An introduction to Vlach grammar

An introduction to Vlach grammar. By John Marangozis. (Languages of the world 39.) Munich: LINCOM Europa, 2010. Pp. 158. ISBN 9783895868979. $103 (Hb).

Reviewed by Jason Merchant, University of Chicago

This short potpourri of information about the Vlach language and its speakers clearly represents a labor of love for its author. Unfortunately, for the field of linguistics, it does not represent a labor of scholarship, consistency, attentive editing, or insight. It contains four short chapters, ‘Vlach alphabet and Vlach scripture’ (5–8), ‘Vlach phonology’ (9–20), ‘Morphology’ (22–56), and ‘Vlachs and the Greek revolution of 1821 / Πολεμικά τραγούδια–Επική ποίηση’ [Songs of war–Epic poetry] (59–73), followed by a brief bibliography (74–76), an index, and a Greek–Vlach glossary (alphabetized by the Greek lemma, with English glosses after the Vlach) (79–141). The text vacillates between English and Greek, and the best that can be said of this book is that the list of apparently randomly chosen words from Greek translated into Vlach, which constitutes almost half the book, is at the very least useful as one person’s record of how certain words were pronounced. No information is given about the source of any of the data, nor for any of the historical claims (e.g. the author claims to have written a study of Epirotes but does not cite it).

It is clear that the text is innocent of any revision by a competent writer of English: fricatives are called ‘rubbed’ (a mistranslation of the Greek τριβόμενα), Greek γένος ‘gender’ is rendered as ‘gene’ (also in Latin), ‘neuter’ comes out as ‘neutral’, and we read that ‘[v]erbs are seemed to by syntaxed with the Syzyyia I’ (14). The only part of this book that may have been of interest to scholars, the glossary, is marred by the complete absence of any grammatical information about any of the words (e.g. no indications about gender, declension, or conjugation class). Although the author includes in his bibliography the grammars of Gustav Ludwig Weigand (Die Sprache der Olympo-Walachen, 1888) and Nikolaos Katsanis and Kostas Dinas (Γραμματική της Κοινής Κουτσοβλαχικής, 1990), it is clear that he was unable to profit from their more proficient descriptions: those grammars remain the best sources on the language in German and Greek, respectively.

Finally, it is sad to note that the best description of Vlach in any language goes unreferenced here: Zbigniew Gołąb’s masterful grammar (The Arumanian dialect of Kruševo in SR Macedonia, SFR Yugoslavia, 1984) is uncited. Scholars and libraries would likely be better served by this grammar in contrast with the present one under review.