Romanian 101

The first written record of a Romanic language spoken in the Middle Ages in the Balkans was written by the Byzantine chronicler Theophanes Confessor in the 6th century about a military expedition against the Avars from 587, when a Vlach muleteer accompanying the Byzantine army noticed that the load was falling from one of the animals and shouted to a companion "Torna, torna fratre" (meaning "Return, return brother!").

The oldest written text in Romanian is a letter from 1521, in which Neacsu of Câmpulung wrote to the mayor of Brasov about an imminent attack of the Turks. It was written using the Cyrillic alphabet, like most early Romanian writings. The earliest writing in Latin script was a late 16th century Transylvanian text which was written with the Hungarian alphabet conventions.

In the late 1700s, Transylvanian scholars noted the Latin origin of Romanian and adapted the Latin alphabet to the Romanian language, using some rules from Italian, recognized as Romanian's closest relative. The Cyrillic alphabet remained in (gradually decreasing) use until 1860, when Romanian writing was first officially regulated.

In the Soviet Republic of Moldova, a special version of the Cyrillic alphabet derived from the Russian version was used, until 1989, when it returned to the Romanian Latin alphabet.

Punctuation & Capitalization

The only particularities Romanian has relative to other languages using the Latin alphabet are:

~ The quotation marks use the German format;
~ Dialogues are identified with quotation dashes;
~ Proper quotations which span multiple paragraphs don't start each paragraph with the quotation marks; one single pair of quotation marks is always used, regardless of how many paragraphs are quoted;
~ The Oxford comma before "and" is considered incorrect ("red, yellow and blue" is the proper format);
~ Punctuation signs which follow a text in parentheses always follow the final bracket;
~ In titles, only the first letter of the first word is capitalized, the rest of the title using sentence capitalization (with all its rules: proper names are capitalized as usual, etc.).

Exceptions & Trends

Dialogues are identified with quotation dashes in everyday use, although the specific character is typically replaced with an ordinary dash ("-") in informal electronic communication.

Usage of German quotation marks has decreased considerably in favor of the much more convenient English-language format, at least in informal messages. Even in writing, because of the awkwardness of properly drawing German dashes (reversing the direction of writing upwards for the final quotation symbol), the proper format is rarely used, typically using the Polish format instead, if any attempt at proper formatting is done. In practice, only the most formal documents, such as literary works or very formal letters, use what are formally considered the proper form of quotation marks.

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