Definitions

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Aromanian language

Aromanian (limba armãneascã, armãneshce or armãneashti), also known as Macedo-Romanian, Arumanian or Vlach in most other countries, is an Eastern Romance language spoken in Southeastern Europe, centered in the historical region of Macedonia. Its speakers are called Aromanians or Vlachs (which is an exonym in widespread use to define the communities in the Balkans).

It shares many features with modern Romanian, having similar morphology and syntax, as well as a large common vocabulary inherited from Latin. The most important dissimilarity between Romanian and Aromanian is the adstratum vocabulary: While Romanian has been influenced to a greater extent by the neighbouring Hungarian and Slavic languages, Aromanian has borrowed much vocabulary from the Greek language with which it has been in close contact throughout its history.

Geographic distribution

The Aromanian language and people are officially recognised as a minority in the Republic of Macedonia, but large Aromanian communities are also found in Albania, Greece, Bulgaria, Serbia as well as in Romania, where some Aromanians having migrated from the Balkans after the destruction of the Aromanian centers of Moscopole, Nicolita, Linotopi and Gramostea (Grammos region-Western Macedonia) in the northern Pindus Mountains.

Official status

The Aromanian language has a degree of official status in the Republic of Macedonia where Aromanian is taught as an optional subject in some primary schools (in Skopje, Kruševo and Bitola) and Aromanian speakers have the right to use the language in court proceedings. Since 2006 the Aromanian language became the second official language (after standard Macedonian) in the city of Kruševo (Crushuva).

History

The language is similar to Romanian and its greatest difference lies in the vocabulary. There are far fewer Slavic words in Aromanian than in Romanian, and many more Greek words, a reflection of the close contact of Aromanian with Greek through much of its history.

It is generally considered that sometime between 800 and 1,200 years ago, the Vulgar Latin spoken in the Balkan provinces of the Roman Empire split into four languages: Daco-Romanian (today's Romanian language), Aromanian, Megleno-Romanian and Istro-Romanian. One possibility for the origin of Aromanian is that in the same way standard Romanian is believed to be descended from the Latin spoken by the Dacians and Roman settlers in what is now Romania, Aromanian descended from the Vulgar Latin spoken by Macedonians who had adopted the Latin language. Some linguists consider the term Proto-Romanian not valid.

Greek influences are much stronger in Aromanian than in other East Romance languages, especially because Aromanian used Greek words to coin new words (neologisms), while Romanian based most of its neologisms on Italian and French.

Also, with the coming of the Turks in the Balkans, Aromanian received some Turkish words as well. Still the lexical composition remains mainly Romance.

Dialects

The Aromanian language has several distinct dialects. There are dialects named after places that were home to significant populations of Aromanians (Vlachs); nowadays located in Albania and Greece: the Moscopole dialect (from the Metropolis of Moscopole, also known as the "Aromanian Jerusalem") and the Gramustean dialect (from the Gramostea/Grammos region of Western Macedonia). There are also the Farsherotii dialects. Many linguists think that the language spoken by the Farsherots differs significantly from the other Vlachs and therefore it should be considered as a separate dialect. Also distinguished as distinct are dialects in the region of Bitola; Malovista, Gopesh, Beala di Supra near Struga, Krusevo, and the dialects east of the Vardar River in Macedonia.

An aromanian dictionary currently under development can be found here (it still needs lots of work before it becomes actually usable).

Phonology

Aromanian differs little from standard Romanian in its phonology, although it does have spirants /ð/ and /γ/ which do not exist in Romanian, probably due to influence from Greek, which has those sounds. It is written with the Latin alphabet, with an orthography which resembles both that of Albanian (in the use of digraphs such as dh, sh, and th) and Romanian (in its use of c and g, which it also shares with Italian), along with the letter ã, used for the sounds represented in Romanian by ǎ and â/î.

Grammar

The grammar and morphology are very similar to those of Romance languages:

Aromania language has some exceptions from the Romance languages some of them are shared in Romanian: the definite article is a clitic particle appended at the end of the word, both the definite and indefinite articles can be inflected, and nouns are classified in three genders, with neuter in addition to masculine and feminine.

