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date: 25 January 2021


  • Adina DragomirescuAdina DragomirescuUniversity of Bucharest, Institute of Linguistics Iorgu Iordan-Alexandru Rosetti


Balkan-Romance is represented by Romanian and its historical dialects: Daco-Romanian (broadly known as Romanian), Aromanian, Megleno-Romanian, and Istro-Romanian (see article “Morphological and Syntactic Variation and Change in Romanian” in this encyclopedia). The external history of these varieties is often unclear, given the historical events that took place in the Lower Danubian region: the conquest of this territory by the Roman Empire for a short period and the successive Slavic invasions. Moreover, the earliest preserved writing in Romanian only dates from the 16th century. Between the Roman presence in the Balkans and the first attested text, there is a gap of more than 1,000 years, a period in which Romanian emerged, the dialectal separation took place, and the Slavic influence had effects especially on the lexis of Romanian.

In the 16th century, in the earliest old Romanian texts, the language already displayed the main features of modern Romanian: the vowels /ə/ and /ɨ/; the nominative-accusative versus genitive-dative case distinction; analytical case markers, such as the genitive marker al; the functional prepositions a and la; the proclitic genitive-dative marker lui; the suffixal definite article; polydefinite structures; possessive affixes; rich verbal inflection, with both analytic and synthetic forms and with three auxiliaries (‘have’, ‘be’, and ‘want’); the supine, not completely verbalized at the time; two types of infinitives, with the ‘short’ one on a path toward becoming verbal and the ‘long’ one specializing as a noun; null subjects; nonfinite verb forms with lexical subjects; the mechanism for differential object marking and clitic doubling with slightly more vacillating rules than in the present-day language; two types of passives; strict negative concord; the SVO and VSO word orders; adjectives placed mainly in the postnominal position; a rich system of pronominal clitics; prepositions requiring the accusative and the genitive; and a large inventory of subordinating conjunctions introducing complement clauses.

Most of these features are also attested in the trans-Danubian varieties (Aromanian, Megleno-Romanian, and Istro-Romanian), which were also strongly influenced by the various languages they have entered in direct contact with: Greek, Albanian, Macedonian, Croatian, and so forth. These source languages have had a major influence in the vocabulary of the trans-Danubian varieties and certain consequences in the shape of their grammatical system. The differences between Daco-Romanian and the trans-Danubian varieties have also resulted from the preservation of archaic features in the latter or from innovations that took place only there.

1. Balkan-Romance: History and Present

1.1 Historical Background—The Romance Presence in the Balkans

The Balkan-Romance varieties are Daco-Romanian, Aromanian, and Megleno-Romanian, to which Istro-Romanian needs to be added for historical reasons, although it is often considered not to belong to the Balkan area in a proper sense: all four varieties are historical dialects of Romanian.

Most probably, these varieties have a common ancestor (proto-Romanian or Common Romanian), the descendant of spoken Danubian Latin (see the contributions in the edited volume Sala & Ionescu-Ruxăndoiu, 2018, pp. 84–256). The Roman presence in the Balkans (Densusianu, 1961, pp. 17–19) dates back to the 2nd century bc, while Dacia (a historical region roughly corresponding to the territory of modern Romania and the Republic of Moldova) was under Roman domination between 106 and 275 ad. Danubian Latin is known only via about 3, 000 inscriptions found in Dacia and about 3,500 inscriptions found in Moesia (Fischer, 1985, p. 19).

Like other Romance languages, the formation of the Romanian language is placed between the 6th and the 8th centuries (Fischer, 1985, p. 207; Rosetti, 1986, p. 323; Sala, 1999, pp. 34–35), although there is a gap of more than 1,000 years for which written evidence is absent: the first preserved Romanian text directly and spontaneously written in Romanian dates from 1521 (the letter sent by Neacșu from Câmpulung to Johannes Benker of Brașov), but the Hurmuzaki Psalter, shown by the study of its watermarks to be the first preserved text in Romanian, is a translation, most probably dating from 1500–1510 (see Timotin, 2015a, 2016 for an overview).

1.2 The Slavic Invasion and the Dialectal Separation

After the Slavic invasion of Europe, which started in the 6th century (but cf. Conte, 1991), and the establishment of the first south-Slavic states, a part of the Romanized population migrated to southern regions. Afterward, at a certain point, proto-Romanian/Common Romanian began to undergo dialectal separation. The historical facts that have led to the present-day situation—with (Daco-)Romanian occupying the region situated to the north of the Danube, and Aromanian, Megleno-Romanian, and Istro-Romanian found in different regions in the south and west of the Danube and further away, to the south of the Balkans—is rather unclear. There is an intense debate on whether the location of the origin of the trans-Danubian languages was to the north or to the south of the Danube. Scholars such as Ovid Densusianu (1961) argued that the historical dialects of Romanian originate from the north of the Danube, and that therefore they were directly separated from Daco-Romanian, whereas scholars such as Theodor Capidan and Sextil Pușcariu claim that the trans-Danubian varieties are independent Romance varieties, which formed to the south of the Danube, in the Balkans. It is commonly accepted that the Slavic influence on Romanian manifested itself between the 6th and the 9th centuries and that the dialectal separation began in the 10th century and continued in the 11th and 12th centuries (see, for an overview, Pană Dindelegan, 2013a, p. 4).

