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BY-SA 4.0 license Open Access Published by De Gruyter Mouton 2020

The Moldavian Csángós: the Hungarian speaking linguistic minority in North-Eastern Romania[1]

  • Petteri Laihonen , Csanád Bodó , János Imre Heltai and Noémi Fazakas
Language Covered in Article


The Moldavian Csángó are a group of Roman Catholics in Northeastern Romania, ca. 48,000 of whom are bilingual in Romanian and a variety of Hungarian, the “Csángó way of speaking”. We describe the history, language repertoires as well as language ideologies and practices of this contested minority. We then investigate processes of change brought about by the Csángó Educational Program, a venture begun in 2001. The teaching of Hungarian has the potential to bring a significant change in the lives, language practices, and ideologies of the Csángó. There is a place for the teaching of standard Hungarian in the Educational Program with the goal of preparing Moldavian children for Hungarian medium education elsewhere. At the same time, the Csángó modes of speaking should be respected in education in order to find Moldavian parents, who would be committed to revitalizing Hungarian in Moldavia by using it with their children, thus ensuring a future for Csángó and Hungarian in Moldavia.

InhaltsverzeichnisTable of Contents


Illustrative Map

                        Csángó communities in the historical province of Moldavia (Laihonen 2015)

Csángó communities in the historical province of Moldavia (Laihonen 2015)

1. Introduction

The Moldavian Csángós (Ceangăi in Romanian) are an ethnically and linguistically heterogeneous group of Roman Catholics in Northeastern Romania. According to Baker (1997: 658), they are “one of Europe’s most enigmatic and least known minorities”. From a majority perspective, Miloiu (2004: 123) finds that “one of the most controversial and debatable subjects in contemporary Romanian society [is] the identity of a partly bilingual Roman Catholic population situated in […] Moldavia [...].” As a hybrid culture and language, the Moldavian Csángós have suffered from the “normative vision of modernity” (Pennycook 2012: 18), where purity and coherence are expected from “nations, languages and cultures”. In this section we briefly touch on the ethnicity of the Csángós, but our main focus will be on the linguistic dimension.

The goal of this section is to describe the language repertoires and understand the language ideologies (e.g., Gal 2006) and some language practices of this “evasive minority” (Cotoi 2013: 433), different from other Hungarian minorities. Our further focus is how linguistic repertoires and the related language ideologies and practices change in time and place (cf. Heller 2012; Blommaert 2010), which is behind our perspective to investigate processes of contemporary change brought about by the Moldavian Csángó Educational Program, a venture begun in 2001.

Especially in Sections 11–13. we do make references to the Hungarian, Romanian, and international intellectual discourses, but our main purpose is to analyse manifestations and reflections of discourses about language by the Moldavian speakers for whom Hungarian or Csángó language resources, that is, resources identified as Hungarian or Csángó by the speakers, have a role regardless of whether these speakers consider themselves as belonging to a (linguistic) minority or not. Our analysis, in any case, does not intend to contribute to the debate on the ethnic belonging or national leanings of the Csángós (see e.g., Baker 1997; Barszczewska 2008; Cotoi 2013), but wishes to reveal what the speakers do with their language resources in interaction, including the metalinguistic discourses on named languages and dialects, such as Hungarian, Romanian, and Csángó.

Csángó social activism has centred around the teaching of Hungarian language in Moldavia since 1990 (Pozsony 2006; Vincze 2008), thus making it our main focus. Nevertheless, it is also necessary to notice the importance of further language identity building efforts, which have been underway in state-sponsored schools and in the Catholic clergy, supporting the spread of the Moldavian and national majority language, Romanian. The Catholic clergy is significant due to the religious nature of the Hungarians in Moldavia (e.g., Peti 2008), and the fact that schooling has been always closely connected with the Church. Furthermore, the teachers of the state schools have had a shared interested with the clergy, likewise educated in Romanian, in the access to state resources through representing the national language, in the otherwise historically Hungarian speaking communities (Trunki & Bodó 2017: 37). The resources of the Moldavian Csángó Educational Program in turn come mostly from Hungarian public and private sources in Hungary or Transylvania.

Many of our analyses rely mainly on interviews conducted during previous research (see Heltai 2014; Bodó 2016 for details) and Laihonen’s recent (2017–2019) fieldwork. It is important to keep in mind that interviews, other than those by Laihonen, were conducted mostly by researchers from Hungary or Transylvania; locals most probably attributed to them an ideological stance which connects the Csángós with the Hungarian nation (cf. Peti 2015: 51). Laihonen’s data, though also gathered mainly in Hungarian, represents a comparative perspective, attained by his similar research in other East Central European regions and Finland. Laihonen’s data consists of recorded classroom activities in the Educational Program and interviews of teachers and other participants as well as on visual and multimodal products by the children. When writing about the Educational Program, we also rely on unpublished documents and information attained from the Program’s administration and leadership.

2. The landscapes of the Moldavian Csángó

In the context of Hungarian minorities in the circum-Hungary area, the Moldavian Csángós present a special case already due to their historical and present day geographical location beyond the historical Hungarian Kingdom. In the Hungarian historical consciousness, the Hungarian Kingdom, marked by the Carpathian mountains on the map, forms the widest possible Hungarian linguistic space, or in other terms, the Hungarian imagined community (Anderson 1991).

The illustrative map indicates the location of Moldavian Csángó villages in the 21st century. The Carpathian mountains form an important historical border between Hungary and Moldavia, which was turned to an internal border in Romania between Transylvania and Moldavia in 1918 since the annexation of Transylvania by Romania. Transylvania has always had Hungarian medium schools, a Hungarian medium (ethnic) Catholic Church as well as state funded institutions using Hungarian and a Hungarian speaking intellectual stratum (see Brubaker et al. 2006), any of which have never really been found in Moldavia. For understanding the Moldavian Csángó, the language political and discursive contrast between Hungarians in Moldavia and Transylvania is of paramount importance.

Making the contrast even higher, right at the other side of the Carpathian mountains, we find Szeklerland, which has 600,000 Hungarian speakers (so called Szeklers) forming the compact Hungarian majority (c. 80%) area in Romania and otherwise multilingual Transylvania. The Carpathian Mountains form an important language political border also today. As a clear and visible implication of this especially Szeklerland has a lot of Hungarian (and multilingual) signage, whereas any signs or public texts in Hungarian are difficult to find in Moldavia. However, the “inner circle” Moldavian Csángó villages and their names are indicated at the Transylvanian side of the border on a sign photographed by Laihonen on his way to fieldwork in Moldavia on February 2018:

                           Fig. 1: A sign on the historical border between Transylvania and Moldavia (Laihonen 2018)

Fig. 1: A sign on the historical border between Transylvania and Moldavia (Laihonen 2018)

This sign, designed in the manner of European road signs (white text on a blue background), displays the names of six Moldavian Csángó villages in Hungarian and in brackets and smaller font in Romanian. The selection of six villages out of around one hundred villages (cf. next section, Map 2) with Moldavian Csángó population (see next section for details) participates in the construction of an inner circle of Csángó or Hungarian villages in Moldavia. The listed villages on the road sign are also those, which most interested Hungarians in Hungary and Transylvania might know. However, Figure 1 represents the only public sign we have found where the names of the villages are on display, since in Moldavia the public displays of Hungarian are limited to some old wooden crosses and more recent signs around the “Hungarian houses” established for the needs of the Educational Program.

                           Fig. 2: A Romanian monolingual village sign for a Roman Catholic village in Moldavia (Laihonen 2018)

Fig. 2: A Romanian monolingual village sign for a Roman Catholic village in Moldavia (Laihonen 2018)

Figure 2 displays the village’s name in Romanian, Tuta, and the greeting “Welcome!” in Romanian. The Hungarian name Diószeg is not displayed, nor a welcoming phrase in Hungarian. This sign displays the colours of the Romanian flag, also the text is in red, a colour of the Romanian flag. On the left it has the European Union flag and on the top of the sign the coat of arms for Romania. Due to monolingual Romanian texts and the display of state symbols (flag and coat of arms) and use of colours, this sign can be seen as a symbolic emphasis on a Romanian identity and language, typical for Moldavian Hungarian or Csángó linguistic landscapes, but not typical at all for Hungarian villages in Transylvania.

3. How many Csángós are there in Moldavia?

The discourses of counting the minority according to ethnicity or language are very general and often contested among the Hungarian minorities, but again Hungarians/Csángós in Moldavia present an extreme case. Both Romanian and Hungarian activists and researchers have used census results and other enumerations in relation to the Csángós in order to provide evidence for their relative insignificance (typically Romanian discourses) or for their significance as an ethnic and linguistic minority (typically Hungarian discourses). As Jane Hill (2002: 127–128) points out, however, enumeration “depends on an assumption of essentialization and individualization of a language as a sort of unit, which contradicts the insight that the array of ‘languages’ that we currently recognize […] are very much the product of the rise of European nation-states and the colonial regimes that they imposed on the world”. As an example of the language ideology of the nation-state we will see that the only aspect present in both the Romanian and Hungarian discourses is “the will to count” (Urla 2012), nevertheless the participants in these discourses define the number of the Hungarian-speaking and the ethnic “Hungarian” or “Csángó” population of Moldavia quite differently. Following Moore, Pietikäinen, & Blommaert (2010), both accounts appear similarly irrelevant to the field due to their definitions of the speaker, language, and domains or registers of language use.

Romanian discourses rely on census data. Accordingly, the population of Hungarian or Csángó ethnicity and language, closely connected to Roman Catholic religion, was present in the Romanian censuses as shown in the following table.

