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Language and Lexicon

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Alphabet and Basic Grammar of the  Istro-Romanian Language (Istro-română)

This page is not a copy of any official or universally-recognized alphabet of the Istro-Romanian Language which is still being explored and rewritten by international linguists of diverse backgrounds. It is by no means the only alphabet currently being used on the internet to represent the Istro-Romanian language, but perhaps it is the simplest and most sympathetic to the original language and its native speakers.

The important thing to remember when examining the writings in the alternate alphabets is that Istro-Romanian was and remains classified in the Indo-European Language Tree as being of Italic (Romance) origin, not Slavic (Croatian, Slovene, etc.), notwithstanding the Slavic words that have been infused into the speech of the very few acknowledged native speakers in Croatia.

Moreover, this language (or dialect of Romanian) is still spoken by the vaste major of Istro-Romanians who left Istria during the mass Exodus at the end of World War II that nearly decimated the Istro-Romanian towns and who settled in other countries around the world - most notably, in Italy, Germany, France, Sweden, United States of America, Canada, Australia, Argentina and elsewhere.  It is also known that a few Istro-Romanians emigrated to Romania. The sources for the data that are represented on this page are given below.

General notes and orthography

Rumanian is, geographically, an isolated eastern member of the group of Romance languages, being severed from all the rest by countries in which the predominant speech is Slavonic or Magyar. It represents the original rustic Latin of the Roman provincials in Moesia and Dacia, as modified by centuries of alien rule. Structurally, its Latin characteristics have been well preserved; but its vocabulary has undergone great changes, becoming so far Slavonized that the ratio of words of Slavonic origin to words of Latin origin is approximately as three to two; large numbers of loan-words have also been added from Turkish, Greek, Magyar and other sources. It is noteworthy, however, that where Latin words have survived they are sometimes purer than in the Romance languages of the West 1 i.e. the so-called Daco-Rumanian, spoken by the vast majority of Rumans over the whole of Rumania, in Transylvania, Bukovina, the Banat, Bessarabia, and some districts of Servia and Bulgaria bordering on the Danube. The two most important dialects are the Istro-Rumanian, spoken in part of Istria but rapidly becoming extinct, and the Macedo-Rumanian, spoken by the Kutzo-Vlachs (see Vlachs). The Istro-Rumanian forms, as it were, a link - now completely severed - between the Romance of the Balkans and/the Romance of the West. In the Macedo-Rumanian there are no Magyar loan-words, but there is a large Albanian element, and Greek loan-words are more numerous than Slavonic.

Lat. domina is better represented by Rumanian domna, " lady," than by Italian donna, Spanish dona, Portuguese dona, French dame). Some words indeed - such as laudare, to praise, ducere, to lead - retain unaltered the forms under which they were used by Virgil and Cicero. A feature of the language which distinguishes it from all other members of the group, and appears to be of even higher antiquity than the word-forms above mentioned, is the retention of a suffix article - e.g. frate, brother, fratele, the brother; zi, day, ziva, the day. This usage seems to have survived from the pre-Roman period. A similar suffix article is retained in Albanian, which almost certainly represents the original language of the Thraco-Illyrian tribes (see Albania); and these tribes belonged to the same ethnical and linguistic group as the Daco-Moesians represented by the Vlachs.

Rumanian orthography remained in a transitional state throughout the 19th century. The Latin alphabet is used, with special signs to represent sounds borrowed from Slavonic, &c. All the unaccented vowels except e are pronounced as in Italian; e has the same phonetic value as in Old Slavonic (=French e) and is often similarly preiotized (= ye in yet), notably at the beginning of all words except neologisms. The accented vowels é and ó are pronounced as ea and oa (petra, rock, = peatra; morte, death, = moarte); they are written in full, as diphthongs, at the end of a word and sometimes in other positions. The sound of the Slavonic y,J (a guttural y) is represented by d, e or o, though these letters occur as frequently in words of Latin origin (e.g. cind =quando) as in those derived from Slavonic; is represented by d or i, having the nasal sound of un in French; i and is at the end of a word are mute or short. Of the consonants, c followed by e or i=ch (as in church), otherwise k; d or d resembles the English j; g is hard before e and i, otherwise soft; h is guttural, as ch in loch; j is pronounced as in French; r as in Russian; s ors (Sla y. III) as sh; t or t (Sla y. II,) as is or tz; w is wanting. The remaining consonants have the same phonetic values as in English.

