Romance languages

Romance
EthnicityRomance peoples (adopted speakers)
Geographic
distribution
Originated in Mediterranean and western Europe; now also spoken all over the Americas, much of Africa and in parts of Southeast Asia and Oceania
Linguistic classificationIndo-European
Early form
Subdivisions
ISO 639-2 / 5roa
Linguasphere51- (phylozone)
roma1334[1]
World map showing countries where a Romance language is the primary or official language
European Romance languages

The Romance languages (nowadays rarely Romanic languages, Latin languages, Neo-Latin languages) are the modern languages that evolved from Vulgar Latin between the third and eighth centuries[2] and that form a subgroup of the Italic languages within the Indo-European language family.

Today, around 800 million people are native speakers worldwide, mainly in Europe, Africa, and the Americas, but also elsewhere. Additionally, the major Romance languages have many non-native speakers and are in widespread use as lingua francas.[3] This is especially the case for French, which is in widespread use throughout Central and West Africa, Madagascar, Mauritius, and the Maghreb.

The five most widely spoken Romance languages by number of native speakers are Spanish (470 million), Portuguese (250 million), French (150 million), Italian (90 million),[4] and Romanian (25 million).[5]

Because of the difficulty of imposing boundaries on a continuum, various counts of the modern Romance languages are given; for example, Dalby lists 23 based on mutual intelligibility.[6] The following, more extensive list[citation needed], includes 35 current, living languages, and one extinct language, Dalmatian:

Origins

Romance languages are the continuation of Vulgar Latin, the popular and colloquial sociolect of Latin spoken by soldiers, settlers, and merchants of the Roman Empire, as distinguished from the classical form of the language spoken by the Roman upper classes, the form in which the language was generally written.[7] Between 350 BC and 150 AD, the expansion of the Empire, together with its administrative and educational policies, made Latin the dominant native language in continental Western Europe. Latin also exerted a strong influence in southeastern Britain, the Roman province of Africa, western Germany, Pannonia and the whole Balkans.

During the Empire's decline, and after its fragmentation and the collapse of Western half in the fifth and sixth centuries, the spoken varieties of Latin became more isolated from each other, with the western dialects coming under heavy Germanic influence (the Goths and Franks in particular) and the eastern dialects coming under Slavic influence.[8][9] The dialects diverged from classical Latin at an accelerated rate and eventually evolved into a continuum of recognizably different typologies. The colonial empires established by Portugal, Spain, and France from the fifteenth century onward spread their languages to the other continents to such an extent that about two-thirds of all Romance language speakers today live outside Europe.

Despite other influences (e.g. substratum from pre-Roman languages, especially Continental Celtic languages; and superstratum from later Germanic or Slavic invasions), the phonology, morphology, and lexicon of all Romance languages consist mainly of evolved forms of Vulgar Latin. However, some notable differences occur between today's Romance languages and their Roman ancestor. With only one or two exceptions, Romance languages have lost the declension system of Latin and, as a result, have SVO sentence structure and make extensive use of prepositions.