The Romanian language reference article from the English Wikipedia on 24-Jul-2004
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Romanian language

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Romanian (Română) is an Eastern Romance language, spoken by about 28 million people, most of them in Romania, Moldova (where it is the official language) and neighbouring countries.

Romanian (română)
SpokenRomania, Moldova, Russia, Ukraine, Israel, Serbia, Hungary, the Balkans, Canada, USA, Germany, Finland.
RegionEastern Europe
Total speakers 28 Million
Ranking36
Dialects 4
Genetic
classification
Indo-European
 Italic
  Romance
   East Romance
    Romanian
Official status
Official languageRomania, Moldova, Serbia and Montenegro (Vojvodina)
Regulated byAcademia Română

Language codes
ISO 639-1ro
ISO 639-2rum, rou
SILRUM

Table of contents
1 History
2 Vocabulary
3 Geographic distribution
4 Grammar
5 Writing system
6 Common words and phrases
7 External Links

History

The Romanian territory was inhabited in ancient times by the Dacians, who spoke an Indo-European language, the Dacian language about which there is very little knowledge.

Some words found only in Romanian (in all dialects) or with a cognate in Albanian language are generally thought to be inherited from Dacian, many of them being related to the pastoral life. (see: List of Dacian words). Some linguists believe that in fact, Albanians are Dacians that were not romanized and migrated south.

There is another theory that Dacian was fairly close to Latin, however there are no proofs available to support this claim and is generally discarded by linguists.

After the Roman conquest, Dacia was transformed in a Roman province and Vulgar Latin was used for administration and commerce. It is noteworthy that only a small portion of Dacia/Romania was conquered, most of the teritory being inhabited by the Free Dacians, populations that were never under the Roman rule. The popular theory about continuous settlement of Dacia from Roman times seems to be fairly controversial. For further discussion, see Origin of Romanians.

Due to its geographical isolation, Romanian was probably the first language that split and until the modern age was not influenced by other Romance languages, so the grammar is roughly similar to that of Latin, keeping declensions and the neuter gender, unlike any other Romance language.

Image:Map-balkans-vlachs.png
Map of Balkans with regions inhabited by Romanians/Vlachs highlighted

All dialects of Romanian are believed to have been unified in a common language until sometime between the 7th and the 10th century, before the Slavonic languages interfered with Romanian. Aromanian has very few Slavonic words. Also, the variations in the Daco-Romanian dialect (spoken throughout Romania) are very small, which is quite remarkable, because until the Modern Era there was almost no connection between the Romanians in various regions. The use of this uniform Daco-Romanian dialect extends well beyond the borders of the Romanian state: a Romanian-speaker from Moldova speaks the same language as a Romanian-speaker from Serbian Banat.

The first written record of a Romanic language spoken in the Middle Ages in the Balkans was written by the Byzantine chronicler Theophanes Confessor in the 6th century about a military expedition against the Avars from 587, when a Vlach muleteer accompanying the Byzantine army noticed that the load was falling from one of the animals and shouted to a companion "Torna, torna fratre" (meaning "Return, return brother!").

Vocabulary

Most words in Romanian vocabulary (about 75%) are of Latin origin, but the language also contains many words borrowed from its Slavonic neighbours and also from French, Italian, German, Hungarian, Turkish and English.

There are some Slavonic influences, both on the phonetic level and on the lexical level - for example, since Latin does not have a word for yes, Romanian took the Slavonic da. Also Romanian is the only Romance language with /h/. (Although in many dialects of Spanish, particularly in the Americas, is pronounced as [h], but the original, Castilian phoneme is /x/.)

It is also noteworthy that almost all rural activities have names of Latin origin, while most words related to urban life were borrowed from other languages, e.g. French, Italian, German, English, Hungarian. Modern words were often borrowed from French or Italian in the 19th century, some were later borrowed from German and English.

