The delimitation of the Moldavian dialect, as with all other Romanian dialects, is made primarily by analyzing its phonetic features and only marginally by morphological, syntactical, and lexical characteristics.
The Moldavian dialect is the representative of the northern grouping of Romanian dialects and has influenced the Romanian spoken over large areas of Transylvania.
The Moldavian dialect is not synonymous with Moldovan language. The latter is another term for the Romanian language as used in the Republic of Moldova. The border between Romania and the Republic of Moldova does not correspond to any significant isoglosses to justify a dialectal division; phonetics and morphology (which normally define dialectal classifications) are nearly identical across the border, whereas lexical differences are minimal.
The Moldavian dialect is spoken in the northeastern part of Romania, the Republic of Moldova, and small areas of Ukraine. It is the only Romance variety spoken east of the Eastern Carpathians. In detail, its distribution area covers the following administrative or historical regions:
Transitional varieties of the Moldavian dialect are found in areas of contact with the other dialects. As such, Moldavian features often occur outside the historical Moldavia: in northern Dobruja, in northeastern Muntenia, and in north-east Transylvania.
The Moldavian dialect has the following phonetic particularities that contrast it with the other Romanian dialects:
The postalveolar affricates [t͡ʃ, d͡ʒ] become the fricatives [ʃ, ʒ]: [ˈʃapɨ, ˈʃinɨ, ˈʒeni] for standard ceapă, cină, gene (they are not also palatalized like in the Banat dialect). As a consequence, the affricate [d͡ʒ] and the fricative [ʒ] merge into the latter: [ʒok, ˈsɨnʒi] for joc, sânge. However, the Atlasul lingvistic român (1938–1942) and other field works record examples of pronunciations showing that, while the merger covers most of the dialect area, it is not systematic and sometimes found in free variation. In parts of the south-western and north-eastern Moldavia the distinction is preserved.
After the fricatives [s, z, ʃ, ʒ] and the affricate [t͡s] (sometimes also after [r]), a vowel shift occurs that changes [e] into [ə], [i] into [ɨ], and [e̯a] into [a]: [səmn, ˈsɨŋɡur, ˈsarɨ, zər, zɨd, ˈzamɨ, ˈʃəli, raˈʃɨnɨ, ˈʒəli, t͡səs, ˈt͡sapən, rəʃʲ] for semn, singur, seară, zer, zid, zeamă, șale, rășină, jale, țes, țeapăn, reci. In the same phonetic contexts, the phoneme /ʲ/, which is generally responsible for indicating the plural in nouns and adjectives or the second person in verbs, is no longer realized: [paˈrint͡s, vjez] (for standard părinți, vezi). As a consequence, the number distinction is completely lost in some nouns and adjectives, such as moș, leneș, colț, ursuz.
The labials [p, b, m] receive a palatalized pronunciation when followed by front vowels and become [c, ɟ, ɲ], respectively: [koˈkʲil, ˈɡʲini, ɲʲel] for copil, bine, miel.
Similarly, the palatalization of the labio-dentals [f, v] occurs, but in two different ways. In the southern half of the dialect area they become [ç, ʝ], respectively, whereas in the northern half they become [ɕ, ʑ]: [ˈhʲerbi / ˈʃʲerbi, ɦʲiˈt͡səl / ʒʲiˈt͡səl] for fierbe, vițel.
The dentals [t, d, n] are left unchanged before [e, i, e̯a]: [ˈfrunti, diˈparti, de̯al, ˈneɡru, ˈne̯aɡrə].
The affricate [d͡z] occurs, as in [d͡zɨk], as in the Banat dialect, the Maramureș dialect and the Aromanian language, whereas it evolved to [z] in the Wallachian dialect, the Criș dialect, and standard Romanian:[d͡zɨk] for zic (Latin dico).
In the northern part, [v] followed by [o, u] changes into [h]: holbură, hulpe, hultan (compare with standard volbură, vulpe, vultan).
After the labial [v], [e] changes into [ə] and [e̯a] into [a]: [loˈvəsk, sə loˈvaskɨ] for lovesc, să lovească.
Word-final [ə] becomes [ɨ]: [ˈmamɨ, ˈkasɨ] for mamă, casă.
Unstressed [o] closes to [u]: [akupiˈrit] for acoperit (rare).
The diphthong [o̯a] is preserved: [ˈso̯ari, ˈbo̯alɨ] for soare, boală.
Unstressed [e] in middle and final positions closes to [i]: [ˈlapti, disˈfak] for lapte, desfac.
