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The Romanian language

The Romanian language

Romanian is a Romance language spoken by around 24 to 28 million people, primarily in Romania. It has official status in Romania, Republic of Moldova, and the Autonomous Province of Vojvodina in Serbia.

Romanian belongs to the Italic branch of the Indo-European language family, having much in common with languages such as French, Italian, Portuguese and Spanish.

However, the languages closest to Romanian are the other Eastern Romance languages, spoken South of Danube: Aromanian/Macedo-Romanian, Megleno-Romanian and Istro-Romanian, which are sometimes classified as dialects of Romanian. An alternative name for Romanian used by linguists to disambiguate with the other Eastern Romance languages is "Daco-Romanian", referring to the area where it is spoken (which corresponds roughly to the onetime Roman province of Dacia). The origin of the term "Daco-Romanian" can be traced back to the first printed book of Romanian grammar in 1780, by Samuil Micu and Gheorghe Şincai.

Compared with the other Romance languages, the closest relative of Romanian is Italian; the two languages show a limited degree of asymmetrical mutual intelligibility, especially in their cultivated forms: speakers of Romanian seem to understand Italian more easily than the other way around, so learning Romanian, you can easily speak and understand Italian. Even though Romanian has obvious grammatical and lexical similarities with French, Catalan, Spanish or Portuguese, it is not mutually intelligible with them to a practical extent; Romanian speakers will usually need some formal study of basic grammar and vocabulary before being able to understand even the simplest sentences in those languages (and vice-versa).

While most of Romanian grammar and morphology are based on Latin, there are some features that are shared only with other languages of the Balkans and not found in other Romance languages. The languages of the Balkan linguistic union belong to individual branches of the Indo-European language family: Bulgarian and Albanian, and in some cases Greek and Serbian.

Since the 19th century, many modern words were borrowed from the other Romance languages, especially from French and Italian. It was estimated that about 38% of the number of words in Romanian are of French and/or Italian origin (in many cases both languages). and adding this to the words that were inherited from Latin, about 75%-85% of Romanian words can be traced to Latin. As second or third languages, French and Italian themselves are better known in Romania than in Romania's neighbouring countries.

The Romanian alphabet uses the Latin alphabet and consists of 31 letters:
A, a (a); Ă, ă (ă); â (â din a); B, b (be), C, c (ce); D, d (de), E, e (e); F, f (fe / ef); G, g (ghe / ge); H, h (ha / haş); I, i (i); Î, î (î din i); J, j (je), K, k (ka / kapa), L, l (le / el); M, m (me / em); N, n (ne / en); O, o (o); P, p (pe); Q (chiu); R, r, (re / er); S, s (se / es); Ş, ş (şe); T, t (te); Ţ, ţ (ţe); U, u (u); V, v (ve); W (dublu ve); X, x (ics); Y (i grec); Z, z (ze / zet).

Romanian spelling is mostly phonetic. Some of the letters have several possible readings. Letters K, Q, W, and Y appear only in foreign borrowings; the pronunciation of W and Y depends on the origin of the word they appear in.

The table below gives the correspondence between letters and sounds.


Letter Phoneme Romanian word Approximate pronunciation Meaning
A a /a/ tata a in "father" father
Ă ă (a with breve) /ə/ fată a in "above" Girl, daughter
 â (a with circumflex) /ɨ/ prânz like e in roses in some English (for example: Birmingham) dialects. Noon
B b /b/ băiat b in "ball" Boy, son
C c /k/ carne c in "cat" Meat
C c /tʃ/ ceas ch in "children" — if c appears before letters e or i watch
D d /d/ duminică d in "door" Sunday
E e /e/ elev e in "merry" student
E e /je/ este ye in "yes" — in a few old words with initial e is
F f /f/ familie f in "flag" family
G g /ɡ/ gară g in "goat" railway station
G g /dʒ/ geamantan g in "general" or "giraffe" — if g appears before letters e or i suitcase
H h /h/ hartă h in "house" map
I i
/i/ intrare i in "machine" entrance
  /ʲ/ luni (palatalization) Monday
Î î (i with circumflex)
identical with â, see above
J j
s in "treasure"
K k
k in "like"
L l
l in "lamp"
M m
m in "mouth"
N n
n in "north"
O o
o in "floor"
P p
p in "post"

post office 

Q q
k in "kettle"
R r
r in “street”
S s
s in "song"
Ș ș (s with comma)
s in "sugar"
T t
t in "tip"
Ț ț (t with comma)
zz in "pizza" 
U u
u in "group"
V v
v in "vision"
W w
v in "vision"
X x
x in "six"
x in "example"
Y y
y in "yes"
Z z
z in "zipper"

Romanian does not use accents in the sense of diacritics as being signs added to letters to alter their pronunciation or to make distinction between words. There are, however, five special letters in the Romanian alphabet (associated with four different sounds), formed by modifying other Latin letters.
- Ă ă — a with breve - for the sound /ə/
- Â â — a with circumflex - for the sound /ɨ/
- Î î — i with circumflex - for the sound /ɨ/
- Ș ș — s with comma - for the sound /ʃ/
- Ț ț — t with comma - for the sound /t͡s/

The letter â is used exclusively in the middle of words; its majuscule version appears only in all-capitals inscriptions.
Writing letters ș and ț with a cedilla instead of a comma is considered incorrect by the Romanian Academy.