Tab. 1: The Roman Catholic population in Moldavia (census data and estimates) (Tánczos 2012a: 19)

Year Number of Romanian Catholics Number of Catholics who declared themselves Hungarian Estimated number of speakers of Hungarian
1859 52,811 37,825
1899 88,803 24,276 approx. 30,000
1930 109,953 23,894 approx. 45,000
1992 240,038 1,826 62,265
2002 232,045 2,015 48,752

In the Hungarian discourses, the latest census results are contested by several scholars and interpret it as the result of Romanian state repression (Pozsony 2006: 167; Tánczos 2002: 144, fn. 33; Vincze 2008: 34–35). Since census results are regarded as unreliable in the Hungarian discourses, Hungarian authors often identify the number of Moldavian Csángós with the number of Moldavian Catholics, and estimate the proportion of Hungarian speakers within the Catholic population, as seen in the last column of Table 1. Among the estimates, Vilmos Tánczos’s is based on the most consistent calculations. Tánczos first visited the settlements inhabited by Moldavian Catholics in the mid-1990s and then in 2008–2010, and systematically examined the distribution of Hungarian-speaking age groups in the local population (see Table 1 above). According to Tánczos (2011) in 2010 of the ca. 200,000 Roman Catholics in Moldavia ca. 48,000 were still able to communicate in Hungarian in some situations. There is a drop of ca. 13,500 persons (22 %) compared to an estimation in 1996, in addition there are no longer villages, where children are Hungarian dominant speakers. In 1996 there were still four such villages (Tánczos 2011). Tánczos’ estimates have been presented in the form of a map as well:

                           Fig. 3:  Hungarian language proficiency in Moldavian settlements in 2012 according to Vilmos Tánczos (Tánczós & Veress 2012)

Fig. 3: Hungarian language proficiency in Moldavian settlements in 2012 according to Vilmos Tánczos (Tánczós & Veress 2012)

Figure 3 indicates on the one hand the minority position of Catholics in Moldavia and on the other hand the minority position of Hungarian speakers among the Catholic inhabitants. It also indicates, that Hungarian speakers are of Catholic religion.

The difference between the census results and the ethnographic data comes, as Cotoi (2013: 435) argues, from the specificity of the Romanian and Hungarian discourses, that these are “two, apparently very different, ways of nationalizing the Csangos. There is a constructing, Hungarian strategy and an effacing, Romanian one” (Cotoi 2013: 3). In order to avoid the construction of the Csángós as a Hungarian ethnic minority or connecting the issue to the Romanian “assimilationist–deconstructive strategy”, Cotoi (2013) examines the main discourses – he uses the term figures of Csangoness – which make this dichotomy mutually interpretable.

To sum up, from a methodological point of view, who and what we consider to be Csángó is problematic in many ways. Tánczos, for example, extends the Csángó category to all Moldavian Catholics and examines the proportion of Hungarian speakers within this population. This is sharply contrasted by the census data based on self-declaration, where only a small fraction of Catholics are identified as Csángós. An even higher contrast is pronounced in the theory developed and maintained by Romanian historians and ethnographers regarding the Romanian origin of the Moldavian Catholics stating that “there are no Csángós, only Catholic Romanians” (Mǎrtinaş 1942: 36, cited in Ciubotaru 1998: 14, italics in the original; see also Chiru 2012). Although it contradicts even the census data, this approach cannot be regarded as marginal as its impact significantly affects the local specificity and evolution of the representations of ethnicity and language (Tánczos 2012a: 20). The controversy can be interpreted in the context of the sociolinguistic history of the Csángó ethnonym and glottonym, as these are external names which have been often used for a (self-)imposed pejorative identification denoting certain groups of Moldavian Catholics (Péntek 2014: 409–410) by the Csángó and those living around them: the (Moldavian) “Szeklers” (Sándor 2000: 154), and the “Orthodox Romanians” (Pozsony 2006: 184).

4. Autobiographical discourses on being a Csángó

Felicia Gábor, a writer born in Moldavia, educated in a Transylvanian Hungarian-medium secondary school, describes in her volume Csángó vagyok [I am Csángó] her first encounter with the name Csángó. At the age of thirteen, she left the Moldavian Romanian-medium school and, joined by her future classmates’ parents of Moldavian origin, she walked through the gates of a Hungarian-medium school in Transylvania (Gábor 2012: 42–43):

Ekkora kaput nem is láttam soha. És milyen nehéz volt kinyitni! És milyen hatalmas lépcsők, és milyen magas mennyezet! Ez volt a Márton Áron Gimnázium és kollégiuma. Háromszáz éves épület. A második emeleten várt minket a nevelőnő.
Á, maguk a csángók?
Néztünk egymásra. Méghogy mi csángók! Néni Maric azt mondta, igen, mi vagyunk. – Ő tud magyarosan bászélni – súgta Mónika mamája. Követtük tehát a nevelőnőt.
Tessék bemenni a szobába. Ott vannak a többiek is.
Micsoda? Elkerekedett a szemünk. A szoba bejáratától jobbra állt egy nagy-nagy kályha. A kályhát nálunk szóbának mondják. Mit gondol ez a nő? Bemenni a szóbába? – Csak menjetek – rugdosott hátulról néni Maric. A szobában káosz uralkodott. Táskák. Csomagok. Ruhák. Emberek. A legtöbb jövendőbeli szobatársamnak ott volt a hozzátartozója. Mindenki beszélt. Mindenki ugyanúgy. És mindenki másképp. – Ők is csángók – mondta a nevelőnő mögöttünk. – Ismerkedjetek meg.
Így tudtam meg, hogy én is csángó vagyok
‘I have never seen such a large gate. And how hard it was to open it! And what a tremendous staircase and what a high ceiling! This was the Márton Áron High School and boarding school. The building is three hundred years old. On the second floor a matron was waiting for us.’
‘Ah, are you Csángós?’
‘We looked at each other. Us? Csángós? Aunt Maric said, yes, we are. She can speak Hungarian –whispered Mónika’s mother. So we followed the matron.’
‘Go to the room, please. The others are there.’
‘What? Our eyes grew bigger. As we entered the room, there were two large stoves on the right. We call the stove ‘szóba’. What is this woman thinking? We should go to the szóba? – Just go – Aunt Maric kicked us from behind. There was chaos in the room. Bags. Luggage. Clothes. People. Most of my future roommates had someone there from their family. Everyone was speaking. Everyone used the same language. And everyone differently. – They are Csángós – said the matron behind us. – Get to know each other.’
‘This is how I found out I am Csángó!’
(English translation by Noémi Fazakas)

Gábor not only descibes how the linguistic differences made the speech of the Transylvanian matron difficult to comprehend for her as a child (e.g., the homonymy of szóba [stove] and szoba [room]), but also how there were attempts to categorize the differences on several levels. First, the matron identifies the children and their companions as “Csángós”. Secondly, one parent categorizes another parent as knowing how to speak Hungarian, that is “Aunt Maric” knows how to address the matron. Although Csángó here seems to be opposed to speaking Hungarian, it is important to note that the first external denomination refers to ethnicity, while the second identifies the way to speak in a “Hungarian” way (magyarosan). At the same time, it does not make “Aunt Maric” a “Hungarian person”, since she becomes a “Csángó” when she accepts the external category offered by the matron: igen mi vagyunk [yes (we are Csángós)].

This extract points out that the relationship between ethnicity and language in Moldavia does not follow the isomorphic arrangement characteristic of the Herderian language ideology within the modern nation-state (cf. Bauman & Briggs 2003: 192), according to which Hungarians speak Hungarian, Romanians speak Romanian, while Csángós speak Csángó. As we shall see, speakers’ conceptualizations (ideologies) of what constitutes a language are variable and depend on the context. That being said, in some situations, the Csángós might still identify a part of their linguistic resources as part of the Hungarian language. In order to discover what it means to speak Hungarian in Moldavia, we further analyse metalinguistic practices and the language ideologies about such differences.

5. Language ideologies about Csángó, Hungarian, and Romanian

Metalanguage, that is, talk about talk, is central for our understanding how Moldavian people take part in controlling and regulating the ideological differences that are relevant for them, either on linguistic or on ethnic grounds. These differences are not only connected to language, rather – as Woolard & Schieffelin (1994: 55–56) famously put it – language ideologies “envision and enact links of language to group and personal identity, to aesthetics, to morality, and to epistomology”. The practitioners of the meta-language that use the denominations, i.e., glottonyms of the languages spoken in Moldavia, attempt to create, strengthen or even weaken a relationship between language and personal or community identity. In cases where there is an insecure marker, as we shall see, the Csángó glottonym is in many instances a suitable choice.

Bodó (2016: 133–144) examined the distribution of glottonyms in a corpus of semi-structured interviews on the sociolinguistic vitality of the Hungarian and Romanian language. The use of the glottonyms was found to be dependent on the context; one of the common contexts was opposition to the Romanian language. As opposed to román [Romanian] – or as the locals more frequently call it, oláh [Wallach] – the speakers very frequently used the glottonyms magyar, magyaros, ungurească [Hungarian] in describing their mode of speech. They use the glottonyms csángó, csángós or ceangăiască [Csángó] much less frequently in contrast to oláh or román. Another recurrent context in the interviews is contrasting the name of their own mode of speaking with the so-called tiszta or igaz magyar [pure or true Hungarian]. The latter is the designation of any Hungarian language mode of speaking in Moldavia, which is different from their own mode of speaking and is typically spoken in Hungary or Transylvania. Contrasting this with the local mode of speaking, the latter is usually called csángó, csángós, ceangăiască, while the magyar, magyaros, ungurească glottonyms were rarely used. In other words, when the local mode of speaking was in opposition with the Romanian language, the speakers named it Hungarian, while when talking about the Hungarian language spoken elsewhere, they called their own mode of speaking Csángó.

