Eastern Romance (East Latin)

General Overview
1. The Period and the Frontiers

The division of the Romance languages can only be more or less schematic. In the west, -s was preserved and -p-, -t-, -k- were voiced, while in the east, -s disappeared and the intervocalic stops preserved. The first group may be called West-Romance or Pyreneo-Alpine Romance and the last, East-Romance or Appennino-Balkan Romance. The Italian dialects south of Ancona are considered to belong to the eastern group. There are, however, many exceptions. Sardinian belongs to the western group, but has preserved not only -s, but also -p-, -t-, -k-. There are southern Italian dialects which have voiced these consonants, as is the case in the west. The people living today on the Istrian peninsula speak a western Romance idiom, but as shown by ancient placenames, the peninsula belonged earlier to Eastern Romance. Dalmatian had elements in common with southern Italian dialects. It is considered the link between Italo-Romance and Balkan-Romance.

According to Rosetti, East Latin (“grupul oriental al limbii latine”) was spoken in the Danubian provinces and along the shores of Dalmatia, as well as, until the 2nd half of the 3rd century AD, in Italy. Rumanian belongs to this, Appennino–Balcanic linguistic group, together with Dalmatian, the Latin elements of Albanian, and the central and southern Italian dialects (Abruzzian, Sicilian, and Puglian). However, there are concordances between Rumanian and northern Italian dialects, and also Calabrian, Sardinian, and southern Apulian. Thirty words pertaining to shepherding are shared by Rumanian and several southern Italian dialects.

Theoretically, the division of the Romance languages may be made according to the substratum: Gallic, Iberic, Italian, etc.; the ancient political and geographical division: Gallia, Italy, Raetia; or only on the basis of geography: Balkan Romance or Balkan Latin. This Romance idiom has neither an ethnic basis (the substratum is Thracian and Illyrian), nor a political one. However, it reflects a geographic and cultural unity within a well-defined territory, distinct from the Western Romance languages. Rosetti considers that Balkan Latin was spoken in the Balkan peninsula from the 5th century AD onwards, after the Roman Empire was divided (395 AD). This idiom is on the basis of Rumanian, and of the Latin elements of Albanian and Serbo–Croatian. Dalmatia belonged after the division of the Empire to the western empire, and received from that time on mostly influences from the west. But even Albanian shows some innovations from the west (for example Latin u => ü). Although Balkan Romance does not contain Italian, there are influences from Italian dialects in the Balkan idioms, thus also in Rumanian.

The frontiers of Balkan Latin

The frontiers of Balkan Latin may be drawn with considerable accuracy. Towards the west, Latin spoken in the Balkan peninsula was connected through Istria with the region of Friuli and other parts of northern Italy and by sea, with other regions of Italy. The intermediary area towards the west was thus Istria. The southern and southeastern frontiers were, on the basis of inscriptions, milestones, and coins made by the towns, determined by Jireček as follows:

“It leaves the Adriatic Sea at Lissus, stretches across the mountains of the Miredites and the Dibra (Debar) to northern Macedonia between Scupi (Skopje) and Stobi (©tip), proceeds then south of Naissus (Nią) and Remesiana (Bela palanka) with their Latin inhabitants, while Pautalia (Kjustendil) and Serdica (Sofia) and the region of Pirot belong to the Greek territory; and finally, the frontier continues along the northern slopes of the Haemus (Balkan) mountains to the coast of the Black Sea.”
This is called the “Jireček line”. Skok considered that the western part of this line should be drawn somewhat more to the south. Of course, the frontier between Latin and Greek was probably not as clear-cut; bilingual areas certainly existed both north and south of the Jireček line.

In the north, a Roman population probably still lived in the former province of Pannonia at least in the 5th century and the question whether the dialect spoken there belonged to East Latin or to the Occidental dialects has been discussed without a definite conclusion. The Great Hungarian plain was never occupied by the Roman Empire.

The eastern part of the northern frontiers of Balkan Latin

Roman colonization reached the lower Danube during the 1st century BC; until 106 AD, the Danube was the northeastern frontier. Between 106 and 271–275 AD, the territories of present day Oltenia, part of the Banat and part of Transylvania were a Roman province: Dacia Traiana. Thus, during 169 years, the frontiers of the Empire were pushed northward as far as to northern Transylvania. However, from 275 AD until the withdrawal of the Byzantine army at the beginning of the 7th century, i.e., for more than three centuries which roughly correspond to the period of Balkan Latin (and in entire Romania, to Late Latin), the Danubian limes was the northeastern frontier of the Empire, thus also of Balkan Latin.

2. The Features of East Latin


Old Ital.
In other cases, kw was not delabialized and developed in the same direction in Sardinian and Rumanian:


Also regarding vocabulary, there are similarities between East Latin (including southern Italy) as opposed to the west. But even here, the situation is complicated. A detailed study of the East Latin vocabulary is found in Istoria limbii române (edit. by A. Rosetti, B. Cazacu & I. Coteanu), 1969, vol. II, pp. 110–173; written by I. Fischer. The criterion for deciding whether a word belonged to the East Latin vocabulary was its existence in at least one of the Rumanian dialects.

