from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Spoken in

numerous countries
speaker nearly 6 million worldwide

thereof 4.6 million in Europe

Official status
Official language in KosovoKosovo Kosovo (regional) North Macedonia (regional)
North MacedoniaNorth Macedonia 
Recognized minority /
regional language in
FinlandFinland Finland Sweden Norway Germany Austria Slovenia Hungary Romania
Language codes
ISO 639 -1


ISO 639 -2


ISO 639-3

rom (macro language)

Individual languages ​​included:

  • rmc (Carpathian Romani)
  • rmf (Finnish Romani)
  • rml (Baltic Romani)
  • rmn (Balkan Romani)
  • rmo (Sinte-Romani)
  • rmw (Welsh Romani)
  • rmy (Vlax)

Romani (in German-speaking and Romany ) is the language of the Roma . Together with languages ​​such as Urdu and Hindi, it belongs to the Indo-Aryan language family .

In several European countries Romani is an officially recognized minority language , including in Germany and Austria (here the novel of the Burgenland Roma , which is recognized as a UNESCO heritage site).

The word "Romani"

Romani is a substantiated adjective and comes from romani chib , "Roma language". It is the common international language name. In addition, the term Romanes , which is derived from the adverb Cane tu romanes? - “Do you speak Romani?” - ( Haiwe tu romanes? - “Do you understand novels?”). In German one says: "auf Romani" (or "auf Romanes") for "in the language of the Roma". A separate adjective to express belonging to the Romani or Roma language is not established in German. Sometimes used in this sense, from the Romance derived adjective "romanesisch" an embarrassment education has remained, while the established in the older linguistics adjective "gypsy language" as stigmatizing and imprecise, but in technical language, historical contexts in which a clear identification with the Romani is not possible, in the absence of an established alternative term is sometimes still considered tolerable.

According to the root of the word and the language family, there is no connection between Romani on the one hand and Romansh or Romanian on the other. Romansh and Romanian both come from the vulgar Latin word romanicus , which arose in the early Middle Ages to designate the languages ​​that developed from the spoken Latin of the Romans, and which include French , Italian and other “Romance” languages as well as Romanian . In contrast, Romani is derived from the self-designation Řom (“man” or “husband” for a member of the Roma), which is of Indian origin, possibly originated from Ḍom (also Ḍum or Ḍōmba ), the name of a caste of migrant workers who typically call themselves Musicians, jugglers, basket makers, metalworkers or similar trades within the Indian caste system that were classified as low.

Origins and Dialects

Spread of the Romani dialects

Romani is an Indo-Aryan language and thus the direct successor of an ancient Indo-Aryan dialect, which must have been closely related, if not necessarily identical, to the vernacular basis of Sanskrit . The language has similarities with both Central Indian and Northwest Indian languages. The linguistic findings suggest that Romani initially participated in an early development of the Central Indian languages ​​and then joined the development of the Northwest Indian languages ​​such as Sindhi over a longer period of time . It is therefore assumed that the speakers of Romani at that time came from central India and that their settlement areas had been in place since the 3rd century BC. Moved to northwest India. There is no agreement about the time of further migration to the west, but it can be set between the 5th and 10th centuries and it must probably be assumed that there will be several migration movements within this period.

Romani has thus developed independently of other languages ​​of this form for more than 800 years, including at least 700 years in Europe. In the early European period, vocabulary and syntax were particularly influenced by the Balkan languages, mainly Middle Greek from the Byzantine period, which had an impact on all subgroups of Romani.

Older classifications assumed that Romani was divided into three main varieties even before it arrived in Europe: Romani, which came to Europe in the 13th century, Domari in the Middle East and North Africa, and Lomavren in Armenia . Today it is assumed, on the other hand, that Romani and Lomavren are only distantly related to one another, and that Domari is an independent language that came to Western Asia from India as early as the 7th century.

A common categorization that lasted for a long time was the division into Vlax (from Vlach ) and non-Vlax dialects. Vlax were therefore those Roma who lived in slavery in the territory of Romania for many centuries. The main differentiator between the two groups was the degree of loanwords from Romanian. Vlax speaking groups made up the largest number of speakers. Bernard Gilliath-Smith was the first to make this distinction and coined the term Vlax in 1915 in the book The Report on the Gypsy tribes of North East Bulgaria (German: " Report on the Gypsy tribes in Northeast Bulgaria").

