Classification and Varieties

From a linguistic point of view Romani may be described as a heterogeneous cluster of varieties without any homogenising standard. The division into seven dialect (see table) groups is a simplified graphical version of the description given in Matras (2002).

The terminology used for the individual varieties is primarily based on the denominations of the respective groups of speakers, which again are highly heterogeneous: Apart from the label Romungro, which is – sometimes pejoratively – used for settled Hungarian Roma, and Vend"border" for small groups in the border regions of Austria, Hungary and Slovenia, the Central varieties show mainly geographic definitions. The same is valid a. o. for the southwestern Greek Vlach varieties of Ajia Varvara, a suburb of Athens, and of Dendropotamos, a suburb of Thessaloniki, as well as the northern Vlach variety of the Mačvaja, a group originating in the Serbian Mačva which today lives in the USA – primarily in California. Some denominations name professions, e. g. Bugurdži, Čurara, Kalderaš, Lovara, Sepečides, with the meaning: "drill-makers", "sieve-makers", "tinkers", "horse-dealers", "basket-weavers". The denominations Arli used for Kosovarian and Macedonian Roma as well as Erli for a group living in Sofia are indications of the long-lasting settled way of life of these Balkan Roma: the Turkish word yerli stands for "native". The name Gurbet derives from the Arabic word gharib"strange" which has been transmitted via Turkish. Rumeli or Rumelian Romani stands for the variety of Romani spoken in Turkey which was recorded by Paspati (1870).

Because of shared conservative features, Northwestern, Northeastern, British and Iberian varieties are sometimes treated as Northern group of Romani (Bakker 1999). Denominations among these varieties range from geographical definitions to group names and even one language denomination is used: Rómanes, derived from an ethnonym adverb, is a widespread language name among Sinte, a group denomination with unclear etymology. Manuš"human being" and Caló"black" both are self-designations among Northern groups. The geographical denominations define the current living space – Lombard Sinte, Finnish Romani, etc. – as well as the country of origin – Estrexarja Sinte which in the case of the Russian Estrexarja Sinte is the former Austro Hungarian Empire.

So called Para-Romani varieties are marked by brackets. These are varieties of the respective majority language with Romani lexicon and, if at all, only a few Romani structural features: Errumantxela is a variety of Basque, Caló is a variety of Spanish, Angloromani of English, Scandoromani summarises Para-Romani varieties based on various Scandinavian languages.


Bakker, Peter (2001) The Northern Branch of Romani: Mixed and Non-Mixed Varieties. In: Halwachs, Dieter W. / Menz, Florian (eds.) Die Sprache der Roma. Perspektiven der Romani-Forschung in Österreich im interdisziplinären und internationalen Kontext, Graz, pp. 172-209.
Matras, Yaron (2002) Romani: a linguistic introduction. New York/Cambridge.
Paspati, Alexandre G. (1870 / 1973) Études sur le Tchinghianés ou Bohémiens de l´Empire Ottoman. Constantinople.
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Image Classification table
Image 10 sentences in 5 Romani varieties: Sinti, Servika, Burgenland Roma, Lovara, Kalderaš
Image 10 sentences in 5 Romani varieties: Sinti, Servika, Burgenland Roma, Lovara, Kalderaš