The above established distinction reminds us of the well-known distribution of the hierarchy of language and dialect, in which the higher-level language (Hungarian) is divided into different dialects (e.g., in addition to Csángó, pure or true Hungarian). At the same time the name of the non-local “dialect” shows that Csángó is opposed to the “pure” or “true” variety (language), so it is arguable that these glottonyms refer to juxtaposed dialects of the Hungarian language. Therefore, if we univocally consider Csángó to be a dialect of the Hungarian language, and we categorise the speakers of the Csángó dialect as belonging to the speakers of the Hungarian language, we apply a language ideology in talking about how people speak in Moldavia which is incompatible with the degrading discourses of the speakers regarding their own mode of speaking. As an example for the latter, one of our interviewees stated that “none of them really spoke pure Hungarian” (for the wider context of the fragment see Bodó 2016: 137).

On a more general level, the Moldavian speakers do not necessarily identify their own mode of speaking with categories of modernity such as the duality of language and dialect conceptualised as two distinct entities. Consider the following example (cf. Bodó Fazakas, & Heltai 2017):


HJI = János Imre Heltai, A = 50 year old male

HJI: az milyen, az a csángó?
A: hogy beszélgetünk mük. nem úgy, hogy magatok beszéltek. tük magyarok vagytok, mert-
HJI: hát mi a differencia a magyar meg a csángó közt?
A: mi? főkint, ahogy beszélünk. nem beszélünk úgy, mint tik.
HJI: ‘what is Csángó like?’
A: ‘the way we speak, not the way you speak. you are Hungarians, because-’
HJI: ‘what is the difference between Hungarian and Csángó?’
A: ‘the difference? mostly the way we speak. we don’t speak the way you speak.’

For speaker A “Csángó” is not a language but a way of speaking. He uses this interpretation twice despite the interviewer’s attempt to contrast the names Hungarian and Csángó by offering an interpretive framework of the hierarchical system of languages and dialects. As this speaker interprets it, Csángó is neither a language, nor a dialect, but a mode of speaking. His interpretation of Csángó relies on an ideology of speaking that has not been affected by the concept of “invented” languages created in modernity (cf. Makoni & Pennycook 2007).

This approach – what we call the “Csángó mode of speaking” (Bodó, Fazakas, & Heltai 2017) – does not look at language practices from the perspective of named languages; it does not regard them as objectified entities the speaker can own, that is, name, possess, give up or even lose. In contrast, during everyday practices the speaker uses language resources and mobilizes them depending on the sociolinguistic trajectories that have shaped and shape the linguistic repertoire (see Blommaert 2010). This mode of speaking is located outside the discursively upheld binary opposition of the Hungarian and Romanian languages; we can find examples of this in the metalinguistic discourses of the speakers. As one of the middle-aged women described the Csángó speech in one of the interviews: “there are utterances that seem like the ones we say when we speak Romanian” (for a wider context of the extract see Heltai 2016). This example shows that Csángó is not a “language” that can be linked to Hungarian or Romanian, but contains “speeches”, utterances, that resemble monolingual utterances but are not identical to them. The speaker thus presents this mode of speaking as a unity that can be described by referring to named languages, but this speech cannot be identified with the monolingual practices associated with them. Nevertheless, the speakers are familiar with the modern concept of named languages according to which in certain contexts Csángó might have a status similar to Hungarian or Romanian. Thus, in the next extract both concepts of Csángó as a named language and Csángó as a mode of speaking appear simultaneously (for the complete extract and transcription conventions, see Bodó, Fazakas, & Heltai 2017: 336).


A = a researcher coming from the local community, who graduated from a Hungarian medium university, B = 50 year old man

A: Hogy tanultak meg beszélni a gyerekek, magyarul (.) vagy úgy, csángóul? Tehát a tiszta magyar vagy csángóul?
B: Én csángó vagyok. (.) Én magyar-magyar nem vagyok. Csángó. (.) Énn- (.) kicsike korátul öö csángóil beszéltünk, mai mult (.) puțin
A: És a gyerekek hogy beszének most?
B: Most énnn (.) oláhul mai mult, met nehezen öö értik meg [ööö csángót]
A: [De a magyar az-] úgy beszének, mint bácsi [TANÍTÓ NEVE], deci, vorbesc ca, maghiara curată, ca [bácsi [TANÍTÓ NEVE]] sau-
B: [Nuuu.] (.) Și așa, și așa. Puțin ee ungur, ungur-ungur. [Puțin.]
A: [És] melyiknek örül job[ban?]
B: [Met] öö látod, én beszélek csángó-csángó. S akkor én csángóil beszélek velik. [...] S otthonn, (.) mondom én, csángóitil, dee nem tudnak visszafelelni. S akkor kell explikáljam ceangăieștil, uuh, m- (.) oláhul es, magyarul es.
A: Uhum
B: Ss (.) ugy, e.
A: ‘How did the children learn to speak, Hungarian (.) or Csángó? I mean pure Hungarian or Csángó?’
B: ‘I am Csángó. (.) I am not Hungarian-Hungarian, but Csángó. (.) I- (.) since I was little uhm we spoke Csángó, more (.) or less’
A: ‘And how do the children speak now?’
B: ‘Now I (.) more Oláh [i.e. Romanian], because they uhm understand more difficultly [uhm Csángó]’
A: ‘[But the Hungarian is] they speak like [TEACHER’S NAME], so do they speak pure Hungarian, like [TEACHER’S NAME] or-’
B: ‘[Nooo.] (.) Like this and like that. A little is Hungarian, Hungarian-Hungarian. [A little.]’
A: ‘[And] what makes you more [happy]?’
B: ‘[Because] uhm you see, I speak Csángó-Csángó. And then I speak Csángó with them. […] And at home, (.) I talk to them in Csángó, but they can’t respond. And then I have to explain in Csángó, uhm, H- (.) in Oláh and in Hungarian as well.’
A: ‘Mhm’
B: ‘And (.) like that, yes.’

In the Example 3 speaker B simultaneously argues that he used to speak Csángóil [in Csángó] to his children when they were young, because due to his non-Hungarian (lit. Hungarian-Hungarian) ethnicity he cannot speak Hungarian with them and now his children hardly understand Csángó [the Csángó (language)]. He later repeats this claim and again mentions his own Csángó-Csángó language and the mode he speaks to his children (Csángóil, Csángótil [in Csángó]) who do not understand it. Understanding is facilitated by speaking ceangăieștil, that is, the Csángó mode, although this “glottonym” is repaired by speaker B, who describes the mode of speaking as the combined use of the Oláh and Hungarian languages.

According to speaker B, it is thus possible to speak Csángó in a way that it does not mean acquiring the Csángó language, and one can use Romanian and Hungarian at the same time and this still not being identical to the Csángó language. These contradictions can be resolved by identifying the simultaneous articulation of the two ideologies in the extract; that of named languages and of the Csángó mode of speaking. This is also shown by the fact that speaker B refers to his own mode of speaking or language using five different glottonyms: Csángóil, Csángó, Csángó-Csángó, Csángóitil and Ceangăieștil. Thus, the Csángó mode of speaking is either situated outside the ideological tensions between the Hungarian and Romanian languages, or between them, as a communicative practice and talk about this practice that draws from both the resources of the two named languages and the ideological complex associated to them. Meanwhile, it is both characterized by the tendency to avoid the discourses that divide speech into languages and thus alienate it from the speakers and their agency.

These ideological dilemmas often conflict with the instrumental aspect, which focuses on the introduction of teaching the Hungarian language in Moldavia, discussed in the last section. The following chapter outlines the historical processes that determine how the Moldavian speakers make use of Hungarian and other linguistic resources.

6. Historical overview of Hungarian in Moldavia

Historically, Moldavian Hungarian speakers have been affected by factors other than the ones influencing Hungarians living on the territory of the former Hungarian Kingdom – most significantly the population living in Transylvania, contemporary Romania. From the perspective of our subject, it is a determining disparity that the linguistic effects of modernity did not exist in Moldavia in the same way as on the territory of Hungary in the 18th and 19th centuries. This difference has been formulated in the Hungarian language discourses stating that Moldavian Csángós did not take part in Hungarian language reform, that is why they did not come into contact with the modern Hungarian standard as a result of which “the Hungarian dialects of the Csángós – secluded from the other Hungarian dialects – preserved a very archaic linguistic situation and ethnic culture” (Kiss 2012: 115).

According to historical linguistic research, the presence of the Hungarian population immigrating to the region dates back to the end of the 13th, the beginning of the 14th century (Benkő 1989; Benő & Murádin 2002). Benda (2002) illustrates the geographic location of the Hungarian settlements in Moldavia based on his archival research on the early modern age. By recording the settlements with Hungarian-origin names on maps century by century, Benda concludes, that in the earlier period, the northern part of the region shows a larger proportion of Hungarian-origin place names, and by the 17th century a growing number of such place names can be found in the southern part of the region as well. Based on dialectometrical analyses of dialectal relations, the source of early migration has been established as the central part of Transylvania, the Mezőség region, and it mostly affected the northern regions of Moldavia. Relocations following the first phase of migration started from the Szeklerland, and especially targeted the southern regions of Moldavia (e.g., Benkő 1989).

7. Typological profile of Moldavian Hungarian and linguistic diversity

The first descriptions of the Hungarian language in Moldavia are related only to its newer periods; the relatively short history of the systematic examination of this language can be divided into three distinct phases (Bodó 2016). The following phases can be attributed to the manifestations of interest in the Hungarian language in Moldavia:

  1. the exploration of the Hungarian language in Moldavia

  2. the invention of the Moldavian Csángó dialect

  3. the substitution of the Hungarian language in Moldavia

In the first period, the discovery of the Hungarian language in Moldavia took place. Following some initial reports at the end of the 18th century, linguistic research in Moldavia began at the end of the 1830s; its main feature was to compare the Hungarian language in Moldavia with the Hungarian language spoken in the Hungarian Kingdom, especially with the Eastern Szekler dialects. Although these descriptions mention linguistic features whose perception is negative, including the so-called “szelypelés” (lisping pronunciation, see below), connected to the population named Csángó, the emphasis is however on the similarities with the Szekler dialects. As described in a travel document from 1870, the Moldavian dialect is “pure Hungarian language with Szekler characteristics” (Veszely, Imets, & Kováts 2004 [1870]: 70). The first dialectological syntheses also consider Hungarian used in Moldavia as one of the Szekler dialects (Balassa 1891: 105; Horger 1934: 26–27).

