In general, when we want to identify the Romanian language in relation to other languages, and especially to those to which it is closest, we start this process by saying that Romanian belongs to the Romance languages. In fact, we have also talked about this here.
The fact that Romanian belongs to this group is a subject that is as interesting as it is important. This is because only a correct overview of the history of a language and its relationship with its relatives can lead to a balanced assessment of the position of that language in the world.
Origin of Romance languages
Romance or Neo-Latin languages are all languages derived from Vulgar Latin. And here is the first very important element that needs clarification. Many articles and texts talk about Romance languages starting with the formula: their ancestor is Latin. Well, yes and no!
Latin was the language of the Roman Empire, but classical Latin – the language in which literate people like Cicero wrote – was not the language of everyday life. It certainly wasn’t the language that soldiers and merchants took with them to the fringes of the Empire, to areas as far from Rome as Dacia (modern Romania).
The Romans spoke and wrote in a less polished language than their literature. The simplified Latin language of the common people is called Vulgar Latin because Vulgar is an adjectival form of Latin for ‘people’. This makes Vulgar Latin the language of the people. This was in fact the language that the soldiers took with them and the language that interacted with the native languages of the conquered peoples, but also with the language of the later invaders of these peoples, especially the Moors and the Germanic invasions, to produce the Romance languages throughout the area that had once been the Roman Empire.
What are today’s Romance languages?
Romance languages are part of the Italic subfamily of Indo-European languages.
According to a mid-century linguistic study (Mario Pei, 1949) comparing the degree of evolution of languages in relation to the language from which they originate, here is the coefficient of evolution for Romance languages in comparison with Latin:
Sardinian language: 8%;
Occitan (Provençal): 25%;
Romanian and Romance languages
In each process of the formation of a people and, at the same time, of the corresponding neo-Latin language, there is a substratum (Celtiberian, Lusitanian, Gallic, Illyrian, Dacian etc.), then the fundamental element, the Romance (Latin) layer, and an adstrate (superstrate – Germanic in the west of the continent, Slavic in the east).
If we look at the other Romance languages of Europe, namely French, Italian, Portuguese and Spanish, we can see that all these languages – like Romanian – have the same layer, the Latin one, but their substratum differs.
Thus, the French language has a Gallic substratum, the Italian language – Italianic, the Portuguese language – Lusitanian, the Spanish language – Celtiberic, and the Romananian language has a Daco-Mosic sub-stratum, which makes it original.
With regard to the superstrate, it can be seen that French, Italian, Portuguese and Spanish have a common Germanic one, while Romanian has a Slavic (southern) one.
From a historical point of view, since the 8th century, the Romanian language can be spoken of as an individualized Romance language, characterized by features that distinguish it from the other languages derived from Latin and which, with the changes inherent in any linguistic evolution, are maintained today.
Among these Romance languages, Romanian stands out both through the Daco-Mosic substratum (one-tenth of the lexicon), through the archaic form of the Latin layer – Romanian has specific Latin vocabulary elements, independent of the other Romance languages – and through the Slavic superstrate.
Most of the Romanian terminology, however, concerning the faith itself, comes from Latin. In fact, the statistical data show a very close approximation in terms of the share of Latin elements in the main word pool of the Old Romanian language (60%) and the core vocabulary of the current Romanian language (58.21%). It was found that the majority of the words forming the basic core of the Romanian language are Latin words (827 words), and most of them were in the basic pool of the Latin language.
Although Romanian is the only Romance idiom isolated from the rest of modern Romance by a completely non-Romanic neighborhood, a comparison of Romanian with the other Romance languages reveals:
– essential identities or similarities, genetically explainable by their common Latin origin;
– differences produced by the different local linguistic backgrounds and the relative lack of homogeneity of Latin in the western and eastern provinces of the former Roman Empire.
Does Romanian belong to the Romance languages?
The fact that the Romanian language belongs to the Romance language family is an obvious and undeniable philological truth: the predominantly Latin grammatical structure and the composition of the vocabulary provide a wide range of arguments. About 500 words, most of them fundamental to modern Latin languages, have pan-Romance, i.e. general Romance, status.
sky – caelum (Latin), cer (Romanian), ciel (French), cielo (Italian), cielo (Spanish), cẻu (Portuguese)
to have – habere (Latin), avea (Romanian), avoir (French), avere (Italian), haber (Spanish), haver (Portuguese).
milk – lactem (Latin), lapte (Romanian), lait (French), latte (Italian), leche (Spanish), leite (Portuguese)
These are just a few examples of the common pool of words of the Romance languages, words that come from the same Latin term, but which have evolved within each language according to their respective internal laws.
The Romanian language belongs to the Romance language family. It has both common features and individual aspects that distinguish it in this landscape. In fact, because of its territorial isolation and geographical separation from the other Romance languages of the West, Romanian is quite rightly the only modern representative of the old Eastern Latinity.