6 Facts About Romanian: Dialects, Alphabet and Gender

Romanian is a Balkan language that serves as the official and national language of Romania and Moldova, as well as an official language of the European Union.

In Moldova, it is sometimes also called Moldovan. The language is spoken by around 26 million people, around 4 million of whom speak it as a second or further language.

The language pre-dates the Romanian state and one of its earliest attestations was in the 15th century. The following facts describe some of the history, distribution, structure, and other interesting tidbits about this old and fascinating language and culture.

A Few Amazing Facts about Romanian

1. Romanian is a Balkan Romance language

The following family tree traces Romanian back from its Indo-European roots to modern day, only following the relevant branches. Those languages marked with crosses are now extinct.

2. As well as Moldova and Romania, Romanian is an official language in Vojvodina, an autonomous Serbian province

It’s also a recognized minority in Hungary, Ukraine, and Serbia.

3. There up to twenty major dialect groups of Romanian

These are split by geography, and generally include at least the following seven:

  • Transylvanian
  • Crișana
  • Moldavian
  • Banat
  • Wallachian
  • Maramureș
  • Bukovinian

4. Romanian was written in a Cyrillic alphabet until the 19th century, but it is now mostly written in a Latin alphabet

In the Pridnestrovian Moldavian Republic (Transnistria), a breakaway state, they still write Romanian in Cyrillic. The modern alphabet has 31 letters is as follows:

LetterSounds likeLetterSounds like
A aRatherN nNight
Ă ăAloofO oMore, can be like water if not preceded with a consonant
 âRudeP pPot
B bBuyQ qKing(As qu it is pronounced kw, kv, or palatized k)
C cCarR rBurr
D dDogS sSing
E eBerry (can be ye like yellow when used at the start of words)Ș șShore
F fFrogT tTone
G gGoal or giraffeȚ țRats
H hBetween loch and hat. Can be silent. U uFoot OR now OR few
I iVaccine or yearV vVan
Î îSame as â, used at the beginning or end of words for aestheticsW wVan OR win OR lampoon
J jMeasureX xSix OR example
K kToucanY yYear OR vaccine
L lLampZ zZap
M mMini

Though used earlier, Q, W, and Y were only added to the alphabet officially in 1982. They only appear in foreign or foreign-inspired words. K only appears in foreign words, proper names, and neologisms like karate. Unlike in English, when foreign proper names have diacritics, proper spelling dictates that the diacritic stays.

There are also several old letters which became obsolete in the spelling reform of 1904. These are: ĭ, ŭ, ĕ, é, ó, ê, û, ô, and d̦.

5. Romanian nouns have three genders, two numbers, and three cases

These are:

GenderMasculineUsually ends -u in singular and -i in plural, but there are many exceptions to this rule. Nouns which refer to people are always based on natural gender, no matter what their ending.
FeminineUsually ends or -a in singular and -e in plural, but there are many exceptions to this rule. Nouns which refer to people are always based on natural gender, no matter what their ending. 
NeuterUsually behaves as masculine in singular form and feminine in plural form
NumberSingularAny noun where there is one of them.
PluralFormed by adding -i, -uri, -e, or -le and sometimes changing the word structure
CaseNominative/ AccusativeThe subject or predicate noun of a verb / the direct object of a transitive verb / the indirect object of an intransitive verb
Dative/ GenitiveThe recipient of an action or the indirect object of verbs / the owner of the object 
VocativeThe person being addressed

Nominative and accusative, and dative and genitive, are four separate cases in other languages. Here, the forms are the same for both groups of two.

The genitive and dative forms are the same as nouns but distinct as pronouns.

6. There are four cases for pronouns in Romanian

Some points to remember are:

  • The nominative case is only really used for emphasis or clarity, and vocative pronouns use nominative form.
  • Stressed accusative pronouns come after the verb and unstressed before it, unless the phrase is inverted.
  • Both the nominative and accusative forms must be used in sentences with relative clauses
  • In mixed groups, the masculine plural is used
1stEuNoi(Pe) mine(Pe) noiNe
2ndTuVoi(Pe) tineTe(Pe) voi
3rdMasculineElEi(Pe) elÎl(Pe) eiÎi
FeminineEaEle(Pe) eaOu(Pe) eleLe
3rdMasculineLuiÎi LorLe

The table below describes the genitive case forms for pronouns, using the different terms of both the “owner” (or possessor) and the “belonging” (or possessed).

OwnerSing.1stAl meuA mea
2ndAl tăuA ta
3rdMascAl luiA lui
FemAl eiA ei
Pl.1stAl nostruA noastră
2ndAl vostruA voastră
3rdMascAl lorA lor
OwnerSing.1stAi meiAle mele
2ndAi tăiAle tale
3rdMascAi luiAle lui
FemAi eiAle ei
Pl.1stAi noștriAle noastre
2ndAi voștriAle voastre
3rdMascAi lorAle lor

Final Thoughts

As a language spoken by millions worldwide, it’s important for anyone who takes an interest in global culture to learn a little about Romanian and where it came from.

In a time when togetherness and individually are so strangely connected, knowing a little about other cultures changes the world.

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