The Bituli-Macedonia Symposium of August 1997
by Tiberius Cunia
The Aromanians started writing in their language in a more systematic way, a little over 100 years ago, and the first writings were associated with the national movement that contributed to the opening of Romanian schools in Macedonia. Because of the belief, at that time, that the Aromanian is a dialect of the Romanian language, it was natural to use the Romanian alphabet as the basis of the system of writing. The six sounds that are found in the Aromanian but not in the literary Romanian language – the three Greek sounds, dhelta, ghamma and theta and the other three, dz, nj and lj (Italian sounds gn and gl) – were written in many ways, according to the wishes of the various Aromanian writers themselves. No standard way of writing Aromanian, or any serious movement to standardize this writing existed at that time. And the Romanian Academy that establishes the official rules of writing the Romanian literary language, never concerned itself with the establishment of rules for writing its dialects, at least not to my knowledge.
Consequently, what is presently known as the “traditional” system of writing Aromanian is actually a system that consists of (i) several “traditional” alphabets in which several characters have diacritical signs, not always the same, and (ii) different ways for writing the same words. The reader interested in the various alphabets of the Aromanian language – including the Moscopoli era, the classical period (associated with the Romanian schools in Macedonia) and the most recent contemporary one – is referred to a long article published in Romanian in nine issues of the Aromanian monthly “Deşteptarea – Revista Aromânilor” from Bucharest (from Year 4, Number 5, May 1993 to Year 5, Number 1, January 1994), where the author, G. Carageani makes a long survey of the many Aromanian alphabets used in the last 200 years.
This was essentially the situation some 20 years ago, around 1980, at the birth of the present, new movement of Aromanian national consciousness in which we have seen the publication of several hundreds Aromanian books or journal issues. There was (i) no standard way of writing with the traditional Aromanian alphabet, and (ii) there were great technical difficulties of publishing with characters using diacritical signs. And this was true, whether writing with (i) the traditional means, typewriters or typesetting or (ii) the new emerging desk publishing techniques using personal computers and word processors.
Consequently, after many months of discussion, four Aromanian writers (two well known Aromanian linguists, A. Caciuperi and N. Saramandu, and two scientific writers and publishers, economist V. Barba and forester-statistician T. Cunia, the author of this paper), met on a Saturday morning some 14 years ago, in 1985, in an office of the forestry school of University of Freiburg (where Cunia was a visiting professor under a von Humboldt Award given to American Senior Scientists) and adopted a new system of writing. They decided to use an alphabet with only one letter having a diacritical sign, that of ã; all other letters having diacritical signs in the “traditional” alphabets were replaced by various combinations of two letters. This new alphabet is shown in a 1985 issue of Zborlu a Nostru (Year 2, Number 1, Page 30).
At the Second International Congress of Aromanian Language and Culture held August 25-28, 1988 at the University of Freiburg, Germany, Cunia proposed a slightly different version, shown later that year in another issue of Zborlu a Nostru (Year 5, Number 3, Pages 123-128). The basic principles of the new alphabet (of writing with Latin letters without diacritical signs, but not the specific characters themselves) were upheld by a impressive majority of the more than 60 Aromanian participating at the meeting (only 4 of the older Aromanians dissented). Both, the Freiburg journal “Zborlu a Nostru”, as well as the new “Editura Cartea Aromãnã” from Syracuse, NY in America (that started publishing books in the Aromanian language a year later), adopted immediately the basic principles of the new alphabet.
With few exceptions, the new emerging writers and publishers from the Balkan countries, most of them young and without a background of Romanian education, adopted the new alphabet. Compared to the traditional Aromanian alphabet, it was easy, because they could use it without difficulty, first with the typewriter and later, with the personal computer, where writing of diacritical signs is prohibitively difficult. Today, the new alphabet without diacritical signs is exclusively used in Serbia (several books and the journal Lunjina), the state of Macedonia (the journal Fenix and many books, including a grammar and a large dictionary), Albania (several books and a journal), and Bulgaria (a journal, a grammar and two small dictionaries) and partially used in Romania. Very little is written in Greece, where many use the Greek alphabet and only writers with Romanian background have published a couple of books a few years ago.
The situation in Romania is somewhat more complex, and is worth a few more words. There is a hardcore of “traditionalists” that grouped themselves around the new Aromanian monthly “Deşteptarea – Revista Aromânilor” that came out in 1990 and its younger brother “Dimândarea“, coming out every three months since 1994, both directed by Hristu Cândroveanu and both published by the Romanian government. This group has also published, in the “Editura Dimândarea Pãrinteascã“, several books in Aromanian as well as in the Romanian language. However, another monthly published by private means, “Bana Armãneascã” as well as the many Aromanian books (about 40), booklets (over 20) and the journal “Rivista di Litiraturã shi Studii Armãni” (some 13 issues with over 2000 pages) published jointly by the American “Editura Cartea Aromãnã” and the Romanian “Fundaţia Cartea Aromãnã” use the new alphabet without diacritical signs. Also, the group of TV people (some 6-8) in charge of the weekly half-hour radio program of the “Radio România Internaţional” use, in their writings, the new rather than the traditional alphabet. And the few elementary schools from two towns, Constanţa and Kogãlniceanu, that teach Aromanian children a couple of hours a week, on a voluntary basis, use texts and books written with the new alphabet.
