Giving Memory A Future
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Language, Music, and Culture - Language

Romani Italian mother and daughter (from Abruzzo) at the Bonfadini Street camp, Milan (Italy). © Alessandro Serranò.

Even though the Romani language now comprises a number of different dialects, it belongs to the family of Indo-European languages in a group that includes other languages of Indian origin, such as Hindi and Bengali.

The affinity of Indo-European languages is revealed in various terms, such as the Czech bratr, English brother, Sanskrit bhratr, Romany phral (an aspirated p, not an /f/ sound). Romany, however, is far from a unified language. Due to the diaspora of individual groups of Roma, there are a number of main dialects of the Romani language, although Roma from different parts of the world are able to understand one another.
The vocabulary of all dialects of Romany, just as in other languages, is made up of original words, loan-words, and newly-invented words. Original words are old words of Indian origin and words borrowed long ago, from Iranian languages, from Armenian and a number from Greek as well, in other words, from the countries through which all groups of Roma travelled on their way from India to Europe. This part of the Romani language is universal, and these words still survive in modern usage and appear in every dialect of Romany.
Loan-words are those that were picked up by Romani groups as they spread out through Europe, from the tongues of the countries they travelled through after they left Asia Minor. The words incorporated into Romany in this fashion are terms for what was unknown to them at the time. This vocabulary is unstable and is often replaced by words from a new contact language.
The newest words in Romany, neologisms, which every living language has, are created words or foreign words that are borrowed from the environment in which the Roma live).

On the Romani language, see the Council of Europe's Dosta! awareness-raising campaign: the language of Roma - Romani, what is this exactly?

Mustafa D., “Lingue, culture e rappresentazioni”, in Vitale T., "Politiche possibili. Abitare la città con i rom e i sinti", Carocci, Roma, 2009, pp. 30-37.