The Pan-Romanic Stock comprises 488 words. Among these, only seven changed their meaning in Rumanian.

A total of 107 words were preserved by Rumanian only. New formations, unknown or unusual in Latin, as well as semantic changes are numerous in this group.

A total of 214 Pan-Romanic words do not exist in Rumanian. This is a very high number, “considerably higher than the number of those absent in any other Romance language, including the Iberian languages, in the extreme west of the Romance territory.” Many of these words belong to certain well-defined semantic spheres, which indicates that they are not lacking from Rumanian by chance. A large part of them are technical terms, marine, military, or commercial, and also agricultural. Also many Latin words pertaining to general civilization, such as balneum ‘bath’, lanterna ‘lamp’, lectus ‘bed’, littera ‘letter’, regula ‘rule’, are lacking in Rumanian. The process of simplification and impoverishment, characteristic of Popular (Vulgar) Latin, was here more pronounced than in any other Romance idiom. Many synonyms disappeared, leaving one expression where earlier several existed. Thus, fleo, lacrimo, lamento, and ploro were all replaced by plango: N. Rum. plînge, Istrorum. plănze, Arum. plîngu, Meglenorum. plong, ‘to weep, to cry’.

Also the number of inherited Latin terms pertaining to art and science, administration and religion, as well as some complex activities, such as iron manufacture and wooden handicraft is very low. The Latin words concerning urban life are entirely absent in the Rumanian language.

Of course, the Latin spoken by the Roman inhabitants of the numerous towns in the Balkan peninsula must have contained these and many other lexical elements which do not exist in Rumanian. Their absence in the language of the Vlachs is in accordance with information from other sources indicating that they were not town-dwellers.

Word formation

The following prefixes are frequently used:

Semantic change

Besides changes of meaning which occur in all languages in the course of time, there is in Rumanian a group of Latin words which changed their meaning in such a way that they now belong to the shepherd terminology.

The mechanism of this process is concisely explained by S. Ullmann:

When a word passes from ordinary language into a specialized nomenclature – the terminology of a trade, a craft, a profession or some other limited group – it tends to acquire a more restricted sense.[...]

Specialization of meaning in a restricted social group is an extremely common process; [...] In some cases, the specialized sense has completely superseded the more general one, and the range of the word has been considerably narrowed. This happened in French to a number of ordinary verbs when they passed into the language of the farm-yard:

Latin cubare ‘to recline, to lie down’=> French couver ‘to hatch’
mutare ‘to change’=> muer ‘to moult’
ponere ‘to place’ => pondre ‘to lay eggs’
trahere ‘to draw’=> traire ‘to milk’.

On the basis of this process a specialized group of people does exist. The nature of this group (in the above example, farmers) determines the direction of the change. Other factors are also at work; for instance, in the case of trahere ‘to draw’ => traire ‘to milk’, a homonymic clash between moudre ‘to milk’ and moudre ‘to grind’ (from Latin mulgere and molere, respectively), made the elimination of one of the homonyms neccessary.

In the process of Romanization, the sense of a number of Latin words not pertaining to the life of shepherds was changed by the ancestors of the Rumanians to denote shepherding terms, obviously an indication of the main occupation of this people:
N. Rum.
midday, middle day 
‘the place where the cattle rest at midday’ 
‘small cattle’ 
‘scarlet red’ 
(dialectal):’sheep with reddish spots on its head’ 
‘unit of the Roman cavalry; 30 men; (fig.): group 
*stimular(ia) (stimulus) 
‘pointed stake’ (used in battles) 
‘to rise, to menace’ 
‘to drive, urge on; to carry, push, goad’ 

Remarks: turmă is an example of a word with a special sense (military) being used in a different special sense (shepherd). Latin stimulus had a similar, but broader sense: pointed stake used in battle; and driving stake, with an iron point, used to drive oxen; as well as figuratively ‘stimulus, irritation’.

Another Latin word, mixticius ‘mixed, crossed, hybrid’ may be added, probably => N. Rum. mistreţ ‘wild boar, (Sus scrofa)’; in French, Provençal, Spanish, and Portuguese with the original Latin sense (see Rosetti, A., Cazacu, B., & Coteanu, I. (red.), Istoria limbii române. [The History of the Rumanian Language], Vol. II, Edit. Acad. RSR, Bucharest, 1969 (Vol. I, 1965)., p. 150). Although this is not a specific shepherd term, it belongs to the life of shepherds.

The above text is an excerpt from:

André du Nay, The Origins of the Rumanians -- The early history of the Rumanian language, Matthias Corvinus Publishing, Toronto – Buffalo 1996.

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