Rumanian is highly inflected. It possesses two regular substantive declensions and six cases, the vocative being in common use. The large class of heterogeneous nouns which are masculine in the singular and feminine in the plural constitute what is sometimes called the neuter declension. There are three regular conjugations, distinguished (as in Latin) according to the termination of the present infinitive in a, e or i; e.g. (I) a ara or arare, to plough, (2) a crede or credere, to believe, (3) a dormi or dormire, to sleep. Verbs ending in f, however, are sometimes classed as a fourth conjugation. The second form of the present infinitive (arare, credere, dormire) is used as a noun. The so-called " simple perfect " (perfectul simplu) has often the force of an aorist. Compound tenses are formed by the addition of certain particles and of the auxiliary verbs - a a y e, to have, a fi, to be, and a voi, to will. For the passive voice, a fi is used, with the past participle of the required verb. All tenses of reflexive verbs except the imperative and present participle are formed by prefixing the pronoun which indicates the object to the verb, in the dative or genitive case (abbreviated) as the verb may require; but in the reflexive imperative and present participle the verb precedes the pronoun; e.g. a propune, to propose, a si propune, to propose to oneself, but propune i, propose to yourself.

The accentuation of Rumanian, though complex, is governed by certain broad principles, except in the case of neologisms, many of which have been borrowed from French and Italian without change of accent. Nouns retain the accent of the nominative singular in all cases and in both numbers (e.g. copila, girl, vocative plur, copilelor), except when a diminutive or augmentative suffix is added; the accent then shifts to the suffix. The language is very rich in diminutive and augmentative forms; e.g. the name Ion or loan (John), has the diminutives lonicei, Ionita, Ionascii, Ianache, Ienachel, &c. In verbs - apart from a few exceptional tenses - the accent falls on the first syllable of the inflectional suffix, e.g. en dorm, I sleep, but 'eu' dormissem, I had slept. For the sake of euphony, a vowel is frequently interpolated between two consonants; e.g. in masculine nouns terminating in a consonant, an interpolated u precedes 1 to form the suffix article (om, man, om-u-1, the man).


The Istro-Romanian alphabet is based on the standard Romanian alphabet and thus the pronunciation of most letters is quite similar. In addition to the letters found in the standard Romanian alphabet, Istro-Romanian has three additional letters used to mark sounds specific only to this dialect: Å å | Ľ ľ | Ń ń. Of these, the last two, Ľ ľ | Ń ń, are also found in the alphabets used in the writing of two other Romanian dialects, Aromanian and Megleno-Romanian. These sounds are, however, found in spoken Romanian in certain areas of the country of present-day Romania but are not considered part of the standardized language. The third sound Å å is an uniquely Istro-Romanian sound.

Vowels (7, 8 or 9)

A a | Å å | Ă ă | Â â* | E e | I i | Î î* | O o | U u

Consonants (25)

B b | C c | D d  | F f | G g | H h | J j | K k | L l | Ľ l’ | M m
N n | Ń ń | P p | Q q | R r | S s |
Ş ş| T t | Ţ ţ | V v | W w
X x | Z z

*These two vowels are actually just one sound. This is the sound used even when pronouncing the name of the language: istro-română. It is found in all recent texts written in Istro-Romanian, including:

  • Josif Popovici, Dialectele romîne din Istria (1909)
  • Sextil Puşcariu, Studii Istroromâne (1926)
  • Leca Morariu, Lu Fraţi Noştri (1928)
  • Richard Sârbu & Vasile Frăţilă, Dialectul istroromân (1998)
  • August Kovačec, Istrorumunjsko-Hrvatski Rječnik (1998) and Descrierea istroromânei actuale (1971)

In certain texts, the authors use only one character for transcribing that sound: August Kovačec (1938- ) and Sextil Puşcariu (1877-1948) use  â, for the diphthong oa / ua, whereas Iosif Popovici (1876-1928) uses only Î î. For the same diphthong sound, Leca Morariu uses a stressed a and for what is sometimes pronounced as the diphthong ea (which not included in the above alphabet) he used an open e, in both cases the characters being written as a bolded a and bolded e. Sextil Puşcariu goes into more detail when talking about those sounds that are specific to Romanian and Istro-Romanian. He notes that while the usage of Î î and  â is much more prevalent in the official Romanian language, in Istro-Romanian it is often changed to Ă ă especially in the dialect spoken in the southern group of Istrian towns in the Arsa Valley region (but even these will vary).