It seems therefore that, the problem of writing Aromanian, is partially if not completely, solved. While the use of the traditional alphabets is still present, mostly in one of the Balkan countries, Romania, the vast majority of Aromanians are using new alphabets without diacritical signs. And, with (i) the passing away of the older generation and (ii) the wide use of the personal computer and Internet by the newer generation, we shall probably see, in about 10 years, the almost exclusive acceptance of writing with a new alphabet. But this is not to say that all writers use the same identical system of writing without diacritical signs. Although based on the same principle of not using diacritical signs, several writers or publishers use their own system with their own specific rules that they consider better, more logical.
With the advent of teaching Aromanian, on a voluntary basis, in several public schools of several countries – as far as I know they started teaching Aromanian to the elementary schools (i) from eight cities in the Republic of Macedonia some four years ago, (ii) in two cities from Romania some two years ago and, (iii) last December, in a town in Albania – the situation has dramatically changed. Textbooks have to be written and teachers have to be trained. And this is difficult when no standard rules of writing exist, and no book to spell out these rules is available. While the older Aromanians that know their language, have no difficulty reading any text written in any of the new or traditional alphabets, teaching in schools, to young children, require a standardization of the writing system. Imagine how difficult can be for school teachers to sort out which writing rules to teach and young children to read school books that are not all written in a standard way!
This brought me to the point, about four years ago, to do some hard thinking. Lacking a formal political structure to decide on standard rules for writing, and, more important, to ensure the enforcement of these rules, once selected, the Aromanians had to find alternative ways. It is utopia to hope that somehow, within relatively short time, all writers and publishers will end up writing in a standard way. Human beings, the way they are, think differently and the same problem may be thought as better solved by some rule, their own rule, not the same for all others. And once selected, each writer feels compelled to use his own rule as being the best, independent of other rules selected by others writers. It was my strong opinion that the only viable solution had to be a congress where standard procedures of writings can be selected after intense discussions, based on contradictory arguments. The congress had to be representative as well as exhaustive of the Aromanian communities from various countries, with various educational backgrounds and speaking a variety of dialects.
In 1995, during one of my trips to Romania, I talked to several people, mostly writers, about the problem of standardization. With one major exception – Vasile Barba felt cool about the idea and argued that we have other, more important things to do than wasting our energy and our meager financial resources on standardization – I received enthusiastic support. A month later, I went to Macedonia and I talked about the same thing with several people from Skopje, Bituli and other cities. These ideas were also received with a lot of enthusiasm.
My ideas, at the time, were (i) to assemble, in a workshop, a small group (no larger than 20-30) of Aromanian linguists, writers, publishers and mass-media people, representatives of the six Balkan countries inhabited by Aromanians (Romania, Serbia, Albania, Macedonia, Bulgaria and Greece), as well as several from the Western World, (ii) to have them discuss at leisure, for a relatively short time (one or possibly two weeks), the various aspects of the standardization and (iii) to establish standard rules of writing Aromanian. For financial reasons I preferred to have the workshop held Constanţa, in Romania, but for political reasons, many felt that Macedonia would be a better place.
Next year I addressed this same problem at the Fourth International Congress of Aromanian Language and Culture held in September 1996 at the University of Freiburg, Germany. The meeting was attended by representatives from all six Balkan states and a decision was reached by the assembly (i) to hold a Symposium on the Standardization of Aromanian System of Writing, in Bituli-Macedonia, during the summer of 1997, (ii) local arrangements for meeting rooms and accommodations to be made by the local leaders of the “Liga Mundialã a Armãnjlor”, (iii) the expenses of the symposium to be supported by the participants themselves and (iv) the preparation of a paper identifying the specific problems to discuss as well as the various possible solutions to be prepared by Cunia. Contact men, with their addresses and telephone numbers were selected from Romania, Serbia, Macedonia, Albania and Bulgaria; the representatives from Greece were not present at the discussion, and it remained for the Albanian representative to contact them at a later time.