1.3 The Place Where Romanian Emerged

There is ongoing debate as to where Romanian was formed, but the general view is that this happened in a broad area both north and south of the Danube: Dacia and Moesia Superior (Dobrogea and northern Bulgaria) and Moesia Inferior (central Serbia, Kosovo, and northern Macedonia), possibly Illyria (see Densusianu, 1961, pp. 189–197), and present-day Bulgaria, precisely the area between the Danube and the Jireček line (Jireček, 1901, pp. 13–14), which represents the southern limit of Latin influence and the northern border of Greek influence (Philippide, 2011, pp. 64–73; Pușcariu, 1940, pp. 251–255; Sala, 1999, pp. 31–34).

1.4 Substratum and Superstratum

The substratum language of Romanian was, therefore, the language spoken by the native population in the area, Thraco-Dacian, for which there is no written evidence attested and which has left very few and uncertain traces in Romanian (Densusianu, 1961, pp. 20–38). Comparison with Albanian, which belongs to the same Indo-European sub-family as Dacian, is employed in order to detect the supposed features of the substratum language (Brâncuș, 1983; Mihăilă, 2010; Rosetti, 1986, pp. 205–211). The elements attributed to the substratum are certain hydronyms (Argeș, Cerna, Dunăre, Prut, etc.), about 90 words (e.g. barză ‘stork’, brânză ‘cheese’, mânz ‘colt’, moș ‘old man’, viezure ‘badger’, etc.) and a few uncertain elements of word formation (e.g., suffixes such as -esc, -ac), phonology (e.g., the vowel /ə/) and morphosyntax (e.g., the suffixation of the definite article) (see also Brâncuș, 2018, pp. 304–336; Ilea-Pamfil, 1978).

For Romanian, the adstratum—the foreign influence that has played a significant role in determining the structure of the language—is represented mainly by Slavic, which is also called superstratum, due to its significant influence (see article on “Greek in Contact With Romance” in this encyclopedia), but also by other languages, which have influenced Romanian either directly or through cultural contact (Hungarian, Greek, Turkish, medieval Latin, German, French, and English). The direct Slavic influence on Romanian, which dates back to the 6th or 7th centuries, or, according to other views, to the 8th or 9th centuries, produced a significant number of words and elements of word formation and certain phonological and morphological features (Ilea-Pamfil, 1978; Rosetti, 1986, pp. 261–318). A significant role in the history of Romanian was played by the influence of Old Church Slavonic, which manifested itself mainly in the 14th and 15th centuries, when it was the official language of administration and church in the Principalities of Wallachia and Moldova. A significant fact is that Romanian was first written with the Cyrillic alphabet, which was replaced with the Latin alphabet only in the 19th century.

1.5 The Present-Day Linguistic Configuration

Today, Romanian is the official language of Romania and the Republic of Moldova, being also spoken near the borders of Romania with Bulgaria, Serbia (the Timoc valley and Voievodina regions), Hungary, and Ukraine; major Romanian-speaking communities are found in Spain, Italy, other European countries, and the United States. The number of native speakers is around 26 million. Standard (Daco-)Romanian is based on the dialect spoken in Muntenia (the historical province of Wallachia) (in the southeastern part of Romania); this Wallachian variety also covers Oltenia (the southwestern part of Romania) and Dobrogea (the area between the Danube Delta and the Black Sea); there are other dialectal varieties, which are mutually intelligible: Moldovan, Maramureșean (in Maramureș), Crișean (in Crișana), Bănățean (in Banat), and transitional varieties (in central Transylvania).

Aromanian speakers (ca. 300,000–600,000) are scattered over the Balkan region, in southern Albania, southwestern Bulgaria, central and northern Greece, and southwestern Macedonia. Each geographical group has been influenced by the languages of the area where they live, especially by Albanian and Greek (see articles on “Romanicization Processes” and “Romance in Contact With Germanic” in this encyclopedia). There are two major subdivisions, separated mostly by phonological features: those in Greece and Macedonia (the Pindean and Grămostean communities) and those in Albania (the Fărșerot and Grabovean communities) (Caragiu Marioțeanu, 1975, pp. 264–265; Maiden, 2016, p. 91). From the 19th century, groups of Aromanians migrated to Romania, especially into the Dobrogea area. The first attested Aromanian text is Nectarie Tărpu’s prayer, written with the Greek alphabet, dating from 1731 (Saramandu, 1984, p. 425; Timotin, 2015b, pp. 636–637).

