The Romani language, comprised of almost 80 dialects and studied by linguists since the 18th-19th c., raises many questions of relevance to us today in our globalizing world. Where did Romani come from? Is there a standard Romani? Which dialects are most widespread? Is Romani officially recognized? Is there a Romani nation?
The word Gypsy and similar cognates in other languages have been used for centuries. These names tend to be heavily laden with negative or romanticized associations and stereotypes. Romani and Rromani are two modern terms that have emerged.
Romani groups have migrated to and settled in over 50 countries worldwide since the time of departure from India. Populations are cited anywhere from 10 to 14 million; fear of discrimination and persecution prevent accurate census-taking.
Dialects are social or regional variations of a language. A dialect reflects specific characteristics of a variation used by a particular group of language speakers. When a dialect becomes codified, it takes on the status of a standard language.
A standard language assumes a particular status for one of the variations of a language. It tends to be widely prescribed through education and dictionaries, grammar books and publications. It is often associated with social or political prestige.
Diverse ethnic groups can be recognized and protected as official minority groups within a given nation-state or region. Ascribing an official category to a specific group of people can imply representation, language and translation rights.
"Nation" generally refers to a community of people inhabiting a territory that is organized politically by a common government, i.e. the "nation-state". Likewise, it denotes a people sharing a common history, and traditions of language and culture.
Romani is taught in different settings throughout the world: university programs, primary and secondary school classes, cultural and community centers, workshops and summer camps. Pedagogical materials exist in Romani and in translation.