Chronology of the breakup of Common Romance [long]

Miguel Carrasquer Vidal mcv at
Fri Aug 20 16:18:33 UTC 1999

X99Lynx at wrote:

>In a message dated 8/18/99 7:36:25 PM, colkitto at wrote:

><<"Wallach" is clearly a sort of Latinisation of East Slavic volox-
>< Common Slavic *volx- (cf. Polish Wloch, Czech vlach, etc.).>>

>But does this clarify things?

>'Wallachia' seems to first appear in German texts.  So why in the world would
>German writers latinize an East Slavic version of a familiar German word that
>presumably has already been accepted into Western and Southern Slavic?
>(Doesn't Wallachia looks like it could also be just plain Latinized MHGerman?)

It's Latinized from South Slavic vlax(U).

>If you buy Hall, duNay, et al., then the point of first Slavic contact with
>the eastern European "Vlachs" is among the Southern Slavs.  And place names
>and early records (according to duNay) suggest that the original form was
>'vlahi' in Bulgarian and Serbian.  The alternate form 'vlasi' is understood
>to be a borrowing from Avar or Hungarian 'olasi' (originally borrowed from
>Slavic), and 'vlasi-" is how 'vlach' occurs in modern Bulgarian and Rumanian.

vlasi is simply the South Slavic plural of vlax, showing Slavic
2nd palatalization x > s(') > s [S&E Slavic].

> "Vlachi' would seem to be the way the word traveled back north and west.

Based on the sg. form vlax.

>A different issue is when and where the Germanic 'walh' meaning Celtic or
>Romance speakers or perhaps even Franks, etc., first appeared in Slavic.  It
>would appear pretty unlikely that it would be in East Slavic.  It would
>likely have been as early as the first written appearances of the word, in
>Anglo-Saxon.  In the 700's, Frankish annals were already mentioning Western
>Slavs as 'ancient allies', and Southern Slavs had already been serving in the
>Byzantine army for 200 years.  One would presume that the word - not
>referring to Vlachs but to Celts or Romance-speakers - was already
>established in Slavic by that time.  And presumably it was from the form
>found in AS (walh-) or in OHG (circa 800AD - /uualha/).

Indeed.  The word is Common Slavic (*wolxU), and undergoes the
usual changes in order to obtain an open syllable (metathesis to
<vlox(U)> in Polish/Kashubian, metathesis + lengthening to
<vlo:xU> > <vlax(U)> in Czech/Slovak/South Slavic and polnoglasie
to <volox(U)> in East Slavic).

>As far as speaking of a "Common Slavic" form for a word borrowed from
>Germanic that supposedly was inputed uniformly across 3/4's of a continent of
>Slavic speakers - from the Elbe to the Ukraine - that seems terribly
>unlikely, doesn't it?

Where was Common Slavic spoken?

>It also seems 'Walh' is unattested in Gothic in the 4th century.

There's not much call for the word in a Bible translation.

>On the face of it, it would look like Western Slavic along the Elbe or in
>Bohemia would have borrowed the word first and with an earlier meaning and
>then did apply it to Franks as Romance speakers and perhaps inhabitants of
>In Balkan Slavic, it apparently didn't apply to Latin-speaking Byzantines


>Franks, but to a rural Romance speaking population.  On first impression,
>this would suggest that it came there later - after clerical and
>administrative Latin had pretty much left the Balkans.  And that later the
>specific form /vlah-/ or /vlas-/ bounced back to the west to become 'Vlachi'.

>The original meaning of 'walh' has of course disappeared from Czech and
>Polish (as it has for example from Swedish) with national names taking its
>place, so that the Balkan form referring to "Vlachs" is all that remains.

Not quite.  Apart from its continued use in Germanic (Welsh
(=from Wales), Waals (=from Wallonia)), it's also still used in
Polish for "Italian" (wl/och, pl. wl/osi) and "Italy" (Wl/ochy,

Miguel Carrasquer Vidal
mcv at

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