The Hungarian language in Moldavia was first seen as peculiar, but still familiar in the first, exploratory phase. Researchers of the next generation described the Moldavian Hungarian language as unitary despite its differences, and assigned it to two major Moldavian groups: the Szekler immigrants and the Csángós. The question of the language becomes significant only later in the interpretation of ethnic differences: this is the period of the “invention” of the Moldavian Csángó dialect. Following Lükő (2002 [1936]), Szabó (1959), on the bases of a linguistic atlas, describes a separate dialect, different from the Szekler origin dialects of Moldavia, naming it “Northern” and “Southern Csángó”. His work has become canonical not only from this point of view, but also because of identifying the boundaries of the different dialects (cf. Juhász 2001, 2012). As Bodó (2016) points out, Szabó defined the boundaries of the Northern and Southern Csángó dialect based on a single phenomenon, the isogloss of “lisping”. These phenomena are part of regular sound correspondences, where the “lisping” element is present in Moldavian Csángó, while its pair is used in Moldavian Szekler: the sz ~ s correspondence, the z ~ zs correspondence, and the ś ~ cs correspondence. The three phenomena are suitable to outline the boundaries of the Csángó dialect not only because of their phonetic similarity, but also because of the fact that they do not exist in the Hungarian language outside Moldavia. Furthermore, precisely this aspect, the uniqueness of “lisping” makes it possible for the enregistering of the Moldavian – Northern and Southern – Csángó dialect as the language of the Csángó people. According to Agha (2003: 231) enregisterment refers to “processes through which a linguistic repertoire becomes differentiable within a language as a socially recognisable register of forms”. Thus, during the “exploration” of the Csángó dialect, the Moldavian linguistic features previously regarded as local and peripheral are re-interpreted as ethnic differences, and – based on the Herderian ideology of “one language – one nation” – the enregistered language (the “Moldavian Csángó” dialectal register) is identified with the nation (the community of “Moldavian Csángós”).

In the third, current phase of interest in the Moldavian Hungarian language, the relationship between the language and the nation is re-interpreted. Here the connection between the “language” (the Moldavian Csángó dialect, in its narrower or broader sense) and the “nation” (the Csángó ethnic group living in Moldavia) is re-evaluated during a process called “substitution” (Bodó 2016; cf. Silverstein 2003: 220). Substitution in Silverstein’s various levels of abstraction or “orders of indexicality” is the shift of a non-linguistic element of a relationship created on a lower level to a new element on a higher level, which, however, includes the characteristics of indexicality from the lower level. Substitution maintains the previous indexical relationship and creates its re-interpretation simultaneously, in a way in which the previous and the new order of indexicality do not contradict each other. During the substitution of the Hungarian language in Moldavia, the indexical place of the locally understood Moldavian Csángó “nation” is filled by history. The new element of substitution designates the past of the Hungarian nation (culture), which comes into contact with the “language” in a way that this past is both connected to Moldavia as a place and the Csángó nation as well.

The result of the process of substitution appears not only in relation to the Moldavian Hungarian language as a whole, but also in relation to the standard view of the internal differentiation of the language. An example is given by Ilyés (2008: 428) in his study of media texts: “the Northern Csángós living around Románvásár (Roman) speak the language used in the time of the Funeral Sermon, the Southern Csángós living around Bákó and on the banks of the Szeret river speak the language of Bálint Balassi, while the ‘youngest’ generation, the Szekler Csángós speak the language of Mikes” (quotation from the Transylvanian newspaper Krónika, October 14–15, 2000). In this fragment the ethnic groups assigned to geographical places are identified with the linguistic past, as illustrated in the following table:

Tab. 2: Different subgroups of the Hungarians in Moldavia (Ilyés 2008)

Location Ethnic group Example of linguistic past Period in the linguistic past
Around Románvásár (Roman) Northern Csángós Funeral Sermon, the first continuous Hungarian language text 12th century
Around Bákó (Bacău) Southern Csángós Bálint Balassi, the first prominent poet in the Hungarian language 16th century
Areas of Moldavia beyond the above-mentioned small regions Szekler Csángós Kelemen Mikes, Szekler writer, one of the first prominent figures of Hungarian prose 18th century

The relationship between place and ethnic group follows the standard categorization, while the identification with the linguistic past takes place in reference to a prominent historical figure or document of this past.

Alternatives to the standard classification by Szabó have appeared recently (Péntek 2006; Bodó, Vargha, & Vékás 2012; Vargha 2017). Their common feature is that, compared to earlier accounts, dialectal differences are not related to the isoglosses of some intuitively selected dialectal phenomena; they attempt to make a comprehensive analysis, within certain limits. Péntek’s lexical-based attempt for division presents the relationship between the varieties of the Moldavian Hungarian language built on the maps showing lexical differences in the first two volumes of the MCsNyA (the Hungarian Csángó Language Atlas; see Figure 4 below).

                           Fig. 4: The “Szekler” and “non-Szekler (Mezőségi)” region in Moldavia (Péntek 2006: 51)
                              The numbers refer to the research points of the MCsNyA, the dialects of the settlements in Italic are of a transitional nature.

Fig. 4: The “Szekler” and “non-Szekler (Mezőségi)” region in Moldavia (Péntek 2006: 51)[2]

Péntek divides the dialect of the Moldavian region into two larger units: “the Mezőségi (Eastern, along the Szeret river) and the Szekler (the Western)” sub-types (2006: 52; cf. Péntek 2014: 407). Compared to Péntek’s analysis, the latest attempts for dialectometric analysis examine not only the lexical differences shown in the MCsNyA, but the entire corpus (Bodó, Vargha, & Vékás 2012; Vargha 2017). Here the classification of the dialects is carried out through automatic grouping by applying Ward’s cluster-analysis to the data from Moldavian settlements in the atlas (Vargha 2017: 33). Cluster analysis groups elements into units (the research points of a language atlas in this case) in such a way that the data associated with certain elements are more similar within the same cluster, while they show significant difference compared to the data of elements belonging to other clusters. The number of clusters is based on an arbitrary decision of the researcher; the following figures present the Moldavian Hungarian dialects divided into units of two, three, and four.

                           Fig. 5: Different clusterings of Moldavian Hungarian dialects (Vargha 2017: 99)

Fig. 5: Different clusterings of Moldavian Hungarian dialects (Vargha 2017: 99)

The categorisations on the figures show a number of differences compared to the previous dialectological typologies. On the one hand, the standard division of three – that differentiates between two large dialect types: Szekler and Csángó in Moldavia with Northern and Southern subtypes in the case of the Csángó dialect – cannot be justified with dialectometric analysis. If we outline two large territorial units, we can contrast the dialect traditionally named Northern Csángó (marked with red) with other dialects. If we divide the dialects of the Moldavian region into three units, the Szekler (black), the Northern Csángó (red), and the Southern Csángó (blue) dialects can broadly be identified, however the distance between these does not reflect the previously assumed distribution. The result of a division that identifies four dialects shows that the dialect named Szekler in previous analyses is divided into two blocks as well, the one alongside the Tázló river (marked with black) in the Northern area, and the one alongside the Tatros river (marked with yellow) in the Southern area. According to Vargha (2017), the relevance of this analysis considering a division of four can be corroborated by further statistical analysis. By using principal component analysis, it can be shown that Northern Csángó settlements can be “clearly separated from the other research points” (Vargha 2017: 100). The research points around Bákó, named Southern Csángó in previous analyses, “are also clearly separated from the research points alongside the Tatros and Tázló rivers. […] [T]he groups alongside the Tatros and Tázló rivers are separated to a lesser extent, but […] distinguishing between these two groups can be considered reasonable” (Vargha 2017: 100). Thus, dialectometric analyses did not corroborate previous divisions that are based on the differentiation between the Csángó and Szekler (Csángó) dialects in Moldavia.

Understanding the underlying causes of the differences between the intuitive and dialectometric classifications of the Moldavian Hungarian dialects is possible by analysing the Moldavian processes of language enregisterment in a summary of this phase (cf. Bodó 2016). Following the early stages of the developing scientific interest, when its language was “discovered” as the stigmatized version of the Szekler dialect, gradually from the beginning of the 20th century, then explicitly in the second part of the 1930s, Moldavia becomes associated with the attributes of regional linguistic uniqueness, and its language is “invented” as the Moldavian Csángó dialect for the Hungarian-speaking communities of in the Hungarian linguistic space, thus, it becomes enregistered. Thereafter, in the re-evaluation process termed “substitution”, regional confinement of the linguistic uniqueness is supplemented with the aspect of belonging to the past. This created discourses of an independent Csángó dialect with a symbolic significance. This approach continues to characterize the assessment of this language, although in the meantime, it is complemented by layers of history of the Hungarian language. Here, we highlight the specific effect of these processes on linguistic typology, namely, that the uniqueness of the language of the Moldavian Csángós as a chronotope, overrides the differences shown in the dialectometric analysis. Consequently, most of the studies classify the groups of settlements such as the villages around Bákó as belonging to the Csángó dialect, although, from a dialectometric perspective, their languages are as different from the dialect of the Northern Csángó settlements, as those of the settlements with Szekler dialect.

8. Hungarian varieties and literacy in Moldavia

Beginning in the Medieval period, Hungarian Roman Catholics have settled in Moldavia next to its Eastern Orthodox majority population. In 1622, the Vatican took over church administration in Moldavia and sent Italian and Polish missionaries to Moldavia (e.g., Sándor 1999). There was little communication between the missionaries and the people because of the scarce number of priests and their lack of Hungarian. In practice, often local deacons (see Tánczos 2000) conducted services in Hungarian. Only few Moldavian Csángós got to be priests in this period, a notable example being Ince János Petrás (1813–1886), who put an effort to have Hungarian literacy in Moldavia, too (see Tánczos 2018).

