LinguEast: Romanian

Do you know which famous text the following extract was taken from?

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. (source)

You do?

If you guessed correctly, your knowledge of Latin or possibly Italian/French/Spanish must be good and you probably ignored the complicated, ornamental alphabet that Romanians call their own.

For no reason I can put my finger on I really like the look and feel of Romanian. I find it even more beautiful and intriguing than Italian – it’s one of those hybrid languages that people murmur on dusty evening streets, that lively children shout in the parks, while their smoking parents discuss politics, money or men. It may sound good in a pub – I don’t know. But it looks lovely to me.

Time for some facts:

The Romanian alphabet consists of 28 letters, five of them have diacritical marks: Ă, Â, Î, Ş, Ţ. I do not want to delve into pronunciation here, I’m sure you’ll understand.

An interesting element of Romanian grammar is the vocative case, which it inherited from Latin. You know, the case of a person or thing being adressed, as in Serbian rano moja (o my wound).

The normal word order for “the + adjective + noun” (e.g. the good student) is quite different in Romanian, as the article sticks to the end of the noun and the adjective follows it, thus yielding the sequence “noun-the + adjective”: studentul bun (student-the goodthe good student). To put it with Borat: “Student – good!”

Romanian has 10 tenses, 4 of which are used for expressing future and 1 for expressing future in the past (and 4 past tenses, all of them perfect forms), go figure. It must be a good sign to be able to adress the future in so many ways and to talk about the present in one tense only. Their EU-presidency might yield interesting results.

Just like in Slovenian, verbs in the past participle are marked for gender and thus behave like adjectives: făcut means HE has worked (slov. delal) and făcută says SHE has worked (slov. delala).

Nice. I hope to have an opportunity to hear it spoken one day.

Till then: La revedere!



11 responses to “LinguEast: Romanian

  • Robert

    LinguWorld: I really don’t want to bother you (onece again), but because you are talking about alphabets: Have you already seen this beautiful map about the alphabets of the world? I am especially fascinated by the Cree-Schrift (siehe deutschen Wikipediaartikel). Would really like to see some german/slo Text written in Cree…

  • alcessa

    I am herewith giving you, Robert, the Licence To Bother Me. 😈

    The map is a pure bliss, I agree. Now, let me look which writing I’d prefer…

  • Seventongues

    Over here (Inflatovenia) we are blessed (yeah, right) with Romanian infomercials on NGC and Discovery. It does get annoying before long, believe me.

    Nonetheless, it’s an interesting language – look away before you start hating me – if in its essence only a vulgarisation of the lingua latina.

  • alcessa

    Dear Seventongues: I was quite aware that there are aspects of “Romanianism” that would annoy – for myself I got to know two Siebenbürgen Germans who told me their life in Romania wasn’t a piece of cake. And Italians may have a story or two to tell…

    As far as I know, you are right: Romanian descended from Vulgar Latin, yes. But this is exactly what I am interested in: hybrids, mixes, vulgars… On one side. On the other, nothing goes beyond a beauty of a well organised language, capable of expressing tiniest fragments of most abstract ideas. Like German.

  • Seventongues

    Oh, yes the infinite mysteries of life…

    So, how much has vulgarisation affected the original nature of latin? If you think about it – what in latin is not more than correct grammar, when translated (directly) to any other European language (and descendant thereof) sounds like poetry.

    Of course there are exceptions (or not?). Read out loud:
    Mala declina de bello Siriae.

    Yes, Caesar wrote about the Sirian war as well:
    Caesar de bello Siriae.

    Does Romanian sound like poetry?

  • Davor

    Burgenland Germans? In Romania? Is this correct?

  • alcessa

    Erm, no. Thank you. 😳

  • alcessa

    LINGUA LATINA PERDIFFICILE EST – meaning I have no Latin (just look at the mistakes in this self-knitted expression) and couldn’t really judge, apart from the obvious “Wohlklang” in mala declina de bello Siriae (the L-sounds and the As and Es)

    But yes: I do think Romanian might sound poetic. In this blemished, contemporary way I described in the post.

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