In the northern areas, the vowel [ə] immediately before the stress opens to [a]: [maˈɡar, baˈtrɨn, taˈkut, paˈduri] for măgar, bătrân, tăcut, pădure.
The diphthong [ja] becomes [je]: [bəˈjet, ɨŋkuˈjet] for băiat, încuiat.
Etymologic [ɨ] is preserved in the words [ˈkɨni, ˈmɨni, mɨnʲ, ˈpɨni] for câine, mâine, mâini, pâine.
The diphthong [e̯a] in final positions becomes the monophthong [ɛ]: [aˈvɛ, spuˈnɛ] for avea, spunea.
Asyllabic versions of [i] and [u] occur in word-final positions: [pəduˈrarʲ, koʒoˈkarʲʷ] for pădurar, cojocar.
Feminine nouns ending in -că have genitive and dative forms ending in -căi: maicăi, puicăi (compare with standard maicii, puicii).
The noun tată "father" with the definite article has the form tatul (standard tatăl).
The possessive article is invariable: a meu, a mea, a mei, a mele ("mine", standard al meu, a mea, ai mei, ale mele).
The number distinction is made in verbs in the imperfect at the 3rd person: era / erau, făcea / făceau (like in the standard language).
The simple perfect is not used, except rarely, only in the 3rd person, with the simple value of a past tense.
The auxiliary for the compound perfect has the same form for both the singular and the plural of the 3rd person: el o fost / ei o fost ("he was / they were", standard el a fost, ei au fost).
In northern Moldavia, the pluperfect is also made analytically: m-am fost dus, am fost venit ("I had gone, I had come", standard mă dusesem, venisem).
The future tense in verbs uses the infinitive and is sometimes identical to it: va veni, a veni ("he will come", standard only va veni).
The following subjunctive forms occur: să deie, să steie, să beie, să ieie, să vreie (standard să dea, să stea, să bea, să ia, să vrea).
The following imperatives occur: ádă, vină (standard adú, vino).
When the object of a verb is another verb, the latter is in its infinitive form, including the isolated morpheme a: prinde a fierbe ("starts to boil", the standard uses the subjunctive: prinde să fiarbă or începe să fiarbă).
Genitives and datives of nouns tend to be formed analytically: dă mâncare la pisică ("give food to the cat", standard dă mâncare pisicii).
Some words have preserved archaic forms: îmblu, împlu, întru, înflu, nour, dirept (compare with standard umblu, umplu, intru, umflu, nor, drept).
A particular variant for the personal pronoun for the 3rd person occurs frequently and is used for animates and inanimates alike: dânsul, dânsa, dânșii, dânsele ("he, she, they" as well as "it, they", compare with el, ea, ei, ele). In the standard language, these forms have started being used as 3rd person polite pronouns.
The demonstrative pronouns have particular forms: [aˈista, aˈjasta, aˈʃela, aˈʃeja] ("this" masculine and feminine, "that" masculine and feminine; compare with standard acesta, aceasta, acela, aceea).
Other specific words: omăt ("snow", zăpadă), agudă ("mulberry", dudă), poame ("grapes", struguri), perje ("plums", prune), ciubotă ("high boot", cizmă), cori ("measles", pojar), etc.
Moldavian dialect: [jɛ aˈvɛ ˈdowɨ vaʃʲ ʃɨ sɨ ɲiˈraw ˈwaminij di ˈvaʃili jij kɨ dəˈdew 'un ʃjubəˈraʃ di ˈlapti ‖ ʃɨ aˈʃa di la o ˈvremi stɨrˈkisɨrɨ ˈvaʃili ‖ nu məj dəˈdew ˈlapti]
Standard Romanian: Ea avea două vaci și se mirau oamenii de vacile ei că dădeau un ciubăraș de lapte. Și așa de la o vreme stârpiseră vacile, nu mai dădeau lapte.
English translation: "She had two cows and people were amazed at her cows for giving a bucketful of milk. And so from a while the cows became dry, they stopped giving milk."
The Romanian vocabulary in parts of Moldavia, Bessarabia and Transnistria. Researches made by Gustav Weigand:
The Romanian linguistic areal (1908)
The extension of the Moldovan characteristic isoglosses (1908)
Spînu, Stela, "Graiurile româneşti din nord-estul Republicii Moldova", Chişinău, 2011
Ilona Bădescu, "Dialectologie", teaching material for the University of Craiova.
Elena Buja, Liliana Coposescu, Gabriela Cusen, Luiza Meseșan Schmitz, Dan Chiribucă, Adriana Neagu, Iulian Pah, Raport de țară: România, country report for the Lifelong Learning Programme MERIDIUM (in Romanian)