Romani Language - Orthography


Historically, Romani was an exclusively unwritten language. The overwhelming majority of academic and non-academic literature produced currently in Romani is written using a Latin-based orthography. Among native speakers, the most common pattern for individual authors to use an orthography based on the writing system of the dominant contact language: thus Romanian in Romania, Hungarian in Hungary and so on. A currently observable trend, however, appears to be the adoption of a loosely English-oriented orthography, developed spontaneously by native speakers for use online and through email. Most linguists adhere to a system Hancock calls Pan-Vlax.

The Pan-Vlax system is as follows:

Romani "Pan-Vlax" alphabet
Grapheme Phoneme Example
A a /a/ akana now
B b /b/ barvalo rich
C c /ts/ cirdel he pulls
Č č /tʃ/ čačo true
Čh čh /tʃʰ/ čhavo boy
D d /d/ dorjav river
Dž dž /dʒ/ džukel dog
E e /e/ ertimos forgiveness
F f /f/ foros town
G g /ɡ/ gadže non-Rom
H h /h/ harmasari stallion
I i /i/ ičarel he crushes
J j /j/ jag fire
K k /k/ kaj where
Kh kh /kʰ/ khamesko sunny
L l /l/ lašo good
M m /m/ manuš man
N n /n/ nav name
O o /o/ oxto eight
P p /p/ pekel he bakes
Ph ph /pʰ/ phabaj apple
R r /r/ rakli girl
S s /s/ sunakaj gold
Š š /ʃ/ šukar sweet/good/nice
T t /t/ taxtaj cup
Th th /tʰ/ them land
U u /u/ lip
V v /ʋ/ voro cousin
X x /x/ xarano wise
Z z /z/ zeleno green
Ž ž /ʒ/ žoja Thursday

The use of the above graphemes is relatively stable and universal, taking into account dialectal mergers and so on. However, in certain areas there is somewhat more variation. A typically diverse area is in the representation of sounds not present in most varieties of Romani. For example, the centralised vowel phonemes of several varieties of Vlax and Xaladitka, when they are indicated separately from the non-centralised vowels, can be represented using ə, ъ or ă. Another particularly variant area is the representation of palatalised consonants, which are absent from a number of dialects. Some variant graphemes for /tʲ/ include tj, ty, ć, čj and t᾿. Finally, the representation of the phoneme /ɻ/ (the reflex of the Sanskrit retroflex series), which in several dialects has been merged with /r/, tends to vary between rr, ř and rh, and sometimes even gh, with the first two being the most frequently found variants.

The English-based orthography commonly used in North America is, to a degree, an accommodation of the Pan-Vlax orthography to English-language keyboards, replacing those graphemes with diacritics with digraphs, such as the substitution of ts ch sh zh for c č š ž.

An orthographical standard intended for cross-dialect use was introduced by Marcel Courthiade in 1989 and has been adopted by the International Romani Union. However, the IRU standard has yet to find a broad base of support from Romani writers. One reason for the reluctance to adopt this standard, according to Canadian Rom Ronald Lee, is that the proposed orthography contains a number of specialized characters not regularly found on European keyboards, such as θ and ʒ.

The International Standard orthography, uses similar conventions to the Pan-Vlax system outlined above. Several of the differences are simply graphical, such as replacing carons with acute accents, transforming č š ž into ć ś ź. However, its most distinctive feature is the use of "meta-notations", which are intended to cover cross-dialectal phonological variation, particularly in degrees of palatalisation; and morpho-graphs, which are used to represent the morphophonological alternation of case suffixes in different phonological environments. The three "morpho-graphs" are ç, q and θ, which represent the initial phonemes of a number of case suffixes, which are realised /s/, /k/ and /t/ after a vowel and /ts/, /ɡ/ and /d/ after a nasal consonant. The three "meta-notations" are ʒ, ŏ and ă, the realisation of which varies by dialect. The latter two, for example, are pronounced /o/ and /a/ in Lovaricka, but /jo/ and /ja/ in Kalderash.

Read more about this topic:  Romani Language

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