Romanian phonology

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search
For assistance with IPA transcriptions of Romanian for Wikipedia articles, see WP:IPA for Romanian.

In the phonology of the Romanian language, the phoneme inventory consists of seven vowels, two or four semivowels (different views exist), and twenty consonants. In addition, as with all languages, other phonemes can occur occasionally in interjections or recent borrowings.

Notable features of Romanian include two unusual diphthongs /e̯a/ and /o̯a/ and the central vowel /ɨ/.

Vowels[edit]

There are seven monophthongs in Romanian:[1]

Front Central Back
Close i ɨ u
Mid ə
Open ä

Although , are written above with diacritics to show their mid height and ä with a diacritic to show its central backness, in virtually all phonetic transcriptions of Romanian these characteristics are implied and the symbols are written without diacritics. The same convention is applied in this article.

The table below gives a series of word examples for each vowel.

Vowel Description Examples
/a/ Open central unrounded apă /ˈa.pə/ water
balaur /baˈla.ur/ dragon
cânta /kɨnˈta/ to sing
/e/ Mid front unrounded erou /eˈrow/ hero
necaz /neˈkaz/ trouble
umple /ˈum.ple/ to fill
/i/ Close front unrounded insulă /ˈin.su.lə/ island
salcie /ˈsal.tʃi.e/ willow
topi /toˈpi/ to melt
/o/ Mid back rounded oraș /oˈraʃ/ city
copil /koˈpil/ child
acolo /aˈko.lo/ there
/u/ Close back rounded uda /uˈda/ to wet
aduc /aˈduk/ I bring
simplu /ˈsim.plu/ simple
/ə/ Mid central unrounded ăsta /ˈəs.ta/ this
păros /pəˈros/ hairy
albă /ˈal.bə/ white (fem. sg.)
/ɨ/ Close central unrounded înspre /ˈɨn.spre/ toward
cârnat /kɨrˈnat/ sausage
coborî /ko.boˈrɨ/ to descend

While most of these vowels are relatively straightforward and similar or identical to those in many other languages, the close central unrounded vowel /ɨ/ is uncommon as a phoneme[1] and especially uncommon amongst Indo-European languages.

Less frequent vowels[edit]

ö[edit]

In addition to the seven core vowels, in a number of words of foreign origin (predominantly French, but also German) the close-mid front rounded vowel /ø/, the open-mid front rounded vowel /œ/, and the mid-central rounded vowel /ɵ/ (different from the already existing unrounded /ə/) have been preserved, without replacing them with any of the existing phonemes, at least in careful speech. The borrowed words have become part of the Romanian vocabulary and follow the usual inflexion rules, so that the new vowels, though less common, could be considered as part of the Romanian phoneme set. Romanian dictionaries use ö in their phonetic descriptions to represent all the three vowels, which suggests that they may be actually pronounced identically by Romanian speakers. However, the 2005 edition of the prescriptive work Dicționarul ortografic, ortoepic și morfologic al limbii române gives for the ad-hoc phonetic symbol ö two distinct values: the mid front rounded vowel (example: acheuleean, 'Acheulean') and the French "e caduc", that is, the mid-central rounded vowel (example: chemin de fer, 'the card game Chemin de Fer').[2] The vowel occurs in words such as: bleu /blø/ ('light blue'), pasteuriza /pastøriˈza/ ('to pasteurize'), loess /løs/ ('loess'), cozeur /koˈzør/ ('pleasant talker'). As it is not a native phoneme, its pronunciation may fluctuate or it may even be replaced by the diphthong /e̯o/. In older French borrowings it has often been replaced by /e/, /o/, or /e̯o/, as in șofer /ʃoˈfer/ ('driver', from French chauffeur), masor /maˈsor/ ('masseur', from masseur), and sufleor /suˈfle̯or/ ('theater prompter', from souffleur).