Andrea Glavina, in his book Calindaru lu rumeri din Istrie cu figure de Andrei Glavina şi Constantin Diculescu used the following characters instead of or distinct from the above:

Ạ ạ (now replaced by Å å)

Ì ì , À à (same as in Italian)

Ĭ ĭ, used after "l" and "g" to represent the combined sounds that are equivalent to the Italian "gli" and "gn" and Croatian "lj" and "nj" (today represented by a standard "i" preceded by the characters Ľ ľ  and Ń ń - per below)

Ŭ ǔ = ?

There may be other vowels or consonents that have been adapted by various authors that are borrowed from other languages and which are not confirmed as part of the above Istro-Romanian alphabet, including:

Ā ā | Ę  ę | Č č


  • The original repertoire of letters [prior to above expansion] was specified by Dr. Rădulescu of the Institul de Lingvistic "Iorgu Iordan", Bucharest, in a fax received by the editor on 1996-06-21.
  • Cantemir, Traian. 1959. Texte istroromîne, [s.1.]: Editura Adademiei Republicii Populare Romîne.
  • Kovačec, August. 1971. Descrierea istroromânei actuale. Bucureşti: [s.1.]
  • Puşcariu, Sextil. 1926. Studii isroromâne. Vol. II. Bucureşti: [s.1.]

Unique Sounds

[This section is partially derived from the materials requested of and provided by Bogdan Banu, and they have been refined for our purposes. For a listing of representative sounds of all the characters in the Istro-Romanian alphabet, see his Alphabet page. Be aware, however, that neither of these two pages have been prepared or are as yet verified as accurate by certified linguists. Therefore, they are to be used solely for sampling purposes.]

The symbols between the square parenthesis is the phonetic value of each letter in accordance with the International Phonetic Alphabet (IPA). IPA is a system of phonetic notations devised by linguists to accurately and uniquely represent each of the wide variety of sounds (phones or phonemes) used in spoken human language. It is intended as a notational standard for the phonemic and phonetic representation of all spoken languages.

Å å → wə similar to the sound in English of "o" in "one" and "once", but with no Croatian or Italian equivalents. It is nearly a double vowel sound that combines "u" or "o" with "a". Examples: måia (mother), åstez (today), åpa (water).

Ă ă → ə has no English equivalent but is similar to the English sound of "e" in "merchant"; equivalent the the Italian "e" in "mercato". This is a rather unique sound to Romanian although a similar sound exists in both Bulgarian and Afrikaans. Examples: măr (hand)

 â and Î î → ɨ has no English equivalent but is similar to the sound of "aw" in "dawn". These two vowels are phonetically and functionally identical. The letter  â is used exclusively in the middle of words; its majuscule (upper case) version appears only in all-capitals inscriptions. The letter Î î is used only at the beginning and the end of words. The reason for using both letters is historical and denotes an effort to emphasize the language's Latin origin. Examples: însa (alone), cân (when).

J j → ʒ as in the sound of "s" in "treasure", the phonetic equivalent of the Croatian "ž"; no Italian equivalent. Examples: obråju (face)

Ľ l’ l as in the English sound "lli" in "million", the phonetic equivalent of the Croatian "lj" and Italian "gl". The letter is correctly written as one character and not as the letter L with an apostrophe ('). This sound does not exist in standard Romanian, but is found in Aromanian and Macedo-Romanian and in dialectal variations of Romanian.

Ń ń → ɲ as the the English sound "ni" in "onion"; the phonetic equivalent of the Croatian "nj" and Italian "gn". This sound does not exist in standard Romanian, but is found in Aromanian and Macedo-Romanian and in dialectal variations of Romanian.

Ş ş → ʃ as the English sound "sh" in "shoe"; the phonetic equivalent of the Croatian "š" and Italian "sc" when followed by "i" or "e". The letter is correctly written with a coma (virgula) and not with a cedilla like in Turkish. However, most on line texts use the version with a cedilla because it is much more widely supported and because the correct version was introduced only in Unicode 3.0 at the request of the Romanian national standardization body. Most computers today still do not have fonts compatible with it (computers with Microsoft operating systems older than Windows XP do not have compatible fonts). See table below.

