Article by Oana Iosifidis
If you have read the previous articles about the Romanian language and you would like to find out more, here are some more details about the origins of this beautiful language. Maybe in the Romanian lessons, you focus on learning the language, but understanding how the language was formed might be interesting for you.
Romanian started forming at the beginning of the second century A.D. when the Romans conquered the lands of Dacia, located in the territory that would later become Romania.
However, there have been many influences during time, that have led to the current form of Romanian language. Romania is the only country in eastern part of Europe, that speaks a Romance language.
Now let’s see more about The Dacians, then the Romanization following the Roman conquest of the Dacians, the Slavic Influences and Re-Latinization movement during the 19th Century.
The Dacians were the first known civilization to live in the area where Romania is now situated. To understand the history of the language is to understand the history of the people.
The Dacians, who occupied much of the lower Danube region, are believed to have spoken a Thracian language. Not much has been written about the Dacians, but speculations were made based on archeological findings from the time.
Their main activity was agriculture. They also engaged in viticulture and the cultivation of vineyards. They were skilled craftsmen in working metals to create tools and weapons. The Dacians were also known for their cattle and their bee-keeping.
Linguists have studied the Romanian language to find which words come from Dacian origin. They have discovered one hundred and sixty words with this origin.
These terms cover a wide area, starting with the human body, the family, agricultural activities and the physical environment.
It is interesting to observe the types of words that remain in the language from the Dacian era. It is natural for words that describe the body and the family relations to remain from a proto language, because these are common topics of conversation in every civilization. This Dacian vocabulary tells us the story of an industrious people who worked the land.
The second period is the Romanization, following the Roman conquest of the Dacians.
Dacians are not the only ancestors of the Romanian people and its language. As their country’s name suggests, Romans played a major role in their history and development, and, of course, their language.
In Rome, at the beginning of the second century A.D., the soldier Trajan was appointed emperor. In the summer of 106 A.D. the Roman army, under Trajan, succeeded in conquering the Dacians after many years of battles. Trajan then colonized it with settlers coming from all parts of the Roman Empire, who intermarried with the local population and romanized it.
The Dacians seem too have been very accepting of the roman civilization and culture. Their Romanization happened rather rapidly, because the Romans only ruled over Dacia for 165 years.
One of the reasons that the romanization was so successful was the fact that many of the soldiers in the Roman army were of Dacian origin. After a 25 year service, they had learned Latin and the ways of the Romans. Many of them had Dacian wives. At the end of a soldier’s military service he was granted Roman citizenship if he did not already have it. This citizenship was extended to every member of his family.
Another way that Latin was spread was through religion. The missionaries brought the Christian Religion with them. Also, in church, the services were done in Latin.
The urbanization also played an important role. In the urban centers, which had rural areas around them, there were many Roman merchants, travelers and colonists, which acted like agents of Romanization.
After the Romanization, there was a period of Slavic influence on the Proto Romanian of that time, followed by a Re-Latinization movement during the 19th Century.
During the 7th century and throughout the 9th century the Slavs came to the Dacia area. Their language greatly influenced Romanian. The relations between Slavs and the Romanized native population were very close, which led not only to the Dacians adopting Slavonism, but to the Slavs learning Latin.
Slavs have adopted many words of Latin origin, and also they have replaced most of the words that express emotions, with their own.
Another way in which the Slavs influenced the language of the Dacians of that time was pronunciation. Remembering that the Slavs had adopted the Latin spoken in that region, it is apparent that they would speak this second language with a quite heavy accent. The Romanian of today is pronounced somewhat differently than all of the other languages in its family.
In the 19th century, Romanian linguists have started the efforts of re-latinization of their language. The literature of the times shows the great dissatisfaction with the Slavonism in the language.
The desire was to make a „pure” Latin-based language. The authors of that period considered that many positive words, that show faith, spiritual and religious words, come from latin, while most of the Slavic words show weakness and infirmities.
In reality, some of the words referring to love and relationships have their roots in Slavic, so not all Slavonisms were harsh words.
In the first half of the 19th century there began an “Enlightenment” in Romania. Books from the west by authors such as Racine, Moliere, and Lamartine were translated into Romanian.
Ion Heliade Radulescu, a Romanian writer and theorist, wrote about the purification of the Romanian literary language, and about “cleaning” the language of all that doesn’t make it progress.
This purification movement began by selecting Italian words and eliminating contributions to the language from German, Russian and Greek.
Romanian continues to change even now. As all languages do, it borrows many words from other languages, especially French. Since the Revolution in 1989, Romania has opened up to a whole world that they could only have imagined before.
They are now (as most European countries are) influenced greatly by American English. Romanians use many English words in their normal conversation, although they have words with the same meaning, in Romanian.
Romanian reflects the turbulent history of its native speakers.
Our history is filled with stories of being conquered by stronger civilizations, but the Romanians are still here today. Their language shows this. From the core of Dacian words to the Latinization and the Slavic influence, the Romanian language tells the story of a nation of survivors.