Angloromani language

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search
Pogadi Chib
Native toUnited Kingdom, Australia, United States, South Africa
Native speakers
Angloromani words still used among some of the UK's 100,000 Romanichal Travellers[citation needed]
Language codes
ISO 639-3rme

Angloromani or Anglo-Romani (literally "English Romani"; also known as Angloromany, Rummaness, or Pogadi Chib) is a mixed language involving the presence of Romani vocabulary and syntax in the English used by descendants of Romanichal Travellers in the United Kingdom, Australia, Canada, New Zealand, United States, and South Africa.

After their arrival to Great Britain in the 16th century, Romani used the Romani language until the late nineteenth century (and perhaps a generation longer in Wales). It was replaced by English as the everyday and family language of British Romani, leading to what is known as "Para-Romani" or the presence of Romani features in the English used by the Romani.

An example of a phrase in Angloromani is: The mush was jalling down the drom with his gry ('The man was walking down the road with his horse')[2]

This differs from the presence of loanwords (such as that used locally in Edinburgh and Northumberland) from the Romani language, such as lollipop (originally a toffee apple), pal (originally Romani phral 'brother'), and chav (originally chavo 'boy').[3]

Historical documentation of English Romani[edit]

A document from about the 17th century titled the Winchester confessions indicates that British Romani was itself a dialect of the northern branch of Romani sharing a close similarity to Welsh Romani.[4] However, the language in a modern context has deteriorated from the Indic-based vocabulary, morphology, and influences from Greek and other Balkan languages of the seventeenth century to a Para-Romani dialect typical of modern Anglo-Romani with sentence endings influenced by English, while Welsh Romani retains the original grammatical system.

Historically, the variants of Welsh and English Romani constituted the same variant of Romani,[5] share characteristics, and are historically closely related to dialects spoken in France, Germany (Sinti), Scandinavia, Spain, Poland, North Russia and the Baltic states. Such dialects are descended from the first wave of Romani immigrants into western, northern and southern Europe in the late Middle Ages.[6] Few documents survive into modern times, the Winchester confessions document c.1616 highlights the variant of English Romani and contains a high number of words still used in the modern Northern European Romani dialects and until recently also Welsh Romani;[5] Examples include: Balovas (pig meat bacon), Lovina (beer, alcohol), ruk (tree), Smentena (cream), Boba (beans) and Folaso (glove), and all such words occur in all western dialects of Romani, with few English loanwords present.[7]

However, the Winchester confessions document indicates that English grammatical structures were influencing speakers of English Romani (within a London context where the document was sourced) to adopt an (adjective-noun) configuration rather than the (noun-adjective) configuration of other Romani dialects, including modern Welsh Romani. The document suggests a complete separation between Thieves' Cant, and the variant of English Romani of the early 17th century.[8] This has particular implications when dating the origin and development of Anglo-Romani and its split from Welsh Romani. The author of one such study[4] believes English Romani gradually lost its distinctive syntax, phonology and morphology while other scholars[9] believe Anglo-Romani developed relatively quickly after the Romanis' arrival in England in the sixteenth century, in a development similar to the Pidgin or Creole languages.[9]

Anglo-Romani was already developing in the seventeenth century although the change from the original English Romani is unclear. The Winchester confessions document disproves a sudden morphological change,[10] and lends support to a strict linguistic separation between a Canting language and English Romani whose speakers used a separate and distinct Romani language when speaking amongst themselves. A situation which existed one hundred years later as testified by James Poulter 1775: "the English Gypsies spoke a variant of their own language that none other could understand," indicating the language was distinct from the common "Canting tongue" of England. Romani of that time was a language of everyday communication, of practical use, and not a secret language.

The original Romani was used exclusively as a family or clan language, during occasional encounters between various Romani clans. It was not a written language, but more a conversational one, used by families to keep conversations amongst themselves in public places such as markets unintelligible to others. It was not used in any official capacity in schools or administrative matters, and so lacked the vocabulary for these terms. Such terms were simply borrowed from English. However, to keep the language undecipherable to outsiders, the Romani speakers coined new terms that were a combination or variation of the original English terms. For example, a forester is called veshengro, from the Romani word for forest, vesh; a restaurant is a habbinkerr from the words habbin, food, and kerr, house, thus literally "food-house"; and a mayor is a gavmoosh, from the words gav, village, town, and moosh, man, literally "town-man". Gradually, the British Romani began to give up their language in favour of English, though they retained much of the vocabulary, which they now use occasionally in English conversation – as Angloromani.[3]

The origins of the Romani language are in India, and the core of the vocabulary and grammar still resemble modern Indic languages like Urdu, Kashmiri, and Punjabi. Linguists have been investigating the dialects of Romani since the second half of the eighteenth century, and although there are no ancient written records of the language, it has been possible to reconstruct the development of Romani from the medieval languages of India to its present forms as spoken in Europe. Although the language remains similar at its core, it is sometimes quite difficult for Romani people from different regions to understand one another if they have not had any exposure to other dialects before.