The way I saw the problem, the standardization of the Aromanian writing system consists of establishing standard rules for, among other things: (i) selecting a single alphabet (with standard characters to stand for specific sounds); (ii) writing or not writing a character that stands for a sound (as a semivowel, for example); (iii) how to write specific words that can be written in several ways (either words that are pronounced the same way but can be written differently or, words that may be pronounced differently according to the various regions where they are spoken); (iv) introducing neologisms in the language (same neologism may take different forms according to the writer who uses it, the language it comes from or the country-residence of Aromanians where it is introduced); and (v) others (like punctuation signs, grammar rules, constructions of word derivatives, etc.).
For example: (i) the Greek sound “ghamma” was not written the same way by “Zborlu a Nostru” (which used, g, gh or y to words like yin, yis, yumar/ghumar, etc.) and by “Editura Cartea Aromãnã” (which used v and g to words like vin, vis, gumar, etc.); (ii) the semivowels in the middle or at the end of words may or may not be written, words like mashi, lumãchli, feciu, adaru, soarili, pãdurili, oaminji, musheat, etc. may also be written as mash, lumãchili, feci, adar, soarli/soarili, pãdurli/pãdurili, oaminj, mushat, etc.; (iii) words like apoea, cheari, chieptu, aoa, etc. are pronounced the same way but may also be written as apoia, chiari, cheptu, aua, etc. or words like muljari, pãrmit, etc. may be pronounced and written differently as mljari/mbljari, pãrmith/pirmith/pirmif…, etc.; (iv) neologisms that can be different words or may be the same words but written and pronounced differently as, for example: the several words used for car like: amaxi (in Macedonia), mashinã/machinã/automobil (in Romania), aftuchinat (in Greece), or the same word, written or pronounced as spetsial (in Macedonia), special (in Romania), spitsial (by “Editura Cartea Aromãnã”), etc.; (v) plural of the word zbor which may be: zboarã/zboari or, when it is articulated, zboarli/zboarili/zboarãli, etc.
The year following the Fourth International Congress of Aromanian Language and Culture, was used to (i) write the discussion paper (a detailed analysis of the various problems and their possible solutions), (ii) select the delegates by the national Aromanian associations of the various countries and (iii) make the meeting arrangements for room and board of the delegates. And finally, the Symposium for the Standardization of the Aromanian Writing System was held August 24-31, 1997 in Bituli, Macedonia.
THE SYMPOSIUM FOR THE STANDARDIZATION OF
THE AROMANIAN WRITING SYSTEM
The meeting was attended by some 25-30 Aromanian linguists, writers, publishers and mass media people, selected by Aromanian national societies (“sutsati“). Thus, (i) in Macedonia Liga Mundialã a Armãnjlor selected Peter Atanasof, professor of linguistics from Skopje and Iancu Ianachievschi-Vlahu, professor of foreign languages from Crushuva-Macedonia, (ii) in Albania, Sutsata-a Armãnjlor dit Albanie selected Spiridhula Poci, professor of languages, Edlira Dhamo, a PhD student in linguistics and Josif Prefti, professor and journalist, redactor of the journal Frãtsia, (iii) in Serbia, Lunjina selected Teofanija Korneti, linguist and Smiljana Alexandrov, dentist, (iv) in Bulgaria Sutsata-a Armãnjlor selected Toma Chiurkci, engineer, and (v) one group from Romania (Editura Sammarina, and Fundatsia Cartea Aromãnã, selected Nicolae Saramandu, linguist, Ilie Ceara, writer and Dumitru Garofil, writer and publisher. The only country not to send a delegation was Greece (where most of the time the Aromanian language is written with Greek characters) because not enough time was spent to contact and convince them to participate to the meeting.
Other people attending the meeting were: Maria Bara (journalist from Radio Romãnia Internaţional), Pavlo Bardhi (from Albania), Zoe Cojocaru (engineer from Romania), Santa Djica (writer and journalist from Radio Skopje), Kristo Goci (journalist from Albania), Dumitru Piceava (redactor of the monthly Bana Armãneascã), Nico Popnicola (scientist from Macedonia), Spiro Tezha (from Albania), Rapo Zguri (linguist and journalist from Albania), T. Cunia (publisher from America) and a few more whose names escape me now.
Invitations were also sent to people that declined to come, for various reasons. Among these people were Vasile Barba from Zborlu a Nostru, Hristu Cãndroveanu, linguist from Romania and director of the monthly journal Deşteptarea, Matilda Caragiu-Marioţeanu, the well known linguist from Romania, as well as several other Aromanian linguists and writers, mostly from the Western World. In my invitation, I made the point that the “traditionalists” should also attend the meeting, at least as observers, because most of the problems to be discussed have nothing to do with the few letters, ş/sh, ţ/ts, ñ/nj, v’/lj and â/ã that separates the new from the traditional alphabet.
