Romance Languages

Published 3rd September 2010
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The Romance Languages are a group of closely related vernaculars branching out from the Indo-European language family which derives its roots from Vulgar Latin, an Ancient Italic language.

The major Romance Languages are:

There are more than 800 million native speakers all over the world, spread out mainly in the Americas and Europe.

Origins

The resemblance between Romance languages is characterised mainly by their common origin from Vulgar Latin, the popular sociolect of Latin spoken by the lower classes which comprised of soldiers, settlers and merchants of the Roman Empire. It can be differentiated from the Classical form of the language spoken by the upper classes. Due to the expansion of the Roman Empire (350 BC and AD 150) and the use of the language in administrative and educational policies, Latin became the dominant language in Western Europe.

In the 5th century, with the decline and fragmentation of the Empire, varieties of Latin were merged with local area dialects until evolving into a series of different typologies. In addition to that, with the colonisation of overseas empires by Portugal, Spain and France in the 15th century, romance languages were carried over to other continents. Its influence was so consequent that today about 70% of all Romance speakers live outside Europe.

Lexical Similarities
In the Middle Ages, it was believed that Romance Languages were merely corrupted versions of Latin, which, at the time was believed to be a language of prestige and therefore was assimilated within the original tongue. This resulted in the introduction of words, morphological elements and syntactical patterns from the written Latin into the common speech. Changes were also seen in the pronunciation, as well as the vocabulary.

Classification of romance languages
According to the SIL (Summer Institute of Linguistics), the Romance Languages spoken in Europe was estimated to be 47 in number. It is classified in the diagram below:

Source: Wikipedia

Until next week for more on languages!

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