Romani Language

This chapter is about the Romani Language, or language of the Roma, also called the Gypsies.

The VMS text specifics that provide a match at first sight are:

o in front of a word.

o itself as word is an article.

y in front of a word.

y itself as word is an article.

y, l, r, n  most common word endings

Capital letters

In Italian an initial capital letter (maiuscolo) is required:

  1. at the beginning of a phrase or after writing mark such as : ? !
  2. specific words such as titles
  3. concerns God (Dio)
  4. high placed persons such as Presidente
  5. names of persons, cities etc.

In many other European languages the rules are similar.


The cultural aspects 

There seems to be a general consensus that the writer of the manuscript is a well educated person for the time (we assume around the year 1400 +/-70). The physical “paper” that was used is vellum and was a rather expensive surface to write on. The letters used in the manuscript are written clean and proper and the cursive writing with curved “gallow characters” tends to show the author is a sophisticated figure.  There also has been theories that the author probably traveled much or was well-read because of the many different images that are in the book. There are many many different hair dresses on the woman, several hundred of herbal depictions and many more undetermined details. Especially a traveler could have seen all these things in reality.  A nun or monk could have seen that in a library only, in those days.

A traveler that wanders from land to land is an ambiguous name, it can also indicate:

(see wikipedia for more)

The traveller is a well known term and the explanation on wikipedia is sometimes confusing.
Most groups are related to the Romani people.

Romani flag created in 1933 and accepted by the 1971 World Romani Congress.


The flag,  O styago le romengo in Romani, consists of a background of blue and green, representing the heavens and earth, respectively. The flag also contains a 16-spoke red chakra, or spoked wheel, in the centre, representing the itinerant tradition of the Romani people.

The spoked-wheel image above represents a sixteen-spoked chakra, adopted at the First World Romani Congress in London in 1971 as the international Romani symbol. The chakra is a link to the Roma’s Indian origins (the 24-spoked Ashok Chakra is in the center of the national flag of India, the Tiranga) and represents movement and the original Creation. The green and blue flag with a red chakra in the center was adopted as the Romani flag, as well as the motto “Opré Roma” (Roma Arise). The song “Gelem, gelem,” also known as “Djelem, djelem” and “Opré Roma,” was selected as the Romani anthem. April 8 was proclaimed International Romani Day.



The Romani people traveled from Central India, to Europe via Persia, Armenia, and arrived in Greece as part of the Byzantine empire, and/or Turkey somewhere between 1100-1400.

