|Native to||Roman Republic, Roman Empire|
|Era||Antiquity; developed into Romance languages 6th to 9th centuries|
The Roman Empire in 117 AD
Vulgar Latin or Sermo Vulgaris ("common speech") was a nonstandard form of Latin (as opposed to Classical Latin, the standard and literary version of the language) spoken in the Mediterranean region during and after the classical period of the Roman Empire. It is from Vulgar Latin that the Romance languages developed; the best known are the national languages Italian, Spanish, Portuguese, Romanian, and French. Works written in Latin during classical times and the earlier Middle Ages used Classical Latin rather than Vulgar Latin, with very few exceptions (most notably sections of Gaius Petronius' Satyricon). Because of its nonstandard nature, Vulgar Latin had no official orthography. Vulgar Latin is sometimes also called colloquial Latin, or Common Romance (particularly in the late stage). In Renaissance Latin, Vulgar Latin was called vulgare Latinum or Latinum vulgare.
By its nature Vulgar Latin varied greatly by region and by time period, though several major divisions can be seen. Vulgar Latin dialects began to significantly diverge from Classical Latin in the third century during the classical period of the Roman Empire. Nevertheless, throughout the sixth century the most widely spoken dialects were still similar to and mostly mutually intelligible with Classical Latin.
The verb system [...] seems to have remained virtually intact throughout the fifth century [...] the transformation of the language, from structures we call Latin into structures we call Romance, lasted from the third or fourth century until the eighth; we could say Latin "died" [ceased to be anybody's natural mother tongue and had to be learned] in the first part of the eighth century; in Italy the first signs that people were aware of the difference between the everyday language they spoke and the written form is in the mid-tenth century. The period of most rapid change occurred from the second half of the seventh century. Until then the spoken and written form (though with many vulgar features) were regarded as one language.
The language called Proto-Romance developed during the governance of Germanic rulers. Similarly, in the Eastern Roman Empire Latin faded as the Court language in the course of the 5th century. The Vulgar Latin spoken in the Balkans north of Greece and southern Bulgaria became heavily influenced by Greek and Slavic and also became radically different from Classical Latin and from the proto-Romance of Western Europe. Vulgar Latin diverged into distinct languages beginning in the 9th century.
The term "common speech" (sermo vulgaris), which later became "Vulgar Latin", was used by inhabitants of the Roman Empire. Subsequently it became a technical term from Latin and Romance-language philology referring to the unwritten varieties of a Latinised language spoken mainly by Italo-Celtic populations governed by the Roman Republic and the Roman Empire.
Traces of their language appear in some inscriptions, such as graffiti or advertisements. The educated population mainly responsible for Classical Latin may also have spoken Vulgar Latin in certain contexts depending on their socioeconomic background. The term was first used improperly in that sense by the pioneers of Romance-language philology: François Juste Marie Raynouard (1761-1836) and Friedrich Christian Diez (1794-1876).
In the course of his studies on the lyrics of songs written by the troubadours of Provence, which had already been studied by Dante Alighieri and published in De vulgari eloquentia, Raynouard noticed that the Romance languages derived in part from lexical, morphological, and syntactic features that were Latin, but were not preferred in Classical Latin. He hypothesized an intermediate phase and identified it with the Romana lingua, a term that in countries speaking Romance languages meant "nothing more or less than the vulgar speech as opposed to literary or grammatical Latin."
Diez, the principal founder of Romance-language philology, impressed by the comparative methods of Jakob Grimm in Deutsche Grammatik, which came out in 1819 and was the first to use such methods in philology, decided to apply them to the Romance languages and discovered Raynouard's work, Grammaire comparée des langues de l'Europe latine dans leurs rapports avec la langue des troubadours, published in 1821. Describing himself as a pupil of Raynouard, he went on to expand the concept to all Romance languages, not just the speech of the troubadours, on a systematic basis, thereby becoming the originator of a new field of scholarly inquiry.
Diez, in his signal work on the topic, Grammatik der romanischen Sprachen, "Grammar of the Romance Languages," first published in 1836-1843 and multiple times thereafter, after enumerating six Romance languages that he compared: Italian and Wallachian (i.e., Romanian) (east); Spanish and Portuguese (southwest); and Provençal and French (northwest), asserts that they had their origin in Latin, but nicht aus dem classischen Latein, "not from classical Latin," rather aus der römischen Volkssprache oder Volksmundart, "from the Roman popular language or popular dialect". These terms, as he points out later in the work, are a translation into German of Dante's vulgare latinum and Latinum vulgare, and the Italian of Boccaccio, latino volgare. These names in turn are at the end of a tradition extending to the Roman republic.
The concepts and vocabulary from which vulgare latinum descend were known in the classical period and are to be found amply represented in the unabridged Latin dictionary, starting in the late Roman republic. Marcus Tullius Cicero, a prolific writer, whose works have survived in large quantity, and who serves as a standard of Latin, and his contemporaries in addition to recognizing the lingua Latina also knew varieties of "speech" under the name sermo. Latin could be sermo Latinus, but in addition was a variety known as sermo vulgaris, sermo vulgi, sermo plebeius and sermo quotidianus. These modifiers inform post-classical readers that a conversational Latin existed, which was used by the masses (vulgus) in daily speaking (quotidianus) and was perceived as lower-class (plebeius).
