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What are Romance Languages and Why are They Used?

What are Romance Languages and Why are They Used?
The term 'romance' comes from the vulgar Latin adverb 'romanice', derived from 'romanicus'. The noun romance was originally applied to anything written in romanice, or 'in the Roman vernacular'.
Shruti Bhat
Last Updated: Oct 25, 2018
Romance languages are a group Indo-European languages which are derived from vulgar Latin.
In Medieval literature, serious writing was usually in Latin, while popular folk tales, often which focused on love, were composed in the vernacular form, and came to be called 'romances'. The 'Romance' languages evolved from Latin, between the 6th to the 9th century.
Romance languages are referred to as Romanic languages. They are mostly from the Italian family of language of ancient Rome. Romance creole speakers (languages that have become the native language of a community) are scattered around the world. Romance languages are also called Latin languages or Neo-Latin or Romanic languages.
Romance language refers to a set of languages based on Latin, the language of the ancient Romans. The Romans wrote and spoke in a less polished language than they used in their literature.
The simplified Latin language of the common Roman people is called 'vulgar Latin', because vulgar is Latin for 'the crowd'; making the romance language popular among the young and rich people.
Romance language received its popularity and informal social dialect of Latin, as it was commonly spoken by the merchants of the Roman Empire, slaves, displaced people, soldiers, and settlers.
Some scholars believe that vulgar Latin evolved into romance languages around the time of the Roman Empire. The Romance group is perhaps the simplest to identify and the easiest to account for historically.
Characteristics of Romance Languages
  • The language losses comparative inflections and neuter gender.
  • Replacement of some verb paradigms by innovations
  • There is a change in the use of articles.
  • The initial stages of the palatalization of the plosives /k/, /g/, and /t/.
  • Romance languages share a good proportion of basic vocabulary.
  • A family tree classification is commonly used for the romance languages.
  • They are more musical and sweet-sounding, because they give more importance to vowels than consonants.
  • Uttering the language emotes the expressiveness in the speaker through its intonation pattern.
  • Their vocabulary and grammar are a derivative of French, Italian, Spanish, and Portuguese. But the grammatical features are not present in English, German, and Russian.
  • The major romance languages that have the status of official languages of the United Nations are Spanish, Portuguese, French, and an amalgamation of Italian, and Rumanian; French and Spanish.
Classification of Romance Languages
The classification of the romance languages is complicated, because they are intricately interconnected between themselves, and they gradually unravel, making it hard to pinpoint the exact classification. They are broadly divided into 5 subgroups:
  1. Ibero-Romance
  2. Gallo-Romance
  3. Italo-Romance
  4. Rhaeto-Romance
  5. Balkano-Romance
Romance Language List
Catalan is spoken in Catalonia, Valencia, Andorra, the Balearic Isles, and other regions. The area of Catalonia spoke the vulgar Latin which was heavily influenced by the southern Gauls, which created a distinct language later on.
French is spoken in France, Switzerland, and Belgium, in Europe. The Roman soldiers in the Gallic Wars brought Latin to Gaul. They also spoke a Celtic language known as Gaulish. Later, when Germanic Franks invaded the region, French was sufficiently removed from vulgar Latin.
The Gallicia province was colonized by the Celts. When the Romans conquered the area, they made it a Roman province. And so, the native Celtic language was influenced by vulgar Latin. Later, Germanic invaders also contributed to the language.
Simplification of vulgar Latin in the Italian peninsula gave birth to the Italian language. The vernacular spoken in Tuscany became the standard written language, now known as Italian.
The Roman invasion wiped out the earlier native language of the Iberian peninsula, and replaced it with Latin, which was a prestige language. So, it quickly became a fad to use the language. Over time, Portuguese emerged, but when Galicia became a part of Spain, the two language groups fragmented.
In vulgar Latin of Romania, an unstressed 'o' became a 'u', converting Romania to Rumania (the country), and Romanian to Rumanian (the language). Moldova-Romania is the only country in the Eastern European area that speaks a Romance language. Missionaries and Roman soldiers learned Latin and brought it home with them when they settled in Dacia.
Major Divisions of Modern Romance Languages
Geographic Locations of the Major Divisions of Modern Romance Languages
  • Istriot (Croatia)
  • Istro, Romanian (Croatia)
  • Corsican (France)
  • Occitan (France)
  • Shuadit (France)
  • Aromanian (Greece)
  • Megleno, Romanian (Greece)
  • Campidanese (Italy)
  • Emiliano-Romagnolo (Italy)
  • Friuilan (Italy)
  • Gallurese (Italy)
  • Italian (Italy)
  • Judeo-Italian (Italy)
  • Ladin (Italy)
  • Ligurian (Italy)
  • Logudorese (Italy)
  • Lombard (Italy)
  • Napoletano-Calabrese (Italy)
  • Piemontese (Italy)
  • Sassarese, Sardinian (Italy)
  • Sicilian (Italy)
  • Venetian (Italy)
  • Ladino (Israel)
  • Mirandese (Portugal)
  • Romanian (Romania)
  • Asturian (Spain)
  • Catalan-Valencian Balear (Spain)
  • Extremaduran (Spain)
  • Fala (Spain)
  • Galician (Spain)
  • Romansch (Switzerland)
Language, like humans, has evolved from pictographic images on the walls of caves to today's tech-savvy mobile text language; and it will keep evolving till the end of mankind.
The primitive need to communicate freely has driven man to give meaning to words, objects, and feelings. This need has given birth to romance languages too. And they will keep evolving till the end of time.