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Romanian (obsolete spellings Rumanian, Roumanian; self-designation: limba română ) or Daco-Romanian is a Romance language spoken by around 24 to 28 million people, primarily in Romaniamarker and Moldovamarker. It has official status in Romania, Republic of Moldova, and the Autonomous Province of Vojvodinamarker in Serbiamarker. In the Republic of Moldova, the language is officially called limba moldovenească ("Moldovan") for political reasons.

Romanian speakers are scattered across many other countries, notably Italymarker, Spainmarker, Russiamarker, Ukrainemarker, Israelmarker, Portugalmarker, United Kingdommarker, the United Statesmarker, Canadamarker, Francemarker, and Germanymarker.


The Dacians, an Indo-European people, were the ancient inhabitants of Romanian territory. They were defeated by the Romans in 106, and part of Dacia (Oltenia, Banat, and Transylvania) became a Roman province. This province, which was rich in ores, especially silver and gold, was colonized by the Romans, who brought with them Vulgar Latin as the language of administration and commerce, and who started a period of intense romanization, which gave birth to the proto-Romanian language. But in the 3rd century AD, under the pressure of Free Dacians and from invasions of migratory populations such as Goths, the Roman Empire was forced to withdraw from Dacia, in 271 AD, leaving it to the Goths.. It is a matter of debate whether modern-day Romanians are descendants of the people that abandoned the area and settled south of the Danube or of the romanized people that remained in Dacia.

Owing to its people's geographical isolation, Romanian was probably among the first of the Romance languages to split from Latin. It received little influence from other Romance languages until the modern period (the middle of the 19th century), and is therefore one of the most uniform languages in Europe. It is the most important of the remaining Eastern Romance languages and is more conservative than other Romance languages in nominal morphology. Romanian has preserved a part of the Latin declension, but whereas Latin had six cases, Romanian has three: the nominative-accusative, the genitive-dative, and marginally the vocative. Romanian nouns also preserve the neuter gender. However, the verb morphology of Romanian has shown the same move towards a compound perfect and future tense as the other Romance languages. Compared to the other Romance languages, during its evolution, Romanian simplified the original Latin tense system in extreme ways, in particular the original Latin absence of sequence of tenses.

All the dialects of Romanian are believed to have been unified in a Proto-Romanian language up to sometime between the 7th and 10th centuries, when the area came under the influence of the Byzantine Empire. It was then that Romanian became influenced by the Slavic languages and to some degree the Greek. For example, Aromanian, one of the closest relatives of Romanian, has very few Slavic words. Also, the variations in the "Daco-Romanian" dialect (spoken throughout Romania and Moldova) are very small. 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 the Serbian Banat. Romanian was influenced by Slavic, Greek (Byzantine, then Phanariote), Turkish, and Hungarian, while the other Romance languages were influenced by Germanic, Celtic and Arabic.

Geographic distribution

Romanian speaking countries and territories
Country Speakers (%) Speakers (native) Population
Romaniamarker 91% 19,736,517 21,698,181
Moldovamarker ² 76.4% 2,588,355 3,388,071
Transnistriamarker (Eastern Moldova)³ 31.9% 177,050 555,500
Vojvodinamarker (Serbiamarker) 1.5% 29,512 2,031,992
not official:
Timočka Krajina (Serbia) 4 8.2% 58,221 712,050
Spainmarker 1.7% 796,576 46,661,950
Italymarker 1.06% 640,000 60,345,000
Ukrainemarker 5 0.8% 327,703 48,457,000
Hungarymarker 0.1% 8,480 10,198,315
not official:
Israelmarker 3.7% 250,000 6,800,000
Kazakhstanmarker 1 0.1% 20,054 14,953,126
Russiamarker 1 0.12% 169,698 145,537,200
The Americas
not official:
Canadamarker 0.2% 60,520 32,207,113
United Statesmarker 6 0.11% 340,000 281,421,906
1 Many are Moldovans who were deported

² Data only for the districts on the right bank of Dniester (without Transnistria and the city of Tighina). In Moldova, it is sometimes referred to as the "Moldovan language"

³ In Transnistria, it is officially called "Moldovan language" and is written in Cyrillic alphabet

4 Officially divided into Vlachs and Romanians

5 Most in Northern Bukovina and Southern Bessarabia; according to a Moldova Noastră study (based on the latest Ukrainian census). [4213]


Romanian is spoken mostly in Southeastern, Central and Eastern Europe, although speakers of the language can be found all over the world, mostly due to Imigration of Romanian nationals and the return of immigrants from Romania to their original countries. Romanian speakers account for 0.5% of the world's population, and 4% of the Romance-speaking population of the world.