Verbs

Aromanian grammar does have some features that distinguish it from Romanian, an important one being the complete disappearance of verb infinitives which clearly puts it in the lower part of the Balkans. As such, the tenses and moods that in Romanian use the infinitive (like the future simple tense and the conditional mood) are formed in other ways in Aromanian. For the same reason, verb entries in dictionaries are given in their indicative mood, present tense, first person, singular form.

Aromanian verbs are classified in four conjugations. The table below gives some examples, indicating also the conjugation of the corresponding verbs in Romanian.

Conjugation Aromanian
(ind. pres. 1st sg.)
Romanian
(ind. pres. 1st sg.)
Romanian
(infinitive)
English
I cãntu
dau
lucredzu
cânt
dau
lucrez
a cânta I
a da I
a lucra I
sing
give
work
II ved
şedu
armãn
văd
şed
rămân
a vedea II
a şedea II
a rămâne III (or a rămânea II)
see
sit
stay
III duc
cunoscu
ardu
duc
cunosc
ard
a duce III
a cunoaşte III
a arde III
carry, lead
know
burn
IV mor
fug
îndulţescu
mor
fug
îndulcesc
a muri IV
a fugi IV
a îndulci IV
die
run
sweeten

Future tense

The future tense is formed in the same way as in archaic Romanian, using an auxiliary invariable particle "va" (derived from the verb "to will") and the subjunctive mood.

Aromanian Romanian
(archaic)
English
va s-cãntu va să cânt I will sing
va s-cãntsã va să cânţi you (sg.) will sing
va s-cãntã va să cânte he/she will sing
va s-cãntãm va să cântăm we will sing
va s-cãntats va să cântaţi you (pl.) will sing
va s-cãntã va să cânte they will sing

Pluperfect tense

Whereas in Romanian the pluperfect tense (past perfect) is formed synthetically (as for instance in Portuguese), Aromanian uses a periphrastic construction with the auxiliary verb am (have) as the imperfect tense (aveam) and the past participle, as in French, except that French replaces avoir (have) with être (be) for some verbs. Aromanian shares this feature with Megleno-Romanian as well as other languages in the Balkan linguistic union.

Only the auxiliary verb inflects according to number and person: aveam, aveai, avea, aveamu, aveatã, avea, whereas the past participle doesn't change.

Aromanian Megleno-Romanian Romanian English
avea mãcatã vea mancat mâncase (he/she) had eaten
avea durnjitã vea durmit dormise (he/she) had slept

Gerund

The gerund which exists in Aromanian is only applied to some verbs, not all. These verbs are:

  • 1st conjugation: acatsã (acãtsãnda(lui)), portu, lucreashce, adiljeashce.
  • 2nd conjugation: armãnã, cade, poate, tatse, veade.
  • 3rd conjugation: arupã, dipune, dutse, dzãse, featse, tradze, scrie.
  • 4th conjugation: apire, doarme, hivrie, aure, pate, avde.

Situation in Greece

Even before the incorporation of various Aromanian-speaking territories into the Greek state (1832, 1912), the language was subordinated to Greek, traditionally the Aromanians' language of education and religion. The historical studies cited below (mostly Capidan) show that especially after the fall of Moscopole (1788) the process of Hellenisation via education and religion gained a strong impetus mostly among people doing business in the cities.

The Romanian state began opening schools for the Romanian influenced Vlachs in the 1860s, but this initiative was regarded with suspicion by the Greeks , who thought Romania was trying to assimilate them. 19th century travellers in the Balkans such as W M Leake and Henry Fanshawe Tozer noted that Vlachs in the Pindus and Macedonia were bi-lingual, reserving the Latin dialect for inside the home. A notable and perhaps not so well known (outside Greece) fact regarding the Greek Aromanian speakers is the contributions made by the community to the evolution and institutions of the Greek state during the 19th and early 20th Centuries. Athens Polytechnic- known as "Metsovion" (of Metsovo) - the Greek Vlach village in the Pindus from where its two main benefactors originated (Nikolaos Stournaras and Michail Tositsas), The Zappeion megaron, and the foundation of the Bank of Greece to name but a few were realised by the donations of notable Greek-Vlach benefactors. The fact that this occurred at a time when the majority of Vlachs resided outside the then Kingdom of Greece served to seriously undermine any Romanian claims that they constituted a persecuted minority group. The balkans are a well known test bed for theories that assert language is a poor determinant of national consciousness. (see Bosnia, Albania etc.)