These vocabulary items manifest no opposition to the written language. There was an opposition to higher-class, or family Latin (good family) in sermo familiaris and very rarely literature might be termed sermo nobilis. The supposed "sermo classicus" is a scholarly fiction unattested in the dictionary. All kinds of sermo were spoken only, not written. If one wanted to refer to what in post-classical times was called classical Latin one resorted to the concept of latinitas ("latinity") or latine (adverb).
If one spoke in the lingua or sermo Latinus one merely spoke Latin, but if one spoke latine or latinius ("more Latinish") one spoke good Latin, and formal Latin had latinitas, the quality of good Latin, about it. After the fall of the empire and the transformation of spoken Latin into the early Romance languages the only representative of the Latin language was written Latin, which became known as classicus, "classy" Latin. The original opposition was between formal or implied good Latin and informal or Vulgar Latin. The spoken/written dichotomy is entirely philological.
Vulgar Latin is a blanket term covering the popular dialects and sociolects of the Latin language throughout its range, from the hypothetical prisca latinitas of unknown or poorly remembered times in early Latium, to the language spoken around the fall of the empire. Although making it clear that sermo vulgaris existed, ancient writers said very little about it. Because it was not transcribed, it can only be studied indirectly. Knowledge comes from these chief sources:
The original written Latin language (what is today referred to as Classical Latin) was adapted from the actual spoken language of the Latins, with some minor modifications, long before the rise of the Roman Empire. As with many languages, over time the spoken vulgar language diverged from the written language with the written language remaining somewhat static. During the classical period spoken (Vulgar) Latin still remained largely common across the Empire, some minor dialectal differences notwithstanding.
The collapse of the Western Roman Empire rapidly began to change this. The former western provinces became increasingly isolated from the Eastern Roman Empire, leading to a rapid divergence in the Latin spoken on either side. In the West an even more complex transformation was occurring. A blending of cultures was occurring between the former Roman citizens who were fluent in the proper Latin speech (which was already substantially different from Classical Latin), and the new Gothic rulers who, though largely Latinised, tended to speak Latin poorly, speaking what could be considered a pidgin of Latin and their Germanic mother tongue, though this changed over time.
The vulgar Latin language that continued to evolve after the establishment of the successor kingdoms of the Roman State incorporated Germanic vocabulary but with minimal influences from Germanic grammar (Germanic languages did not displace Latin except in northern Belgium, England, the Rhineland Moselle region and north of the Alps). For a few centuries this language remained relatively common across most of Western Europe (hence the fact that Italian, Spanish, French, etc. are far more similar to each other than to Classical Latin), though regional dialects were already developing. As early as 722, in a face to face meeting between Pope Gregory II, born and raised in Rome, and Saint Boniface, an Anglo-Saxon, Boniface complained that he found Pope Gregory's Latin speech difficult to understand, a clear sign of the transformation of Vulgar Latin in two regions of western Europe.
Soon Classical Latin and Vulgar Latin came to be viewed as distinct languages. At the third Council of Tours in 813, priests were ordered to preach in the vernacular language - either in the rustica lingua romanica (Vulgar Latin), or in the Germanic vernaculars - since the common people could no longer understand formal Latin. Within a generation, the Oaths of Strasbourg (842), a treaty between Charlemagne's grandsons Charles the Bald and Louis the German, was proffered and recorded in a language that was already distinct from Latin. József Herman states:
It seems certain that in the sixth century, and quite likely into the early parts of the seventh century, people in the main Romanized areas could still largely understand the biblical and liturgical texts and the commentaries (of greater or lesser simplicity) that formed part of the rites and of religious practice, and that even later, throughout the seventh century, saints' lives written in Latin could be read aloud to the congregations with an expectation that they would be understood. We can also deduce however, that in Gaul, from the central part of the eighth century onwards, many people, including several of the clerics, were not able to understand even the most straightforward religious texts.
By the end of the first millennium, dialects had diverged so far that some of the more geographically distant ones had become mutually unintelligible and distinct. With the evolved Latin vernaculars viewed as different languages with local norms, specific orthographies would in time be developed for some. Since all modern Romance varieties are continuations of this evolution, Vulgar Latin is not extinct but survives in variously evolved forms as today's Romance languages and dialects. In Romance-speaking Europe, recognition of the common origin of Romance varieties was replaced by labels recognizing and implicitly accentuating local differences in linguistic features. Some Romance languages evolved more than others. In terms of phonological structures, for example, a clear hierarchy from conservative to innovative is found in comparing Italian, Spanish and French (e.g. Latin amica > Italian amica, Spanish amiga, French amie; Latin caput > Italian capo, Spanish cabo, French chef).
