Just how Roman is Romania?

Posted by at 14:00

If you’re anything like me – and I sincerely hope you’re not – you know that Romania is located somewhere in Eastern Europe, but you’re not quite sure where. Is it somewhere between Hungary and Bulgaria? Or is it further north, below the Czech Republic? And the capital, was it Budapest or Bucharest? So, let’s get our bearings before we take a closer at this country and its fascinating language.

Romania

Two weeks ago, I asked readers to submit, in their own language, their favourite sight, sound, scent and taste in their hometown. One of the first to respond was Claudiu Mihăilă, who is currently completing his PhD in England, but originally hails from Iaşi in north-eastern Romania, near the border with Moldova. Claudiu’s list of favourites immediately erased all my questions about geography and reminded me that I have always been intrigued by the fact that Romanian sounds and reads more like Italian (and other Romance languages), than like the Slavic and Balkan languages spoken in the neighbouring countries.

Having checked various websites, I discovered that there were conflicting theories about the “Latin origins” of Romanian. According to Claudiu, “the people who lived in the area before it was colonised by the Roman Empire spoke Dacian, and it has been suggested that this is the first language that influenced Latin.” Another theory is that colonists were brought from all over the Roman Empire to help mine the rich ore deposits (mainly gold and silver) in Dacia. According to Wikipedia, these colonists brought Vulgar Latin to the region, which marked the start of “a period of intense Romanisation that would give birth to the Proto-Romanian language.”

Are you still there? Good. Then I will demonstrate how closely Romanian seems to resemble other Romance languages. If it didn’t, I would have had much more difficulty deciphering Claudiu’s favourites.

Sight: “Rozariul din Grădina Botanic?” – Could Claudiu be referring to the rose garden in the botanical gardens? According to Google Translate this means, “Rosary from the Botanical Gardens,” but I’m inclined to go with my gut instinct here.

Sound: “Hora Unirii de la Palatul Culturii, la ora exact?” – My first guess is that Claudiu is referring to the tolling of the clock tower of the magnificent Palace of Culture at noon (“la ora exact?”). Google wasn’t very helpful, mainly because it refused to translate “Hora Unirii”, but I discovered that this is also the title of a famous poem by Vasile Alecsandri. So maybe the carillon in the clock tower plays a musical version of this “anthem”?

Scent: “Tei înfloriţi pe Copou în iunie” – I think this is a reference to the scent of blooming flowers (“înfloriţi”) in June (“iunie”). I discovered that Copou Park is famous landmark of Iaşi, with many ancient trees. And apparently “tei” means “lime”. So perhaps Claudiu means blooming lime trees in Copou Park in June?

Taste: “Vin fiert cu turtă dulce” – I’m pretty sure this is some sort of delicious dessert consisting of sweet cake (“turtă dulce”) doused with brandy (“vin fiert”). More exactly, according to Google, this is “mulled wine with gingerbread”, which sounds rather tasty.

In fact, as I was checking my facts, I discovered that Iaşi, as a whole, looks and sounds rather tasty! Claudiu confirmed this when he sent me this fabulous photo, which he took on Union Place in his hometown.

Romania2

I’d like to thank Claudiu for taking me by the hand and leading me through his land, his home, his language. When I asked him what one should and shouldn’t say in Iaşi, he replied that he had given it a lot of thought and eventually decided to go with a theme that appeals to all Romanians: food. That should help you decipher the following:

You SHOULD say: “Tochitură moldovenească, cu mămăligă, ochi, brânză de burduf şi-o Grasă de Cotnari!”

You SHOULD NOT say: “Dar praz şi şliboviţă nu aveţi?!”

(Please keep correcting my guesses and sending me your favourites in your own language, either by posting them as a comment here or by connecting with me on Twitter @RicharddeNooy. And if you’d like to see more of Claudiu’s wonderful photos, please click here.)