The Symposium opened on Sunday, August 24 and closed on Saturday August 30, 1997. The discussions were based on the material (some 250 pages) prepared before the meeting by Cunia, who also conducted and moderated all of the discussions. The decisions were reached by consensus (rather than vote), since those in minority accepted, informally, the conclusions reached by the majority of delegates. At the end of the meeting a resolution was prepared. Translated in English, it reads as follows:
“The Symposium for the Standardization of the Aromanian Writing was held Bituli from 24 to 31 of August 1997. This symposium was attended by linguists, journalists and writers from Albania, Bulgaria, Yugoslavia, Romania, USA and the Republic of Macedonia. The participants discussed the rules of writing and pronunciation of Aromanian, with the purpose of writing later a book with the Othographic, Orthoepic and Punctuation Rules. It became apparent during the discussions that (i) there are several ways of writing Aromanian and (ii) we are in a transition period on the road to adopt standard rules of writing. The hope of the participants at the symposium is that we shall soon arrive at a unique system of Aromanian writing. At the symposium the decisions were reached by consensus. A decision was also reached to hold another similar symposium in two years.”
The specific decisions reached at the symposium are summarized in a paper published (in Aromanian) in the October 1997 issue of the “Rivista di Litiraturã shi Studii Armãni“. This paper is also published as a separate booklet that can be obtained from the “Fundaţia Cartea Aromãnã”, Str. Ioan Borcea, Nr. 38, Constanţa, cod 8700, Romania. With three major changes and many minor ones, the meeting adopted as the standard system of writing Aromanian, the basic features of the one used by Zborlu a Nostru and Editura Cartea Aromãnã. The three major changes had to do with: (i) the writing of the Greek sound “ghamma“, where its hard pronunciation (when ghamma is not in front of e and i) is represented by the character g/gh and its soft pronunciation (when ghamma is followed by e and i) is represented by the characters y/gh; (ii) the writing of the words that end with the vowel i that has no accent can also be written with the vowel e (to satisfy the dual pronunciation of these words in various regions) and (iii) the form of the neologisms in our languages is to be determined by the form in which they exist in the “international” (western world) languages and the “national” languages of the Balkan states. The numerous other small rules (those adopted from the system of Zborlu a Nostru and Editura Cartea Aromãnã and various changes brought to them) are shown in the above mentioned paper and not given here.
However, for the English speaking people that know some Aromanian and wish to learn the elements of the new, “standard” system of writing, we reproduce below part of the preface of a 1998 book “Doda“, originally written in Romanian by Marcu Beza, published in 1998 by Editura Cartea Aromãnã in a bilingual English-Aromanian translation.
THE AROMANIAN ALPHABET
Shown below, is the Aromanian alphabet as selected at the Symposium for the Standardization of the Aromanian Writing System:
a, ã, b, c, d, dh, dz, e, f, g, h, i, j, k, l, lj, m, n, nj,
o, p, q, r, s, sh, t, th, ts, u, v, w, x, y, z.
For the English speaking readers who know at least some Aromanian and are not familiar with its alphabet, we shall define now the sounds represented by the characters above. Their pronunciation will be explained with reference to foreign alphabets and sounds from English words. Of course, there is no identical correspondence between English and Aromanian sounds, but there are enough similarities that an English speaking reader who knows Aromanian will be able to identify and properly read the Aromanian words.
The vowel a, is pronounced as in the Aromanian words a-ma-ri, ca-sa, a-tsel, etc. or in the English words car, market, etc. Sometimes the character a is heard in Aromanian as a diphthong ia/ea (prononciation of ya in the English words yard, yarn, etc.) as in the Aromanian words ciudia, Maria, etc. (pronounced chew-dee-ya, Ma-ree-ya, etc.).
Depending on the dialect spoken by the Aromanian reader, the vowel ã is pronounced either as the Romanian sound å or the Romanian sound î/â. In English, it has a sound approaching the sound of i in sir, or the sound of u in curly, or the sound of e in pretty, or the sound of a in billiard, etc. For example, the Aromanian word cãn-tã can be pronounced (depending on where the accent of the word will fall, or the dialect spoken by the reader), in any of the four ways: cîn-tþ, cþn-tî, cån-tå or cîn-tî.
The character b is pronounced as in the Aromanian words ba-ir, bir-bec, etc. or the English words bell, blind, etc.
The character c has two sounds. It has the hard sound of k when it is not followed by the vowels e and i; as in the Aromanian words: ca-sã, cuc, cru-tsi, etc. or the English words car, class, etc. It has the same hard sound of k, when is followed by he/hi, like in the Aromanian words: chea-trã, chi-ro, etc. which are pronounced as kea-trã, ki-ro, etc. or the English words chemist, chord, chlorine, etc. But when it precedes the vowels e and i, as in the Aromanian words: cel-nic, ci-cior, etc., it takes the soft sound of ch in the English words chess, child, chase, etc.
