Exploring ties between Romani culture and the field of translation

Translation Romani has decided to maintain use of the word Romani in all language versions of this website, inclusively and in reference both to the language and people of all the diverse ethnic communities throughout the world, i.e. Roma, Sinti, Manuš, Calé, Romanichal, Kalé, and many others. Please read the important notes from our translators for explanations and other translations currently in use locally, nationally or regionally.

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Translation Romani
Is Romani always a dialect?

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 in a given place and time. There have been several efforts by linguists to classify the diverse Romani dialects. Classifying a dialect in general is sometimes difficult because linguists do not always uniformly agree on the linguistic definition of a dialect. Migrations, travel and settlement patterns prove to be challenges for classification, which are based on established linguistic structures and categories. One enduring attempt, although still contested, proposes systematizing the dialect structure in Romani through a Vlax / non-Vlax division. From a historical linguistic perspective, Vlax refers to those dialects spoken by groups of Romani and descendents who, for over 500 years, were considered as slaves in the former, Ottoman-controlled principalities of Wallachia and Moldavia (now modern Romania). These dialects have been heavily influenced by the Romanian language. One of the Vlax dialects, Kalderaš, currently has the highest number of speakers documented worldwide and tends to be used as a basis in international forums.

At this date, most linguists in Romani Studies gravitate to classifying the nearly 80 Romani dialects into four major groups: Balkan, Central, Northern, and Vlax. Some linguists trace the evolution and degree of differences between the dialects in terms of the principal waves of Romani migration and their successive expansions. In other words, those dialects closer diachronically to the Eastern "center of origin" in India and to the Western "center of ethnic consolidation" in Byzantine Anatolia retain certain linguistic structures shared by the dialects in their earliest phases of development, while the dialects resulting from later migrations into the Balkans, Europe and elsewhere manifest varying degrees of linguistic accretions from other languages as Romani evolved. That said, there is considerable mutual intelligibility among many dialect speakers, particularly for certain subject area vocabulary.

All Romani dialects have been influenced by contact with other languages in the regions where they are spoken. In some areas of the world, the dialect speakers have adopted not only lexical items but also grammatical structures from the local languages with which they are in contact. This has been the case in Spain, for example. As would be expected, the fluid condition of the still emerging international standard language in Romani means that speakers attempt to write their dialects using the alphabets of their national languages. As is the case for most bilingual and multilingual societies, Romani speakers make use of code-switching in conversations. All of these compelling factors combined help us to understand how, when faced with a historical situation of no national territory of their own, attempting to come to a consensus on an international standard and orthography for the Romani language across national borders remains a significant challenge.


Courthiade, Marcel and Alain Reyniers (eds), "Langue et culture: approche linguistique", Études tsiganes, Vol. 2, No. 22, Paris: Études tsiganes, 2005.

Hancock, Ian (1995), A Handbook of Vlax Romani, Columbus: Slavica Publishers, Inc.

Langues et cité, June (9), Special issue on the Romani language, Paris: Observatoire des pratiques linguistiques, Ministère de la Culture et de la Communication, 2007.

Matras, Yaron (2002), Romani. A Linguistic Introduction, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Proctor, Edward (2008), Gypsy Dialects. A selected annotated bibliography of materials for the practical study of Romani, Hertfordshire: University of Hertfordshire Press.

Romani Project, School of Languages, Linguistics and Cultures at the University of Manchester, retrieved 4 Sept 2011 at http://romani.humanities.manchester.ac.uk/.

ROMLEX -- Romani dialect groups.

Translation Romani

Random Romani Word Other Romani Word
Kai? (Kalderash)
Kaj? (Gurbeti)
Kaj? (Lovari)
Kaj? (Xoraxane)
 Where? (EN)  Onde? (PT)  Où? (FR)  ¿Dónde? (ES)  Wo? (DE)  Hol? (HU)  Dove? (IT)  Nerede? (TR)  Kde? (CS)

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