The Oaths of Strasbourg offer indications of the state of Gallo-Romance toward the middle of the 9th century. While the language cannot be said with any degree of certainty to be Old French in the sense of the linear precursor to today's standard French, the abundance of Gallo-Romance features provides a glimpse of some particulars of Vulgar Latin's evolution on French soil.
|Gallo-Romance, AD 842||Vulgar Latin of Paris, circa 5th c. AD, for comparison||English Translation|
|"Pro Deo amur et pro christian poblo et nostro commun salvament, d'ist di in avant, in quant Deus savir et podir me dunat, si salvarai eo cist meon fradre Karlo, et in ayudha et in cadhuna cosa si cum om per dreit son fradra salvar dift, in o quid il mi altresi fazet. Et ab Ludher nul plaid nunquam prindrai qui meon vol cist meon fradre Karlo in damno sit."||"Por Deo amore et por chrestyano pob(o)lo et nostro comune salvamento de esto die en avante en quanto Deos sabere et podere me donat, sic salvarayo eo eccesto meon fradre Karlo, et en ayuda et en caduna causa, sic quomo omo per drecto son fradre salvare devet, en o qued illi me altrosic fatsyat, et ab Ludero nullo plag(i)do nonqua prendrayo, qui meon volo eccesto meon fradre Karlo en damno seat."||"For the love of God and for Christendom and our common salvation, from this day onwards, as God will give me the wisdom and power, I shall protect this brother of mine Charles, with aid or anything else, as one ought to protect one's brother, so that he may do the same for me, and I shall never knowingly make any covenant with Lothair that would harm this brother of mine Charles."|
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Vulgar Latin featured a large vocabulary of words that were productive in Romance.
There was no single pronunciation of Vulgar Latin, and the pronunciation of Vulgar Latin in the various Latin-speaking areas is indistinguishable from the earlier history of the phonology of the Romance languages. See the article on Romance languages for more information.
Evidence of phonological changes can be seen in the late 3rd-century Appendix Probi, a collection of glosses prescribing correct classical Latin forms for certain vulgar forms. These glosses describe:
Many of the forms castigated in the Appendix Probi proved to be the forms accepted in Romance; e.g., oricla (evolved from the Classical Latin marked diminutive auricula) is the source of French oreille, Catalan orella, Spanish oreja, Italian orecchia, Romanian ureche, Portuguese orelha, Sardinian origra 'ear', not the prescribed auris. Development of yod from the post-nasal unstressed /e/ of vinea enabled the palatalization of /n/ that would produce French vigne, Italian vigna, Spanish viña, Portuguese vinha, Catalan vinya, Occitan vinha, Friulan vigne, etc., 'vineyard'.
The most significant consonant changes affecting Vulgar Latin were palatalization (except in Sardinia); lenition, including simplification of geminate consonants (in areas north and west of the La Spezia-Rimini Line, e.g. Spanish digo vs. Italian dico 'I say', Spanish boca vs. Italian bocca 'mouth')); and loss of final consonants.
The loss of final consonants was already under way by the 1st century AD in some areas. A graffito at Pompeii reads quisque ama valia, which in Classical Latin would read quisquis amat valeat ("may whoever loves be strong/do well"). (The change from valeat to valia is also an early indicator of the development of /j/ (yod), which played such an important part in the development of palatalization.) On the other hand, this loss of final /t/ was not general. Old Spanish and Old French preserved a reflex of final /t/ up through 1100 AD or so, and modern French still maintains final /t/ in some liaison environments.
Areas north and west of the La Spezia-Rimini Line lenited intervocalic /p, t, k/ to /b, d, ?/. This phenomenon is occasionally attested during the imperial period, but it became frequent by the 7th century. For example, in Merovingian documents, rotatico > rodatico ("wheel tax").
Reduction of bisyllabic clusters of identical consonants to a single syllable-initial consonant also typifies Romance north and west of La Spezia-Rimini. The results in Italian and Spanish provide clear illustrations: siccus > Italian secco, Spanish seco; cippus > Italian ceppo, Spanish cepo; mittere > Italian mettere, Spanish meter.
The loss of the final m was a process which seems to have begun by the time of the earliest monuments of the Latin language. The epitaph of Lucius Cornelius Scipio Barbatus, who died around 150 BC, reads taurasia cisauna samnio cepit, which in Classical Latin would be taur?siam, cisaunam, samnium c?pit ("He captured Taurasia, Cisauna, and Samnium"). This however can be explained in a different way, that the inscription simply fails to note the nasality of the final vowels (like in the established custom of writing cos. for consul).
Confusions between b and v show that the Classical semivowel /w/, and intervocalic /b/ partially merged to become a bilabial fricative /?/ (Classical semivowel /w/ became /?/ in Vulgar Latin, while [?] became an allophone of /b/ in intervocalic position). Already by the 1st century AD, a document by one Eunus writes iobe for iovem and dibi for divi. In most of the Romance varieties, this sound would further develop into /v/, with the notable exception of the betacist varieties of Hispano-Romance: b and v represent the same phoneme /b/ (with allophone [?]) in Modern Spanish, as well as in Galician, northern Portuguese and the northern dialects of Catalan.
