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Barbu Constantinescu is one of the forefathers  of Romani dialectology in Romania. His dialectological work is also interesting from the point of view of its phonological system. This article describes the phonological and morphological phenomena typical of the dialects dealt with by the aforementioned author.

The phonological phenomena will be classified according to the dialect to which they belong.


  1.        Ursari Romani
  • Unstressed word-final consonants tend to be left out. E.g.: pále‘again’ (SIR palem ‘id.’), ame ‘us’ (SIR amen ‘id.’), tu- ‘you-ACC.SG.’ (SIR tut ‘id.’);
  • presence of the Romanian-derived close central unrounded vowel /ɨ/ in both Romanian loanwords i.e. mândro romní (‘pretty Roma woman’) and in native lexemes i.e. patrinorî(‘little leaf’);
  • presence of the Romanian-derived mid central vowel /ə/ that contaminated inherited lexemes, too. E.g.: khă‘at home’. Obviously, this phoneme is present in Romanian loanwords e.g.: parkă (‘as if’);
  • paragoge affects especially the third form of the feminine personal pronoun in the Accusative. Thus, there are instances in which the form lan(‘her-F.SG.’) occurs, instead of the widely encountered form la. Another common instance of paragoge is found with the subject clitics. They usually appear as si-lis (for feminine subjects) or si-los (for masculine subjects), both evincing a paragogic /s/;
  • elision frequently occurs at word boundaries and is marked in writing by an apostrophe. E.g.: And’ avér them (‘in another country’). Here, the vowel /o/ representing the masculine form of the definite article was elided.
  • cluster reduction leads to the simplification of the consonant cluster /mn/ to /m/. For example, balamno(‘male merchant’) is encountered as balamo in Constantinescu’s text;
  • voicing of the voiceless velar stop /k/. Therefore, kadja ‘like this’ becomes gadeá(‘id.’) in a Ursari poem recorded by Constantinescu;
  • aphaeresis occurring especially in some Romanian loanwords. E.g.: orba (‘word’), whose Romanian etymon evinces a word-initial /v/ i.e. vorba (‘id.’);
  • Romanian realization (/ĕa/) of the vowel-glide sequence /ja/. E.g.: thardn ‘(you) burned’, cf. SIR thabardǎn (‘id.’);
  • cheshirisation of the voiced alveolar nasal /n/, leading to subsequent diphthongation of  vowel /i/. E.g.: raikaí‘lordly’ (SIR raikani ‘id.’).
  1.        Kalderash Romani
  • presence of the Romanian-derived close central unrounded vowel /ɨ/ that contaminated inherited lexemes. E.g.: patrinorî ‘little leaf’, kîkaveáki ‘of the cauldron’, mînrî‘my-F.SG.’;
  • presence of the Romanian-derived mid central vowel /ə/ that contaminated inherited words, too. E.g.: săm ‘we are’ (SIR sam ‘id.’), bă‘year’ (SIR berś ‘id.’). This phoneme is also present in Romanian loans e.g. kă ‘that’ (SIR kaj);
  • apocopated lexemes. E..g.: kaş(‘wood’). Here, the consonant /t/ was left out. The SIR form, which is recommended, is kaśt ;
  • vocalization of word-final /v/, which is encountered in verbs. The outcome is a voiced labiovelar approximant /w/. E.g.: Te asáuai te kheláu ‘to laugh and to dance’ (SIR te asav aj te khelav);
  • frequent instances of apocope encountered especially in pronouns and space prepositions. E.g.: ma ‘me-ACC.SG.’, (SIR man‘id.’), paşa ‘next to’ (SIR paśal ‘id.’), anglá ‘in front’ (SIR anglal ‘id.’). Actually, the apocopated personal pronouns can be considered weak forms, since being unstressed leads to phonological reduction;
  • cluster reduction leads to the simplification of the consonant cluster /vd/ to /d/. For example, phandavdo(‘enclosed, confined’) displays the simplified form phandado, phiradí ‘slept with’ occurs instead of phiravdi, which is the unaltered form;
  • cheshirisation of alveolar nasal consonant /n/ in front of the front vowel /i/, leading to its transformation into a semivowel. E.g.: payá ‘waters’, instead of panǎ, mînrî pheása ‘with my sister’, instead of mirre phenǎça ;
  • sporadic dejotacization in nouns and verbs. E.g: mîrî dása ‘with my mother’, insead of mirre dajaça ‘id.’,beşlém ‘I sat’, instead of beślǒm ‘id.’ Mention must be made of the fact that the former phenomenon is optional and accidental, while the latter is obligatory, thus historical;
  • assimilation in possessives, due to labial attraction. E.g.: mu‘my-M.SG.’ (SIR mirro ‘id’);
  • consonant syncope, which is phonologically conditioned by its adjacency to the liquid /r/. The consonant that is left out is the voiceless velar fricative /x/. E.g.: ţára ‘(Romani) tent’, (SIR xra ‘id.’), marimé, ‘filthy, foul, impure’, (SIR maxrime‘id.’);
  • intervocalic reduction of morphological /s/ to a glide /j/. E.g.: ya ‘with him-SOC.’ (SIR leça ‘id.’);
  • intervocalic reduction of morphological /s/ to a voiceless glottal fricative consonant /h/. E.g.: le bicióha ‘with the whip-SOC.’ (cf. SIR e bićoça‘id.’);
  • palatalization occurring especially in possessive pronouns. E.g.: kemusaveá ‘your-PL. knees’, ki mădúha ‘your-F.SG. marrow’. The SIR equivalents of these altered forms are tire and tiri, respectively;
  • closing of vowel /e/ to  /i/. E.g.: mándi‘to me-LOC.’, (cf. SIR manθe ‘id.’);
  • consonant syncope affecting the voiced labiodental fricative /v/ occurring in both nominals and verbs. E.g.: saorîndar ‘by everybody’ (SIRsavorrenθar ‘id.’), thoél-tu ‘to wash you’ (SIR thovel ‘id.’).