ü[edit]

Similarly, borrowings from languages such as French and German sometimes contain the close front rounded vowel /y/: ecru /eˈkry/, tul /tyl/, fürer /ˈfyrer/. The symbol used for it in phonetic notations in Romanian dictionaries is ü. Educated speakers usually pronounce it /y/, but other realizations such as /ju/ also occur. Older words that originally had this sound have had it replaced with /ju/, /u/, or /i/. For instance, Turkish kül became ghiul /ɡjul/ ('large ring'), Turkish tütün became tutun [tuˈtun] ('tobacco'), but tiutiun [tjuˈtjun] in the Moldavian subdialect, German Düse gave duză /ˈduzə/ ('nozzle') and French bureau became birou /biˈrow/ ('desk', 'office').

Diphthongs[edit]

According to Ioana Chițoran, Romanian has two diphthongs: /e̯a/ and /o̯a/. As a result of their origin (diphthongization of mid vowels under stress), they appear normally in stressed syllables[3] and make morphological alternations with the mid vowels /e/ and /o/.

In addition to these, the semivowels /j/ and /w/ can be combined (either before, after, or both) with most vowels. One view considers that only /e̯a/ and /o̯a/ can follow an obstruent-liquid cluster such as in broască ('frog') and dreagă ('to mend').[4] can form real diphthongs, while the rest are merely vowel-glide sequences.[5] The traditional view (taught in schools) considers all of the above as diphthongs.

Falling
Diphthong Examples
/aj/ rai /raj/ 'heaven', aisberg /ˈajs.berɡ/ 'iceberg'
/aw/ sau /saw/ 'or', august /ˈaw.ɡust/ 'August'
/ej/ lei /lej/ 'lions', trei /trej/ 'three'
/ew/ greu /ɡrew/ 'heavy', mereu /meˈrew/ 'always'
/ij/ mii /mij/ 'thousands', vii /vij/ 'you come'
/iw/ fiu /fiw/ 'son', scriu /skriw/ 'I write'
/oj/ oi /oj/ 'sheep (pl.)', noi /noj/ 'we'
/ow/ ou /ow/ 'egg', bou /bow/ 'ox'
/uj/ pui /puj/ 'you put', gălbui /ɡəlˈbuj/ 'yellowish'
/uw/ eu continuu /konˈti.nuw/ 'I continue' (partly replaced by eu continui)[6]
/əj/ răi /rəj/ 'bad (masc. pl.)', văi /vəj/ 'valleys'
/əw/ dulău /duˈləw/ 'mastiff', rău /rəw/ 'bad (masc. sg.)'
/ɨj/ câine /ˈkɨj.ne/ 'dog', mâinile /ˈmɨj.ni.le/ 'the hands'
/ɨw/ râu /rɨw/ 'river', brâu /brɨw/ 'girdle'
Rising
Diphthong Examples
/e̯a/ beată /ˈbe̯a.tə/ 'drunk' (f.), mea /me̯a/ 'my (fem. sg.)'
/e̯o/ Gheorghe /ˈɡe̯or.ɡe/ 'George', ne-o ploua /ne̯o.ploˈwa/ 'it would rain us'
/e̯u/ (only in word combinations) pe-un /pe̯un/ 'on a'
/ja/ biată /bja.tə/ 'poor' (f.), mi-a zis /mjaˈzis/ '(he) told me'
/je/ fier /fjer/ 'iron', miere /ˈmje.re/ 'honey'
/jo/ iod /jod/ 'iodine', chior /ˈkjor/ 'one-eyed'
/ju/ iubit /juˈbit/ 'loved', chiuvetă /kjuˈve.tə/ 'sink'
/o̯a/ găoace /ɡəˈo̯a.tʃe/ 'shell', foarte /ˈfo̯ar.te/ 'very'
/we/ piuez /piˈwez/ 'I felt (a fabric)', înșeuez /ɨn.ʃeˈwez/ 'I saddle (a horse)'
/wa/ băcăuan /bə.kəˈwan/ 'inhabitant of Bacău', ziua /ˈzi.wa/ 'the day'
/wə/ două /ˈdo.wə/ 'two (fem.)', plouă /ˈplo.wə/ 'it rains'
/wɨ/ plouând /ploˈwɨnd/ 'raining', ouând /oˈwɨnd/ 'laying (eggs)'
Triphthong Examples
/e̯aj/ ceainic /ˈtʃe̯aj.nik/ 'tea pot', socoteai /so.koˈte̯aj/ 'you were reckoning'
/e̯aw/ beau /be̯aw/ 'I drink', spuneau /spuˈne̯aw/ 'they were saying'
/jaj/ mi-ai dat /mjajˈdat/ 'you gave me', ia-i /jaj/ 'take them'
/jaw/ iau /jaw/ 'I take', suiau /suˈjaw/ 'they were climbing'
/jej/ iei /jej/ 'you take', piei /pjej/ 'skins'
/jew/ maieu /maˈjew/ 'undershirt', eu /jew/ 'I (myself)'
/joj/ i-oi da /jojˈda/ 'I might give him', picioică /piˈtʃjoj.kə/ 'potato (regionalism)'
/jow/ maiou /maˈjow/ 'undershirt'
/o̯aj/ leoaică /leˈo̯aj.kə/ 'lioness', rusoaică /ruˈso̯aj.kə/ 'Russian woman'
/waj/ înșeuai /ɨn.ʃeˈwaj/ '(you) were saddling'
/waw/ înșeuau /ɨn.ʃeˈwaw/ '(they) were saddling'
/wəj/ rouăi /ˈro.wəj/ 'of the dew'
/e̯o̯a/ pleoape /ˈple̯o̯a.pe/ 'eyelids', leoarcă /ˈle̯o̯ar.kə/ 'soaking (wet)'
/jo̯a/ creioane /kreˈjo̯a.ne/ 'pencils', aripioară /a.riˈpjo̯a.rə/ 'winglet'