In general, many clusters were simplified in Vulgar Latin. For example, /ns/ reduced to /s/, reflecting the fact that /n/ was no longer phonetically consonantal. In some inscriptions, mensis > mesis ("month"), or consul > cosul ("consul"). Descendants of mensis include Portuguese mês, Spanish and Catalan mes, Old French meis (Modern French mois), Italian mese. In some areas (including much of Italy), the clusters [mn], [kt] ⟨ct⟩, [ks] ⟨x⟩ were assimilated to the second element: [nn], [tt], [ss]. Thus, some inscriptions have omnibus > onibus ("all [dative plural]"), indictione > inditione ("indiction"), vixit > bissit ("lived"). Also, three-consonant clusters usually lost the middle element. For example: emptores > imtores ("buyers") 
Not all areas show the same development of these clusters, however. In the East, Italian has [kt] > [tt], as in octo > otto ("eight") or nocte > notte ("night"); while Romanian has [kt] > [pt] (opt, noapte). By contrast, in the West, the [k] weakened to [j]. In French and Portuguese, this came to form a diphthong with the previous vowel (huit, oito; nuit, noite), while in Spanish, the [i] brought about palatalization (sound change) of [t], which produced [t?] (*oito > ocho, *noite > noche) 
Also, many clusters including [j] were simplified. Several of these groups seem to have never been fully stable[clarification needed] (e.g. facunt for faciunt). This dropping has resulted in the word parietem ("wall") developing as Italian parete, Romanian p?rete>perete, Portuguese parede, Spanish pared, or French paroi (Old French pareid).
The cluster [kw] ⟨qu⟩ was simplified to [k] in most instances before /i/ and /e/. In 435, one can find the hypercorrective spelling quisquentis for quiescentis ("of the person who rests here"). Modern languages have followed this trend, for example Latin qui ("who") has become Italian chi and French qui (both /ki/); while quem ("whom") became quien (/kjen/) in Spanish and quem (/k?j/) in Portuguese. However, [kw] has survived in front of [a] in most areas, although not in French; hence Latin quattuor yields Spanish cuatro (/kwatro/), Portuguese quatro (/kwatru/), and Italian quattro (/kwattro/), but French quatre (/kat?/), where the qu- spelling is purely etymological.
In Spanish, most words with consonant clusters in syllable-final position are loanwords from Classical Latin, examples are: transporte [t?ans'por.te], transmitir [t?anz.mi'tir], instalar [ins.ta'lar], constante [kons'tante], obstante [o?s'tante], obstruir [o?s't?wir], perspectiva [pers.pek'ti.?a], istmo ['ist.mo]. A syllable-final position cannot be more than one consonant (one of n, r, l, s or z) in most (or all) dialects in colloquial speech, reflecting Vulgar Latin background. Realizations like [tras'por.te], [t?az.mi'tir], [is.ta'lar], [kos'tante], [os'tante], [os't?wir], and ['iz.mo] are very common, and in many cases, they are considered acceptable even in formal speech.
In general, the ten-vowel system of Classical Latin, which relied on phonemic vowel length, was newly modelled into one in which vowel length distinctions lost phonemic importance, and qualitative distinctions of height became more prominent.
Classical Latin had 10 different vowel phonemes, grouped into five pairs of short-long, ⟨? - ?, ? - ?, ? - ?, ? - ?, ? - ?⟩. It also had four diphthongs, ⟨ae, oe, au, eu⟩, and the rare diphthong ⟨ui⟩. Finally, there were also long and short ⟨y⟩, representing /y/, /y:/ in Greek borrowings, which, however, probably came to be pronounced /i/, /i:/ even before Romance vowel changes started.
At least since the 1st century AD, short vowels (except a) differed by quality as well as by length from their long counterparts, the short vowels being lower. Thus the vowel inventory is usually reconstructed as /a - a:/, /? - e:/, /? - i:/, /? - o:/, /? - u:/.
|Spelling||1st cent.||2nd cent.||3rd cent.||4th cent.|
Many diphthongs had begun their monophthongization very early. It is presumed that by Republican times, ae had become /?:/ in unstressed syllables, a phenomenon that would spread to stressed positions around the 1st century AD. From the 2nd century AD, there are instances of spellings with ⟨?⟩ instead of ⟨ae⟩. ⟨oe⟩ was always a rare diphthong in Classical Latin (in Old Latin, oinos regularly became unus ("one")) and became /e:/ during early Imperial times. Thus, one can find penam for poenam.
However, ⟨au⟩ lasted much longer. While it was monophthongized to /o/ in areas of north and central Italy (including Rome), it was retained in most Vulgar Latin, and it survives in modern Romanian (for example, aur < aurum). There is evidence in French and Spanish that the monophthongization of au occurred independently in those languages.
Length confusions seem to have begun in unstressed vowels, but they were soon generalized. In the 3rd century AD, Sacerdos mentions people's tendency to shorten vowels at the end of a word, while some poets (like Commodian) show inconsistencies between long and short vowels in versification. However, the loss of contrastive length caused only the merger of ? and ? while the rest of pairs remained distinct in quality: /a/, /? - e/, /? - i/, /? - o/, /? - u/.
Also, the near-close vowels /?/ and /?/ became more open in most varieties and merged with /e/ and /o/ respectively. As a result, the reflexes of Latin pira "pear" and v?ra "true" rhyme in most Romance languages: Italian and Spanish pera, vera. Similarly, Latin nucem "walnut" and v?cem "voice" become Italian noce, voce, Portuguese noz, voz.