Ţ ţ → ʦ as the English sound "ts" in "cats"; and the Italian "z" in "Venezia"; the phonetic equivalent of the Croatian "c" between two vowels. The letter is correctly written with a coma (virgula) in the Latin Extended-B set and not with a cedilla in Latin Extended-A set. Examples: ţåţe (one of the sub-dialects' pronunciations for "father"). See table below.

Conform regulilor oficiale stabilite de Academia Română cu privire la ortografia limbii române, reprezentarea grafică a caracterelor Ş/ş şi Ţ/ţ se face prin adăugarea virgulei sub caracterele S/s şi T/t respectiv.



caracterele cu sedilă sunt incorecte din punctul de vedere al limbii române

În cazul codării proprietare de pagină CP1250 folosită de sistemul de operare Microsoft Windows, în forma ei actuală, caracterele Ş/ş şi Ţ/ţ au atribuite codurile Unicode U015E (S cu sedilă), U015F (s cu sedilă), U0162 (T cu sedilă) şi U0163 (t cu sedilă). Ele sunt descrise în cadrul subsetului Unicode Latin Extended-A.

Aceste caractere, cu sedilă, sunt specificate şi în cadrul standardului internaţional ISO/IEC 8859‑2:1998 (Latin2).


caracterele cu virgulă sunt cele corecte din punctul de vedere al limbii române

Caracterele corecte din punct de vedere al limbii române sunt de fapt caracterele ale căror coduri Unicode sunt U0218 (S cu virgulă), U0219 (s cu virgulă), U021A (T cu virgulă) şi U021B (t cu virgulă). Ele sunt descrise în cadrul subsetului Unicode Latin Extended-B.

Aceste caractere, cu virgulă, sunt specificate atît în cadrul standardului românesc SR 13411:1999, cît şi în cadrul standardului internaţional ISO/IEC 8859‑16:2001 (Latin10).

Unfortunately, these distinctions are not yet to be found on the major text editors. For additional information, see


Grammatical convention - quotation marks:  ‚single’ and „double”

Verb Conjugations






Infinitive cl´amå ramaré båte durmí
Other verbs of conjugation I: stå, turnå, zucå
Other verbs of conjugation II: ve, tiré, be
Other verbs of conjugation III: årde, pl'erde, zacl'ide
Other verbs of conjugation IV: avzí, fi, cuperí
Other IV conjugation verbs formed with -éi and -úi:
bivéi, movéi, piséi, frustikéi, carúi, radúi.
Verbs ending in -véi and -úi are iterative, while verbs
ending -éi are either perfective or imperfective.



















3. sg.









































Past Perfect
Formed with the past participle and combined with auxiliary verb ve in the present. rugåt-am tirút-ai, tras-a avzít-am verít-at copéit-a(v)
Conjuctive present
Identical to the indicative present, but the conjunction se or neca preceeds it. 
Conditional present
(res, rei, re, ren, ret, re) + rugå
Conditional perfect
(res, rei, re, ren, ret, re) + fost + rugå
Conditional future








avzír copéir




avzíri  copéiri




avzíre  copéire




 avzírno copéirno




avzíret copéiret




avzíru  copéiru

Standard Romanian Keyboard
(incomplete for Istro-Romanian

UCS ranges for the characters on this page: 0040-005A, 0060-007A, 00C5, 00E5, 0102-0103, 0143-0144, 0218-021B, 02BC, 2019-201A, 201D-201E.

In (X) HTML character entity references, required in cases where the letter is not available by ordinary coding, the codes are Å and å; or Å and å, which also can used in any XML application (when the letter is not directly available in the character encoding used).

For computers, when using the ISO 8859-1 or Unicode sets, the codes for "Å" and "å" are respectively 197 and 229, or C5 and E5 in hexadecimal.

To type "å" with an US-International keyboard layout on Microsoft Windows, hold the right-Alt and the "w" key, and the Å in the same way with the addition of the Shift key . Or hold the Alt key and type 0197 or 143 on the numeric keypad for "Å", and for "å" hold the Alt key and type 0229 or 134 on the numeric keypad.

To type "Å" with an Apple Computer using a US keyboard layout, hold the Option key and the Shift key simultaneously and type the A key. To type "å" with an Apple Computer, hold the Option key and type the A key.

See also:


  • The Alphabets of Europe -" (original)
  • Prof. Petru Neiescu, University of Cluj, Bucharest

Related sites:

  • Dialectul Aromân -

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Created: Saturday, January 22, 2004; Last updated:  Saturday March 12, 2016
Copyright © 1998, USA