As can be seen from the examples above, the diphthongs /e̯a/ and /o̯a/ contrast with /ja/ and /wa/ respectively, though there are no minimal pairs to contrast /o̯a/ and /wa/.[7] Impressionistically, the two pairs sound very similar to native speakers[8] Because /o̯a/ doesn't appear in the final syllable of a prosodic word, there are no monosyllabic words with /o̯a/; exceptions might include voal ('veil') and trotuar ('sidewalk'), though Ioana Chițoran argues[9] that these are best treated as containing glide-vowel sequences rather than diphthongs. In some regional pronunciations, the diphthong /o̯a/ tends to be pronounced as a single vowel /ɒ/.[citation needed]

Other triphthongs such as /juj/ and /o̯aw/ occur sporadically in interjections and uncommon words.

Diphthongs in borrowings[edit]

Borrowings from English have enlarged the set of ascending diphthongs to also include /jə/, /we/, /wi/, and /wo/, or have extended their previously limited use. Generally, these borrowings have retained their original spellings, but their pronunciation has been adapted to the Romanian phonology. The table below gives some examples.

Diphthong Examples
/jə/ yearling /ˈjər.linɡ/ 'one-year-old animal (colt)'
/we/ western /ˈwes.tern/ 'Western (movie set in the American West)'
/wi/ tweeter /ˈtwi.tər/ 'high-pitch loudspeaker'
/wo/ walkman /ˈwok.men/ 'pocket-sized tape/CD player'

Borrowings such as whisky and week-end are listed in some dictionaries as starting with the ascending diphthong /wi/, which corresponds to the original English pronunciation, but in others they appear with the descending diphthong /uj/.[10]

Vowel alternations[edit]

Romanian has a broad process of alternating between a mid vowel and a "low" vowel: /e̯a/ alternates with /e/, /o̯a/ with /o/, and /a/ with /ə/.[11]

Originally, this was the result of a phonological process wherein mid vowels (Balkan Latin, by this time, had merged the long and short mid vowels) lowered to [ɛ] and [ɔ] under stress; a subsequent change diphthongized these vowels.[12] This has resulted in stress alternations,[13] as shown in the examples below, where stressed vowels and diphthongs are highlighted in bold:

Stressed Unstressed
a - ə carte 'book' cărtici 'book' (diminutive)
ca 'house' căsuță 'house' (diminutive)
e̯a - e beat 'drunk' bețiv 'drunkard'
sea 'evening' înserat 'dusk'
o̯a - o poartă 'gate' portar 'gatekeeper'
coastă 'rib' costiță 'rib' (diminutive)

This has since been morphologized and now shows up in verb conjugations[14] and nominal inflection (e.g. oaste/oști, 'army'/'armies')[15]

Consonants[edit]

Standard Romanian has twenty consonants, as listed in the table below.

