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RRL, LXIII, 4, p. 379–395, 2018




Abstract. In previous literature many of the syntactic features of old Romanian are explained as having a Slavonic origin, i.e. they were acquired via language contact, precisely by translating many texts from Old Church Slavonic into Romanian. In this paper, I focus on one of these features, i.e. the existence of head-final structures in old Romanian, which are analysed as representing a typical case of convergence, since these structures are attested both in Latin (from which Romanian emerged and from which certain texts were translated) and in Old Church Slavonic.

Keywords: old Romanian, Old Church Slavonic, Latin, head parameter, convergence, language contact

1. INTRODUCTION 1.1. The project

This article is part of a larger project which aims to investigate the Slavonic influence on the syntax of old Romanian. Many texts written in old Romanian (preserved starting with the 16th century) were translated from Slavonic. Therefore, my aim is to revisit the syntactic features of old Romanian analysed by previous literature as being of foreign (especially Slav(on)ic) origin. Many of these features have been considered to be of Slav(on)ic origins mainly for ideological reasons, i.e. in the Communist period, the Slavic/Russian influence was overstated not only in linguistics, but also in Romanian historiography and culture. Another explanation for this misleading state of affairs is the fact that, at the time of the formulation of the hypothesis of the Old Church Slavonic influence on old Romanian, not many studies on Latin and (Old) Romance syntax were available, and consequently, the common features of (Old) Romanian and Latin/Old Romance were mostly ignored.

I aim to take into consideration a list of syntactic features which were analysed in the literature by the Slav(on)ic influence on old Romanian. This list brings together many       

1 “Iorgu Iordan – Alexandru Rosetti” Institute of Linguistics (Romanian Academy) / Department of Linguistics (University of Bucharest) / The Research Institute of the University of Bucharest. E-mail: [email protected].

This paper is part of the research project Foreign features in the syntax of old Romanian.

Cross-linguistic analogies, awarded a Young Researcher Grant (2016–2017) by The Research Institute of the University of Bucharest.


central features of the Romanian syntax, such as: subject positions and nominal phrase- internal word order; clausal word order/verb positions; (non-)doubling of the direct and indirect objects; differential object marking with prepositional pe (< lexical p(r)e ‘on’); the ellipsis of the copula a fi ‘be’; the predicative (i.e. main clause predicate) usage of the infinitive and of the gerund; the emergence of the “short” infinitive (without the ending -re, inherited from Latin); the usage of the infinitive in contexts specific to the subjunctive;

auxiliary and pronominal clitic inversion; scrambling and interpolation in compound verbal forms; absence of negative concord, i.e. simple negation, sporadically attested in 16th century-texts; the reflexive usage of many verbs (a se griji ‘to take care’); the dative indirect object/accusative direct object alternation (a iubi cuiva/pe cineva ‘love + dative/accusative’). These features have been identified in: (i) books dedicated to the history of Romanian (Densusianu 1961, Rosetti 1968, Ivănescu [1979] 2000, Gheţie (ed.) 1997); (ii) special studies devoted to the Slavic influence on the syntax of Romanian (Seidel 1958, Beneş 1955, Copceac [1963] 1998); (iii) linguistic studies accompanying the philologically edited texts (Mareş 1969, Rizescu 1971, Costinescu 1981, Teodorescu and Gheţie 1977, Chivu 1993, Gheţie and Teodorescu 2005); (iv) other studies dedicated to specific topics (e.g. Ciompec 1969).

In the present paper, I will focus on the head parameter, more exactly on old Romanian head-final structures often explained as obtained via linguistic contact.

1.2. Background

As already mentioned, the current view on the syntax of old Romanian, and particularly on word order, is that it has been strongly influenced by the syntax of Old Church Slavonic (Densusianu 1961 I: 161, Avram 2007: 313, [1975] 2007: 93; see also Stan 2013: 21, for a less radical perspective), from which many old texts were translated, especially in the 16th century. More recent research (Dragomirescu 2015, Nicolae 2015, 2016, in press, Brăescu, Dragomirescu and Nicolae 2015) has shown that the phenomena concerning word order reflect an old (on its way since Latin) and general (common for both Romance and Slavic) tendency of the languages spoken in the area: an on-going change in the head-directionality parameter, from head-final to head-initial (Ledgeway 2012, 2014, in press).