Before AD 400. Some Indians become nomadic craftsmen and entertainers.
430-443. The Persian poet Firdawsi reports in the Shah-Nameh (Book of Kings), written c.1000, how the Persian Shah Bahram Gur persuades the Indian King Shangul to send him 10,000 Luri musicians to be distributed to the various parts of the Persian kingdom.
820-834. Zott state established on the banks of the River Tigris
855. The Persian chronicler Tabari relates how large numbers of Zott are taken prisoner when the Byzantines attack Syria.
1001-1026. Sindh and the Panjab in India are invaded some seventeen times by a mixed army of Turko-Persian Ghaznivid troops led by King Mahmud from Ghazni (present-day eastern Iran). Indian resistance, in the form of the Rajput warriors, is fierce, but King Mahmud is victorious and takes half a million slaves.
c.1000. Roma reach the Byzantine Empire (modern Greece and Turkey).
c.1200. The canonist Theodore Balsamon describes the canon LXI of the Council in Trulho (692) which threatens a six-year excommunication for any member of the Church (including Athinganoi) from displaying bears or other animals for amusement or by telling fortunes.
1290. Romani shoemakers are recorded in Greece residing on Mount Athos.
c.1300. The Romani Aresajipe; the arrival of Roma in Europe.
Romani groups begin to be enslaved in southeast Europe.
1322. Roma are recorded on the island of Crete.
1348. Roma are recorded in Prizren, Serbia.
1362. Roma are recorded in Dubrovnik, Croatia.
1373. Roma are recorded on the island of Corfu.
1378. Roma are recorded living in villages near Rila Monastery, Bulgaria.
1384. Romani shoemakers are recorded in Modon, Greece.
1385. The first recorded transaction of Roma slaves in Romania.
1387. Mircea the Great of Wallachia indicates that Roma have been in that country for over one hundred years.
1383. Roma are recorded in Hungary.
c.1400. In Bulgaria, Roma are reported "living in large numbers" along the Albanian coast.
1407. Roma are recorded at Hildesheim, Germany.
1416. Roma are expelled from the Meissen region of Germany.
1417-1423. King Sigismund of Hungary issues safe-conduct orders at Spis Castle for travelling Roma.
1418. Roma are recorded in Colmar, France.
1419. Roma are recorded in Antwerp, Belgium.
1420. Roma are recorded in Deventer, Holland.
1422. Roma are recorded in Rome and Bologna
1423. Roma are recorded in Spissky, Slovakia.
1425. Roma are recorded in Zaragoza, Spain.
1427. Hundreds of Roma arrive at the gates of Paris. The city sends them on to the town of Pontoise in less than a month.
1445. Prince Vlad Dracul of Wallachia transports some 12,000 persons "who looked like Egyptians" from Bulgaria for slave labour.
1447. First record of Roma in Catalonia.
1449. Roma are driven out of the city of Frankfurt-am-Main.
1468. Roma are recorded in Cyprus.
1471. The first anti-Gypsy laws are passed in Lucerne, Switzerland.
17,000 Roma are transported into Moldavia by Stephan the Great for slave labour.
1472. Duke Friedrich of the Rhine Palatinate asks his people to help Roma pilgrims.
1476 and 1487. King Matthias of Slovakia issues safe-conduct orders for travelling Roma.
1482. The first anti-Gypsy laws are passed in state of Brandenburg.
1485. Roma are recorded in Sicily.
1489. Roma musicians are reported on Czepel Island, Hungary.
1492 and 1496. King Vladislav of Slovakia issues safe-conduct orders for travelling Roma.
1492. The first anti-Gypsy laws are passed in Spain.
1493. Roma are expelled from Milan.
1496-1498. The Reichstag (parliament) in Landau and Freiburg declares Roma traitors to the Christian countries, spies in the pay of the Turks, and carriers of the plague.
1498. Four Gypsies accompany Christopher Columbus on his third voyage to the New World.
1499. Medina del Campo in Spain orders Gitanos to find a trade and master, cease travelling with other Gitanos, all within sixty days. Punishment for failure to obey is 100 lashes and banishment. Repeat offences are punished by amputation of ears, sixty days in chains, and banishment. Third-time offenders become the slaves of those who capture them.
1500. At the request of Maximilian I, the Augsburg Reichstag declares Roma traitors to the Christian countries, and accuses them of witchcraft, kidnapping of children, and banditry.
c. 1500. Gitano influence on Andalusian flamenco song and dance begins. Although flamenco is not a Gitano invention, the art of flamenco later becomes forever associated with the Gitanos from the 19th century onwards.
1501. Roma are recorded in Russia.
1504. Roma are prohibited by Louis XII from living in France. The punishment is banishment.
1505. Roma are recorded in Scotland, probably from Spain.