Romanian is the single official and national language in Romaniamarker and Moldovamarker, although it shares the official status at regional level with other languages in the Moldovan autonomies of Gagauziamarker and Transnistriamarker. Romanian is also an official language of the Autonomous Province of Vojvodina in Serbiamarker along with five other languages. Romanian minorities are encountered in Serbiamarker (Timok Valley), Ukrainemarker (Chernivtsi and Odessa oblastsmarker), Hungarymarker (Gyulamarker) and Bulgariamarker (Vidinmarker). Large immigrant communities are found in Italymarker, Spainmarker, Francemarker, and Portugalmarker.

The largest Romanian-speaking community in Asia is found in Israelmarker, where Romanian is spoken by 5% of the population (as of 1995). Romanian is also spoken as a second language by people from Arabic-speaking countries who have studied in Romaniamarker. It is estimated that almost half a million Middle Eastern Arabs studied in Romania during the 1980s. Small Romanian-speaking communities are to be found in Kazakhstanmarker and Russiamarker. Romanian is also spoken within communities of Romanian and Moldovan immigrants in the United Statesmarker, Canadamarker and Australia, although they don't make up a large homogeneous community state-wide.

Legal status in Romania

According to the Constitution of Romania of 1991, as revised in 2003, Romanian is the official language of the Republic.

Romaniamarker mandates the use of Romanian in official government publications, public education and legal contracts; advertisements must bear a translation of foreign words.

The Romanian Language Institute (Institutul Limbii Române), established by the Ministry of Education of Romania, promotes Romanian and supports people willing to study the language, working together with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs' Department for Romanians Abroad.

Legal status in Moldova

The Constitution of Moldova names the state language of the country "Moldovan." However, linguists consider it to be largely identical to Romanian. It has been the sole official language since the adoption of the Law on State Language of the Moldavian SSR in 1989. This law mandates the use of Moldovan in all the political, economical, cultural and social spheres, as well as asserting the existence of a "linguistic Moldo-Romanian identity". It is also used in schools, mass media, education and in the colloquial speech and writing. Outside the political arena the language is most often called "Romanian". In the breakaway territory of Transnistriamarker, it is co-official with Ukrainian and Russian.

In the 2004 census, out of the 3,383,332 people living in Moldova, 16.5% (558,508) stated Romanian as their mother tongue, whereas 60% stated Moldovan. While 40% of all urban Romanian/Moldovan speakers identified their native tongue as Romanian, in the countryside under 12% of Romanian/Moldovan speakers indicated Romanian as their mother tongue. However, the group of experts from the international census observation Mission to the Republic of Moldova concluded that the items in the questionnaire dealing with nationality and language proved to be the most sensitive ones, particularly with reference to the recording of responses to these questions as being "Moldovan" or "Romanian", and therefore it concluded that special care would need to be taken in interpreting them.

Legal status in Vojvodina

Official usage of Romanian language in Vojvodina, Serbia
[[Image:Romanian language Serbia.png|thumb|right|200px|Romanian language in Vojvodinamarker and Timok Valley (both in Serbia), census 2002

The Constitution of the Republic of Serbia determines that in the regions of the Republic of Serbia inhabited by national minorities, their own languages and scripts shall be officially used as well, in the manner established by law.

The Statute of the Autonomous Province of Vojvodinamarker determines that, together with the Serbo-Croat language and the Cyrillic script, and the Latin script as stipulated by the law, the Hungarian, Slovak, Romanian and Rusyn languages and their scripts, as well as languages and scripts of other nationalities, shall simultaneously be officially used in the work of the bodies of the Autonomous Province of Vojvodina, in the manner established by the law. The bodies of the Autonomous Province of Vojvodina are: the Assembly, the Executive Council and the Provincial administrative bodies.

The Romanian language and script are officially used in eight municipalities: Alibunarmarker, Biserica Albămarker ( ), Zitiştemarker (Žitište), Zrenianinmarker (Zrenjanin), Kovăciţamarker (Kovačica), Cuvinmarker (Kovin), Plandiştemarker (Plandište) and Sečanjmarker. In the municipality of Vârşeţmarker (Vršac), Romanian is official only in the villages of Voivodinţmarker (Vojvodinci), Marcovăţmarker (Markovac), Straja (Straža), Jamu Micmarker (Mali Žam), Srediştea Micămarker (Malo Središte), Mesici (Mesić), Jablankamarker, Sălciţa (Salčica), Râtişormarker (Ritiševo), Oreşaţmarker (Orašac) and Coştei (Kuštilj).

