Origin of the term
During the Classical period
, Roman authors referred to the informal, everyday variety of their own language as sermo plebeius
or sermo vulgaris
, meaning 'common speech'.
The modern usage of the term Vulgar Latin dates to the Renaissance
, when Italian thinkers began to theorize that their own language originated in a sort of 'corrupted' Latin that they assumed formed an entity distinct from the literary Classical
variety, though opinions differed greatly on the nature of this 'vulgar' dialect'.
It is rather the early 19th-century French linguist Raynouard
, however, who is regarded as the father of modern Romance Philology
. Observing that the Romance languages have many features in common with each other that were not found in Latin, at least not in 'proper' or Classical Latin, he concluded that they must have all had some common ancestor (which he believed most closely resembled Old Occitan
) that replaced Latin some time before the year 1000. This he dubbed la langue romane
or "the Roman language".
The first 'professional' treatise on Romance was however published by German linguist Lorenz Diefenbach
, soon to be followed by Friedrich Diez
's seminal Grammar of the Romance Languages
, the first work to apply the modern comparative method
It was Diez who ultimately popularized the usage of the term Vulgar Latin in modern times,
though he simply borrowed the term from the works of various Italian Renaissance thinkers.
Direct evidence of non-literary Latin comes from the following sources:
- Recurrent grammatical, syntactic, or orthographic mistakes in Latin epigraphy.
- The insertion, whether intentional or not, of colloquial words or constructions into contemporary texts.
- Explicit mention of certain constructions or pronunciation habits by Roman grammarians.
- Roman-era lexical borrowings into neighboring languages such as Basque, Albanian, or Welsh.
By the end of the first century AD, the Romans had conquered the entire Mediterranean Basin
and established hundreds of colonies
in the conquered provinces. Over the centuries this—along with other factors that encouraged linguistic
and cultural assimilation
, such as political unity, frequent travel and commerce, military service, etc.—made Latin the predominant language throughout the western Mediterranean.
Latin itself was subject to the same assimilatory tendencies, such that its varieties had probably become more uniform by the time the Empire fell than they had been before it. That is not to say that the language had been static for all those years, but rather that ongoing changes tended to equally affect all regions.
Nevertheless it is difficult to tell precisely when and how the pronunciation, for instance, of Latin began to diverge on a regional basis, since the effects of ongoing sound changes were concealed by an orthography
that remained largely static across the Latin-speaking world for the first five or six centuries AD.
However careful statistical analysis of spelling mistakes reveals a number of regional differences toward the end of this period, for instance in the treatment of mid-vowels
or in the timing of the merger of /b/ and /w/ in intervocalic
By the tenth century one can no longer speak of a 'Vulgar Latin' since the contemporary Sequence of Saint Eulalia
and the so-called Jonah Fragment prove the existence of an archaic form of Old French
already distinct not only from Latin but also from distant Romance dialects.
Over the centuries spoken Latin lost various lexical items and replaced them either with native coinages
or borrowings from neighbouring languages such as Gaulish
, or Greek
. The literary language
generally retained the older words, however.
Classical Latin particles
fared especially poorly, with all of the following vanishing from popular speech: an
, and vel
Many surviving words experienced a shift in meaning
; some notable cases are causa
('subject matter' →
('send' → 'put'), necare
'pay'), and totus
The Appendix Probi
, composed between the third and fifth centuries, is a list of spelling corrections written in the format "[correct form], not [incorrect form]". The mistakes that it mentions hint at ongoing changes in the late vernacular, such as:
- Syncope in unstressed internal syllables:
- Development of [j] from front vowels in hiatus:
- Loss of /n/ before /s/:
Many of the 'incorrect' forms survive in modern Romance: the form mesa
'table' explains Spanish mesa
and Romanian masă
'looking-glass' explains Italian specchio
and Portuguese espelho
explains Aromanian oclju
and Neapolitan uocchio
The most significant consonant changes affecting Vulgar Latin were palatalization
(except in Sardinia
, including simplification of geminate consonants (in areas north and west of the La Spezia–Rimini Line
, e.g. Spanish digo
vs. Italian dico
'I say', Spanish boca
vs. Italian bocca
'mouth'); and loss of final consonants.
Loss of final consonants
The loss of final consonants was underway by the 1st century AD in some areas. A graffito
reads "quisque ama valia", which in Classical Latin would read "quisquis amat valeat" ("may whoever loves be strong/do well").
(The change from "valeat" to "valia" is also an early indicator of the development of /j/ (yod
), which played such an important part in the development of palatalization
.) On the other hand, the loss of final /t/ was not general. Old Spanish
and Old French
preserved a reflex of final /t/ until 1100 AD or so, Modern French still maintains final /t/ in some liaison
environments, and Sardinian retains final /t/ in almost all circumstances.
Lenition of stops
Areas north and west of the La Spezia–Rimini Line
lenited intervocalic /p, t, k/ to /b, d, ɡ/. This phenomenon is occasionally attested during the imperial period, but it became frequent by the 7th century. For example, in Merovingian documents, "rotatico" > rodatico
Simplification of geminates
Reduction of bisyllabic clusters of identical consonants to a single syllable-initial consonant also typifies Romance north and west of La Spezia-Rimini. The results in Italian and Spanish provide clear illustrations: "siccus" > Italian secco, Spanish seco; "cippus" > Italian ceppo, Spanish cepo; "mittere" > Italian mettere, Spanish meter.
Loss of word-final m
The loss of the final m
was a process which seems to have begun by the time of the earliest monuments of the Latin language. The epitaph
of Lucius Cornelius Scipio Barbatus
, who died around 150 BC, reads "taurasia cisauna samnio cepit", which in Classical Latin would be "taurāsiam, cisaunam, samnium cēpit" ("He captured Taurasia, Cisauna, and Samnium"). This however can be explained in a different way, that the inscription simply fails to note the nasality of the final vowels (just as consul
was customarily abbreviated as "cos").
