History of Romanian orthography

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suma

Senior Member
USA
English, USA
Why do Romanian vowels have all those accent marks, then there are the diacrtic marks on some consonants as well?
It really makes Romanian look more like a Slavic language.
 
  • Orpington

    Senior Member
    UK- English
    So people know how to pronounce the words. Spanish and French are Romance languages and have diacritics on vowels and consonants too.
    Romanian might have more due to Slavic influence perhaps.
     

    OldAvatar

    Senior Member
    Romanian
    Why do Romanian vowels have all those accent marks, then there are the diacrtic marks on some consonants as well?
    It really makes Romanian look more like a Slavic language.
    Technically speaking, those are not accents, nor diacritic marks. They are distinct letters/characters of Romanian alphabet and they definitely don't make the language looking like a Slavic one, since you can't find any of those characters, depicted in that way, in any Slavic language.
     
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    donjoe

    Member
    Romanian
    Technically speaking, those are not accents, nor diacritic marks.
    What do you mean "nor diacritic marks"? Everyone knows those are the Romanian diacritics. How do they fall outside the definition of "diacritic", in your view?

    you can't find any of those characters, depicted in that way, in any Slavic language.
    Yes you can. :) The short sign or breve that we put on the "ă" is used in Russian on that Cyrillic "reversed-N" that they pronounce , to give it a slightly different pronunciation (like in the word "Руский" - Ruskii, i.e. Russian). Not that it's enough to say Romanian looks Slavic because of it. (OTOH, the same thing can be more easily demonstrated by the presence of a large number of Slavic word stems in our language, testifying to the strong influence Russian has had on it.)
     

    OldAvatar

    Senior Member
    Romanian
    What do you mean "nor diacritic marks"? Everyone knows those are the Romanian diacritics. How do they fall outside the definition of "diacritic", in your view?


    Yes you can. :) The short sign or breve that we put on the "ă" is used in Russian on that Cyrillic "reversed-N" that they pronounce , to give it a slightly different pronunciation (like in the word "Руский" - Ruskii, i.e. Russian).




    1. They are known as diacritics but they are not. Technically, a diacritic changes the phonetic value of a letter. The special Romanian characters are distinct letters and not phonetical variations of other sounds. Of course, you can say that they have diacritic marks, but diacritics are not part of an alphabet, while Romanian special characters are.
    2. The sounds do exist in Slavic languages but the graphic representation is entirely different. So, seeing a Romanian text does not bring it closer to a Slavic language.
     
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    Caktus

    Member
    Romania - Romanian
    (OTOH, the same thing can be more easily demonstrated by the presence of a large number of Slavic word stems in our language, testifying to the strong influence Russian has had on it.)
    This is a very interesting statement. I knew that romanian was strongly influenced by the south slavic languages, not by Russian.
     

    donjoe

    Member
    Romanian
    Technically, a diacritic changes the phonetic value of a letter. The special Romanian characters are distinct letters and not phonetical variations of other sounds.
    Yes they are. "Ă" is a "closed" pronunciation of "a" and the two have specific alternations between different forms of the same word. "Ş", again, is a modified pronunciation of "s" (a "thickened" hiss, whereas "s" is a "thinner" one). You can't honestly say they're not at least related to (if not derived from) eachother.

    This is a very interesting statement.
    And probably a wrong one. I didn't think about it much. In my mind, "Russian" tends to mean almost the same thing as "Slavic". :)

    I knew that romanian was strongly influenced by the south slavic languages
    I don't see why it would've been just the South ones, given that we have Slavic neighbours on all sides except the West.
     

    Ady650

    New Member
    Romanian
    Why do Romanian vowels have all those accent marks, then there are the diacrtic marks on some consonants as well?
    It really makes Romanian look more like a Slavic language.
    Hi!
    I don't think e.g. that the word "argüição" (= "questioning") makes Portuguese look like a Slavic language. ;-)
     

    OldAvatar

    Senior Member
    Romanian
    Yes they are. "Ă" is a "closed" pronunciation of "a" and the two have specific alternations between different forms of the same word. "Ş", again, is a modified pronunciation of "s" (a "thickened" hiss, whereas "s" is a "thinner" one). You can't honestly say they're not at least related to (if not derived from) eachother.
    I'm sorry to disappoint you again. Romanian alphabet contains 31 letters while the French one, for example, a template of diacritics, contains 26 letters, exactly the same number as the English one which has none diacritic marks; the exceptions of the French alphabet are the diacritics added to some of the containing letters. That is a technical difference.
     

    robbie_SWE

    Senior Member
    Trilingual: Swedish, Romanian & English
    And I'm interested to know your sources Donjoe!

