Are Romanian and Romani different?

In Romania there are several cultures, different customs and different languages. I find it very interesting to write something about them, and also to show you the particularities of the Romani language.

Let’s clarify something from the beginning: In Romania there are not only Romanians. Theoretically, Romanians make up 88.9% of the population, Hungarians 6.1%, and the Roma minority, 3.1%. In reality, there are more than 3% Roma, many of them preferring to declare themselves Romanians and others simply not having an identity card or other legal form of identity.

The Romani, colloquially known as Roma (or țigani, in Romanian), are an Indo-Aryan ethnic group, traditionally itinerant, living mostly in Europe and the Americas. The Romas originated from the northern Indian subcontinent, from the Rajasthan, Haryana, and Punjab regions of modern-day India.

Genetic findings appear to confirm that the Romani “came from a single group that left northwestern India” in about 512 AD. Genetic research published in the European Journal of Human Genetics “revealed that over 70% of males belong to a single lineage that appears unique to the Roma”. They are dispersed, but their most concentrated populations are located in Europe, especially Central, Eastern and Southern Europe (including Turkey, Spain and Southern France). The Romani arrived in Mid-West Asia and Europe around 1007.They have been associated with another Indo-Aryan group, the Dom people: the two groups have been said to have separated from each other or, at least, to share a similar history. Specifically, the ancestors of both the Romani and the Dom left North India sometime between the 6th and 11th century.

Thanks, Wikipedia! According to them, in the US 1.000.000 have Roma descendants, in Brazil, 800.000 and in Bulgaria, about 750.000.

Romanians are not Roma and Roma are not Romanians.

The Roma speak, besides Romanian, an unwritten language called Romani (or, colloquially, țigănește). The first attestation of Romani is from 1542 AD in western Europe. The earlier history is completely undocumented, and is understood primarily through comparative linguistic evidence. Romani is not a written language, it is just spoken. Until 2 centuries ago, the Romani language had dialects, grammar, even its own expressions. Now, it is limited to a small pool of common words, however, many Romas still prefer to speak the Romani language among themselves. Let’s look at some examples:

  • Te trais but! – Happy Birthday!
  • Dobroituca – Hello
  • Socares? – How are you?
  • Socares prala? – What’s up bro?
  • Sohalean? – What did you eat?
  • Haida jas manta ando foro? – Are you dating me?
  • Chechibars satu? – How old are you?
  • Sar busos? – What’s your name?

As you can see, it has no similarity to any other language in the world, which is why I find it very interesting. It also seems important to me not to generalize. Not all Romanians are thieves and beggars, many of them go abroad in search of a better life through work.

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