Language facts: Latin

Nov 12, 2015

Latin is the official language of the Vatican City. It derives from the Indo-European branch, from which Italian, Spanish, Portuguese and Romanian originate. Although it was spoken in the Mediterranean area, it also influenced the Germanic languages and is currently used in many abbreviations (“e.g.” was an example derived from the Latin “exempli gratia” and “i.e.” is short for “id est”). Latin terminology is widely used, amongst others, in philosophy, medicine, biology, law and for official purposes. Interestingly, Latin is spoken daily by only around 800 people.

Rise and fall of Latin

Originally, Latin was spoken in the area around the ancient city of Rome – Latium. In the course of the rise of Rome, Latin spread to other parts of the kingdom, later the Roman Republic, and subsequently became the "official" administrative language of the entire Roman Empire. This is also the reason why Latin strongly influenced vernacular languages in the Empire, such as French, Italian, Spanish, Portuguese and even English. In fact, so-called Romance languages are the direct successor of Vulgar Latin, the unwritten and non-standardized proto-language.

During the era of the Roman Republic, a standardized Classic Latin was introduced to replace the Old Latin and most of the written works used the standardized version.

Latin language survived also the fall of the Roman Empire and lived on in the form of Late Latin, later developed into Medieval Latin and Renaissance Latin. Until the 18th century, Modern Latin was the lingua franca of international communication and mainly science. Nowadays, Latin is preserved principally by the Catholic Church (while many clerics are still fluent in it) and science, as a vast number of scientific terminology in e.g. biology and medicine originate from Latin. Quod erat demonstrandum. :)

Alphabet

Compared to the English alphabet, the Latin language has 23 letters and lacks the letters J, U, and W, and it does not have a cursive script.

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