Is the Romanian language Slavic? (No, it's not!)

avatarMille Larsen
4 mins read

Romanian is the language of around 24 million speakers who live in Romania and to some extent Albania, Greece, Serbia, Moldova, Macedonia and Ukraine. It's a language with a rich history and many influences. And it has a quite particular sound.

The pronunciation, certain commonly used words and Romania's geographic location make a lot of people assume that Romanian is a Slavic language like Bulgarian, Polish or Russian.

It isn't!

Romanian is a Romance language with Latin roots. This puts it in the same basket as languages like Spanish, French and Italian. While spoken Romanian can have Slavic vibes to the untrained ear, it most definitely is of Latin origin. This becomes even more obvious when looking at the written language.

Here's article one of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in Romanian:

Toate ființele umane se nasc libere și egale în demnitate și în drepturi. Ele sunt înzestrate cu rațiune și conștiință și trebuie să se comporte unele față de altele în spiritul fraternității.

Now let's look at the same thing in Italian:

Tutti gli esseri umani nascono liberi ed eguali in dignità e diritti. Essi sono dotati di ragione e di coscienza e devono agire gli uni verso gli altri in spirito di fratellanza.

That's almost the same thing!

And just to make a point, let's have a look at the same thing in a Slavic language, namely Polish:

Wszyscy ludzie rodzą się wolni i równi pod względem swej godności i swych praw. Są oni obdarzeni rozumem i sumieniem i powinni postępować wobec innych w duchu braterstwa.

I think that makes it clear that Romanian belongs to the Romance language family, not the Slavic one.

There is something to be said about the Romanian pronunciation, however. Due to being more or less isolated from other Romance languages for hundreds of years, as well as being surrounded by Slavic languages; Romanian pronunciation has a certain Slavic sound to it!

While the words are mostly of Latin origin, the melody, intonation and pronunciation sounds much more like those of the country's close neighbors. Partly due to this, it's quite easy for Romanians to pronounce the words of Slavic languages. Even if they don't understand!

Romanian, the estranged grandchild of Latin

If you already know Latin or another language from the Romance language family, you'll notice that you already know a lot of Romanian before even studying it.

Romanian is the only Latin language in Eastern Europe. The language evolved from "Vulgar Latin" in the first few centuries A.D. when the Romans brought it to their new territory, and it's since become a language of its own.

In a way, Romanian is actually even more Latin than the Romance languages we speak in Europe and the rest of the world today. Romanian has kept some grammatical features from Latin that have disappeared from the other "Latin dialects" long ago.

For instance: Romanian has three genders. Feminine, masculine and neuter, like Latin, whereas all the other Romance languages have long since gotten rid of the third one, neuter.

Romanian also still uses grammatical cases, like it's the case with Latin. They've only kept three cases, while Latin has 6, but it's still a clear link between the two languages that has long since been erased in the other languages in the family.

Romanian: A unique Romance language in Eastern Europe

Romanian is a fascinating language. It's got a very special sound to it and it's got a strong resemblance with the language of the Roman empire, Latin. This gives you insight into a world that most people forget about when they speak of Romance languages and culture.

Romanian has always been the "odd one out" in the Romance language family. The language, but also the Romanian people have a lot to offer, and if you were to study the language and eventually pick it up, you wouldn't regret it!

If you're interested in learning more about the Romanian language and how I recommend that you go about learning Romanian, go read my article on the subject!