The character d, has two sounds. It has (when not followed by h) the Latin sound of d as in the Aromanian words, dã-dea, di-nã-poi, etc. or the English words doll, dark, destroy, etc. It may also have, in certain dialects, the Greek sound of “d – dhelta” as the soft sound of th in the English words the, then, there, etc. (but not the hard sound of th in the English words theater, theory, etc.). For example, the Aromanian words da-lã, das-cal, doa-rã, etc. are pronounced in some dialects with the Latin sound d, as written above, or pronounced, in some other dialects, with the Greek sound d , as d a-lã, d as-cal, d oa-rã, etc.
The combination of letters dh, is reserved for those who want to specifically write the Greek sound of “d – dhelta“, because that is the way the words are pronounced in their dialect. For example, the words pronounced as d a-lã, d as-cal, d oa-rã, etc. which ordinarily are written dalã, dascal, doarã, etc. whether they are pronounced with d or d , can also be written by certain writers as dha-lã, dhas-cal, dhoa-rã, etc. because they want to specifically show that the words must be pronounced with the Greek sound d and not with the Latin sound d.
The combination of letters dz, is obtained by pronouncing the two sounds d and z together, as in the Aromanian words dz-uã, dza-tsi, etc. This is close to, if not the same as, the English sound of ds when it shows the plural in words such as sounds, deeds, words, seeds, etc.
The vowel e is pronounced as in the Aromanian words teh-ni, mer, mes, etc. or the letter e in the English words editor, elbow, effort, etc. but not as in the words edition, eject, eel, each, earth, pretty, etc. Sometimes the character e is heard in Aromanian as: (i) a diphthong ie (pronounced as ye in the English words yell, yellow, yes, etc.) as in the Aromanian words her, chep-tu, etc. (pronounced hyer, kyep-too, etc.) and (ii) a semivowel (glide, letter that has the sound of a vowel but use of a consonant) in the diphthong ea (pronounced as ya in the English words yard, yarn, or very close to, but not exactly identical to, the sound of ya in the words yam, Yankee, etc.), as in the Aromanian words ea-ra, fea-tã, a-meas-tic, etc.
The character f, as in the Aromanian words fea-tã, fac, fri-cã, etc. has the sound of the character f, in the English words fog, fork, foot, flash, etc. or the sound of ph in words like photo, physician, etc.
The character g can have one of the three sounds below:
(i) It may have the hard sound of the Latin character g, when it is not followed by the vowels e and i; as in the Aromanian words gã-lji-nã, gae, grunj, etc. or the English words gain, pig, give, etc. It has the same hard sound of g, when is followed by he/hi, like in the Aromanian words ghe-lã, ghi-ni, etc. or the English words ghetto, ghost, etc.
(ii) It may also have the soft sound of g, as in the Aromanian words ge-pi, gio-ni, etc. or the sound of g in the English words general, giant, etc. or the sound of j, in the words jail, job, justice, etc. or the sound of dg in the words judge, badge, etc.
(iii) Finally, for several words and in some dialects, the character g (when is not in front of the vowels e and i) as well as the characters gh in front of the vowels e and i, may take the alternative Greek sound G – gamma, a sound that does not exist in the English language. For example, the Aromanian words gu-mar, a-go-nja, cã-ti-gur-ses-cu, Ghir-ma-ni-e, ghif-tu, etc. can also be pronounced, in some dialects, with the Greek sound G as g u-mar, a-g o-nja, cã-ti-g ur-ses-cu, G ir-ma-ni-e, g if-tu, etc.
The combination of letters gh (when not in front of the vowels e and i), and the character y (in front of the vowels e and i, but only in the Aromanian words, not foreign words), are reserved for those who want to specifically write the Greek sound of “G – gamma“, because that is the way the words are pronounced in their dialect. For example, the words pronounced as g u-ma-r, a-g o-nja, cã-ti-g ur-ses-cu, G ir-ma-ni-e, g if-tu, etc. which ordinarily are written gu-mar, a-go-nja, cã-ti-gur-ses-cu, Ghir-ma-ni-e, ghif-tu, etc. whether they are pronounced with g/gh or g , can be also written by certain writers as ghu-mar, a-gho-nja, cã-ti-ghur-ses-cu, Yir-ma-ni-e, yif-tu, etc. because they want to specifically show that the words should be pronounced with the Greek sound G and not with the Latin sound g.
The character h, when is not preceded by the characters c, d, g, s and t is pronounced as in the Aromanian words ha-ni, hoa-rã, lãh-ta-rã, etc. or the English words home, hole, herd, etc.
