Monthly Archives: April 2016

Italian and Spanish, Long Lost Cousins

Italian and Spanish

Spanish and Italian are both examples of modern-day Romance languages, meaning that they are siblings in the larger Indo-European language family, having both evolved from Latin. Spanish and Italian share significant similarities when comparing vocabulary root-words because of their common Latin roots.

Over the 500 years the Roman Empire conquered Europe, North Africa and Asia, Latin was enforced as the ‘lingua franca’. However, despite efforts to spread Latin far and wide, many of the Roman soldiers were poorly educated, or not native Latin speakers themselves, the form of Latin they spoke came to be known as ‘Vulgar Latin’. This more casual Latin was more open to outside influence from other languages than its classical Latin counterpart, and many of the pre-Roman languages such as Gaelic, Aramaic, and Germanic languages leave their mark on the Latin that was now commonly spoken. The official Roman language, Classical Latin, was only spoken in Rome and places where laws and doctrines were made.

For languages that share such an intimate history, and whose main populations of speakers still live side by side to this day, there are both significant similarities as well as significant differences.

In this article we will discuss the following topics:

  • When Spanish and Italian Became Distinct Languages Apart from Latin
  • Similarities Between Spanish and Italian
  • Differences between Spanish and Italian

When Spanish and Italian Became Distinct Languages Apart from Latin

As Latin spread throughout Europe during the Roman Empire’s conquest of Europe, the soldiers of Rome enforced the language throughout. However, since the soldiers tended to have little formal education, their dialect came to be known as ‘Vulgar Latin’. Afterwards, different local nuances and eventually dialects and languages began to emerge in their respective geographic regions of Europe.

The Italian language emerged from Latin, language most similar to Latin that is still spoken today. While Latin is considered a dead language, it is still used by scholars and religions throughout the world. In the past, Latin was the officially used language in Italy because the center of the Roman Empire was of course, Rome. The Italian language developed into many regional dialects, but by the 14th century the Tuscan dialect began to dominate because of the central location of Tuscany and the city of Florence, which was considered Italy’s most important city at that time.

The Spanish language also emerged from Latin, taking its place among the Romance languages. Spain had a different linguistic experience than Italy in terms of influence. In fact, many of the pre-Roman languages in the area have been forgotten, wiped out by Latin. Spain also had the added benefit of being geographically isolated due to its extensive coastline and Northern mountain range, cutting it off from other parts of Europe.

Similarities between Spanish and Italian

The main similarity between Spanish and Italian is that they are both Romance languages, and both derived from Latin. Both languages have many root words that originated from Latin and are similar in spelling, pronunciation and meaning.

Linguistically speaking, Italian and Spanish rate highly on the ‘lexical similarity’ index. This index is a measure of how similar two languages are to each other. Two languages that have a similarity of 0.85 (85%) or higher are considered to be related dialects, and have a strong genetic relationship. Since both Italian and Spanish are derived from Latin, they have a lexical similarity of 0.82 (82%). Only Catalan and Portuguese have a higher lexical similarity percentage.

Spanish and Italian vocabularies are so similar, that there are often only a few subtle differences to be seen. For example:

  • The Spanish word for ‘to leave’ paritr and the Italian word, partire differ only by one letter, as Italian words tend to not end in consonants, whereas Spanish words do.
  • The word for ‘time’ is tempo in Italian and tiempo in Spanish, as Spanish uses ‘ie’ more commonly than Italian.
  • The word for strong is forte in Italian and fuerte in Spanish, as Spanish uses ‘ue’ in place of the Italian ‘o’ sound.

As you can see, many words with similar meanings in both Spanish Italian are very similar, and are often only separated by one or two letters.

As the minor differences between Spanish and Italian spelling would suggest, both are very similar in terms of pronunciation. They have many of the same vowel sounds, silent ‘h’ and other similarities such as the sound ‘ni’ in the English word ‘onion’. Take for example the Spanish word baño and the Italian word spagnolo.

The Differences between Spanish and Italian

There are many differences between the Spanish language and the Italian language. Most importantly are the vocabulary differences, as many words can appear quite similar, but differ significantly in meaning.

The term ‘false friend’ is used to describe an instance where a word in one language that looks the same in another language, but has a completely different meaning. There are many ‘false friends’ between Spanish and Italian.