    Russian has barely influenced Romanian on any linguistic level except enriching the vocabulary with some words like băbucşă, borş and votcă (they exist in most languages too). Rough estimates show that not even 1 % of the Romanian vocabulary has Russian origin (in comparison, Italian words amount to appr. 4 % of the Romanian vocabulary). The orthographic and/or grammatical influence I have yet to see!

    Most of the little Slavic influence (mostly due to Old Slavic and Bulgarian) occurred before Russian was even called a "language".

    :) robbie
     
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    donjoe

    Member
    Romanian
    Romanian alphabet contains 31 letters while the French one, for example, a template of diacritics, contains 26 letters, exactly the same number as the English one
    That's beside the point. Look again and notice that the (technical) definition of "diacritic" says nothing about whether the resulting sign should be "a letter of the alphabet" or not. It just requires that its pronunciation be different from that of the unmodified base letter (and maybe "based on it" or "similar to it", although it's far from obvious that even this is required). If you want to be strict, be strict to the end.

    robbie_SWE said:
    And I'm interested to know your sources Donjoe!

    Russian has barely influenced Romanian on any linguistic level
    Hey, far be it from me to deny you the pleasure of beating a dead horse (after all, I'd already admitted my mistake when you posted). ;)
     

    OldAvatar

    Senior Member
    Romanian
    DEX:
    DIACRÍTI//C ~cã (~ci, ~ce) (despre semne grafice) Care, fiind pus deasupra sau dedesubtul unei litere, imprimã o valoare distinctã; cu proprietatea de a imprima o valoare specialã

    Cu asta închei! Mi-am spus punctul de vedere! Nu vreau neapărat să conving pe cineva că am dreptate!
    Semnele caracterelor speciale din limba română nu sunt puse dedesubtul sau deasupra literelor respective, ci sunt pur şi simplu parte integrantă, propriu-zisă a literei.
     

    donjoe

    Member
    Romanian
    DEX:
    DIACRÍTI//C ~cã (~ci, ~ce) (despre semne grafice) Care, fiind pus deasupra sau dedesubtul unei litere, imprimã o valoare distinctã; cu proprietatea de a imprima o valoare specialã
    [...]
    Semnele caracterelor speciale din limba română nu sunt puse dedesubtul sau deasupra literelor respective, ci sunt pur şi simplu parte integrantă, propriu-zisă a literei.
    That's obviously wrong.
    The "short sign" is a well-known diacritic that other languages place above certain letters and which in Romanian is placed above the letter "a". (I'm quite sure we don't have a problem with the geometry of it.)
    Even better-known is the circumflex accent "^", which we happen to place over "a" and "i" (although in the past we used to put it on "e", "u" and "o" as well, which again clarifies that it's the same sign that everyone knows as a diacritic, quite separate from the letters it sometimes accompanies).
    Again the same is obvious of the comma (not cedilla) under "t" and "s" - it's a graphical sign added to the underside of the aforementioned letters.

    Now, does "ă" have a distinct value from "a"? Sure! How about "â" from "a" and "î" from "i"? Absolutely! Same with "ş" and "s", "ţ" and "t".

    So, given the quoted definition and everything clarified above, it should be plain and obvious at this point that the "short sign" (breve), the circumflex accent and the comma are diacritical marks. (Which doesn't change the fact that the resulting graphemes are also considered letters of the alphabet.)

    Cu asta închei! Mi-am spus punctul de vedere! Nu vreau neapărat să conving pe cineva că am dreptate!
    You wanted to make a subtle technical point. I expressed my disagreement because I saw strong reasons to consider it wrong. No yelling is necessary.
     

    robbie_SWE

    Senior Member
    Trilingual: Swedish, Romanian & English
    I have to agree with OldAvatar in this matter.

    The additional Romanian letters ă, â, î, ş and ţ are distinct letters, not diacritics (N.B. I perceive the letter â as being the only diacritic in Romanian, this because it never begins or finishes a word).

    I base my assumptions on my second mother language Swedish. In Swedish we have å, ä and ö. These letters may seem to be diacritics but they aren't! These letters are integrated in the Swedish alphabet, just like the letters above are integrated in the Romanian alphabet.

    :) robbie
     

    OldAvatar

    Senior Member
    Romanian
    Since the thread has been moved from the Romanian section of the forum, I guess it's my duty to translate my previous post:

    From DEX:
    DIACRÍTI//C ~cã (~ci, ~ce) (about graphical marks) Which, being placed above or undernief a character, determines a distinct value; with the property of giving a special value

    And that's about it! I've already said what I have had to say! I don't necessarily like the idea of convincing someone that I'm right!
    The special Romanian characters are not formed by adding accents or commas above or undernief of a character; those signs are simply parts of respective characters graphical representation.

    PS: I know that they are widely known as diacritics and it is not my intention to change the general perspective by any means, and it is not of a much importance neither. But I still maintain the position that diacritical marks are not part of an alphabet, but variations of other characters, which is not the case for Romanian.
     

