Back in 2004 I announced a new blog on the Romance languages called Romanika; sadly, it fell by the wayside, but I am pleased to announce that its author, Eddie V. Mataochoa, has restarted it as Filius Lunae, a phrase (Latin for ‘son of the moon’) which has become his online pseudonym over the years. In his Relaunch post, he writes of the hiatus:

During this time, I can say I have become more seasoned and more acquainted with the different languages, especially the minority Romance languages, such as Catalan, Occitan, Galician, Asturian and Romansh. I also have a very good grasp of Romanian, which I didn’t have back I started this blog under the name of Romanika. My Latin has improved vastly as well, up to the point of considering it a Living Language, and using it for composition and communicating with others who have attained this level of proficiency in the Roman tongue. Thus, my posts will definitely seem more mature (as I, myself, have matured, of course), and I will be able to relate the Romance languages I write about back to their roots in Latin more often and more deeply than before.

Welcome back!


  1. in Romanian
    so lovely

  2. sorry, in Moldovan

  3. petronille berlay says

    If you learn one latin language, you can understand most of all of them.

  4. If you learn one latin language, you can understand most of all of them.
    I think that’s rather optimistic, petronille. I can understand French and Spanish reasonably well, but when I was in Romania this summer I was completely at sea! I could just about recognise that Romanian had some affinity with other Romance languages, but I certainly couldn’t understand much. If anything I’m impressed with how much these languages, which were all once variants of Latin, have diverged.

  5. marie-lucie says

    The Romance languages resemble each other quite a bit on paper, especially in abstract contexts, but in normal speech and with everyday vocabulary they are quite different.

  6. when I was in Romania this summer I was completely at sea!
    Are you sure it was Romania?

  7. when I was in Romania this summer I was completely at sea!
    Are you sure it was Romania?

  8. Presumably the Black Sea.

  9. What I would say is that if you know one romance language you can fake it in the others. A French Canadian (Acadian) woman I know told me that was true of her and Spanish, and I read a story once about anarchism coming to Spain via Italian sailors who knew no Spanish talking to Spaniards who knew no Italian. They constructed a sort of pidgin, I guess. (I suppose lingua franca would be a better term.)
    In my own experience, reading only, moving from French to Spanish was fairly easy, from Spanish to Portuguese very easy, and from these languages to Catalan and Provencal not too hard. For whatever reason I had worse luck with Italian, possibly because I don’t have a taste for Italianate poetry in any language.
    But Romanian was tough. Again, though, there was no strong motivator for me to put time into it.
    In my alma mater’s library there’s a bilingual Romanian-Portuguese book of Romanian poetry. And I have solved the mystery: it was a UNESCO project, someone (probably the Portuguese embassy) gave the book to a Portuguese teacher there (a Prof. Wolfson whose pen name was Lobofilho) and she donated it to the library.
    I’m an advocate of Portuguese poetry, by the way. It doesn’t get the attention it deserves. Early Spanish and Portuguese poetry is a world of its own, hundreds of little poems somewhat like the songs of Shakespeasre.

  10. I actually have a distaste for Italianate poetry. Why beat around the bush?

  11. Italianate poetry in any language?
    how would you describe it? like too many metaphors?

  12. John, have you read Leopardi?

  13. I know it when I see it. Epic heroic themes, sonnet sequences, the endless rolling out of grand language, an elevated tone, a neo-Platonism sometimes, allegory sometimes, not much humor, irony, or realism….
    I’m not the right person to define it, because I avoid it like the plague.
    Around 1450 or so most poets in most languages started imitating Dante and Petrach and Tasso and Ariosto, et al, and I’ve always preferred earlier and later poetry.

  14. I like later Italian poetry, especially Montale. Leopardi’s on my list, but he’s a big project because he writes mostly long poems.