Neutralization of /b/ and /w/
Confusions between b
show that the Classical semivowel /w/, and intervocalic /b/ partially merged to become a bilabial fricative
/β/ (Classical semivowel /w/ became /β/ in Vulgar Latin, while [β] became an allophone of /b/ in intervocalic position). Already by the 1st century AD, a document by one Eunus writes "iobe" for "iovem" and "dibi" for "divi".
In most of the Romance varieties, this sound would further develop into /v/, with the notable exception of the betacist
varieties of Hispano-Romance
and most Sardinian
represent the same phoneme /b/ (with allophone [β]) in Modern Spanish, as well as in Galician
, northern Portuguese
, several varieties of Occitan
and the northern dialects of Catalan
Consonant cluster simplification
In general, many clusters were simplified in Vulgar Latin. For example, /ns/ reduced to /s/, reflecting the fact that syllable-final /n/ was no longer phonetically consonantal. In some inscriptions, "mensis" > mesis
("month"), or "consul" > cosul
Descendants of "mensis" include Portuguese mês
, Spanish and Catalan mes
, Old French meis
(Modern French mois
), Italian mese
In some areas (including much of Italy), the clusters [mn], [kt] ⟨ct⟩, [ks] ⟨x⟩ were assimilated to the second element: [nn], [tt], [ss].
Thus, some inscriptions have "omnibus" > onibus
("all [dative plural]"), "indictione" > inditione
("indiction"), "vixit" > bissit
Also, three-consonant clusters usually lost the middle element. For example, "emptores" > imtores
Not all areas show the same development of these clusters, however. In the East, Italian has [kt] > [tt], as in "octo" > otto
("eight") or "nocte" > notte
("night"); while Romanian has [kt] > [pt] (opt
By contrast, in the West, the [k] weakened to [j]. In French and Portuguese, this came to form a diphthong with the previous vowel (huit
), while in Spanish, the [i] brought about palatalization
of [t], which produced [tʃ] (*oito
Also, many clusters including [j] were simplified. Several of these groups seem to have never been fully stable[clarification needed]
for "faciunt"). This dropping has resulted in the word "parietem" ("wall") developing as Italian parete
, Romanian părete>perete
, Portuguese parede
, Spanish pared
, or French paroi
(Old French pareid
The cluster [kw] ⟨qu⟩ was simplified to [k] in most instances before /i/ and /e/. In 435, one can find the hypercorrective spelling quisquentis
for "quiescentis" ("of the person who rests here"). Modern languages have followed this trend, for example Latin "qui" ("who") has become Italian chi
and French qui
(both /ki/); while "quem" ("whom") became quien
(/kjen/) in Spanish and quem
(/kẽj/) in Portuguese.
However, [kw] has survived in front of [a] in most areas, although not in French; hence Latin "quattuor" yields Spanish cuatro
(/kwatro/), Portuguese quatro
(/kwatru/), and Italian quattro
(/kwattro/), but French quatre
(/katʀ/), where the qu-
spelling is purely etymological.
In Spanish, most words with consonant clusters in syllable-final position are loanwords from Classical Latin, examples are: transporte [tɾansˈpor.te], transmitir [tɾanz.miˈtir], instalar [ins.taˈlar], constante [konsˈtante], obstante [oβsˈtante], obstruir [oβsˈtɾwir], perspectiva[pers.pekˈti.βa], istmo [ˈist.mo]. A syllable-final position cannot be more than one consonant (one of n, r, l, s or z) in most (or all) dialects in colloquial speech, reflecting Vulgar Latin background. Realizations like [trasˈpor.te], [tɾaz.miˈtir], [is.taˈlar], [kosˈtante], [osˈtante], [osˈtɾwir], and [ˈiz.mo] are very common, and in many cases, they are considered acceptable even in formal speech.
In general, the ten-vowel system of Classical Latin, which relied on phonemic vowel length, was newly modelled into one in which vowel length
distinctions lost phonemic
importance, and qualitative distinctions of height
became more prominent.
System in Classical Latin
Classical Latin had 10 different vowel phonemes
, grouped into five pairs of short-long, ⟨ă – ā, ĕ – ē, ĭ – ī, ŏ – ō, ŭ – ū⟩. It also had four diphthongs
, ⟨ae, oe, au, eu⟩, and the rare diphthongs ⟨ui, ei⟩. Finally, there were also long and short ⟨y⟩, representing /y/, /yː/ in Greek borrowings, which, however, probably came to be pronounced /i/, /iː/ even before Romance vowel changes started.
At least since the 1st century AD, short vowels (except a
) differed by quality as well as by length from their long counterparts, the short vowels being lower.
Thus the vowel inventory is usually reconstructed as /a – aː/, /ɛ – eː/, /ɪ – iː/, /ɔ – oː/, /ʊ – uː/.
General vowel changes in most Vulgar Latin
Many diphthongs had begun their monophthongization
very early. It is presumed that by Republican times, "ae" had become /ɛː/ in unstressed syllables, a phenomenon that would spread to stressed positions around the 1st century AD.
From the 2nd century AD, there are instances of spellings with ⟨ĕ⟩ instead of ⟨ae⟩.
⟨oe⟩ was always a rare diphthong in Classical Latin (in Old Latin
regularly became "unus" ("one")) and became /eː/ during early Imperial times. Thus, one can find penam
However, ⟨au⟩ lasted much longer. While it was monophthongized to /o/ in areas of north and central Italy (including Rome), it was retained in most Vulgar Latin, and it survives in modern Romanian (for example, aur
< "aurum"). There is evidence in French and Spanish that the monophthongization of au
occurred independently in those languages.
