The status of Romani


Through print and the media, Romani has established a firm presence in the public domain over the past decade. The bulk of Romani language publishing has a regional or local orientation, and lays no claim to becoming an international Standard. Rather, the landscape of Romani-language codification has been characterised over the past few decades by an organic, de-centralised network of activities, and by the acceptance of pluralism in both form and content. Authors tend to write in their own individual varieties of Romani, or those that are most common in their own regions. This has led to the prevalence of some varieties in certain countries – Lovari, for instance, in Hungary, and predominantly East Slovak Romani in the Czech and Slovak Republics – but in many countries, publications in various Romani dialects appear side by side; we mention Macedonia, where both Arli and Džambazi are in use in the public domain, and Bulgaria, where publications appear in Erli as well as other varieties.

Despite the absence of a centralised policy on vocabulary expansion, international encounters of intellectual Roma – both face-to-face and in writing, mainly electronic writing – have inspired a strategy of large-scale avoidance of country-specific loanwords (that is, loanwords originating from the immediate state or majority language of an individual Romani community), and the preference, instead, of either 'soft' paraphrasing into Romani (as in the use of a word like čačipen literally 'truth', for 'right' in the legal or political sense), or of resorting to internationalisms.

In finding concrete solutions to the writing system, a widespread consensus of options has emerged. It can be characterised as a set of individual compromises between the international scientific transliteration conventions common in Romani linguistics, and the individual alphabets of the respective state languages. The international orientation is seen most clearly in the choice of the Roman alphabet for Romani in countries where the state language uses the Cyrillic script (as in Bulgaria, Macedonia, and Serbia), and further in the choice of symbols that are incompatible with those of the respective state language to represent 'non-Latin' sounds (such as those represented by the English graphemes sh, ch, and j), as can be seen in the forms of written Romani commonly employed in Hungary, Poland, Finland, and Romania. The most favoured solutions are either based on English – sh, ch and by extension zh and dzh – or on Slavonic alphabets of central-southeastern European languages – š, č, ž and dž. These come in addition to another set of preferred solutions to Romani-specific sounds – such as ph, th, kh for aspirates, j or y for the palatal glide and x or h for the velar fricative. On the whole, these features do not guarantee uniformity of all writing conventions in Romani, but they do limit the set of possible solutions considerably, and make them quite predictable. Together with the tendency toward avoidance of country-specific loans, one can regard the systems of writing employed for Romani in the various regions as basically compatible and mutually accessible. Here you can view a table comparing various orthographic solutions adopted in the individual countries for Romani.

  • Aca - Academic transliteration
  • Email - Email Communication
  • Bul - Bulgaria
  • Czech - Czech/Slovak Rep.
  • Mac - Macedonia
  • Hung - Hungary
  • Fin - Finland
  • Swe - Sweden
  • Rom - Romania
Aca Email Bul Czech Mac Hung Fin Swe Rom
a a a a a a a a a
b b b b b b b b b
c ts ts c c c c c c / ç
č ch ch č č ch č č ć
čh ch chh čh čh čh čh ś
d d d d d d d d d / θ
dj dy ď gy dj
e e e e e e e e e
f f f f f f f f f
g g g g g g g g g / q
h h h h h h h h h / ç
x x x ch h x x, ȟ x x
i i i i i i i i i
j, dzh dzh ʒ
k k k k k k k k k / q
kh kh kh kh kh kh kh kh kh
l l l l l l l l l
m m m m m m m m m
n n n n n n n n n
nj ny ň ny nj
p p p p p p p p p
ph ph ph ph ph ph ph ph ph
r r r r r r r r r
ř rr rr rr
s s s s s s s s s / ç
š sh sh š š sh š š ś
t t t t t t t t t / θ
th th th th th th th th th
tj ty ť ty tj
u u u u u u u u u
v v v v v v v v v
ǝ e w y ä
j y, j y j j j j j j
z z z z z z z z z
ž zh zh ž ž zh ž ž ź