Therefore, the hypothesis I put forward is that the head-final structures of old Romanian are not the result of the Old Church Slavonic influence, but a state-of-art characterizing the passage from Latin to old Romance (including old Romanian), and more generally, the passage from Proto-Indo-European to the daughter languages. From this perspective, one can explain the existence of head-final structures not only in (late) Latin and in old Romance, but also in Old Church Slavonic and in the old Slavic languages.

To account for the similarities between old Romanian and Slavonic I use the concept of convergence, defined by Hickey (2010: 19) as follows: a feature in language X has an internal source, i.e. there is a systemic motivation for the feature within language X, and the feature is present in a further language Y with which X is in contact; both internal and external sources “converge” to produce the same result; therefore, convergence refers to the coming together of internal and external factors to produce the same output, but the term can also be used to mean that the two languages become more similar in structure, usually as the effect of one language acquiring structural features of the other.


The data examined in this presentation are collected from the previous literature on old Romanian and from old Romanian texts. For comparison with Old Church Slavonic, I have only investigated the Slavonic texts in Pleter, Lambru and Puiu (2005) and their corresponding fragments from old Romanian texts. It is worth mentioning that there are very few old Romanian texts (CC1.1567, CC2.1581) for which the direct Slavonic source is known (Olteanu 1969, Mareş 1994: 30) and that sometimes there is no direct relation (i.e., by translation) between the old Romanian text and the Slavonic one.


The formulation of the head parameter as understood in the current literature originates in Kayne’s (1994) Universal Base Hypothesis: when a complement surfaces to the left of its head, it must have moved leftwards, i.e. rolled up, across the head from its base-generated position to a derived (inner) specifier (as in (1)). This hypothesis has been used by Ledgeway (2012) in order to explain the word order changes taking place from archaic Latin to classical and late Latin, and then to the Romance languages.

(1) XP 3 YP X’

3 X0 YP

According to this hypothesis, head-initial structures are basic, whereas head-final structures are derived. Despite the current controversy in the literature around the basic versus derived order (see Haider 1993, Zwart 1997, Primus 2001: 859), I adopt the view according to which head-initial structures are the basic ones because it also accounts for the diachronic development in a FOFC-observing (Biberauer, Holmberg and Roberts 2014;

Sheehan, Biberauer, Roberts, Holmberg 2017) path of change (Ledgeway 2012), i.e., in the passage from archaic languages to modern languages, the head parameter gradually switched from head-final to head-initial in a top to bottom (CP>IP>vP) direction, at least in the languages from the European area.

When considering old Romanian word order, both the Latin and the Slavonic facts need to be analysed. What we know so far is that modern Romanian is a head-initial language, whereas old Romanian possesses certain features specific to head-final languages. As far as Latin is concerned, Ledgeway (2012, in press) has convincingly shown that it illustrates an on-going change from archaic head-final patterns to innovative (Romance) head-initial patterns. Old Slavonic – less studied than Latin – has been claimed to be either a head-initial language (Willis 2000, Migdalski 2016) or a head-final language (Pancheva 2005). Form this controversy a more moderated conclusion emerged: Old Slavonic seems to be a language showing a competition (indicative of a change in progress) between the head-initial grammar and the head-final one, at least in the verbal domain


(Pancheva 2008). When comparing Pancheva’s (2008) conclusion on Old Slavonic to Ledgeway’s (2012) conclusion on Latin, one can notice that the Latin path of diachronic change appears to have taken place in Old Slavonic as well: most probably, the grammar of Old Slavonic reflects an on-going change from the head-final to the head-initial syntax. But whereas the Romance languages uniformly continued this diachronic path (i.e. they are all head-initial languages), modern Slavic languages seems to be still unspecified for the head parameter (Comrie 1989: 88), showing many features specific to verb-final languages (Haider 2015: 73, 88). Going back in time, the diachronic process by which the head-final syntax becomes head-initial originates in Proto-Indo-European, which was a head-final language, whereas all the daughter languages – including Latin and Old Slavonic – show variation in the position of the complement with respect to its head (Bauer 2009: 241–255, Watkins 1998: 68, Lehmann 1974).

