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Chapter V




Of the linguistic arguments put forward in favour of the development of Rumanian north of the lower Danube, that of the Acore regions@ is the most important. It is evidently false and is now refuted by authoritative Rumanian linguists. As has also been shown above, the same is the case with other arguments based on elements of the Rumanian language. The absence of any Old Germanic influence in Rumanian makes the theory of continuity less probable, to say the least. The South Slavic influence, in the case of Northern Rumanian, strongest during the 11thBearly 13th centuries, cannot have been exerted in the territory of present day Rumania. In contrast to the Balkan peninsula and other former Roman provinces, not a single Roman placename has been preserved north of the lower Danube. The ancient names of the great rivers are continued, but were transferred to Rumanian via Slavic or Hungarian. But if the territory north of the Danube was not included in the early territories of the Vlachs, where did they live during most of the Middle Ages?

In the following, the elements of the Rumanian language will be summarized which, considered in the context of history, testify to the region in which the ancestors of the Rumanians lived.


1. The Late Latin developments, Balkan Latin, and concordances with Italian dialects

As shown above, in chapter II, the Rumanian language contains vestiges of the Late Latin changes, as well as the characteristic features of Balkan Latin (approximately the 4thB7th centuries AD). There are concordances with a number of Italian dialects, which testify to close, everyday contacts with the Latin-speaking population of the Italian peninsula during the early Middle Ages. In this period, the northeastern frontier (limes) of the Empire was the lower Danube. The limes was defended and strongly supervised by the Roman army. Later, in the 5th and 6th centuries, the Byzantine Empire defended the frontiers against recurrent attacks from the barbarian populations. During all this time, no everyday contact was possible across the Danube. Therefore, after the end of the 3rd century, the language of a Latin-speaking population north of the river could not have developed in the same way as did Rumanian. Consequently, in the period of Late Latin, the ancestors of the Rumanians were living in the Roman Empire, i.e., in the Balkan peninsula and in close contact with Italy.

2. The correspondences between Rumanian and Albanian


Also concerning this problem, the opinions of Rumanian historians and linguists are different. Historians speak about Aa few words@ shared by Rumanian and Albanian, (IR 1960, cf. above, p. 185) and affirm that these derive from an Aancient Indo-European, Carpatho-Balkanic word stock@. The opinion of Rosetti (above, p. 186) is more cautious: Athe ancestors of the Albanians were neighbours of our ancestors@.

That it is not the question of only Aa few words@ appears from any treatise on the history of the Rumanian language, not least from that of Rosetti. The question is then: what is the relation of Rumanian and of Albanian to the ancient language from which these correspondences derive? And: Where did the speakers of this language live?

The languages spoken in antiquity in southeastern Europe and particularly in the Balkan peninsula are little known. Before discussing them, it must be stated that the assumption of a ACarpatho-Balkanic word stock@ implies that the same language was spoken from Macedonia through parts of present day Serbia and Bulgaria and farther away towards the north, as far as Transylvania and Moldavia. For a long period of time, the hypothesis that the ancient populations of the Balkan peninsula north of Greece spoke Thracian (in the eastern half) and Illyrian (in the west) was generally accepted ..Asi bien que nous employons souvent le terme ´thraco-illyrien´@ as stated by V. Georgiev. This view was made possible by the paucity of information from these languages, which disappeared more than a thousand years ago. The Greek authors did not give obejctive and exhaustive information about the barbarian peoples. They wrote not only about Thracian and Illyrian as if these woud have been uniform languages, but affirmed, for example, that the Dacians and the Phrygians were Thracian tribes and spoke the Thracian language. Similarly erroneous was the assertion made by Tyrannion de Amisos and Varro that Latin was an Aeolian dialect of Greek.

Modern science has shown that in primitive societies without any higher political organization, large areas do not contain one uniform language. Instead, there is a diversity of idioms, often showing considerable differences even within relatively small areas. As formulated by Georgiev, regarding the situation in the period in question in southeastern Europe:


Il est peu vraisemblable, qu´il ait eu une langue commune dans une région aussi vaste fortement entrecoupé de grandes montagnes et dans une societé primitive alors que les rapports économiques entre les differentes tribus etaient insignifiants et qu´un État commun n´existait pas.


According to this principle, the differentiation of languages spoken in the Balkans in the period in question must have been even greater than it is today. But there is also some concrete, albeit limited evidence for a considerable differentiation. That Thracian and Dacian were different is indicated by the placenames and personal names preserved. The placenames and personal names from Thracia, i.e., from the eastern half of the Balkan peninsula, are completely different from those recorded from Dacia, north of the lower Danube. In Thracia, there are about 50 placenames ending in Bpara (Bendipara, Bessapara, Skaptopara, etc.), about 20 ending in Bbria (Mesembria, Poltymbria, Skelabrie, etc.) and 10 which end in Bdiza or Bdizos (Beodizos, Orudiza, Tarpadizos, etc.). None of these endings is known north of the Danube. There are also certain lexical differences: ´town´ in Thracian: bria, in Dacian: dava. A consonant change (Lautverschiebung) occurred in Thracian but not in Dacian.

The ending Bdava, Bdeva, mostly known from ancient placenames in Dacia, occurs also in the northern part of Moesia Inferior. According to Georgiev, out of a total of 47 (or 45) such names known at present, 9 (or 10) were found in northern Bulgaria and in Dobrogea, and 7 (or 8) in the region of Niš, Kjustendil, and Sofia. On this basis, the term ADaco-Moesian language@ was created, as stated, for instance, by Poghirc: AWe call the language of the population in this territory Daco-Moesian or, for the sake of conciseness, Dacian.@ (ILR 1969, p. 313, note 6). This is, however, an hypothesis based on a questionable basis, which is also mentioned by Poghirc: AWe emphasize the hypothetical character of these phonetical transformations based upon a scanty and uncertain material@ (ILR 1969, p. 317, note 1).

