Latin

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Summary

Latin (; Latin: , ; the noun lingua, "tongue" and "language", and the adjective latinus, latina and latinum in its three genders, "Latin") is an

Details

ancient Italic language originally spoken by the Italic Latins in Latium and Ancient Rome. Along with most European languages, it is a descendant of the ancient Proto-Indo-European language. Influenced by the Etruscan language and using the Greek alphabet as a basis, it took form as what is recognizable as Latin in the Italian Peninsula. Modern Romance languages are continuations of dialectal forms (vulgar Latin) of the language. Additionally many students, scholars, and some members of the Christian clergy speak it fluently, and it is still taught in some primary, secondary and post-secondary educational institutions around the world.

Latin is still used in the creation of new words in modern languages of many different families, including English, and largely in biological taxonomy. Latin and its derivative Romance languages are the only surviving languages of the Italic language family. Other languages of the Italic branch were attested in the inscriptions of early Italy, but were assimilated to Latin during the Roman Republic.

The extensive use of elements from vernacular speech by the earliest authors and inscriptions of the Roman Republic make it clear that the original, unwritten language of the Roman Kingdom was an only partially deducible colloquial form, the predecessor to Vulgar Latin. By the arrival of the late Roman Republic, a standard, literate form had arisen from the speech of the educated, now referred to as Classical Latin. Vulgar Latin, by contrast, is the name given to the more rapidly changing colloquial language, which was spoken throughout the empire.

Because of the Roman conquests, Latin spread to many Mediterranean and some northern European regions, and the dialects spoken in these areas, mixed to various degrees with the indigenous languages, developed into the modern Romance tongues. Classical Latin slowly changed with the decline of the Roman Empire, as education and wealth became ever scarcer. The consequent Medieval Latin, influenced by various Germanic and proto-Romance languages until expurgated by Renaissance scholars, was used as the language of international communication, scholarship, and science until well into the 18th century, when it began to be supplanted by vernaculars.

Latin is a highly inflected language, with three distinct genders, seven noun cases, four verb conjugations, six tenses, three persons, three moods, two voices, two aspects, and two numbers. A dual number ("a pair of") is present in Old Latin. The rarest of the seven cases is the locative, only marked in proper place names and a few common nouns. Otherwise, the locative function ("place where") has merged with the ablative. The vocative, a case of direct address, is marked by an ending only in words of the second declension. Otherwise, the vocative has merged with the nominative, except that the particle O typically precedes any vocative, marked or not.

As a result of this case ambiguity, different authors list different numbers of cases: 5, 6, or 7. Adjectives and adverbs are compared, and the former are inflected according to case, gender, and number. In view of the fact that adjectives are often used for nouns, the two are termed substantives. Although Classical Latin has demonstrative pronouns indicating different degrees of proximity ("this one here", "that one there"), it does not have articles. Later Romance language articles developed from the demonstrative pronouns, e.g. le and la (French) from ille and illa, and su and sa (Sardinian) from ipse and ipsa.

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