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.