In the course of its long history, Greek has experienced a particularly multifarious and profound contact with Romance, in a wide geographical area that spreads from western to eastern Europe and also covers part of the once Hellenophone Asia Minor. The beginning of this contact is difficult to delimit given that the ancestor languages, Ancient Greek and Latin, were already in interaction even before the Roman period of the Greek-speaking world. Both Greek and Romance (Italo-Romance, Gallo-Romance, Aromanian, and Judeo-Spanish) have acted as donor or recipient, depending on the specific historical and sociolinguistic circumstances. A significant number of lexical items (roots, affixes, and words) were transferred from one language to another, while phonological and structural transfers have also occurred in areas where Greek has been in constant and long contact with Romance, as for instance, in south Italy. Greek has been the basis for the formation of scientific internationalisms in Romance, and reversely it has recently adopted Romance terms and term-forming affixes.
The geographical varieties of Romanian spoken in Romania, the Republic of Moldova, and adjacent regions are largely mutually intelligible. More important are the differences between these varieties (known as “Dacoromanian”) and the South-Danubian varieties of Aromanian, Meglenoromanian, and Istroromanian, which have been separated from (Daco-)Romanian for a very long time, but qualify as dialects of Romanian from a historical and comparative Romance perspective. Standard Romanian is based on the southern dialect of Dacoromanian, in particular the variety of Muntenia, but also includes features taken from other dialects (e.g., the 3pl imperfect -au, the absence of “iotacism” in verb forms—văd instead of the etymological vă(d)z ‘see.1sg’ < Lat. *uidi̯o < uideō, with the regular sound change -di̯->-dz->-z-). A unified standard language was established around the middle of the 19th century. Some of the differences between the high and the colloquial register of standard Romanian are due to innovations characterizing southern varieties: the demonstrative system (high register acest(a), acel(a) versus colloquial ăsta, ăla), the future (high register voi [inflected] + infinitive versus colloquial o [uninflected] + subjunctive), the use of the infinitive (more restricted in the colloquial register than in the high register), and the presumptive mood (mostly colloquial, representing a modal epistemic specialization of a future form oi + infinitive, which is itself an innovation with respect to voi + infinitive). Some of the features by which substandard varieties differ from the standard language represent innovations: the replacement of the inflectional dative and genitive by prepositional constructions, the change of the relative pronoun care into a complementizer, and the loss of the number contrast in the 3rd person of verbs (the latter representing a recent development, mostly found in the southern varieties, but also in parts of Crişana and Transylvania). The loss of agreement with the possessee on the genitival article al is an innovation that first appeared in the northern dialect and subsequently gained ground across substandard varieties. Northern varieties, especially in peripheral areas (Crişana, Maramureş, northern Moldova), preserve a number of archaic features that disappeared from the standard language, for example, the productivity of verb-clitic word orders (with both auxiliary and pronominal clitics), the use of al-Genitive-N word orders, the conditional periphrases vream + infinitive and reaş + infinitive (the latter in Banat), and, as a widespread phenomenon, the 3sg=3pl homonymy in the perfect auxiliary (in the form o < au). Compared to the colloquial standard language, northern varieties preserve the infinitive better. An innovative feature characteristic of northern varieties is the use of periphrastic forms for the imperfect and pluperfect. As conservative features found in some nonstandard southern varieties, we may cite the use of the synthetic perfect (which in the standard language is restricted to the written register) and the stress on the oblique determiner/pronominal endings (ăstúia vs. ắstuia).
Romanian stands out from its sister Romance languages through the conditions of its historical evolution. It has developed in isolation from the other Romance languages, and in cultural and linguistic contact with various non-Romance populations. The history of writing in Romanian, and the earliest preserved texts, dating from the 16th century, also reflect this rather unique heritage. The main dialectal division is marked geographically by the Danube river. The variety developed north of the Danube forms the Daco-Romanian group, while the variety developed south of the Danube includes Aromanian and Megleno-Romanian. The most characteristic changes affecting consonants in the development of Romanian include several patterns of palatalization (with or without affrication, depending on the segments’ place and manner of articulation), the emergence of labial-coronal clusters as part of a more general preference for labials, and rhotacism, a major feature of nonstandard varieties. Major vocalic changes include patterns of diphthongization, vowel raising before nasals and in the context of trills, which led to the development of two phonemic central vowels, /ɨ/ and /ʌ/. Many of these patterns show variation among different varieties. In all varieties of Romanian, vowel alternations are involved in morpho-phonological alternations. The stress pattern of modern Romanian follows the stress pattern of Balkan Romance. The standard and nonstandard varieties differ with respect to their intonation patterns, particularly in the case of yes/no questions.
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.
Victor A. Friedman
The Balkan languages were the first group of languages whose similarities were explained in modern linguistic terms as a result of language contact rather than as a result of descent from a common ancestor. Nikolai Trubetzkoy coined the term Sprachbund ‘linguistic league’ (as opposed to Sprachfamilie ‘language family’) to describe this relationship. Balkan linguistics, as both a subset of and precursor to contact linguistics, is, at its base, an historical linguistic discipline. It seeks to explain similarities among the relevant languages as the result of diffusion rather than of either transmission or of putative universal, typological properties of human language (which latter assumes parallel developments whose causation is ahistorical, i.e., unconnected with either contact or ancestry). The relevant languages are, with the exception of Turkic, all part of the Indo-European language family, but they belong to five distinct groups that are known to have been separated for a significant length of time (presumably millennia). Moreover, for four out of five Indo-European groups as well as for Turkic, there exists documentation that goes back more than a millennium, and in some cases several millennia. The Balkan languages are thus the oldest example of a well-documented and still living Sprachbund. The primary questions that Balkan linguistics seeks to answer are these: What are the results of language contact in the Balkan languages, and how did they come about? The Balkan languages are traditionally defined as Albanian, Modern Greek, Balkan Romance (Romanian, Aromanian, and Meglenoromanian), and Balkan Slavic (Bulgarian, Macedonian, and the southernmost dialects of the former Serbo-Croatian). In recent decades, it has been recognized that the relevant dialects of Romani, Judezmo, and Turkish and Gagauz also participate in at least some of the convergent processes that are taken as definitive of the Balkan linguistic league. While the language family is defined by regular sound correspondences, which in turn help define shared morphology and a core lexicon, the Balkan linguistic league is defined principally by shared morphosyntactic developments and a shared lexicon of borrowings often called “cultural.” In the Balkan linguistic league, phonological developments are sometimes shared among different languages at the dialectal level, but there are no such features that characterize the Balkan languages as a group. Just as in the language family not every diagnostic item is represented in every branch, so, too, in the Balkan linguistic league not every feature is equally represented in all languages and dialects. Among the most characteristic morphosyntactic features are the following: (1) replacement of infinitives by analytic subjunctives, (2) the use of a particle derived from etymological ‘want’ to mark the future, (3) replacement of synthetic gradation of adjectives with analytic constructions, (4) replacement of conditionals by anterior futures, (5) resumptive clitic pronouns for certain direct and indirect objects, (6) various simplifications in the declensional system, (7) postposed definite articles (for Balkan Slavic, Balkan Romance, and Albanian), (8) grammaticalized evidentials (Balkan Slavic, Albanian, Turkic, and to some extent Balkan Romance and Romani). While some of these convergences began in the ancient or medieval periods, the Balkan linguistic league took its definitive modern shape during the centuries of the Ottoman Empire (14th to early 20th centuries).