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Romance language most similar to Latin.

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 Message 1 of 42
14 December 2008 at 9:45am | IP Logged 
I'd like to ask you which Romance language most close resembles Latin in your opinion. I mean vocabulary, morphology and a degree of intelligibility for someone who knows Latin. I'd like also to ask native Romance speakres, if they can undestand Latin withouth studying it.

For me, Italian language is the most similar one, but Spanish is also very close to Latin. I have very poor knowledge of Provencal, but it seems to be quite conservative as regards vocabulary.
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 Message 2 of 42
14 December 2008 at 10:20am | IP Logged 
I've heard it's Portuguese, but to me Italian seems more similar. I haven't been much exposed to it though.
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 Message 3 of 42
14 December 2008 at 10:49am | IP Logged 
Phonologically, Sardinian is the most conservative. It prefers [k] in positions where every other Romance dialect had palatalized it and several other vowel changes that took place in every other dialect didn't take place in Sardinian (and to a lesser degree Romanian).

Grammatically, in terms of the declension system, I think you could argue for Romanian, but its verbal morphology has changed as much as the other languages as well.

In terms of lexicon, I've read that Italian was the most similar.

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 Message 4 of 42
14 December 2008 at 12:12pm | IP Logged 
Romania was a province of the Roman empire for a certain period in history and that influenced the language very strongly. Nonetheless, I'd be surprised if Romanian is closer to Latin than say, Italian.
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 Message 5 of 42
14 December 2008 at 1:15pm | IP Logged 
Sennin wrote:
Romania was a province of the Roman empire for a certain period in history and that influenced the language very strongly. Nonetheless, I'd be surprised if Romanian is closer to Latin than say, Italian.

They weren't just "influenced" by the Romans, the Romans went over and colonized the area as well. ;p, Romanian is a Romance language, not a Slavic language.

Roman Dacia was isolated from changes taking place in the rest of the empire, due to their early loss to the barbarians. Granted, they were eventually influenced by the surrounding languages in Balkans but that influence has helped them preserve certain aspects of grammar which had been lost in the western Romance languages, like some of the cases and the neuter gender.

The Western Romance languages in turn, were also influenced by the Germanic languages and some parts by Arabic.

Edited by quendidil on 14 December 2008 at 1:19pm

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 Message 6 of 42
14 December 2008 at 2:16pm | IP Logged 
I know that Romanian is a Romance language but it is hardly the purest example for surviving Latin. For one, they were using the Cyrillic alphabet throughout most of medieval history. Latin script was adopted much later. Consider this extract form Wikipedia:

In the late 1700s, Transylvanian scholars noted the Latin origin of Romanian and adapted the Latin alphabet to the Romanian language, using some rules from Italian, recognized as Romanian's closest relative.

That's a pretty direct statement that Italian was the closest surviving relative at least at that time.

In subsequent historical periods Romania is systematically trying to eradicate any non-Latin words (Turkish, Greek, Bulgarian and so froth). This is not necessarily a bad thing (they can do with their language as they please) but the result is clearly not authentic Latin.

Anyway, I'm in no position to brag about it because Bulgarian history is marked by similar efforts for language purism (trying to get rid of Turkish and Greek influences in favour of Slavic and proto-Bulgarian words.)

Edited by Sennin on 14 December 2008 at 2:43pm

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 Message 7 of 42
14 December 2008 at 5:52pm | IP Logged 
Romanian has kept a system with two cases (Nominative-Accusative vs. Genetive-Dative), and it is the only one to have done so. In old French there were also two cases, but it was more a case of the Nominative against the rest, and the Nominative in almost all cases lost out - so no there is only one case.

The existence of three genders in Romanian is sometimes quoted as a remnant from the Latin system, but that is not quite correct - the Romanian neuter is a compound gender with the same singular forms as in the masculine, while the plural forms are shared with the feminine gender.

The verbal system is of course based on Latin (just as in the other Romance languages), though with some particularities: there are at least 5 ways to express the future tense, and - even more importantly - the use of the infinitive has been severely restricted. This is apparently a development shared with other Balkan languages, including Modern Greek and - as far as I know - Bulgarian. Instead the Romanians use subordinate clauses in the subjunctive mode.

As far as I know the number of words in Romanian that are NOT either Romanian or loanwords from the neighbours - i.e. possible remnants from the old Dacian language - is extremely limited, maybe just a few dozen words plus some place names. So Romanian is definitely a Romance language, but it has developed somewhat away from the rest because of its history. This also means that the 'special relationship' with Italian has been obscured. If you really want too learn Romanian then French is more useful as a reference language because there are so many French loanwords in Romanian.

- - -

We have had a somewhat similar discussion before in this thread. My conclusion back then was that if you look at the language forms from around 700-900 then the local languages were all fairly close to (Vulgar) Latin, but you could already begin to see their individual differences. From that point on French has developed further away from the starting point than the others have, the Ibero-languages are in a middle position and Italian is somewhat closer to Latin. But on the basis of the few samples I have read Modern Sardic is definitely the single Romance language that reminds me most of Latin.

Edited by Iversen on 15 December 2008 at 8:16am

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 Message 8 of 42
16 December 2008 at 4:50pm | IP Logged 
Just a few weeks back, I've asked my latin teacher the same question.

From what I was told - the closest most similar language nowdays is the Romansch language.

you could find a lot of info here -
^^ wikipedia ofcourse :D

In the same conversation, i've also asked whether theres a way of actually listening to real latin anywhere. She told me that Icelanders really love latin (for some reason) and keep a live radio station who broadcasts only in latin. I thought you might find it useful as well ;D.

Edited by laban on 16 December 2008 at 4:51pm

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