Correspondent Tomasz Kamusella sent me a great collection of links relating to the Romani (“Gypsy”) language and culture, which I hereby pass along to you all:

Цыгане России (Romani of Russia; in Russian)
Лилоро (dedicated to Romani language, culture, history, and literature; in Russian)
Romani muzika
Romano Vodi online journal (mainly Romani)
Dženo Association online bulletin (trilingual edition; for Romani click on Romani flag)
Rrommedia Network (in Romani)
Romano Centro magazine (in Romani)
Roma Rights Quarterly (in Romani)
TV Sutel Romani-language programme, Macedonia
Radio Multikulti Romanes (Romani-language broadcasts) [not archived]
Romnet Romani-language news, Hungary
Radio rota Romani-language online radio, Czech Republic
Radio Romano/Cafe Romano Romani-language Radio online, from Sweden
BBC Kent’s Romany Roots
Roma Decade Decade of Roma Inclusion 2005-2015
Radio Romano Centro (Vienna) [not archived]
Romani (language site)
The Patrin Web Journal: Romani Culture and History
Unión Romaní (Spain)
European Roma Rights Centre (ERRC)
The Dream (A photographic essay among the Chergari Gypsies in Blagoevgrad, Bulgaria)
Rroma (organisations, culture, and history)
Roma in the Czech Republic
RomNews Society

Finally, from the Wikipedia in Romani I learn that Romanes now has a Devanagari standard written form as well!


  1. That should be “Charles Godfrey Leland”.

  2. Damn these Victorian triple-decker names, all parts of which could serve as either given or family names!

  3. I’d like to learn Romani, especially as textbooks of it are widely available in Hungary (funding abounds for Romani publishing there) and Cambridge came out with a volume called Romani: A Linguistic Introduction for the linguistics fanatic in all of us. So, it theoretically seems more feasible to learn than many obscure languages.
    However, even though there are enormous Roma communities in Hungary and Romani, I’m told that only 20% of them still speak Romani, and most of these must be elderly who do not much leave their settlements for the city centres. I’ve only once encountered Roma speaking it, and they grew angry at my questions about it, claiming that it was their secret language, and they didn’t want non-Roma learning it. So, it seems a very difficult language to get anywhere with.

  4. Oh, as for the Devanagari standard, this is apparently used only by a small minority of the Roma intelligentsia (who are generally cut off from the Roma masses) who seek a sort of “back-to-India” philosophy. On the Wikipedia meta discussion forums, there’s a lot of ridicule about the use of Devanagari for the language.

  5. A few of mine:
    Rombase at University of Graz
    Roma-Slovak dictionary
    Romano nevo ľil – a newspaper of Slovak roma, scroll down for versions in Roma, Hungarian and English
    There are a few other sites of Roma organizations and government institutions (most notably, but they’re mostly in Slovak.

  6. Christopher, it appears that if you want to learn Romani, you need to come to Slovakia :o) Romani is very much alive here – last census reported almost 100.000 native speakers, but the real number of speakers of Romani is almost certainly twice that. Spoken Romani is, however, very much influenced by both dialectal and standard Slovak. This is evidenced not only by a large number of borrowings and calques, but especially by increasing number of Slovak verbal prefixes (vy-, na-, do- etc.) used with Romani verbs.

  7. I think his complaint was not that there weren’t native speakers but that they wouldn’t speak with him, and that might not be any different in Slovakia. (I’ve heard it about Roma in the U.S. as well.)

  8. Hm, I understood “only 20% of them still speak Romani, and most of these must be elderly” to mean there are not that many prospective and communicative speakers left. I must have misunderstood.
    In any case, I never had a problem speaking to Roma, even in Romani, nor did the researches (many of whom were foreigners) I have spoken to have anything to complain about.

  9. My understanding is that Romani in some places (e.g. the UK) is now pretty much a secret adult language, that is, something that kids learn at about 14 when they decide whether to remain full members of the community.
    Bulbul, the calquing and loans and so on is one of the reasons Romani is so cool for linguists! It’s a language contact specialist’s dream language… except for most communities being closed…
    Here’s a quote which I think is a proverb quoted in Yaron Matras’ book on Romani:
    English is a rich language, because it has borrowed so many words.
    Romani is a poor language, because it has borrowed so many words.

  10. the calquing and loans and so on is one of the reasons Romani is so cool for linguists!
    Amen to that :o)

  11. In Hungary, I met many Roma people who were happy to “explain” about their language and teach a few phrases . . . but it quickly became apparent that many did not really speak it beyond some set words and phrases. Additionally, many of these words / phrases appeared to me to be archaic Hungarian words / phrases, were “true” Romany equivalents exist.
    Another question I have is, to what degree is there mutual intelligibility between Romany dialects? It seems to me that nearly all “Gypsy” languages are called Romany, even when they aren’t really Romany at all. (I’m thinking of Beash, the Roma language spoken in part of Hungary that’s clearly the offspring of an earlier form of Romanian, and very distinct from Lovari, for instance.)
    I’d love to know of a Roma language map which clearly defines these differences – can anyone point me in the right direction?