Richard de Nooy

54 Responses to Just how Roman is Romania?

  1. Cosmin

    Wow, you’ve just discovered hot water, congratulations. Your attempt is nevertheless funny for us Romanians.

    You say that “having checked various websites, I discovered that there were conflicting theories about the “Latin origins” of Romanian”. They taught us in school that Romanian IS a Romance language, so please provide us with those links, now we’re curious about any controversy that might profoundly affect the way we view ourselves, historically.

    Anyway, when researching languages, I would go after linguists :)I’ll end my comment with a Wikipedia quote:”The lexical similarity of Romanian with Italian has been 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 languages.”
    Good luck exploring Romanianism!

    • Richard

      Hot water indeed, Cosmin! I read most of this forum discussion -http://www.antimoon.com/forum/t2129-0.htm – and concluded that the origins of the language remain somewhat controversial. 

      • Maria Stroe

        Yes, is is controversial, but the controversy remains unknown to those of us who only know what they were taught in school :)
        Some research even suggests that Dacian was actually Proto-Latin, this being the only explanation for the fact that our language survived such as it is, “a Latin island in the middle of a Slavic sea”. This would also explain the presumed extinction of all Dacian words in less than a century of incomplete Roman occupancy (less than a third of Dacia was occupied by Romans). And it’s not new research, this theory belongs to a reputed, late Romanian scholar. And regarding one of your guesses, “Hora Unirii” is indeed a poem as well as an anthem made after the, which is sung as a celebration of the Union (Unire) of the Romanian states. Iasi was the capital of one of those states – Moldova – so it makes sense for this song to be the hourly sound-mark in the city… I’m from Focsani, another “Union city”, and was sick of this song when I was a child :)Off-topic, a “hora” is a collective Romanian dance, with people forming a large circle and dancing together. And last, but not least, thank you for a great post! :)

        • Richard

          Thanks for your fascinating input, Maria! Glad to hear that my guesswork was so close. Still wondering what I should and should not say in Iasi, though.

          • Maria Stroe

            Well, I confess I’ve never been to Iasi, but I somehow agree to Claudiu’s idea – at least with the part of what you should say. I won’t ruin the surprise, but in case you ever get to say that, have some pills to help your digestion at hand :D Traditional Romanian food is not too light.
            About the part referring to what you shouldn’t say – don’t worry, your probably wouldn’t like it anyway. It’s about asking for leek (‘praz’ – raw, not cooked) and a local spirit (‘slibovita’). Yeah, I don’t see the thrill either :) Claudiu means well.

          • Taranus

            You as far as I see are a Hun or a Germ or a Slav
            All friends from chialhood

      • Mike

        “cont-roversial????????

        To you A Hun maybe

        We know the Hungarians

        Aren’t you guys those Sumerians or such?

        Hey guys go get a real job

  2. Cosmin

    Wow, you’ve just discovered hot water, congratulations. Your attempt is nevertheless funny for us Romanians.

    You say that “having checked various websites, I discovered that there were conflicting theories about the “Latin origins” of Romanian”. They taught us in school that Romanian IS a Romance language, so please provide us with those links, now we’re curious about any controversy that might profoundly affect the way we view ourselves, historically.

    Anyway, when researching languages, I would go after linguists :)I’ll end my comment with a Wikipedia quote:”The lexical similarity of Romanian with Italian has been 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 languages.”
    Good luck exploring Romanianism!

    • Richard

      Hot water indeed, Cosmin! I read most of this forum discussion -http://www.antimoon.com/forum/t2129-0.htm – and concluded that the origins of the language remain somewhat controversial. 