Romanian consonants[16]
Bilabial Labio-
dental
Dental1 Post-
alveolar
Velar Glottal
Nasal m n
Stop p   b t   d k   ɡ
Affricate t͡s      t͡ʃ   d͡ʒ
Fricative f   v s   z ʃ   ʒ h     
Trill r
Approximant l

^1 All consonants marked as "dental" in this table (excluding /l/) are apico-dental.[17] /l/ is apico-alveolar.[17]

Besides the consonants in this table, a few consonants can have allophones:

  • Palatalized consonants occur when preceding /i/.[16][18]
  • /n/ becomes the velar [ŋ] before /k/, /ɡ/ and /h/;
  • /h/ becomes the velar [x] in word-final positions (duh 'spirit') and before consonants (hrean 'horseradish'); it becomes the palatal [ç] before [i], [j], like in the word "human" in English, and as a realization for an underlying /hi/ sequence in word-final positions (cehi 'Czech people' is pronounced [t͡ʃeç], though usually transcribed [t͡ʃehʲ]).

The Romanian consonant set is almost the same as that in Italian, with a few exceptions: The Italian palatal consonants /ɲ/, /ʎ/ and affricate /dz/ are missing in standard Romanian, which in turn has the fricative /ʒ/ and the "glottal" /h/.

Here are some examples, with an approximate indication of how each consonant is pronounced, intended for English native speakers.

Consonant Pronounced as Examples
/p/ p in speak[a] pas /pas/ step, spate /ˈspa.te/ back, cap /kap/ head
/b/ b in boy ban /ban/ money, zbor /zbor/ I fly, rob /rob/ slave
/t/ t in stop[a][b] tare /ˈta.re/ hard, stai /staj/ you stay, sat /sat/ village
/d/ d in day[b] dacă /ˈda.kə/ if, vinde /ˈvin.de/ he sells, cad /kad/ I fall
/k/ k in sky[a] cal /ˈkal/ horse, ascund /asˈkund/ I hide, sac /sak/ sack
/ɡ/ g in go gol /ɡol/ empty, pungă /ˈpun.ɡə/ bag, drag /draɡ/ dear
/ts/ ts in nuts țară /ˈtsa.rə/ country, ață /ˈa.tsə/ thread, soț /sots/ husband
/tʃ/ ch in chin cer /tʃer/ sky, vacile /ˈva.tʃi.le/ the cows, maci /matʃʲ/ poppies
/dʒ/ j in jingle ger /dʒer/ frost, magic /ˈma.dʒik/ magical, rogi /rodʒʲ/ you ask
/m/ m in man mic /mik/ small, amar /aˈmar/ bitter, pom /pom/ tree
/n/ n in name nor /nor/ cloud, inel /iˈnel/ ring, motan /moˈtan/ tomcat
/f/ f in fine foc /fok/ fire, afară /aˈfa.rə/ out, pantof /panˈtof/ shoe
/v/ v in voice val /val/ wave, covor /koˈvor/ carpet, mov /mov/ mauve
/s/ s in sound sare /ˈsa.re/ salt, case /ˈka.se/ houses, ales /aˈles/ chosen
/z/ z in zone zid /zid/ wall, mazăre /ˈma.zə.re/ pea, orez /oˈrez/ rice
/ʃ/ sh in shy șarpe /ˈʃar.pe/ snake, așa /aˈʃa/ so, oraș /oˈraʃ/ city
/ʒ/ s in measure jar /ʒar/ embers, ajutor /a.ʒuˈtor/ help, vrej /vreʒ/ stalk
/h/ h in hope horn /horn/ chimney, pahar /paˈhar/ glass, duh /duh/ spirit
/l/ l in like lung /lunɡ/ long, alună /aˈlu.nə/ hazelnut, fel /fel/ sort
/r/ Italian r[c] repede /ˈre.pe.de/ quickly, tren /tren/ train, măr /mər/ apple
  1. ^ a b c Note that in English p in speak and p in peak are not the same sounds: The second one is aspirated. Romanian /p/ is not aspirated. The same holds for /t/ and /k/.
  2. ^ a b /t/ and /d/ are only similar, not identical, to their English counterparts. While in English they are usually alveolar, pronounced by touching the alveolar ridge with the tip of the tongue, in Romanian and other Romance languages they are denti-alveolar, obtained by touching the roof of the mouth just behind the teeth with the flat of the tongue. The same remark is valid for consonants /n/, /s/, and /z/, although the difference is not as obvious.
  3. ^ Somewhat as in Italian and Spanish, /r/ is usually a flap, though it may occasionally be a trill in word-initial position.[16] It is similar to the consonant in the middle of "get up" in American English.