There is a strong correlation between the head parameter and configurationality, which can be summarized as follows: a language with head-final structures also has discontinuous constituents. This correlation is based both on empirical data – head-initial phrases are compact, whereas head-final phrases are not compact (Haider 2015: 79) – and on the particular formal account adopted here – the derivation of discontinuous constituents and of head-final structures actually both rely on the availability of short, antilocal movement (Ledgeway 2012, in press).

The changes in the head parameter did not occur at the same time for the all types of phrases. This idea is clearly illustrated by the diachrony of Latin. In the noun phrase the change in the head directionality took place earlier than in the verbal phrase and in the clausal domain. Since the basic ordering of adjectives with respect to nouns is a debated topic2, as many semantic and pragmatic factors intervene in the placement of adjectives with respect to their head (Bauer 2009: 263), a more accurate test for the head parameter in the noun phrase is the position of genitives. As shown by Ledgeway (2012: 213–218), while Early Latin exhibits a preference for prenominal genitives, in Classical Latin both positions are equally available; in late(r) Latin and early Romance, prenominal genitives become exceptional. In the verb phrase, the typological reorganization occurred at a relatively late stage and it was complete only in the Romance period (Bauer 2009: 268).

The unmarked verb-final order was more persistent in embedded clauses than in main clauses (Bauer 2009: 269). Even if there is no agreement as to the head parameter in Old Church Slavonic and no analysis of this language in terms of configurationality, the assumption I am adopting here is that Slavonic underwent a similar diachronic path.

Therefore, old Romanian, a direct descendant of Latin3 and a language strongly influenced by Old Church Slavonic via translations can be seen as mirror-image of the       

2 While traditional scholarship generally takes the NA/AN orders as indicative of a head- initial/head-final parametric setting, in current theoretical thinking agreement has not been reached as to whether the noun and the adjective stand in a relation of complementation (a diagnostic for the head-directionality parameter) or in a relation of specification (NA vs AN orders derive from different N-raising options – Crisma and Gianollo 2006). While the second theoretical choice had lately gained more ground (see Cinque 2010), typological studies have revealed that there is a strong correlation between the NA/AN ordering and other phenomena related to the head-directionality parameter. The NA/AN ordering remains a controversial diagnostic in relation to the head- directionality parameter.

3 The medieval Latin influence on the syntax of old Romanian also manifested itself via translations from Medieval Latin.


convergent changes occurring both in Latin and in Old Church Slavonic. Indeed, as shown by Nicolae (2016: 563), two of the most striking features of old Romanian were: the preservation of head-final residual features and discontinuous structures. The elimination of these structures in the passage to modern Romanian represents a natural continuation of the changes which took place in the transition from Latin to Romance.


Depending on the perspective, the previous literature exhibits many cases in which the very same syntactic feature has been explained either as deriving from the influence of Slavonic or from that of Latin. In what follows, I will focus only on the information relevant for the head parameter.

3.1. The noun phrase

Although the position of adjectives is a questionable diagnostic for head-finality, it is worth mentioning that in Old Slavonic adjectives were freely ordered, with a preference for the prenominal position (Vaillant 1948: 116–134, apud Djamo-Diaconiţă 1975: 337);

similarly, Latin also had both prenominal and postnominal adjectives and genitives (Ledgeway 2012: 39). As Bauer (2009: 248) shows, this feature is most probably inherited from Proto-Indo-European. For old Romanian, Stan (2013: 59, 66) explains the variation in the position of adjectives as being influenced both by Slavonic and Romance factors.

In certain old Romanian texts, such as CV.1563–83, adjectival modifiers and possessives have a variable word order following the one of the Slavic sources (Costinescu 1981: 173); in (2), the adjective is postnominal in both languages, whereas in (3) and (4) the adjective, the genitive and the possessive adjective precede the noun.

