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date: 06 March 2021

Latin languagelocked

  • Robert G. Coleman


Latin belongs to the Italic group of *Indo-European (IE) languages, see Italy, Languages of, which includes Faliscan (see faliscans), Umbrian, and Oscan (see Sabellic Languages). It was originally spoken in Latium from 800 bce or earlier and with the spread of Roman power became the common language first of Italy, then of the western Mediterranean and Balkan regions of the Roman empire. The language of the illiterate majority of Latin-speakers, Vulgar Latin (VL), evolved through its regional dialects into the Romance languages. It is known from casual remarks by ancient grammarians, comparative Romance reconstruction, and deviations from classical norms in manuscript and epigraphic texts.Refined versions of the language were developed early on for specific socio-cultural purposes—legal and ritual texts, public oratory, senatorial and pontifical records, and Saturnian verse. The earliest of these survive in corrupt and fragmentary forms, e.g. the *Twelve Tables and the *Carmen arvale (‘Hymn of the Arval Brethren’).

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