In the 2002 Census, the last carried out in Serbia, 1.5% of Vojvodinians chose Romanian as their mother tongue.

Legal status in other countries and organisations

In parts of Ukraine where Romanians constitute a significant share of the local population (districts in Chernivtsi, Odessamarker and Zakarpattia oblasts) Romanian is being taught in schools as a primary language and there are newspapers, TV, and radio broadcasting in Romanian.The University of Chernivtsi trains teachers for Romanian schools in the fields of Romanian philology, mathematics and physics.

Romanian is an official or administrative language in various communities and organisations, such as the Latin Unionmarker and the European Union. Romanian is also one of the five languages in which religious services are performed in the autonomous monastic state of Mount Athos, spoken in the monk communities of Prodromosmarker and Lacu.
Distribution of first-language native Romanian speakers by country

Romanian as a second and foreign language

Romanian is taught in some areas that have Romanian minority communities, such as Vojvodinamarker in Serbia, Bulgariamarker, Ukrainemarker and Hungarymarker. The Romanian Cultural Institute (ICR) has since 1992 organised summer training courses in Romanian for language teachers in these countries. In some of the schools, there are non-Romanian nationals who study Romanian as a foreign language (for example the Nicolae Bălcescu High-school in Gyula, Hungarymarker).

Romanian is taught as a foreign language in various tertiary institutions, mostly in neighboring European countries such as Germanymarker, Francemarker and Italymarker, as well as the Netherlandsmarker, and elsewhere, like the USAmarker. Overall, it is taught as a foreign language in 38 countries around the world.

Popular culture

Romanian has become popular in other countries through movies and songs performed in the Romanian language. Examples of recent Romanian acts that had a great success in non-Romanophone countries are the bands O-Zone (which had great success with their #1 single Dragostea din tei/Numa Numa across the world), Akcent (popular in the Netherlandsmarker, Polandmarker and other European countries), Activ (successful in some Eastern European countries) as well as high-rated movies like 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days, The Death of Mr. Lazarescu, 12:08 East of Bucharest or California Dreamin' (all of them with awards at the prestigious Cannes Film Festivalmarker).

On the other hand, some artists wrote songs dedicated to the Romanian language. The multiplatinum pop trio O-Zone (originally from Moldovamarker) released a song called "Nu mă las de limba noastră" (lit. 'I won't let go of our language'). The final verse of this song, Eu nu mă las de limba noastră, de limba noastră cea română is translated in English as I won't let go of our language, our Romanian language. Also, the Moldovanmarker musicians Doina and Ion Aldea Teodorovici performed a song entitled "The Romanian language".


The term "Romanian" is sometimes (although not often) used also in a more general sense, which envelops four hardly mutually intelligible languages: Romanian, Istro-Romanian, Aromanian, and Megleno-Romanian. The four languages are the offspring of the Romance varieties spoken both to the north and to south of Danube, before the settlement of the Slavonian tribes south of the river - Romanian in the North, the latter two in the south, while Istro-Romanian is believed to be the offspring of a 11th century migration from Romania. These four are also known as the Eastern Romance languages. When the term "Romanian" is used in this larger sense, the term "Daco-Romanian" is used for Romanian itself. The origin of the term "Daco-Romanian" can be traced back to the first printed book of Romanian grammar in 1780, by Samuil Micu and Gheorghe Şincai. There, the Romanian dialect spoken north of the Danube is called lingua Daco-Romana to emphasize its origin and its area of use, which includes the former Roman province of Dacia (though it is spoken also south of the Danube, in Dobrudja, Central Serbia and northern Bulgaria).

This article deals with Romanian language, and thus only its regional variations are discussed here. The differences between these varieties are usually very small, usually consisting in a few dozen regional words and some phonetic changes. Standard literary Romanian language is identical when it comes to writing, regardless of the region or country.

Romanian (specifically Daco-Romanian) varieties (graiuri).