There was likely some regional variation in pronunciation, as the Romanian languages and Sardinian evolved differently. In Sardinian, all corresponding short and long vowels simply merged with each other, creating a 5-vowel system: /a, e, i, o, u/. In Romanian, the front vowels ?, ?, ?, ? evolved like the Western languages, but the back vowels ?, ?, ?, ? evolved as in Sardinian. A few Southern Italian languages, such as southern Corsican, northernmost Calabrian and southern Lucanian, behave like Sardinian with its penta-vowel system or, in case of Vegliote (even if only partially) and western Lucanian, like Romanian.
The placement of stress did not change from Classical to Vulgar Latin, and words continued to be stressed on the same syllable they were before. However, the loss of distinctive length disrupted the correlation between syllable weight and stress placement that existed in Classical Latin. Where in Classical Latin the place of the accent was predictable from the structure of the word, it was no longer so in Vulgar Latin. Stress had become a phonological property and could serve to distinguish forms that were otherwise homophones.
After the Classical Latin vowel length distinctions were lost in favor of vowel quality, a new system of allophonic vowel quantity appeared sometime between the 4th and 5th centuries. Around then, stressed vowels in open syllables came to be pronounced long (but still keeping height contrasts), and all the rest became short. For example, long venis /*'v?:.nis/, fori /*f?:.ri/, cathedra /*'ka:.te.dra/; but short vendo /*'ven.do/, formas /*'for.mas/. (This allophonic length distinction persists to this day in Italian.) However, in some regions of Iberia and Gaul, all stressed vowels came to be pronounced long: for example, porta /*'p?:r.ta/, tempus /*'t?:m.pus/. In many descendents, several of the long vowels underwent some form of diphthongization, most extensively in Old French where five of the seven long vowels were affected by breaking.
It is difficult to place the point in which the definite article, absent in Latin but present in all Romance languages, arose, largely because the highly colloquial speech in which it arose was seldom written down until the daughter languages had strongly diverged; most surviving texts in early Romance show the articles fully developed.
Definite articles evolved from demonstrative pronouns or adjectives (an analogous development is found in many Indo-European languages, including Greek, Celtic and Germanic); compare the fate of the Latin demonstrative adjective ille, illa, illud "that", in the Romance languages, becoming French le and la (Old French li, lo, la), Catalan and Spanish el, la and lo, Portuguese o and a (elision of -l- is a common feature of Portuguese), and Italian il, lo and la. Sardinian went its own way here also, forming its article from ipse, ipsa "this" (su, sa); some Catalan and Occitan dialects have articles from the same source. While most of the Romance languages put the article before the noun, Romanian has its own way, by putting the article after the noun, e.g. lupul ("the wolf" - from *lupum illum) and omul ("the man" - *homo illum), possibly a result of its membership in the Balkan sprachbund.
This demonstrative is used in a number of contexts in some early texts in ways that suggest that the Latin demonstrative was losing its force. The Vetus Latina Bible contains a passage Est tamen ille daemon sodalis peccati ("The devil is a companion of sin"), in a context that suggests that the word meant little more than an article. The need to translate sacred texts that were originally in Koine Greek, which had a definite article, may have given Christian Latin an incentive to choose a substitute. Aetheria uses ipse similarly: per mediam vallem ipsam ("through the middle of the valley"), suggesting that it too was weakening in force.
Another indication of the weakening of the demonstratives can be inferred from the fact that at this time, legal and similar texts begin to swarm with praedictus, supradictus, and so forth (all meaning, essentially, "aforesaid"), which seem to mean little more than "this" or "that". Gregory of Tours writes, Erat autem... beatissimus Anianus in supradicta civitate episcopus ("Blessed Anianus was bishop in that city.") The original Latin demonstrative adjectives were no longer felt to be strong or specific enough.
In less formal speech, reconstructed forms suggest that the inherited Latin demonstratives were made more forceful by being compounded with ecce (originally an interjection: "behold!"), which also spawned Italian ecco through eccum, a contracted form of ecce eum. This is the origin of Old French cil (*ecce ille), cist (*ecce iste) and ici (*ecce hic); Italian questo (*eccum istum), quello (*eccum illum) and (now mainly Tuscan) codesto (*eccum tibi istum), as well as qui (*eccu hic), qua (*eccum hac); Spanish aquel and Portuguese aquele (*eccum ille); Spanish acá and Portuguese cá (*eccum hac); Spanish aquí and Portuguese aqui (*eccum hic); Portuguese acolá (*eccum illac) and aquém (*eccum inde); Romanian acest (*ecce iste) and acela (*ecce ille), and many other forms.
On the other hand, even in the Oaths of Strasbourg, no demonstrative appears even in places where one would clearly be called for in all the later languages (pro christian poblo - "for the Christian people"). Using the demonstratives as articles may have still been considered overly informal for a royal oath in the 9th century. Considerable variation exists in all of the Romance vernaculars as to their actual use: in Romanian, the articles are suffixed to the noun (or an adjective preceding it), as in other members of the Balkan sprachbund and the North Germanic languages.
The numeral unus, una (one) supplies the indefinite article in all cases (again, this is a common semantic development across Europe). This is anticipated in Classical Latin; Cicero writes cum uno gladiatore nequissimo ("with a most immoral gladiator"). This suggests that unus was beginning to supplant quidam in the meaning of "a certain" or "some" by the 1st century BC.[dubious ]
The three grammatical genders of Classical Latin were replaced by a two-gender system in most Romance languages.