Palatalized consonants[edit]

In addition to appearing before /i/, palatalized consonants also appear terminally as the manifestation of certain morphological markers, namely to indicate:[19]

  • Plurality in nouns and adjectives
  • Second person singular in verbs.

The interpretation commonly taken is that an underlying morpheme /i/ palatalizes the consonant and is subsequently deleted. However, /sʲ/, /tʲ/, and /dʲ/ become [ʃʲ], [t͡sʲ], and [zʲ], respectively,[19] with very few phonetically justified exceptions, included in the table below, which shows that this palatalization can occur for all consonants.

Voiceless Voiced
Consonant Examples Consonant Examples
/p/ rupi /rupʲ/ 'you tear' /b/ arabi /aˈrabʲ/ 'Arabs'
/t/ proști /proʃtʲ/ 'stupid (masc. pl.)' /d/ nădejdi /nəˈdeʒdʲ/ 'hopes'
/k/ urechi /uˈrekʲ/ 'ears' /ɡ/ unghi /unɡʲ/ 'angle'
/t͡s/ roți /rot͡sʲ/ 'wheels'
/t͡ʃ/ faci /fat͡ʃʲ/ 'you do' /d͡ʒ/ mergi /merd͡ʒʲ/ 'you go'
/m/ dormi /dormʲ/ 'you sleep'
/n/ bani /banʲ/ 'money (pl.)'
/f/ șefi /ʃefʲ/ 'bosses' /v/ pleșuvi /pleˈʃuvʲ/ 'bald (masc. pl.)'
/s/ bessi /besʲ/ 'Bessi' /z/ brazi /brazʲ/ 'fir trees'
/ʃ/ moși /moʃʲ/ 'old men' /ʒ/ breji /breʒʲ/ 'brave (masc. pl.)'
/h/ vlahi /vlahʲ/ 'Wallachians'
/l/ școli /ʃkolʲ/ 'schools'
/r/ sari /sarʲ/ 'you jump'

In certain morphological processes /ʲ/ is replaced by the full vowel /i/, for example

  • in noun plural genitive formation: școli - școlilor /ʃkolʲ/ - /ˈʃko.li.lor/ ('schools - of the schools'),
  • when appending the definite article to some plural nouns: brazi - brazii /brazʲ/ - /ˈbra.zij/ ('fir trees - the fir trees')
  • in verb + pronoun combinations: dați - dați‑ne /dat͡sʲ/ - /ˈda.t͡si.ne/ ('give - give us').

This may explain why /ʲ/ is perceived as a separate sound by native speakers and written with the same letter as the vowel /i/.

The non-syllabic /ʲ/ can be sometimes found inside compound words like câțiva /kɨt͡sʲˈva/ ('a few') and oriunde /orʲˈun.de/ ('wherever'), where the first morpheme happened to end in this /ʲ/. A word that contains this twice is cincizeci /t͡ʃint͡ʃʲˈzet͡ʃʲ/ ('fifty').