Blue: Southern varieties

Red: Northern varieties
Like most natural languages, Romanian can be regarded as a dialect continuum. The dialects of Romanian are distinguished by minor differences in pronunciation. Romanians themselves speak of the differences as accents or "speeches" (in Romanian: accent or grai). Several regional accents are usually distinguished:
  • Muntenian accent (Graiul muntenesc), spoken mainly in Wallachia and southern parts of Dobruja.
  • Oltenian accent (Graiul oltenesc), spoken mainly in Oltenia and by the Romanian minority in Timok region of Serbia. In Oltenia a notable dialectal feature is the preferred usage of the simple perfect tense rather than the compound perfect which is preferred elsewhere.
  • Moldavian accent (Graiul moldovenesc), spoken mainly in Moldavia, northern parts of [[Dobrudja|
Dobrogea]] and the Republic of Moldovamarker. Written

is at times realised as {{IPA|/k/}}, written before front vowels is sometimes realised as {{IPA|/ʃ/}}, written <ă>, in final position, is sometimes palatalized, written is rarely also pronounced {{IPA|/i/}}. * Maramureşian accent (Graiul maramureşean), spoken mainly in [[Maramureş]]. * Transylvanian accent (Graiul ardelenesc), spoken mainly in [[Transylvania]]. * Banatian accent (Graiul bănăţean), spoken mainly in [[Banat]]. Written before front vowels is sometimes realised as and as .

Over the last century, however, regional accents have been weakened due to mass communication and greater mobility.


Romanian language in the Romance language family

Romanian is a Romance language, belonging to the Italic branch of the Indo-European language family, having much in common with languages such as French, Italian, Portuguese, and Spanish.

However, the languages closest to Romanian are the other Eastern Romance languages, spoken south of Danube: Aromanian/Macedo-Romanian, Megleno-Romanian and Istro-Romanian, which are sometimes classified as dialects of Romanian. An alternative name for Romanian used by linguists to disambiguate with the other Eastern Romance languages is "Daco-Romanian", referring to the area where it is spoken (which corresponds roughly to the onetime Roman province of Dacia).

Compared with the other Romance languages, the closest relative of Romanian is Italian; the two languages show a limited degree of asymmetrical mutual intelligibility, especially in their cultivated forms: speakers of Romanian seem to understand Italian more easily than the other way around. Even though Romanian has obvious grammatical and lexical similarities with French, Catalan, Spanish or Portuguese, it is not mutually intelligible with them to a practical extent; Romanian speakers will usually need some formal study of basic grammar and vocabulary before being able to understand even the simplest sentences in those languages (and vice-versa).

In the following sample sentence (meaning "She always closes the window before having dinner.") cognates are written in bold:

Ea semper fenestram claudit antequam cenet. (Latin)
Ea închide întotdeauna fereastra înainte de a cina. (Romanian)
Lei chiude sempre la finestra prima di cenare. (Italian)
Elle ferme toujours la fenêtre avant de dîner. (French)
Ella siempre cierra la ventana antes de cenar. (Spanish)
Ela sempre fecha a janela antes de jantar (ceiar). (Portuguese)
Eilla pecha siempre la ventana enantes de cenare. (Leonese)
Idda sempri chiudi la finestra àntica cina. (Sicilian)
Ella sempre tanca la finestra abans de sopar. (Catalan)
Ela pecha sempre a xanela denantes de cear. (Galician)
Essa nzerra sempe 'a fenesta primme de cenà. (Neapolitan)
Ea sempre sera 'a fenestra prima de cenà. (Venetian)

A study done by Italian-American linguist Mario Pei in 1949, which analyzed the evolutionary degree of languages in comparison to their inheritance language (in the case of Romance languages to Latin comparing phonology, inflection, discourse, syntax, vocabulary, and intonation) revealed the following percentages:

The lexical similarity with Italian is estimated at 77%, followed by French at 75%, Sardinian 74%, Catalan 73%, Spanish 71%, Portuguese, and Rhaeto-Romance at 72%.

In modern times Romanian vocabulary has been strongly influenced by French, Italian and other international words.

Contacts with other languages

Dacian language

The Dacian language was an Indo-European language spoken by the ancient Dacians. It may have been the first language to influence the Latin spoken in Dacia, but little is known about it. About 300 words found only in Romanian or with a cognate in the Albanian language may be inherited from Dacian, many of them being related to pastoral life (for example: balaur "dragon", brânză "cheese", mal "shore"). Some linguists have asserted that Albanians are Dacians who were not romanized and migrated southward.

A different view is that these non-Latin words (many with Albanian cognates) are not necessarily Dacian, but rather were brought into the territory that is modern Romania by Romance-speaking shepherds migrating north from Albania, Serbia, and northern Greece who became the Romanian people. However, the Eastern Romance substratum appears to have been a satem language, while the Paleo-Balkan languages spoken in northern Greece (Ancient Macedonian) and Albania (Illyrian) were most likely centum languages. The general opinion is that Dacian was a satem language, as was Thracian, which, however, was indeed spoken in the south.