The neuter gender of classical Latin was in most cases identical with the masculine both syntactically and morphologically. The confusion starts already in Pompeian graffiti, e.g., cadaver mortuus for cadaver mortuum ("dead body"), and hoc locum for hunc locum ("this place"). The morphological confusion shows primarily in the adoption of the nominative ending -us (-Ø after -r) in the o-declension.
In Petronius' work, one can find balneus for balneum ("bath"), fatus for fatum ("fate"), caelus for caelum ("heaven"), amphitheater for amphitheatrum ("amphitheatre"), vinus for vinum ("wine"), and conversely, thesaurum for thesaurus ("treasure"). Most of these forms occur in the speech of one man: Trimalchion, an uneducated, Greek (i.e., foreign) freedman.
In modern Romance languages, the nominative s-ending has been largely abandoned, and all substantives of the o-declension have an ending derived from -um: -u, -o, or -Ø. E.g., masculine murum ("wall"), and neuter caelum ("sky") have evolved to: Italian muro, cielo; Portuguese muro, céu; Spanish muro, cielo, Catalan mur, cel; Romanian mur, cieru>cer; French mur, ciel. However, Old French still had -s in the nominative and -Ø in the accusative in both words: murs, ciels [nominative] - mur, ciel [oblique].
For some neuter nouns of the third declension, the oblique stem became the productive; for others, the nominative/accusative form, which was identical in Classical Latin. Evidence suggests that the neuter gender was under pressure well back into the imperial period. French (le) lait, Catalan (la) llet, Spanish (la) leche, Portuguese (o) leite, Italian language (il) latte, Leonese (el) lleche and Romanian lapte(le) ("milk"), all derive from the non-standard but attested Latin nominative/accusative neuter lacte or accusative masculine lactem.
Note also that in Spanish the word became feminine, while in French, Portuguese and Italian it became masculine (in Romanian it remained neuter, lapte/l?pturi). Other neuter forms, however, were preserved in Romance; Catalan and French nom, Leonese, Portuguese and Italian nome, Romanian nume ("name") all preserve the Latin nominative/accusative nomen, rather than the oblique stem form *nominem (which nevertheless produced Spanish nombre).
|Nouns||Adjectives and determiners|
Most neuter nouns had plural forms ending in -A or -IA; some of these were reanalysed as feminine singulars, such as gaudium ("joy"), plural gaudia; the plural form lies at the root of the French feminine singular (la) joie, as well as of Catalan and Occitan (la) joia (Italian la gioia is a borrowing from French); the same for lignum ("wood stick"), plural ligna, that originated the Catalan feminine singular noun (la) llenya, and Spanish (la) leña. Some Romance languages still have a special form derived from the ancient neuter plural which is treated grammatically as feminine: e.g., BRACCHIUM : BRACCHIA "arm(s)" -> Italian (il) braccio : (le) braccia, Romanian bra?(ul) : bra?e(le). Cf. also Merovingian Latin ipsa animalia aliquas mortas fuerant.
Alternations in Italian heteroclitic nouns such as l'uovo fresco ("the fresh egg") / le uova fresche ("the fresh eggs") are usually analysed as masculine in the singular and feminine in the plural, with an irregular plural in -a. However, it is also consistent with their historical development to say that uovo is simply a regular neuter noun (ovum, plural ova) and that the characteristic ending for words agreeing with these nouns is -o in the singular and -e in the plural. The same alternation in gender exists in certain Romanian nouns, but is considered regular as it is more common than in Italian. Thus, a relict neuter gender can arguably be said to persist in Italian and Romanian.
In Portuguese, traces of the neuter plural can be found in collective formations and words meant to inform a bigger size or sturdiness. Thus, one can use ovo/ovos ("egg/eggs") and ova/ovas ("roe", "a collection of eggs"), bordo/bordos ("section(s) of an edge") and borda/bordas ("edge/edges"), saco/sacos ("bag/bags") and saca/sacas ("sack/sacks"), manto/mantos ("cloak/cloaks") and manta/mantas ("blanket/blankets"). Other times, it resulted in words whose gender may be changed more or less arbitrarily, like fruto/fruta ("fruit"), caldo/calda (broth"), etc.
These formations were especially common when they could be used to avoid irregular forms. In Latin, the names of trees were usually feminine, but many were declined in the second declension paradigm, which was dominated by masculine or neuter nouns. Latin pirus ("pear tree"), a feminine noun with a masculine-looking ending, became masculine in Italian (il) pero and Romanian p?r(ul); in French and Spanish it was replaced by the masculine derivations (le) poirier, (el) peral; and in Portuguese and Catalan by the feminine derivations (a) pereira, (la) perera.
As usual, irregularities persisted longest in frequently used forms. From the fourth declension noun manus ("hand"), another feminine noun with the ending -us, Italian and Spanish derived (la) mano, Romanian mânu>mâna pl (reg.)mânule/mânuri, Catalan (la) mà, and Portuguese (a) mão, which preserve the feminine gender along with the masculine appearance.
