Romance languages

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The Romance languages—occasionally called the Latin languages or, less often, the Romanic or Neo-Latin languages—are a group of languages descended from Vulgar Latin. They form a branch of the Italic languages within the Indo-European language family.


The five most widely spoken Romance languages by number of native speakers are Spanish (386 million), Portuguese (216 million), French (75 million), Italian (60 million), and Romanian (25 million). The largest have many non-native speakers; this is especially the case for French, which is in widespread use throughout Central and West Africa, Madagascar, and the Maghreb region.

The Romance languages evolved from Latin from the sixth to the ninth centuries. Today, more than 800 million people are native speakers worldwide, mainly in Europe and the Americas and many smaller regions scattered throughout the world, as well as large numbers of non-native speakers, and widespread use as linguas francas.[M. Paul Lewis, Ethnologue: Languages of the World, Sixteenth Edition] Because of the difficulty of imposing boundaries on a continuum, various counts of the Romance languages are given; Dalby lists 23 based on mutual intelligibility:

In several of these cases, more than one variety has been standardized, so is considered a distinct language in the popular conception; this is true, for example, with Asturian and Leonese, as well as Neapolitan and Sicilian.

The constructed language Interlingua, developed between 1937 and 1951, is also considered by some to be a Romance language, as it derives most of its vocabulary and grammar from French, Italian, and Spanish/Portuguese, but with grammatical features not present in English, German, and Russian removed. Its proponents claim written Interlingua is intelligible to anyone who speaks a Romance language – indeed, this was the goal of the creators.

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External Links

  • WikipediaMichael de Vaan, Etymological Dictionary of Latin and the other Italic Languages, Brill, 2008, 826pp. (part available freely online)Lexikon der Romanistischen Linguistik (LRL), edd. Holtus / Metzeltin / Schmitt

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