Romanian interference in the first half of the 20th century eventually led to antagonism between Aromanians with a Hellenic national consciousness (pejoratively known in Romania as grecomans) who rejected what they perceived as Romanian propaganda, and those who espoused a Latin identity as promoted in the Romanian schools. According to the Romanian nationalist point of view the "grecomans" and the Greek militia (known as "andarti") "terrorized" the Pindus region between 1903–1912 leading to a diplomatic crisis with Romania in 1911 (see Adina Berciu, Maria Petre: 2004). The Greek point of view maintains that the newly incorporated Romanian state was seeking to divert attention from more serious territorial disputes with Russia and Bulgaria by using Greek Vlachs as leverage. It is noteworthy that Romanian nationalists touring the Greek Vlach villages were invariably struck by the locals' lack of interest in the Romanian cause.

By 1948, the new Soviet-imposed communist regime of Romania had closed all Romanian-run schools outside Romania and since the closure, there has been no formal education in Aromanian and speakers have been encouraged to learn and use the Greek language. This has been a process encouraged by the community itself and is not an explicit State policy. The decline and isolation of the Romanian orientated groups was not helped by the fact that they openly collaborated with the Axis powers of Italy and Germany during the occupation of Greece in WWII. Notably the vast majority of Vlachs fought in the Greek resistance and a number of their villages were destroyed by the Germans.

The issue of Aromanian-language education is a sensitive one, partly because of the resurgence in Romanian interest on the subject. Romanian nationalism maintains that Greek propaganda is still very strong in the area, inferring that Greeks define Aromanians as a sort of "Latinized Greeks". The fact remains that it is the majority of Greek Vlachs themselves that oppose the Romanian propaganda (those that espouse it having emigrated in the early 20thC), as they have done for the past 200 years. The Greek Vlachs oppose the introduction of the language into the education system as EU and leading Greek political figures have suggested, viewing it as an artificial distinction between them and other Greeks. For example, the former education minister, George Papandreou, received a negative response from Aromanian mayors and associations to his proposal for a trial Aromanian language education programme. The Panhellenic Federation of Cultural Associations of Vlachs (Πανελλήνια Ομοσπονδία Πολιτιστικών Συλλόγων Βλάχων) expressed strong opposition to EU's recommendation in 1997 that the tuition of Aromanian be supported so as to avoid its extinction. On a visit to Metsovo, Epirus in 1998, Greek President Costis Stephanopoulos called on Vlachs to speak and teach their language, but its decline continues.

A recent example of the sensitivity of the issue was the 2001 conviction (later overturned in the Appeals Court) to 15 months in jail of Sotiris Bletsas , a Greek Aromanian who was found guilty of "dissemination of false information" after he distributed informative material on minority languages in Europe (which included information on minority languages of Greece), produced by the European Bureau for Lesser Used Languages and financed by the European Commission. His conviction met with broad condemnation in Greece and it emerged that his case was zealously pursued by Aromanian leaders who viewed themselves as patriotic Greeks and felt affronted by the suggestion that they belonged to a "minority". Bletsas was eventually acquitted

Language sample

Tatã a nostru
cai eshci pi tser,
s-ayisascã numa a Ta,
s-yinã Amirãrilja a Ta,
s-facã vreare-a Ta,
cum pi tserlu,
ashi sh-pisti loc.
Pãne-a nostrã atsea di cathi dzuã dã-nã-u sh-azã
shi ljartã-nã amãrtiile-a noastre
ashi cum lji-ljirtãm sh-a amãrtoshlor a noshci.
Shi nu nã-du la pirazmo,
ala aveaglji-nã di atsel arãulu.
Cã a Ta easte Amirãrilja shi puteare
a Tatãlui shi Hiljlui shi a Ayului Spirit,
torã, totãna shi tu eta-a etilor.
Amen.

(the Lord's Prayer - Tatã a nostru)

Tuti iatsãli umineshtsã s-fac liberi shi egali la nãmuzea shi-ndrepturli. Eali suntu hãrziti cu fichiri shi sinidisi shi lipseashti un cu alantu sh-si poartã tu duhlu-a frãtsãljiljei.
(Article 1 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights), translated by Dina Cuvata

Comparison with Romanian

The following text is given for comparison in Aromanian and in Romanian, with an English translation. The spelling of Aromanian is that decided at the Bitola Symposium of August 1997. The word choice in the Romanian version was such that it matches the Aromanian text, although in modern Romanian other words might have been more appropriate. The English translation is only provided as a guide to the meaning, with an attempt to keep the word order as close to the original as possible.