      • Maria Stroe

        Yes, is is controversial, but the controversy remains unknown to those of us who only know what they were taught in school :)
        Some research even suggests that Dacian was actually Proto-Latin, this being the only explanation for the fact that our language survived such as it is, “a Latin island in the middle of a Slavic sea”. This would also explain the presumed extinction of all Dacian words in less than a century of incomplete Roman occupancy (less than a third of Dacia was occupied by Romans). And it’s not new research, this theory belongs to a reputed, late Romanian scholar. And regarding one of your guesses, “Hora Unirii” is indeed a poem as well as an anthem made after the, which is sung as a celebration of the Union (Unire) of the Romanian states. Iasi was the capital of one of those states – Moldova – so it makes sense for this song to be the hourly sound-mark in the city… I’m from Focsani, another “Union city”, and was sick of this song when I was a child :)Off-topic, a “hora” is a collective Romanian dance, with people forming a large circle and dancing together. And last, but not least, thank you for a great post! :)

        • Richard

          Thanks for your fascinating input, Maria! Glad to hear that my guesswork was so close. Still wondering what I should and should not say in Iasi, though.

          • Maria Stroe

            Well, I confess I’ve never been to Iasi, but I somehow agree to Claudiu’s idea – at least with the part of what you should say. I won’t ruin the surprise, but in case you ever get to say that, have some pills to help your digestion at hand :D Traditional Romanian food is not too light.
            About the part referring to what you shouldn’t say – don’t worry, your probably wouldn’t like it anyway. It’s about asking for leek (‘praz’ – raw, not cooked) and a local spirit (‘slibovita’). Yeah, I don’t see the thrill either :) Claudiu means well.

          • Taranus

            You as far as I see are a Hun or a Germ or a Slav
            All friends from chialhood

      • Mike

        “cont-roversial????????

        To you A Hun maybe

        We know the Hungarians

        Aren’t you guys those Sumerians or such?

        Hey guys go get a real job

  3. Guest

    Hi Richard, nice article. I was about to ask you to correct the missing Romanian letters, but it has already been done. Thanks!

    • Richard

      Thank you, guest. All credit to the KLM webmasters for correcting the diacritics so quickly.

  4. Guest

    Hi Richard, nice article. I was about to ask you to correct the missing Romanian letters, but it has already been done. Thanks!

    • Richard

      Thank you, guest. All credit to the KLM webmasters for correcting the diacritics so quickly.

  5. Radu

    Getting past stereotypes, lies and futile inter-neighbour wars, this was a fun little article to read :) You did a good job, thank you.

    • Richard

      Thank you, Radu.

  6. Radu

    Getting past stereotypes, lies and futile inter-neighbour wars, this was a fun little article to read :) You did a good job, thank you.

    • Richard

      Thank you, Radu.

  7. Richard

    Thanks to all for expressing your opinions openly and honestly. Bear in mind that the purpose of this blog is not only to battle my own ignorance, but also to help others fight theirs. Personally, I much prefer to be guided gently to new insight than to be beaten in a new direction with a stick. That said, please continue.

  8. Ion Coman

    I love Romania and I don’t really care what other people think of it :) 

  9. Ion Coman

    I love Romania and I don’t really care what other people think of it :) 

  10. Bogdan

    When I first read the title, I thought this would be a post about the Roma people, which are the talk of the town these days.

    Gladly it was not. I have the same fascination for languages and your post was very intriguing. I always wonder what Romanian sounds like to foreigners. A friend says it’s a mix between Russian and Portuguese while others said it’s French & Italian. What do you think it sounds like?

    • Richard

      To me it sounds like someone with a Slavic accent speaking Italian. Next week I’ll be tackling Filipino/Tagalog, and after that I’ll be wrestling with Greek and Swedish. I also welcome any new linguistic challenges, preferably from readers in countries served by KLM!

      • Mike

        It sounds like it sounds but the people are Romans
        Not Gypsy blondes
        Dig?

      • Mike

        It sounds like it sounds but the people are Romans
        Not Gypsy blondes
        Dig?

    • Kkk

      I’ve been told that “it sounds like a dirty Italian, just like Portuguese sounds like a dirty Spanish”.

    • Mike

      No way
      It is Amerikan

    • Mike

      No way
      It is Amerikan

  11. Bogdan

    When I first read the title, I thought this would be a post about the Roma people, which are the talk of the town these days.