  15. Romanian, from what I’ve seen of the language, (which is admittedly not much) has too much slavic in to for the language to be intuitively comprehensible to speakers of Romance languages. (And I am guessing it has too much romance in it to be intuitively comprehensible to slavic speakers.)
    I would imagine that someone fluent in one romance language and one slavic language would have a decent shot at figuring out Romanian. Is there anyone here that can confirm that?

  16. Duh, should have checked before asserting that Romania is landlocked.

  17. Duh, should have checked before asserting that Romania is landlocked.

  18. Well, I’m near fluent in Italian and fluent in Russian, and used to speak some Serbo-Croatian so I should have as much of an advantage learning Romanian as anyone. It still would take some work. The vocabulary is actually, from what I’m told, mostly Latin, especially in educated speech – it’s just that Romanian phonology is bizarre if you’re used to Western Romance languages. And the grammar is certainly sui generis – it’s not slavic at all but it certainly took its own path from Latin. I’ve been able to engage in pidgin converstations with Romanians I’ve met but I can’t follow active speech between native speakers at all. I’m told by Italians that speakers of Venetian dialect have a pretty easy time figuring out Romanian, but that may just be stories.

  19. DeeXtrovert says

    I would imagine that someone fluent in one romance language and one slavic language would have a decent shot at figuring out Romanian. Is there anyone here that can confirm that?
    Well, my native language is Serbo-Croatian, and I have French, Italian and Spanish. This makes Romanian an easy language for me, but there are still a lot of funky things – borrowings from Hungarian (which I also speak, so that’s nice, but it would be a problem for many), Turkish (which I don’t speak, and most of the Turkish words I encounter in Romanian are different from those in Serbo-Croatian), Greek and other languages. (There is also whole level of vocabularly which comes straight from 20th century French, too!)
    Some things will throw you – a lot of words in other Latinate languages which have something like a “c / qu / ch” or have lost it – like “cuatro / leche / ocho” or “quatre / “lait / huit” – have a “p” in Romanian – “patru / lapte / opt.” A few other sounds preserve old Latin sounds or underwent different changes to the rest of the Romance languages. The postpositional definite articles seem counterintuitive. The vocabulary isn’t hard to understand, but it is hard to choose which “version” of a word is appropriate, as there are often a Latinate / Slavic pair (much like Germanic / Latinate pairs in English), but whereas the Germanic words in English seem more “common” compared to the Latinate ones, such as “give / donate,” I don’t sense this same general vibe in Romania. Many Latinate words in Romanian seem to have disappeared from other Romance languages – knowledge of Latin, which I don’t have, would be a big plus.
    At its core, it’s obviously a Romance language – I don’t see its Slavic parts having much effect on grammar or sentence structure, but a core vocabulary of Slavic words would help a Romanian learner a lot.

  20. Even without the Slavic element Romanian (which I can read, *barely*) would pose real challenges for speakers of other Romance languages: first, Romanian often preserves Latin words which other (standard/major) Romance languages have discarded: A INTELEGE for “to understand”, from Latin INTELLEGERE, which elsewhere was replaced with reflexes of CUMPREHENDERE; ALB for “white”, from Latin ALBUS, which elsewhere was replaced by the early Germanic loan *BLANCUS. The same is true of certain grammatical morphemes: the Romanian nominal plural morpheme -URI is of Latin origin (Latin -ORA), but Romanian is the only major Romance language where it remains alive and kicking.
    Second, the long isolation means that many Latin words changed their meaning in unique ways: Latin MERGERE “to dive” became the basic verb “to go” (A MERGE), for example.
    Third, the grammatical structure does display a mix of archaic and innovative features that is quite unique within Romance. Among the former, there is no synthetic future or conditional tense; among the latter, morphologically distinctive forms of the present subjunctive are only found with third person forms (with the exceptions of “to be” and “to have”).
    Vanya: there are a few exclusive common innovations shared between Venetian and Romanian (probably dating back to the late Imperial era, when each was the endpoint of a dialect continuum), so I could imagine Venetian speakers might have a real advantage in understanding Romanian: I’ve heard the same thing said about Southern Italian dialect speakers (in the latter case this would be due, if true, to shared archaisms: many such dialects still have reflexes of the plural ending -ORA, for example).