In the other half of the 19th century, the institutions of the local Catholic Church and the Romanian medium education were established in most of the Moldavian Csángó villages. From a religious or ethnic point of view, the emerging Romanian state solved the problem of integrating the Catholic Csángós to the Orthodox Romanian nation in making the Catholic Church “Romanian”. The Vatican supported the idea of constructing a Romanian Catholic Church in return for state recognition and material support (Tánczos 2018).

To establish a Catholic Church in Romania, local priests were needed. On the initiative of the Romanian state a Catholic seminar was established in Iași, the main educational centre in Moldavia. Due to the law on education and access to state recognition and resources, it has had Romanian as the language of instruction, thus making Romanian the sole language for higher education available in Moldavia for the Csángó youth. As a consequence, a part of the Moldavian Csángós begun to attach modernity to the Romanian language.

The official language of the Catholic Church, beyond Latin as the liturgical language, became thus Romanian and, after a transitory period of bilingual Hungarian–Romanian practices, Hungarian was banned altogether from both Catholic services and state education (see Tánczos 2000; Sándor 1999; Trunki & Bodó 2017). The deacons were forced to change their language to Romanian, however some could operate in Hungarian in private contexts until the 1980s (see Tánczos 2000). From the beginning of the 20th century local Csángó priests educated in Romanian took office in the villages and in most cases they became the only intellectuals living in the villages, until the introduction of the Moldavian Csángó Educational Program (see e.g., Szokol 2005). Today, many priests still know Hungarian, however they are careful not to use it in public (see e.g., Vincze 2004: 240–241).

9. Introduction of State Education in Moldavia

State education was organized towards the end of the 19th century in Moldavia. Following the law on education from 1893, the language of instruction was Romanian in all schools. Trunki & Bodó (2017) have studied the reports of school inspectors on schooling in four Csángó villages between 1894 and 1950. According to these reports, Romanian speaking teachers sent in to these villages all had difficulties to establish schooling because they were unprepared to teach children who did not speak any Romanian. Schooling in the Hungarian villages was more or less complete failure in the beginning. For example, in the census of 1912, the Moldavian Csángó villages had a literacy rate of less than 5%, which was low in comparison to the 30% average for Moldavia as a whole (Varga 2006 in Trunki & Bodó 2017: 47). A main mission for the teachers was the Romanization of the Csángós. A part of the Romanization efforts was to teach crafts, where the inspectors reported (see Trunki & Bodó 2017) on general success of a switch from Hungarian motifs to Romanian ones, and spreading them to homes as well. The knowledge of Romanian among the children seems to become more general only after World War II. Even though there are great differences between the villages, it seems that in most villages, children were dominant in Hungarian still after World War II, and the use of Romanian was restricted to few school years for many.

During the period between 1947 and 1953, Hungarian medium schools operated in some of the more or less homogenously Hungarian speaking Csángó villages as a part of the programme of the Hungarian People’s Union, a communist movement among the Hungarians which got some positions of power in post-World War II Romania (Vincze 2004). The idea of education in mother tongue served the idea of spreading communism in the language of the people. However, after Stalin’s death (1953) the Hungarian medium schools were closed down, with the exception of Lespezi (Lészped) where the last Hungarian medium class graduated in 1961 (Vincze 2004). This period of Hungarian medium schooling gave a precedent of using Hungarian as the language of instruction for all subjects in Moldavia. In some interviews, it was argued, that in the 1990s those participating in this education were among the first to ask for Hungarian services from the Catholic Church and to initiate a relaunch of Hungarian medium education in Moldavia.

There is no detailed study on the local processes of linguistic changes during the Hungarian schooling experience. However, on the basis of documents published by Vincze (2004), we can establish some parallels with the Educational Program. To begin with, Hungarian medium schools were established in those “inner circle” villages, where Hungarian was the dominant language. Secondly, the teachers for those Hungarian medium schools in the 1950s came mainly from Transylvania, where there has been Hungarian medium (higher) education, at least in the form of teacher training or Hungarian medium pedagogical high schools. The teachers being culturally and linguistically different from locals forms a common discourse also today.

Between 1961 to 1990 only informal and occasional teaching of Hungarian took place in private houses. During the period of National Communism (1960s to 1989; see Verdery 1991) Romanian medium schooling established itself in the Csángó villages in earnest. A brake-trough in the Romanian competence of the youth took place in most villages and by 1989 only few villages were left where the parents would raise their children dominantly in Hungarian, strengthening the discourses of a “spontaneous” assimilation process (e.g., “in Romania, you must speak Romanian”) and discourses of a forced or institutional assimilation by the Romanian medium state schools and the “Romanian” Catholic Church were now circulated mostly beyond Moldavia among Hungarian intellectuals in Hungary and Transylvania (cf. Tánczos 2012c). The first kindergartens in the villages were instrumental in this process, where monolingual Csángó children were immersed with sink-or-swim means to communicate in Romanian (Hegyeli 2009). During fieldwork, local Csángó activists recalled different forms of corporal punishment practiced by the teachers on the Hungarian speaking children in the Ceaușescu era, reconstructing the discourses of forced language shift to Romanian through schooling.

Throughout the period of National Communism, there was still the rarely practiced option to send children and youth to be educated in Transylvania in Hungarian medium schools there, and some of the Csángós migrated to Transylvania for work or study and connected with the Hungarian speakers there, where Hungarian has always been the major language for the Roman Catholic Church as well. Hungarian researchers from Cluj studied the Csángó dialect and ethnography, especially in the 60s and 70s. They also occasionally taught Hungarian literacy for the Csángó and gave some prestige to the Hungarian language in the villages. However, by the 1980s access to the Csángó villages by outsiders became very restricted even for Romanian citizens.

The Romanian language modernisation of this fundamentally rural population living on the periphery compared to the centres of forming the modern Romanian state and nation was also developed later than in the case of the majority. This is also related to the fact that the lack of Romanian language skills of the children at the end of the 1930s created such difficulties for the Romanian monolingual teacher that could only be overcome by translating what the teacher said to the children by those pupils who had better Romanian language skills. Nevertheless, decades later school inspectors would still recommend the teachers of the villages they visited to teach the children how to speak Romanian well before teaching them to write and to read (Trunki & Bodó 2017: 38–39).

After school attendance became general and regular in these settlements, schools put a great emphasis on developing and deepening Romanian language skills. At the same time, several other factors also contribute to the rearrangement of the linguistic situation in Moldavia; by the end of the 20th century speakers develop a language practice which gives an emphasis to the Romanian language in primary linguistic socialisation. Out of these factors, the literature highlights the effects of those hegemonic linguistic ideologies that link the Romanian language to modernisation and marginalise the Hungarian language (Barszczewska 2008; Heltai 2012, 2014; Tánczos 2012a).

10. What happens after primary language socialization?

The analysis of the practices of linguistic socialisation also points out that the transformation of primary linguistic socialisation into Romanian monolingualism does not necessarily end in the typical scenario of a linearly accelerating language shift, as members of the local adult peasant community change their former practices of socialisation with the young members of the community who finish school, and start using Hungarian or Csángó language resources to communicate with them (Bodó 2012). Discourses of secondary language socialization are still general in the Moldavia, for instance, a teacher in the Educational Program stated in an interview by Laihonen in 2017 that when children reach teenage, “they just begin to talk Hungarian”. An another activist summarized the idea of such secondary language socialization as follows: “first the state language, then the mother tongue” (field-notes by Laihonen, 2017).

The above mentioned practice was previously referred to as “delayed second language socialisation” (Bodó 2004: 356; Bodó 2012: 36), although according to the above described language ideology, the speakers do not strive to replace former monolingual socialisation with bilingual socialisation. They expand a translingual practice of the adult population, based on the resources of named languages without enforcing a socially constructed distinction between them (García & Wei 2014) to the new members of the group. Thus, it would be more accurate to call this change “delayed translingual socialisation”; namely, the participants in this practice do not “choose” one language based on the binary opposition of majority and minority, modernity and underdevelopment, Romanian and Hungarian ethnicity; they expand their linguistic repertoire footed in the cultural – and thus ideological – interpretations of the self, of the individual stages in life (childhood and adulthood) with new elements that are not related to monolingual linguistic norms (Bodó 2016: 152–158). This description of language socialization and language shift or language maintenance, might be a general pattern among peripheral and rural linguistic minorities (see e.g., Lainio & Wande 2015: 131, for a very similar pattern among the Meänkieli speakers in Sweden).

11. The Romanian perspective

We should not overlook the importance of hegemonic language either, because the practice of delayed translingual socialisation does not result in the younger speakers using their Hungarian or Csángó language resources in addition to Romanian within their own age group; several empirical studies on the self-assessment of the speakers have shown that the young people almost exclusively maintain monolingual Romanian communicative practices with each other (Heltai 2014; Peti 2015: 982). This is likely to lead to monolingual primary socialisation of their own children (Bodó 2012: 38–39).