Megleno-Romanian has around 5,000 speakers, settled in northern Greece and at the frontier between Greece and Macedonia. During the Ottoman Empire, this was a linguistic island, which became divided after World War I, when the frontier between Greece and former Yugoslavia was established in the Megleno-Romanian speaking area. This separation resulted in two main varieties, a major one in Greece and a smaller one in Macedonia. After the war between Turkey and Greece (1919–1922), the Muslim Megleno-Romanians moved to Turkey, and about 200 families moved to Romania, especially in the village Cerna, in Dobrogea (Atanasov, 1984, pp. 476–478, 2002). Each variety has been influenced by the languages of the states where the communities live (see articles on “Romance in Contact With Germanic” and “Greek in Contact With Romance” in this encyclopedia). Megleno-Romanian is documented only starting with the 20th century (Maiden, 2016, p. 92; Timotin, 2015c). Istro-Romanian is an extremely endangered Romance variety, with only at most a couple of hundred speakers settled in Istria, Croatia, most probably in the 15th century, around Mount Učka, which represents a natural border between two varieties: the largest community is located in the north, in Žejane, and the other in the south, in seven small villages (the Valdarsa region). All speakers are bilingual, hence the intense Croatian influence on Istro-Romanian (see article on “Greek in Contact With Romance” in this encyclopedia), and a less significant Italian influence in the South (Kovačec, 1984, pp. 550–553). A significant community lives in the United States, in Queens, New York. The Istro-Romanian variety was first attested at the end of the 17th century (Sârbu & Frățilă, 1998, p. 12).

2. Phonological Features of Balkan-Romance

2.1 The Phonological System of Daco-Romanian

The phonological system of standard modern Romanian includes 7 tonic vowels (/a/, /e/, /i/, /o/, /u/, /ə/, /ɨ/), 2 semivowels (/e̯/ and /o̯/), 2 glides, with semiconsonant properties in prevocalic position and semivowel properties in postvocalic position (/j/, /w/), 22 consonant phonemes (/p/, /b/, /t/, /d/, /ʦ/, /s/, /z/, /f/, /v/, /ʃ/, /ʒ/, /c/, /ɟ/, /k/, /g/, /ʧ/, /ʤ/, /h/), including 4 approximants: /m/, /n/, /l/, /r/) (for a detailed presentation, see Chițoran, 2002; Renwick, 2014; Vasiliu, 1965; and for a recent overview, Stan, 2013a). Length does not play a role from a phonological point of view.

With respect to Latin, Romanian lost geminate consonants, but enriched the consonant inventory with: /tS/, /dZ/, /ts/, /dz/ (used only dialectally), /S/, /Z/, /c/, /ɟ/, and /h/ (Stan, 2013a, p. 10) (see article on “Sound Change From Latin to Romance” in this encyclopedia).

While the inventory of consonants is unremarkable from a Romance perspective (Maiden, 2016, p. 93), the phonemic inventory of vowels has features that set Romanian apart from the other Romance languages and make it more similar to the Balkan ones:


a high central vowel /ɨ/ (graphically î or â), mainly the result of the action of a phonological rule that transformed different vowels in prenasal position into /ɨ/ (mână /mɨnə/ < manu(m) ‘hand’, fân /fɨn/ < fenum ‘hay’, fântână /fɨntɨnə/ < fontanam ‘fountain’, adânc /adɨnk/ < aduncum ‘deep’) or the result of the centralization of /i/, usually determined by preceding /r/ (râpă /rɨpə/ < ripam ‘precipice’) (see article on “Sound Change From Latin to Romance” in this encyclopedia) (for a complete inventory, see Dimitrescu, 1978b, pp. 138–143);


a mid-central vowel /ə/, with different origins (see Dimitrescu, 1978b, pp. 135–138) and equivalents in other Romance languages; however, stressed /ə/ is specific to Romanian (Maiden, 2016, p. 93) among Romance (at least if one takes into consideration the standard languages) and its Latin source is a stressed /e/, centralized under the influence of certain preceding consonants (rău /rəw/ < reus ‘bad’) or a stressed /a/ (cântăm /kɨnˈtəm/ < cantamus ‘we sing’);(see article on “Sound Change From Latin to Romance” in this encyclopedia) most probably, /ə/ and /ɨ/ were not phonologically differentiated before the 16th century (Avram, 1964), maybe earlier in Muntenia (Vasiliu & Ionescu-Ruxăndoiu, 1986, p. 92);


diphthongs with mid-vowel onsets, /e̯a/ and /o̯a/ (seară /se̯arə/ < sera ‘evening’, soare /so̯are/ < sole(m) ‘sun’), principally originating in the Latin stressed vowels /e/ and /o/ (Sala, 1999, pp. 170–172); this diphthongization is conditioned by the presence, in the next syllable, of one of the vowels /a/, /ə/ or /e/ and it is sometimes known as metaphony (Avram, 2005) (see article on “Metaphony and Diphthongization in the Romance Languages” in this encyclopedia); however, given that there is diphthongization in words where there is no following vowel to condition the change in the stressed one (for example, bea /be̯a/ ‘drink’), Loporcaro (2011, 2016) convincingly shows that in Romanian metaphony applied in symmetrical contexts, that is, before -i and -u (as mostly in the Romance languages), -a, -o, and -e blocked the raising process, and the change è > e̯à applied only to vowels that had not undergone raising; these word-internal diphthongs are also involved in morphophonological alternations that play an important inflectional role (Pană Dindelegan, 2012).