Anglo-Romani is a mixed language, with the base languages being Romani and English (something referred to as Para-Romani in Romani linguistics).

Some English lexical items that are archaic or only used in idiomatic expressions in Standard English survive in Anglo-Romani, for example moniker and swaddling.

Every region where Angloromani is spoken is characterised by a distinct colloquial English style; this often leads outsiders to believe that the speech of Romnichals is regional English. The distinct rhotic pronunciation of the Southern Angloromani variety also means that many outsiders perceive Southern Romanichal Travellers to be from the West Country because West Country English is also rhotic. Indeed, many Romanichal Travellers from the South of England or the Midlands region have a slightly West Country sounding accent; in fact it is a Southern Romnichal Traveller accent.[citation needed]

Dialectal variation[edit]

Among Anglo-Romani speakers, there is variation depending on where groups originally settled before learning English:

  • Southern Angloromani (Spoken across the Southwest, Southeast, East Anglia, West Midlands, East Midlands and South Wales).
  • Northern Angloramani (Spoken across the Northwest, Northeast, Yorkshire and Scottish Borders).

The members of these groups consider that not only do their dialects/accents differ, but also that they are of different regional groups. The speakers of Southern Angloromani took the regional identity of Southern Romanichal Travellers and the speakers of Northern Anglormani took the regional identity of Northern Romanichal Travellers. At the time of settlement, these divisions were somewhat reflective of geographic location. They did travel, but until travel became modernized, the migrations were relatively local.[11]

Phonology and syntax[edit]

Overall, Anglo-Romani consonants reflect the standard British English consonantal system with the exception that the rhotic is trilled [r] and /x/ appears in certain dialects. Anglo-Romani may sometimes be rhotic and in other cases is non-rhotic like English non-rhotic dialects; for example, in Romani terno "young" (passing through the stage tarno) can be rendered as tawno.[12][13]

Romani allowed for two word orders – Subject-Verb-Object (SVO) and Verb-Subject-Object (VSO).

Negation in Anglo-Romani is achieved through the use of the word kek:

  • măndī can kek ker lĭs ('I can't do it')
  • there's kekə pani left in kŭvə kurī ('there's no water left in this bucket')

"Be" is optionally deleted:

  • tūte kūšta diken muš ('you are a fine-looking man')
  • tūte rinkna râne ('you are a pretty lady')

Reduplication is employed for emphasis:

  • dūvrī ('distant')
  • dūvrī-dūvrī ('very distant')


In the 16th century, the Romani language was an inflected language, employing two genders, plurality and case marking. Anglo-Romani is first referenced in 1566–67. In the late 19th century, Romani personal pronouns became inconsistently marked, according to Leland, who also notes that case distinction began fading overall, and gender marking also disappeared. Borrow notes that in 1874, some Romani speakers were still employing complete inflection, while some were adopting the English syntax with a Romani lexicon. It seems to be around 1876 that gender distinction was no longer seen; however, the continued use of Romani plural forms was noted, along with English verb conjugation. By 1923, some plural endings were still being used on nouns, but English prepositions were used instead of Romani postpositions. Current usage has lost almost all Romani morphology and instead uses English morphology with Romani lexical items.

Samples of Angloromani[edit]

The Anglo-Romani Project, an initiative of the Romani community of Blackburn and the Lancashire Traveller Education Service, has samples of Anglo-Romani conversation as well as documentation, which it has collected with the aim of documenting the Anglo-Romani lexicon in its regional and dialectal variation. Samples of conversation and their meaning can be found here: Samples of Anglo-Romani, Audio files

Some common phrases[edit]

Kushti Divvus Hello (literally 'Good Day')
Sashin? How are you?
Mandi adusta kushti I am very well.
Owli, mandi kushti Yes, I'm fine, too.
Tutti rokker Rummaness? Do you speak Romani?
Katar kai tutti jells? Where are you from?
Mandi poshrat I'm half Romani.
Mandi tatchi rummani I'm full Romani.
Adusta salla jan tutti Pleased to meet you.
Dik tutti kullika divvus See you tomorrow.
So tutti's nav? What's your name?
Mandi's nav Maria My name is Maria.
Owli Yes.
Kek No.