Aromanian Romanian English
Vocala easti un son dit zburãrea-a omlui, faptu cu tritsearea sonorã, libirã sh-fãrã cheadicã, a vimtului prit canalu sonor (adrat di coardili vocali shi ntreaga gurã) icã un semnu grafic cari aspuni un ahtari son. Vocala este un sunet din vorbirea omului, făcut cu trecerea sonoră, liberă şi fără piedică, a vîntului prin canalul sonor (compus din coardele vocale şi întreaga gură) sau un semn grafic care reprezintă un atare sunet. The vowel is a sound in human speech, made by the sonorous, free and unhindered passing of the air through the sound channel (composed of the vocal cords and the whole mouth) or a graphic symbol corresponding to that sound.
Ashi bunãoarã, avem shasili vocali tsi s-fac cu vimtul tsi treatsi prit gurã, iu limba poati si s-aflã tu un loc icã altu shi budzãli pot si sta dishcljisi unã soe icã altã. Aşa bunăoară, avem şase vocale ce se fac cu vîntul ce trece prin gură, unde limba poate să se afle într-un loc sau altul şi buzele pot să stea deschise un soi sau altul. This way, we have six vowels that are produced by the air passing through the mouth, where the tongue can be in one place or another and the lips can be opened in one way or another.
Vocalili pot s-hibã pronuntsati singuri icã deadun cu semivocali i consoani. Vocalele pot să fie pronunţate singure sau deodată cu semivocale sau consoane. The vowels can be pronounced alone or together with semivowels or consonants.
 

Common words and phrases

EnglishAromanian
Aromanian (person) (m.) Armãn, (f.) Armãnã
Aromanian (language)Limba armãneascã, Armãneashce
Greetings! Buna dzuã!
What's your name? Cum ti chljamã?
How are you? Cum hits? (formal) Cum eshci? (informal)
What are you doing?Tsi fats? Tsi adari? (popular)
Goodbye! S-nã videm cu ghine!
Bye! Ciao!
Please. Vã-plãcãrsescu. (formal) Ti-plãcãrsescu (informal)
Sorry. Ãnj-easte jale.
Thank you. Haristo.
Yes. Da.
No. Nu.
I don't understand. Nu achicãsescu.
Where's the bathroom? Iu easte toaletlu?
Do you speak English? Zburats anglicheashce?
I am a student. Mine escu studentu.

See also

References

  • Bara, Mariana, "Le lexique latin hérité en aroumain dans une perspective romane", LincomEuropa Verlag, München, 2004, 231 p.; ISBN 3-89586-980-5.
  • Bara, Mariana, "LIMBA ARMÃNEASCÃ. VOCABULAR ŞI STIL", Editura Cartea Universitară, Bucureşti, 2007, 204 p.; ISBN 978-973-731-551-9.
  • Capidan, Theodor. Aromânii, dialectul Aromân, Academia Română, Studii şi cercetări, XX 1932.
  • Friedman, Victor A., "The Vlah Minority in Macedonia: Language, Identity, Dialectology, and Standardization" in Selected Papers in Slavic, Balkan, and Balkan Studies, ed. Juhani Nuoluoto, Martii Leiwo, Jussi Halla-aho. Slavica Helsingiensa 21. University of Helsinki, 2001. online
  • Kahl, Thede, "Aromanians in Greece: Minority or Vlach-speaking Greeks?". Online:
  • Rosetti, Alexandru. Istoria limbii române, 2 vols., Bucharest, 1965-1969.
  • Berciu-Drăghicescu, Adina; Petre Maria, "Şcoli şi Biserici româneşti din Peninsula Balcanică. Documente (1864-1948)", Editura Universităţii din Bucureşti, 2004.
  • "The Little Prince" by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry in Aromanian. Njiclu amirārush. Translated by Maria Bara and Thede Kahl, ISBN 978-3-937467-37-5.

Footnotes

External links

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