Just when you thought you’ve finally got a handle on who the Romanians are, their language, their culture and their long and tortured history, up pops the Aromanians.
Say what? Yeah, you know, the Aromanians. It turns out Romanians come in a wide variety of flavors: there’s the Aromanians, the Bromanians (my personal favorite), the Cromanians, the Dromanians, etc. Collect them all!
Nah, I’m just joking. In reality there are “regular” Romanians and then there are groups of people who somewhere in the last thousand years got separated from the main group and developed their own distinct sub-group of Romanian language and culture.
The biggest of these sub-groups is the Aromanians, whom I had never heard about until one day I was walking in downtown Bucharest and saw a sign written in what looked like crazy, bizarro-world Romanian language, close to the real thing but just slightly different enough that my already weakened mental hinges began to slide open and worlds began colliding.
The sign was written in Aromanian and was an advertisement for a big upcoming meeting of Aromanians to speak in their language and get together and hang out and have fun (I’m assuming) and let others get to know them a little bit better.
Most Aromanians are simply people who, for whatever reason, long ago moved to the highlands of the Albania/Greece/Macedonia area of Europe and decided that was a fine, fine place to raise their sheep and over time they developed a distinct series of changes to their language from “regular” Romanian (officially known as Daco-Romanian). I can tell you right now I can pretty much read Aromanian but hearing it spoken (to me) sounds like like a really drunken guy slurring his speech.
In Greece and elsewhere in the lower Balkans, the Aromanians are called the “Vlachs”, which is where the term “Wallachia” (in English) comes from as well, just meaning “them foreign bastards” rather than any kind of true derivative of what they call themselves.
Most remaining Aromanians still live in the lower Balkans area, surrounded by a sea of people speaking vastly different languages (i.e. not derived from Latin).
There are a few Aromanians in Romania today but not very many, mostly because they’ve been absorbed (culturally-speaking) but the ones that are left can be found mostly in Dobruja as well as their occasional meet-ups in Bucharest of course.
And last but definitely not least, there ARE two other sub-groups of Romanian speakers, one being the Istro-Romanians, mostly in a handful of villages in Croatia (and I’ve heard them speak and it’s completely impossible for me to understand it) and the Megleno-Romanians, who unbelievably are a handful of Muslims living in Turkey.
Oh and just for the record, there’s a gigantic debate and controversy over whether “Moldovan” (from the nation of Moldova) is or is not a separate and distinct language than “regular” Romanian. All I can say on that is “Moldovan” has a hell of a lot more Slavic words than Romanian does, as well as using much more Slavic pronunciation (especially the letter “E”) but for all intents and purposes, it’s the same.
AND NOW YOU KNOW!