Lord's prayer sample text, with English elements in italics:

Midivəl kor bešes dre Your tan, we lels Tiro Your nav šukerly. Thy kralisipən'll wel so that tutti koms'll be kɛrɛd here on earth, pensə dre your own tan. Del us sɔ:ken divves our mɔrə and fordel our bengəli kɛrəpəns same as we fordels them as kɛrs them kɛrəpəns to us. Mɔ: lel us dre wafədipən but hander us əvri from it. 'cause Tutti's the right ruzlipən and sɔ: kʌvəs that's kušti, sɔ: the čires, forever. Amen.[14]
Comparison of Angloromani, European Romani, Indic languages and Slang English
Angloromani European Romani English Indic languages Slang English
Chav Chavo Child, Son, Boy (all specifically used for Gypsies and not non-Gypsies) Bacha (Hindi-Urdu) to Vacha [Rajasthani] (Romani employs a syllable reversal technique typical of Indic languages) Chav (meaning a rough youth deriving from a derogatory usage of the word chav to refer to a Gypsy Boy)
Lollipobbul Laliphabai Toffee Apple (American English 'Candy Apple') (or 'red apple') Lal Seb ("seb" is a fairly recent Persian borrowing into Indic languages) Lollipop
Gavver Gavengro Policeman (or Villager) Gavaandi (Punjabi) Gaffer[dubious ]
Jib Chib Language/Tongue Jeeb Gibber (to speak nonsense, originally a slur against Gypsies who were perceived to be speaking nonsense when conversing in Romani)[citation needed][dubious ]

The Bible in Romany[edit]

The first published samples of the Bible in Romany were translated by Wester Boswell and published in 1875. Sylvester "Wester" Boswell (1812-1890) was an English Gypsy who spoke Romanes. In the 1870s he translated some Scripture selections into English. These were published as "Genuine Romany Compositions" on pages 226-235 of a book called the "Dialect of the English Gypsies" by Bath C. Smart and Henry Thomas Crofton. The book was compiled in 1874 and published in London in 1875. In the Romany compositions, the words were written down using an orthography developed by A.J. Ellis which was used by the English Dialect Society. and they adopted the Greek letter χ to represent the sound being nearly that of ch in German or Welsh. The parts of Romanes which were English borrowings were italicised.

In 1973 the British and Foreign Bible Society produced a leaflet called Shavved and the Got Latchered (Lost and Found), and then in 1979 produced "A Kushti Lav (Good News in Romany)" and in 1981 "More Kuchti Lavs" which were selected passages from the New Testament. Later Scripture Gift Mission now called SGM Lifewords produced "The Kushti Bokkengro (The Good Shepherd)" in 1985 and another booklet called "The Drom (The Way)" in 1995. These were selected passages from the Bible.

There is no complete book of the Bible in Romany, but some of these items can now be found online on listed under "Romany: Angloromani".

Swadesh list[edit]

No. English Angloromani
1 I mandi
2 you (singular) tutti
3 he lesti/latti
4 we us
5 you (plural) tutties
6 they lesties
7 this akuvva/aduvva
8 that lesti/latti
9 here akoi
10 there adoi
11 who kaun
12 what so
13 where kye
14 when kawna
15 how saw
16 not kek
17 all
18 many adusta
19 some
20 few
21 other wavver
22 one yek
23 two dooi
24 three trin
25 four stor
26 five pange
27 big bori
28 long
29 wide bori
30 thick
31 heavy
32 small bitti
33 short bitti
34 narrow
35 thin
36 woman rawni
37 man (adult male) mush
38 man (human being) mush
39 child chavvies
40 wife mort
41 husband mush
42 mother mam
43 father da
44 animal
45 fish matchi
46 bird chirrikli
47 dog jook
48 louse
49 snake
50 worm
51 tree
52 forest
53 stick
54 fruit
55 seed
56 leaf
57 root
58 bark (of a tree)
59 flower yoozer
60 grass
61 rope
62 skin
63 meat mass
64 blood rat
65 bone
66 fat (noun)
67 egg vesh
68 horn
69 tail
70 feather
71 hair shurra/bal
72 head shurra
73 ear kan
74 eye yuck
75 nose nock
76 mouth moy
77 tooth
78 tongue (organ) jib
79 fingernail
80 foot por
81 leg
82 knee
83 hand vaster
84 wing vaster
85 belly pair
86 guts
87 neck
88 back dumma
89 breast
90 heart zee
91 liver
92 to drink peeve
93 to eat skran
94 to bite
95 to suck
96 to spit
97 to vomit
98 to blow
99 to breathe
100 to laugh sall
101 to see dik
102 to hear shun
103 to know jan/jin
104 to think
105 to smell
106 to fear
107 to sleep sooti
108 to live jib
109 to die muller
110 to kill more
111 to fight
112 to hunt
113 to hit
114 to cut
115 to split
116 to stab
117 to scratch
118 to dig
119 to swim
120 to fly
121 to walk
122 to come jell
123 to lie (as in a bed)
124 to sit besh telly
125 to stand
126 to turn (intransitive)
127 to fall
128 to give dell
129 to hold
130 to squeeze
131 to rub
132 to wash tuv
133 to wipe
134 to pull
135 to push
136 to throw
137 to tie
138 to sew
139 to count
140 to say pen
141 to sing gilli
142 to play kell
143 to float
144 to flow
145 to freeze
146 to swell
147 sun kom
148 moon chon
149 star
150 water parni
151 rain parni
152 river len
153 lake durra
154 sea borri parni
155 salt lon
156 stone bar
157 sand
158 dust
159 earth poove
160 cloud
161 fog
162 sky miduveel's tan
163 wind
164 snow heeve
165 ice
166 smoke
167 fire yog
168 ash
169 to burn
170 road drum
171 mountain
172 red lulli
173 green
174 yellow
175 white pawney
176 black kawley
177 night rardi
178 day divvus
179 year besh
180 warm tatti
181 cold shill
182 full full
183 new nevvi
184 old purra
185 good kushti
186 bad gammi
187 rotten
188 dirty
189 straight
190 round
191 sharp (as a knife)
192 dull (as a knife)
193 smooth
194 wet wet
195 dry
196 correct penn'n tatcho
197 near pasha
198 far durra
199 right tacho
200 left left
201 at
202 in adrey
203 with with
204 and
205 if adrey
206 because suskey?
207 name lav/nav