(2) a. fratele cela smeritul (CV.1563–83: 56r) [ORom]

brother.DEF that humble.DEF

‘that humble brother’

b. bra(t) smirenyi [OSl]

brother humble

(3) a. în mierurata a lu<i> lumiră (CV.1563–83: 74r) [ORom]

in divine ALGEN his light ‘in his divine light’

b. vŭ divinii ego světĭ [OSl]

in divine his light

(4) a. a noastră parrte (CV.1563–83: 5r) [ORom]

ALGEN our part

‘our part’

b. naša častŭ [OSl]

our part


This strict correspondence is not general. Head-final noun phrases (or, more accurately, non-head-initial NPs) have been also identified in CL.1570 (Mareş 1969: 78–

79, 97), in PH.1500–10 (Gheţie and Teodorescu 2005: 58), in CC2.1581 (Rădulescu 1963), i.e. texts translated from Slavonic (5)–(9), and in CIst.1700–50 (Dragomir 2006: 127–128), a text with Latin sources (10)–(13):

(5) a. multă slava ta (CL.1570: 2v) [ORom]

much.F.SG glory.DEF your

‘your great glory’

b. množes tvom slavy tvoeǫ4 [OSl]

much your glory your

(6) a. sfânta casa aceasta (CL.1570: 12r) [ORom]

holy.DEF house.DEF this

b. ctĕmy hramĕ cemь [OSl]

holy house this

‘this holy house’

(7) răsădeaşte întru noi şi [fericata învăţăturiei

instil.IMP.2SG in us and happy.DEF teaching.F.SG.DEF.GEN

tale frică] (CL.1570: 19v) [ORom]

your fear

‘Instil in us the fear of your helpful teaching as well’

(8) Şi [această folositoare de sufletŭ carte] (CC2.1581: II) [ORom]

and this useful for soul book

‘and this book useful for the soul’

(9) De [această purtătoare de lumină săptămână] (CC2.1581: 135) [ORom]

of this carrying.F.SG of light week

‘Of this light-carrying week’

(10) de [ale altora cuvinte] (CIst.1700–50: 39v) [ORom]

of AL.F.PL other.GEN words

‘of the words of the others’

(11) la a noastră de rumâni istorie iară at AL.F.SG our of Romanians history again

întorc (CIst.1700–50: 44v) [ORom]

CL.REFL.1SG come.back.PRES.1SG

‘I come back again to our Romanian history’

(12) din [grecii istorici] (CIst.1700–50: 8v) [ORom]

from Greek.PL.DEF historians

‘from the Greek historians’

(13) sânt supuş [varvarei şi

be.PRES.3SG obedient.M.PL barbarous.F.SG.DEF.GEN and

turceştii puteri] (CIst.1700–50: 44r) [ORom]

Turkish.F.SG.DEF.GEN power

‘They are obedient to the barbarous Turkish power’


4 For the transliteration of the Cyrillic texts into the Latin alphabet, I have used the correspondence system presented in Linţa (1986: 7–9).


In Table 1, I present the results of a quantitative analysis of samples from three types of texts: translated from Latin (PO.1582), translated from Old Church Slavonic (CC2.1581) and original documents from the 16th century (DÎ). What this table shows is that both the head-final (very restricted) and the head-initial NP order were possible in all types of texts.

The text Prenominal possessives and genitives Postnominal possessives and genitives

PO.1582 2,33% 97,67%

CC2.1581 6,88% 93,12%

DÎ 3,68%5 96,32%

Table 1.

The position of the possessives and genitives in the old Romanian nominal phrase

Another important argument for head-finality comes from relative clauses. In general, even in head-final languages, relative clauses tend to follow their antecedent (Bauer 2009: 249); in Latin, the structures with relative clause modifiers were among the first structures which underwent the change from the head-final to the head-initial grammar in an early period (Bauer 2009: 258, Ledgeway 2012: 203–205); however, head-final structures are still attested in Latin (14) (see Ledgeway 2012: 209–210, ex. (33)).

