23 May 2008
Romanian î and â
</p> I found this interesting answer after asking myself yesterday evening how come we ended up having two letters that are phonetically and functionally identical. Full excerpt from Wikipedia:
The reason for using both of them is historical, denoting the language’s Latin origin, although statistically only few of the words written today with â actually derive from Latin words having an a in the corresponding position. In 1953, during the communist regime, the Romanian Academy eliminated the letter â, replacing it with î everywhere, including until 1964 the name of the country, which was spelled Romînia. The first stipulation coincided with the official designation of the country as a People’s Republic, which meant that its full title was Republica Populară Romînă, whereas the Socialist Republic proclaimed in 1965 is associated with the spelling Republica Socialistă România.
After the fall of the Ceauşescu regime, the Romanian Academy decided to reintroduce â from 1993 onward, in accordance to the 1904 spelling reform, thus cancelling the effects of the 1953 spelling reform. The choice between î and â is thus based on a simple rule: the letter is always spelled as â, except at the beginning and the end of words, where î is used instead. Exceptions include proper nouns where the usage of the letters is frozen, whichever it may be, and compound words, whose components are each separately subjected to the rule above, not the resulting word itself (e.g. ne+î**ndemânatic => ne**î**ndemânatic, not **neâ*ndemânatic). Quite a number of people and institutions (including major newspapers such as Evenimentul Zilei, Cotidianul, and, since April 2008, Jurnalul Naţional) prefer the 1964 norms. Generally, usage of either the 1964 or 1993 norms is regarded as correct in most situations.
Some time ago I had a short talk with Alex Mihăileanu (just short comments back and forth) and I was actually wrong, among many, to think it’s more natural to write using â with many exceptions than just using î with one exception only: român, România, etc.
Today I turn to that discussion and think to myself.. I think I should turn to those norms (although I’m trying to restrict to zero my entries in Romanian).