  1. ^ Hammarström, Harald; Forkel, Robert; Haspelmath, Martin, eds. (2017). "Archaic Angloromani". Glottolog 3.0. Jena, Germany: Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History.
  2. ^ The Romani Project, Manchester
  3. ^ a b BBC (2004). "Languages of the UK" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 2007-06-14.
  4. ^ a b Kenrick, Donald. S. (1971). "The sociolinguistics of the development of British Romani". In Acton, T. A. (ed.). Current changes amongst British Gypsies and their place in international patterns of development: proceedings of the Research and Policy Conference of the National Gypsy Education Council, held at ... Oxford.
  5. ^ a b Sampson, John (1926). The Dialect of the Gypsies of Wales. Oxford: Clarendon Press.
  6. ^ Bakker (1997). Review of McGowan, "The Winchester confessions". Journal of the Gypsy Lore Society. 5th ser., 7(1): 49-50.
  7. ^ Smart B. C.; Crofton, H. T. (1875). The Dialect of the English Gypsies (2nd ed.). London: Asher & Co.
  8. ^ McGowan, Alan (1996). The Winchester confessions 1615–1616: depositions of travellers, gypsies, fraudsters and makers of counterfeit documents, including a vocabulary of the Romany language. Romany and Traveller Family History Society. ISBN 9781900660013.
  9. ^ a b Hancock, Ian. F. (1971). Comment on Kenrick, q.v., above.
  10. ^ Bakker, Peter (2002), "An early vocabulary of British Romani (1616): A linguistic analysis", Romani Studies 5, 12.
  11. ^ McWilliams, Krislyn; Nelson, Manuela; Oxley, Meghan. "AngloRomani: The Mixed Language of Romani Peoples" (PDF). Seattle: University of Washington. Retrieved 2015-12-23.
  12. ^ Hancock, Ian. "George Borrow's Romani". In Karanth, Dileep (ed.). Danger! Educated Gypsy: Selected Essays. Hatfield: University of Hertfordshire Press. p. 173. ISBN 9781902806983.
  13. ^ Anglo-Romani dictionary: includes transcriptions showing non-rhotic pronunciations.
  14. ^ Noonan, Danny; Marable, Rita; Fulton, Zac. "Anglo-Romani" (PDF). Seattle: University of Washington. Retrieved 2015-12-23.

Further reading[edit]

  • Acton, Thomas. 1989. The Value of “Creolized” Dialects of Romanes. In International Symposium Romani Language and Culture. Sarajevo.
  • Acton, Thomas and Gerwyn Davis. 1979. Educational Policy and Language Use Among English Romanies and Irish Travellers (Tinkers) in England and Wales. International Journal of the Sociology of Language 19-22: 91-110.
  • Acton, Thomas, Vangelis Marselos, and Laszlo Szego. 2000. The Development of Literary Dialects of Romanes, and the Prospects for an International Standard Dialect. In Language, Blacks, and Gypsies, ed. Thomas Acton and Morgan Dalphinis. London: Whiting and Birch.
  • Borrow, George. 1923. Romano Lavo-Lil. London: Hazell, Watson, and Viney, Ld.
  • Deterding, David. 1997. The formants of monophthong vowels in Standard Southern British English pronunciation. Journal of the International Phonetic Association 27: 47-55.
  • Hancock, Ian. 1996. Duty and Beauty, Possession and Truth: The Claim of Lexical Impoverishment as Control. In Gypsies: A book of interdisciplinary readings, ed. Diane Tong. New York: Garland Publishers.
  • "Anglo-Romani" University of Washington USA.
  • Manchester University Romani Project [1]

External links[edit]