The vowel i is pronounced as in the Aromanian words ghi-ni, i-ni-mã, etc. or, as the character e at the beginning of such English words as elapse, event, evening, etc. or the groups of letters ea, ee, or ie, in words such as neat, heel, belief, etc. Sometimes, the character i has the sound of a semivowel as (i) in several diphthongs such as ia, ie, io, iu (pronounced as ya, ye, yo, yu in the English words yard, yarn, yell, yellow, yoke, yogurt, you, yucca, etc.), as in the Aromanian words iar-nã, ia-ra, ier-ni, iu-va, iod, fi-cior, etc. or (ii) alone at the end of a word (a sound pronounced very short as a semivowel, not as a vowel, a sound that does not seem to exist in the English language) as the last i in the Aromanian words fi-ciori, a-rachi, etc.
The letter j, when not preceded by the letters n and l, has a sound that is different from that in the English language. It is pronounced as in the Aromanian words ja-li, jar, jgljoa-tã, etc. or, as the letter g in the French words rouge, montage, mirage, etc. or, the sound of si in English words such as division, Parisian, etc. It is not pronounced as the character j in English words such as judge, joint, jelly, etc.
The character k has the same sound in Aromanian as it has in English. It has the hard sound of the Aromanian letter c (when not followed by the vowels e and i), or the sound of ch when followed by e and i, and it is to be found only in words of foreign origin such as ki-lo-gram, ki-lo-me-tru, etc., words that might also be written in Aromanian as chi-lo-gram, chi-lo-me-tru, etc.
The character l, when not followed by the letter j, has the same sound in Aromanian words, such as, lac, lap-ti, li-li-ci, etc. as it has in the English words line, lemon, etc.
The combination of letters lj, which does not exist in the English language, is best described in terms of the Italian sound of gli, or the similar sound of the Spanish ll. In Aromanian, the sound of lj is exemplified in such words as, lje-pur, fu-mea-lji, ljer-tu, u-rea-clji, etc.
The character m has the same sound in the Aromanian words mer, ma-ri, mi-ni, etc. as it has in the English words male, major, mean, etc.
The character n, when not followed by the letter j, has the same sound in Aromanian words, such as, na-ri, ni-hea-mã, etc. as it has in the English words name, next, etc.
The combination of letters nj, which does not exist in the English language, is best described in terms of the Italian sound of gni, or French sound of gn, or Spanish sound of ñ. In Aromanian, the sound of nj is exemplified in words such as, nja-ri, njel, etc.
The vowel o, in the Aromanian words op-tu, oh-tu, mor-tu, etc. is similar to the sound of o in English words such as home, lonely, etc. It is similar but not identical to the sound of o in words such as pour, floor, foe, shoal, show, etc. Sometimes, the character o has the sound of a semivowel as in the diphthong oa, of the Aromanian words oa-rã, oas-pi, etc.
The character p is pronounced as in the Aromanian words pu-tea-ri, pes-cu, pã-rin-ti, etc. or the English words pine, post, etc.
The character q is only used for foreign words.
The character r is pronounced as in the Aromanian words a-ra-nã, sa-ri, etc. or the English words river, red, remain, etc.
When not followed by the letter h, the character s is pronounced as in the Aromanian words sa-ri, so-cru, stiz-mã, etc. or the sound of s in the English words salt, site, etc. or the sound of ci/ce in words such as city, announcement, etc.
The combination of letters sh, is pronounced as in the Aromanian words shi-shi, shcur-tu, shed, shar-pi, etc. or the sound of sh in the English words shallow, shovel, shoe, etc. or the sound of ch in chagrin, Chicago, chicanery, chef, etc. or the sound of ti in nation, potion, potential, etc. or the sound of ci in words such as facial, racial, special, etc. or the sound of ss in words such as admission, commission, etc.
There are a few exceptions, the following seven Aromanian words, where sh is read as two separate letters s and h: a-rãs-hi-rat, i-pus-hi-ses-cu, i-pos-hi-si, ca-tas-hi-si, sho-lar-hiu, shiz-mã, she-zã, shi Vos-ho-po-li. At the Bituli 1997 symposium was decided that (i) the four rarely used words, unknown outside Greece, and for which we had Aromanian synonyms: i-pus-hi-ses-cu, i-pos-hi-si, ca-tas-hi-si, sho-lar-hiu, shall no longer be included in a Aromanian dictionary soon to be written, and (ii) the remaining three words be written and pronounced: schiz-mã, sche-zã, and Vos-co-po-li. It was decided, at the same time, to retain neologisms such as trans-hu-man-tsã and dis-hi-in-tsa-ri, as exceptions.