The inventory of diphthongs is rich: there are 9 rising diphthongs and 13 falling diphthongs. The set of rising diphthongs is made up of /e̯, o̯, j, w/ and /a, e, ə, o, u/, whereas that of falling diphthongs is made up of any vowel plus /j, w/. Romanian also possesses 9 triphthongs, with the following structure: /e̯, oə, j, w/ + /a/ + /i, w/ (7 triphthongs: /e̯aj/, /e̯aw/, /jaj/, /jaw/, /jej/, /jew/, /o̯aj/) or /a/ + /j, e̯, o̯/ (2 triphthongs: /e̯o̯a/, and /jo̯a/) (Stan, 2013a, pp. 11–12).

The phonetic and phonological status of the word-final glide [j] is a matter of debate (Maiden, 2016, p. 94). Phonetically, it is an asyllabic element occurring as an inflectional ending after consonants or consonant clusters (pomi /pomj/ ‘trees’, vezi /vezj/ ‘you see’), except for muta cum liquida (codri /kodri/ ‘forests’, umbli /umbli/ ‘you walk’), after which the vowel /i/ occurs. Phonologically, either the glide is interpreted as a (semi)vocalic independent phoneme (Vasiliu, 1965, 1985) or one considers that the final consonant is a phonologically distinct, palatalized version of the regular consonant (the regular /m/ of /pom/ ‘tree’ is opposed to the palatalized /m/ from /pomj/ ‘trees’) (Graur & Rosetti, 1938; Petrovici, 1950).

In Romanian, there are few constraints related to stress: it cannot be placed more than four syllables away from the end of the word and is typically paroxytonic (gălăgie /gə.lə.ˈʤi.e/ ‘noise, row’), but frequently oxytonic (basma /bas.ˈma/ ‘kerchief’) and proparoxytonic (caracatiță /ka.ra.ˈka.ti.ʦə/ ‘octopus’). In general, stress is fixed in the inflectional paradigm of nouns and adjectives, but always mobile in verb inflection (cânta /kɨn.ˈta/ ‘to sing’, cântă /kɨn.ˈtə/ ‘he sang’, cântă /ˈkɨn.tə/ ‘he sings’) (Maiden, 2016, p. 94; Stan, 2013a, p. 13).

2.2 Phonological Features of the Trans-Danubian Varieties

The differences between standard Daco-Romanian and the trans-Danubian varieties can be exemplified by the following features.


Differences related to the inventory of vowels: the Pindean and Grămostean varieties of Aromanian preserved from old Romanian the word-final glide [w] (alongside [j]), whereas the Fărșerot and Grabovean varieties do not have either diphthongs, or the phoneme /ɨ/ (Caragiu Marioțeanu, 1975, pp. 223–229; Saramandu, 1984, p. 427); in Megleno-Romanian—despite the great variation in the phonological system—the phoneme /ɨ/ is not attested, and there are two vowels that are not known in the other Romanian varieties: /æ/ (written ę), and /ɔ/ (written ǫ) (Atanasov, 1984, p. 488); in Istro-Romanian, two different vowels are attested: an open rounded vowel /ɒ/ (written as å), in old words such as cåsa /kɒsa/ ‘house’ and a stressed front open vowel /æ/ (written as ) (Kovačec, 1984, p. 554).


Differences related to the inventory of consonants: the dental fricatives /θ‎/ and /ð/ are attested in the Megleno-Romanian variety of Greece, in Greek loanwords (Atanasov, 1984, p. 488) and in the Aromanian varieties influenced by Greek, alongside the voiced velar fricative /ɣ/ (Caragiu Marioțeanu, 1975, pp. 229–233).


Phenomena specific to one of these varieties, consisting either in innovations or in the preservation of archaic features: Aromanian developed prosthetic a before words starting with consonants, particularly with the approximants /r/ and /l/: arîu̯ /arɨw/ ‘river’ (cf. râu /rɨw/ in Daco-Romanian), aspárgu ‘I break’ (cf. Ro. sparg), armânu ‘Aromanian’ (cf. Ro. aromân) (Caragiu Marioțeanu, 1975, p. 225); in Istro-Romanian, rhotacization of intervocalic /n/ is general (Kovačec, 1984, p. 586): mâre /mɨre/ ‘tomorrow’ (cf. Ro. mâine), bură ‘good.f’ (cf. Ro. bună); rhotacization is attested in old northwestern Romanian and is still present in certain villages.

3. Morphological Features of Balkan-Romance

In Balkan-Romance, nouns, pronouns, adjectives and verbs have complex inflectional paradigms when compared to other Romance varieties.

3.1. Nominal Inflection

In the nominal domain, despite the extensive case syncretism (see articles on “Case Marking in the Romance Languages” and “Allomorphy and Syncretism in the Romance Languages” in this encyclopedia), the distinction between nominative-accusative and genitive-dative (oblique) is preserved for feminine nouns and adjectives in the singular (1) (see Dragomirescu & Nicolae, 2016) and it is marked in the form of the definite article elsewhere (2) (for a detailed description of noun inflection, see Nedelcu & Stan, 2013).