(14) [quaei arida erunt ( . . . )] eai omnia eximito [Lat]

those.NOM dry.NO will.be those.ACC all.ACC remove.FUT.IMP.2SG ‘those which are dry, you have to trim them all’

(Lat., Cato Agr. 44, in Ledgeway 2012: 209) Relative clauses preceding their antecedent are extremely rare, but they are attested in old Romanian, both in CV.1563–83 (Costinescu 1981: 174), a text influenced by Slavonic (in which the relative clause translates a participle) (15) and in CIst.1700–50 (Dragomir 2006: 128), a text influenced by Latin (16). The attestation of these structures in old Romanian represents a very convincing argument for the existence of head-finality in the history of Romanian.

(15) a. Destulu e noao [ceia cei au trecutu]

enough is us.DAT that which AUX.PERF.3PL pass.PPLE

aniii viiaţiei (CV.1563–83: 79r) [ORom]

years.DEF life.DEF.GEN

‘The years which passed are enough for us’

b. mimoše(d)šee lěto žitia [OSl]

pass.PPLE years life

(16) Şi de toate [câtei mai întâi au avut]

and of all how.many first AUX.PERF.3PL have.PPLE       

5 All the prenominal genitives are realized pronominal genitives.


slavei s-au dezbrăcat (CIst.1700–50: 42r) [ORom]


‘And he lost all the glory he had before’

3.2. The verb phrase

The V-final order in old Romanian is explained in the literature both as being influenced by Latin or by Slavonic. For example, Stan (2013: 119) shows that authors such as Miron Costin, Constantin Cantacuzino, Dimitrie Cantemir use the V-final order due to the Latin influence; Stan (2013: 120) also mentions that rarely, in coordinated structures, the verb is expressed only once, in the final conjunct, and that this construction is influenced by the Slavonic source; however authors influenced by the Latin syntax also use this pattern (see also Frâncu 1997: 372–373, 2009: 403).

Therefore, we find V-final structures in CV.1563–83 (Costinescu 1981: 174) (17), in CL.1570 (Mareş 1969: 96) (18)–(19), in PH.1500–10 (Gheţie and Teodorescu 2005: 58) (20)–(21), texts translated from Slavonic, and in CIst.1700–50 (Dragomir 2006: 126, 128) (22)–(23), and PO.1582 (24)–(25), texts translated from Latin:

(17) a. Eu nu numai legatu se fiu, I not only imprison.PPLE SUBJ be.SUBJ.1SG

ce şi se moriu gata sântu

but also SUBJ die.SUBJ.1SG ready be.PRES.1SG

întru Ierusalim (CV.1563–83: 14v) [ORom]

in Jerusalem

‘I am ready not only to be imprisoned but also to die in Jerusalem’

b. Az bo ne tŭčiȩ svȩzanĭ byti, nọ i umrěti I only not punish emprisoned be not and die vŭ Ier(s)lmě gotovĭ esmŭ [OSl]

in Jurusalem ready be

(18) şi toată viaţa noastră Hristos Domnului and all life.DEF our Christ God.GEN

pre ea o dăm (CL.1570: 28v) [ORom]


‘we shall give our life to Christ The Lord’

(19) De dulce-cinstiţii şi de Dumnezeu păziţi

for sweet-honour.PPLE.M.PL.DEF and by God protect.PPLE.M.PL împăraţii noştri, de toate curţile şi de voinicii lor, emperors.DEF our for all courts.DEF and for heros.DEF their

Domnului ne rugăm (CL.1570: 12r) [ORom]


‘We should pray to the Lord for all our honoured emperors protected by God’

(20) numele Domnului chemu (PH.1500–10: 100v) [ORom]

name.DEF God.DEF.GEN call.PRES.1SG

‘I call the name of God’

(21) A face voia ta, Dzeul mieu,

AINF do.INF will.DEF your God my


vrui (PH.1500–10: 34r) [ORom]


‘I wanted to do your will’

(22) frumos lucru iaste (CIst.1700–50: 3v) [ORom]

beautiful thing is

‘this is a beautiful thing’

