Category Archives: Romani Language

“Duty and beauty, posession and truth: the claim of lexical impoverishment as control” – Ian Hancock

©Ian Hancock, 1997, all rights reserved. Originally published in T.A. Acton and A. Mundy (eds.), Romani culture and Gypsy identity (University of Hertfordshire Press, Hatfield, 1997), pp. 180–7.

Language is essentially the control of thought. It becomes impossible for us to direct our future until we control our language. The sense of language is in precision of vocabulary and structure for a particular social context. (Asante, 1988: 31).

The manipulation by societies in power of the identities of subordinate groups is achieved in many ways. One such way is through discriminatory legislation, such as that enacted against the Romani people in almost every land, including the US. Another is through media representation, both factual and fictional. This last category, the portrayal of ‘Gypsies’ in poetry, film and novels, is the most effective in establishing such negative feelings because they are absorbed subliminally by children, at a time when they are most susceptible to acquiring the attitudes of mainstream society. Apart from descriptions of Romani people and their life, which are legion, the Romani language has also been the target of comment, invariably worded as fact rather than supposition. In his Tales of the Real Gypsy, Paul Kester gives his readers those ‘real’ facts about it (1897: 305):
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“The Romani Language” – Ronald Lee

© Ronald Lee, October 1998, all rights reserved

The language spoken by the Roma is called Romani. It is closely related to the Sanskrit from which all modern Indo-Aryan languages are derived. Romani developed in parallel to its sister languages still spoken in India until the 11th century AD. Then the ancestors of the Roma left India and Romani was influenced in its development by languages spoken elsewhere. These were Persian, Armenian, Byzantine Greek, Old Slavic and Rumanian. The same words from these languages can be found today in all dialects of Romani. This shows that the Roma travelled together as one group until they reached Rumania in the 14th century.

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“Roma and Education” – Ronald Lee

© Ronald Lee, June 2009 all rights reserved

Historical Background

Until this century, Roma were basically an illiterate people. Except for a small number of individuals, most Roma and Sinti in the many countries where they lived were unable to read and write. Some did learn basic reading and writing skills but contributed next to nothing in the way of literature about Roma by Roma except for a mere handful of individuals,. In the latter 19th century and especially after The First World War, a small Romani intelligentsia appeared in some of the countries of Eastern Europe and newspapers were published in Romani. In the former Soviet Union, under Communism, there was an attempt to integrate Roma into the educational system and a considerable but unknown number of Roma were educated. Others, living in the villages and the hinterlands remained illiterate. Mass education among Roma really dates from the end of the Second World War with the Communist governments in the former Soviet Bloc Countries.

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