(ORDO NEWS) — Latin was spoken throughout the Roman Empire. But now no country officially speaks Latin – at least in its classical form. So, did Latin really disappear when the Roman Empire ceased to exist?
The answer to the question of when Latin, the language of ancient Rome, died is complicated. There is no date in the annals of history that marks the end of Latin as a spoken language, and some argue that this is because it never actually died.
The Vatican still holds some masses in Latin, but virtually no one in Italy uses Latin in everyday life. However, this does not mean the death of the language, according to Tim Pulju, senior lecturer in linguistics and classics at Dartmouth College in New Hampshire.
“They didn’t actually stop speaking Latin,” Poole said. “It was spoken by people in Italy, Gaul, Spain and elsewhere, but like all living languages, it has changed over time.”
It is important to note that changes in Latin were characteristic of many different regions of the old Roman Empire, and over time these differences grew, creating completely new, but closely related languages.
“Latin ended up becoming a lot of languages that are different from each other and also different from Classical Latin,” Poole said.
These new languages are what we now call the Romance group, including French, Italian, Portuguese, Romanian and Spanish.
Such linguistic evolutions occur with every language. Let’s take English for example. For example, no one will say that English is a dead language – it was spoken before, it is spoken now. It just changed very gradually over a long period of time.
The only difference between English and Latin is that Old English became Modern English and only Modern English, while Classical Latin diversified into many different languages. This is why people tend to think, perhaps erroneously, of Latin as an extinct language.
So when did Latin die? She didn’t die, she just evolved.
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