    Outsider

    Senior Member
    Portuguese (Portugal)
    Why do Romanian vowels have all those accent marks, then there are the diacrtic marks on some consonants as well?
    It really makes Romanian look more like a Slavic language.
    More like a Slavic language than what? English?

    Diacritics (or whatever you wish to call them) are common across the Romance languages: á à â ç...
     

    suma

    Senior Member
    USA
    English, USA
    To be clearer, what I meant is that the combination of the many diacritics (or additional letters to the typical Western alphabet) that along with Romanian's structure and Slavic influenced vocab, I thought gives it an appearance resembling a Slavic language.

    While Portuguese also has a fair share of accent marks and diacritics, but Portuguese vocab and structure is almost identical to Spanish with no Slavic borrowings, so Portuguese retains the typical Romance look and feel.
     

    OldAvatar

    Senior Member
    Romanian
    If that's a criterium, then see the above Romanian text, for example.
    First 13 words out of 15 (if my counting is ok) are ending in a vowel. Well, there is not „o” ending but I'm not sure that would be a Romance characteristic. At least not a Latin one... Also, all the words from that text are of Latin origin. And I didn't write the text in that way on purpose.
     
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    MarX

    Banned
    Indonesian, Indonesia
    Why do Romanian vowels have all those accent marks, then there are the diacrtic marks on some consonants as well?
    It really makes Romanian look more like a Slavic language.
    I also wondered, if the sounds /ke/ and /ki/ are represented by che and chi instead of simply ke and ki, why are ş and ţ not just written as sh and ts?
    Neither do I understand why the same sound is supposed to be represented by two different letters â and î. The distinction supposed to make the words etymologycally closer to the original, but it doesn't always work.
     

    Outsider

    Senior Member
    Portuguese (Portugal)
    I also wondered, if the sounds /ke/ and /ki/ are represented by che and chi instead of simply ke and ki, why are ş and ţ not just written as sh and ts?
    "Sh" and "ts" are English symbols. What cultural or linguistic connection is there between Romanian and English?

    The convention of writing /k/ as "ch" before "e" and "i" is Italian, as you know.

    Neither do I understand why the same sound is supposed to be represented by two different letters â and î. The distinction supposed to make the words etymologycally closer to the original, but it doesn't always work.
    Originally, it was a matter of etymology, but other social and political factors led to changes which have muddied the waters. At the end of the day, any orthography is a compromise between various factors.
     

    MarX

    Banned
    Indonesian, Indonesia
    "Sh" and "ts" are English symbols. What cultural or linguistic connection is there between Romanian and English?
    I just thought it would make things easier, especially typing Romanian.

    Now if I try to read Romanian texts, especially in the web, I sometimes have to guess if it's a ş or a ţ, simply because the comma underneath is often omitted.

    The Romanians didn't have any problems writing z instead of d with a comma in words like a zi, ziua, Dumnezeu, etc.
     

    OldAvatar

    Senior Member
    Romanian
    To be quite honest, I don't really like the Romanian special characters. We used to have serious problems, especially when we have had to deal with DTP, for example, or other jobs involving computers, like websites making etc. Things are getting better now, since technology is evolving, but still there are just a few fonts available, in comparison with all the fonts used in the world. Kids started to create their own rules having the purpose of avoiding diacritics, especially on chat rooms or other instant messages, see some other users even on this forum, for example :D.
    Anyway, that's the way the language is and changing it officially into other forms of writing will create a bigger mess and therefore, a bigger headache. :)
     

    donjoe

    Member
    Romanian
    The additional Romanian letters ă, â, î, ş and ţ are distinct letters, not diacritics
    Nor did I ever say they were. But the breve, the circumflex accent and the comma are definitely diacritics. ;) No solid argument has been made so far that these three marks fall outside the definition of "diacritic".
     

    Tudor18

    New Member
    Romanian
    Nor did I ever say they were. But the breve, the circumflex accent and the comma are definitely diacritics. ;) No solid argument has been made so far that these three marks fall outside the definition of "diacritic".
    They are diacritics:

    • Romanian uses a breve on the letter a (ă) to indicate the sound schwa /ə/, as well as a circumflex over the letters a (â) and i (î) for the sound /ɨ/. Romanian also writes a comma below the letters s (ș) and t (ț) to represent the sounds /ʃ/ and /t͡s/, respectively. These characters are collated after their non-diacritic equivalent.
    Source: Diacritic - Wikipedia
    • In Romanian, A with breve represents /ə/, as in măr (apple).
    Source: Breve - Wikipedia

    The main use of diacritical marks in the Latin script is to change the sound-values of the letters to which they are added.
    diakritikós, "distinguishing"

    WHATEVER YOU PUT ON AN LETTER IS A DIACRITIC
     

    danielstan

    Senior Member
    Romanian - Romania
    Why do Romanian vowels have all those accent marks, then there are the diacritic marks on some consonants as well?
    It really makes Romanian look more like a Slavic language.
    Well, I will try to answer the initial question of this thread...