    Gladly it was not. I have the same fascination for languages and your post was very intriguing. I always wonder what Romanian sounds like to foreigners. A friend says it’s a mix between Russian and Portuguese while others said it’s French & Italian. What do you think it sounds like?

    • Richard

      To me it sounds like someone with a Slavic accent speaking Italian. Next week I’ll be tackling Filipino/Tagalog, and after that I’ll be wrestling with Greek and Swedish. I also welcome any new linguistic challenges, preferably from readers in countries served by KLM!

      • Mike

        It sounds like it sounds but the people are Romans
        Not Gypsy blondes
        Dig?

    • Kkk

      I’ve been told that “it sounds like a dirty Italian, just like Portuguese sounds like a dirty Spanish”.

    • Mike

      No way
      It is Amerikan

  12. KLM

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  13. KLM

    We have removed
    certain comments on this blog that are not in line with our terms &
    conditions

  14. Cornel Borină

    There is more to descover from Romania.
    There are at least 3 or 4 regions with similar, but different culture and accent. Some closer to slavic, some closer to latin.
    You happened to talk to someone from Moldova, wich is the region to the east of the Carpatian Mountains.

    I am from Oltenia, in South-West, where we don’t talk like that. Personally, I have trouble understanding when a moldovean talks to me
    When people talk about us, they somehow associate us with “praz” (Google Translated to leek), so we won’t mind if you ask for it here.

    Those two regions are kind of rival, even though they don’t geographically meet.

    Besides, there is also Ardeal (the faimous Transilvania) with some sub-regions like Banat (west) or Maramures (North), with their culture.

    • Richard

      More intriguing insight, Cornel, thank you. Again, if you can recommend any good books on the history of the country/region, please let me know.

  15. Cornel Borină

    There is more to descover from Romania.
    There are at least 3 or 4 regions with similar, but different culture and accent. Some closer to slavic, some closer to latin.
    You happened to talk to someone from Moldova, wich is the region to the east of the Carpatian Mountains.

    I am from Oltenia, in South-West, where we don’t talk like that. Personally, I have trouble understanding when a moldovean talks to me
    When people talk about us, they somehow associate us with “praz” (Google Translated to leek), so we won’t mind if you ask for it here.

    Those two regions are kind of rival, even though they don’t geographically meet.

    Besides, there is also Ardeal (the faimous Transilvania) with some sub-regions like Banat (west) or Maramures (North), with their culture.

    • Richard

      More intriguing insight, Cornel, thank you. Again, if you can recommend any good books on the history of the country/region, please let me know.

  16. iurius

    Please do not forget about Republic of Moldova, which language, although called moldovan, is in fact romanian.
      Historically Rep. Moldova and Moldova region from Romania used to be one country. This was before 1812 when sadly Basarabia (now called Rep. of Moldova) has been passed to the Tzar Russia according to a treaty after the Russian-Turkish war.
      From 1812 (in the meanwhile Romania has been formed as a country) till present Basarabia was for a short time a part of Romania: 1918-1940 and 1942-1944.

    • Richard

      Every time I write about a country, I am reminded how little I know. Can you recommend any good books on the history of the country/region?

      • Mike

        READ ADOLF ARMBRUSTER

        That’s for the beginners
        Next we give you more

      • Mike

        READ ADOLF ARMBRUSTER

        That’s for the beginners
        Next we give you more

  17. iurius

    Please do not forget about Republic of Moldova, which language, although called moldovan, is in fact romanian.
      Historically Rep. Moldova and Moldova region from Romania used to be one country. This was before 1812 when sadly Basarabia (now called Rep. of Moldova) has been passed to the Tzar Russia according to a treaty after the Russian-Turkish war.
      From 1812 (in the meanwhile Romania has been formed as a country) till present Basarabia was for a short time a part of Romania: 1918-1940 and 1942-1944.