Loss of distinctive length and near-close mergers
Length confusions seem to have begun in unstressed vowels, but they were soon generalized.
In the 3rd century AD, Sacerdos
mentions people's tendency to shorten vowels at the end of a word, while some poets (like Commodian
) show inconsistencies between long and short vowels in versification.
However, the loss of contrastive length caused only the merger of "ă" and "ā" while the rest of pairs remained distinct in quality: /a/, /ɛ – e/, /ɪ – i/, /ɔ – o/, /ʊ – u/.
Also, the near-close vowels /ɪ/ and /ʊ/ became more open in most varieties and merged with /e/ and /o/ respectively.
As a result, the reflexes of Latin pira
"pear" and vēra
"true" rhyme in most Romance languages: Italian and Spanish pera
.[clarification needed]
Similarly, Latin nucem
"walnut" and vōcem
"voice" become Italian noce, voce
, Portuguese noz, voz
There was likely some regional variation in pronunciation, as the Romanian languages, Sardinian
and African Romance
In Sardinian, all corresponding short and long vowels simply merged with each other, creating a 5-vowel system: /a, e, i, o, u/. African Romance appears to have evolved similarly.
, the front vowels ĕ, ĭ, ē, ī
evolved like the Western languages, but the back vowels ŏ, ŭ, ō, ū
evolved as in Sardinian. A few Southern Italian languages, such as southern Corsican
, northernmost Calabrian
and southern Lucanian
, behave like Sardinian with its penta-vowel system or, in case of Vegliote
(even if only partially) and western Lucanian
Phonologization of stress
The placement of stress generally did not change from Classical to Vulgar Latin, and except for reassignment of stress on some verb morphology (e.g. Italian cantavamo 'we were singing', but stress retracted one syllable in Spanish cantábamos) most words continued to be stressed on the same syllable they were before. However, the loss of distinctive length disrupted the correlation between syllable weight and stress placement that existed in Classical Latin. Whereas in Classical Latin the place of the accent was predictable from the structure of the word, it was no longer so in Vulgar Latin. Stress had become a phonological property and could serve to distinguish forms that were otherwise homophones of identical phonological structure, as in Spanish canto 'I sing' vs. cantó 'he or she sang'.
Lengthening of stressed open syllables
After the Classical Latin vowel length
distinctions were lost in favor of vowel quality
, a new system of allophonic
vowel quantity appeared sometime between the 4th and 5th centuries. Around then, stressed vowels in open syllables
came to be pronounced long (but still keeping height contrasts), and all the rest became short. For example, long venis
/*ˈkaː.te.dra/; but short vendo
(This allophonic length distinction persists to this day in Italian
.) However, in some regions of Iberia and Gaul, all stressed vowels came to be pronounced long: for example, porta
In many descendants, several of the long vowels underwent some form of diphthongization
, most extensively in Old French
where five of the seven long vowels were affected by breaking.
It is difficult to place the point in which the definite article
, absent in Latin but present in all Romance languages, arose, largely because the highly colloquial speech in which it arose was seldom written down until the daughter languages had strongly diverged; most surviving texts in early Romance show the articles fully developed.
Definite articles evolved from demonstrative pronouns
(an analogous development is found in many Indo-European languages, including Greek
); compare the fate of the Latin demonstrative adjective ille
"that", in the Romance languages
, becoming French le
(Old French li
), Catalan and Spanish el
, Occitan lo
, Portuguese o
(elision of -l- is a common feature of Portuguese), and Italian il
. Sardinian went its own way here also, forming its article from ipse
"this" (su, sa
); some Catalan and Occitan dialects have articles from the same source. While most of the Romance languages put the article before the noun, Romanian has its own way, by putting the article after the noun, e.g. lupul
("the wolf" – from *lupum illum
) and omul
("the man" – *homo illum
possibly a result of being within the Balkan sprachbund
This demonstrative is used in a number of contexts in some early texts in ways that suggest that the Latin demonstrative was losing its force. The Vetus Latina
Bible contains a passage Est tamen ille daemon sodalis peccati
("The devil is a companion of sin"), in a context that suggests that the word meant little more than an article. The need to translate sacred texts
that were originally in Koine Greek
, which had a definite article, may have given Christian Latin an incentive to choose a substitute. Aetheria
similarly: per mediam vallem ipsam
("through the middle of the valley"), suggesting that it too was weakening in force.
Another indication of the weakening of the demonstratives can be inferred from the fact that at this time, legal and similar texts begin to swarm with praedictus
, and so forth (all meaning, essentially, "aforesaid"), which seem to mean little more than "this" or "that". Gregory of Tours writes, Erat autem... beatissimus Anianus in supradicta civitate episcopus
("Blessed Anianus was bishop in that city.") The original Latin demonstrative adjectives were no longer felt to be strong or specific enough.
In less formal speech, reconstructed forms suggest that the inherited Latin demonstratives were made more forceful by being compounded with ecce
(originally an interjection
: "behold!"), which also spawned Italian ecco
, a contracted form of ecce eum
. This is the origin of Old French cil
) and ici
); Italian questo
) and (now mainly Tuscan) codesto
(*eccum tibi istum
), as well as qui
); Spanish and Occitan aquel
and Portuguese aquele
); Spanish acá
and Portuguese cá
); Spanish aquí
and Portuguese aqui
); Portuguese acolá
) and aquém
); Romanian acest
) and acela
), and many other forms.