    Romanian was (mostly) written in Cyrillic alphabet until 1848, then it used a 'transitional alphabet' (gradually replacing Cyrillic letters by Latin ones) and finally in 1860 Latin alphabet has been established by law as the official alphabet of Romania.
    At that time the vast majority of Romanians was illiterate (80% of the population was peasantry) and the intellectuals who invented some diacritics were (most of them) under French influence, speaking French in their houses and in society. No surprise that the signs chosen as diacritics are also used in French orthography: (cedille, circumflex accent)...
    The 'algorithm' to chose a Latin letter as candidate for supporting a diacritic sign was etymological:
    - that particular Romanian sound has evolved from another Latin sound in the vast majority of cases.
    1. ă (schwa /ə/ )
    Phonetic rules:
    A phonetic rule specific to Romanian has transformed the Latin sound 'a' in schwa in unstressed syllable.
    Examples:
    Rom. băr-'bat (2nd syllable is stressed) < Lat. barbatus ("bearded man")
    Rom. că-'ma-şă < Lat. camisia
    The vast majority of schwa sounds are inherited from a Latin 'a' sound.
    There are exceptions, too, and the generation of intellectuals of that time invented diacritics for schwa sound inherited from Latin 'e'
    Rom. adevăr < Lat. ad-de-vero (in 1880's orthography: adevĕr - see Adevărul - Wikipedia)

    2. î
    Phonetic rules:
    The /ɨ/ sound in Romanian comes from a Latin 'i' in most cases where is the first sound in a word:
    Rom. început < Lat. incipio
    Rom. împărat < Lat. imperator

    So, Romanian grammarians chose 'i' as a support letter for a diacritic sign in these cases.

    Another factor to be consider is that in Romanian with Cyrillic alphabet the initial /ɨ/ sound was noted with a special letter invented by Romanian grammarians (as this sound do not exists in South Slavic languages):
    ↑ (see: Alfabetul chirilic român - Wikipedia - the special sign for the group 'în' )

    Note: this sound is similar in pronunciation as Russian 'Ы'

    So, Romanian 'ă' is a sound more closed than 'a' - while 'î' is more closed than 'ă' (no other Romance language has this 'î', as far as I know).

    3. â (same pronunciation as î, different spelling)
    Phonetic rules:
    The /ɨ/ sound in Romanian comes from a Latin 'a' in most cases where is in the middle of a word:
    Rom. sânge < Lat. sanguis
    Rom. mâna < Lat. manum

    Romanian orthography has often changed in these 2 diacritics 'î' and 'â' over the last 150 years.
    There was a time where the rule was:
    - spell 'î' for /ɨ/ sound in Romanian words not inherited from Latin (most cases: Slavic loanwords)
    - spell 'â' for /ɨ/ sound in Romanian words inherited from Latin

    Such a rule was mastered quite well by highly educated Romanians, but proved to be a disaster when applied to common people.

    After some decades they invented another (more simple rule):
    - spell 'î' for /ɨ/ sound as first letter in a word
    - spell 'â' for /ɨ/ sound in the middle of the word

    And another set of rule during communist regime (1950 - 1965):
    - spell 'î' for /ɨ/ sound everywhere
    With some exceptions later (1965 - 1993):
    - spell 'â' for /ɨ/ sound in words derived from român - România

    and another rule after 1993 (applicable today):
    - spell 'î' for /ɨ/ sound as first or the last letter in a word
    - spell 'â' for /ɨ/ sound in the middle of the word

    4. ş
    Phonetic rules:
    Romanian nouns or adjectives ending in 's' make their plural in 'şi'.
    Examples:
    gras - graşi
    frumos - frumoşi

    Also Romanian words with initial 'ş' come from Latin words with initial 's'
    Rom. şarpe < Lat. serpens
    Rom. şapte < Let. septem

    Grammarians chosen the 's' letter as support for diacritics for this sound.

    French orthographic influence is obvious here:
    Compare to French ç

    Compare to French 'ch' which comes from a Latin 'c' if is the first sound in a word:
    Fr. champ < Lat. campus
    Fr. chanter < Lat. cantare


    5. ţ
    Phonetic rules:
    Romanian nouns or adjectives ending in 't' usually make their plural in 'ţi'.
    Examples:
    bărbat - bărbaţi
    împărat - împăraţi

    Also Romanian words with initial 'ţ' come from Latin words with initial 't'
    Rom. ţeastă < Lat. testa
    Rom. ţară < Lat. terra

    Grammarians chosen the 't' letter as support for diacritics for this sound.
     
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