There's nothing pretend about it. There is no "the," but this definite ending in Romanian performs the same function as "the" does in English. I see you have done some of the French and Spanish, so I'll point out that the "the" in all three languages is the word for "that" in Latin, "ille, illa" (Latin had no "the," much like Russian). That became "le, la" in French and "el, la" in Spanish. The Romanians stuck it onto the end of the word, where it became "-ul, -a."
So, let me explain it a bit more:
In Romanian, there are three types of gender (edit): feminine, masculine and neutral. When you say "picture" in Romanian, it will be "tablou". And when you count it in English (I mean the plural of it) will be like: a picture - two pictures (same for others... a dog - two dogs, a flower - two flowers... and so on ) it always remains the same (a , two...a, two, apart from the other exceptions)
While this is totally different in Romanian:
un tablou - două tablouri (un, două = for neutral)
un câine - doi câini (un, doi - for masculine)
o floare - două flori (o, două - for feminine)
That's quite interesting, and I will look for that neuter. I do, however, disagree with your statement that there are three grammatical genders in all languages. In Hebrew, everything is masculine or feminine, no exceptions, and the gender governs many features of a Hebrew sentence. Hungarian, however, has no grammatical gender. The same pronouns, adjectives, etc, are used to apply to all nouns. In Danish and other Scandinavian languages, there are two grammatical genders, kind of, but they are common gender (mauling and feminine fused) and neuter. One could talk about a language like Vietnamese, Chinese, or Swahili as having no grammatical gender, or we could consider their classifiers a kind of gender and say they have many genders. In any case, three grammatical genders are far from universal, and until you explained this, I would have thought of Romanian as having only two.
There is no such a group like "Balkan languages". Romanian is a romance language, Serbo-Croatian, Slovenian, Macedonian and Bulgarian are slavic languages, Greek and Albanian are not in any group. All of them are Balkan languages and Romanian is similar to none of them. Although you are right about the articles on ending in Romanian. Only Bulgarian and Macedonian of those languages have this characteristic but that is a total coincidence.. Romanian inherited it from the Latin language, and Romanian is totally different from all mentioned languages
I used the term geographically, rather than linguistically, though as you note, they are related in a way. They are not genetically related, no, but when languages are in close contact over a long period of time, they form a Sprachbund, sharing not only vocabulary, but even some grammatical features. We can see such a Sprachbund on the Balkan peninsula. This feature is only shared with Bulgarian and Macedonian, but I understand that Romanian shares other features with Albanian and with the South Slavic languages other than Bulgarian and Macedonian as well. The Sprachbund is an interesting phenomenon that can be seen in South Asia, in Southeast Asia, and possibly in the Baltic region as well. While Romanian inherited the definite article from the Latin ille and illa, as did all other Romance languages, it did not inherit the postposition of it, which would have been uncommon in spoken Latin, just as the existence of an article of any sort is not something Bulgarian inherited from common Slavic, though the ending itself is, like the Latin ille, from the Slavic "that."
I am, of course, quite interested in learning Romanian, but the one thing I fear is that any mention of linguistics will cause people to get their knickers in a nationalistic twist.
Actually, there is: Balkan sprachbund. They are not a single language family, but a language group nonetheless since all Balkan languages share some peculiar similarities despite being from different language families. Probably has to do either with Paleo-Balkan languages, although we still know too little about them, and/or the extensive cultural contact between the people from the whole peninsula throughout the centuries.
Ok, maybe I am wrong, but I think there is no single common characteristic for all balkan languages, which other languages don't have. Considering this, I don't understand what Balkan Sprachbund should represent. I would say Balkan Sprachbund is more political than lingustic term, constructed in order to make some kind of unity of Balkan people
I do apologize for attributing some sort of political motive to your statement, although to be fair, you appeared to have done the same to mine.