On the other hand, even in the Oaths of Strasbourg
, no demonstrative appears even in places where one would clearly be called for in all the later languages (pro christian poblo
– "for the Christian people"). Using the demonstratives as articles may have still been considered overly informal for a royal oath in the 9th century. Considerable variation exists in all of the Romance vernaculars as to their actual use: in Romanian, the articles are suffixed to the noun (or an adjective preceding it), as in other languages of the Balkan sprachbund
and the North Germanic languages
The numeral unus
(one) supplies the indefinite article
in all cases (again, this is a common semantic development across Europe). This is anticipated in Classical Latin; Cicero
writes cum uno gladiatore nequissimo
("with a most immoral gladiator"). This suggests that unus
was beginning to supplant quidam
in the meaning of "a certain" or "some" by the 1st century BC.[dubious – discuss]
Loss of neuter gender
1st and 2nd adjectival declension paradigm in Classical Latin:
e.g. altus ("tall")
The three grammatical genders
of Classical Latin were replaced by a two-gender system in most Romance languages.
The neuter gender of classical Latin was in most cases identical with the masculine both syntactically and morphologically. The confusion had already started in Pompeian
graffiti, e.g. cadaver mortuus
for cadaver mortuum
("dead body"), and hoc locum
for hunc locum
("this place"). The morphological confusion shows primarily in the adoption of the nominative ending -us
) in the o
's work, one can find balneus
("wine"), and conversely, thesaurum
("treasure"). Most of these forms occur in the speech of one man: Trimalchion, an uneducated Greek (i.e. foreign) freedman
In modern Romance languages, the nominative s
-ending has been largely abandoned, and all substantives of the o
-declension have an ending derived from -um
, or -Ø
. E.g., masculine murum
("wall"), and neuter caelum
("sky") have evolved to: Italian muro
; Portuguese muro
; Spanish muro
, Catalan mur
; Romanian mur
; French mur
. However, Old French still had -s
in the nominative and -Ø
in the accusative in both words: murs
[nominative] – mur
For some neuter nouns of the third declension, the oblique stem was productive; for others, the nominative/accusative form, (the two were identical in Classical Latin). Evidence suggests that the neuter gender was under pressure well back into the imperial period. French (le) lait
, Catalan (la) llet
, Occitan (lo) lach
, Spanish (la)leche
, Portuguese (o) leite
, Italian language (il)latte
, Leonese (el) lleche
and Romanian lapte(le) ("milk"), all derive from the non-standard but attested Latin nominative/accusative neuter lacte
or accusative masculine lactem
. In Spanish the word became feminine, while in French, Portuguese and Italian it became masculine (in Romanian it remained neuter, lapte
). Other neuter forms, however, were preserved in Romance; Catalan and French nom
, Leonese, Portuguese and Italian nome
, Romanian nume ("name") all preserve the Latin nominative/accusative nomen
, rather than the oblique stem form *nominem
(which nevertheless produced Spanish nombre
Typical Italian endings
Most neuter nouns had plural forms ending in -A or -IA; some of these were reanalysed as feminine singulars, such as gaudium
("joy"), plural gaudia
; the plural form lies at the root of the French feminine singular (la) joie
, as well as of Catalan and Occitan (la) joia
(Italian la gioia
is a borrowing from French); the same for lignum
("wood stick"), plural ligna
, that originated the Catalan feminine singular noun (la) llenya
, and Spanish (la) leña
. Some Romance languages still have a special form derived from the ancient neuter plural which is treated grammatically as feminine: e.g., BRACCHIUM
: BRACCHIA "arm(s)" → Italian (il) braccio
: (le) braccia
, Romanian braț(ul)
. Cf. also Merovingian
Latin ipsa animalia aliquas mortas fuerant
Alternations in Italian heteroclitic
nouns such as l'uovo fresco
("the fresh egg") / le uova fresche
("the fresh eggs") are usually analysed as masculine in the singular and feminine in the plural, with an irregular plural in -a
. However, it is also consistent with their historical development to say that uovo
is simply a regular neuter noun (ovum
, plural ova
) and that the characteristic ending for words agreeing with these nouns is -o
in the singular and -e
in the plural. The same alternation in gender exists in certain Romanian nouns, but is considered regular as it is more common than in Italian. Thus, a relict neuter gender can arguably be said to persist in Italian and Romanian.
In Portuguese, traces of the neuter plural can be found in collective formations and words meant to inform a bigger size or sturdiness. Thus, one can use ovo/ovos
("egg/eggs") and ova/ovas
("roe", "a collection of eggs"), bordo/bordos
("section(s) of an edge") and borda/bordas
("bag/bags") and saca/sacas
("cloak/cloaks") and manta/mantas
("blanket/blankets"). Other times, it resulted in words whose gender may be changed more or less arbitrarily, like fruto
These formations were especially common when they could be used to avoid irregular forms. In Latin, the names of trees were usually feminine, but many were declined in the second declension paradigm, which was dominated by masculine or neuter nouns. Latin pirus
tree"), a feminine noun with a masculine-looking ending, became masculine in Italian (il) pero
and Romanian păr(ul)
; in French and Spanish it was replaced by the masculine derivations (le) poirier
, (el) peral
; and in Portuguese and Catalan by the feminine derivations (a) pereira
, (la) perera
As usual, irregularities persisted longest in frequently used forms. From the fourth declension noun manus
("hand"), another feminine noun with the ending -us
, Italian and Spanish derived (la) mano
, Romanian mânu>mâna
, Catalan (la)mà
, and Portuguese (a) mão
, which preserve the feminine gender along with the masculine appearance.
Except for the Italian and Romanian heteroclitic nouns, other major Romance languages have no trace of neuter nouns, but still have neuter pronouns. French celui-ci
("this"), Spanish éste
("this"), Italian: gli
("to him" /"to her" / "to it"), Catalan: ho
("it" / this
/ that over there
); Portuguese: todo
("all of him" / "all of her" / "all of it").
In Spanish, a three-way contrast is also made with the definite articles el
, and lo
. The last is used with nouns denoting abstract categories: lo bueno
, literally "that which is good", from bueno
In a few isolated masculine nouns, the s
has been either preserved or reinstated in the modern languages, for example FILIUS ("son") > French fils
("god") > Spanish dios
and Portuguese deus
, and particularly in proper names: Spanish Carlos
, in the conservative orthography of French Jacques
Loss of oblique cases
The Vulgar Latin vowel shifts caused the merger of several case endings in the nominal and adjectival declensions.