The “pro-Romanian”, officially sanctioned descriptions focus on the question of the ethnic identity stating that the origins of the community are manifold, including Hungarian, Romanian, German, etc. ethnic ties (Coșa 2001). The issue of the language within such discourses is significant although speaking Hungarian or Csángó are often only peripherally mentioned, even erased or denied. This approach is practiced by Chiru (2012), who asked her informants about the language(s) spoken at home: some of her respondents state they use both Csángó and Romanian, while others reported a monolingual practice. She quotes one of her respondents as follows: “Romanian. How should I say Csángó is my native language? We picked it up from our parents but this is not a language… It does not exist. Romanian is our native language. We are Romanian.”[1] (Chiru 2012: 181). This excerpt showcases the hierarchical distinction between the language of the state, Romanian, and the local practice of speaking. The respondent goes as far as denying the recognition of the “Csángós” way of speaking, thus performing the semiotic process of erasure (Irvine & Gal 2000). Chiru’s article itself presents an example for this process of erasure by stating that “the native language of the Csángós is the Romanian language” (Chiru 2012: 181, emphasis removed) even though the interviewer’s question only referred to the languages used at home. This is preceded by another excerpt, where the respondent, although not denying the practice of speaking Csángó at home, recreates the same hierarchy: “Romanian, of course. But we speak this Csángó too. We mix Romanian and Csángó words to better understand. As for the Romanian language... we are a bit confused because we have not spoken it all the time. We have spoken it only with our children. I for one did not want them to speak Csángó... they have picked it up from us...” (Chiru 2012: 181). The respondent gives an account of a deliberate shift, mirroring the re-valuation of elements of the linguistic repertoire.

12. The Hungarian perspective: language shift among the Csángó

In the Hungarian discourses, changes in the Hungarian linguistic practices have been described as processes of language shift. Language shift is a term that arises in the matrix of the ideologies linked with nation states: language activists often see the process as a threat, and the outcome of language shift is perceived as a loss, hence the need for the protection of language rights and endeavours of language revitalization (Bodó, Fazakas, & Heltai 2017). These goals arise from the notion of single languages – named units to interpret as independent from the speaker and existing even before speaking (Blommaert & Rampton 2011) – and influence not only language activists and language policies of states but also academic discourses. As Makoni & Pennycook (2007: 9) warn, “to claim authenticity for such constructs is to become subject to very particular discourses of identity”. In Hungarian scholarly and public discourses, the Csángós’ belonging to the community of Hungarians is treated as a fact, which is neither questioned nor questionable. Consequently, ethnic and linguistic changes of the recent 150 years (since the formation of modern Romania) are interpreted as continuous language loss and as a result of forced assimilation.

Hungarian accounts often erase the perspective that Moldavian speakers do not identify their “Csángó mode of speaking” as a dialect of Hungarian as Hungarian outsiders do. Furthermore, it remains concealed that in Moldavia, bilingualism is not a value in itself, and there is a lack of ideological motivation to sustain it. Finally, even if Moldavian speakers may mention the possibility of language shift and the retreat or disappearance of the Csángó mode of speaking, they seldom formulate any judgments about this possibility (Heltai 2014: 87) as Hungarian speakers typically do for instance in Transylvania. That is, the Csángó mode of speaking is a part of a repertoire, which is in continuous change, and in this framework, it is impossible to account for the fear of language loss: ingemet nem akaszt el, hogy másik hogy beszél, vaj az egyik. nem, nem kantál, ki hogy bírja, ki hogy tudja beszélni, (.) kinek jő, hogy jobban jő, úgy beszélni. Arról nincsen semmi harag, semmi izé, hogy ki hogy beszél [I do not care about how people speak, it doesn’t matter, they may speak in any way they find best, whatever comes easier for them. There won’t be any consequences for however people speak] (32 years old woman; Heltai 2014: 58, 2017: 24).

From this approach to language and speaking follows that for Moldavian speakers it is less important whether language resources used by them are labelled as Hungarian or Romanian. However, Csángó communities visit educational institutions run by the Romanian state, which prescribe a way of speaking that is different from the way their ancestors’ spoke. Simultaneously, they also face the aspirations of the Hungarian state, which, again, endeavours to convince them to speak differently from their ancestors, namely, to adopt the way Hungarian is spoken in Hungary or Transylvania. They are aware that the Csángó mode of speaking has more in common with Hungarian than with Romanian, but they do not participate in the discourses giving the choice of the mode of speaking ideological significance or linking it to the historicity of named languages. The different historicities of the modes of speaking in Moldavia are blended in the synchronic acts of communication (Blommaert 2016: 251). As a result, the accelerated changes in the repertoires of the speakers and the linguistic practices adopted in the communities are not seen as a loss, but as a seamless transition from an older and more traditional way of speaking to a modern one.

13. The Moldavian Csángó in the Context of Globalization

In the new millennium, a significant part of the Moldavian Csángó workforce found themselves working in other countries. Lajos (2015: 112) describes processes of recent history among the Moldavian Csángós as “compound non-synchronism”, where socialist modernity, post-socialist nationalizing modernity, globalization and traditional values exist simultaneously. From this perspective, there are two dominant discourses on the Moldavian Csángó circulating globally:

  1. Discourses of modernization (high labour mobility and migration, occasional availability of current and global technology; education and religious services in Romanian).

  2. Discourses of the Moldavian Csángó as ancient (“ancient traditions”, cultural and linguistic “relic”, living heritage, folk culture and the use of “early form of Hungarian” in everyday life, REC 2001) often connected to commodification of culture and language (see Bodó 2016).

These discourses are voiced in the Moldavian villages and writings on the Csángó, typically one of them is dominant in a given context, text or occasion. For instance, the current and earlier homepages of the Moldavian Csángó Educational Program most often display children in folk costumes, which they mostly wear on special occasions and events.

The Csángós in general present yet another example how a minority language (Hungarian) and folk culture are imagined as “essentially anti-modern” (May 2012: 27). However, at the same time, the heritage or “relic” discourses have provided a basis to a rise of commodity value (Heller 2012) for the Csángó folk culture and also vernacular, practiced by celebrated Csángó musicians and narrators, who perform in what has been enregistered as archaic Hungarian. This register is not identical with the everyday language in the villages, rather it is a version where frequently occurring “Romanian expressions” have been replaced with Hungarian standard ones (Bodó 2004).

The integration into the modernizing Romanian state, and the force of modernization discourses have brought a breakthrough, with an increasing investment on the Romanian language competence of the children by their parents (cf. Lane 2010). Today, most Csángó parents, even many activists, address children only or mainly in Romanian, even though in some villages, the adults still insist on the Csángó mode of speaking among themselves. Even in the rare cases, where children are (partly) raised in Hungarian, they are still more confident in Romanian.

Most importantly, the Csángó families are experiencing a transition period due to mass migration to Western Europe. A significant part of generations between 20–40 years has left the villages. In the first migrant generation that left Romania to work in countries such as Hungary, Italy and Spain, the children and the mother often stayed in Moldavia (cf. Papp & Márton 2016). Today, people are migrating earlier, after finishing secondary education, and also women leave Moldavia for work in Western Europe. Consequently, teenagers most often have concrete plans to migrate, especially young men tend to leave Moldavia. Migration is thus a significant factor accelerating the language shift, since young men are often mentioned as those, who used to begin to speak Hungarian when starting to work in traditional local jobs in the villages.

14. The Moldavian Csángó Educational Programme: organizational structure and history

The Moldavian Csángó Educational Program has its routes in the practice of sending children and young people to study in Hungarian medium education in Transylvania; on the regular contacts with some Hungarian researchers and activists from Transylvania or Hungary, especially ethnographers from Cluj; in the history of few pro-Hungarian priests with an education in Transylvania or Hungary, and the experience of having Hungarian medium schools in the 1950s (e.g., Vincze 2004). Most importantly, however, there have been persistent local activists, requesting Hungarian medium education or the teaching of Hungarian from 1990 onwards. The local administration, the Catholic clergy and Romanian media in turn have condemned all attempts to establish the teaching of Hungarian in Moldavia, and in some cases the children participating in the early attempts were punished in different ways by the teachers of state schools, who were cited to be afraid of losing their jobs in the case of establishing Hungarian medium education (see Hegyeli 2009). Thus, the 1990s formed a decade of failure to establish sustainable and state tolerated Hungarian teaching in Moldavia.

In 1990 the Association of Csángó Hungarians in Moldavia (MCSMSZ for short; in Hungarian: A Moldvai Csángómagyarok Szövetsége, in Romanian: Asociaţia Maghiarilor Ceangăi din Moldova) was established in Transylvania by Moldavian Csángó activists living in Moldavia and Transylvania. MCSMSZ, with the pedagogical and administrative help from Hungarian Teacher’s Association in Romania (RMPSZ), begun to work for establishing the teaching of Hungarian in Moldavia (see MCSMSZ and RMPSZ websites). In principle, Romanian laws granted the teaching of one’s mother tongue in state education (see Andreescu & Enache 2011), and Hungarian has been widely used in education in Transylvania. Thus, the way the Moldavian Csángós were not allowed to practice this right draw international attention. In result, the Council of Europe (CoE) recommendation (REC 2001) called for the recognition of the Moldavian Csángós right to have their children taught “the Csango language”.

According to Hegyeli (2009; see also MCSMSZ), in 2000, the teaching of Hungarian started in private houses in two of the “inner circle” villages. In 2002 MCSMSZ succeeded in launching the teaching of Hungarian as a “mother tongue” in two state schools for three hours a week. By the school year 2011–2012, MCSMSZ had succeeded in expanding to 23 villages where teaching took place in private houses as extracurricular activities after the school hours and to 17 state schools. From two villages in 2001 the programme has now (2018), according to the statistics of the Program, teaching in nearly 30 locations (villages or neighborhoods) with almost 2,000 children attending classes (MCSMSZ and RMPSZ webpages). Geographically teaching Hungarian has been organized fairly successfully in most of the Southern Csángó and Szekler Csángó villages, attempts to establish similar education among the Northern Csángó villages have failed, and according to fieldnotes by Laihonen most activists consider the Northern Csángó a case closed, and the language shift final there. Even though Hungarian speakers can be found among the Northern Csángós as well, the Northern Csángó villages were the only place where the atmosphere was still felt intimidating towards the Hungarian language during Laihonen’s fieldwork visit in 2018. In general, the Catholic clergy has become more lenient towards the Educational Program by now, and active resistance is rare. However, the principled and long-term conflict with the Catholic clergy can be explained only in the terms of a language ideological conflict, since according to our fieldwork experience, the Educational Programme follows the Catholic Calendar and organizes its life in a very confessional manner.