  21. I have nothing to add except to say that I hope the guy who is reposting Hat’s blog is giving him credit for them.

  22. I’ve sent him a takedown notice, but nothing happened. Don’t know what more to do, since I can’t afford legal assistance.

  23. marie-lucie says

    That guy seems to copy pieces from all kinds of blogs, without attribution. Perhaps he is trying to be taken for a “polymath” (recently mentioned on Language Log). Legal proceedings by an individual blogger might not work (especially if the situation does not seem covered by any law), but sometimes the mere mention of “I have taken legal advice” puts the fear of God in an offender. Or get together with others for (threat of) a class action?

  24. Thank you very much for the welcome back, Language Hat.
    I’ve read some of the comments, and let me just say that my passion for the Romance languages goes beyond having a passive knowledge of each one and calling it a day. I sometimes say that I see them as a unity, dialects of one common language (which, they are, since they all descend from Latin). My goal is to use each one to the fullest, be it reading, writing and especially speaking. I must say that I’m often taken to be from each of these countries when I speak to native speakers.
    I’m told by other polyglots that 1)that I should study other languages like Chinese, German or Russian; I would first move to Romania to speak Romanian everyday than study any of those; 2)that they would find it boring to stay only in one language branch; and 3) that they would find it difficult to master so many closely related languages (and this is where part of the challenge lies).
    I’m not saying these points apply to everyone, but I have been told those things.
    My “odd” language is Latin in a way, because it is different from Romance, with all its declensions and diverse tenses. I’d rather spend time with Latin than go into Arabic, or any other language, like I said. And I feel good about being to communicate in Latin; that’s just my passion, and that’s what I share on my blog.
    Thanks again! 😉

  25. michael farris says

    My small experience with Romanian.
    Background: I used to be pretty fluent in Spanish (which skills have heavily decayed through non-use) and have dabbled with Portuguese and Italian (I can read popular literature without too many problems). I’ve also had contact with a bunch of euro-clone planned languages with heavy Romance components to their vocabulary (Interlingua, Occidental, Novial, Eskpreso etc). Also, too my amazement I discovered a few years ago I can read French language comic books (though I’ve never seriously tried to learn French).
    Anyway, this summer I spent a few days in Romania. As a general fan of Central and Eastern European languages I’ve taken a look or three at Romanian over the years but nothing very serious. And this was mostly written, I could listen to Romanian radio over the net but ….
    Anyway, I was pleasantly surprised at how rapidly I was beginning to catch on. By the end of the first day I could understand numbers (as in the cashier says 24.50 and I get it the first time without having to ask for repititions). I was even able to carry out simple transactions, including answering simple questions, like buying metro or bus/streetcar tickets using what little I could use by day two. I could even get the gist of a fair amount of things said around me in context. The shopkeeper who told a gypsy woman that smoking wasn’t allowed in her store, would so-and-so go get that bigger box from the back, that kind of thing.
    I also found Romanian people to be very helpful with an obvious nincompoop trying to speak their language, repeating things clearly with a smile. I’d never found the first days in a new language environment so trouble free (including German which I’d studied for years before hitting the wall of uncompromising German dialect speakers).
    No, I couldn’t read newspapers (beyond puzzling out a few sentences with a dictionary) or understand much on tv. But one and one contacts were suprisingly easy and pleasant.
    I do have some idea of how Balkan languages work (from Modern Greek and Bulgarian) so that wasn’t a problem. On the other hand, the biggest obstacle (and I could tell this would be a huge obstacle to even passive fluency) is the vowel changes. A lot of verbs can be hard to recognize because of vowel changes in the stem according to what ending is added and where the stress (not marked in the orthography) is. Kind of like the Spanish puedo/podemos/pudo problem but multiplied by several times.