1510. Roma are prohibited by the Grand Council of France from residence. The punishment is banishment. A second offence results in hanging.
1512. Roma are first recorded in Sweden on 29 September. A company of about 30 families, lead by a "Count Anthonius" arrives in Stockholm, claiming that they came from "Little Egypt". They are welcomed by the city and given lodging and money for their stay. A few years later, King Gustav Vasa (1521-1560), suspects that the Roma are spies and orders that they be driven out from the country.
Roma are expelled from Catalonia.
1523. Prague officially allows nomads to remain. The welcome does not last long.
1525. Charles V issues an edict in Holland ordering all those that call themselves Egyptians to leave the country within two days.
1526. The first anti-Gypsy laws are passed in Holland and Portugal.
1530. The first law expelling Gypsies from England is introduced. Henry VIII forbids the transportation of Gypsies into England. The fine is forty pounds for ship's owner or captain. The Gypsy passengers are punished by hanging.
1531. The Augsburg Reichstag forbids the issuing of passports to Roma.
1536. The first anti-Gypsy laws are passed in Denmark.
1538. Deportation of Roma in Portugal to colonies begins.
1539. Roma are prohibited by Frances I from residence in France. The punishment is banishment. A second offence results in corporal punishment.
1540. Gypsies are allowed to live under their own laws in Scotland.
1541. Roma are blamed for outbreak of fires in Prague. This sets the stage for future anti-Gypsy legislation.
The first anti-Gypsy laws are passed in Scotland.
1547. Edward VI of England institutes law requiring that Gypsies be seized and "branded with a 'V' on their breast, and then enslaved for two years." If escapees are caught they will be branded with an "S" and made slaves for life.
Andrew Boorde authors an encyclopedia in England entitled The Fyrst Boke of the Introduction of Knowledge. It has a chapter on Romani, which includes some of the earliest specimens of the language.
1549. The first anti-Gypsy laws are passed in Bohemia.
1554. In the reign of Philip and Mary, an Act is passed which decrees that that the death penalty shall be imposed for being a Gypsy, or anyone who "shall become of the fellowship or company of Egyptians."
1557. The first anti-Gypsy laws are passed in Lithuania.
In the reign of Sigismund Augustus, the first law ordering Roma to be expelled is passed by the Warsaw Seym (parliament).
1559. Roma are recorded on the Finnish island of Åland.
1560. The Archbishop of the Swedish Lutheran Church forbids priests to have any dealings with Roma. Their children are not to be christened and their dead not to be buried.
1560 and others. Spanish legislation forbids Gitanos of travelling in groups of more than two. Gitano "dress and clothing" is banned. Punishment for wearing Gitano clothing and travelling in groups of more than two is up to eighteen years in the galleys for those over fourteen years of age. This legislation is later altered to change the punishment to death for all nomads, and the galleys reserved for settled Gitanos.
1561. Roma are prohibited by Charles IX of France from residence. The punishment is banishment. A second offence results in the galleys and corporal punishment. Men, women and children have their heads shaved.
1562. An Act is passed in England "for further punishment of Vagabonds, calling themselves Egyptians." Any Gypsy born in England and Wales is not compelled to leave the country if they quit their idle and ungodly life and company. All others should suffer death and loss of lands and goods.
1563. The Council of Trent in Rome affirms that Roma cannot be priests.
1568. Pope Pius V orders the expulsion of all Roma from the domain of the Roman Catholic Church.
1573. Gypsies in Scotland are ordered to leave the country or settle down.
1578. At the General Warsaw Seym, King Stephen Báthory pronounces an edict threatening sanctions against anyone who harbours Roma on their lands. They are punished as accomplices of outlaws.
1579. Augustus, elector of Saxony, orders the confiscation of Romani passports and banishes them from Saxony.
Gypsies are recorded in Wales.
Wearing of Romani dress is banned in Portugal.
1580. Roma are recorded on the Finnish mainland.
1586. Nomadic Roma are ordered expelled from Belarus.
1589. In Denmark, the death penalty is ordered for any Roma not leaving the country.
1595. Stefan Razvan, the son of a Roma slave and free woman, becomes ruler of Moldavia in April. He is deposed four months later and murdered in December of the same year.
1596. 106 men and women are condemned to death at York just for being Gypsies, but only nine are executed. The others prove they were born in England.
   (from here)

