Romani varieties

Glottocode: roma1330

Romani is a group of divergent varieties deriving from Indo-Aryan (Indic) languages. The largest varieties are Vlax Romani, Balkan Romani and Sinti Romani. Romani is known as "romani čhib/ćhib/šib" by its speakers.

Migration and mass expulsion ensured an extremely disperse spread of Romani from its regions of origin over huge parts of the Middle East, Europe, and the Americas. Due to the wide spatial distance, the individual varieties have been exposed to strong influences of the respective umbrella language which have largely contributed to the diversification of Romani. Some Romani communities speak mixed languages based on the surrounding language with retained Romani-derived vocabulary.

Romani shows a multitude of dialects and a lack of a standardized language. Although Romani is used mainly as an oral language, some Roma do write in Romani. It is written mainly in the Latin alphabet.

Settlements represented in our collection

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The phonology of Romani shows that the language clearly derived from Sanskrit. Some phonetic changes correspond to those undergone by modern Indian languages, others represent a more archaic state.

Also concerning the morphology, Romani possesses a grammatical system similar to modern Indic languages (two numbers, two genders, three moods, three persons, five tenses).

The lexicon includes items of central and northwestern Indic origin and adoptions from Persian, Kurdish, Ossetic, Georgian, Armenian, and Byzantine Greek, later from Slavic, Romanian, Hungarian, German and others.

Historically, most Romani speakers have not had ready access to literacy instruction. Until a few decades ago there was no tradition of writing in Romani, but a rich oral tradition existed. During the late 20th century language standardization became the focus among the communities both on the national and international level. Romani has a growing literature and is used in periodicals and in the broadcast media.