Chronology of the breakup of Common Romance [long]

X99Lynx at X99Lynx at
Mon Aug 30 18:24:58 UTC 1999

[ moderator re-formatted ]

In a message dated 8/24/99 10:04:28 PM, mcv at wrote:

<<Palatalized vl-?>>

I not only misread what you wrote but also confused myself - I had deleted a
comment on your reference to how vlax was pluralized to vlasi by the 2nd
palatalization and just forgot what I was talking about.  Sorry about that.

What I meant to say was that Walachia (often Wallachia) might not originate
from the post-metathesis you described in:

<<Common Slavic *wolxU... 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).>>

My thinking was that a form with the initial vowel intact could have survived
in German and possibly in Polish.  And that it survived because it referred
to something other than the eastern European Vlachs.   Briefly, my reasoning

1. Latin had already accomodated the 'metathesis' form (vl-, bl-), without
the intial vowel, many times before Walachia appears.

2. There is a whole path the original form - walh - takes, that does not
refer to Vlachs or Romans or Latin Speakers, but that would have still been
pertinent in German - and therefore possibly in Czech or Polish - at the time
vlox might have emerged as refering to the specific people, 'the Vlachs', in
Southern Slavic (@ 800 AD or as early as 500 AD)

3. This split can be seen in the two forms, with and without the intial
vowel, co-existing e.g. in Scandinavian and English and French, and meaning
two different things.  Plus, both vlachs and wolocks and wallachs apparently
enter English all about the same time.

4. The /x/ affix had already appeared in medieval German with reference not
to Vlachs, but in the context of the other form /val-/ that refers to e.g.,
Welsh.  But Walach came to mean Vlach much later.

5. The 'Walachia' was first applied to its present location, apparently in
the Latin of a Pole in the 15th Century, who presumably had ready access to
the vl- form, both in Latin and in Polish.

6. As the Latinized South Slavic/Greek/Hungarian version early moved north
and west (after 800 AD), there was still good reason for the co-existence of
the earlier meaning and form of walh/volox,  but that reason pretty much
disappeared soon afterwards.

You wrote:

<<Why not?  Vl- as an initial cluster doesn't come naturally to
many languages (e.g. Romanian) and may be changed to bl- or val-
in borrowing.>>

But Rumanian it seems did accept /vl-/ lock, stock and barrel.  In all the
quotes I've seen and some seem to be as old as the written language, Vlachs
are vlahii.  (e.g., S. Dragomir, Vlahii din nordul peninsulei Balcanice în
evul mediu,  (Bucharest 1959).

The two languages where I think it might make sense are German and Russian.
The Russian polnoglasie version seems very ahistorical as the basis for the
Latinization.  But German seems to make very good sense.

You wrote:

<</x/ is the voiceless velar fricative sometimes written 'ch' or 'h'.>>

But the written and sounded 'vlahi' (see the Rumanian above) could just as
easily reflect the form walh, traveling separately into the Balkans and never
acquiring /x/ from the Slavic or later German.  It may be that the written
'h' was just mistaken for an /h/, but the appearance of the written 'vlahi'
is relatively early and apparently reflects the sound as early as the
language specific metatheses you mention.  Also, while more modern Rumanians
do not call themselves 'vlahii' or 'valahii', speakers in some dialects did.

The reason all this matters is because I'm looking for evidence that volox,
vlox in the Balkans did not originally refer to Vlachs in the sense that that
word would find common usage only in the 11th Century.  This might seem
obvious if the word is presummed to have meant Latin or Romance speakers.
But I am looking to evidence that the word began to mean that only after
800AD or so, when the Franks and their sphere began to identify itself as the
Holy Roman Empire.

The OED seems to indicate that 'walh' and its reflexes never referred to
Romans in OE or ME.  The OHG 'uualha' as 'romani' seems appear first in the
late 9th century.

You wrote:

<<The word at that point in time meant "Romance speaker", while Ulfila uses
<Rumoneis> "Roman" (i.e. at the time and place, a person speaking Greek).>>

This is with regard to why 'walh' does not appear in Ulfila's Gothic as
'Roman' but 'Rumoneis' does.

Historically, it seems very difficult to support the idea that 'Rumoneis'
only refered to Greek speakers in Gothic.  If anything, we'd expect Gothic to
extend 'walh' to Greeks or Greek as Roman citizens.  In Ulfila's day, the
language of the Empire and of the Roman Empire, even in Constantinople was
still Latin.  Constantine's language, from his youth in Dacia, was Latin.
Edicts and inscriptions and anything that the Goths made contact with along
the Danube that was distinctly Roman would have been in Latin.  Ulfila would
have had good reason to differentiate Roman and Latin from Greek, since
Arianism - his 'heresy' was authored by a fairly contemporary Greek speaking
Hellenist Alexandrian (North African).  His 'heresy' however was banned in
Latin.  His foster-son and apologist, Auxentius, wrote Ulfila's defense in
Latin and quite clearly understood the difference between Romans and Latin
and Greek speakers.  (Jordanes, the Gothic historian will even still be
writing in Latin in 550 AD in Constantinople.) There really is much more
evidence that 'Rumoneis' could not have referred to just Greek speakers in

There is more evidence I believe that at that time and place Gothic was
simply reserving 'walh' to stand for something closer to its original meaning
- which would not have appeared in Ulfila's writing and this explains its
absence.  'Rumoneis' meant Roman, right down to the translation of the Paul's
Epistle.  "Walh' would have meant something else at the time, much closer to
its original meaning: Celt, Gaul, someone from Gallia.  And when the Southern
Slavs show up, e.g., in the Eastern Roman Army @530AD, they may have already
learned that meaning (maybe not even from Germans.)  And it may be that it
would take another 400 years for them to transfer the term to mean Vlachs or
Romance speakers - when that more current meaning first appears.

Steve Long

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