More also on Graz.

The Roma, Sinti, Calè and many other European population groups who are collectively referred to by the mostly pejorative term “gypsies” refer to their language as Romani, Romanes or romani čhib. Linguistic-genetically it is a New Indo-Aryan language and as such belongs to the Indo-Iranian branch of the Indo-European languages. As an Indo-Aryan diaspora language which occurs only outside the Indian subcontinent, Romani has been spoken in Europe since the Middle Ages and today forms an integral part of European  linguistic diversity. (cited from Romani-Project Graz / Dieter W. Halwachs).

However, the exact origin of the language is still uncertain; there is not much direct evidence.

How did Indian languages get constituted ? One can read quite often that Rromani developed directly from Sanskrit, a misleadingly inaccurate and simplified statement. As a matter of fact, the history of Indo-Aryan languages is classically divided in three period: old Indic, middle Indic and modern Indic, all of them being actualized first of all in a series of vernaculars. (source: Marcel Courthiade, A_Succint_History_of_the_Rromani_Language 2012)

Romani and their dialects

The language of the Romani has been spread throughout Europe and the varieties have been classified in dialects.

The main dialects are:

Northern Romani dialects
Central Romani dialects
Balkan Romani dialects
Vlax Romani dialects

Main language codes are:

Romani, Balkan rmn
Romani, Baltic rml
Romani, Carpathian rmc
Romani, Kalo Finnish rmf
Romani, Sinte rmo
Romani, Vlax rmy
Romani, Welsh rmw

Some Romanies have developed mixed languages (chiefly by retaining Romani lexical items and adopting second language grammatical structures), for example:

In Europe the main languages are classified as the Indo-European languages. Romani is an Indo-Aryan (from India) language and is the only Indo-Aryan spoken language in Europe.

SIL Ethnologue has the following classification:

  • Balkan Romani
    • Arlija
    • Dzambazi
    • Tinners Romani
  • Northern Romani
    • Baltic Romani
      • Estonian Romani
      • Latvian Romani (Lettish Romani)
      • North Russian Romani
      • Polish Romani
      • White Russian Romani
    • Carpathian Romani(Central Romani)
      • East Slovakian Romani
      • Moravian Romani
      • West Slovakian Romani
    • Kalo Finnish Romani
    • Sinte Romani
      • Abbruzzesi
      • Serbian Romani
      • Slovenian-Croatian Romani
    • Welsh Romani
  • Vlax Romani
    • Churari (Churarícko, Sievemakers)
    • Eastern Vlax Romani (Bisa)
    • Ghagar
    • Grekurja (Greco)
    • Kalderash(Coppersmith, Kelderashícko)
    • Lovari (Lovarícko)
    • Machvano (Machvanmcko)
    • North Albanian Romani
    • Sedentary Bulgaria Romani
    • Sedentary Romania Romani
    • Serbo-Bosnian Romani
    • South Albanian Romani
    • Ukraine-Moldavia Romani
    • Zagundzi

Historic text (corpora)

There are only a historic few words, a few text written about the Romani language or by the Romani themselves. This is inherent to the fact that the language for a long time is considered to be an argot (secret language) and often used to protect themselves. Another of such language is Rotwelsh.

The few old texts that have survived are listed in a very short table:
Source: Marcel Courthiade, Pour une histoire des approches linguistiques en domaine rromani : les premières étapes  (1500-1800).


Year, name, origin source (in francais):

1515 Bénédictin anonyme [ms. de Munich] – 60 mots aucune
1542 Andrew Boorde “Egypt, and of theyr speche” – 15 phrases Egypte. *see below
1570 Johan van Ewsum “Clene Gijta spraka” – 52 mots ou phrases courtes Egypte
1597 Bonaventura Vulcanius [de Smed] “De Nubianis erronibus, quos…” Nubie
1603 Hieronymus Megiser “Dictionarium 50…” – 71 mots de J. Scaliger Egypte
1616 Anglo-rromani anonyme – 108 mots dans les Confessions de Winchester “fausse Egypte” 1668 Evliya Çelebi (dial. Balkans) – une trentaine de mots et phrases courtes Egypte
1691 Hiob Ludolf – 40 mots (dont deux synonymes) pas l’Egypte
1723 Zigeunernamen (liste de quelques noms propres de Rroms d’Allemagne) aucune
1726 Waldheim Wörterbuch – 216 entrées mais moins de 100 en rromani aucune
1727 Collection vocum e lingua Cinganorum – Mr de la Croze Amsterdam 1741 aucune
1750 Marqués de Sentmenat, Catalogne – 120 mots, dont 20 numéraux aucune
???? Autre Ibérique (anonyme) – 61 mots Egypte
1755 Anonyme : env. 900 mots de la langue bohémienne & lettre d’un Sinto aucune
1771 Phrase de Büttner Indo-afghan
1775 Traité d’ab Hortis (Samuel Agostini) – 75 mots dont 25 numéraux Inde
1776 Liste de Jacob Bryant – près de 280 mots Indo-perse
1777 Backmeister/Büttner/Johann Christian Rüdiger [corresp. privée] Egypte
1780 Suédois anonyme “Undersonkning… Tattar”- environ 50 mots Asie-Turquie “Grundriss einer Geschichte…” Inde
1782 Johann Christian Rüdiger “Neuester Zuwachs … Sprachkunde” Inde 1783 Heinrich Gottlieb Grellmann “Historischer Versuch über die Zigeuner” Inde
1784 Christian Jacob Kraus “Lettre du 28 décembre” Inde
1785 William Marsden “Observation on the language of the people…” Inde
1785 Immanuel Kant “Bestimmung des Begriffs einer Menschenrasse” Inde
1787 Sulz Gypsy list – 22 mots et phrases comparés à l’argot des voleurs Egypte
1789 Peter S. Pallas “Сравнительные словари… ” – cc. 280 mots Inde.