Some of the causes include: the loss of final m
, the merger of ă
, and the merger of ŭ
Thus, by the 5th century, the number of case contrasts had been drastically reduced.
Evolution of a 1st declension noun:
caepa/cēpa ("onion") (feminine singular)
Evolution of a 2nd declension noun:
mūrus ("wall") (masculine singular)
There also seems to be a marked tendency to confuse different forms even when they had not become homophonous (like the generally more distinct plurals), which indicates that nominal declension was shaped not only by phonetic mergers, but also by structural factors.
As a result of the untenability of the noun case system after these phonetic changes, Vulgar Latin shifted from a markedly synthetic language
to a more analytic one
The genitive case
died out around the 3rd century AD, according to Meyer-Lübke
, and began to be replaced by "de" + noun (which originally meant "about/concerning", weakened to "of") as early as the 2nd century BC.
Exceptions of remaining genitive forms are some pronouns, certain fossilized expressions and some proper names. For example, French jeudi
("Thursday") < Old French juesdi
< Vulgar Latin "jovis diēs
"; Spanish es menester
("it is necessary") < "est ministeri
"; and Italian terremoto
("earthquake") < "terrae motu
" as well as names like Paoli
The dative case
lasted longer than the genitive, even though Plautus
, in the 2nd century BC, already shows some instances of substitution by the construction "ad" + accusative. For example, "ad carnuficem dabo".
The accusative case
developed as a prepositional case, displacing many instances of the ablative
Towards the end of the imperial period, the accusative came to be used more and more as a general oblique case.
Despite increasing case mergers, nominative and accusative forms seem to have remained distinct for much longer, since they are rarely confused in inscriptions.
Even though Gaulish texts from the 7th century rarely confuse both forms, it is believed that both cases began to merge in Africa by the end of the empire, and a bit later in parts of Italy and Iberia.
maintains a two-case system, while Old French
and Old Occitan
had a two-case subject-oblique system.
This Old French system was based largely on whether or not the Latin case ending contained an "s" or not, with the "s" being retained but all vowels in the ending being lost (as with veisin below). But since this meant that it was easy to confuse the singular nominative with the plural oblique, and the plural nominative with the singular oblique, this case system ultimately collapsed as well, and Middle French adopted one case (usually the oblique) for all purposes, leaving the Romanian the only one to survive to the present day.
Evolution of a masculine noun
in Old French: veisin ("neighbor").
(definite article in parentheses).
Wider use of prepositions
Loss of a productive noun case system meant that the syntactic
purposes it formerly served now had to be performed by prepositions
and other paraphrases. These particles increased in number, and many new ones were formed by compounding old ones. The descendant Romance languages are full of grammatical particles such as Spanish donde
, "where", from Latin de
, or French dès
, "since", from de
, while the equivalent Spanish and Portuguese desde
. Spanish después
and Portuguese depois
, "after", represent de
Some of these new compounds appear in literary texts during the late empire; French dehors
, Spanish de fuera
and Portuguese de fora
("outside") all represent de
), and we find Jerome
writing stulti, nonne qui fecit, quod de foris est, etiam id, quod de intus est fecit?
(Luke 11.40: "ye fools, did not he, that made which is without, make that which is within also?"). In some cases, compounds were created by combining a large number of particles, such as the Romanian adineauri
("just recently") from ad
Marcus patrī librum dat. "Marcus is giving [his] father [a/the] book."
*Marcos da libru a patre. "Marcus is giving [a/the] book to [his] father."
Just as in the disappearing dative case, colloquial Latin sometimes replaced the disappearing genitive case with the preposition de followed by the ablative, then eventually the accusative (oblique).
Marcus mihi librum patris dat. "Marcus is giving me [his] father's book.
*Marcos mi da libru de patre. "Marcus is giving me [the] book of [his] father."
Unlike in the nominal and adjectival inflections, pronouns kept great part of the case distinctions. However, many changes happened. For example, the /ɡ/ of ego
was lost by the end of the empire, and eo
appears in manuscripts from the 6th century.[which?]
Reconstructed pronominal system of Vulgar Latin
Classical Latin had a number of different suffixes that made adverbs
, "dear", formed cārē
, "dearly"; ācriter
, "fiercely", from ācer
, "often", from crēber
. All of these derivational suffixes were lost in Vulgar Latin, where adverbs were invariably formed by a feminine ablative
form modifying mente
, which was originally the ablative of mēns
, and so meant "with a ... mind". So vēlōx
("quick") instead of vēlōciter
("quickly") gave veloci mente
(originally "with a quick mind", "quick-mindedly") This explains the widespread rule for forming adverbs in many Romance languages: add the suffix -ment(e)
to the feminine form of the adjective. The development illustrates a textbook case of grammaticalization
in which an autonomous form, the noun meaning 'mind', while still in free lexical use in e.g. Italian venire in mente
'come to mind', becomes a productive suffix for forming adverbs in Romance such as Italian chiaramente
, Spanish claramente
'clearly', with both its source and its meaning opaque in that usage other than as adverb formant.
In general, the verbal system in the Romance languages changed less from Classical Latin than did the nominal system.
The four conjugational classes generally survived. The second and third conjugations already had identical imperfect tense forms in Latin, and also shared a common present participle. Because of the merging of short i with long ē in most of Vulgar Latin, these two conjugations grew even closer together. Several of the most frequently-used forms became indistinguishable, while others became distinguished only by stress placement:
These two conjugations came to be conflated in many of the Romance languages, often by merging them into a single class while taking endings from each of the original two conjugations. Which endings survived was different for each language, although most tended to favour second conjugation endings over the third conjugation. Spanish, for example, mostly eliminated the third conjugation forms in favour of second conjugation forms.
