Morphology – Verb

In contrast to the conjugation of pre-european verbs, the conjugation of recent loans from European languages is characterised by adaption morphemes, which according to Boretzky/Igla (1991) derive from Greek (1)

pre-european european european european european
general Kalderaš- Bugurdži- Sepečides- Burgenland-
ker-el gind-isar-el izbir-iz-la jazd-in-ela pis-in-el
phen-el traj-isar-el trešt-iz-la anlat-în-ela gondol-in-el

Kalderaš- = Kalderaš-Romani; Bugurdži- = Bugurdži-Romani; Sepečides- = Sepečides-Romni; Burgenland- = Burgenland-Romani

kerel (make, do) [←ai. karoti]; phenel (say) [←ai. bhanati]

gindisarel (think) [←rum. a gîndi]; trajisarel (live) [←rum. a trăi]

izbirizla (choose) [←skr. izbirati]; treštizla (tremble) [←skr. treštati]

jazdinela (write) [←tk. yazmak]; anlatînela (explai) [←tk. anlatmak]

pisinel (write) [←skr. pisati]; gondolinel (think) [←ung. gondol]

The conjugation of verbs involves two sets of morphemes differentiated by the category 'person' – {av}, {es}, {el}; {as}, {en}, {en}, which are suffigated to the present stem, and {/om/um/em/}, {/an/al/}, {/as/ah/a/}; {am}, {/en/an/}, {e}, which are attached to the perfective stem. Furthermore two morphemes – {a} and {/as/ahi/} – are involved in verb formation.

Depending on the appearance of the suffix {a}, we distinguish preentic short forms from presentic long forms:

short forms short forms long forms long forms
singular plural singular plural
1 ker-av ker-as ker-av-a ker-as-a
2 ker-es ker-en ker-es-a ker-en-a
3 ker-el ker-en ker-el-a ker-en-a

The functional distribution of short and long forms differ from variety group to variety group: in Kalderaš-Romani, the short forms function as present indicative, while the long forms have subjunctive and future meaning. In Arlije- and Bugurdži-Romani the long forms are generally used as present indicative, while the short forms stand for subjunctive or alternatively also for present indicative. In Burgenland-Romani the short forms function as present, the long forms as future. In contrast, the varieties spoken in the Balkans form the future anylatically with the particle {/ka/kam/kama/} derived from the verb kamel (love, want, wish) and the present: ka kerav (I will make). The present short forms are also the basis for the imperfective, which, just like the pluperfect, is formed through suffigation of the morpheme {/as/ahi/}. For the pluperfect, however, the perfective forms function as a basis (2)

imperfekt. imperfekt. perfective perfective pluperfect pluperfect
singular plural singular plural singular plural
1 ker-av-as ker-as-as ker-d-om ker-d-am ker-d-om-as ker-d-am-as
2 ker-es-as ker-en-as ker-d-an ker-d-en ker-d-an-as ker-d-en-as
3 ker-el-as ker-en-as ker-d-a(s) ker-d-e ker-d-as-as ker-d-en-as

imperfect. = imperfective

Characteristic of the preterital stem is an infigated formans between stem and ending – in the case above it is /-d-/ –, which frequently also appears jotated or palatalized /-dj-/ or, as shown in the following example, as shifted to an affricate /č/. This example from the Romani of Burgenland moreover shows the /-ahi/ suffix, which is characteristic of the Romani of Burgenland and of ist surrounding varieties. Moreover, the example shows sound changes and contractions at the morpheme boundaries, as well as modal functions of preterital forms, with the pluperfect only used as irrealis:

imperf.p. imperf.p. perf.r. perf.r. irrealis irrealis
singular plural singular plural singular plural
1 ker-ahi kerah-ahi ker-č-om ker-č-am kerčom-ahi kerčam-ahi
2 kereh-ahi kern-ahi ker-č-al ker-č-an kerčal-ahi kerčan-ahi
3 kerl-ahi kern-ahi ker-č-a ker-d-e kerč-ahi kerčan-ahi

imperf.p. = imperfective (potentialis); perf.r. = perfective (realis)

The passive voice is either synthetically formed with the affixes {/-ov-/-av-/}, e.g. mardjovav (I am being hit) : marav (I hit). If this formation is not productive as is the case for the Romani of Burgenland, it is formed analytically by Past Participle + 'be': mardo ojav (I am hit).

It is impossible to treat phenomena of the Romani verb as mood and passive formation of individual dialects sufficiently in this context. As a conclusion, the present indicative forms of the verb 'to be', which also functions as copula are listed in several Romani varieties, including etymology and parallels in New-Indo-Aryan languages:

Sinte Bgld. Kald. Bugurd. Sep. Sanskr. Hindi Panjabi English
1 hom som sîm s(i)jom isinóm asmi hauṃ/ hu:ṃ ha:ṃ I am
2 hal sal san sjan isinán asi hai haiṃ you are
3 hi hi si isí asti hai hai he/she is
1 ham sam sam sjam isinám smas(i) haiṃ ha:m we are
2 han san san sjen isinén stha ho ho you are
3 hi hi si isí santi haiṃ han they are

Sinte = Sinte-Romani; Bgld. = Burgenland-Romani; Kald. = Kalderaš-Romani; Bugurd. = Bugurdži-Romani; Sep. = Sepečides-Romani

1 The morphological characteristic of the more recent loans, and the entire integration morphology of Romani, respectively is borrowed from Greek, as demonstrated in Bakker (1997).
2 The difference between perfective and imperfective is an aspectual one (Matras 2002).


Bakker, Peter (1997) Athematic morphology in Romani. The borrowing of a borrowing pattern, In: Matras, Yaron / Bakker, Peter / Kyuchukov, Hristo (eds.) The Typology and Dialectology of Romani (= Amsterdam Studies in the Theory and History of Linguistic Science, Series IV: Current Issues in Linguistic Theory, Vol 156). Amsterdam/Philadelphia, pp. 1-21.
Boretzky, Norbert / Igla, Birgit (1991) Morphologische Entlehnungen in den Romani-Dialekten (Arbeitspapier 4 des Projekts "Prinzipien des Sprachwandels"). Essen.
Matras, Yaron (2002) Romani: a linguistic introduction. New York/Cambridge.
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