Except for the Italian and Romanian heteroclitic nouns, other major Romance languages have no trace of neuter nouns, but still have neuter pronouns. French celui-ci / celle-ci / ceci ("this"), Spanish éste / ésta / esto ("this"), Italian: gli / le / ci ("to him" /"to her" / "to it"), Catalan: ho, açò, això, allò ("it" / this / this-that / that over there); Portuguese: todo / toda / tudo ("all of him" / "all of her" / "all of it").
In Spanish, a three-way contrast is also made with the definite articles el, la, and lo. The last is used with nouns denoting abstract categories: lo bueno, literally "that which is good", from bueno: good.
The Vulgar Latin vowel shifts caused the merger of several case endings in the nominal and adjectival declensions. Some of the causes include: the loss of final m, the merger of ? with ?, and the merger of ? with ? (see tables). Thus, by the 5th century, the number of case contrasts had been drastically reduced.
(c. 1st century)
(c. 5th cent.)
(c. 1st cent.)
(c. 5th cent.)
|Old French |
(c. 11th cent.)
There also seems to be a marked tendency to confuse different forms even when they have not become homophonous (like in the generally more distinct plurals), which indicates nominal declension was not only shaped by phonetic mergers, but also by structural factors. As a result of the untenability of the noun case system after these phonetic changes, Vulgar Latin shifted from a markedly synthetic language to a more analytic one.
The genitive case died out around the 3rd century AD, according to Meyer-Lübke, and began to be replaced by de + noun as early as the 2nd century BC. Exceptions of remaining genitive forms are some pronouns, many fossilized combinations like sayings, some proper names, and certain terms related to the church. For example, French jeudi ("Thursday") < Old French juesdi < Vulgar Latin jovis di?s; Spanish es menester ("it is necessary") < est ministeri; terms like angelorum, paganorum; and Italian terremoto ("earthquake") < terrae motu as well as names like Paoli, Pieri.
The dative case lasted longer than the genitive, even though Plautus, in the 2nd century BC, already shows some instances of substitution by the construction ad + accusative. For example, ad carnuficem dabo.
The accusative case developed as a prepositional case, displacing many instances of the ablative. Towards the end of the imperial period, the accusative came to be used more and more as a general oblique case. 
Despite increasing case mergers, nominative and accusative forms seem to have remained distinct for much longer, since they are rarely confused in inscriptions. Even though Gaulish texts from the 7th century rarely confuse both forms, it is believed that both cases began to merge in Africa by the end of the empire, and a bit later in parts of Italy and Iberia. Nowadays, Romanian maintains a two-case system, while Old French and Old Occitan had a two-case subject-oblique system.
This Old French system was based largely on whether or not the Latin case ending contained an "s" or not, with the "s" being retained but all vowels in the ending being lost (as with veisin below). But since this meant that it was easy to confuse the singular nominative with the plural oblique, and the plural nominative with the singular oblique, along with the final "s" becoming silent, this case system ultimately collapsed as well, and French adopted one case (usually the oblique) for all purposes, leaving the Romanian the only one to survive to the present day.
Loss of a productive noun case system meant that the syntactic purposes it formerly served now had to be performed by prepositions and other paraphrases. These particles increased in number, and many new ones were formed by compounding old ones. The descendant Romance languages are full of grammatical particles such as Spanish donde, "where", from Latin de + unde, or French dès, "since", from de + ex, while the equivalent Spanish and Portuguese desde is de + ex + de. Spanish después and Portuguese depois, "after", represent de + ex + post.
Some of these new compounds appear in literary texts during the late empire; French dehors, Spanish de fuera and Portuguese de fora ("outside") all represent de + foris (Romanian afar? - ad + foris), and we find Jerome writing stulti, nonne qui fecit, quod de foris est, etiam id, quod de intus est fecit? (Luke 11.40: "ye fools, did not he, that made which is without, make that which is within also?"). In some cases, compounds were created by combining a large number of particles, such as the Romanian adineauri ("just recently") from ad + de + in + illa + hora.
As Latin was losing its case system, prepositions started to move in to fill the void. In colloquial Latin, the preposition ad followed by the accusative was sometimes used as a substitute for the dative case.
Just as in the disappearing dative case, colloquial Latin sometimes replaced the disappearing genitive case with the preposition de followed by the ablative.
Unlike in the nominal and adjectival inflections, pronouns kept great part of the case distinctions. However, many changes happened. For example, the /?/ of ego was lost by the end of the empire, and eo appears in manuscripts from the 6th century.[which?]
|1st person||2nd person||3rd person|
|Dative||*mi||*nbe(s)||*ti, *tbe||*vbe(s)||*si, *sbe||*si, *sbe|
Classical Latin had a number of different suffixes that made adverbs from adjectives: c?rus, "dear", formed c?r?, "dearly"; ?criter, "fiercely", from ?cer; cr?br?, "often", from cr?ber. All of these derivational suffixes were lost in Vulgar Latin, where adverbs were invariably formed by a feminine ablative form modifying mente, which was originally the ablative of m?ns, and so meant "with a ... mind". So v?l?x ("quick") instead of v?l?citer ("quickly") gave veloci mente (originally "with a quick mind", "quick-mindedly") This explains the widespread rule for forming adverbs in many Romance languages: add the suffix -ment(e) to the feminine form of the adjective. The development illustrates a textbook case of grammaticalization in which an autonomous form, the noun meaning 'mind', while still in free lexical use in e.g. Italian venire in mente 'come to mind', becomes a productive suffix for forming adverbs in Romance such as Italian chiaramente, Spanish claramente 'clearly', with both its source and its meaning opaque in that usage other than as adverb formant.