Balkan linguistic union

While most of Romanian grammar and morphology are based on Latin, there are some features that are shared only with other languages of the Balkans and not found in other Romance languages. The languages of the Balkan linguistic union belong to individual branches of the Indo-European language family: Bulgarian and Albanian, and in some cases Greek and Serbian. The shared features include a suffixed definite article, the syncretism of genitive and dative case, the formation of the future and perfect tenses, and the lack of infinitives.

Slavic languages

The Slavic influences on Romanian are especially noticeable and can be observed at all linguistic levels: lexis, phonetics, morphology and syntax. This situation is due to the migration of Slavic tribes who traversed the territory of present-day Romania during the early evolution of the language. This process of the introduction of Slavic in Dacia was similar to the appearance of various Germanic dialects in the Western Roman Empire, where Gallic Latin and Northern Italian dialects became strongly germanized. However, due to lower Romance-speaking populace in the East, Slavic remained spoken for much longer and did not die out immediately.

Other influences

Even before the 19th century, Romanian came in contact with several other languages. Some notable examples include:
  • Greek: folos ófelos "use", buzunar buzunára "pocket", proaspăt prósfatos "fresh", cutie cution "box"
  • Hungarian: oraş város "town", a cheltui költeni "to spend", a făgădui fogadni "to promise", a mântui menteni "to save"
  • Turkish: cafea kahve "coffee", papuc papuç "slipper", ciorbă çorba "wholemeal soup, sour soup"
  • German: cartof Kartoffel "potato", bere Bier "beer", şurub Schraube "screw", turn Turm "tower", ramă Rahmen "frame", muştiuc Mundstück "mouth piece", bormaşină Bohrmaschine "drilling machine", cremşnit Kremschnitte "cream slice", şvaiţer Schweizer "Swiss cheese", şlep Schleppkahn "barge", şpriţ Spritzer "wine with soda water", abţibild Abziehbild "decal picture", şniţel Schnitzel "cutlet", şuncă dialectal Schunke (Schinken) "ham", punct Punkt "point"
  • Romany, the Romanian Roma have provided several words to Romanian slang: mișto "cool", gagică gadji "girl"

French, Italian and other international words

Since the 19th century, many modern words were borrowed from the other Romance languages, especially from French and Italian (for example: birou "desk, office", avion "airplane", exploata "exploit"). It was estimated that about 38% of the number of words in Romanian are of French and/or Italian origin (in many cases both languages); and adding this to the words that were inherited from Latin, about 75%-85% of Romanian words can be traced to Latin. The use of these Romanianized French and Italian loanwords has tended to increase at the expense of Slavic loanwords, many of which have become rare or fallen out of use. As second or third languages, French and Italian themselves are better known in Romania than in Romania's neighbors. Along with the switch to the Latin alphabet in Moldovamarker, the re-latinization of the vocabulary has tended to reinforce the Latin character of the language.

In the process of lexical modernization, many of the words already existing as Latin direct heritage, as a part of its core or popular vocabulary, have been doubled by words borrowed from other Romance languages, thus forming a further and more modern and literary lexical layer. Typically, the popular word is a noun and the borrowed word an adjective. Some examples:

Latin Romanian
direct Latin heritage
agilis (quick) ager (astute) agil (it.<<EM>agile, fr.<<EM>agile)
aqua (water) apă (water) acvatic (it. <<EM>acquatico, fr.<<EM>aquatique)
dens, dentem (tooth) dinte (tooth) dentist (it.<<EM>dentista, fr.<<EM>dentiste)
directus (straight) drept (straight, right) direct (it.<<EM>diretto, fr.<<EM>direct)
frigus (cold) frig (cold - noun) frigid (it.<<EM>frigido, fr.<<EM>frigide)

In the 20th century, an increasing number of English words have been borrowed (such as: gem jam; interviu interview; meci match; manager manager; fotbal football; sandviş sandwich; bişniţă business; ciungă chewing gum; chec cake). These words are assigned grammatical gender in Romanian and handled according to Romanian rules; thus "the manager" is managerul. Some of these English words are in turn Latin lexical constructions - calqued, borrowed or constructed from Latin or other Romance languages, like "management" and "interview" (from the French "entrevue").


Romanian nouns are characterized by gender (feminine, masculine, and neuter), and declined by number (singular and plural) and case (nominative/accusative, dative/genitive and vocative). The articles, as well as most adjectives and pronouns, agree in gender, number and case with the noun they reference.

Romanian is the only Romance language where definite articles are enclitic: that is, attached to the end of the noun (as in North Germanic languages), instead of in front (proclitic). They were formed, as in other Romance languages, from the Latin demonstrative pronouns.

