Adrian Poruciuc

Relevanţa termenilor daco-rom. Șcheau,
macedo-rom. Șcl’eau și alb. Shqâ în clarificarea relaţiei dintre etnonimul sclavus ‘slav’ și socionimul sclavus ‘sclav’ din latina medievală

The borrowed words slav ‘Slav’ and sclav ‘slave’ began to be used in Romanian as late as the 19thcentury, as indicated in the respective articles of MDA – Micul dicţionar academic, IV, 2003. But, on Romanian soil, the two words had a cognate that was recorded as early as the 16th century, in a plural form that was written, in Cyrillic letters, as Шкѣи, subsequently transliterated as șchéi. The latter – with a singular șcheau, meaning ‘Slav, ‘Bulgarian’ – is a clear etymological relative of Albanian (dialectal) shqâ, which was included in the first etymological dictionary of the Albanian language (MEYER 1891). By starting from these basic data, the author of the present article will first survey a series of lexicographical presentations and etymological interpretations, to which he will add historiographic views (mainly the influential but not fully plausible ones expressed by Charles Verlinden), as well as information extracted from historical documents that referred to the penetration of early Slavs into Southeast Europe. In their turn, derivatives such as Daco-Romanian șchienesc ‘Slavic’ and Albanian Shqeni ‘a territory inhabited by Slavs’, suggest that Daco-Romanian șcheau and Albanian shqâ should no longer be presented simply as based on “Latin Sclavus”, as an ethnonym. Those two words should rather be referred to the form Sclaveni used by Iordanes in the 6th century; it is a form that reflects a non-Slavic perception of a Slavic ethnic name that must have sounded like /ʹsłavěni/ in the original, the sequence /sł/ being “misinterpreted” as /skl/ by non-Slavs. As for semantics, Aromanian șcl’eau ‘servant’ (together with Greek σκλάβος ‘slave’) indicates that 10th – century Germany was not the original area in which Latin Sclavus ‘Slav’ actually turned into sclavus ‘slave’ (as indicated by Verlinden). A trustworthy view appears to be the one expressed by several important forerunners, who considered that the semantic shift under discussion occurred first within the Byzantine sphere of influence, from where it was subsequently transferred to the West, most probably via Venice. As a general conclusion, it appears that the long-neglected pieces of evidence that are provided by Southeast European languages such as Romanian and Albanian, which remained unwritten practically up until early modern times, can be as relevant as the data provided by written documents of ancient and medieval times.


etymology; history; ethnology; onomastics; ethnonymy; slavery; Romanian șcheau; Albanian shqâ.