In old Romanian and still in some local pronunciations there is another example of such a non-syllabic, non-semivocalic phoneme, derived from /u/, which manifests itself as labialization of the preceding sound. The usual IPA notation is /ʷ/. It is found at the end of some words after consonants and semivowels, as in un urs, pronounced /un ˈursʷ/ ('a bear'), or îmi spui /ɨmʲ spujʷ/ ('you tell me'). The disappearance of this phoneme might be attributed to the fact that, unlike /ʲ/, it didn't play any morphological role. It is possibly a trace of Latin endings containing /u/ (-us, -um), this phoneme is related to vowel /u/ used to connect the definite article "l" to the stem of a noun or adjective, as in domn - domnul /domn - ˈdom.nul/ ('lord - the lord', cf. Latin dominus).

Other consonants[edit]

As with other languages, Romanian interjections often use sounds beyond the normal phoneme inventory or disobey the normal phonotactical rules, by containing unusual phoneme sequences, by allowing words to be made up of only consonants, or by consisting of repetitions. Such exceptional mechanisms are needed to obtain an increased level of expressivity.[20] Often, these interjections have multiple spellings or occasionally none at all, which accounts for the difficulty of finding the right approximation using existing letters.[21] The following is a list of examples.

  • A bilabial affricate [ʘ], pronounced by rounding the lips and strongly sucking air between them, is used for urging horses to start walking.[20]
  • Whistling is another interjection surpassing the limits of the phoneme inventory. It is usually spelled fiu-fiu.[20]
  • The dental click [ǀ] (see also click consonants) is used in an interjection similar to the English tut-tut (or tsk-tsk), expressing concern, disappointment, disapproval, etc., and generally accompanied by frowning or a comparable facial expression. Usually two to four such clicks in a row make up the interjection; only one click is rare and more than four can be used for over-emphasis. The Romanian spelling is usually ttt or țțț. Technically, the dental click is obtained by creating a cavity between a velar closure and the tongue touching the alveolar ridge in the same position as for consonant [t]. When the tongue closure is released, the air from outside is sucked in and produces the click.
  • The same dental click is used in another interjection, the informal equivalent of "no" (nu in Romanian). Only one click is emitted, usually as an answer to a yes-no question. Although there is rarely any accompanying sound, the usual spelling is nt or , in which the additional n has the role of showing either the fact that the click is pronounced stronger, or that the mouth shape before the click is approximately the same as for consonant [n].
  • A series of interjections are pronounced with the mouth shut. Depending on intonation, length, and rhythm, they can have various meanings, such as: perplexity, doubt, displeasure, tastiness, toothache, approval, etc.[21] Possible spellings include: hm, hâm/hîm, mhm, îhî, mmm, îî, . Phonetically similar, but semantically different, is the English interjection ahem.
  • Another interjection, meaning "no", could be described as the pronunciation of [ˈʔa.ʔa] with the mouth shut; both voicings start with glottal stops, like the English uh-oh. Possible spellings include: î-î, îm-îm, and m-m. The stress pattern is opposite to the interjection for "yes" mentioned before, pronounced [aˈha] with the mouth shut.
  • Pfu expresses contempt or dissatisfaction and starts with the voiceless bilabial fricative /ɸ/, sounding like (but being different from) the English whew, which expresses relief after an effort or danger.
  • Câh/cîh expresses disgust and ends in the voiceless velar fricative /x/, similar in meaning to English ugh.
  • Brrr expresses shivering cold and is made up of a single consonant, the bilabial trill, whose IPA symbol is /ʙ/. The spelling with several letters r is misleading, as the tongue doesn't play an active role; the actual labial place of articulation is indicated by letter b.

