has taken place over the last number decades, many Bugurdži Romani speakers now live in western and northern European countries. The Kosovo war (1998-1999) triggered another wave of migration, and numerous Romani refugees – many of whom were likely Bugurdži speakers – found refuge either in neighbouring countries or elsewhere in Europe.

Bugurdži Romani belongs to the so-called Balkan zis- (also called South Balkan II or Bugurdži-Kalajdži-Drindari) dialect group of Romani, which is a quite homogenous group when compared to the other Balkan (also called South Balkan I) dialects. The term ‘Balkan zis-dialects’ refers to a diagnostic feature of this dialect group, namely to the word form zis which developed from the original dives, ‘day’. The Balkan zis-dialects are also spoken in Bulgaria and southern Romania. In fact, the Balkan zis-dialects are assumed to have be formed in north-eastern Bulgaria, while the presence of speakers in Kosovo, North Macedonia and southern Romania are instead seen to be the result of an earlier migration from this area.

The linguistic variation within Burgurdži Romani has not yet been described. Among the most remarkable features of the Balkan zis-dialects, including Bugurdži Romani, are the affrication of k to c, t to c, g to (d)z and d to (d)z before i and j, the use of the adaptation marker -iz- in loan-verbs, and the consistent omission of -e- in the concord markers in the present and imperfect tenses. As pointed out by Boretzky (2000: 107), another typical feature of the Balkan zis-dialects is the preservation of a relatively large number of Greek loanwords which outstrips the amount found in any other Romani dialect group outside of Greece. This can be explained by the fact that a fairly large Greek minority lived in Bulgaria until the end of WWI, when a population exchange between Bulgaria and Greece took place. Thus, Bugurdži Romani, as well as the other Balkan zis-dialects, had most likely been in contact with Greek until then. The post-Greek contact languages of Bugurdži Romani include Albanian, Turkish, Serbian and/or Macedonian.

Speakers of Bugurdži Romani usually refer to themselves as Bugurdžides/Burgudžides (from Turkish burgucu ‘gimlet-maker’) or Rabadžides/Arabadžides (from Turkish arabacı ‘cart-driver’), while in Skopje they prefer the self-denomination Kovači (from Macedonian ковачи ‘blacksmiths’). Since all these group names mark a traditional profession, it is therefore not surprising that some other Romani groups in the Balkans may use the same self-denomination but speak different Romani dialects.

Bugurdži Romani, similarly to other Balkan Romani dialects, shares several linguistic features with other genetically non-related languages spoken in the Balkans, such as the loss of the infinitive or the analytic formation of future tense by means of a particle with the meaning ‘want’. Bugurdži Romani is thus considered to be a member of the Balkan Linguistic League (also called Balkan Sprachbund). However, it must be noted that none of the typological features that make up the Balkan Linguistic League originate from Bugurdži Romani. The reason for this is that the Bugurdži Roma, like any other Romani group, is usually bilingual in the language predominant in the locality, while the majority population only rarely acquired any degree of proficiency in the Bugurdži Romani dialect.

There is a lack of information regarding the sociolinguistic situation of Bugurdži Romani, which may be explained by the fact that Bugurdži Roma constitute a minority within the Romani population of both Kosovo and North Macedonia. It also explains why the emerging standard of Macedonian Romani is based on Arli Romani, the dialect spoken by the majority of the Romani population, while Bugurdži Romani contributed to this standard only with a small number of lexicon and linguistic features. Despite this, there are authors who still publish in their native Bugurdži dialect. In such publications, similarly to standard Macedonian Romani, the Latin orthography is used.


Transcription guidelines for Romani



Boretzky, Norbert (1993): Bugurdži: Deskriptiver und Historischer Abriss. Berlin: Harrassowitz.

Boretzky, Norbert (1999): Die Verwandschaftbeziehungen zwischen den Südbalkanischen Romani-Dialekten. Mit einem Kartenanhang. Frankfurt am Main: Peter Lang.

Boretzky, Norbert (2000): South Balkan II as a Romani dialect branch: Bugurdži, Drindari, and Kalajdži. Romani Studies 10 (2): 105−183.

Boretzky, Norbert and Birgit Igla (2004): KommentierterDialektatlas des Romani Teil 1; Vergleich der Dialekte. Wiesbaden: Harrassowitz.

Friedman, Victor A.  (2017): Seven Varieties of Arli: Skopje as a Center of Convergence and Divergence of Romani Dialects. Romani Studies 5, 27(1): 29−45.

Friedman, Victor A. (1999): The Romani Language in the Republic of Macedonia: Status, Usage, and Sociolinguistic Perspectives. Acta Linguistica Hungarica 46(3-4): 317−339.

Friedman, Victor A. (2006): Dialectological perspectives on Romani in the Balkan linguistic league. Balkansko ezikoznanie - Linguistique balkanique Vol. 45(1): 45−54.

Matras, Yaron (2005): The classification of Romani dialects: A geographic-historical perspective. In: Schrammel, Barbara and Dieter W. Halwachs (eds.) General and applied Romani linguistics. Munich: Lincom Europa. 7−26.


© Zuzana Bodnarova 2019



Romani Morpho-Syntax database (University of Manchester)

RomLex - Lexical database (University of Graz)