As in all Romance languages, Romanian verbs are highly inflected for person, number, tense, mood, voice. The usual word order in sentences is SVO (Subject - Verb - Object). Romanian has four verbal conjugations which further split into ten conjugation patterns. Verbs can be put in five moods that are inflected for the person (indicative, conditional/optative, imperative, subjunctive, and presumptive) and four impersonal moods (infinitive, gerund, supine, and participle).


Romanian has nine vowels; the more "exotic" ones are , (also in stressed positions), and the diphthongs and . Additionally, and may appear in some borrowed words. There are also twenty-two consonants. The two approximants and can appear before or after any vowel, creating a large number of glide-vowel sequences which are, strictly speaking, not diphthongs.

In final positions after consonants, a short can be deleted, surfacing only as the palatalization of the preceding consonant (e.g. ). Similarly, a deleted may prompt labialization of a preceding consonant, though this has ceased to carry any morphological meaning.

Phonetic changes

Due to its isolation from the other Romance languages, the phonetic evolution of Romanian was quite different, but does share a few changes with Italian, such as > (Lat. clarus > Rom. chiar, Ital. chiaro) and also a few with Dalmatian, such as (probably phonetically ) > [mn] (Lat. cognatus > Rom. cumnat, Dalm. comnut).

Among the notable phonetic changes are:
  • diphthongization of e and o
* Lat. cera → Rom. ceară (wax)
* Lat. sole → Rom. soare (sun)
  • iotacism → in the beginning of the word
* Lat. herba → Rom. iarbă (grass, herb)
  • velar → labial before alveolar consonants:
* Lat. octo → Rom. opt (eight)
* Lat. lingua → Rom. limbă (tongue, language)
* Lat. signum → Rom. semn (sign)
* Lat. coxa → Rom. coapsă (thigh)
* Lat. caelum → Rom. cer (sky)
  • Alveolars palatalized to when before short or long
* Lat. deus → Rom. zeu (god)
* Lat. tenem → Rom. ţine (hold)

On the other hand, it (along with French) has lost (qu) sound before from original Latin, turning it either into (Lat. quattuor → Rom.patru, "four"; cf. It. quattro) or (Lat. quando → Rom.când, "when"; Lat. qualitas → Rom.calitate, "quality").

Writing system

The first written record of a Romance 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!").

The oldest written text in Romanian is a letter from late June 1521, in which Neacşu of Câmpulungmarker wrote to the mayor of Braşovmarker about an imminent attack of the Turks. It was written using the Cyrillic alphabet, like most early Romanian writings. The earliest writing in Latin script was a late 16th century Transylvanian text which was written with the Hungarian alphabet conventions.

In the late 1700s, Transylvanian scholars noted the Latin origin of Romanian and adapted the Latin alphabet to the Romanian language, using some rules from Italian, recognized as Romanian's closest relative. The Cyrillic alphabet remained in (gradually decreasing) use until 1860, when Romanian writing was first officially regulated.

In the Soviet Republic of Moldova, a special version of the Cyrillic alphabet derived from the Russian version was used, until 1989, when it returned to the Romanian Latin alphabet.

Romanian alphabet

The Romanian alphabet is as follows:

A, a (a); Ă, ă (ă); Â, â (â din a); B, b (be), C, c (ce); D, d (de), E, e (e); F, f (fe / ef); G, g (ghe / ge); H, h (ha / haş); I, i (i); Î, î (î din i); J, j (je), K, k (ka / kapa), L, l (le / el); M, m (me / em); N, n (ne / en); O, o (o); P, p (pe); Q (chiu); R, r, (re / er); S, s (se / es); , ş (şe); T, t (te); Ţ, ţ (ţe); U, u (u); V, v (ve); W (dublu ve); X, x (ics); Y (i grec); Z, z (ze / zet).

K, Q, W and Y are not part of the native alphabet, were officially introduced in the Romanian alphabet in 1982 and are mostly used to write loanwords like kilogram, quasar, watt, and yoga.

The Romanian alphabet is based on the Latin alphabet with five additional letters Ă, Â, Î, , Ţ. Formerly, there were as many as 12 additional letters, but some of them were abolished in subsequent reforms. Also, until the early 20th century, a short vowel marker was used.

Today the Romanian alphabet is largely phonemic. However, the letters â and î both represent the same close central unrounded vowel . Â is used only inside words; î is used at the beginning or the end of single words and in the middle of compound words). Another exception from a completely phonetic writing system is the fact that vowels and their respective semivowels are not distinguished in writing. In dictionaries the distinction is marked by separating the entry word into syllables for words containing a hiatus.