(23) şi acolo mult foarte într-însa aur, argint şi alte scule and there much very in=in gold silver and other tools

ce ştiia că de apă nu să

which know.IMPERF.3PL that from water not CL.REFL.3PL

strică, punea (CIst.1700–50: 19v) [ORom]

damage.PRES.3PL put.IMPERF.3PL

‘They put there a lot of gold, silver and other tools which they knew water cannot damage’

(24) numai noi românii pre limbă nu avem (PO.1582: 10) [ORom]

only us Romanians.DEF on language not have.PRES.1PL

‘Only us Romanians we don’t have it in our language’

(25) Ce avea duh viu în sine spre pământ what have.IMPERF.3SG soul alive in himself on earth

muriră (PO.1582: 31) [ORom]


‘All who had a living soul on earth, they all died’

For CV.1563–83, it was also noticed that the direct object can precede the verb (i.e. the (S)OV order), as in the Slavonic version (26), but the anteposition of the direct object does not always reflect the word order in the Slavonic version (Costinescu 1981:

172); the (S)OV order is also frequent in CIst.1700–50 (Dragomir 2006: 127) (27)–(28), a text translated from Latin:

(26) a. nu că limba mea avea ceva not that language my have.IMPERF.3SG something

a cleveti (CV.1563–83: 51r) [ORom]

AINF gossip.INF

‘not because I had something to gossip about’

b. ne jako ȩzykĭ moi iměọ čto oklevetati [OSl]

not that language my have something gossip (27) biruinţele romanii împăraţii (…) le-au

victories.DEF Roman.PL.DEF emperors.DEF CL.ACC.F.PL=AUX.PERF.3PL stricat (CIst.1700–50: 11v) [ORom]


‘the Roman emperors destroyed their victories’

(28) unii şi această ţară Muisia o chiamă (CIst.1700–50: 9r) [ORom]

some also this country Moesia CL.ACC.F.3SG call.PRES.3PL

‘Some people also call this country Moesia’


As in the Slavonic version, the direct object can be placed between the elements of a compound verb form (Costinescu 1981: 172) (29). But it is well known that discontinuous structures (specific to head-final languages) are also attested in Latin (Ledgeway 2012: 43–45).

See also Dragomirescu (2013) and Nicolae (2015: 205–218) for old Romanian and Dragomirescu and Nicolae (2016) for Istro-Romanian, which most probably preserved interpolation and scrambling from old Romanian.

(29) a. cum se rrugăcinri facă (CV.1563–83: 67v) [ORom]

how SUBJ prayers do.SUBJ.3SG

‘he sould do prayers’

b. da mltvọ sŭtvorȩtĭ [OSl]

SUBJ prayers do

It is also worth mentioning that not only the V-final structures or the OV order were explained through the influence of Slavonic, but also the V1 structures, which Teodorescu and Gheţie (1977: 115) claim to imitate the Slavonic order in MI.~1630. However, it is well-known that Latin also inherited from Proto-Indo-European verb-initial clauses, which were marked, in opposition to the verb-final ones, which were unmarked (Bauer 2009: 268, 275–282).

(30) a. Cădzu o piatră (MI.~1630: 170v) [ORom]

fall.PS.3SG a stone

‘A stone fell’

b. pa(d) kame(n) [OSl]

fall stone

(31) a. binevesti arhanghel Gavriil (MI.~1630: 173r) [ORom]

good.announce.PS.3SG archangel Gabriel

‘Archangel Gabriel brought the good news’

b. blagovĕsti arhaagglo(m) Gavriilo(m) [OSl]

good.announce archangel Gabriel

(32) a. dzise Dumnedzeu (MI.~1630: 177r) [ORom]

say.PS.3SG God

‘God said’

b. re(č) [OSl]

say God

In Table 2, I present the results of a quantitative analysis of samples from three types of texts: translated from Latin (PO.1582), translated from Old Church Slavonic (CC2.1581) and original documents from the 16th century (DÎ). What this table shows is that in all types of texts all the superficial word order patterns (verb initial, verb medial and verb final) were attested, a fact which supports our claim that the word order in old Romanian is the result of the ‘convergence’ between the Latin word order and the Old Slavonic word order.