Geographic distribution

Romanian is spoken mostly in Romania, Moldova, Ukraine, Hungary, Serbia and Montenegro, Bulgaria, Macedonia and Greece, but there are also Romanian language speakers in countries like Canada, United States, Germany, Israel, Australia and New Zealand, mainly due to immigration after the World War II.

Country Population Romanian native speakers Percentage Notes
Romania 21,698,181 19,420,000 89.5% Official language
Moldova 4,430,654 3,483,600 64.5% Official language (but called "Moldavian language")
Russia 145,537,200 1,019,000 0.7% many are Moldavians, including deportees
Ukraine 48,055,439 385,000 0.8% in Northern Bukovina and Southern Bessarabia
Serbia and Montenegro 10,662,087 200,000 - 500,000 0.5% - 4.6% An official language of Vojvodina
Israel 10,138,844 250,000 4.2%
Germany 83,251,851 150,000 0.2%
United States 281,421,906 100,000 0.03%
Hungary 10,138,844 71,000 0.7%
Canada 32,207,113 60,520 0.2%
Kazakhstan 14,953,126 19,458 0.1% many are Moldavians that were deported

Official status

Romanian is official in Romania, Moldova (where political reasons tend to named it "Moldovan language"). In Vojvodina it is established as one -equal in rights- of the official languages, but in fact, its status is inferior that granted Serbian.

In other parts of Serbia and in Ukraine, the Romanian comunities have very few rights regarding the use and preserve of their language in schools, press, administration and institutions.

Dialects

Romanian has four dialects:

It is thought that the Romanian language appeared north and south of the Danube. All the four dialects are offsprings of the Romance language spoken both in the North and South Danube, before the settlement of the Slavonian tribes South of the river - Daco-Romanian in North, and the other three dialects in the South.

Grammar

Main article: Romanian grammar

Pronouns

As in Italian, pronouns in Nominative case are generally omitted in Romanian unless required to disambiguate the meaning of a sentence. Usually, the verb ending provides information about the subject. The inflection by gender can be found only on the third person.

Case 1st Person 2nd Person 3rd Person
Singular Plural Singular Plural Singular Plural
masc fem masc fem
Nominative eu noi tu voi elea eiele
Genitive meu nostru tău vostru luiei lor
Dative mie nouă ţie vouă luiei lor
Accusative mine noi tine voi elea eiele
Vocative - - tu voi -- --


Nouns

Romanian nouns are inflected by gender, number and case.

Gender

Unlike the other Romance languages, Romanian has three genders: masculine, feminine and neuter, keeping the neuter gender from Latin. Nouns of this gender use the masculine form for the singular and the feminine form for the plural.

Words ending in "ă" are feminine, while words ending in consonant are masculine and neuter and the words ending in "e" can be of either gender.

Sometimes it is possible to change the gender using suffixes. From feminine to masculine it is used the suffix "-oi" (pisica (fem) - pisoi (masc) = cat) and the reverse with suffix "-ică" (lup (masc) - lupoaică (fem) - wolf).

Romanian nouns have 5 cases, Nominative, Genitive, Dative, Accusative and Vocative.

Number

Romanian distinguishes between singular and plural forms of a noun, the plural being formed with vowel change, but sometimes there are some other sounds that change inside the noun.

Here's a table with the rough general rules of the Romanian plural:
Gender Ending - Sg Ending - Pl
Feminine -ă/-e/-ea -e/-i/-ele
Masculine -(consonant)/-e/-u -i
Neuter -(consonant) -uri/-oare/-e

Some examples:

Gender Noun - Sg Noun - Pl
Feminine carte = book cărţi = books
Masculine călător = traveler călători = travelers
Neuter drum = road drumuri = roads
Neuter măr = apple mere = apples

Articles

Definite article
Another peculiarity of Romanian is that it is the only Romance language that has the
definite article attached to the end of the noun (as in Scandinavian languages) instead of being a separate word in front. They were formed as in other Romance languages from the Latin demonstrative pronouns.

