VI. The Vlachs
3. The Vlach Language
The origin of the Vlachs is one of those problems of Balkan ethnography which seem desperate and obscure, chiefly because the scholars who have examined them are
partisans with some nationalist thesis to uphold. No other Balkan race has quite so wide a distribution. They are Russian subjects in Bessarabia, Austro-Hungarians in Transylvania and Ruthenia. They form an independent kingdom under the national name of Roumania in the two Danubian provinces of Moldavia and Wallachia. They are a sensible fraction of the population of Servia and Bulgaria. In Macedonia they are the backbone of the Hellenic party. In Greece itself, and particularly in Thessaly, they are numerous and influential. They are to be found also in Dalmatia and Bosnia, and under the name of Morlachs (Mavro-Vlachs, i.e., Nigri Latini) they served in the armies of the Venetian Republic. Their language, despite dialectical variations, due to the diversity of the alien influences to which it has been subjected, betrays a substantial identity. Their habits and customs are also similar, and even the Austrian Roumans were, like their Southern brethren, a pastoral people with the same shy preference for mountain dwellings. The Vlach language is as genuinely Latin as any of the Romance tongues of the West, and phonetically it has undergone in many ways a less drastic modification. But it is a Latin tongue cut off from Latin culture. While the other Romance languages have ceaselessly enriched themselves by a direct study of the parent tongue, the Vlachs have led their isolated life, drawing their culture from the Eastern Church and Greek literature. In the Northern speech of the Roumanian kingdom, it is said, the Latin words are outnumbered by borrowed words of Slavonic origin; but such a calculation conveys an erroneous impression, since the Latin words are those in most common use. The Vlach language as it is spoken in the Macedonian villages to-day is not much more than a patois for the home. Its vocabulary has lost all traces of culture. When a Vlach has occasion to use any word that involves more than the most elementary mental effort, he has recourse to Greek. If he wishes to express himself with any picturesqueness or precision he must lard his conversation with Greek adjectives. The names of modern things and of all abstractions are also
Greek, and unless he is an educated man he does not know the Latin alphabet.
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