French and Catalan did the same, but tended to generalise the third conjugation infinitive instead. Catalan in particular almost completely eliminated the second conjugation ending over time, reducing it to a small relic class. In Italian, the two infinitive endings remained separate (but spelled identically), while the conjugations merged in most other respects much as in the other languages. However, the third-conjugation third-person plural present ending survived in favour of the second conjugation version, and was even extended to the fourth conjugation. Romanian also maintained the distinction between the second and third conjugation endings.
In the perfect
, many languages generalized the -aui
ending most frequently found in the first conjugation. This led to an unusual development; phonetically, the ending was treated as the diphthong /au/ rather than containing a semivowel /awi/, and in other cases the /w/ sound was simply dropped. We know this because it did not participate in the sound shift from /w/ to /β̞/. Thus Latin amaui
("I loved; he/she loved") in many areas became proto-Romance *amai
, yielding for example Portuguese amei
. This suggests that in the spoken language, these changes in conjugation preceded the loss of /w/.
Another major systemic change was to the future tense
, remodelled in Vulgar Latin with auxiliary verbs
. A new future was originally formed with the auxiliary verb habere
, *amare habeo
, literally "to love I have" (cf. English "I have to love", which has shades of a future meaning). This was contracted into a new future suffix in Western Romance forms, which can be seen in the following modern examples of "I will love":
- French: j'aimerai (je + aimer + ai) ← aimer ["to love"] + ai ["I have"].
- Portuguese and Galician: amarei (amar + [h]ei) ← amar ["to love"] + hei ["I have"]
- Spanish and Catalan: amaré (amar + [h]e) ← amar ["to love"] + he ["I have"].
- Italian: amerò (amar + [h]o) ← amare ["to love"] + ho ["I have"].
- Ap'a istàre < apo a istàre 'I will stay'
- Ap'a nàrrere < apo a nàrrer 'I will say'
An innovative conditional
(distinct from the subjunctive
) also developed in the same way (infinitive + conjugated form of habere
). The fact that the future and conditional endings were originally independent words is still evident in literary Portuguese, which in these tenses allows clitic
object pronouns to be incorporated between the root of the verb and its ending: "I will love" (eu
, but "I will love you" amar-te-ei
, from amar
["you"] + (eu
In Spanish, Italian and Portuguese, personal pronouns can still be omitted from verb phrases as in Latin, as the endings are still distinct enough to convey that information: venio
> Sp vengo
("I come"). In French, however, all the endings are typically homophonous except the first and second person (and occasionally also third person) plural, so the pronouns are always used (je viens
) except in the imperative
Contrary to the millennia-long continuity of much of the active verb system, which has now survived 6000 years of known evolution, the synthetic passive voice
was utterly lost in Romance, being replaced with periphrastic
verb forms—composed of the verb "to be" plus a passive participle—or impersonal reflexive
forms—composed of a verb and a passivizing pronoun.
Apart from the grammatical and phonetic developments there were many cases of verbs merging as complex subtleties in Latin were reduced to simplified verbs in Romance. A classic example of this are the verbs expressing the concept "to go". Consider three particular verbs in Classical Latin expressing concepts of "going": ire
, and *ambitare
. In Spanish and Portuguese ire
merged into the verb ir
, which derives some conjugated forms from ire
and some from vadere
was maintained as a separate verb derived from ambitare
Italian instead merged vadere
into the verb andare
. At the extreme French merged three Latin verbs with, for example, the present tense deriving from vadere
and another verb ambulare
(or something like it) and the future tense deriving from ire
. Similarly the Romance distinction between the Romance verbs for "to be", essere
, was lost in French as these merged into the verb être
. In Italian, the verb essere
inherited both Romance meanings of "being essentially" and "being temporarily of the quality of", while stare
specialized into a verb denoting location or dwelling, or state of health.
(that is, the verb signifying "to be") of Classical Latin was esse
. This evolved to *essere
in Vulgar Latin by attaching the common infinitive suffix -re
to the classical infinitive; this produced Italian essere
and French être
through Proto-Gallo-Romance *essre
and Old French estre
as well as Spanish and Portuguese ser
derives from fieri
, which means "to become").
In Vulgar Latin a second copula developed utilizing the verb stare
, which originally meant (and is cognate with) "to stand", to denote a more temporary meaning. That is, *essere
signified the esse
nce, while stare
signified the state. Stare
evolved to Spanish and Portuguese estar
and Old French ester
(both through *estare
), while Italian and Romanian retained the original form.
The semantic shift that underlies this evolution is more or less as follows: A speaker of Classical Latin might have said: vir est in foro, meaning "the man is in/at the marketplace". The same sentence in Vulgar Latin could have been *(h)omo stat in foro, "the man stands in/at the marketplace", replacing the est (from esse) with stat (from stare), because "standing" was what was perceived as what the man was actually doing.
The use of stare in this case was still semantically transparent assuming that it meant "to stand", but soon the shift from esse to stare became more widespread. In the Iberian peninsula esse ended up only denoting natural qualities that would not change, while stare was applied to transient qualities and location. In Italian, stare is used mainly for location, transitory state of health (sta male 's/he is ill' but è gracile 's/he is puny') and, as in Spanish, for the eminently transient quality implied in a verb's progressive form, such as sto scrivendo to express 'I am writing'.
