A Handbook of Vlax Romani

By Virkkula, Johanna | Canadian Slavonic Papers, December 2001 | Go to article overview

A Handbook of Vlax Romani


Virkkula, Johanna, Canadian Slavonic Papers


Ian Hancock. A Handbook of Wax Romani. Columbus, OH: Slavica, 1995. 178 pp. $19.95, paper.

The Romani languages are awakening the interest of linguists all over the world, not only because most of them are still to be established as standard languages and there still remains so much to be explored in Romani in general, but also because these languages, due to the unique culture and history of the Roma people, tell us so much about all the languages the Roma have come in contact with over the centuries.

The Roma are the most widespread minority in Europe. Approximations as to their actual numbers vary from 2 to 12 million. Exact figures on the number of native speakers of Romani, in its different varieties, are difficult to find, but beyond the shadow of a doubt, the Vlax dialects are the most widely spoken.

In A Handbook of Viax Romani Ian Hancock, from the University of Texas, Austen, has undertaken a successful attempt at codifying the Vlax Romani language, spoken mostly in Romania and neighbouring countries, but also by emigrants from this area to the USA and elsewhere. A Handbook of Vlax Romani aims to be a reference manual for students and scholars interested in Romani, and to serve as a basis for a supradialectal Vlax variety, which could be used and understood by Hancock's fellow Vlax speakers worldwide.

A Handbook of War Romani is an excellent read for those interested in Romani in general or Vlax in particular. The extensive introductory chapter on the history of Roma makes it easily accessible even to total novices. No previous knowledge of the Roma or Vlax Romani is needed in order to understand this book. All in all, I would recommend it to anyone interested in these matters.

Hancock is also successful in answering the apparent need for nationality-- constructing literature about and for the Roma. I believe improving the current situation of the Roma requires work on many different levels, one of them being scientific research on the Romani languages.

I have a few suggestions which could be taken into consideration with a view to improving A Handbook of Pax Romani. Firstly, I think careful consideration should be given regarding the terminology used in the book. I consider myself to be quite an experienced reader of grammars, but I had difficulties understanding some of the terms used in Hancock's book. …

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