  26. Don’t know what more to do, since I can’t afford legal assistance.
    The website is a “scraper”. They just take content from anywhere with automated software and use it to try to drive traffic to their site, where they hope someone will click on something and get them some revenue. If they don’t respond to a request to remove the material, the articles that tell you how to deal with them will tell you to contact their web hosting provider, who is supposed to remove the blog. I have had several sploggers copy my content, some attributing to me and some making up a name. Some of them stupidly linked to me, I suppose links also figure into getting google mojo, but I can also see incoming links. I never did anything about any of these websites and they disappeared by themselves in less than 3 months (maybe someone else complained) but if this guy’s archives are any indication (and of course you can put whatever date you want on something) he has been at it for a year.

  27. David Marjanović says

    Étienne, could you give an example for Latin -ora? I can’t think of any at the moment.

    The postpositional definite articles seem counterintuitive.

    Shared with Bulgarian and Macedonian. That is, the position of the article is shared, not the morpheme which is a reflex of good old ille. (Not even ipse.)
    Macedonian examples I’ve encountered: македонскиот народ, македонските људи – the two meanings of “the Macedonian people”.

  28. Actually, that site’s not a scraper. You would know a scraper if you saw it — snippets and phrases pasted together on one page without rhyme or reason, with a view to being picked up by search engines. The object of scrapers is to draw in traffic, and then make a profit off Google Adsense when the exasperated visitor clicks on an ad to some real content.
    This guy is simply copying stuff he likes from the Internet, without attribution. The fact that he liked Languagehat’s column enough to quote it in full is flattering. The lack of attribution is the problem.
    I’ve heard in the past that you can complain about duplicate content, but I don’t remember where — it may have been Google, although that doesn’t sound plausible.
    Anyway, I wouldn’t worry about it too much. It’s not exactly harmful (I can’t see that he’s doing it with vicious, evil, or pecuniary intent), and I also can’t see that a plagiaristic blog like his is going to get much of a sustained readership. Unless it becomes a consistent problem, I would just let it go.

  29. Also, rather than a take-down notice, it might be better to ask him to place an attribution on the page — a link to LH.

  30. I take the last two comments back. The guy is persistently shadowing LH. Hat’s postings on Ehees, Filius Lunae, Links, etc. are all appearing on his “blog”.
    The appropriate Google term for this kind of thing is “duplicate content”, and it is normally penalised by Google.

  31. Try Copygator:
    It quickly turns up sites that are duplicating your content.

  32. David: Latin TEMPUS/TEMPORA “time/times” would be one example. While synchronically, in Latin, -A is the ending and -OR- part of the stem, it was reanalyzed in Late Latin/Early Romance and became a plural ending, yielding Modern Standard Romanian TIMP/TIMPURI.
    Elsewhere the plural ending of this noun was the more common (masculine) one: Old Spanish had TIEMPOS as a singular as well as plural form (from earlier singular TEMPUS, plural *TEMPOS, which fell together phonologically in Western Romance), which has finally yielded modern Spanish TIEMPO/TIEMPOS, where morphological re-shaping has turned the once-irregular noun into a fully regular masculine one.

  33. I have to say that, based on the descriptions above, Romanian sounds like a lot of fun. Not easy, perhaps, but lots of fun. The Romance Language that I actually know (as opposed to having only some degree of acquaintance with) is Latin, so that’s probably a point in my favor. I speak/read/write Danish (not perfectly, but comfortably), so postpositioned definite articles feel very natural to me. Are they cliticized in Romanian as they are in the Macedonian examples given?

  34. marie-lucie says

    O tempora, o mores! (a famous quotation).
    Corpus/corpora is another well-known exampled.

  35. @Filius Lunae
    I completely understand your devotion to a single language family. Focusing on a deep knowledge of many languages all in the same family can allow you to, how do express it, feel more connections and patterns between the words and between the grammars of the various languages. That may not be how your mind works, I don’t know. I do know that as a native English speaker whose two best (by far) other languages are Danish and Latin, my mind will suddenly pop out in idle moments with little observations (lexical, semantic, stylistic, social) about the languages I know. Sometimes I suddenly realize something about English — usually something that should have been blindingly obvious to me years ago — through my knowledge of Danish.
    I am disappointed to have to admit that I do not think that I could use Latin for communication, even written. I’ll be watching your blog, though, and once I see how you compose in Latin I’ll know whether there is any possibility of my being able to polish up my Latin to the point where I could compose in it again.