The historical development of the stare
+ gerund progressive in those Romance languages that have it seems to have been a passage from a usage such as sto pensando
'I stand/stay (here) thinking', in which the stare
form carries the full semantic load of 'stand, stay' to grammaticalization
of the construction as expression of progressive aspect
(Similar in concept to the English verbal construction of "I am still
thinking"). The process of reanalysis that took place over time bleached
the semantics of stare
so that when used in combination with the gerund the form became solely a grammatical marker of subject and tense (e.g. sto
= subject first person singular, present; stavo
= subject first person singular, past), no longer a lexical verb
with the semantics of 'stand' (not unlike the auxiliary in compound tenses that once meant 'have, possess', but is now semantically empty: j'ai écrit
, ho scritto
, he escrito
, etc.). Whereas sto scappando
would once have been semantically strange at best (?'I stay escaping'), once grammaticalization was achieved, collocation with a verb of inherent mobility was no longer contradictory, and sto scappando
could and did become the normal way to express 'I am escaping'. (Although it might be objected that in sentences like Spanish la catedral está en la ciudad
, "the cathedral is in the city" this is also unlikely to change, but all locations are expressed through estar
in Spanish, as this usage originally conveyed the sense of "the cathedral stands
in the city").
Word order typology
Classical Latin in most cases adopted an SOV word order in ordinary prose, although other word orders were allowed, such as in poetry, due to its inflectional nature. However, word order in the modern Romance languages generally adopted a standard SVO word order. Fragments of SOV word order still survive in the placement of clitic
object pronouns (e.g. Spanish yo te amo
"I love you").
History of specific Romance languages
- ^ Alkire & Rosen 2010, p. 28
- ^ Posner 1996, p. 98
- ^ Herman 2000, p. 7
- ^ Elcock (1960), p. 20
- ^ Eskhult 2018, § 6
- ^ Posner 1996, p. 3
- ^ Herman 2000, p. 1
- ^ "...der römischen Volkssprache oder Volksmundart." Diez (1882), p. 1.
- ^ Diez (1882), p. 63.
- ^ Elcock (1960), p. 21
- ^ Grandgent 1907, pp. 2-3
- ^ Wright 2002, pp. 27-8
- ^ Posner, Rebecca; Sala, Marius. "Vulgar Latin". Encyclopedia Britannica. Retrieved 20 Jun 2017.
- ^ Adams (2007), pp. 626-9
- ^ Alkire & Rosen, p. 287
- ^ Herman 2000, p. 2
- ^ Harrington et al. 1997, p. 11
- ^ Harrington et al. 1997, pp. 7-10
- ^ Elcock, pp. 28-34
- ^ a b c Harrington et al. (1997).
- ^ Horrocks, Geoffrey and James Clackson (2007). The Blackwell History of the Latin Language. Malden: Blackwell Publishing. ISBN 978-1-4051-6209-8.
- ^ Allen (2003) states: "There appears to have been no great difference in quality between long and short a, but in the case of the close and mid vowels (i and u, e and o) the long appear to have been appreciably closer than the short." He then goes on to the historical development, quotations from various authors (from around the 2nd century AD), and evidence from older inscriptions in which "e" stands for normally short i, "i" for long e, etc.
- ^ Grandgent 1991, p. 11.
- ^ Grandgent 1991, p. 118.
- ^ a b Herman 2000, pp. 28–29.
- ^ a b c d Vincent (1990).
- ^ Michele Loporcaro, "Phonological Processes", The Cambridge History of the Romance Languages: Structures, vol. 1 (Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 2011), 112–4.
- ^ a b Grandgent 1991, p. 125.
- ^ Menéndez Pidal 1968, p. 208; Survivances du cas sujet.
- ^ a b c Grandgent 1991, p. 82.
- ^ Captivi, 1019.
- ^ Romanian Explanatory Dictionary (DEXOnline.ro)
- ^ a b Grandgent 1991, p. 238.
- Adams, J. N. (2007). The Regional Diversification of Latin. New York: Cambridge University Press.
- Alkire, Ti (2010). Romance Languages: A Historical Introduction. New York: Cambridge University Press.
- Allen, W. Sidney (2003). Vox Latina – a Guide to the Pronunciation of Classical Latin (2nd ed.). Cambridge, England: Cambridge University Press. ISBN 0-521-37936-9.
- Boyd-Bowman, Peter (1980). From Latin to Romance in Sound Charts. Washington DC: Georgetown University Press.
- Diez, Friedrich (1882). Grammatik der romanischen Sprachen (in German) (5th ed.). Bonn: E. Weber.
- Elcock, W. D. (1960). The Romance Languages. London: Faber & Faber.
- Eskhult, Josef (2018). "Vulgar Latin as an emergent concept in the Italian Renaissance (1435–1601): its ancient and medieval prehistory and its emergence and development in Renaissance linguistic thought". Journal of Latin Linguistics. 17 (2): 191–230. doi:10.1515/joll-2018-0006.
- Grandgent, C. H. (1907). An Introduction to Vulgar Latin. Boston: D.C. Heath.
- Grandgent, Charles Hall (1991). Introducción al latín vulgar (in Spanish). Translated by Moll, Francisco de B. Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Científicas.
- Hall, Robert A., Jr. (1950). "The Reconstruction of Proto-Romance". Language. 26 (1): 6–27. doi:10.2307/410406. JSTOR 410406.
- Harrington, K. P.; Pucci, J.; Elliott, A. G. (1997). Medieval Latin (2nd ed.). University of Chicago Press. ISBN 0-226-31712-9.
- Herman, József (2000). Vulgar Latin. Translated by Wright, Roger. University Park: Pennsylvania State University Press. ISBN 0-271-02001-6.
- Johnson, Mark J. (1988). "Toward a History of Theoderic's Building Program". Dumbarton Oaks Papers. 42: 73–96. doi:10.2307/1291590. JSTOR 1291590.
- Lloyd, Paul M. (1979). "On the Definition of 'Vulgar Latin': The Eternal Return". Neuphilologische Mitteilungen. 80 (2): 110–122. JSTOR 43343254.
