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Angloromany language

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Angloromany language

Pogadi Chib
Native to United Kingdom, Australia, US, South Africa
Native speakers unknown (undated figure of 200,000)
Language family
Language codes
ISO 639-3 rme
Linguist List

Angloromani or Anglo-Romani (literally "English Romani", or Pogadi Chib) is a language combining aspects of English and Romani, which is a language spoken by the Romani people; an ethnic group who trace their origins to the Indian subcontinent. Angloromani is spoken in the UK, Australia, the US and South Africa.

The language combines a mix of Romani and English. The original Romani language was spoken in England until the late nineteenth century; perhaps a generation longer in Wales. It was replaced by English as the everyday and family language of British Romani, but this does not mean the language disappeared entirely. Words of Romani origin were still used as part of a family-language. Words which are occasionally inserted into English conversation are referred to in linguistic literature on Romani as 'Para-Romani': the selective retention of some Romani-derived vocabulary following the disappearance of Romani as an everyday language of conversation.

Anglo-Romani is thus used as an evocative vocabulary, than a ‘language’ in the strict sense. It is used within the framework of Gypsy-English conversation, English sentences, with Gypsy specific English grammar and pronunciation, thus: The mush was jalling down the drom with his gry. means 'The man was walking down the road with his horse.'[1]

Edinburgh slang also contains a large number of Romani-derived words. A few words, like pal (originally ‘brother’), chav (originally 'Romanichal boy', cognate with Chavo in Romani proper), lollipop (originally 'candy apple') have entered common English usage.[2]

Historical documentation of English Romani

Until relatively recently, Anglo-Romani received very little study from the academic community. However a recent discovery of a documents (Winchester confessions) c. seventeenth century, indicates, British Romani was itself a dialect of the northern branch of Romani sharing a close similarity to Welsh Romani.[3] However, the language in a modern context has deteriorated from the Indic based vocabulary, morphology, and influences from Greek and other Balkan languages of 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,[4] 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.[5] Few documents survive into modern times, the (Winchester confessions) c.1616 highlight the variant of English Romani and contains a high number of words still used in the modern Northern European Romani dialects and until recently Welsh Romani;[6] 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 little English loanwords present.[7]

However the Winchester confessions, highlights English grammatical structures, were influencing speakers of English Romani (within a London context where the document was sourced) to 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 time.[8] This has particular implication when dating the origin and development of Anglo-Romani and split from Welsh Romani. One such study[3] believes English Romani speakers gradually lost its distinctive syntax, phonology and morphology. While other leading contemporaries[9] believes Anglo-Romani developed relatively recently to the Romani communities arrival in the sixteenth century, in a similar development to the Pidgin or Creol languages.[9]

Anglo-Romani was already developing in the seventeenth century, although this change from the original English Romani was unclear. The (Winchester Confessions) disproves a sudden morphological change).[10] and favours 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 as “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 every day 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 still 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 ‘foodhouse’; and a ‘mayor’ is a gavmoosh, from the words gav ‘village, town’ and moosh ‘man’, literally ‘town-man’. Gradually, 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.[11]

Its origins are in India, and the core of the vocabulary and grammar still resemble modern Indian languages like Urdu, Kashmiri, or 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 some Angloromani varieties also means that many outsiders perceive Romnichals to be from the West Country because West Country English is also rhotic. Indeed, many Romnichals from the south of England or the Midlands region have a slightly West Country sounding accent; in fact it is a southern Romnichal accent.

Dialectal variation

Within Anglo-Romani three dialects are identifiable:

These dialects are based on where various groups originally settled when moving to the UK. The members of these groups consider not only their dialects to differ, but also that they are of different ethnic groups. 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 [12]

There is a certain amount of post-creole continuum in Anglo-Romani. A (ever-dwindling) small population of Romnichals have knowledge of the purer form of English Romani, which was spoken by the Kale of Wales until 1923. These people are able to converse fluently in unbroken English Romani, which is the acrolect that informs the vocabulary of all Angloromani variants.

Phonology and syntax

Romani had a phonemic distinction between two /r/s - a flap and a voiced uvular fricative - which in Anglo-Romani has been lost and replaced by a single rolled /r/. Anglo-Romani has also lost the phonemic distinction between aspirated and non-aspirated stops. Overall, Anglo-Romani consonants reflect the standard British English consonantal system with these exceptions:

  • Anglo-Romani includes the consonant /x/ in certain dialects.
  • Anglo-Romani may sometimes be rhotic even in parts of the country that are non-rhotic. In other cases, it is non-rhotic like English non-rhotic dialects; for example, in Romani terno "young" (passing through the stage tarno) can be rendered as tawno.[13][14]

Romani allowed for two word orders - SVO and VSO. Anglo-Romani has only SVO word order. Negation in Anglo-Romani is achieved through the use of the word kek, i.e.

  • 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, as in:

  • dūvrī - “distant”
  • dūvrī-dūvrī - “very distant”


Up to 1547, the Romani language was an inflected language, employing two genders, plurality and case marking. Anglo-Romani is first referenced in 1566-67. Around 1873, 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 adapting the English syntax with Romani lexicon. It seems to be around 1876 that gender distinction was no longer seen, however continued use of Romani plural forms was noted, along with English verb conjugation. 1923, when some plural still being used on nouns, but English prepositions are 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

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 to document 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

Lord's prayer sample text:

Moro Dad, so see adre mi Duvelesko keri, te wel teero kralisom, too zee be kedo adre chik, jaw see adre mi Duvelesko keri. Del mendi kova divvus moro divvusly mauro, ta fordel mendi moro wafedo-kerimus, pensa mendi fordels yon ta kairs wafedo aposh mendi, ta lel mendi kek adre wafedo-kerimus. Jaw keressa te righer mendi avri wafedo. Jaw see ta jaw see.

Comparison of Angloromani, European Romani, Indian languages and Slang English

Angloromani European Romani English Indian/Pakistani languages Slang English
Chav Chavo Child, Son, Boy (all specifically used for Gypsies and not non-Gypsies) Bacha Chav (meaning a rough youth deriving from a derogatory usage of the word chav to refer to a Gypsy Boy)
Lollipobbul Laliphabai Candy Apple (British English 'Toffee Apple') (or 'red apple') Laal Seb Or Lal phal Lollipop
Gavver Gavengro Policeman (or Villager) Police (Same As In English) Gaffer
Dad Dad Father Pita/Baap Dad
Jib Chib Language/Tongue Jeeb (Tongue) Bhasha (Language) Gibber (to speak nonsense, originally a slur against Gypsies who were perceived to be speaking nonsense when conversing in Romani)

Swadesh list

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
76 mouth
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


Further reading

  • 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, eds. 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 Impovershment as Control. In Gypsies: A book of interdisciplinary readings, ed. Diane Tong. New York: Garland Publishers.
  • University of Washington USA.
  • Manchester University Romani Project [1]

External links

  • a project from English Gypsies reviving their language
  • Distribution of Romani Dialect by region
  • AngloRomani Linguistic Information
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