Stress[edit]

Romanian has a stress accent, like almost all other Romance languages (with the notable exception of French). Generally, stress falls on the rightmost syllable of a prosodic word (that is, the root and derivational material but excluding inflections and final inflectional vowels).[22] While a lexically marked stress pattern with penultimate stress exists, any morphologically derived forms will continue to follow the unmarked pattern.[22]

In the examples below, the stress is indicated in the phonetic transcription by a small vertical line before the stressed syllable.

frate /ˈfra.te/ ('brother'), copil /koˈpil/ ('child')
strugure /ˈstru.ɡu.re/ ('grape'), albastru /alˈbas.tru/ ('blue'), călător /kə.ləˈtor/ ('voyager').

Stress is not normally marked in writing, except occasionally to distinguish between homographs, or in dictionaries for the entry words. When it is marked, the main vowel of the stressed syllable receives an accent (usually acute, but sometimes grave), for example véselă - vesélă ('jovial', fem. sg. - 'tableware').

In verb conjugation, noun declension, and other word formation processes, stress shifts can occur. Verbs can have homographic forms only distinguished by stress, such as in el suflă which can mean "he blows" or "he blew" depending on whether the stress is on the first or the second syllable, respectively. Changing the grammatical category of a word can lead to similar word pairs, such as the verb a albi /alˈbi/ ('to whiten') compared to the adjective albi /ˈalbʲ/ ('white', masc. pl.). Stress in Romanian verbs can normally be predicted by comparing tenses with similar verbs in Spanish, which does indicate stress in writing.

Secondary stress occurs according to a predictable pattern, falling on every other syllable, starting with the first, as long as it does not fall adjacent to the primary stress.[23]

Prosody[edit]

Rhythm[edit]

Languages such as English, Russian, and Arabic are called stress-timed, meaning that syllables are pronounced at a lower or higher rate so as to achieve a roughly equal time interval between stressed syllables. Another category of languages are syllable-timed, which means that each syllable takes about the same amount of time, regardless of the position of the stresses in the sentence. Romanian is one of the syllable-timed languages, along with other Romance languages (French, Spanish, etc.), Telugu, Yoruba, and many others. (A third timing system is mora timing, exemplified by Classical Latin, Fijian, Finnish, Hawaiian, Japanese, and Old English.)

The distinction between these timing categories may sometimes seem unclear, and definitions vary. In addition, the time intervals between stresses/syllables/morae are in reality only approximately equal, with many exceptions and large deviations having been reported. However, while the actual time may be only approximately equal, the differences are perceptually identical.

In the case of Romanian, consonant clusters are often found both in the syllable onset and coda, which require physical time to be pronounced. The syllable timing rule is then overridden by slowing down the rhythm. Thus, it is seen that stress and syllable timing interact. The sample sentences below, each consisting of six syllables, are illustrative:

Mama pune masa – Mom sets the table
Mulți puști blonzi plâng prin curți – Many blond kids cry in the courtyards

The total time length taken by each of these sentences is obviously different, and attempting to pronounce one of them with the same rhythm as the other results in unnatural utterances.

To a lesser extent, but still perceivably, the syllables are extended in time also on one hand by the presence of liquid and nasal consonants, and on the other by that of semivowels in diphthongs and triphthongs, such as shown in the examples below.

Romanian English
pic - plic bit - envelope
cec - cerc cheque - circle
zic - zinc I say - zinc
car - chiar I carry - even
sare - soare salt - sun
sta - stea to stay - star
fi - fii be (inf.) - be (imperative)

A simple way to evaluate the length of a word, and compare it to another, consists in pronouncing it repeatedly at a natural speech rate.

Intonation[edit]

A detailed description of the intonation patterns must consider a wide range of elements, such as the focus of the sentence, the theme and the rheme, emotional aspects, etc. In this section only a few general traits of the Romanian intonation are discussed. Most importantly, intonation is essential in questions, especially because, unlike English and other languages, Romanian does not distinguish grammatically declarative and interrogative sentences.

In non-emphatic yes/no questions the pitch rises at the end of the sentence until the last stressed syllable. If unstressed syllables follow, they often have a falling intonation, but this is not a rule.