Only Daco-Romanian has created a special genitival inflectional marker, m.sgal, f.sga, m.plai,f.plale, etymologically incorporating the preposition ad and the definite article (Nedelcu & Stan, 2013, p. 265; but cf. Giurgea, 2013), used when the genitive does not immediately follow the definite article:


Other analytical means to express the genitive and dative are:


the marker lui, etymologically a proclitic definite article, preceding masculine unique and proper names (lui tata ‘of/to my father’, lui Ion ‘of/to John’) and feminine proper names that do not end in -a (lui Ani ‘of/to Ani’, lui Teo ‘of/to Teo’);


the preposition a, used as a freestanding marker for the genitive (vizita a doi colegi ‘the visit of two colleagues’) or dative (grație a două colege ‘thanks to two colleagues’) when the first constituent of the nominal phrase is morphologically invariable for case;


the preposition la, used in the same conditions for an indirect object relation, which would be otherwise marked by the inflectional dative (Trimit cadouri la trei copii ‘I send gifts to three children’) and, in the non-standard language, also instead of the inflectional genitive (ușa la casă vs. standard Ro. ușa casei ‘the door of the house’).

Analytic marking is extensively used for the genitive and the dative in the trans-Danubian varieties: the variable proclitic marker f. áli, m. alu and the invariable preposition a in Aromanian (Saramandu, 1984, p. 440), the proclitic genitive markers lu, ăl, and ău and the indirect object prepositional marker la in Megleno-Romanian (Atanasov, 1984, p. 515), and the proclitic invariable marker lu for the genitive and dative in Istro-Romanian (Kovaček, 1971, p. 101).

Romanian has also a morphological vocative, with different endings for gender and number: -e (4a), -o (4b); the masculine ending -e is sometimes added to the definite article -l (4c); in the plural, the vocative is syncretic with the genitive-dative form bearing the definite article (4d,e).


Personal stressed pronouns exceptionally preserve the distinction between nominative and accusative/oblique in the first and second persons: eu I.nom vs. mine I.acc,tu you.nom vs. tine you.acc (Vasilescu, 2013, pp. 380–381); however, in Aromanian this distinction has started to weaken, both forms (i̯o and míni) being currently used for the nominative and accusative (Saramandu, 1984, p. 442). A large inventory of clitic forms for personal and reflexive pronouns, showing considerable allomorphy, is available for the dative and accusative (Vasilescu, 2013, pp. 381–394, 399). Romanian lacks subject clitics, partitive and locative clitics (see article on “Morphology of Clitic Pronouns in the Romance Languages” in this encyclopedia). However, subject clitics seems to be available in Aromanian (Mavrogiorgos & Ledgeway, 2019) and in Istro-Romanian (Dragomirescu & Nicolae, 2018).

3.2 The Definite Article

The Romanian definite article has several interesting features (see article on “Sex-Denoting Patterns of Word Formation in the Romance Languages” in this encyclopedia).


The most salient feature of the definite article is its position and status: contrary to the rest of Romance, it follows the noun and it is an inflectional suffix, which developed, along the grammaticalization cline, out of a former enclitic (Cornilescu & Nicolae, 2011; Dobrovie-Sorin & Giurgea, 2006; Guțu Romalo, 1967, p. 226; Ledgeway, 2017; Lombard, 1974, p. 2; Nicolae, 2015b; Ortmann & Popescu, 2000; Stan, 2013b, p. 286): codrul ‘the forest’, fratele ‘the brother’, casa ‘the house’, codrii ‘the forests’, frații ‘the brothers’, casele ‘the houses’.


Apart from the suffixal definite article, only Daco-Romanian has developed a freestanding definite article grammaticalized from a demonstrative: cel, cea, cei, cele (< (a)cel(a), (a)cea, (a)cei, (a)cele < eccum illum), used in structures such as (5a), where the first constituent of the nominal phrase cannot bear the suffixal definite article, or in polydefinite structures like (5b); in both contexts, it has clitic-like properties and it allows nominal ellipsis: cei doi ‘the two’, cea frumoasă ‘the beautiful one’ (Ledgeway, 2012, pp. 113–115; Nicolae, 2013a, 2015a).


Like other Balkan languages, Romanian possesses polydefinite structures (Croitor, 2008; Ledgeway, 2017, pp. 241–242; Nicolae, 2013b): (6a), (5b), which were more frequent and diversified in old Romanian, where three- or even four-determiner nominal phrases are attested: (6b,c) (Stan, 2016) (see article on “Morphology of Determiners in the Romance Languages” in this encyclopedia).


An unexpected constraint is related to nouns following prepositions that require accusative case: if no modifier of the noun is present in the structure, the noun must not bear the definite article, yet is still interpreted as definite. This feature is specific to Romanian, but it is also found in certain fossilized Romance expressions (Ledgeway, 2012, p. 107).