Stressed vowels also are not marked in writing, except very rarely in cases where by misplacing the stress a word might change its meaning and if the meaning is not obvious from the context. For example trei copíi means "three children" while trei cópii means "three copies".


  • h is not silent like in other Romance languages such as Spanish and French, but represents the phoneme , except in the digraphs ch /k/ and gh /g/ (see below)
  • j represents , as in French or Portuguese. This the sound spelled with s in the English words 'vision, pleasure, treasure'.
  • There are two letters with a comma below, and , which represent the sounds and . However, the allographs with a cedilla instead of a comma, Ş and Ţ, became widespread when pre-Unicode and early Unicode character sets did not include the standard form.
  • A final orthographical i after a consonant often represents the palatalization of the consonant (e. g. lup "wolf" vs. lupi "wolves") -- it is not pronounced like Italian lupi (which also means "wolves"), and is indeed an example of the Slavic influence on Romanian.
  • ă represents the schwa, .
  • î and â both represent the sound . In rapid speech (for example in the name of the country) the â sound may sound similar to a casual listener to a short schwa sound but careful speakers will distinguish the sound. The nearest equivalent is found in some English regional accents (it is the first part of the diphthong in reed in the English accent of Birmingham in the West Midlands of England (rî-eed).
  • The letter e is generally pronounced as ie (/j/ sounds like 'y' as in 'you') when it is the first sound of a form of the verb a fi 'to be', e. g. este "is". (Recall what was given above, that the Romanian alphabet does not have distinct letters for semivowels like ) This rule also applies to personal pronouns beginning with e, e. g. el 'he'. This is another instance of the Slavic influences on the language. However, in certain loan words and "classical" Latin and Greek words (and derivatives) such as era (era), electric (electric) etc. this addition of the semivowel does not occur. Some words (such as iepure - hare, formerly epure) are now spelt with the i to indicate the semivowel.
  • x represents either the phoneme as in expresie = expression, or as in exemplu = example, as in English.
  • As in Italian, the letters c and g represent the affricates and before i and e, and and elsewhere. When and are followed by vowels and (or their corresponding semivowels or the final ) the digraphs ch and gh are used instead of c and g, as shown in the table below.

Group Phoneme Pronunciation Examples
ce, ci ch in chest, cheek cerc (circle), cine (who)
che, chi k in kettle, kiss chem (I call), chimie (chemistry)
ge, gi j in jelly, jigsaw ger (frost), gimnast (gymnast)
ghe, ghi g in get, give gheţar (glacier), ghid (guide)

Punctuation and capitalization

Uses of punctuation peculiar to Romanian are:
  • The quotation marks use the Polish format in the format „quote «inside» quote”, that is, „. . .” for a normal quotation, and double angle symbols for a quotation inside a quotation.
  • Proper quotations which span multiple paragraphs don't start each paragraph with the quotation marks; one single pair of quotation marks is always used, regardless of how many paragraphs are quoted;
  • Dialogues are identified with quotation dashes;
  • The Oxford comma before "and" is considered incorrect ("red, yellow and blue" is the proper format);
  • Punctuation signs which follow a text in parentheses always follow the final bracket;
  • In titles, only the first letter of the first word is capitalized, the rest of the title using sentence capitalization (with all its rules: proper names are capitalized as usual, etc.).
  • Names of months and days are not capitalized (ianuarie "January", joi "Thursday")
  • Adjectives derived from proper names are not capitalized (Germania "Germany", but german "German")

Spelling issues between Romania's and Moldova's usage

Until 2000, there used to be minor spelling differences between official forms of Romanian language used in Romaniamarker and the variant (also called Moldovan) used in the Republic of Moldovamarker— Moldova hadn't switched yet to the new spelling rules introduced by the Romanian Academy in 1993. These differences were abolished officially in 2000; in practice, however, many Moldovans persist in using the older spellings. Romanian is also an official or administrative language in various communities and organisations (such as the Latin Unionmarker and the European Union).

Language sample

English text:
All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood.
:(Universal Declaration of Human Rights)

Contemporary Romanian - highlighted words are French or Italian loanwords:
Toate fiinţele umane se nasc libere şi egale în demnitate şi în drepturi. Ele sunt înzestrate cu raţiune şi conştiinţă şi trebuie să se comporte unele faţă de altele în spiritul fraternităţii.

