Romani languages

Romani languages are a sub-branch of the Indic languages spoken by Romani people in Europe. Their ancestor seems to have been a New Indo-Aryan language, meaning it could not have diverged much earlier than 1000 AD; some features indicative of this are that it has only a two-way (nominative/oblique) case distinction and only two grammatical genders (masculine/feminine). Ethnologue classifies these language varieties as constituting seven separate languages, spoken by a combined total of about 4 million people. The languages exhibit significant Greek and Balkan influence, and lesser influence from Armenian and Iranic languages. The latest point at which it’s believed the Romani languages were still a single, unitary language was the 10th–13th centuries in the Byzantine Empire; this stage of the language is sometimes called “Early Romani” or “Proto-Romani”. The languages broke up after that point. The language varieties are classified as:

  • Northern
    • Sinte Romani: spoken by 300,000 people primarily in Germanic-speaking countries, France, and northern Italy
    • Baltic Romani: spoken by approx. 35,000
    • Finnish Romani: approx. 6,000–12,000 speakers
    • Welsh Romani: probably extinct, but was spoken up to about 1950
  • Carpathian Romani (Central): spoken by 150,000 primarily in Slovakia, Hungary, southern Poland, western Ukraine
  • Balkan Romani: with 600,000 speakers primarily in the southern Balkans
  • Vlax: with 500,000 speakers primarily in the northern Balkans

There are also a number of mixed languages, which combine Romani vocabulary with the grammar of the language of the surrounding country. These varieties are called Para-Romani. Some examples of these include:

  • Caló: spoken by 60,000 in Spain and Portugal, and by an unknown number in southern France and Latin America (primarily Brazil and Colombia)
  • Angloromani
  • Scottish Cant
  • Welsh Kalá
  • Scandoromani (Norway and Sweden)
  • Manouche (in France; related to Sinte Romani)
  • Emmomintxela (Basque Country)
  • Romano-Greek
  • Romano-Serbian: spoken by 170,000 in Serbia
  • Lomavren (Armenia)

Except for Caló and Romano-Serbian, all of these seem to be highly endangered languages, with at most a few thousand speakers (and most much less than that).

See Also / References