Current geographic distribution of the four Romanian dialects

History of the Romanian Language and Dialects

The Romanian language is an Eastern Romance language that derives from the Latin that was introduced during the Roman occupation of Eastern Europe and the Balkans. The recruitment of Thracians, Illyrians and Celts into the Roman army gradually spread the use of Latin throughout the Balkan region. Many sources have defined a line for the divide of Greek and Latin usage at this time which runs across modern Macedonia and Bulgaria below the Balkan mountains.

The Romanian language contains features reflecting continued contact with Romans until the decline of the Roman Empire and the influx of Slavic peoples in the 6th century. From this period time came the separation of northern and southern Romanian dialects. The two principle northern dialects are Daco-Romanian which is spoken in modern Romania and the Republic of Moldova, and Istro-Romanian which is miraculously still spoken in a few isolated villages in Istria. The two principle southern dialects are Arumanian or Macedo-Romanian which are spoken in Macedonia, Albania and Greece, and Megleno-Romanian which is spoken in a few villages in Greece. Romanian [which dialect?] is still the first language of many Romanian Jews who now live in Israel.

The Eastern Romance (Romanian) line began to further split from two principle dialects into four separate ones between 500 and 1000 A.D., more specifically around 600 A.D. after the Slavic Invasion. The Daco-Romanian dialect then separated from the three dialects that were spoken south of the Danube - that is, Macedo-Romanian, Istro-Romanian and Megleno-Romanian. It is believed that these three dialects became fully distinct from Daco-Romanian during the 9th-10th centuries, with Istro-Romanian splitting later than the other two.

The most widely spoken is the Daco-Romanian language which today is known simply as Romanian. This is the official language that is spoken by over 26 Million people in present-day Romania and Moldovia. Aromunian (also known as Macedo-Romanian), Megleno-Romanian and Istro-Romanian are spoken in small communities scattered over the Balkan Peninsula as shown in the above map. Since Istro-Romanian is linguistically the closest to Daco-Romanian, but according to the Ethnologue: Languages of the World, Istro-Romanian is structurally a separate language from Romanian (F.B. Agard).

The following are the four Romanian dialects which are sometimes referred to as separate languages:

Language Native speakers Geographic distribution
Aromunian / Macedo-Romanian


Albania, Bulgaria, Greece, Macedonia


Romania, Moldavia, Ukraine, Hungary




Istria (in present-day Croatia). Not included in these numbers are the people who were scattered around the world after World War II and who still include native speakers. They reside primarily in the United States of America, but also in Argentina, Australia, Canada, Germany, Italy, Slovenia, Serbia, Sweden, and possibly other countries.
Note: The date of these population statistics is unknown, and may not reflect current conditions.
Major varieties of Romanian.
Major varieties of Daco-Romanian (official Romanian)

Daco-Romanian (official Romanian)

Romanian dialects (or varieties) are not as varied as are many other Romance languages. Romanians themselves refer to them as graiuri or speeches/varieties rather than dialects. These graiuri (speeches) are within the Daco-Romanian dialect/language only and are not to be confused with the Aromanian, Megleno-Romanian and Istro-Romanian dialects which are mostly spoken south of the Danube and which are at times considered to be languages in their own right. (Please note, that we shall not further discuss the Aromunian / Macedo-Romanian or Megleno-Romanian dialects which are widely covered on other internet sites.) The differences between the varieties of Daco-Romanian are small and mainly in vocabulary and in phonology, as the grammar is almost identical all over the area inhabited by Romanians. This makes the Romanian language mutually intelligible over the entire territory inhabited by Romanians.

Romanian is divided into several "graiuri" ('speeches'):

  • the northern varieties - Moldavia, Banat and most of Transylvania
    • Banat (bănățeană)
    • Maramureș (maramureșeană)
    • Moldavia (moldovenește) -- also spoken in the northern part of Dobruja
    • Ardeal (Transylvania) (ardelenește)
  • the southern varieties - in Southern Transylvania (Făgăraș and Brașov areas), Wallachia and southern part of Dobruja
    • Muntenia (muntenește) -- spoken in Bucharest and the basis of the standard language.
    • Oltenia (oltenește)
    • Eastern Serbia

Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Romanian_dialects


According to the Ethnologue: Languages of the World, Istro-Romanian is an Eastern Romance language that fits in the linguistic tree as follows:

  • Indo-European (449)
    • Italic (48)
      • Romance (47)
        • Eastern (4)
          • Istro-Romanian
          • Aromunian (Macedo-Romanian)
          • Daco-Romanian (standard Romanian)
          • Megleno-Romanian

The Ethnologue calls Istro-Romanian a structurally separate language from Romanian (F.B. Agard), as also are Aromunian and Megleno-Romanian. Traditional Romanian linguists, however, consider all three to be dialects of standard Romanian - that is, of Daco-Romanian.

There is another view that the Istro-Romanian speech is closer to the extinct Dalmatian language than to Romanian, but this theory is rejected by most linguists. Some loan words suggest that before coming to Istria, Istro-Romanians lived for a longer period of time in Northern Dalmatia - on the route westward from their place of origin in current Romania - but there is no documented evidence of it, plus such theory has produced contradictory permutations. Even if it were so, the Istro-Romanian language nonetheless shows some features that are unmistakably Romanian, whereas even Daco-Romanian has Slavic loan words. It is a well known fact that of all the Eastern Romance tongues spoken outside of present-day Romania, Istro-Romanian is linguistically the closest to Daco-Romanian than to any other language.


  • http://www.ethnologue.com
  • http://www.eliznik.org.uk/RomaniaHistory/language.htm

Main Menu

Created: Saturday, June 26, 1999, Last Update: Friday, November 25, 2016
Copyright © 1998 IstriaNet.org, USA