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Romanian

The Lord’s Prayer in Romanian:

Tatăl nostru care eşti în ceruri,
sfinţească-se numele Tău,
vie împărăţia Ta,
facă-se voia Ta, precum în cer aşa şi pe pământ.
Pâinea noastră cea de toate zilele
dă-ne-o nouă astăzi
şi ne iartă nouă greşelile noastre
precum şi noi iertăm greşiţilor noştri.
Şi nu ne duce pe noi în ispită,
ci ne izbǎveşte de cel rău.
Amin.

Romanian (587- ) is the main language of Romania and Moldova. About 24 million people speak it. The Moldovans call it Moldovan, but it is the same language.

Romanian, as you might expect from the name, comes from the language of the Romans: Latin. In the eastern Roman Empire most people spoke Greek, but what now is Romania – and back then was called Dacia – was settled by Romans soldiers. In time their Latin became Romanian.

Romanian is the oldest of the Romance languages, the languages that came from Latin. Probably because Dacia was cut off from Rome early: the Roman forces left 200 years before the fall of Rome.

The first signs of Romanian are from a Byzantine war story from 587 in which someone shouts, “Torna, torna fratre” as bags are falling.

Even though it is the oldest, its noun ending are the most like Latin. It still has cases: nouns have different endings according to their relationship to the rest of the sentences. Romanian even still has the neuter in addition to the feminine and masculine genders.

Romanian is closest to Italian. Like Italian – and Latin – it forms the plural not with an s but by changing the vowel at the end of the word.

Unlike other Romance languages, h did not become silent and short u was not changed into o. The Latin c and qu becomes p in Romanian: aqua becomes apa and octo, opt.

Most now write Romanian with Roman letters, even in Moldova, but before the 1700s it was written in Cyrillic letters, like Russian.

Romanian added four letters:

  • ş– sounds like sh
  • ţ – sounds like ts
  • î – sounds like a short Russian i (ы)
  • â – sounds like a short Russian i (ы)
  • ă – sounds like uh

Many Romanians know French and in the 1800s French words poured in so that now almost a fourth of the Romanian words come from French.

In ancient times foreign words came mainly from neighbouring Slavic languages. One word in five was from Slavic, but many of them died out so that now it is only one in seven.

Old words are mostly about country life, new words about city life.

Of the oldest words of all, 300 do not come from Latin, but some look like the same words in Albanian. This has led some to suppose that Romanians are Albanians who took on Roman ways, that the ancient language of Dacia was some kind of Albanian. But there is no solid proof of what language the Dacians spoke before Latin.

Romanian looks strange not just because of those four letters it added, but also because the sound changes that turned it from Latin into Romanian are not the sort you see in the west:

English Latin Italian Romanian
sing cantare cantare cânta
goat capra capra capra
cheese caseus formaggio brânză
key clave chiave cheie
night noctem notti noapte
place platea piazza piaţă
bridge pontem ponte pod

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