Linguistics is, I'm afraid, not mathematics. Historical linguistics was developed more with inspiration from biology, even including the terminology. Thus, we have genetically related language families, such as Romance or Slavic, which share features because they are thought to be descended from some common earlier form (or at least family of dialects). There are also, as in biology, parallel though completely unrelated developments, as you note in the use of the dual in Gaelic and Slovenian (though I do not know whether those simply preserve an original Indoeuropean dual through Common Slavic and Old Irish). There is no concept like a Sprachbund found in biology, as far as I know, because (unless you are a Lamarckian or something) animals living in proximity to each other cannot affect each other's inherited characteristics. Languages do affect each other, and so the idea of the Sprachbund is that languages in proximity for long periods of time often come to be influenced by each other, not only in vocabulary, but even in grammar. The history of Hungarian is actually a lovely example of this. It is genetically a Uralic language, related to languages spoken in the region of the Ob river in Russia. It does, however, share many features with Turkic languages, that its Uralic relatives do not share. This is because of the centuries that Hungarian speakers spent on the Pontic Steppe, among Turkic speakers. Some Iranian languages of the region share similar features, and we might speak of a Pontic Sprachbund in the Early Middle Ages, I suppose. Modern Hungarian, though, also shares many features with Indoeuropean languages that likely result from centuries of contact with those languages, with many speakers of Hungarian being bilingual with Latin, German, Slovak, Romanian, etc for centuries. Those influences do not look like an overlapping Venn diagram, but rather have to do with individual features. As far as I know, the concept of the Sprachbund has only been applied to local areas, where languages have been spoken in close proximity for several centuries. One can certainly criticize the concept of the Sprachbund, as it does not fit the concept of the mathematical set, but it is one that I have heard Romance, Slavic, and Uralic linguists use, so I would suggest it is generally considered useful in linguistics. As to Greek, I do not think I have heard it discussed as a member of the Balkan Sprachbund, but I am afraid I am much less familiar with it. I do know that it went through a language purification movement as radical as anything experienced by Romanian, so the question would be whether the Greek of 1800 shared grammatical features with Albanian, Bulgarian, or other neighboring languages. It certainly did share vocabulary, but I do not think that would cut it. That said, I am no linguist, so maybe it would.
No, I fear you are trying to make it political, but it is purely linguistic. A Sprachbund is not a genetically related group, and by that I mean genetically in the linguistic sense (or, who knows, now maybe old-fashioned linguistic sense), rather in the biological sense. There is no such thing as a Balkan people in any sense, to my knowledge. A genetic group, such as the Romance or Slavic or Uralic languages, might display a feature, ore more likely several features, in all of the members. A Sprachbund is a group of languages that have been in contact over a long enough period that lots of vocabulary and even some grammatical features are shared. Romanian will share some features with Bulgarian, maybe some others with Albanian, maybe some others with Serbian, but there will likely not be a feature found among all of them. This is not a political term invented particularly to deal with what you call the unruly Balkan People, something that, I know, the nationalists of the various sorts in the region are always on watch for. It is a phenomenon that is seen in various parts of the world. It would have been a great deal more obvious, indeed, before the various nationalist language purification movements of the nineteenth century. In 1800, even the vocabulary of the various languages overlapped a great deal.
There is absolutely nothing political in my posts. I don't see from which sentence is possible to conclude that. On the contrary, I am trying to see some common linguistical characteristic of those languages, which other languages don't have. I am a matematician so I know that if you want to define some set you have to find some common characteristic of all elements if the set which other elements out of set don't have. By those languages I can see only geographyical common characteristic, but not linguistic. If you define Sprachbund like group of languges which share some characteristics but only some of them, in that case you can make countless Sprachbunds. For example, Scottisch Gaelic and Slovenian beside singular and plural have dual number, Slovenian and German if you want to say 24 you have to say 4 first and afterwards 20, and in German and Scottisch Gaelic you have to put verbs on the end of the sentence, more often than in other languages, so you can say that Slovenian, German and Scottisch Gaellic form a Sprachbund. It is true that you can find many slavic words in Romanian, but you can also find even more Turkish, Hungarian and German words in Serbo-Croatian, or German words in Russian etc, but I don't see how it is possible to make some linguistical group of those languages. Regarding Greek, I think that connections with other Balkan languages are even weaker than connection between Greek and English... By Balkan people I simply meant all people who live on Balkan peninsula
Yeah, I haven't mention also Vlach, Istro-Romanian and some other "small" languages sorry for that. They are all together spoken by less than 100.000 people, and every speaker speaks, maybe even better, additionally some of languages I mentioned. I don't say those languages are not important but I think in the conversation was not so important to mention all balkan languages
The formation of the definite is not a "total coincidence". The pattern behind it in both Pan-Romanian and Bulgaro-Macedonian is identical - the definite suffixes are in sense enclitics of the demonstrative pronouns /in Bulgaro-Macedonian there are 3 series of those - for near, distant, and generic definite/. You may call a coincidence a similar pattern in Norwegian, where the definite element is also a postposition, however, it's not formed from the Norwegian demonstrative pronouns.