The text Main clause Embedded clause

V1 Vmed Neg-V


Vfinal6 V1 Vmed Neg-V

med/Rel-Vmed Vfinal

PO.1582 36,26% 26,80% 0,92% 3,68% 8,28% 12,75% 8,54% 1,57%

CC2.1581 8,85% 28,23% 0,72% 12,90% 9,33% 21,53% 10,04% 8,37%

DÎ 11,52% 34,18% 0,59% 1,95% 13,47% 22,07% 19,33% 0,78%

Table 2.

The position of the verb in the clause in old Romanian texts

To sum up, in this section I have underlined two main aspects: (a) certain convergent phenomena have been explained either as Slavonic influence or as Latin influence; (b) the same word order patterns are attested in all types of texts: translations from Slavonic, translations from Latin, and original texts.


When comparing Slavonic texts with their old Romanian counterparts (directly or indirectly related), what one notices is that in certain cases the old Romanian word order is the same as in Slavonic, whereas in other cases, the ordering of elements is different. As an illustration, I have used the examples extracted from the Slavonic texts included in Pleter, Lambru and Puiu (2015), which I have compared to their old Romanian counterparts with respect to word order.

4.1. The noun phrase

With respect to the structures relevant for the nominal phrase-internal word order, I have identified the following cases:

● adjective–noun (same order in both languages)

(33) a. cĕĕvъšu dobroe cĕmę na celĕ svoemъ seed.ACTIVE.PPLE good seed in land his

‘who seeded good seed in this land’

(Undolsky sheets, 11th c., fol. 5/p. 15) b. ce seamânâ bunâ sămânţâ spre agrul lui (CT.1560–1: 27v)

who seeds good seed in land his

‘who seeds good seed in this land’

● noun–adjective (same order in both languages)

(34) a. človĕkъ eterъ cьtvori večerjǫ velijǫ man certain make.AOR.3SG dinner big

‘a certain man gave a big dinner’

(Codex Assemanianus, 10–11th c., fol. 61d–62b/p. 24)       

6 I considered that a clause is verb-final when the verb was the last constituent of the clause, and is preceded by at least one constituent which was not a clitic or a wh- element.


b. Om neştine făcu cină mare man certain make.PS.3SG dinner big

‘a certain man gave a big dinner’

(CC1.1567: 144v, CC2.1581: 463, CT.1560–1: 153r)

● adjective–noun in Slavonic, noun–adjective in Old Romanian (35) a.   vьcĕkъ čьlovĕkъ prĕžde  dobroe vino polagaatъ

any people first good wine put

‘anyone would first put the good wine (on the table)’

(Codex Marianus, 11th c., Io., II, 1-10/p. 19) b. Tot omul mainte vin bun pun (CT.1560–1: 184v) all people.DEF before wine good put

‘anyone would bring the good wine first’

● adjective–noun in Slavonic, nominal ellipsis in old Romanian (36) a. i reče mьnii ciъ ego ocju

and say.AOR.3SG younger son his father

‘and the younger son said to his father’

(Sava’s book, 11th c., f. 67–69/p. 27) b. şi zise cel mai tânăr părintelui

and say.PS.3SG CEL more young father.DEF.DAT

‘and the younger [son] said to his father’

(CC1.1567: 168v, CC2.1581: 13, CT.1560–1: 154v–155r)

● postnominal possessive adjectives in both languages

(37) a. vy žitъnicǫ moǫ (Undolsky sheets, 11th c., fol. 5/p. 15) in barn my

‘in my barn’

b. în jitniţa mea (CT.1560–1: 28r) in barn.DEF my

‘in my barn’

● prenominal possessive adjective in Slavonic, postnominal possessive adjective in old Romanian

(38) a. izĕdy tvoe imĕnie ljubodĕicami waste.PRES.PPLE your fortune with prostitutes

‘who wasted your fortune with prostitutes’

(Sava’s book, 11th c., f. 67–69/p. 28) b. răsipi avuţia ta cu curvele (CC1.1567: 169v)

waste.PS.3SG fortune.DEF your with prostitutes.DEF

‘(who) wasted your fortune with the prostitutes’