Some examples are:

  • The Italian word pronto means ready, whereas in Spanish pronto means soon
  • The Italian word barato means cheated, in Spanish barato means cheap
  • The Italian word subire means to undergo, in Spanish subir means to go up

Of course there are also significant differences in sentence structure, as well as differences in the way articles, pronouns, prepositions, adverbs, adjectives and verb tenses are used. These have all come about after many centuries of evolution, to become the two similar yet quite different languages we know today – Spanish and Italian.

There are both subtle and not-so-subtle differences between the Italian and Spanish, and this can be confusing for someone who is not a Spanish language or Italian language expert. Using a professional translation service such as Spanish with Style is very important when undertaking translation projects, as well intentioned translations done by non-professionals could fall victim to ‘false friend’ misunderstandings. Hiring a professional Spanish translation and copy editing services such as Spanish with Style ensures your message is being conveyed in the way in which you intended it to be, clearly and correctly.

Spanish and Portuguese- Twins Separated at Birth?

spanish and Portuguese

Spanish and Portuguese are both Romance languages, and have substantial similarities. Both evolved from Vulgar Latin, which was the more casual form of Classical Latin prevalent in the region during the 500 year reign of the Roman Empire. After the Roman empire fell, influences such as the languages previously spoken in what is today Portugal and Spain, began to emerge from the Latin that had been enforced for so long, thereby shaping each language into their own. By the 13th century, the Vulgar Latin that united Spanish and Portuguese had given way and both emerged as the distinct languages we know today.

In this article, we will discuss the following topics:

  • The Shared History of Spanish and Portuguese
  • The Similarities Between Spanish and Portuguese
  • The Differences Between Spanish and Portuguese

The Shared History of Spanish and Portuguese

Spanish and Portuguese are both part of the Ibero-Romance language family, which refers to the Romance languages specific to the Iberian Peninsula: Spanish, Portuguese, and lesser known languages such as Catalan, Aragonese and Gascon.

Before the arrival of the Romans, both modern-day Spain and modern-day Portuguese were home to speakers of many local dialects, some of which influence can still be seen today. For example, Portugal was home to a large population of speakers of Celtic languages, whose influence can be seen specifically in Portuguese pronunciation. Pre-Roman languages in modern-day Spain, on the other hand, have largely been forgotten. As such, the influence of pure Latin on Spanish is more significant.

The Similarities between Spanish and Portuguese

Today, Spanish and Portuguese are two of the Romance languages with the most similarities, lexically speaking. This is particularly true of the written forms where spelling is at times identical, or only very slightly altered. Their lexical similarity, which refers to the genetic relationship between two languages as well as the overlap in vocabulary, is listed at 89%. Many speakers of either Spanish or Portuguese are able to understand a large portion of the other language.

The Differences between Spanish and Portuguese

The most substantial difference between Spanish and Portuguese comes in the form of pronunciation. It is in this area where we can see the effects of pre-Roman as well as Roman influences and their differing effects on each languages. Pronunciation in Portuguese tends to be more similar to modern-day French, which was also heavily influenced by Celtic languages in pre-Roman times. Spanish pronunciation, however, follows more of an Italian style, which is one of the more closely related modern-day languages to Latin itself.

Further differences emerge between Spanish and Portuguese when their respective dialects are taken into account, such as Brazilian Portuguese, or the multiple versions of Spanish we see throughout Latin America. Because of these nuanced differences between not just these two languages, but their internal differences, it is important to use a professional Spanish language translation service when attempting cross-linguistic communication. Professional translation services such as Spanish with Style, are staffed with Spanish language experts who can navigate the pitfalls of translation posed by subtle differences, communicating your message clearly and concisely.

The Language of Love – The Shared History of Romance Languages

The language of love

The Romance languages: Italian, French, Spanish – to name a few, are often considered to be the languages of love, from the Spanish ‘Latin Lover’ stereotype, to famous French love poems and romantic Italian dinner music. However, it may surprise some to know that these languages are not called ‘Romance’ languages after their perceived cultural predisposition to all things romantic, but rather because of their origins- the Roman Empire. Although spoken by some 800 million people today, the Romance languages were originally derived from Latin, which was spoken by the Romans across Europe at the height of their power.

In this article, we will look at Romance languages today, and where they came from:

  • The Foundation of Romance Languages the Latin origin of Romance languages can still be seen today.
  • What Are the Romance Languages? Even though Latin is not still spoken, it lives on through several modern day Latin based languages.
  • The Romance Languages in Today’s World Romance languages are spoken on every continent, and play an integral role in global culture and economy.

