Romani Language - Classification


Romani is an Indo-Aryan language with strong Balkan, and especially Greek, influence.

Romani is sometimes classified in the Central or Northwestern branch of Indo-Aryan, and sometimes treated as a group of its own.

Romani shares a number of features with the Central Indo-Aryan languages. The most significant isoglosses are the shift of Old Indo-Aryan to u or i (Sanskrit śr̥ṇ-, Romani šun- 'to hear') and kṣ- to kh (Sanskrit akṣi, Romani j-akh 'eye'). However, unlike other Central Indo-Aryan languages, Romani preserves many dental clusters (Romani trin 'three', phral 'brother', cf. Hindi tīn, bhāi). This implies Romani split from the Central Indo-Aryan languages before the Middle Indo-Aryan period. However, Romani shows some features of New Indo-Aryan, such as erosion of the original nominal case system towards a nominative/oblique dichotomy, with new grammaticalized case suffixes added on. This means that the Romani exodus from India could not have happened until late in the first millenium CE.

Romani also shows some similarity to the Northwest Indo-Aryan languages. In particular, the grammaticalization of enclitic pronouns as person markers on verbs (kerdo 'done' + me 'me' > kerdjom 'I did') is also found in languages such as Kashmiri and Shina. This evidences a northwest migration during the split from Central Indo-Aryan, consistent with a later migration to Europe.

Based on this data, Matras (2006) views Romani as "kind of Indian hybrid: a central Indic dialect that had undergone partial convergence with northern Indic languages."

In terms of its grammatical structures, Romani is conservative in maintaining almost intact the Middle Indo-Aryan present-tense person concord markers, and in maintaining consonantal endings for nominal case – both features that have been eroded in most other modern Indo-Aryan languages.

Romani shows a number of phonetic changes that distinguish it from other Indo-Aryan languages—in particular, the de-voicing of voiced aspirates (bh dh gh > ph th kh), shift of medial t d to l, of short a to e, initial kh to x, rhoticization of retroflex ḍ, ṭ, ḍḍ, ṭṭ, ḍh etc. to r and ř, and shift of inflectional -a to -o.

After exiting the Indian subcontinent, Romani was heavily affected by European contact languages. The most significant of these was Byzantine Greek, which contributed lexically, phonemically, and grammatically to Early Romani (10th-13th centuries CE). This includes inflectional affixes for nouns, and verbs that are still productive with borrowed vocabulary, the shift to VO word order, and the adoption of a preposed definite article. Early Romani also borrowed from Armenian and Iranian languages.

Characteristic for Romani is the fusion of postpositions of the second Layer (or case marking clitics) to the nominal stem, and the emergence of external tense morphology that attaches to the person suffix. All of these features are shared between Romani and Domari, which has prompted much discussion about the relationships between these two languages. Domari was once thought to be the "sister language" of Romani, the two languages having split after the departure from the Indian subcontinent, but more recent research suggests that the differences between them are significant enough to treat them as two separate languages within the Central zone (Hindustani) group of languages. The Dom and the Rom therefore likely descend from two different migration waves out of India, separated by several centuries.

Numerals in the Romani, Lomavren and Domari languages, with Hindi forms for comparison.

Hindi Romani Lomavren Latin Irish Gaelic Domari
1 ek ekh, jekh yak, yek unum aon yika
2 do duj lui duo
3 tīn trin tərin tria trí tærən
4 cār štar išdör quattuor ceathair štar
5 pāñc pandž pendž quinque cúig pandž
6 che šov šeš sex šaš
7 sāt ifta haft septem seacht xaut
8 āţh oxto hašt octo ocht xaišt
9 nau inja nu novem naoi na
10 das deš las decem deich des
20 bīs biš vist viginti fiche wīs
100 sau šel saj centum céad saj

The Romani language is sometimes considered a group of dialects or a collection of related languages that comprise all the members of a single genetic subgroup. According to Ethnologue, seven varieties of Romani are divergent enough to be considered languages of their own. The largest of these are Vlax Romani (about 900,000 speakers), Balkan Romani (700,000), Carpathian Romani (500,000) and Sinti Romani (300,000).

Some Romani communities, especially those on the western periphery of the Romani diaspora, use mixed languages with Romani-derived vocabulary rather than Romani proper. These varieties are known by linguists as Para-Romani.

Read more about this topic:  Romani Language

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