Language

The native language of the Romans was Latin, an Italic language in the Indo-European family. Several forms of Latin existed, and the language evolved considerably over time, eventually becoming the Romance languages spoken today. Silver Age Latin was the most popular. Initially a highly inflectional and synthetic language, older forms of Latin rely little on word order, conveying meaning through a system of affixes attached to word stems. Like other Indo-European languages, Latin gradually became much more analytic over time and acquired conventionalized word orders as it lost more and more of its case system and associated inflections. Its alphabet, the Latin alphabet, is based on the Old Italic alphabet, which is in turn derived from the Greek alphabet. The Latin alphabet is still used today to write most European and many other languages. Although surviving Latin literature consists almost entirely of Classical Latin, an artificial and highly stylized and polished literary language from the 1st century BC, the actual spoken language of the Roman Empire was Vulgar Latin, which significantly differed from Classical Latin in grammar, vocabulary, and eventually pronunciation. Also, although Latin remained the main written language of the Roman Empire, Greek came to be the language spoken by the well-educated elite, as most of the literature studied by Romans was written in Greek. In the eastern half of the Roman Empire, which became the Byzantine Empire; Greek was the main lingua franca as it had been since the time of Alexander the Great, while Latin was mostly used by the Roman administration and its soldiers. Eventually Greek would supplant Latin as both the official written and spoken language of the Eastern Roman Empire, while the various dialects of Vulgar Latin used in the Western Roman Empire evolved into the modern Romance languages still used today. The expansion of the Roman Empire spread Latin throughout Europe, and over time Vulgar Latin evolved and dialectized in different locations, gradually shifting into a number of distinct Romance languages beginning in around the 9th century. Many of these languages, including French, Italian, Portuguese, Romanian, and Spanish,

flourished, the differences between them growing greater over time. Although English is Germanic rather than Romanic in originBritannia was a Roman province, but the Roman presence in Britain had effectively disappeared by the time of the Anglo-Saxon invasionsEnglish today borrows heavily from Latin and Latin-derived words. Old English borrowings were relatively sparse and drew mainly from ecclesiastical usage after the Christianization of England. When William the Conqueror invaded England from Normandy in 1066, he brought with him a considerable number of retainers who spoke Anglo-Norman French, a Romance language derived from Latin. Anglo-Norman French remained the language of the English upper classes for centuries, and the number of Latinate words in English increased immensely through borrowing during this Middle English period. More recently, during the Modern English period, the revival of interest in classical culture during the Renaissance led to a great deal of conscious adaptation of words from Classical Latin authors into English. Although Latin is an extinct language with very few remaining fluent speakers, it remains in use in many ways. In particular, Latin has survived through Ecclesiastical Latin, the traditional language of the Roman Catholic Church and one of the official languages of the Vatican City. Although distinct from both Classical and Vulgar Latin in a number of ways, Ecclesiastical Latin was more stable than typical Medieval Latin. More Classical sensibilities eventually re-emerged in the Renaissance with Humanist Latin. Due to both the prevalence of Christianity and the enduring influence of the Roman civilization, Latin became western Europe's lingua franca, a language used to cross international borders, such as for academic and diplomatic usage. A deep knowledge of classical Latin was a standard part of the educational curriculum in many western countries until well into the 20th century, and is still taught in many schools today. Although it was eventually supplanted in this respect by French in the 19th century and English in the 20th, Latin continues to see heavy use in religious, legal, and scientific terminology, and in academia in general.