If Albanians were Romanized, would their language be more similar to Romanian or Dalmatian?

First Impression

This is a very interesting hypothetical question, and right off the top I am tempted to say a fully romanized Albanian language would now share similarities with both the currently extinct Dalmatian and with Romanian, because these last two themselves seem very alike, and the historical Albanian territories have been between Dalmatia and Romanian populated lands.


Background

In order for one to build the best argument one could with the information available, I think one ought to master the following:

  1. Albanian language. I don’t speak Albanian and like Romanian, it is not a world language, therefore it’s tougher to find resources to learn it. However I have some minimal knowledge of the language, I am aware it has undergone some romanization and it has quite many similarities with Romanian.
    1. Some of the Latin features of both languages share similarities, including common words;
    2. The Dacian substrate of Romanian has similarities with the non-romanized features of Albanian, including many common words;
  2. Romanian language. I am a native Romanian and highly interested in etymology, linguistics and languages and especially in the Romanian language. The Romanian language is divided in dialects, such as
    1. Daco-Romanian, the dialect most often referred to as the Romanian language, spoken mainly in Romania but also outside its borders, especially in Moldova and the Balkans.
    2. Aromanian
    3. Megleno-Romanian
    4. Istro-Romanian
    5. It would be relevant to be familiar with Old Romanian, before it took on Latinate neologisms, Turkish, Hungarian, Greek and Slavonic words. A linguist definitely could or someone with a keen interest in Romanian etymology such as myself could attempt to unpack Romanian thus.
  3. Dalmatian language. I don’t speak Dalmatian and it is an extinct language. So, other than the resources left from books such as Matteo Bartoli’s Das Dalmatische and modern reconstruction efforts, there are no native speakers, modern literature or any other type of media in Dalmatian. It also appears it was influenced by Venetian and had many dialects, of which the most important were
    1. Ragusan
    2. Vegliot – from which we have most resources today;
  4. Italian language. I have learned standard, literary Italian as an adult and achieved basic fluency in about a year. I am in no way an expert, but have more confidence being able to easily find cognates with Romanian, which help with words I haven’t learned before. I think it is important knowing Italian, in order to be familiar with
    1. Venetian – which is considered a separate language closely related to Italian, and has influenced Dalmatian. However, this influence has occurred after the hypothetical complete romanization of Albanian would have occurred, therefore it is an added layer to Dalmatian that would have to be unpacked in order to get to the proto-Dalmatian spoken at the time of the romanization of the Balkan peninsula. Since Albanian does not appear to have a Venetian influence, it is a comparison between proto-Dalmatian and Old Romanian, and not the late Dalmatian available to us today through documents that would be relevant to this topic. By analogy, Albanian must have its own set of neologisms from neighboring countries and not only, that would have to be taken into consideration.
  5. Latin language. Since the source of romanization would have been the Latin language, it’s obvious one ought to know that language. I have taken one year of Latin in high school and have rather minimal competency in speaking it.
  6. Slavonic language. It gave considerable borrowings to Romanian, some to Albanian and presumably some to Dalmatian.

Comparison

Knowing the above, I have put together a comparison between Albanian, Daco-Romanian, Dalmatian, Standard Italian and Classical Latin, based off of 207 Vegliot Dalmatian words recorded in the book L’Antico dialetto di Veglia, byAntonio Ive, which can be seen in a table, below. Before interpreting the table, one ought to keep the following in mind:

  • the Albanian words almost certainly include mistakes; if there are any Albanian speakers out there willing to correct me, I would really appreciate it. Standard Albanian today is based on the Tosk dialect, from the South of the country. The Dalmatian dialects would have been more in touch with the north of the country, where the Gheg dialect is spoken;
  • the Daco-Romanian is the literary language taught in Romania, my native language. I have used the long infinitive forms for verbs, for an easier comparison with Italian and Latin; Romanian uses the short infinitive almost exclusively nowadays;
  • the following languages are missing links from a more fluid comparison that would illustrate the Eastern Latin languages continuum: Vulgar Latin, Venetian, Aromanian, other Dalmatian dialects; in addition, the Albanian Gheg and Slavonic are also missing from my comparison. I may be able to supply Aromanian at some point in the future, but if someone else has the knowledge and the desire to undertake Vulgar Latin , Venetian, and/or Gheg Albanian, and perhaps Old Church Slavonic, or Serbo-Croat or Bulgarian please do;
  • feel free to correct my Classical Latin (and Italian);
  • linguists today haven’t decided whether the common substrate between Albanian and Romanian is represented by the same ancient language (or language group with very similar idioms, Thracian/Dacian/Illyrian), or whether the substrate languages were somewhat related (Illyrian vs Dacian) or even if the common substrate is due to a cohabitation after the partial romanization of Albanian and the genesis of Romanian; the substrate of Dalmatian isn’t known either; likewise, it is known with little certainty what Thracian, Dacian and Illyrian might have sounded like.

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Conclusions

  • The 207 preserved Vegliot Dalmatian words are related to basic every day life and are almost all readily translatable and traceable to Latin. As a native Romanian, I understood about 50% of them with little to no trouble (a few are even identical) and I could trace the etymology of 94% of them as soon as I read the English translation. Certain consonant shifts and diphthongs are similar or identical to Romanian, more so than Italian, while most are original. It was indeed a different language, but at an intermediary position, between Romanian and Italian. It does have certain words that are more related to Italian, certain more similar to Romanian, and most somewhere in between.
  • Since Dalmatian is extinct and we don’t have access to many more words than these 207, it is hard to posit whether it also had a substrate similar to Albanian, and therefore words still lingering in the language; from these 207, only 1% were common with the Albanian non-Latin words.
  • As a Romanian, pronouncing Albanian (albeit probably wrongly, although I have become familiar with pronunciation rules) feels oddly cathartic; there is something about most of its phonetics that makes it seem I’m speaking Romanian, except I can’t understand much. Side by side, of the 207 Albanian words, about 2% are non-Latin words readily understandable by virtue of similarity with Romanian. About 17% look as though they may have a common Latin root, but it is uncertain and are hard to recognize as common or similar, while 20% are clearly of Latin root and most are also common with Romanian.
  • Romanian, being a living language (and my native language) is much more studied, and I could readily come up with some words that were of Latin origin and corresponded to a Dalmatian word, and which in addition also had other Romanian synonyms, of Albanian origin, such as foc (of Latin origin, meaning fire, corresponding to Dalmatian fuok) and jar (of substrate origin, also meaning fire, corresponding to Albanian zjarr).
  • This caused an asymmetric comparison and all we can say is a romanized Albanian would have had a chance to resemble Romanian, had the process of romanization been as intense, simply because chances are substrate words that have survived in Romanian which are common to Albanian, would have survived in romanized Albanian; while we can say little about its resemblance to Dalmatian, there was the case though of the word mother, which in Albanian is nënë and in Dalmatian njena, the only two languages from the comparison to have that.
  • In terms of discriminating a higher probable proximity between Albanian and Romanian or Dalmatian, there is little to be said of the Latin origin words in Albanian, of which most don’t resemble more neither Romanian, nor Dalmatian (nor any other Latin idioms), yet are still recognizable. There are notable exceptions such as fund (bottom, identical in Romanian and Albanian), fluturuar (Alb.) and fluturare(Rom.), shpinë (Alb.) and spinare (Rom.), flok (Alb.) and floc (Rom); but there are also Albanian words of Latin origin more similar to their Dalmatian correspondents than their Romanian one: ti vs tene vs nu vs kupak vs. paukkatër vs. kuatro, and others.
  • In conclusion, without an extremely scholastic investigation, my opinion is had the Albanian language been thoroughly romanized, the resulting language would probably have partly been the link between Dalmatian and Romanian, completing somewhat the Latin language continuum, while retaining a particular character common to neither.
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