Moldavian subdialect of Romanian

Moldavian subdialect of Romanian

The Moldavian subdialect (subdialectul / graiul moldovean / moldovenesc) is one of the several subdialects of the Romanian language (specifically, of the Daco-Romanian dialect). It is spoken across the approximate area of the historical region of Moldavia, now split between Romania, the Republic of Moldova and Ukraine.

The delimitation of the Moldavian subdialect, as with all other Romanian subdialects, is made primarily by analyzing its phonetic features and only marginally by morphological, syntactical, and lexical characteristics.

The Moldavian subdialect is the representative of the northern grouping of Romanian subdialects and has influenced the Romanian spoken over large areas of Transylvania.

The Moldavian and the Wallachian subdialects are the only two that have been consistently identified and recognized by linguists. They are clearly distinct in dialect classifications made by Heimann Tiktin, Mozes Gaster, Gustav Weigand, Sextil Pușcariu, Sever Pop, Emil Petrovici, Romulus Todoran, Ion Coteanu, Alexandru Philippide, Iorgu Iordan, Emanuel Vasiliu, and others, whereas the remainder of subdialects and speech varieties have proven to be considerably more controversial and difficult to classify.

The Moldavian subdialect is not the Moldovan language. The latter term is the official name given to the Romanian language in the Republic of Moldova, for historic and political reasons. The border between Romania and the Republic of Moldova does not correspond to any significant isoglosses to justify a dialectal division; phonetics and morphology (which define dialectal classifications) are identical across the border, whereas lexical differences are minimal.[1]


Geographic distribution

The Moldavian subdialect is spoken in the north-eastern part of Romania, the Republic of Moldova, and small areas of Ukraine. It is the only Romance variety spoken east of the Eastern Carpathians. In detail, its distribution area covers the following administrative or historical regions:

Transition areas

Transition varieties of the Moldavian subdialect are found in areas of contact with the other subdialects and speech varieties. As such, Moldavian features often occur outside the historical Moldavia: in northern Dobrogea, in north-east Muntenia, and in north-east Transylvania.


Phonetic features

The Moldavian subdialect has the following phonetic particularities that contrast it with the other Romanian subdialects and varieties:

  • The postalveolar affricates [t͡ʃ, d͡ʒ] become the fricatives [ʃ, ʒ]: [ˈʃapɨ, ˈʃinɨ, ˈʒeni] for standard ceapă, cină, gene (they are not also palatalized like in the Banat subdialect). As a consequence, the affricate [d͡ʒ] and the fricative [ʒ] merge into the latter: [ʒok, ˈsɨnʒi] for joc, sînge.[2] However, the Atlasul lingvistic român (1938–1942) and other field works record examples of pronunciations showing that, while the merger covers most of the subdialect area, it is not systematic and sometimes found in free variation. In parts of the south-western and north-eastern Moldavia the distinction is preserved.[3]
  • After the fricatives [s, z, ʃ, ʒ] and the affricate [t͡s] (sometimes also after [r]), a vocalic shift occurs that changes [e] into [ə], [i] into [ɨ], and [e̯a] into [a]: [səmn, ˈsɨnɡur, ˈsarə, zər, zɨd, ˈzamə, ˈʃəli, raˈʃɨnɨ, ˈʒəli, t͡səs, ˈt͡sapən, rəʃʲ] for semn, singur, seară, zer, zid, zeamă, șale, rășină, jale, țes, țeapăn, reci. In the same phonetic contexts, the phoneme /ʲ/, which is generally responsible for indicating the plural in nouns and adjectives or the second person in verbs, is no longer realized: [paˈrint͡s, vjez] (for standard părinți, vezi). As a consequence, the number distinction is completely lost in some nouns and adjectives, such as moș, leneș, colț, ursuz.
  • After the labial [v], [e] changes into [ə] and [e̯a] into [a]: [loˈvəsk, sə loˈvaskə] for lovesc, să lovească.
  • Word-final [ə] becomes [ɨ]: [ˈmamɨ, ˈkasɨ] for mamă, casă.
  • Unstressed [o] closes to [u]: [akupiˈrit] for acoperit.
  • The diphthong [o̯a] is preserved: [ˈso̯ari, ˈbo̯alɨ] for soare, boală.
  • Unstressed [e] in middle and final positions closes to [i]: [ˈlapti, disˈfak] for lapte, desfac.
  • In the northern areas, the vowel [ə] immediately before the stress opens to [a]: [maˈɡar, baˈtrɨn, taˈkut, paˈduri] for măgar, bătrîn, tăcut, pădure.
  • The diphthong [ja] becomes [je]: [bəˈjet, ɨnkuˈjet] for băiat, încuiat.
  • Etymologic [ɨ] is preserved in the words [ˈkɨni, ˈmɨni, mɨnʲ, ˈpɨni] for cîine, mîine, mîini, pîine.
  • The labials [p, b, m] receive a palatalized pronunciation when followed by front vowels and become [c, ɟ, ɲ], respectively: [koˈkʲil, ˈɡʲini, nʲel] for copil, bine, miel.
  • Similarly, the palatalization of the labio-dentals [f, v] occurs, but in two different ways. In the southern half of the subdialect area they become [ç, ʝ], respectively, whereas in the northern half they become [ɕ, ʑ]: [ˈhʲerbi / ˈʃʲerbi, ɦʲiˈt͡səl / ʒʲiˈt͡səl] for fierbe, vițel.
  • The dentals [t, d, n] are left unchanged before [e, i, e̯a]: [ˈfrunti, diˈparti, de̯al, ˈneɡru, ˈne̯aɡrə].
  • The affricate [d͡z] occurs, as in [d͡zɨk], similarly to the Banat subdialect, the Maramureș variety and the Aromanian, while it evolved to [z] in the Wallachian subdialect, the Criș variety, and standard Romanian:[4] [d͡zɨk] for zic (Latin dico).
  • The diphthong [e̯a] in final positions becomes the monophthong [ɛ]: [aˈvɛ, spuˈnɛ] for avea, spunea.
  • Asyllabic versions of [i] and [u] occur in word-final positions: [pəduˈrarʲ, koʒoˈkarʲʷ] for pădurar, cojocar.
  • In the northern part, [v] followed by [o, u] changes into [h]: holbură, hulpe, hultan (compare with standard volbură, vulpe, vultan).

