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Love Those Romance Languages

Why Italian Is a Romance Language

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What comes to mind when you hear the word "romance"? Champagne and chocolates, candle-lit dinners, soft music, and Valentine's Day. Not many people will think Italian, Spanish, or Portuguese. So what are Romance languages and why is Italian part of this group?

Linguistically speaking, Romance languages are descendants of the spoken form of Latin, known as Vulgar Latin. In this case, "vulgar" doesn't mean "coarse" or "off-color," but rather "common," referring to the usual, typical, everyday speech of ordinary people.

Romance languages consist of modern French, Italian, Spanish, Romanian, Catalan, the Romansch group of dialects (Switzerland), and Sardinian. Also included are such languages as Occitan and Provençal (France), Andalusian (Spain), Friulian (northeast Italy), Ladin (northern Italy), and Sicilian (southern Italy).

Many Romance languages are regional dialects rather than national languages, classified together on the basis of a shared section of vocabulary, which originated in the influence of the language of the Roman conquerors on the local native languages spoken in the Mediterranean area (where the Romance languages are clustered). Today, nearly 625 million people speak Romance languages.

Italian, like the other Romance languages, is the direct offspring of the Latin spoken by the Romans and imposed by them on the peoples under their dominion. Of all the major Romance languages, Italian retains the closest resemblance to Latin.
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