— Ai stins lumina? [ai stins lu↗mi↘na] (Have you turned off the light?)
— Da. (Yes.)

In Transylvanian speech these yes/no questions have a very different intonation pattern, usually with a pitch peak at the beginning of the question: [ai ↗stins lumi↘na]

In selection questions the tone rises at the first element of the selection, and falls at the second.

— Vrei bere sau vin? [vrei ↗bere sau ↘vin] (Do you want beer or wine?)
— Bere. (Beer.)

Wh-questions start with a high pitch on the first word and then the pitch falls gradually toward the end of the sentence.

— Cine a lăsat ușa deschisă? [↗cine↘ a lăsat ușa deschisă] (Who left the door open?)
— Mama. (Mom did.)

Repeat questions have a rising intonation.

— A sunat Rodica adineauri. (Rodica just called.)
— Cine a sunat? [cine a su↗nat] (Who called?)
— Colega ta, Rodica. (Your classmate, Rodica.)

Tag questions are uttered with a rising intonation.

— Ți-e foame, nu-i așa? [ți-e foame, nu-i a↗șa] (You're hungry, aren't you?)

Unfinished utterances have a rising intonation similar to that of yes/no questions, but the pitch rise is smaller.

— După ce m-am întors... [după ce m-am în↗tors...] (After I came back...)

Various other intonation patterns are used to express: requests, commands, surprise, suggestion, advice, and so on.

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b Chițoran (2001:7)
  2. ^ Academia Română, Dicționarul ortografic, ortoepic și morfologic al limbii române, Ediția a II-a revăzută și adăugită, Editura Univers Enciclopedic, București, 2005 (Romanian)
  3. ^ Chițoran (2002a:204)
  4. ^ Chițoran (2002b:213)
  5. ^ See Chițoran (2001:8–9) for one overview regarding Romanian semivowels
  6. ^ (Romanian) Academia Română, Gramatica limbii române, Editura Academiei Române, București, 2005, Vol. I "Cuvântul", p. 549
  7. ^ Chițoran (2002a:203)
  8. ^ Chițoran (2002a:206)
  9. ^ Chițoran (2002b:217)
  10. ^ The entries for week-end in several dictionaries specify the pronunciation /ujkend/.
  11. ^ Chițoran (2002b:206). The diphthongs pattern together with /a/
  12. ^ Chițoran (2002b:215)
  13. ^ Chițoran (2002b:209)
  14. ^ Chițoran (2002b:210)
  15. ^ Chițoran (2002b:211)
  16. ^ a b c Chițoran (2001:10)
  17. ^ a b Ovidiu Drăghici. "Limba Română contemporană. Fonetică. Fonologie. Ortografie. Lexicologie". Retrieved April 19, 2013. 
  18. ^ Petrovici (1956) argues that the palatalized consonants are underlying, though this analysis creates more problems than it solves.
  19. ^ a b Chițoran (2001:11)
  20. ^ a b c (Romanian) Academia Română, Gramatica limbii române, Editura Academiei Române, București, 2005, Vol. I "Cuvântul", p. 659
  21. ^ a b (Romanian) Academia Română, Gramatica limbii române, Editura Academiei Române, București, 2005, Vol. I "Cuvântul", p. 660
  22. ^ a b Chițoran (2002b:208)
  23. ^ Chițoran (2002:88)

Bibliography[edit]

  • Chițoran, Ioana (2001), The Phonology of Romanian: A Constraint-based Approach, Berlin & New York: Mouton de Gruyter, ISBN 3-11-016766-2 
  • Chițoran, Ioana (2002a), "A perception-production study of Romanian diphthongs and glide-vowel sequences", Journal of the International Phonetic Association 32 (2): 203–222, doi:10.1017/S0025100302001044 
  • Chițoran, Ioana (2002b), "The phonology and morphology of Romanian diphthongization", Probus 14 (2): 205–246, doi:10.1515/prbs.2002.009 
  • (Romanian) Emanuel Vasiliu, Fonologia limbii române, Editura Științifică, București, 1965

External links[edit]