Gender Noun Definite article Noun with article
Feminine carte = book -a cartea = the book
Masculine drum = road -ul drumul = the road

Indefinite article

Gender Nominative Dative
Singular Plural Singular Plural
Feminine o nişte unei unor
Masculine un unui
Neuter

Possession

Possession is indicated by using the possesive article (see table) and the oblique case of the possessor noun.

Gender Singular Plural
Feminine al a
Masculine ai ale

See also: Romanian declension

Verbs

Romanian has the same four groups of verbs as Latin and unlike English, it has no sequence of tenses nor strict rules regarding their use, but it does has many alternatives (for example, it has six different types of future tense).

See also: Romanian conjugation

Writing system

The oldest written text in Romanian is a letter from 1521 ("Neacşu of Câmpulung's letter"). It is written using the Cyrillic alphabet, like all early Romanian writings (because the usual language for religious services was old Slavonian).

In the late 1700s, Transylvanian scholars started using the Latin alphabet to write Romanian. The Cyrillic alphabet remained in (gradually decreasing) use until 1860, when Romanian writing was first officially regulated.

Romanian alphabet

Main article: Romanian alphabet

The Romanian alphabet is based on the Latin alphabet, and has five additional letters (these are not diacriticals, but letters in their own right). Initially, there were as many as 12 additional letters, but some of them disappeared in subsequent reforms. Also, until the early 20th century, a short vowel marker was used.

Today, the Romanian alphabet is largely phonetic, with one exception: the "â" (used inside the words) and "î" (used at the beginning or the end), both representing the same sound. Long and short vowels are not distinguished in writing. Usually, the sounds denoted by letters are similar to Italian.

Here are the letters of the Romanian alphabet, and their pronunciation.

LetterPhonemePronunciation
A a/a/ Like in 'Mars'
Ă ă (a with breve) /@/Schwa: first sound of above
 â (a with circumflex)/1/ No equivalent in English
ы in Russian, ı in Turkish
B b/b/
C c/k/Like in 'cat'
D d/d/
E e/e/Like in 'merry'
F f/f/
G g/g/Like in 'goat'
H h/h/Like in 'house'
I i/i/Like in 'machine'
Î î (i with circumflex)/1/the same as â
J j/Z/Like French 'j': 'jour'
K k/k/
L l/l/Like in 'lamp'
M m/m/
N n/n/
O o/o/Like in 'door'
P p/p/
R r/r/Trilled - like Italian, Spanish 'r'
S s/s/
Ș ș (s with comma)
(also with cedilla: Ş ş)
/S/ like in sheep
T t/t/
Ț ț (t with comma)
(also with cedilla: Ţ ţ)
/ts/ like in nuts
U u/u/Like in 'group'
V v/v/
X x/ks/
Z z/z/

Q, W and Y are not part of the core Romanian alphabet; they are used mainly to write imported words, such as: quasar, watt, etc.

Writing letters /S/ and /ts/ with a cedilla instead of a comma is incorrect, but rather widespread, especially in computer environments.

Vowels

There are eight vowels in Romanian:


Letter SAMPA IPA
a a a
e e e
i i i
i i_0
o o o
u u u
ă @ ə
î, â 1 ɨ

The last two letters both represent exactly the same sound, and since they are also not interchangeable in writing this article counts them as a single vowel.

A voiceless terminal "i" that can be found especially on plural forms.

Semivowels

Letters SAMPA IPA
i j
u w
ea e_X
oa o_X

Group of letters

These groups of letters are identical to those in Italian:

Group Sound Example
ge dZ like 'ge' in gentle
gi like 'gi' in gin
ghe
	like 'ge' in get
ghi like gui in guitar
ce tS like tche in hatchet
ci like tchi in sketching
che ke
	like ke in kerosen
chi ki like ki in kimono


Common words and phrases

The Romanian alphabet is phonetic, so the words are read nearly as in Italian/Latin (with the exception of the quasi-diacriticals).

See also:

External Links

Learning Romanian

Phrasebooks

Dictionaries

Miscellaneous