The history of the Latin language

Latin was the predominant language of the Roman Empire, a force that conquered most of Europe and parts of the Middle East and whose influence on the world is undeniable. Brought to Italy, specifically a small area on the Tiber called Latium, by a group of Indo – European immigrants, Latin soon spread throughout Italy and with the Roman Empire forged its way into many languages and cultures. Today we recognise Latin as the biggest influence on the Romance languages of Europe, which include Italian, French, Spanish, Portuguese, Romanian and perhaps Sardinian and Occitan.

The origins of Latin date back to about 1000 BC and over the course of the next 900 years was influenced heavily by Etruscan, a language isolate from Italy, Celtic and also Greek. The Latin alphabet was constructed in the 7th Century BC and from then it started to spread with the formation of the Roman Empire, becoming the device for political control and unity.

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Time line of the Latin Language

Old Latin (origin – 75 B.C.)

Classical Latin (75 B.C. – 200 A.D.)

Vulgar Latin (200 – 900)

Medieval Latin (900 – 1300)

Renaissance Latin (1300 to 1500)

New Latin (1500 – Present)


Classical Latin – Was the Latin used by the ancient Romans in Classical Latin Literature. Often called the golden age of Latin literature, this language was precise and based on the refined spoken language of the upper class. If you’ve ever studied texts in Latin this is the language they would have used.

Vulgar Latin – is the collective term for the different dialects and vernaculars of the people of the Roman Empire and the common language after its fall. Most Romance languages stem from Vulgar Latin due to the many similarities that can be found. It is said that Romanian is the closest Romance Language to Latin as it has fully adopted all six Latin cases and holds three cases, but in lexical terms, Italian is probably the most similar.

Renaissance Latin/New Latin – This form of Latin was used throughout Europe by governments, Scholars and the Church. Scholarly, religious and political writings were conducted in Latin by the upper class whilst different languages flourished with the people. Scientific progress and notes were all taken in Latin so scholars and scientists could communicate and show their work.


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