3.3 The “Neuter”

The existence of the “neuter” gender in Romanian is controversial. Although recognized as a third gender in traditional literature (Guțu Romalo, 2008, pp. 63–69), the neuter has been a matter of dispute (Bateman & Polinsky, 2010; Croitor & Giurgea, 2009) because it lacks semantic and morphological specificity: it is specific to inanimate nouns (such as scaun ‘chair’ – scaune ‘chairs’, tablou ‘painting’ – tablouri ‘paintings’), but not all inanimate nouns are neuter; neuters have singulars that show an identical behavior to masculines and plurals that show an identical behavior to feminines, therefore it is ‘morphologically driven’, being exclusively a function of the plural forms (Maiden, 2016, p. 102). However, Loporcaro’s arguments (2018) (i.e., the syntactic behavior of singular neuter nouns is not completely reducible to that of masculines; there is evidence for gender-productivity from compounding and non-adapted loanwords) support the three-gender analysis.

3.4 Possessive Affixes

Romanian is known for the variety of means of expressing possession (Nicolae, 2013c; Niculescu, 2008). Interestingly, Daco-Romanian, Aromanian, and Megleno-Romanian display specialized possessive affixes. They are affixed onto bare nouns expressing kinship or social relations: that is to say that they lack the definiteness marker normally associated with possessive constructions: Daco-Romanian soră-mea ‘my sister’ (not **sora-mea), Megleno-Romanian sór-me̯a, Daco-Romanian frate-miu ‘my brother’ (not **fratele-miu), Megleno-Romanian fráti-ńu; moreover, they can involve changes in the shape of the name they attach to (see sor-mea ‘my sister’, frac-tu ‘your brother’ in Daco-Romanian).

3.5 Verb Inflection

Romanian preserved the four main conjugation classes of Latin; the continuants of the Latin conjugation divided into two subclasses, one ending in etymological -i and the other one ending in the new /ɨ/ (coborî ‘descend’, hotărî ‘decide’).

Broadly speaking, Romanian inflectional marking of person and number continues the Latin endings (with complex phonological and morphological changes); the inflectional morphology of the Latin present indicative, imperfect indicative, perfect, present subjunctive (but only in the third persons), and imperfect subjunctive (continued as a pluperfect indicative) is fairly well preserved. Analytic and synthetic forms are equally represented. It is worth mentioning that Romanian created a new mood, the presumptive (or the epistemic future), specialized for expressing uncertainty (Friedman, 1997; Zafiu, 2009): o fi citind ‘(s)he may/might read’, o fi plecat ‘(s)he may/might have left’.

Romanian has three auxiliaries: ‘have’ (the only compound past auxiliary in Daco-Romanian), ‘be’ (specialized for the irrealis value—Avram & Hill, 2007—and used as a passive marker), and ‘want’ (the main future auxiliary); the origin of the conditional auxiliary is controversial, either ‘have’ or ‘want’.

3.6. Nonfinite Verb Forms

There are four nonfinite forms: the infinitive, the past participle, the present participle/gerund, and the supine (see article on “Non-Finite Verb-Forms in the Romance Languages” (forthcoming) in this encyclopedia). The infinitive is characterized by the existence of two forms, a verbal ‘short’ one, without the suffix -re, always preceded by the complementizer a, a former preposition (începe a lucra ‘he starts working’), except after the verb a putea ‘can’ (poate pleca ‘he can leave’) (Diaconescu, 1977; Pană Dindelegan, 2013b) and except all the compound verb forms (e.g., the future: voi pleca ‘I will leave’, the conditional: aș pleca ‘I would leave’) and a nominal, ‘long’ one, with -re (plecarea ‘the departure’) (Stan, 2003); these forms were not specialized in old Romanian (Nedelcu, 2016). As in other Balkan languages, in the passage from old to modern Romanian, the verbal infinitive was gradually replaced by the subjunctive preceded by (Frâncu, 2000). Aromanian (Caragiu Marioțeanu, 1975, pp. 252–253) and Megleno-Romanian, with very few exceptions (Atanasov, 1984, p. 523), only preserve the Latin ‘long’ infinitive (Aromanian cîntári ‘sing’, vide̯ári ‘see’; Megleno-Romanian zíțiri ‘say’), whereas Istro-Romanian only has the ‘short’ infinitive (lucre ‘work’, durmi ‘sleep’) (Sârbu & Frățilă, 1998, p. 26).

The existence of the supine—which was most probably inherited from Latin as a noun, then gradually acquired verbal features in Romanian (Dragomirescu, 2013a, 2013b)—is specific to Romanian among Romance languages. The distribution of the supine is similar to that of the infinitive, while the supine is formally syncretic to the masculine singular past participle, preceded by the former preposition de (termină de scris ‘he finishes writing’) and rarely by other prepositions (a plecat la pescuit ‘he went fishing’) (see Dragomirescu, 2013a; Pană Dindelegan, 2013c). Although the traditional literature does not recognize a supine form in the trans-Danubian varieties, the supine occurs with several values at least in Istro-Romanian (Dragomirescu, 2016): l-åm luåt de durmít ‘I took him to sleep’

3.7 Language Contact in Morphology: The Trans-Danubian Varieties

In the trans-Danubian varieties, certain morphological markers were acquired via language contact with the Slavic languages (see article on “Greek in Contact With Romance” in this encyclopedia):


In Istro-Romanian, due to the fact that Croatian lacks a definite article, the difference between definite and indefinite forms, although morphologically marked for most of the noun classes, is semantically blurred (Kovačec, 1984, p. 579), that is, nouns with and without the definite article appear to be randomly used in the same syntactic context.