    • Richard

      Every time I write about a country, I am reminded how little I know. Can you recommend any good books on the history of the country/region?

      • Mike

        READ ADOLF ARMBRUSTER

        That’s for the beginners
        Next we give you more

  18. Miketerra85

    Same way the Romanish in Switzerland are related to Romans

  19. Miketerra85

    Same way the Romanish in Switzerland are related to Romans

  20. Miketerra85

    That much Tigani Din Nord and Huns and Ruskies

    POPE CLEMENT VI (1342-1352).”Olachi Romani,commorantes in partibus Ungariae,Transilvanis,Ultralpinis et Sirmus”(In Hungary,Transilvania,Muntenia and Sirmia live the Roman-Vlachs)or”Tam nobilibus quam popularibus Olachis Romanis”SUMMARY: Romanians = Romans (Vlachs).Note: Ungariae = Panonia, HungaryTransilvanis = TransylvaniaUltralpinis = Muntenia = Wallachs north of DanubeSirmus = The region in Yougoslavia around the River SavaKekaumenos (Byzantine writer) – XI Cent. ADThey (Vlachs) lived first near Danube and Sava Rivers, where the Serbs are living now, in places hardened by nature (mountains) and inaccessible.….The Romans (Byzantines) crushed them (Vlachs). And these (Vlachs) running away from these places spread all over “Epirul” ( Dyrrrhachium = Albania), Nicopolis ) and all Macedonia, and most of them settled in “Elada” Note: It looks to me that these credible sources are talking about the Vlachs as being the same people all over the Balkans.Check this one too:POPE PIUS II (1458-1464) (Commentarium rerum memorabilium)”VALACHI lingua utuntur Italica, verum imperfecta, et admodum corrupta; sunt qui legiones Romanas eo missas olim censeant adversus Dacos, qui eas terras incolebant; legionibus Flaccum quendam praefuisse, a que Flacci primum,deinde Valachi, mutatis litteris, sint appellati;quorum posteri (ut ante relatum est) “SUMMARY:(The Vlachs are a people of Roman origin,born from an antic Roman Imperial colony,speaking a language close to Latin or Italian)POPE Innocent III (in a latter from 1203).”Therefore, we, who have been appointed by the will of GOD and Father,unworthy as we are, as vicars and successors of the Apostolic See, to prove by the force of facts our fatherly love for the Church of the Bulgarians and ROMANIANS (VLACHS),who are said to be THE DESCENDENTS OF THE ROMANS,by their flesh and blood”Note: Talking about the Vlachs of BulgariaFrancesco della Valle,1532,(Secretary of Aloisio Gritti,a natural son to Doge Andrea Gritti).”The Romanians(Vlachs) are of Italian stock, and according to them, they are the descendants of the OLD ROMANS”.IOAN KINNAMOS(Imperial secretary under two Byzantine emperors, Manuel I & Andronic)”It is said about the Vlachs that they are the old descendents of those from Italy”.Russian Primary Chronicle (Laurentian Text), XI Cent.”For when the Vlaks attacked the Danubian Slavs, settled among them, and did them violence, the latter came and made their homes by the Vistula, and were then called Lyakhs. Of these Lyakhs some were called Polyanians,some Lutichians,some Mazovians, and still others were called Derevlians… Radimichians and the Viatichians sprang from the Lyakhs”. Note: It looks like the Vlachs took over all the Slavic tribes in the beginningByzantine Emperor, Constantine Flavius P., is describing also the situation around Danube where the ‘Romani’ (Vlachs) took Slavic prisoners bringing them south of Danube: “The territory possessed by these Romani (Vlachs) used to extend as far as the river Danube, and once on a time, being minded to cross the river and discover who dwelt beyond the river, they crossed it and came upon unarmed Slavonic nations, who were also called Avars…., And so, finding these Avars unarmed and unprepared for war , the Romani (Vlachs) overcame them and took booty and prisoners and returned (south of Danube)”. Note: We know that the Greeks and all the Slavs south of Danube wants to see the Vlachs as different nationalities, Greek Romanised and Slavs Romanised.But as I’ve said there are plenty of reliable sources to contradict you.

