Phonology

The phoneme inventory of Romani for the most part does not exceed that of European languages. As to its vocalism, all varieties have five cardinal vowels /i, e, a, o, u/, with the vocal system of Romani having developed from an originally also quantitative to a purely qualitative one. This stands in contrast to the vocal systems of new Indian languages and means that, as opposed to Hindi among others, length is phonematically no longer distinctive in Romani:

Sanskrit Hindi Romani "English"
ṛma:rayati ma:rna: marel "hit"
marati marna: merel "die"

Depending on the contact situation, some varieties show centralized vowels adopted from Romanian (rum.) or Turkish (tk.) as well as rounded vowels that are likewise of Turkish origin, for instance:

Kalderaš-Romani Romanian "English"
gîndisarel ←a gîndi "think"
strêino ←străin "stranger"

Sepečides-Romani Turkish "English"
avdžîluki ←avcılık "hunter"
köti ←kö "bad"

Arlije-Romani Turkish "English"
bülbüli ←bülbül "nightingale"

The consonant system differs only in one significant aspect from those of other European languages: it disposes of aspired voiceless stops /ph, th, kh/, that are characteristical of Indian languages and can be traced back to the old-Indian aspired voiced stops /bh, dh, gh/. For the great majority of Romani varieties /ph, th, kh/ at least in initial position function distinctively:

perav: pherav [ai. bharati] ("I fall": "I fill")

tav: thav [ai. dha:gga] ("cook!": "thread")

ker: kher [ai. ghara] ("do!": "house")

In some varieties, both non-aspirated, voiceless affricates č and their aspirated complement čh are phonematically distinctive. Likewise, two r-phonemes (apical r : uvular ř) can occur in some varieties.

Arlije-Romani: čor: čhor ("thief": "pour!")

Kalderaš-Romani: bar: bař ("garden": "stone")

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