Under Croatian influence as well, the morphological marking of aspect in Istro-Romanian has developed to an extent that is not comparable to any other Romance variety (Kovačec, 1971, pp. 123–130; Maiden, 2016, p. 111). Tthe perfective–imperfective distinction is either marked by attaching a Croatian prefix to the perfective form: letí ‘fly’/doletí ‘arrive by flying’, sadí ‘plant’/nasadí ‘finish planting’ or by different inflectional markers: bušni ‘kiss once’/bušké͔i̯ ‘kiss’; there are also different ways to mark iterative aspect; this development has had a further structural consequence in the northern Istro-Romanian, since it has favored the loss of the inherited imperfect tense form (made redundant by new ways of expressing the imperfective vs. perfective distinction) (Maiden, 2016, p. 111).


Megleno-Romanian also possesses aspectual markers borrowed from Macedonian (Atanasov, 2002, pp. 226–227): durmíri ‘sleep’/durmíri ‘fall asleep’, măncári ‘eat’/măncári ‘eat one’s fill’.


In the Megleno-Romanian variety spoken in the village of Țărnareca, the Macedonian gerundive marker -e̯ái̯ḱi [æjky], -ájḱi [ajky] attaches to native stems: čitájḱi ‘reading’; compare Ro. citind (Atanasov, 2002, p. 235).

4. Syntactic Features of Balkan-Romance

4.1 The Subject

In Romanian, the subject has particular features (Guțu Romalo, 2008, pp. 332–372; Pană Dindelegan, 2013d). Like the other major Romance languages (except for French), Romanian is a null-subject (“pro-drop”) language allowing the absence of the pronominal subject (8a); an expletive subject, similar to Eng. it or there, is not available (8b) (see article on “Ellipsis in the Romance Languages” in this encyclopedia). Free inversion of the lexical subject is possible (9a), and a bare noun, especially in the plural, can appear as a postverbal subject, independently of the syntactic-semantic type of the verb (9b).



Infinitives and gerunds (and exceptionally supines) can have a lexical subject (Pană Dindelegan, 2013d, pp. 101–104), but while the subject of the infinitive is obligatorily postverbal (10a), the gerund may take either a preverbal (10b) or a postverbal subject (10c). In old Romanian, the subject of the infinitive was also available in the preverbal position (Nedelcu, 2016, pp. 241–242).


4.2 Objects

Differential object marking (see article on “Valency in the Romance Languages” in this encyclopedia) of the [+human] direct object is expressed by the preposition pe (‘on’, originally a directional preposition (s)p(r)e ‘toward’—Onu, 1959), but only in Daco-Romanian (11) (Pană Dindelegan, 2013e, pp. 128–135). In Aromanian (Saramandu, 1984, p. 436), Megleno-Romanian (Atanasov, 1984, p. 537, 2002, p. 267), and Istro-Romanian the direct object does not have a special prepositional marker (Laieț și mine cu voi take.imp.2pl and I.acc with ‘Take me with you’, Cantemir, 1959, p. 77), which suggests—alongside the fact that in old Romanian the rules for the usage of pe were not settled (Nicula Paraschiv, 2016, pp. 129–134)—that pe grammaticalized after the dialectal separation.


Object clitic doubling, a common feature of the Balkan languages (Mišeska Tomić, 2004, p. 47), characterizes both the direct and the indirect object. For the direct object, clitic doubling is often associated with pe-differential object marking (11), but there are also differences in the distribution of the two phenomena (Pană Dindelegan, 2013e, p. 137, 2016, pp. 441–442): direct inanimate objects are clitic doubled (but not pe-marked) when they are in preverbal position (12). Indirect object doubling is obligatory only when the object is preverbal (13a) or in subjectless structures such as (13b), independently of the position of the object; in other cases, it is optional (13c) (Iorga Mihail, 2013, pp. 154–156; Pană Dindelegan, 2016, pp. 462–464).



Romanian has a limited class of double (accusative) object verbs, one of which is marked by pe and corresponds to an indirect object in other (Romance) languages (Pană Dindelegan, 2013f, pp. 68–70). This construction was inherited from Latin into all branches of Romanian: Daco-Romanian a învăța pe cineva ceva ‘teach someone something’, a ruga pe cineva ceva ‘ask (beseech) someone something’, a întreba pe cineva ceva ‘ask (request) someone something’, and so forth, Istro-Romanian io nú sâm vrídân crijiånţije tíre-nmeţå ‘I am not capable of teaching you decency’ (Kovačec, 1998, p. 37).