Morphological features

  • Feminine nouns ending in -că have genitive and dative forms ending in -căi: maicăi, puicăi (compare with standard maicii, puicii).
  • The vocal shifts occurring after [s, z, ʃ, ʒ, t͡s, d͡z] lead to homonymy between singular and plural in feminine nouns and feminine forms of adjectives: [ˈkasɨ] ("house or houses", compare with standard casă / case), [ˈɡrasɨ] ("fat", compare with grasă / grase).
  • The noun tată "father" with the definite article has the form tatul (standard tatăl).
  • The possessive article is invariable: a meu, a mea, a mei, a mele ("mine", standard al meu, a mea, ai mei, ale mele).
  • The number distinction is made in verbs in the imperfect at the 3rd person: era / erau, făcea / făceau (like in the standard language).
  • The simple perfect is not used, except rarely, only in the 3rd person, with the simple value of a past tense.
  • The auxiliary for the compound perfect has the same form for both the singular and the plural of the 3rd person: el o fost / ei o fost ("he was / they were", standard el a fost, ei au fost).
  • In northern Moldavia, the pluperfect is also made analytically: m-am fost dus, am fost venit ("I had gone, I had come", standard mă dusesem, venisem).
  • The future tense in verbs uses the infinitive and is sometimes identical to it: va veni, a veni ("he will come", standard only va veni).
  • The following subjunctive forms occur: să deie, să steie, să beie, să ieie, să vreie (standard să dea, să stea, să bea, să ia, să vrea).
  • The following imperatives occur: ádă, vină (standard adú, vino).
  • When the object of a verb is another verb, the latter is in its infinitive form, including the isolated morpheme a: prinde a fierbe ("starts to boil", the standard uses the subjunctive: prinde să fiarbă or începe să fiarbă).
  • Genitives and datives of nouns tend to be formed analytically: dă mîncare la pisică ("give food to the cat", standard dă mîncare pisicii).

Lexical particularities

  • Some words have preserved archaic forms: îmblu, împlu, întru, înflu, nour, dirept (compare with standard umblu, umplu, intru, umflu, nor, drept).
  • A particular variant for the personal pronoun for the 3rd person occurs frequently and is used for animates and inanimates alike: dînsul, dînsa, dînșii, dînsele ("he, she, they" as well as "it, they", compare with el, ea, ei, ele). In the standard language, these forms have started being used as 3rd person polite pronouns.
  • The demonstrative pronouns have particular forms: [aˈista, aˈjasta, aˈʃala, aˈʃeja] ("this" masculine and feminine, "that" masculine and feminine; compare with standard acesta, aceasta, acela, aceea).
  • Other specific words: omăt ("snow", zăpadă), agudă ("mulberry", dudă), poame ("grapes", struguri), perje ("plums", prune), ciubotă ("high boot", cizmă), cori ("measles", pojar), etc.


Moldavian subdialect: [jɛ aˈvjɛ ˈdowɨ vaʃ ʃɨ sə nʲeˈra ˈwamini di ˈvaʃili jij kə dəˈdjɛ ũ ʃubəˈraʃ di ˈlapti ‖ ʃɨ aˈʃa di la o ˈvrʲemi stɨrˈkʲsɨ ˈvaʃili ‖ nu maj dəˈdjɛw ˈlapti]

Standard Romanian: Ea avea două vaci și se mirau oamenii de vacile ei că dădeau un ciubăraș de lapte. Și așa de la o vreme stîrpiseră vacile, nu mai dădeau lapte.

English translation: "She had two cows and people were amazed at her cows for giving a bucketful of milk. And so from a while the cows became dry, they stopped giving milk."


  1. ^ Vasile Pavel, Limba română – unitate în diversitate, Limba română, nr. 9–10, 2008 (Romanian)
  2. ^ Tratat de dialectologie românească, Editura Științifică și Enciclopedică, Bucharest, 1984, p. 213 (Romanian)
  3. ^ Atlasul lingvistic român, edited by Sextil Puscariu, Cluj, 1938 (part I1); Sibiu, Leipzig 1942 (part I2), Sibiu, Leipzig, 1940, (part II1), Sibiu, Leipzig 1942, (supplement to part II1) (Romanian)
  4. ^ Matilda Caragiu-Marioțeanu, Compendiu de dialectologie română, Editura Științifică și Enciclopedică, 1975, p. 90 (Romanian)


Further reading

See also

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