  12. Nobody speaks of the Beash language as “Romani” that I have heard of, and in Beash they refer to their language as “tsiganesht” just as they would in Romanian. Same goes for Bear leading Gypsies in Bulgaria, who are called Ursari but refer to themselves as “Romanians” and speak Romanian as their language.
    Lovari is quite popular as a language course in Hungary, and there is a Lovari Language School (“Lovari Shkola”) in Budapest. It is popular because people think that it is an “easy” course, since so many local Roma use Hungarian loan words freely in their conversation. Few of those taking the course actually end up using Romani usefully in their daily lives, although those who do include a lot of Roma political and cultural figures who grew up in households that didn’t speak Romani.
    In places wher eRoma could easily assimilate into the larger population if they chose to, the language is closely guarded as a line of defense against assimilation. In East Europe, where Roma are rarely assimilated except into the lowest levels of gajo society, there is less defensiveness or exclusiveness about their language. I know several areas – central Transylvania, for example – where villagers are trilingual in Hungarian, Romanian, and Romani regardless of whether they are Gypsy or not.

  13. I was hoping you’d show up!

  14. For those interested in learning Romani, there’s now a fairly user-friendly introduction to the Kalderash dialect available:
    Learn Romani: Das-duma Rromanes, by Ronald Lee
    Available from Amazon. It unfortunately has no accompanying audio-materials, but there’s a lengthy annotated bibliography in the back that includes sources for audio as well. It’s from the University of Hertfordshire Press, in the UK, which has a number of Rom-related books in print, and will shortly publish a guide to Romani dialects as well. So learning Romani now appears a bit easier than it used to be….

  15. David Marjanović says

    English is a rich language, because it has borrowed so many words.
    Romani is a poor language, because it has borrowed so many words.

    “Carthage was governed by its richest men and was therefore a plutocracy.
    Rome was governed by its richest men and was therefore a republic.”

  16. Siganus Sutor says

    Christopher: Oh, as for the Devanagari standard, this is apparently used only by a small minority of the Roma intelligentsia (who are generally cut off from the Roma masses) who seek a sort of “back-to-India” philosophy.
    In a previous discussion, someone — a Rrom, with the double -r as some like to write it — referred to these devanagari users as ‘fundamentalists’, “des allumés de tout genre, more Catholic than the Pope”.
    Incidentally, in the same comment, this person says that the adjective Roma is often misused in English since it is the masculine plural of Rom. And he LOLs at those who for instance say “a Roma woman”…
    (LH, maybe his website could be added to the links above…)

  17. Romani Cymru – Welsh Romani pages (English)
    Some Welsh Romani memories and sayings – BBC (Welsh)
    Romani and Beash Education in Hungary – Mercator Education Regional Dossier (English)
    Roma Magazin – Roma language programme on MTV (Hungarian TV)
    Rómsky magazín – So vakeres? – Roma (I think) language programme on the Roma Press Agency website.
    More links to European minority language streamed tv and radio broadcasts on the Mercator Media website.

  18. Michael Beníšek, “The quest for a Proto-Romani infinitive”, Romani Studies 19:10 (June 2010), pp. 47-86. The link is to Project Muse. so you need access (thank you, NYPL); it’s an interesting linguistic detective story.

    R. A. Lafferty, “Land of the Great Horses”, first published in Dangerous Visions and then in Nine Hundred Grandmothers. A science-fiction story about what happens when the Romany go back to India, and who replaces them as the world’s premier nomads.

  19. Lafferty is one of my favorites, and that’s one of my favorites of his. (Alas, my copy of Dangerous Visions, signed by at least half the authors at the 1968 WorldCon, got lost in the mail when I was shipping my books from Santa Barbara and never showed up in Massachusetts, sharing that fate with my Bleiler & Dikty anthologies, which I still mourn — I spent so much time and effort collecting them!)

  20. got lost in the mail


    shipping my books from Santa Barbara

    So you took yourself away from your dizz, then?

  21. Not a link but a fascinating book (one I’m reading right now, and when I say it’s fascinating, I mean it):

    Matras, Yaron. 2010. Romani in Britain: The Afterlife of a Language. Edinburgh: EUP.

  22. So you took yourself away from your dizz, then?

    Worked on the diss in New Haven, left most of my books and other non-linguistics-related stuff with my folks in SB. When Dad died and we had to empty the house, I shipped dozens and dozens of boxes east; I really wish I’d packed this particular set of books in a sturdy new box instead of whatever piece of crap came apart in or on the way to LA (where the PO found the shipping label attached to a ragged piece of cardboard, which they duly mailed me). I sometimes wonder who’s enjoying those books now.

  23. Naah, diz(z) is common Romany ‘town’ < Modern Persian diz, dez ‘fortification, fortified town’. It appears in the last line of the Lafferty story:

    The language of the Angelenos is a colorful and racy argot. Their account of their origin is vague:

    They came and took our dizz away from us, they say.

    In this context it could also mean Disneyland.

  24. Ah, thanks for clearing that up!

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