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Romanian language

Romanian or Rumanian (Română) is an Eastern Romance language, spoken mainly in Romania, Moldova (where it is the official language) and neighbouring countries (Yugoslavia, Bulgaria, Ukraine and Greece) but there are many emigrants of Romanian origin especially in Canada, Germany, Israel, United States and Australia.

Romanian has four dialects - Daco-romanian - generally referred as Romanian, Istro-Romanian, Megleno-Romanian, and Macedoromanian. It is thought that the Romanian language appeared north and south of the Danube. All the four dialects are offsprings of the Romance languge spoken both in the North and South Danube, before the settlement of the Slavonian tribes south of the river - Daco-Romanian in North, and the other three dialects in the South.

Linguistic Origins

Most words in Romanian vocabulary (about 65%) are of Latin origin, but it also contains many words borrowed from its Slavonic and Turkish neighbours (about 20%) and more recently French, German and English words entered the spoken language.

There is a great deal of Slavonic influence, both on the phonetic level and on the lexical level - for example, Romanian da ('yes') is a Slavonic word, and Romanian is the only Romance language with /h/. (Although in some types of Castilian, <j> is pronounced as [h], but the original, Castilian phoneme is /x/.)

Written Romanian

Since 1860, Romanian has been written using the Roman alphabet, completed with additional letters (diacriticals). By 1953, the number of diacriticals has been narrowed down to five. Long and short vowels are not distinguished in writing.

The Romanian alphabet is phonetic, with one exception.

Here are the letters of the Romanian alphabet, and their pronounciation. Where not otherwise noted, the pronounciation is the same as in English.

A a /a/ Like in 'Mars'
Ă ă a with breve slightly closed /a/ Like the final sound of the English word 'fire'
a with circumflex ? Identical to '' (3)
B b /b/
C c /c/ Like in 'cat', except groups 'ce', 'ci', 'che', 'chi'
D d /d/
E e /e/ Like in 'merry'
F f /f/
G g /g/ Like in 'goat', except groups 'ge', 'gi', 'ghe', 'ghi'
H h /h/ Like in 'house'
I i /i/ Like 'i'
i with circumflex ? ? (3)
J j /Z/ Like French 'j': 'jour'
K k /k/
L l /l/ Like in 'lamp'
M m /m/
N n /n/
O o /o/ Like in 'door'
P p /p/
Q q /q/ (1)
R r /r/ Trilled - like Italian, Spanish 'r'
S s /s/
Ș ș s with comma below /S/ Like in 'sheep' (2)
T t /t/
Ț ț t with comma below /ts/ Like in 'nuts' (2)
U u /u/ Like in 'group'
V v /v/
W w /w/ (1)
X x /x/
Y y /y/ (1)
Z z /z/

(1) - Not part of the core Romanian alphabet; used mainly to write imported words, such as: quasar, watt, etc.

(2) - There is a lot of confusion about how to write the Romanian characters that denote the sounds /S/ and /ts/. Although the correct ones are "s with comma below" and, respectively, "t with comma below", a lot of texts printed after 1860 incorrectly use "s with cedilla" and "t with cedilla".
This error has been perpetuated in all character encoding standards for Central and Eastern Europe (including ISO-8859-2), which include "s" and "t" with cedillas. To make matters more complicated, most computer fonts have "s-cedilla" with a cedilla (like the Turkish equivalent) and "t-cedilla" with a comma below.
ISO-8859-16 remedies this, including "s" and "t" with comma below on the same places "s" and "t" with cedilla were in ISO-8859-2.
Unfortunately, "s" and "t" with comma below are not well supported in modern computer operating systems and fonts. This is why most electronic content in Romanian is still encoded using "s" and "t" with cedilla.

Phoneme WrongCorrect
CharacterUnicode position (hex)CharacterUnicode position (hex)HTML entity
/S/ Ş 015E Ș 0218 &#x218;
ş 015F ș 0219 &#x219;
/ts/ Ţ 0162 Ţ 021A &#x21A;
ţ 0163 ț 021B &#x21B;

(3) - The sound denoted by '' is written '' when it occurs in the middle of words. This is the sole exception from the phonetic principle of the Romanian alphabet.

Other phonemes are:

/dz/ dz

/tS/ c- before palatal vowels, ce- before velar vowels

/dZ/ g- before palatal vowels, ge- before velar vowels

/k_j/ (palatal /k/)


/w/ u

/j/ i

Petrovici also includes palatal /p, b, m, f, v, t, d, n, s, z, ts, S, Z, l, r/ counterparts as well as rounded /p, b, m, f, v, t, d, n, s, z, ts, S, Z, l, r, k, g, h/ phonemes as well as palatal and rounded /p, b, m, v, t, l, r, k, dZ, tS, j/.

Common words and phrases in Romanian

The Romanian alphabet is phonetical, so the words are read just nearly as in Italian/Latin (excepting the diacrical).

  • Romanian (person): "Român"
  • hello: "Salut"
  • good-bye: "La revedere"
  • bye: "Pa"
  • please: "Vă rog"
  • sorry: "mi pare rău"
  • thank you: "Mulţumesc"
  • yes: "Da"
  • no: "Nu"
  • I don't understand: "Nu înţeleg"
  • Where's the bathroom?: "Unde e toaleta ?"
  • Do you speak English?: "Vorbiţi englezeşte?"

See also:

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