  36. There are times when depth is better than breadth. The wondrous feeling of knowing your topic in such depth can be considered ample consideration for not having a smattering of every language in the world.

  37. Thanks for your comment, Isidora. I look forward to having you on my blog. 😉
    And I’m going to have to go with what Bathrobe said, and agree with him.

  38. David Marjanović says

    Latin TEMPUS/TEMPORA “time/times” would be one example. While synchronically, in Latin, -A is the ending and -OR- part of the stem

    Oh. I know Latin too well, then. :o)

    postpositioned definite articles feel very natural to me. Are they cliticized in Romanian as they are in the Macedonian examples given?

    omul = the man
    ştiinţele = the sciences
    ştiinţa = science

  39. marie-lucie says

    filh de la luno, I left a comment on your Occitan thread, in spite of the thread being clogged up with spam. (I am using a non-standardized spelling for your name here, there are no typos).
    There is a brand of traditional Occitan textiles (printed cottons, especially for tablecloths and such) named Souleïado, the Provençal spelling of a word which in the standardized spelling would be Solelhada (with the same pronunciation): the Provençal spelling is based on the French conventions for writing vowels, not on how the word would have been spelled and pronounced centuries ago by the troubadours. The “root” is the equivalent of French soleil “sun”.

  40. @Marie-Lucie: Yes, I am familiar with that orthography, which, as you mention, is based on French spelling (similar to Galician, which has the official spelling, based on Spanish, and another, non-standard one, so-called reintegracionismo, based on the Portuguese one with a few modifications).
    E perdon… veirai la pagina qu’as mensonada! ^^

  41. John Emerson: About 3 decades ago I went ashore in Civitavecchia with a Spanish seaman and listened to him conversing with an Italian waiter, each speaking his own language. At the time, I was still grunting Spanish a word at a time, so I didn’t understand them, but since then I’ve learned that the two languages are 80% mutually comprehensible. Since those who congregate in this salon are more knowledgable than me, I stand ready to be corrected.
    m-l: That Occitan word you mentioned: would it be related to Sp. soledad?

  42. marie-lucie says

    The Romance languages: It is true that the languages are close enough to each other that one can often try to “fake” one language from knowing another, meaning guess what a corresponding word “should be”, but that strategy only goes so far (like trying to guess a French word from English, or vice-versa) and one can end up talking gibberish or using a word that has a very different meaning, as in French embarrassée “embarrassed (fem)”, Spanish embarazada “pregnant”.
    Spanish and Italian: I don’t know about percentages, but I think that speakers of each would manage to understand each other if the conversation did not need to be extremely precise (and especially if they were each used to hearing the other’s language). I am quite fluent in Spanish, I would need a phrasebook to manage in Italy, but I can read Italian and understand most of it. The greatest difficulty I find is with some of the Italian verb forms, which can be quite different from those in Spanish, but for a simple conversation such as ordering a meal the verb forms would be fairly similar in the two languages.
    iakon: That Occitan word you mentioned: would it be related to Sp. soledad?
    No, the sol or soul in the word is ultimately from the Latin root sol, solis ‘sun”, but Sp soledad is equivalent to French or English solitude, related to the Latin adjective solus/sola/solum ‘alone, sole’.

  43. As far as a planned international language is concerned, can I put in a word for Esperanto 🙂
    Your readers may be interested in the following video.
    A glimpse of the Esperanto language can be seen at

  44. Eddie V. Mataochoa now identifies himself as Ed Mata Ochoa; he doesn’t blog any more (who does, apart from relics like me?), but he tweets @FiliusLunae.

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