4.2. The verb phrase

For the verb phrase, several situations have been identified:

● the same position of the verb in both languages: V1 (39), V-medial (40), V-final (41) (39) a. reče gospodъ pritъčǫ siǫ

say.AOR.3SG god parable this ‘God said this parable’

(Undolsky sheets, 11th c., fol. 5/p. 15) b. zise domnul (CT.1560–1: 27v)

said God

‘God said’

(40) a. I vъ tretii deni brakъ byctъ and in third day wedding be.AOR.3SG in

Kana Galeiscĕi i mati Isusova tu Cana Galilee.GEN and be.IMPERF.3SG mother Jesus.GEN there

‘And the third day, a wedding took place in Cana and Jesus’ mother was there’

(Codex Marianus, 11th c., Io., II, 1–10/p. 19) b. În vreamea aceaea nuntă fu în Cana Galileiului.

in time.DEF that wedding be.PS.3SG in Cana Galilee.GEN

Şi era muma lu Isus aciia (CT.1560–1: 184r) and be.IMPERF.3SG mother.DEF GEN Jesus here

‘And then a weeding took place in Cana and Jesus’ mother was here’

(41) a. vьcĕkъ čьlovĕkъ prĕžde  dobroe vino polagaatъ any people first good wine put

‘anyone would first put the good wine (on the table)’

(Codex Marianus, 11th c., Io., II, 1–10/p. 19) b. Tot omul mainte vin bun pun (CT.1560–1: 184v)

all people.DEF before wine good put

‘anyone puts the good wine first’

● V-final in Slavonic but V-medial in old Romanian (I have noticed a general tendency for the Slavonic V-final structures to have as V-medial correspondents in old Romanian)

(42) a. egda že prozębe trĕba i plodъ cъtvori when and sprout.AOR wheat and fruit make.AOR

‘when the wheat sprouted and made fruit’

(Undolsky sheets, 11th c., fol. 5/p. 15) b. Cănd înfrunzi iarba şi feace plod (CT.1560–1: 27v)

when spring.PS grass and make.PS fruit

‘when the grass sprang and made fruit’

(43) a. azъ že cьde gladomъ izgybajǫ I and here of.hunger die.PRES.1SG

‘and I am dying of hunger here’

(Sava’s book, 11th c., f. 67–69/p. 27)


b. eu pieri de foame I dye.PRES.1SG of hunger

‘I am dying of hunger’ (CC1.1567: 169r, CC2.1581: 18–19, CT.1560–1: 155r)


Old Romanian has residual head-final structures both in the nominal domain and at the clausal level. These structures have been eliminated in the passage to the modern language.

In the previous literature there are contradictory claims: in most of the cases, the head-final/initial variation is explained as resulting from the Old Church Slavonic influence (because most of the old text were translated from Slavonic) or, in a few situations, from the Latin influence (either because certain texts were translated from Latin or because certain authors were willing to mimic the Latin syntax).

I have shown that head-final structures are equally found in the texts translated from Slavonic and from Latin and the “convergence” between the two source languages can be seen in old Romanian. Following Bauer (2009), Ledgeway (2012, 2014 and in press), and Pancheva (2008), I suggested that:

(i) like Classical Latin, Old Church Slavonic illustrates the shift from the head-final syntax of Proto-Indo-European to the head-initial syntax of the modern European languages;

(ii) in the syntax old Romanian, the relics of the head-final syntax are to be explained both by Old Church Slavonic and by Latin.

The more general conclusion is that (all) the languages in the area underwent, at a certain moment, the change from a head-final to a head-initial syntax. But whereas in modern Romance the shift is complete, the modern Slavic languages are still underspecified for the head parameter (Heider 2015: 73), i.e. the shift is not complete, as it was in old Romanian.


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CC2.1581 – Coresi, Evanghelie cu învăţătură. Ed. S. Puşcariu, Al. Procopovici: Diaconul Coresi, Carte cu învăţătură (1581), vol. I, Textul, Bucureşti, Socec, 1914.

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