Text from andrew borde’s book. The fyrst boke of the introduction of knowledge made by Andrew Borde, of physycke doctor. A compendyous regyment, or, A dyetary of helth made in Mountpyllier by Furnivall, Frederick James, 1825-1910; Boorde, Andrew, 1490?-1549; Royal College of Physicians of Edinburgh.  Published 1870




dna-romani-vlax-kalderash dna-romani-sinti-mateo


Romani Cultural aspects

Some Romani groups do not call themselves Roma, such as the Romanichal, Gitanos, Kalé, Sinti, Manush, and others, but refer to other groups as Roma or Gypsies.

Marimé, the Roma pollution code, refers both to a state of pollution as well as to the sentence of expulsion imposed for violation of purity rules or any disruptive behavior. Marimé is a core element of Roma society and culture and it pervades every part of traditional Roma life. The majority of Roma adhere to the concept of marimé and its many different names, such as moxadó, melali, mageradó, mokadi, kulaló, limaló, prastló,palecidó, pekelimé, gonimé or bolimé.

Fortune telling

Roma have been known to perform many kinds of predictions. They have read tea leaves, seen visions in crystal balls, analyzed the future from reading cards, and from interpreting the significance of numbers, or numerology.
They have practised palmistry, judging a person’s fate, character, and aptitudes from the shape of hands and fingers and the designs of lines in the hand. Though they claim that their great powers of prediction come from supernatural sources, the real skill of fortune tellers lies in their remarkable abilities in judging human character and in manipulating human desires.
She knows that most people remember what comes true and forget what does not. She knows, too, that she is capable of adding an exotic, exciting element to the life of the gadje. To please their believing clients, they most often predict a favorable future. There will often be mysterious warnings of perils that might well be avoided by preventatives provided, of course, by the Romni. As a rule, Roma never practice their skills as fortune tellers on other Roma.

Roma believe in their powers, as exemplified by their use of curses, called amria, and healing rituals. The fortune teller is always a woman called a drabardi. The concept of fortune telling contains several independent elements that are misleadingly grouped together. One element is foretelling the future, called drabaripé or drabarimos. Another element relates to healing powers, which the Roma do practice among themselves. The healing elements of fortune telling are called “advising.” Both elements are based on a belief in the supernatural.

Good luck charms, amulets, and talismans are common among Roma. They are carried to prevent misfortune or heal sickness. The female healer who prescribes these traditional cures or preventatives is called a drabarni or drabengi. Some Roma carry bread in their pockets as protection against bad luck, or bibaxt, and supernatural spirits or ghosts, called muló.

Any number of herbs, called drab, are used for the prevention or cure of various diseases. Herbalism may be practiced by both sexes. Some of these herbs, called sastarimaskodrabaró, actually have medicinal value in addition to their supernatural qualities.

Word Inflections

Are the 4 most common word endings (y, l, r, n) in the Voynich, possibly formed by the present tense verbs endings?

After a superficial study of the general language endings it seems not to to behave in particular towards the VMS language.

It was very very difficult to get the language corpera. In fact, I’m still  very much interested in any pieces of Angloromani or Welsh corpus.


Other cultures.

Das älteste Romani-Sprachdenkmal zwischen Polnisch-Tschechisch und Ungarisch
Veröffentlicht am 19. Juni 2015 von OstBib
Bislang galt Andrew Bordes Romani-Text (Entstehungszeit 1547), der in Sussex aufbewahrt wird, als das älteste Zeugnis der Romani-Sprache. Der Taschencodex des Ebersberger Benediktiner-Mönches Johannes von Grafing (BSB-Bestand: Opuscula Cod.graec. 582 a) mit einem Romani-Sprachbeispiel ist jedoch mindestens 30 Jahre früher fertiggestellt worden (zwischen 1495 und 1517) und ist somit das älteste erhaltene Romani-Sprachdenkmal.*

Link example doc