- Meyer, Paul (1906). "Beginnings and Progress of Romance Philology". In Rogers, Howard J. (ed.). Congress of Arts and Sciences: Universal Exposition, St. Louis, 1904. Volume III. Boston and New York: Houghton, Mifflin and Company. pp. 237–255.
- Palmer, L. R. (1988) . The Latin Language. University of Oklahoma. ISBN 0-8061-2136-X.
- Pulgram, Ernst (1950). "Spoken and Written Latin". Language. 26 (4): 458–466. doi:10.2307/410397. JSTOR 410397.
- Posner, Rebecca (1996). The Romance Languages. Cambridge, New York: Cambridge University Press.
- Sihler, A. L. (1995). New Comparative Grammar of Greek and Latin. Oxford: Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-19-508345-8.
- Tucker, T. G. (1985) . Etymological Dictionary of Latin. Ares Publishers. ISBN 0-89005-172-0.
- Väänänen, Veikko (1981). Introduction au latin vulgaire (3rd ed.). Paris: Klincksieck. ISBN 2-252-02360-0.
- Vincent, Nigel (1990). "Latin". In Harris, M.; Vincent, N. (eds.). The Romance Languages. Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-19-520829-3.
- von Wartburg, Walther; Chambon, Jean-Pierre (1922–1967). Französisches etymologisches Wörterbuch: eine Darstellung des galloromanischen Sprachschatzes (in German and French). Bonn: F. Klopp.
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Transitions to Romance languages
To Romance in general
- Banniard, Michel (1997). Du latin aux langues romanes. Paris: Nathan.
- Bonfante, Giuliano (1999). The origin of the Romance languages: Stages in the development of Latin. Heidelberg: Carl Winter.
- Ledgeway, Adam (2012). From Latin to Romance: Morphosyntactic Typology and Change. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
- Ledgeway, Adam; Maiden, Martin, eds. (2016). The Oxford Guide to the Romance Languages. Part 1: The Making of the Romance Languages. Oxford, England: Oxford University Press.
- Maiden, Martin; Smith, John Charles; Ledgeway, Adam, eds. (2013). The Cambridge History of the Romance Languages. Volume II: Contexts. Cambridge, England: Cambridge University Press. (esp. parts 1 & 2, Latin and the Making of the Romance Languages; The Transition from Latin to the Romance Languages)
- Wright, Roger (1982). Late Latin and Early Romance in Spain and Carolingian France. Liverpool: Francis Cairns.
- Wright, Roger, ed. (1991). Latin and the Romance Languages in the Early Middle ages. London/New York: Routledge.
- Ayres-Bennett, Wendy (1995). A History of the French Language through Texts. London/New York: Routledge.
- Kibler, William W. (1984). An Introduction to Old French. New York: Modern Language Association of America.
- Lodge, R. Anthony (1993). French: From Dialect to Standard. London/New York: Routledge.
- Pope, Mildred K. (1934). From Latin to Modern French with Especial Consideration of Anglo-Norman Phonology and Morphology. Manchester: Manchester University Press.
- Price, Glanville (1998). The French language: present and past (Revised ed.). London, England: Grant and Cutler.
- Maiden, Martin (1996). A Linguistic History of Italian. New York: Longman.
- Vincent, Nigel (2006). "Languages in contact in Medieval Italy". In Lepschy, Anna Laura (ed.). Rethinking Languages in Contact: The Case of Italian. Oxford and New York: LEGENDA (Routledge). pp. 12–27.
- Lloyd, Paul M. (1987). From Latin to Spanish. Philadelphia: American Philosophical Society.
- Penny, Ralph (2002). A History of the Spanish Language. Cambridge, England: Cambridge University Press.
- Pharies, David A. (2007). A Brief History of the Spanish Language. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press.
- Pountain, Christopher J. (2000). A History of the Spanish Language Through Texts. London, England: Routledge.
- Castro, Ivo (2004). Introdução à História do Português. Lisbon: Edições Colibri.
- Emiliano, António (2003). Latim e Romance na segunda metade do século XI. Lisbon: Fundação Gulbenkian.
- Williams, Edwin B. (1968). From Latin to Portuguese: Historical Phonology and Morphology of the Portuguese Language. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press.
Paden, William D. (1998). An Introduction to Old Occitan. New York: Modern Language Association of America.
Blasco Ferrer, Eduardo (1984). Storia linguistica della Sardegna. Tübingen: Max Niemeyer Verlag.
- Adams, James Noel. 1976. The Text and Language of a Vulgar Latin Chronicle (Anonymus Valesianus II). London: University of London, Institute of Classical Studies.
- --. 1977. The Vulgar Latin of the letters of Claudius Terentianus. Manchester, UK: Manchester Univ. Press.
- --. 2013. Social Variation and the Latin Language. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
- Burghini, Julia, and Javier Uría. 2015. "Some neglected evidence on Vulgar Latin 'glide suppression': Consentius, 27.17.20 N." Glotta; Zeitschrift Für Griechische Und Lateinische Sprache 91: 15–26. JSTOR 24368205.
- Jensen, Frede. 1972. From Vulgar Latin to Old Provençal. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press.
- Lakoff, Robin Tolmach. 2006. Vulgar Latin: Comparative Castration (and Comparative Theories of Syntax). Style 40, nos. 1–2: 56–61. JSTOR 10.5325/style.40.1-2.56.
- Rohlfs, Gerhard. 1970. From Vulgar Latin to Old French: An Introduction to the Study of the Old French Language. Detroit: Wayne State University Press.
- Weiss, Michael. 2009. Outline of the historical and comparative grammar of Latin. Ann Arbor, MI: Beechstave.
- Zovic, V (2015). "Vulgar Latin in Inscriptions from the Roman Province of Dalmatia". Vjesnik Za Arheologiju I Povijest Dalmatinsku. 108: 157–222.
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