When it is not followed by the letters h and s, the character t has two sounds. It has the Latin sound of t as in the Aromanian words, tas-tru, ti-nir, trup, ta-tã, ta-hi-na, tream-bur, etc. or the English words time, temper, tea, etc. It is not to be pronounced exactly as in the English words butter, better, etc. and not at all as in the English words nation, theory, etc. It may also have, in certain dialects, the Greek sound of “q – theta” as the hard sound of th in the English words theater, theory, etc. (but not the soft sound of th in the English words the, then, there, etc.). For example, the Aromanian words pir-mit, tea-tru, te-mã, te-o-log, ter-mo-me-tru, ti-melj, tim-nja-mã, tron, etc. are pronounced in some dialects with the Latin sound t, as written above, or pronounced, in some other dialects, with the Greek sound q , as pirmiq , q eatru, q emã, q eolog, q ermometru, q imelj, q imnjamã, q ron, etc.
The combination of letters th, is reserved for those who want to specifically write the Greek sound of “q – theta“, because that is the way the words are pronounced in their dialect. For example, the words pronounced as pir-mq , q ea-tru, q e-mã, q e-o-log, q er-mo-me-tru, q i-melj, q im-nja-mã, q ron, etc. which ordinarily are written pir-mit, tea-tru, te-mã, te-o-log, ter-mo-me-tru, ti-melj, tim-nja-mã, tron, etc., whether they are pronounced with t or q , can also be written, by certain writers, as pir-mith, thea-tru, the-mã, the-o-log, ther-mo-me-tru, thi-melj, thim-nja-mã, thron, etc. because they want to specifically show that the words should be pronounced with the Greek sound q and not with the Latin sound t.
The combination of letters ts is pronounced as in the Aromanian words tsea-pã, frats, tsea-rã, tsin-tsi, etc. or the sound of ts/tes in the English words (plurals) bits, fonts, dates, etc.
The vowel u, of the Aromanian words u-rut, us-cat, op-tu, mor-tu, etc. is similar to the sound of oo in English words such as pool, cool, etc. or the sound of wo/woo as in the words woman, wood, etc. or the sound of oe in the word shoe, etc. but not as in the words floor, foe, women, etc. Also the diphthong iu has the same sound as the sound of ew in the English words, new, few, etc. Sometimes, the character u has the sound of a semivowel as in the diphthong ua (which has about the same sound as the diphthong oa), of the Aromanian words ha-ra-ua, cu-ra-ua, nea-ua, etc.
The character v is pronounced as in the Aromanian words va-li, vea-rã, vi-dea-ri, vrea-ri, etc. or in the English words village, voice, etc.
The character w is only used for foreign words.
The character x has two sounds in Aromanian, the same sounds that we have in the English language. It has (i) the sound cs, as in the Aromanian words a-xes-cu, a-lã-xes-cu, xea-ni, etc. (that are pronounced, and sometimes written, ac-ses-cu, a-lãc-ses-cu, csea-ni, etc.) or the English words exchange, excel, excellence, excuse, etc. and (ii) the sound gz as in the Aromanian words (neologisms) e-xac-tu, e-xem-plu, e-xa-min, etc. (that are pronounced eg-zac-tu, eg-zem-plu, eg-za-min, etc.) or the same words in English. In the English language we find a third pronunciation, that of z, (not to be found in the Aromanian language) in words like Xerox, xenophobe, xylophone, etc.
The character y has two sounds in Aromanian: (i) For the Aromanian words, where y is followed by the vowels e and i, it has the Greek sound of “G – gamma“, a sound that does not exist in the English language. Such is the case for the words yin, yis, yea-tru, Ver-yea, Tur-yea, yin-ghits, yer-mu, mã-yis-trã, etc. that are pronounced as g in, g is, g ea-tru, Ver-g ea, Tur-g ea, g in-ghits, g er-mu, mã-g is-trã, etc. (ii) For foreign words or names, the pronunciation is that of the language from which we have the word, most of the time as the vowel or semivowel i. Such is the case with the foreign words Yale, York, Young, Peyfuss, etc.
The character z is pronounced as in the Aromanian words zo-ri, zbor, zghic, znji-e, etc. or the sound of z in the English words zebra, zeal, zero, zone, etc. or the sound of x in words such as Xerox, xenophobe, xylophone, etc. or the sound of s in words such as present, representative, etc.
WHERE DO WE STAND NOW AND WHAT’S NEXT?
A superficial thinking may tell that the standards established Bituli would have no value, if the Aromanian writers and publishers will not accept and apply them. We certainly have no power to force anybody to use any specific system of writing. However, our hope is to have some standards, written down, that some writers, especially the young ones, can refer to, when they do not know how to write specific words.
The difficulty in having the standards applied universally comes from two main reasons.
(i) There is no political structure that can enforce adoption of any standards, once selected.
(ii) And then, there is the arrogance, deeply rooted in the Aromanian mind and soul, that makes people believe that the way they think is the best way; that others should follow their lead; that they cannot compromise because they are right; etc. Contrary to what they may say, they do not accept the fact that people think differently; that most problems have many satisfactory solutions; that what is best, is also a subjective best, etc.; that having an “imperfect” single system of writing is much better than having several “perfect” ones. One should never not lose sight of the “why” standardization is needed.
