Vocabulary (Review)

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Lesson Transcript


Antoni: How many dialects of Romanian are there?
Anna: And are they universally intelligible?
Antoni: At RomanianPod101.com, we hear these questions often. Let's imagine the following situation: Sasha Lee finds herself a bit confused after hearing a new student speaking Romanian. She asks her teacher, Corina Craciun,
"Was that Romanian?"
Sasha Lee: Aceea a fost română?
Sasha Lee: Aceea a fost română?
Corina Craciun: Da. A fost dialect din Transilvania.
Antoni: Once more with the English translation.
Sasha Lee: Aceea a fost română?
Antoni: "Was that Romanian?"
Corina Craciun: Da. A fost dialect din Transilvania.
Antoni: "Yes. It was in the Transylvanian dialect."

Lesson focus

Antoni: In this lesson, you will be learning about Romanian dialects and how much they differ from one another. Before we begin, please take note that a lot of the history of the Romanian language and its dialects and influences were covered in another episode, so we won't be saying much about the history of Romanian. Please have a listen to that episode if you are interested in learning more about the history of the Romanian language and how it is geographically dispersed.
There has been much debate about how many dialects of Romanian there are. Many scholars claim there are between two and five dialects, but there are those who have identified as many as twenty! These days, though, most agree that there are two essential types of Romanian dialects. These are the northern and southern types.
Of these, there are two members of the southern type (traditionally spoken in the regions of Muntenia and Oltenia), while the northern type consists of a number of dialects. The southern type is called the Wallachian dialect, or
Anna: subdialectul muntean.
Antoni: We'll say more about the Romanian word
Anna: muntean
Antoni: a little later. The northern type consists of four major dialects. Among these is the Moldavian dialect, or
Anna: subdialectul moldovean.
Antoni: This is not to be confused with the Moldovian language, which is one of the names that people in Moldova give to the Romanian language. Another dialect within this grouping is the Banat dialect, or
Anna: subdialectul bănățean,
Antoni: and then there are two other dialects that can be grouped together as Transylvanian dialects. These are the Crișana dialect:
Anna: graiul crișean
Antoni: and the Maramureș dialect:
Anna: graiul maramureșean.
Antoni: You will have noticed that, this time, Anna used the word
Anna: graiul
Antoni: to describe the dialect. This word refers to the different accents that are used in the various dialects, but another translation of the word is "tongue." You can understand the meaning of this word by thinking of how it is used when, in English, we talk about a "mother tongue." This is why, if you are in Romania, you might hear someone talking about
Anna: graiul muntean
Antoni: which refers to the Wallachian dialect. The word
Anna: muntean
Antoni: is used in reference to the historical region of Muntenia, a name most Romanian people consider to be synonymous with Wallachia.
Now that you understand what the different dialects are in Romanian, let's briefly review what we've learned thus far, before looking at some specific differences between the dialects.
Antoni: In this lesson, so far, you have learned that there are really only two major Romanian dialectal types that are recognized in most circles. These are the northern and the southern types. There are two members in the southern grouping, but there are four major dialects within the northern grouping. Generally, when people talk about Romanian dialects, they are referring to the Moldavian and Romanian dialects—the latter being the same as the Wallachian dialect we referred to earlier.
Romanians use the word
Anna: graiul
Antoni: to refer to a version of a language that exhibits a different accent to the one being referred to, and some other, minor differences.
Expansion/Contrast (Optional)
Antoni: If people from Romania and people from Moldova were to meet and have a discussion, they would not find it difficult to understand one another. This is because the main difference between these dialects lies in the accents. They differ more in phonetic terms than they do in any other way. That said, the speakers of these dialects may find that they struggle to understand a few of the words that the other person uses. The reason for this is that different words are sometimes used to refer to the same thing. An example of this is the word for "grapes," which is
Anna: struguri
Antoni: in standard Romanian but is
Anna: poame
Antoni: in the Moldavian dialect. In standard Romanian, the word
Anna: castravete
Antoni: means "cucumber," but in Moldova they say
Anna: pepene
Antoni: when talking about a cucumber. They also say
Anna: perje
Antoni: for "plum," while people from the southern part of Romania say
Anna: prună.
Antoni: Of course, not all the differences in vocabulary are related to food. In the southern part of Romania, for instance, they say
Anna: zapadă
Antoni: for "snow," whereas, in the north, many people say
Anna: omăt.
Cultural Insight/Expansion (Optional)
Antoni: There are some interesting words that are used in parts of Moldova that are actually based on Russian words. If you visit people living in the historical region of Bessarabia, you might well hear them using a word like
Anna: abaldi
Antoni: which means "be amazed." You might also hear someone using this expression for a shoe that smells bad:
Anna: caloş bîhlit.
Antoni: If a man has not been behaving respectfully towards others, he might be referred to as:
Anna: cicăcios
Antoni: These words, and other words like them, were influenced by Russian because, for a long time, the historical region of Bessarovia was under Russian governance. These days, it is part of Moldova. For more examples of these kinds of words and more of the history of Moldova, you can listen to our first episode again.
Romanian certainly is an interesting language with a fascinating history.


Antoni: Do you have any more questions? We're here to answer them!
Anna: La revedere.
Antoni: See you soon!
Credits: Anna (Romanian, Romania), Antoni (English, synthetic voice)