From the beginning, the Educational Program was coordinated by Attila Hegyeli, educated in ethnography and Hungarian philology in Cluj and one of the first activists from Transylvania to work on Hungarian language education in Moldavia after 1990. There have been teachers from Hungary, Transylvania and local teachers employed by the MCSMSZ. Funding has come from Hungarian state and private sources, teachers at state schools have been paid by the Romanian state. The Csángó Educational Programme was reorganized during the term of 2012–2013. It was taken over by the Hungarian Teacher’s Association in Romania (RMPSZ) with Attila Márton as the new coordinator. From autumn of 2019, the Educational Program is organized by MCSMSZ once again. According to Papp & Márton (2015: 19) the Educational Program has had an effect on the language repertoire of its participants improving the competence of Hungarian significantly for those attending classes for several years.

15. Language ideologies and the Csángó Educational Program

In the Hungarian sponsored Csángó educational program, local Hungarian speaking teachers, and teachers from Transylvania, mostly Szekler Hungarians, are recruited to become educators in the Csángó villages. The Csángó Educational Program has the outspoken goals to revitalize Hungarian in Moldavia, and to enable secondary level studies in Hungarian medium institutions in Transylvania and higher education in Hungary, too. These goals are laudatory for the new opportunities they bring for the Csángó children who have traditionally had very little chances for education (e.g., Trunki & Bodó 2017). At the same time, goals of integrating the local language variety still spoken by some of the Csángós to the standard metropolitan Hungarian are recurrent in the documents describing the program (e.g., Hegyeli 2009; cf. Heltai 2012).

From a linguistic perspective, the representatives of the programme seem to place more emphasis on improving individual language proficiency rather than forming local linguistic practices (Hegyeli 2009: 167; cf. Heltai 2012; Laihonen, Kovács, & Snellman 2015: 17). In interviews with program leadership and teachers, it is often stated that the teachers have to learn to understand the Csángó way of speaking, but when asked by Laihonen in interviews, which language variety they use in the classroom, the teachers typically answer that: they have to teach the Hungarian language. According to a local pedagogy policy expert, interviewed by Laihonen in 2018, the Szeklerland standard version of Hungarian would be ideal for teaching in Moldavia.

The relationship of the programme towards the Csángó way of speaking is present implicitly in some texts. For example, one of the brochures of the Moldavian Hungarian Language Teaching Programme repeatedly refers to the relation between language and past, placing it in the Moldavian context: “Let’s help the Hungarian education cover all Csángó Hungarian villages, where they still understand and speak the clean, archaic Hungarian language” (English translation by Csanád Bodó) – can be read in the middle of the cover of the advertising brochure (see Figure 6 below), then the adjectival phrase “archaically ornate Hungarian language” appears twice on the pages of the brochure (for a more detailed analysis, see Bodó 2017).

                           Fig. 6: The cover of the advertising brochure for the  Mentorprogram (2011)

Fig. 6: The cover of the advertising brochure for the Mentorprogram (2011)

From the point of view visual imagines of the Educational Program (children in folk costumes) and the texts used to get sponsors from Hungary, the “relic” discourses dominate over the “modernization” discourses, which in turn are often employed in other, more local contexts, such as teaching materials. The following example is from a textbook for small children (4–7 years old), edited by a local, still practicing teacher, published in Hungary by Apáczai Kiadó in 2010. Its first lesson covers greetings:

                           Fig. 7: Greetings in a textbook for small children (Duma 2010: 5)

Fig. 7: Greetings in a textbook for small children (Duma 2010: 5)

In Figure 7, there are first greetings for child-adult encounters. Then there is an explaining text: “Greetings have many forms. In the past people have used also questions or addresses for greeting each other. For example an ancient form of greeting: “Greeting: - Did you do your walk? Answer: I did my walk, or: I begun.” The form megjárám is clearly substandard or “dialectal” as well (Standard: megjártam). This material indicates that such greetings are no longer in use (“In the past”, “an ancient form”). However, according to Vargyas’ fieldwork in Lészped/Leszpezi in 2003 they were still the norm (Vargyas 2008). Also during fieldwork in 2017–2019, Laihonen witnessed widespread use of the question-form greetings, typically tanácskoznak? tanácskozunk. [are you conversing? we are conversing.]. In this manner, the course book of the Csángó educational program refers to the present local Csángó practices of greeting (see Vargyas 2008 for a detailed description) as an ancient form of Hungarian language use, which is no longer functional in the “modern world”.

The “modern world” is presented in the rest of the page. To begin with, the images, which represent urban settings, are not very typical in the Moldavian villages. In the first one, a girl is buying mushrooms and other vegetables in a shop, which are typically not bought in shops among the Csángó still practicing a lot of subsistence agriculture. From a linguistic point of view, the greetings to be learned by the children are mostly such that are rarely used in Moldavia. To begin with, the first greeting between children and adults: Csókolom! [I kiss your hand] is widely used in Hungary (and clearly a part of standard Hungarian) and Transylvania, but virtually unknown in Moldavia. Among the greetings offered for the children only the form Isten áldja! (or: Megáldja az Isten) [God bless] is frequently used by the Moldavian Csángó and shared with other (Roman Catholic) Hungarians. According to Vargyas (2008: 269), it is used mostly with local strangers. The other greetings displayed in the book might be useful for the children in encounters with Hungarian speaking adults from Transylvania or Hungary. Typically, for instance, Jó napot kívánok [Have a good day] is a greeting to be used when meeting a (non-local) teacher for children. Hungarian speaking adults use Jó napot [Good day] when they meet outsider Hungarian speaking adults, such as the authors of this article during fieldwork.

In sum, this textbook example indicates that the “archaic” Csángó variety is a thing of the past and that children should learn standard Hungarian. At the same time, the teachers use a variety of textbooks, among which the investigated one is among the few that has any examples of the Csángó way of speaking, or at least its “ancient” elements, thus giving it some sort of recognition though presenting it as a chronotope, that is, a thing of the past erased from the modern world.

The focus on “teaching the Hungarian language” instead of “the Csángó way of speaking” is often held important because of the parents, who often participate in discourses that their main reason for sending the children to attend the Educational Program, is that their children should learn tiszta [pure] Hungarian. In discussions with parents, their motivation is not always that clear, however, discourses of maintaining the Csángó way of speaking are not typical at all. That is, instrumental and symbolic value is given only to standard Hungarian in the local discourses.

The teachers are many and their educational and personal background varies greatly. Few teachers seem to have formed doubts about the supremacy of the Hungarian standard in teaching. One long time teacher, originally from Transylvania, answered Laihonen’s question on what language to teach with a story about an advanced pupil, whom she encouraged to speak Hungarian with her parents for a weekend. On Monday she asked the girl about the experiment, which she answered that went fine, however eventually she and her parents noticed that she spoke “different Hungarian” and that they had difficulties in understanding each other. This experiment made the teacher change his teaching practice and since then he has tried to support the use of the Csángó way of speaking as much as possible. He has also organized language related events in a less academic manner so that children can make use of their whole language repertoire in a more informal and less competitive atmosphere. Finding ways to connect the Hungarian used at the Educational Program with the Csángó way of speaking would be important, since according to Papp & Márton (2015: 20), the most significant factor determining the Hungarian competence of the Moldavian Csángó children is whether they use the local variety of Hungarian in at least one context.

16. Classroom interaction

Classroom data from both private and state-funded educational contexts indicates very different linguistic practices, depending on the language repertoire of the children, the teacher (e.g., does the teacher master Romanian or not), and on the pedagogical activities involved. According to Laihonen’s preliminary analysis of his classroom corpus of more than 40 hours of video-recorded classes, the few educators from Hungary (4/48 in 2017/2018) tend to use the metropolitan Hungarian standard during class. The majority of educators, coming from Transylvania (32/48) and thus competent in Romanian to some extent, uses the Transylvanian (most often a Szekler variety) Hungarian standard for teacher talk. The local, Moldavian born educators (12/48) in turn tend to use an adjusted or levelled form of the local language with differing degree of standardized, “Csángó” and hybrid (“Romanian”) elements. In our materials, teacher talk closest to the Csángó way of speaking could be found during an afternoon class in private houses. Such voluntary after school activities typically take place in the private houses and they often have a less formal atmosphere than classes in the Romanian state schools. Next, we briefly analyse two excerpts from a such class with around ten children aged between five and eleven. The teacher is a local activist, who has begun to practice and work in Csángó cultural activities since the 1990s, but previously worked in another area. She has completed her basic and vocational education in Romanian medium institutions and she is more confident in Romanian in formal registers. Since working for Csángó cultural organizations, she has acquired some formal Hungarian literacy needed for reporting to Hungarian funders of different cultural projects and administration of the Educational Programme.

The first excerpt introduces some basic characteristics of teacher talk and classroom interaction during the recorded class. It presents fifteen seconds from an activity in the beginning of the class, where the children tell about their day. At this point, typically they have just arrived from the Romanian medium state school. The children sit in a circle, and the teacher (T) addresses a boy (B) with the pseudonym “Petike”.

Vid. 1: Classroom data, ei da (Laihonen 2017)

For video content please access online version of this entry.Für Videoinhalte verwenden Sie bitte den Online Artikel.



01 T: Petike ↑ Petike? (first male name diminutive)?
02 B: {Smiles, moves around}
03 T: Petike hogy volt az iskola ma Petike how was school today?
04 B: jól good
05 T: [jól] good
06 G: [EI DA] NOT REALLY (Romanian)
07 T: nem erőst. {turns towards the researcher} Petike nem nagyon szeret hah iskolába menni Not really (Csángó) Petike does not like school very much (Standard Hungarian)
08 Rs: hah
09 Ps: hahaha

This excerpt introduces some typical classroom language practices in the Moldavian Csángó Educational Program. The teacher has a dominant role in most classroom interaction in Laihonen’s corpus. The classical Initiation–Response–Evaluation pattern (e.g., Mehan 1979), typical for teacher centered education, can be witnessed in most cases when the pupils participate in classroom interaction. Here the teacher first selects a boy, Petike (line 1) to be the next to tell about his day, then asks: ‘Petike how was school today? Petike answers briefly, ‘good’, which is evaluated as a valid answer through a repetition by the teacher ‘good’.