In recent decades, some scholars have made a linguistic categorization of the Romani dialects on the basis of historical development and isoglosses . Much of this work was carried out by Bochum-based linguist Norbert Boretzky , who pioneered the systematic representation of structural features of Romani dialects on geographical maps. This work culminated in an atlas of the Romani dialects, with Birgit Igla as co-author, which was published in 2005 and maps numerous isoglosses. Similar work has been carried out at the University of Manchester by linguist and former Romani rights activist Yaron Matras and his colleagues. Together with Viktor Elšík (now Charles University in Prague ), Matras set up the Romani Morpho-Syntax Database, which is currently the largest compilation of data on Romani dialects. Portions of this database can be accessed online through the Manchester Romani Project website . Matras (2002, 2005) advocated a theory of the geographical classification of Romani dialects based on the spatial distribution of innovations. According to this theory, the ancient Romani (English: "Early Romani") (as it was spoken in the Byzantine Empire ) by population migrations from Rome in the 14th-15th centuries. Brought to western and other parts of Europe. These groups settled in different European regions during the 16th and 17th centuries and acquired language skills in a variety of contact languages . Then changes set in that were distributed in wave-like patterns and thus brought about the dialectal differences that can be seen today. According to Matras, there were two main centers of innovation: some changes appeared in Western Europe (Germany and the surrounding area) and spread eastward; further changes occurred in the area of ​​the Wallachians (Vlax) and spread to the west and south. In addition, many regional and local isoglosses formed and created a complex wave of language boundaries. Matras refers to the prosthesis of the j- in aro> jaro 'egg' and ov> jov 'er' as a typical example of west (to) east diffusion and to the addition of the prosthetic a- in bijav> abijav as one typical east (post) west distribution. His conclusion is that the dialect differences were formed in situ and not as a result of different waves of migration.

Rough classification according to Boretzky, more precise classification according to the above study by Matras (KS = main contact language ):

The Lord's Prayer on Hungarian Romani (BEAS, left) in the Paternoster Church of Jerusalem

A distinction must be made between the so-called Para-Romani languages ​​such as English Anglo-Romani , Scandinavian Romani rakripa , Spanish Caló or Basque Erromintxela , in which, in addition to the vocabulary, the syntax and morphology are already dominated by one of the contact languages, and which are therefore to be classified as a variant of this contact language.


The Romani vocabulary is shaped by the migration of its speakers. If one assumes the Romani-German-English dictionary for Southeastern Europe by Norbert Boretzky and Birgit Igla (1994), only around 700 lexemes of Indian origin have survived, and around 70 from Persian from the early days of migration - there still largely without Arab influence - 40 from Armenian and 230 from Middle Greek of the Byzantine period, the fief of which was appropriated before the Turkicization and thus offers a clue for the dating of further migration to the west. The influence of the European contact languages ​​in all Romani dialects also exceeds the proportion of the originally Indian word material.

This influence also affects the core of the vocabulary, so u. a. the numerals. The number vocabulary comprises firstly Indian native words ( jek = 1, dui = 2, trin = 3, schtar = 4, Pansch = 5, pushed = 6, desch = 10, deschdejek = 10 + 1, deschdedui = 10 + 2, etc., bisch = 20, schel = 100), on the other hand borrowings from Greek ( efta = 7, ochto = 8, enja = 9, trianda = 30, saranda = 40, penda = 50), Turkish ( doxan = 90) and Hungarian ( seria , izero = 1000). Added but alternative borrowing come in some number of words from different languages, from the Swedish ( enslo instead jek = 1), the Latvian ( Letteri instead schtar = 4), Estonian ( kuus instead pushed = 6, seize instead efta = 7), Romanian ( mija = 1000), Czech ( tisitsos = 1000) or German ( Tausento = 1000).

For its part, Romani has also influenced his contact languages, especially in Germany the vocabulary of the Rotwelschen and some regional sociolects such as Gießen Manisch (as a variant of German not to be confused with the Manic Romani of the Manouches ) and the Palatinate Lotegorian .

Romany experts recognize a few words that have passed into colloquial German: Zaster "money" from saster "iron, metal", Kaschemme "run-down or badly reputed inn" from kačima (value-free) "inn", buck in the sense of "lust, something to do ”from bokh “ hunger ”, trash “ worthless, despicable stuff ”from skånt or skunt “ dung, dirt, dirt ”meaning“ to cover ”, dump from gave “ village ”. Only some of them have been with this Source link in the well-known etymological dictionary of the German language of Kluge received such. Sometimes there - unlike in the Duden - provided with different etymological explanations without reference to the Romani.