The Foundation of Romance Languages

Over the course of nearly 500 hundred years; Europe, North Africa and parts of Asia and the Middle East were conquered and ruled by the Roman Empire. As the Romans began spreading out from Rome in 31 BCE and occupying more and more land, they brought with them their language, Latin. Latin is technically considered a dead language as there are no longer any native speakers, however it is not a forgotten language and is still used in certain Academic contexts.

What remains from Latin today are the languages that were derived from Latin over the sixth, seventh, eighth and ninth centuries, after the fall of the Roman Empire loosened the grip the Latin language had on people’s daily lives.

These languages, known today as the Romance languages, evolved from Latin, but more specifically they evolved from what is generally referred to as ‘Vulgar Latin’. While the word ‘vulgar’ has certain connotations in English, what ‘Vulgar Latin’ really means is non-standard, or common speech Latin, as opposed to classical Latin, which was the official language of the elite and educated class. Because the Romans conquered such a vast amount of land in a relatively short time, the Roman army consisted of slaves, thieves, or people whose homeland had been conquered and who had been conscripted, all with limited levels of formal education, or for whom Latin was not their first language.

Because the Roman territory consisted of such a large, linguistically diverse area of land, new speakers of Latin would often infuse their spoken Latin with words from their own languages. Although the Romans attempted to enforce linguistic unity, there were still pushback from communities who wished to continue speaking their languages. We can see evidence of this in the languages that evolved from Latin, the Romance languages, which eventually splintered off in very different directions thanks in part to the influence of pre-existing local dialects.

What Are the Romance Languages?

There are 23 Romance Languages as we know them today. However, the most common ones are Spanish, Portuguese, French, Italian and Romanian. More than 800 million people speak these languages now around the world. Here is how the most commonly spoken Romance languages break down by the numbers:

  • Spanish – 400 million native speakers with many more as a second language
  • Portuguese – 216 million native speakers basically only in Brazil and Portugal
  • French- 80 million native speakers, mostly in France but also among their many colonies
  • Italian – 60 million native speakers mostly in Italy
  • Romanian – 25 million native speakers generally in Romania and Moldova

These languages represent the official way of communicating of one out of every seven people on earth, and continue to grow exponentially.

The Spanish language in particular is one of the most widely spoken Romance languages, and it is the official language in 21 countries. It is estimated that by the year 2050, there will be 900 million native Spanish speakers globally, meaning that the Spanish language could easily represent 10% of the world’s total population. Notably, it is also estimated that the United States will be home to the largest population of Spanish speakers by this time.

Portuguese began to appear as a language distinct from Latin by the 13th century, and has been strongly influenced by the Galician language spoken in the area prior to the Roman invasion. Having spread to the new world in the 15th century, specifically Brazil, as well as parts of Africa, today there are 202 million native Portuguese speakers across 9 countries.

The French language is now the fourth most spoken language in the world, counting over 80 million native speakers. French is also one of the more commonly spoken second languages, and counts 220 million people worldwide who can speak varying degrees of the language. The French language has spread all over the world; from Europe, to Africa, to small Caribbean islands, to large parts of Canada and even the United States.

The Italian language is actually the closest to Latin of all the Romance languages, which is not surprising as Rome was the center of the whole of the Roman Empire. Italian is spoken throughout several countries in Europe, and there are large communities of Italian expatriates in the Americas and Australia. There are approximately 85 million Italian speakers in the world today.

The Romanian language is spoken by more than 25 million people, and counts another 4 million second language speakers. It is also spoken in by many expatriate communities in countries such as Canada, the United States, Greece, Turkey, Russia, Australia and many more around the world.

Romance Languages in Today’s World

The Romance Languages that evolved from the fall of the Roman Empire in the sixth century to the ninth century when they emerged as languages distinct from their Latin parents, are today spoken by a significant percentage of the world’s population. On every continent you will find a community of Romance language speakers, whether it be Spanish, Portuguese, French, Italian or Romanian.

It is clear to see that in a world where Romance languages are ubiquitous, many businesses and individuals alike are turning to professional translation and copy editing services such as Spanish with Style to get their message across to multiple audiences. It is important to choose a translation service that specialized in the target Romance language, as there are more differences than similarities among them. Our Spanish language translation and copy editing professionals are Spanish language experts, and guarantee that your text will be translated into perfect Spanish so it can be smoothly communicated to the 400 million native Spanish speakers on earth today.