  21. Miketerra85

    That much Tigani Din Nord and Huns and Ruskies

    POPE CLEMENT VI (1342-1352).”Olachi Romani,commorantes in partibus Ungariae,Transilvanis,Ultralpinis et Sirmus”(In Hungary,Transilvania,Muntenia and Sirmia live the Roman-Vlachs)or”Tam nobilibus quam popularibus Olachis Romanis”SUMMARY: Romanians = Romans (Vlachs).Note: Ungariae = Panonia, HungaryTransilvanis = TransylvaniaUltralpinis = Muntenia = Wallachs north of DanubeSirmus = The region in Yougoslavia around the River SavaKekaumenos (Byzantine writer) – XI Cent. ADThey (Vlachs) lived first near Danube and Sava Rivers, where the Serbs are living now, in places hardened by nature (mountains) and inaccessible.….The Romans (Byzantines) crushed them (Vlachs). And these (Vlachs) running away from these places spread all over “Epirul” ( Dyrrrhachium = Albania), Nicopolis ) and all Macedonia, and most of them settled in “Elada” Note: It looks to me that these credible sources are talking about the Vlachs as being the same people all over the Balkans.Check this one too:POPE PIUS II (1458-1464) (Commentarium rerum memorabilium)”VALACHI lingua utuntur Italica, verum imperfecta, et admodum corrupta; sunt qui legiones Romanas eo missas olim censeant adversus Dacos, qui eas terras incolebant; legionibus Flaccum quendam praefuisse, a que Flacci primum,deinde Valachi, mutatis litteris, sint appellati;quorum posteri (ut ante relatum est) “SUMMARY:(The Vlachs are a people of Roman origin,born from an antic Roman Imperial colony,speaking a language close to Latin or Italian)POPE Innocent III (in a latter from 1203).”Therefore, we, who have been appointed by the will of GOD and Father,unworthy as we are, as vicars and successors of the Apostolic See, to prove by the force of facts our fatherly love for the Church of the Bulgarians and ROMANIANS (VLACHS),who are said to be THE DESCENDENTS OF THE ROMANS,by their flesh and blood”Note: Talking about the Vlachs of BulgariaFrancesco della Valle,1532,(Secretary of Aloisio Gritti,a natural son to Doge Andrea Gritti).”The Romanians(Vlachs) are of Italian stock, and according to them, they are the descendants of the OLD ROMANS”.IOAN KINNAMOS(Imperial secretary under two Byzantine emperors, Manuel I & Andronic)”It is said about the Vlachs that they are the old descendents of those from Italy”.Russian Primary Chronicle (Laurentian Text), XI Cent.”For when the Vlaks attacked the Danubian Slavs, settled among them, and did them violence, the latter came and made their homes by the Vistula, and were then called Lyakhs. Of these Lyakhs some were called Polyanians,some Lutichians,some Mazovians, and still others were called Derevlians… Radimichians and the Viatichians sprang from the Lyakhs”. Note: It looks like the Vlachs took over all the Slavic tribes in the beginningByzantine Emperor, Constantine Flavius P., is describing also the situation around Danube where the ‘Romani’ (Vlachs) took Slavic prisoners bringing them south of Danube: “The territory possessed by these Romani (Vlachs) used to extend as far as the river Danube, and once on a time, being minded to cross the river and discover who dwelt beyond the river, they crossed it and came upon unarmed Slavonic nations, who were also called Avars…., And so, finding these Avars unarmed and unprepared for war , the Romani (Vlachs) overcame them and took booty and prisoners and returned (south of Danube)”. Note: We know that the Greeks and all the Slavs south of Danube wants to see the Vlachs as different nationalities, Greek Romanised and Slavs Romanised.But as I’ve said there are plenty of reliable sources to contradict you.

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