The underlying assumption, that before the Roman period, essentially the same language was spoken from northern Bulgaria to Transylvania, is particularly difficult to accept if one considers that Dacian and Getian were also different:


The affirmation of Strabo that the Dacians talked the same language as the Getae (VII, 3, 10), and that the language of the Getae was the same as that of the Thracians (VII, 3, 13), is of no greater value than the assertion made by Italian travellers in the Rumanian countries [Ú|rile Române] in the 16th century that Rumanian was a dialect of Italian.


The material extant is not sufficient to permit more detailed description of the linguistic situation in question, but it is most probable that the terms Thracian, Illyrian, and also Dacian, and Getian, give us only rough information. There were certainly languages totally unknown by the Greek authors or, in any case, about which no record has been preserved. This is suggested by the fact that not a single Rumanian word assumed to derive from the substratum of the language appears among the lexical elements preserved in Greek and Latin texts (cf. above, p. 55). Because of the scarcity of data, there is no absolute proof; the number of words, including placenames preserved from Thracian and Illyrian is small. But it is very probable that records on the ancient Balkan language, Proto-Albanian, which is the substratum of Rumanian, were either lost or never made, or that this language was simply not known by the Greek and Roman authors, since it was spoken by a population of shepherds living in the mountains in small villages with little interest for the chroniclers.


3. The territory of the ancient Albanians

The Albanians, an ancient population of shepherds of the Balkan peninsula, lived in the region of Mati and adjacent areas, Dukagjin and Merdita, as well as in parts of Dardania and old Serbia before the Roman colonization in the Balkans and to a large extent also after (cf. above, pp. 17B18). Thus, the fact that the substratum of the Rumanian language was Proto-Albanian indicates that the ancestors of the Rumanians essentially lived in the same region, mainly south of Niš (the northernmost area of the Albanians).

The many correspondences between Albanian and Rumanian also regarding the Latin elements (cf. above, pp. 56, 60B63) indicate that the two populations lived together during many centuries of Roman domination. The territory they occupied in these centuries must have been adjacent to the territory where Greek was spoken. Considering the territory of the Albanians and that of the Greeks, the Vlachs must have been living in this period in parts of Macedonia, in the region of present day Prizren and Skopje, and towards the north possibly as far as the region of Niš (Naissus).

4. The significance of the Balkan Linguistic Union


Before their Romanization, the ancestors of the Vlachs spoke the same language as the Proto-Albanians, and the two populations lived together during many centuries of Roman domination in the Balkan peninsula. The most important difference between them was that while the Vlachs were entirely Latinized, the Albanians kept their language, although strongly influenced by Latin. Both populations were for centuries exposed to a strong Greek influence and, after the Slavic migrations to the Balkans in the 6thB7th centuries, the Vlachs lived in very close contact also with the Slavs.

These circumstances resulted in an impact on the language of the Vlachs which is still discernible today, perhaps nine centuries after these close contacts ceased. Among the Balkan languages, two groups may be distinguished (cf. above, p. 86): there is a CORE AREA, with languages that show most of the typical Balkan features (Balkan languages of the first grade) and another, Randzone, (Balkan languages of the second grade). Bulgarian belongs to those of the first grade, and, within this idiom, the Macedonian dialects are most Atypical@. Thus, the core area was Macedonia, adjacent to the territories of speakers of Greek as well as of Albanian, both Balkan languages of the first grade. Dalmatian, once spoken in the northwest of the Balkan peninsula, is not considered to belong to the Balkan Linguistic Union. One would believe that Serbian belongs to the most typical Balkan languages. Its speakers came to the Balkan peninsula in the same era as the ancestors of the Bulgarians, in the 6th century AD, and have been living there since that time, for about one and a half millennium. In spite of these facts, Serbian, spoken north of Macedonia, shows the features of the Randzone, it is a Balkan language of the second grade.

Regarding Rumanian, the situation in the first millennium AD must have been very different from that of today. Considering the present situation, one would not assume many Balkan features in Northern Rumanian. But this would be the case also given the theory that Rumanian was formed Aon a large territory, both north and south of the Danube,@ B one would, in any case, expect fewer Balkanisms in Rumanian than in Serbian. Moreover, there should be regional differences in the number of typical Balkanisms, for example, such as found in Bulgarian, with most of the Balkanisms in the Macedonian dialects and less towards the northeast. The corresponding situation in Northern Rumanian would be that the southern dialects show more or less pronounced Balkanisms, while Rumanian spoken farther to the north and the northeast, particularly north of the Danube, would contain fewer, if any, of such elements.

Such is not the case, however. Instead, in its entire present-day territory from the Timok valley in the south-west to Moldavia in the north-east, Northern Rumanian is uniform regarding its Balkan traits. Moreover, the RUMANIAN LANGUAGE BELONGS TO THE BALKAN LANGUAGES OF THE FIRST GRADE, TO THOSE IN THE CORE AREA, MACEDONIA. IT WAS CONSEQUENTLY FORMED IN (PARTS OF) MACEDONIA AND ADJACENT AREAS, in close contact with the speakers of Albanian, Greek, and Bulgarian. How exact their areas can be traced is a question for future resarch. The ancient Vlachs were a mobile population, and the picture of their territories as shown by the numerous Northen Rumanian placenames and geographical names preserved in the Serbian and Bulgarian toponymy (cf. above, pp. 29B33) in the central and northern parts of the Balkan peninsula is the result of early migrations.



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