In general, Romani grammar has the following characteristics:

Research history

There were initially more or less fantastic ideas about the origin of the Roma and their language in Europe, which brought them into connection with Jews, Egyptians and other “exotic” peoples (see also Gypsies ). An unbiased scientific occupation did not begin until the second half of the 18th century, when the linguist Johann Christian Christoph Rüdiger (1751-1822) with his writing From the language and origin of the Gypsies from India (1782) the evidence of the descent from Sanskrit and This led to the origin from India, followed soon after by the Königsberg philosopher Christian Jakob Kraus , who compiled his linguistic material through systematic questioning of Roma in the Königsberg prison. Kraus did not publish his findings in context, but with his collection of materials he created a basis that other scholars, especially August Friedrich Pott, fall back on in his fundamental presentation The Gypsies in Europe and Asia (Halle 1844–1845) could. Research into the linguistic breakdown of the Romani dialects was initiated by the Slavist Franc Miklošič , whose essays on the subject have been published since 1872. Ralph L. Turner, whose essay The Position of Romani in Indo-Aryan appeared in 1926, was fundamental for the classification of Romani in the internal development history of the Indian languages .

Standardization and literary language

Until recently, Romani was mainly spoken and passed down orally, from which, since the 16th century, language samples have mostly only been recorded by speakers of other languages. Attempts to standardize Romani as a written language did not begin until the 20th century. Today the language commission of the International Romani Union (Romano Internacionalno Jekhetani Union) is in charge , which has been promoting a standardized spelling based on the Latin script and a linguistically standardized written language based on the Vlax-Romani since the 1980s. However, as long as there is no successfully standardized Romani, the regional variants must continue to be viewed as roofless dialects .

Romani is written using several alphabets: Latin , Cyrillic, and Devanagari .

Although the Roma produced significant literary works and autobiographical testimonies in other languages, the use of Romani as a literary language was long prevented by the social and cultural stigmatization of this language. One of the first to write about her origin and language was the writer Gina Ranjičić (1831–1890) , who lives in Serbia . More recently, authors such as Slobodan Berberski (1919–1989), Rajko Đurić , Leksa Manus , Nedjo Osman and Sejdo Jasarov have given Romani literature increasing recognition. Favored by the emigration of Romani writers from Southeastern Europe, especially from the former Yugoslavia, a lively cultural scene has also emerged in Germany in which Romani is cultivated as a literary and stage language. Institutionally, the development of Romani literature is supported by the International Romani Writers' Association founded in Finland in 2002 .

See also


  • Norbert Boretzky, Birgit Igla: Annotated Dialect Atlas of Romani. 2 volumes. Harrassowitz, Wiesbaden 2004, ISBN 3-447-05073-X .
  • Norbert Boretzky: The relationships between the southern Balkan Romani dialects. Lang, Frankfurt am Main [a. a.] 1999, ISBN 3-631-35070-8 .
  • Norbert Boretzky, Birgit Igla: Dictionary Romani - German - English for Southeastern Europe. Harrassowitz, Wiesbaden 1994, ISBN 3-447-03459-9 .
  • Rajko Đurić : The Literature of the Sinti and Roma. Edition Parabolis, Berlin 2002, ISBN 3-88402-307-1 .
  • Dieter W. Halwachs: Burgenland-Romani. LINCOM Europe, Munich 2002, ISBN 3-89586-020-4 .
  • Daniel Holzinger: The Rómanes. Grammar and discourse analysis of the Sinte language. Institute for Linguistics of the University, Innsbruck 1993, ISBN 3-85124-166-5 ( Innsbruck contributions to cultural studies. Special issue 85)
  • Colin P. Masica: The Indo-Aryan Languages. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge [u. a.] 1991, ISBN 0-521-23420-4 (Cambridge language surveys) .
  • Yaron Matras: Studies on the grammar and discourse of the novel: Dialekt der Kelderaša / Lovara , Wiesbaden 1995
  • Yaron Matras: Romani. A Linguistic Introduction. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge 2002, ISBN 0-521-63165-3 .
  • Siegmund A. Wolf: Large dictionary of the gypsy language. Vocabulary of German a. a. European gypsy dialects = (Romani tšiw) . 2nd revised edition, corrected reprint of the Mannheim edition, Bibliograph. Inst., 1960. Buske-Verlag, Hamburg 1987, ISBN 3-87118-777-1 (unchanged reprint, ibid 1993)

Web links

Wiktionary: Romani  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations
Wiktionary: Romanes  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations

Online dictionaries:

Individual evidence

  1. Hans-Jörg Roth: Yenish dictionary. Verlag Huber, Frauenfeld / Stuttgart / Vienna 2001, p. 53
  2. See: Siegmund A. Wolf, Large Dictionary of the Gypsy Language, Hamburg 1993; Yaron Matras, The Romani element in German secret languages. Jenisch and Rotwelsch, in: ders. (Ed.), The Romani element in non-standard speech, Wiesbaden 1998, pp. 193-230; Friedrich Kluge, Etymological Dictionary of the German Language , 23rd, expanded edition, edited by Elmar Seebold, Verlag Walter de Gruyter, Berlin / New York 1999.
  3. ROMLEX: Syntactic Roles . Retrieved October 8, 2011.