The Germanic Mosaic: Cultural and Linguistic Diversity in Society

By Carol Aisha Blackshire-Belay | Go to book overview

10
Linguistic Aspects of the RomanianSaxon Contact in Transylvania

ADRIAN PORUCIUC

Transylvanian Saxon (Siebenbürgisch-sächsisch) has been spoken in centralwestern regions of Romania for more than eight centuries, since King Geisa II of Hungary (d. 1162) invited groups of West Germanic "in das Hermannstädter Gelände" ["into the Hermannstadt province"] ( Klein, 1971: 4). The rights and duties of the new settlers were officially established in 1224 by a Freiheitsbrief [freedom letter] signed and sealed by King Andreas II. 1 The rather assorted immigrants were called Flandrenses, Theutonici, and Saxones in medieval documents, and it was the last of the three ethnonyms that in the end became a blanket term (cf. Hung. szász, Rom. sas, and TS Saks, "Transylvanian Saxon"). A good deal of the demographic flow under discussion came from the Rhine-Moselle area, which accounts for the still-obvious closeness between Transylvanian Saxon and the Germanic dialect spoken in Luxembourg. 2 Against the troubled East European historical background of those times, the West European colonists were expected to create nuclei of stability within the Transylvanian frontier; and soon the newcomers showed their ability in agriculture, stone building and fortification, and medieval craftsmanship. Moreover, their priests (first Catholic, then Lutheran) did something of great significance for all the ethnic groups of Transylvania: those modest clergymen not only kept accurate parish records, but they also scribbled concise chronicles, many of which contain precious attestations. Such local annals, together with the administrative documents of the Transylvanian cities, were to become true gold mines for later scholars.

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