Romanian, excluding French and Italian loanwords - highlighted words are Slavic loanwords:
Toate fiinţele omeneşti se nasc slobode şi deopotrivă în destoinicie şi în drepturi. Ele sunt înzestrate cu înţelegere şi cuget şi trebuie să se poarte unele faţă de altele în duh de frăţietate.

Romanian, excluding loanwords:
Toate fiinţele omeneşti se nasc nesupuse şi asemenea în preţuire şi în drepturi. Ele sunt înzestrate cu înţelegere şi cuget şi se cuvine să se poarte unele faţă de altele după firea frăţiei.

See also


  1. Yves D’hulst, Martine Coene, Larisa Avram, “Syncretic and analytic tenses in Romanian”, in “Balkan Syntax ans Semantics”, pag. 366: "In its evolution, Romanian simplified the original Latin tense system in extreme ways."
  2. Yves D’hulst et al., “Syncretic and analytic tenses in Romanian”, in “Balkan Syntax ans Semantics”, p.355: "general absence of consecutio temporum."
  3. Graham Mallinson, “Rumanian”, in “The Romance Languages”, Taylor & Francis, 1997, p. 413: "Much more substantial than the Germanic adstrate in the Western Romance Languages is the Slavic adstrate in Balkan Romance."
  4. Instituto Nacional de Estadística: Avance del Padrón municipal a 1 de enero de 2009. Datos provisionales. [1].
  6. Number of speakers of Romanian in Hungarry in 1995 according to Ethnologue
  7. [2] Perepis 2002
  8. Latin Union - Languages and cultures online 2005
  9. MSN Encarta - Languages Spoken by More Than 10 Million People
  10. According to the 1993 Statistical Abstract of Israel there were 250,000 Romanian speakers in Israel, at a population of 5,548,523 (census 1995).
  11. Reports of about 300,000 Jews that left the country after WW2
  12. Evenimentul Zilei
  13. Constitution of Romania
  14. Ministry of Education of Romania
  15. Legea cu privire la functionarea limbilor vorbite pe teritoriul RSS Moldovenesti Nr.3465-XI din 01.09.89 Vestile nr.9/217, 1989 (Law regarding the usage of languages spoken on the territory of the Republic of Moldova): "Moldavian RSS supports the desire of the Moldovans that live across the borders of the Republic, and - considering the existing Moldo-Romanian linguistic identity - of the Romanians that live on the territory of the USSR, of doing their studies and satisfying their cultural needs in their maternal language."
  16. National Bureau of Statistics of the Republic of Moldova: Census 2004
  17. Experts Offering to Consult the National Statistics Bureau in Evaluation of the Census Data, Moldova Azi, May 19, 2005, story attributed to AP Flux. Retrieved October 11, 2005.
  18. Official Gazette of Republic of Serbia, No. 1/90
  19. Official Gazette of Autonomous Province of Vojvodina
  20. Official use of languages and scripts in the Autonomous Province of Vojvodina published by the Provincial Secretariat for Regulations, Administration and National Minorities
  21. Provincial Secretariat for Regulations, Administration and National Minorities: Official use of the Romanian language in the APV
  22. Ukrainian Center for Independent Political Research: [3], [4]
  23. Slovak Academy of Sciences in Kosice
  24. University of Chernivtsi
  25. Cursuri de perfecţionare, published in Ziua on August 19, 2005
  26. Romanian Language Institute: Data concerning the teaching of the Romanian language abroad
  27. Encyclopaedia Britannica article on "Romanian"
  28. Samuil Micu, Gheorghe Şincai, Elementa linguae daco-romanae sive valachicae, Vienna, 1780.
  29. >
  30. Vladimir Georgiev (Gheorghiev), Raporturile dintre limbile dacă, tracă şi frigiană, "Studii Clasice" Journal, II, 1960, 39-58
  31. The new edition of "Dicţionarul ortografic al limbii române (ortoepic, morfologic, cu norme de punctuaţie)" – introduced by the Academy of Sciences of Moldova and recommended for publishing following a conference on 15 November 2000 – applies the decision of the General Meeting of the Romanian Academy from 17 February 1993, regarding the return to "â" and "sunt" in the orthography of the Romanian language. ( Introduction, Institute of Linguistics of the Academy of Sciences of Moldova) The decision is mandatory in schools and other official use of the language.


  • Encyclopedia Britannica
  • Uwe, Hinrichs (ed.), Handbuch der Südosteuropa-Linguistik, Wiesbaden, 1999.
  • Rosetti, Alexandru, Istoria limbii române, 2 vols., Bucharest, 1965-1969.

External links

Learning Romanian




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