Monday, March 31, 2008

Rhotacism in Romanian

The Romanian language has many examples of rhotacism, the change of a consonant into an “r”. In Romanian, many Latin words with an intervocalic “n” and “l” changed to an “r”. Linguists have determined this type of rhotacism is most common in languages which have an alveolar trill as is the case in Romanian.

Here is a list of Romanian words which have undergone rhotacism:

cer (sky)
soare (sun)
ger (frost)
miere (honey)
biserica (basilica)
care (which)
inger (angel)
fereastra (window)

The word for sky is “cielo” in Spanish and Italian and "caelum" in Latin. Here the “l” of Latin is preserved. In Spanish and Portuguese “sun” is “sol”. The word for “ice” in Spanish is “hielo” and in Portuguese “gelo”. It is from the Latin word "gelu". As a result of semantic shift, “ger” now means “frost” in Romanian. The word “basilica” is used in many languages besides the Romance ones. The word “which” is “cual” in Spanish and “qual” in Portuguese. The Romanian word for “angel”, once written “anger” but now “inger” as a result of a spelling reform, corresponds to the Spanish word “angel”.

The word “fereastra” exemplifies a different kind of rhotacism. The Latin word is “fenestra” which corresponds to the Italian word “finestra”. Here the Latin “n” changed to an “r”.

Romanian has many words which changed due to a sound process known as rhotacism. In the majority of cases, an intervocalic “l” changed to an “r”, but in some cases, it was an intervocalic “n” which changed.

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