(iii) Finally, the last reason is that most of the writing and publishing is presently done by relatively old people. At a certain age is difficult to learn a new system of writing. There is no time to study new rules, there is no great desire, and new rules are easily forgotten soon after they are learned. Even for people like myself that usually make these rules, is easy to forget them, as I simply cannot remember them all! And in order to write “correctly”, I have to refer many times to these rules. This explains why my writing is not always consistent.
The only real hope for the general acceptance and use of the standard rules of writing rests with the new generation. Young Aromanians start writing now, they have an open mind and they learn fast. Having standard rules, written and assembled in a book, will encourage them to refer to these rules if and when they write Aromanian. Thus, a book containing the standard rules with plenty of examples will serve the dual purpose of having something to teach and learn from, as well as something to refer to, when in doubt.
A decision was reached at the Symposium to write a Book of Standard Writing Rules. I was entrusted with the task of writing such a book, first, and have it verified and corrected, later, by other linguists.
In my conception, the book has to have two main parts. A first part to spell out the specific rules of writing, and a second part to contain a complete glossary of most if not all Aromanian words written according to these rules. The glossary will start first with the words contained in the well-known comprehensive dictionary of T. Papahagi, and will be completed later with Aromanian words not contained there. It will be a basic book for (i) teaching and learning the writing of Aromanian language and (ii) writing of Aromanian dictionaries.
In my vision, I see the first part, the book of standard rules, containing several chapters. There will be a first chapter on the writing of the vowels and semivowels and a second one on writing the consonants. This will be followed by a third chapter on how to derive other words, from the basic words written by the standard rules as, for example, how to derive the plural of a noun, an adjective and adverb from a given noun, how to write the derivatives of a verb, etc. A fourth chapter will contain a short grammar of the Aromanian language as affected by the standard rules, a fifth chapter will consider the form of neologisms and their derivatives, and finally, a last chapter will be concerned with the rules of punctuation.
Also in my vision, I see an Aromanian glossary, the second part of the Book of Standard Writing Rules, that will contain all the Aromanian words, alphabetically, written according to the rules of the first part. This Glossary will be in a computer and may be distributed free to everybody, including those wishing to write dictionaries. Changing the rules will require changing the glossary. But having the glossary in a computer, the changes can be done easily; in a matter of days or weeks, one can obtain a new glossary with the words written by the new rules. Adding to each word of the glossary an explanation, synonyms and examples of its use, by a single person or by a group of persons, will give us a comprehensive dictionary of the Aromanian language. Adding to each word and its various meanings, the corresponding words from a different language, leads to a dictionary from Aromanian to the corresponding language. Using computers, this bilingual dictionary can be reversed (the way I did with the Papahagi dictionary to obtain a Romanian-Aromanian dictionary) and thus, one would obtain a dictionary from the corresponding language to Aromanian.
The beauty of these procedures is the fast and easy writing of various dictionaries, all based on the same standard form of written Aromanian language. Changing the writing rules can be easily applied to all these dictionaries to obtain new dictionaries by the new rules. Using the power and availability of computers and worldwide internet, we can have these dictionaries written together by people that are far from each other (even unknown to each other), instantly available for editing, correcting and printing. These are not dreams because everything said above is possible with the present day technology. And having a comprehensive glossary of the Aromanian words, all written by a standard system will definitely facilitate this collaboration between various individuals.
What has been done since the Bituli meeting? First, the writing standards of the books and journals published by Editura Cartea Aromãnã an others have been modified according to the new, standard rules. And then, we have started the work on the Book of Standard Writing Rules. We have written the first two chapters (some 90 pages) on the rules for vowels, semivowels and consonants and published them in the last two issues of the “Rivista di Litiraturã shi Studii Armãni”, Tom XI (fall 1998) and Tom XII (spring 1999). We have started the work on the third chapter, which we hope to publish in the spring 2000 issue of the same journal.
As a trial, I have worked two weeks on the second part, the Glossary, and found out that it will take about a year of hard work to finish a first, preliminary, unedited version of it.
And if I look into the future, and with God’s help, I can see a first, preliminary but complete version of the Book of Standard Rules, ready in about three years, that is, sometimes during the year 2002 or 2003.
If the progress in the writing of this book is satisfactory, a new meeting of the type we had in 1997, can be held somewhere in Macedonia, sometimes in the year 2002 or slightly later, to discuss and eventually change the rules stated in the book. That will give an opportunity to the writers and publishers who have missed the first, Bituli meeting, to express their views, and eventually change some of the standard rules of the book.
1 Paper prepared for the Fifth International Congress of the Aromanian Language and Culture, held June 25-26, 1999 at the Albert-Ludwigs-Universität in Freiburg, Germany.