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B. Latin

Regions where Romance languages are spoken, either as mother tongue or as second language.

The Romance languages, a major branch of the Indo-European language family, comprise all languages that descended from Latin, the language of the Roman Empire. Romance languages have some 800 million native speakers worldwide, mainly in the Americas, Europe, and Africa, as well as in many smaller regions scattered through the world. The largest languages are Spanish and Portuguese, with about 400 and 200 million mother tongue speakers respectively, most of them outside Europe. Within Europe, French (with 80 million) and Italian (70 million) are the largest ones. All Romance languages descend from Vulgar Latin, the language of soldiers, settlers, and slaves of the Roman Empire, which was substantially different from the Classical Latin of the Roman literati. Between 200 BC and 100 AD, the expansion of the Empire, coupled with administrative and educational policies of Rome, made Vulgar Latin the dominant native language over a wide area spanning from the Iberian Peninsula to the Western coast of the Black Sea. During the Empire’s decadence and after its collapse and fragmentation in the 5th century, Vulgar Latin evolved independently within each local area, and eventually diverged into dozens of distinct languages. The oversea empires established by Spain, Portugal and France after the 15th century then spread Romance to the other continents — to such an extent that about two thirds of all Romance speakers are now outside Europe.

Latin is usually classified, along with Faliscan, as an Italic dialect. The Italic speakers were not native to Italy, but migrated into the Italian Peninsula in the course of the 2nd millennium BC, and were apparently related to the Celtic tribes that roamed over a large part of Western Europe at the time. Archaeologically, the Apennine culture of inhumations enters the Italian Peninsula from ca. 1350 BC, east to west; the Iron Age reaches Italy from ca. 1100 BC, with the Villanovan culture (cremating), intruding north to south. Before the Italic arrival, Italy was populated primarily by non-Indo-European groups (perhaps including the Etruscans). The first settlement on the Palatine hill dates to ca. 750 BC, settlements on the Quirinal to 720 BC, both related to the Founding of Rome. As Rome extended its political dominion over Italy, Latin became dominant over the other Italic languages, which ceased to be spoken perhaps sometime in the 1st century AD. 

Italic is usually divided into:

·   Sabellic, including:

o  Oscan, spoken in south-central Italy.

o  Umbrian group:

§  Umbrian.

§  Volscian.

§  Aequian.

§  Marsian.

§  South Picene.

·   Latino-Faliscan, including:

o  Faliscan, spoken in the area around Falerii Veteres, north of the city of Rome.


Iron Age Italy, ca 800 BC. In central Italy, Italic languages. In southern and north-western Italy, other Indo-European languages. Venetic, Sicanian and Sicel were possibly IE.

Latin, spoken in west-central Italy. The Roman conquests eventually spread it throughout the Roman Empire and beyond.

The ancient Venetic language, as revealed by its inscriptions (including complete sentences), was also closely related to the Italic languages and is sometimes even classified as Italic. However, since it also shares similarities with other Western Indo-European branches (particularly Germanic), some linguists prefer to consider it an independent IE language.

Phonetic changes from EIE to Latin include: bhf/b, dhf/b, ghh/f, gww/g, kwkw/k, pp/kw.

The Italic languages are first attested in writing from Umbrian and Faliscan inscriptions dating to the 7th century BC. The alphabets used are based on the Old Italic alphabet, which is itself based on the Greek alphabet. The Italic languages themselves show minor influence from the Etruscan and somewhat more from the Ancient Greek languages.

Oscan had much in common with Latin, though there are also some differences, and many common word-groups in Latin were represented by different forms; as, Lat. uolo, uelle, uolui, and other such forms from PIE wel-, will, were represented by words derived from gher-, desire, cf. Osc. herest, “he wants, desires” as opposed to Lat. uult (id.). Lat. locus, “place” was absent and represented by Osc. slaagid.

Forum inscription in Latin, written boustrophedon.

In phonology, Oscan also shows a different evolution, as EIE kwOsc. p instead of Lat. kw (cf. Osc. pis, Lat. quis); EIE gw Osc. b instead of Latin w; EIE medial bh, dhOsc. f, in contrast to Lat. b or d (cf. Osc. mefiai, Lat. mediae); etc.

NOTE. A specimen of Faliscan appears written round the edge of a picture on a patera: “foied vino pipafo, cra carefo”, which in Old Latin would have been “hodie vinom bibabo, cras carebo”, translated as “today I will drink wine; tomorrow I won't have any” (R. S. Conway, Italic Dialects). Among other distinctive features, it shows the retention of medial f which in Latin became b, and evolution of EIE ghf (fo-, contrast Lat. ho-).

Hence the reconstructed changes of North-West Indo-European into Proto-Italic:

·Voiced labiovelars unround or lenite: gwg/w, gwhgh.

·Voiced aspirates become first unvoiced, then fricativize: bhphɸf; dhthθ; ghkhx.

NOTE. About PIE intervocalic gh Ita. x, linguists (see Joseph & Wallace 1991) generally propose that it evolves as Faliscan g or k, while in Latin it becomes glottal h, without a change of manner of articulation. Picard (1993) rejects that proposal citing abstract phonetic principles, which Chela-Flores (1999) argues citing examples of Spanish phonology.

·EIE s → Ita. θ before r (cf. Ita. kereθrom, Lat. cerebrum); unchanged elsewhere.

Up to 8 cases are found; apart from the 6 cases of Classic Latin (i.e. N-V-A-G-D-Ab), there was a Locative (cf. Lat. proxumae viciniae, domī, carthagini; Osc. aasai, Lat. “in ārā” etc.) and an Instrumental (cf. Columna Rostrata Lat. pugnandod, marid, naualid, etc; Osc. cadeis amnud, Lat. “inimicitiae causae”; Osc. preiuatud, Lat. “prīuātō”, etc.).

About forms different from original Genitives and Datives, compare Genitive (Lapis Satricanus:) Popliosio Valesiosio (the type in -ī is also very old, Segomaros -i), and Dative (Praeneste Fibula:) numasioi, (Lucius Cornelius Scipio Epitaph:)  quoiei.

C. Celtic

The Celtic languages are the languages descended from Proto-Celtic, or “Common Celtic”, an Indo-European proto-language.

Diachronic distribution of Celtic peoples: maximal expansion (ca. 200 BC) and modern “Celtic nations” and Celtic-speaking territories.


During the 1st millennium BC, especially between the 5th and 2nd centuries BC they were spoken across Europe, from the southwest of the Iberian Peninsula and the North Sea, up the Rhine and down the Danube to the Black Sea and the Upper Balkan Peninsula, and into Asia Minor (Galatia). Today, Celtic languages are now limited to a few enclaves in the British Isles and on the peninsula of Brittany in France.

The distinction of Celtic into different sub-families probably occurred about 1000 BC. The early Celts are commonly associated with the archaeological Urnfield culture, the La Tène culture, and the Hallstatt culture.