Romanian (românǎ) is the official language of Romania and the Republic of Moldova (where it is called Moldovan for political reasons). It is also an official language of the autonomous province of Vojvodina, Serbia, and of the European Union. There are an estimated 28 million speakers worldwide. Romanian minorities and immigrant communities can be found all over the world, most notably in Spain, Italy, the Ukraine, Israel, Russia and the USA. It is taught as a foreign language in 43 countries worldwide. Romania is also a member of the Latin Union, an international organisation of countries that use Romance languages, which aims to protect and promote the cultural heritage of the Latin-influenced world.
The Romanian language derives from Vulgar Latin from the time of the Roman Empire. Due to its geographical location, it was barely influenced by other Romance languages until the mid-nineteenth century and remains one of the most uniform languages in Europe today. The language closest to Romanian in lexical terms is Italian, followed by French and Catalan. These languages cannot, however, be considered mutually intelligible.
About one third of Romanian vocabulary is thought to be derived from Slavic languages, and many more modern words have been ‘borrowed’ from other Romance languages, such as French and Italian (e.g. ‘birou’ for ‘desk/office’). More recently, English has had a greater influence, lending words such as ‘football’ (fotbal) and ‘sandwich’ (sandvis). Romanian has 22 consonants and 9 vowels. The letters ‘k’, ‘q’, ‘w’ and ‘y’, however, were only introduced to the language in 1982 and are mostly used in loanwords such as ‘yoga’ and ‘kilogram’.
The Romanian language is regulated by the Academia Românǎ, an autonomous cultural forum, founded in 1866, for the promotion of Romanian language and literature, the study of Romanian history and to undertake scientific research.
The ancient kingdom of Dacia corresponds to modern-day Romania, Moldova and northern Bulgaria. The Roman Empire conquered this region and exploited its rich ore deposits, but it was the first region to be abandoned. This conquest is the basis of the origins of Romanians. Different peoples later settled in the area, including the Goths, the Huns and the Ottomans. Romania was recognised internationally as an independent state in 1878, a year after claiming independence from the Ottoman Empire.
Transylvania occupies a large area of modern-day Romania and is the fictional home of Count Dracula, arguably the most famous vampire in the world, and real home of his author’s inspiration, Vlad the Impaler. Vlad Dracul (Vlad the Dragon), as he was also known, is somewhat of a folk hero in Romania, having been thought to have killed up to 100,000 Ottoman Turks during their invasion.
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