Romani Studies

Mapping the Romani dialects of Romania

Romani Studies (2013), 23, (2), 199–243.

Abstract

This is the first attempt to map specifically the Romani dialects of Romania - the country with the largest Romani-speaking population. The data under consideration derives from fieldwork carried out over the past decade as part of the dialectological documentation of the Manchester Romani Project, based on the Romani Dialectological Questionnaire, first drafted in 2001. Most of the data has been made accessible online via the Romani Morpho-Syntax Database. The analysis focuses on key features that have been cited in the past as distinctive of internal (rather than contact-induced) historical developments in the individual dialects of Romani. The results show that Romania constitutes, on the one hand, a zone of ongoing structural innovations that is prone to random diversity for some forms. On the other hand, in respect of some developments, distinct geographical diffusion zones can be identified. These tend to mirror topographical and historical political boundaries. These patterns provide further evidence that Romani dialects are best viewed as a geographical continuum that mirrors historical contacts between Romani populations in situ at the time in which structural change took place. Thus, they call into question the notion of ‘genetic’ divisions among dialect groups and their speaker populations.

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Matras, Yaron