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Nativenamelingua latina
StatesRoman Monarchy, Roman Republic, Roman Empire, Medieval and Early modern Europe, Armenian Kingdom of Cilicia (as lingua franca), VA Vatican City
ImagecaptionLatin inscription in the Colosseum
MapcaptionGreatest extent of the Roman Empire. Latin was by no means confined to these regions, and Koine Greek, Coptic, Syriac, and other native languages dominated the eastern half.
NationHoly See
AgencyIn antiquity, Roman schools of grammar and rhetoric. Today, Opus Fundatum Latinitas.

     Home | Language | Latin

Latin (-enˈlætɪn; Latin: , -lalaˈtiːnaIPA) is an Italic language originally spoken in Latium and Ancient Rome. It, along with most European languages, is a descendant of the Ancient Proto-Indo-European language. Although it is considered a dead language, a number of scholars and members of the Christian clergy speak it fluently, and many schools and universities continue to teach it. Latin is still used in the process of new word production in modern languages of many different families, including English. Latin and its daughter Romance languages are the only surviving branch of the Italic language family. Other branches of the Italic languages are attested in documents surviving from early Italy, but were assimilated during the Roman Republic.

The extensive use of elements from vernacular speech by the earliest authors and inscriptions of the Roman Republic make it clear that the original, unwritten language of the Roman Monarchy was an only partially deducible colloquial form, the predecessor to Vulgar Latin. By the late Roman Republic, a standard, literate form had arisen from the speech of the educated, now referred to as Classical Latin. Vulgar Latin, by contrast, is the name given to the more rapidly changing colloquial language spoken throughout the empire. With the Roman conquest, Latin spread to many Mediterranean regions, and the dialects spoken in these areas, mixed to various degrees with the autochthonous languages, developed into the Romance tongues, including Aragonese, Catalan, Corsican, French, Galician, Italian, Portuguese, Romanian, Romansh, Sardinian, Sicilian, and Spanish. Classical Latin slowly changed with the Decline of the Roman Empire, as education and wealth became ever scarcer. The consequent Medieval Latin, influenced by various Germanic and proto-Romance languages until expurgated by Renaissance scholars, was used as the language of international communication, scholarship and science until well into the 18th century, when it began to be supplanted by vernacular languages.

Latin is a highly inflected language, with three distinct genders, seven noun cases, four verb conjugations, six tenses, six persons, three moods, two voices, two aspects and two numbers. A dual number is present in Archaic Latin. One of the rarer of the seven cases is the locative, only used with nouns that signify a location. The vocative, used in direct discourse, is identical to the nominative except for words of the second declension. Though various authors have proposed differing totals, there are only five fully productive cases. Adjectives and adverbs are compared, and the former are inflected according to case, gender, and number. Although Classical Latin has demonstrative pronouns indicating varying degree of proximity, it lacks articles. Later Romance language articles developed from the demonstrative pronouns; e.g., le and la from ille and illa.

In terms of vocabulary, however, Latin tends to preserve the original forms of many Indo-European roots. Compared to other Indo-European languages of antiquity, such as Sanskrit and Ancient Greek, the word forms in the Classical era are far more reflective of their etyma. Languages such as Sanskrit, however, tend to be more conservative with regards to grammar.

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