4.3 Passives

Two types of passives are available in Romanian: the auxiliary passive construction with a fi ‘be’ plus a past participle and the se-passive construction, with a passive-reflexive clitic (Dragomirescu, 2013c, pp. 169–173; Guțu Romalo, 2008, pp. 133–134) (see articles on “Alignment and Word Order in the Romance Languages” and “Non-Passive Verbal Periphrases in the Romance Languages” in this encyclopedia). In contrast to old Romanian, where the reflexive passive was attested for all persons (14a) (Pană Dindelegan, 2003; Vasilescu, 2016, pp. 196–197), in standard modern Romanian, the se-passive is restricted to the third person and is preferred when the agent is backgrounded (14b,c):


4.4 Negation

Romanian obeys the strict negative concord constraint: negative words, placed either preverbally or postverbally, require the presence of the clausal negator nu (Dominte, 2003; Guțu Romalo, 2008, pp. 680–702) (see article on “Interrogatives in the Romance Languages” in this encyclopedia):


4.5 Word Order

In standard modern Romanian, word order has stricter constraints than in old Romanian (Nicolae, 2016, 2019). Whether Romanian is a SV(O) language or a VS(O) language is a debated topic (Pană Dindelegan, 2013d, pp. 119–125); subject word order is relatively free in matrix clauses and the SV(O)/VS(O) is dictated by grammatical and discourse factors; a preference for VS(O) can be observed in embedded clauses.

Adjectives are canonically placed in postnominal position (16a) (Brăescu, 2012, p. 171); marked readings are obtained when qualifying adjectives are placed in a prenominal position, where they also take over the suffixal definite article:


The dative and accusative clitic system is very rich. Clitics generally occupy fixed positions with respect to their host: they are generally proclitic to verbs (17a), but enclitic to positive imperatives (17c) and gerunds (17d), as well as to nouns (17b). Phonotactic constraints mean that the singular feminine clitic o is obligatorily postposed in past tense constructions (17e) and conditionals (17f). In clitic clusters, datives precede accusatives and first person clitics precede second person clitics (Săvescu Ciucivara, 2011).


In old Romanian, clitics were more freely ordered (Nicolae & Niculescu, 2016). The emerging changes in their linearization are visible in structures with doubly expressed clitics (18a). The modern rules for the feminine clitic o, which is the only object clitic to follow the participle (18b), were not established yet (see Ledgeway, 2018).


4.6 Prepositions and Subordinating Conjunctions

Most of the Romanian prepositions require the accusative case (în casă ‘in the house’, lângă mine ‘next to me’). There is a limited class of genitive-assigning prepositions (asupra lor ‘over them’, înaintea fetei ‘before the girl’) and only three dative-assigning prepositions (grație/mulțumită/datorită mie ‘thanks to me’). Accusative- and genitive-assigning prepositions are attested since old Romanian, whereas the ones assigning the dative grammaticalized later, in the 19th century.

The system of subordinating conjunctions introducing complement clauses is rich. and are either selected by certain verbs (presupune că . . . . ‘he assumes that’, vrea să . . . ‘he wants to’) or they are selected by the same verb, triggering different readings: followed by the indicative or conditional expresses a realis value (Se bucură că mă vede ‘He is happy to see me (now)’), whereas plus subjunctive expresses the possibility (Se bucură să mă vadă ‘He is happy to see me (in the case he sees me)’). The complementizer (also a subjunctive marker in Romanian) has a special split variant (ca . . . să), such that topicalized focused constituents are interposed between ca . . . să (Stan, 2007): Vrea să pleci ‘He wants you to leave’ / Vrea ca acum să pleci ‘He wants you to leave right now’. The complementizer cum că specialized for an evidential value, that is, the source of information is not trustworthy (Am auzit cum că vor crește prețurile ‘I have heard that the prices are going up’). The complementizer dacă ‘if’ (with its nonstandard variant de) is used to introduce indirect yes-no questions (Mă întreb dacă pleci ‘I am wondering whether you are leaving’). In the spoken language, other complementizers are used: (pre)cum că, cum de ‘(allegedly) that’.

4.7 Language Contact in Syntax: The Trans-Danubian Varieties

In the Trans-Danubian varieties, certain phenomena can be attributed to language contact with the Slavic languages (see article on “Greek in Contact With Romance” in this encyclopedia):


In Aromanian and Megleno-Romanian, clitic doubling does not observe the rules of Daco-Romanian, but those of Greek and Macedonian (Atanasov, 1984, p. 538; Friedman, 2008, 2017).


In Megleno-Romanian and Istro-Romanian, adjectives are typically prenominal, under the influence of Macedonian and Croatian (Atanasov, 1984, p. 536, 2002, pp. 265–266; Kovačec, 1971, p. 176); moreover, in Istro-Romanian, prenominal adjectives are not inflected with the definite article, since Croatian does not have articles (Kovačec, 1971, p. 176):


While in modern Romanian auxiliaries typically precede the lexical verb, old Romanian, Istro-Romanian, and Megleno-Romanian also allow enclitic auxiliaries; moreover, under the influence of Macedonian and Albanian, Megleno-Romanian specialized the order verb-auxiliary for marking an evidential compound past—the speaker was not present when the action took place (Atanasov, 1984, p. 528; Friedman, 2017):

Further Reading

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