How Latin Became Modern Italian

Nicholas C. Rossis

In my last post, I explored some ways in which a new language is born.

This post examines one of the best-known historical examples (at least for anyone in the West): the way that Latin became modern Italian. As Luca Guala explains on Quora, the road taken was neither simple nor straightforward.

19th century map of Italy | From the blog of Nicholas C. Rossis, author of science fiction, the Pearseus epic fantasy series and children's book

High Latin vs. Vulgar Latin

What we call today Latin is the language in which the classical works of Cicero, Caesar, Catullus, and Virgil were written. The language in which European erudites engaged in conversation from Rotterdam to Palermo in the middle ages. The language in which the Catholic mass was celebrated until 1965. One of the two current official languages of the Vatican.

However, this Latin was never really spoken by people, save for a few thousand people in Rome, at the very start of Roman civilization.

Instead, people spoke its contemporary, Vulgar Latin.

The…

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