With regards to language (variety) choice, a recurrent practice is that the teacher uses (a variety of) Hungarian and very seldom shifts to (standard) Romanian. The pupils often take short answering turns in (a variety of) Hungarian. However, as here, they occasionally take an active role with a line in Romanian. Here a girl comments Petike’s doing ‘good’ at school by ei da [not really] (line 6) in Romanian, which indicates that the boy just delivered a conversational routine, a structurally preferred answer (see Pomerantz 1984), which in turn is subject to doubt on the basis of shared knowledge from the state school, available to peers but not to the afterschool teacher. This punchline is then accepted and repeated by the teacher in (a variety of) Hungarian: nem erőst [not really] (line 7). This indicates that the teacher is competent in Romanian. The teacher also integrates the potentially offensive ‘not really’ punchline into the classroom teaching activity by building on it and interpreting it as humorous through laughter (line 7).

The expression nem erőst [not really] is a part of most Csángó dialects or varieties, however it is clearly substandard compared to (metropolitan) Hungarian and barely understood in Hungary. Making this significant, the teacher translates it, adressing the researcher (Laihonen), who is recording the classroom interaction, into standard Hungarian: nem nagyon [not really]. This can be seen as an example for accommodating language use to the (presumed) needs of a standard Hungarian speaker.

Analyzing the excerpt through a traditional code-switching terminology, we would see that the girl code-switches from Hungarian to Romanian, which is followed by the teacher’s switch back to Hungarian. In this case, we should also consider (metropolitan) standard Hungarian as a different code, erőst being the unmarked form in this context. The next excerpt, taken from the same class, displays more clearly the characteristics of the Csángó way of speaking typical for the afternoon class.

Vid. 2: classroom data, mushrooms (Laihonen 2017)

For video content please access online version of this entry.Für Videoinhalte verwenden Sie bitte den Online Artikel.

(5) [4]
1 T: miljen (Csángó) gombát ismerjük [most miljen gombát-] what kind of (Csángó) mushrooms do we know? what kind of mushrooms now-
Ps: [ghebe] honey fungus (Romanian ?)
T: ghebe az az opintyá-la- ghebe (Romanian ?) that is opintyá-la- (Csángó)
G: [Tanitó néni Tanti Ilona] Mrs Teacher Aunt (Romanian) Ilona
T: igen yes
B: [keserűgomba] peppery milk-cap
T: [keserűgomba] peppery milk-cap
B: [opintyála] honey fungus (Csángó)
T: [opintyála] honey fungus (Csángó)
10 G: [Tanítónéni néne Ilona să ne ridicăm] toți în picioare și să zicem căte o poezie Mrs Teacher, aunt (Csángó) Ilona lets all stand up and say a poem together (Romanian)
11 T: mindjárt mindjárt in a minute in a minute
12 Ps: (- - - -)
13 T: miljen (Csángó)- őszi what kind of (Csángó)- autumn-
14 B: laskagomba oyster mushroom
15 T: laskagomba keserűgomba rókagomba- most őszvel (Csángó)meljik gombát kapjuk az erdőbe oyster mushroom peppery milk-cap chantarell- now in autumn (Csángó) which mushroom do we find (Csángó) in the forest
16 Ps: (- - - -)
17 T: ó-
18 B: opintyala honey fungus (Csángó)
19 T: opintyálát kapjuk. Patrik tudja mért ö járt gombázni és ö tudja jól we find honey fungus (Csángó). Patrik knows because he has been picking mushrooms and he knows well

In this excerpt, the teacher discusses names of mushrooms with the children. In the excerpt, we have marked with red some typical Csángó-Hungarian expressions and forms, used only in Hungarian in Moldavia. We have marked a phonological feature, miljen (standard: mijen; [what]), a morphosyntactic Csángó feature, őszvel (standard: ősszel [in autumn]). Lexical features include a name of a mushroom opintyála. The (Indoeuropean) word order néne Ilona [aunt Ilona] (standard: Ilona néni) would be analysed as Romanian influence, which is rarely used among Hungarians in Transylvania.

In the second classroom excerpt there is another self-initiated utterance in Romanian by a pupil (line 10), and there is also a multilingual example for three kind of addresses by the same girl (lines 4 and 10) to draw the attention of the teacher: 1) tanitó néni, 2) tanti Ilona, 3) néne Ilona. The first one is standard Hungarian for ‘Mrs teacher’, the second Romanian for ‘aunt Ilona’ and the third one a local Hungarian (Csángó) version mentioned above with different word order and “dialectal” form néne instead of standard Hungarian néni as in the first version. This is a good example of how an individual pupil can make use of the full range of her linguistic repertoire during an afternoon class, consisting of at least Romanian, standard Hungarian and local (Csángó) Hungarian.

From a language pedagogical perspective, the excerpt shows how different language varieties can be integrated during class, which bears the signs of a translanguaging pedagogy (see Blackledge & Creese 2014). The teacher uses a local (levelled) variety of Hungarian, but tolerates and responds to Romanian by the pupils in classroom management and content teaching. That is, the girls’ wish in Romanian in line 10, ‘lets all stand up and say a poem together’, gets an answer in Hungarian in line 11, ‘in a minute’. Further, the teacher accepts the Romanian loan term ghebe [honey fungus] (line 2), but translates it to the local (Csángó) Hungarian term opintyála (line 3), which is then used by a boy (line 18). In this way, learning both standard Hungarian and local Csángó terms (e.g., opintyála) can be witnessed.

The examples here represent language practices incorporating the Csángó mode of speaking. Rather than focusing on maintenance of language borders or different languages through clearly marked code-switching, the second example displays translanguaging practices where all available resources are in use at the same time (see Blackledge & Creese 2014). In education, such language practices serve communicative goals and teach the children how to communicate in the Csángó community with other languages than just Romanian.

17. Conclusions

The Moldavian Csángó Hungarians are significantly different from other Hungarian minorities, most importantly from their Transylvanian Hungarian compatriots. Most importantly, the connection between language and identity is different among the Csángó and the members of the Hungarian imagined community (Anderson 1991). The Moldavian Csángó Educational Program has the potential to bring a significant change in the lives, language practices, and ideologies of the Moldavian Csángó. There are also some linguistic paradoxes involved. Most importantly, the standard version(s) of Hungarian are not used in communication between Moldavian Csángós. However, in Csángó–Hungarian communication competence in the standard version(s) is relevant and it has supremacy in Hungarian medium education, available only beyond Moldavia. Thus, there is a place for the teaching of Hungarian standardized forms in the Educational Program, if the main goals are to prepare Moldavian children for Hungarian medium education by teaching Hungarian literacy and to integrate the Moldavian Csángó to the Hungarian imagined community (Anderson 1991) as many have argued (see e.g., Tánczos 2012b). However, at the same time, if the goal is to maintain Hungarian communication between the Csángós in Moldavia, the local modes of speaking and communicating (the Csángó mode of speaking) should be respected and given space in education as well. This would be especially important in order to restore the lost prestige of local Hungarian language forms and eventually to find parents, who would be committed to revitalizing the Csángó by using it with their children. That is, in the long term, only the emergence of significant number of families practicing intergenerational language transmission can ensure a future for Csángó or Hungarian in Moldavia.


  1. 1

    Petteri Laihonen’s fieldwork and writing of the article was funded by the Academy of Finland grant 299133. The work of Csanád Bodó, János Imre Heltai, and Noémi Fazakas was supported by the National Research, Development and Innovation Fund of Hungary, financed under the K_19 funding scheme (Project number 131562).

  2. 2

    The numbers refer to the research points of the MCsNyA, the dialects of the settlements in Italic are of a transitional nature.

  3. 3

    Ei da (T= teacher; Ps: pupils; Rs= Researcher; G= girl; B= boy, all names are pseudonymes). Standard Hungarian; Romanian; Csángó; Standard Hungarian (marked)

  4. 4

    mushrooms (T= teacher, Ps= pupils, G= girl, B= boy, all names are pseudonymes) Standard Hungarian; Romanian; Csángó


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Related articles/sources in LME

(Fig. 0) Laihonen, Petteri. 2015. Csángó communities in the historical province of Moldavia [figure]. Romanian Institute for Research on National Minorities.

(Fig. 1) Laihonen, Petteri. 2018. A sign on the historical border between Transylvania and Moldavia [photography]. University of Jyväskylä. (accessed 29 June 2020).

(Fig. 2) Laihonen, Petteri. 2018. A Romanian monolingual village sign for a Roman Catholic village in Moldavia [photography]. University of Jyväskylä. (accessed 29 June 2020).

(Fig. 5) Vargha, Fruzsina Sára. 2017. (Different clusterings of Moldavian Hungarian dialects) [figure].

(Vid. 1) Laihonen, Petteri. 2017. Classroom data, eida [video]. University of Jyväskylä. (accessed 29 June 2020).

(Vid. 2) Laihonen, Petteri. 2017. Classroom data, mushrooms [video]. University of Jyväskylä. (accessed 29 June 2020).

Bátyi, Szilvia & Viktória Ferenc. 2020. Hungarian

External sources

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(Fig. 4) Péntek, János. 2006. (The “Szekler” and “non-Szekler [Mezőségi]” region in Moldavia) [figure]. In János Péntek, A belső tagolódás kérdése a moldvai magyarban a szóföldrajz alapján [The question of internal classification of Hungarian in Moldavia on the basis of lexical geography], 51. Nyelv- és Irodalomtudományi Közlemények 50. 31–55.

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