The morphological system of Ursari Romani, as analysed by Barbu Constantinescu (1878) evinces the following features:

  • extended past tense forms, built up with the interfix –in-.g.: ghelineás ‘he/she went’ (Ursari Romani, 1878:1);
  • phonologically reduced demonstratives and pronouns. Eg.: koi < kodoja‘that one FEM.SG.’ (Ursari Romani, 1878:5) , me < mirre ‘my’ (Ursari Romani, 1878: 7);
  • future forms built up with the future particle –kam.g.: Káme meráu ‘I am gonna die’ (Ursari Romani, 1878: 11);
  • the suffix –oro/-orîhelps in the formation of diminutive nouns. E.g.: brîşindoró ‘little rain’;
  • analytic way of deriving the comparative form of adjectives. E.g.: ek mai barí ‘one bigger’. As can be noticed, the adverb used in this formation is the Romanian-derived comparative adverb mai;
  • presence of the Romanian-derived adverb of manner kam. E.g.: kampuraní ‘rather old’;
  • the widespread cumulative conjunction is South Slavic-derived li. E.g.: tai te merél li ti dái ‘and your mother, too’;
  • long and unsyncopated Genitive forms. E.g.:Ialomiţákiri ‘of Ialomița county’, me dayákiri ‘my mother’s’;
  • presence of the Romanian-derived feminine diminutive suffix –íţa. E.g.: opré lunkíţa‘on the little meadow’;
  • reflexive verbs are either synthetic or analytic. Synthetic verbs are built up with a grammaticalized form of the verb to be, while analytic verbs are always followed by the variable reflexive pronoun pes. E.g.: Te kerdólbeáu romanó ‘to throw a Romani wedding party’, Oi kărél-pes nasfalí ‘she pretends to be sick’;
  • the suffix used for adapting foreign nouns is the apocopate Greek-derived morpheme –E.g.: fllăkăó ‘lad’;
  • presence of subject clitics. E.g.: silisşukár mândra ‘she is a beautiful girl’;
  • the suffix used for adapting loan verbs is the Greek-derived morpheme –íz. E.g.: te prandízau-tu ‘to marry you’;
  • preposition bi selects for a Genitive NP. E.g.: bi marimáskoro ‘with no fight’.

The morphological system of Kalderash Romani, as analysed by Barbu Constantinescu (1878) evinces the following features:

  • short Genitive forms, a typical Vlax morphological feature. E.g.: Patrinorî şteaviáki‘little leaf of sorrel’, bul kîkaveáki  ‘bottom of a bucket’;
  • presence of the Romanian negation ci, whose Romanian etymon is the disjunctive conjunction nici. E.g.: cimai sovau  ‘I no longer sleep’;
  • the verb ‘to give’ del requests for the Accusative case, which is an archaic feature, since today it usually selects for a Dative complement under Romanian contact pressure. E.g.: De-ma-k ţîra maşoró ‘Give me a bit of fish’;
  • productive use of the Romanian-derived masculine nominaliser –ari, which helps in the formation of agentive nouns. E.g.: kîkăveári‘cauldron-maker’;
  • zero plural marking on Indian lexemes, a typical Vlax Romani development. E.g.:  trin bîrş ‘three years’ (cf. SIR trin berśa);
  • mixed compounds made up of the Romanian particle or(‘any’) plus Romani inherited lexical material. E.g.: or kása ‘with anybody’;
  • presence of the Romanian adverb mai  ‘more, any longer’ with iterative value. E.g.:  Te maipeáu kolá moleáte  ‘so that I can still drink in that pub’;
  • productive use of the inherited diminutive suffix –oró. E.g.: şahoró‘little cabbage’, patrinorî  ‘little leaf’;
  • Feminine Singular Oblique form of first-person singular possessive pronoun identical with its Nominative counterpart. E.g.: mînrîpheása  ‘with my sister’ (cf. SIR  mirre phenǎça), mîrî dása  ‘with my mother’ (cf. SIR mirre dajaça);
  • the masculine definite article is o, while the feminine definite article is i, which is surprising for a Vlax dialect, since Vlax dialects usually have e. E.g.: ikurva ‘the whore’, o bărş  ‘the year’;
  • the preposition palalsporadically selects for the Locative case with pronouns, which represents another archaism. E.g.: pala-i káste ‘after whom-LOC.SG.’.




Constantinescu, Barbu. 1878. Romane Ghilea. Edited by Gheorghe Sarău et al.  (1999).


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