In general, the verbal system in the Romance languages changed less from Classical Latin than did the nominal system.
The four conjugational classes generally survived. The second and third conjugations already had identical imperfect tense forms in Latin, and also shared a common present participle. Because of the merging of short i with long ? in most of Vulgar Latin, these two conjugations grew even closer together. Several of the most frequently-used forms became indistinguishable, while others became distinguished only by stress placement:
|Infinitive||1st sing.||2nd sing.||3rd sing.||1st plur.||2nd plur.||3rd plur.||sing. imperative|
|Second conjugation (Classical)||-?re||-e?||-?s||-et||-?mus||-?tis||-ent||-?|
|Second conjugation (Vulgar)||*-re||*-(j)o||*-es||*-e(t)||*-mos||*-tes||*-en(t)||*-e|
|Third conjugation (Vulgar)||*-ere||*-o||*-emos||*-etes||*-on(t)|
|Third conjugation (Classical)||-ere||-?||-is||-it||-imus||-itis||-unt||-e|
These two conjugations came to be conflated in many of the Romance languages, often by merging them into a single class while taking endings from each of the original two conjugations. Which endings survived was different for each language, although most tended to favour second conjugation endings over the third conjugation. Spanish, for example, mostly eliminated the third conjugation forms in favour of second conjugation forms.
French and Catalan did the same, but tended to generalise the third conjugation infinitive instead. Catalan in particular almost completely eliminated the second conjugation ending over time, reducing it to a small relic class. In Italian, the two infinitive endings remained separate (but spelled identically), while the conjugations merged in most other respects much as in the other languages. However, the third-conjugation third-person plural present ending survived in favour of the second conjugation version, and was even extended to the fourth conjugation. Romanian also maintained the distinction between the second and third conjugation endings.
In the perfect, many languages generalized the -aui ending most frequently found in the first conjugation. This led to an unusual development; phonetically, the ending was treated as the diphthong /au/ rather than containing a semivowel /awi/, and in other cases the /w/ sound was simply dropped. We know this because it did not participate in the sound shift from /w/ to //. Thus Latin amaui, amauit ("I loved; he/she loved") in many areas became proto-Romance *amai and *amaut, yielding for example Portuguese amei, amou. This suggests that in the spoken language, these changes in conjugation preceded the loss of /w/.
Another major systemic change was to the future tense, remodelled in Vulgar Latin with auxiliary verbs. A new future was originally formed with the auxiliary verb habere, *amare habeo, literally "to love I have" (cf. English "I have to love", which has shades of a future meaning). This was contracted into a new future suffix in Western Romance forms, which can be seen in the following modern examples of "I will love":
An innovative conditional (distinct from the subjunctive) also developed in the same way (infinitive + conjugated form of habere). The fact that the future and conditional endings were originally independent words is still evident in literary Portuguese, which in these tenses allows clitic object pronouns to be incorporated between the root of the verb and its ending: "I will love" (eu) amarei, but "I will love you" amar-te-ei, from amar + te ["you"] + (eu) hei = amar + te + [h]ei = amar-te-ei.
In Spanish, Italian and Portuguese, personal pronouns can still be omitted from verb phrases as in Latin, as the endings are still distinct enough to convey that information: venio > Sp vengo ("I come"). In French, however, all the endings are typically homophonous except the first and second person (and occasionally also third person) plural, so the pronouns are always used (je viens) except in the imperative.
Contrary to the millennia-long continuity of much of the active verb system, which has now survived 6000 years of known evolution, the synthetic passive voice was utterly lost in Romance, being replaced with periphrastic verb forms--composed of the verb "to be" plus a passive participle--or impersonal reflexive forms--composed of a verb and a passivizing pronoun.
Apart from the grammatical and phonetic developments there were many cases of verbs merging as complex subtleties in Latin were reduced to simplified verbs in Romance. A classic example of this are the verbs expressing the concept "to go". Consider three particular verbs in Classical Latin expressing concepts of "going": ire, vadere, and *ambitare. In Spanish and Portuguese ire and vadere merged into the verb ir, which derives some conjugated forms from ire and some from vadere. andar was maintained as a separate verb derived from ambitare.
Italian instead merged vadere and ambitare into the verb andare. At the extreme French merged three Latin verbs with, for example, the present tense deriving from vadere and another verb ambulare (or something like it) and the future tense deriving from ire. Similarly the Romance distinction between the Romance verbs for "to be", essere and stare, was lost in French as these merged into the verb être. In Italian, the verb essere inherited both Romance meanings of "being essentially" and "being temporarily of the quality of", while stare specialized into a verb denoting location or dwelling, or state of health.
The copula (that is, the verb signifying "to be") of Classical Latin was esse. This evolved to *essere in Vulgar Latin by attaching the common infinitive suffix -re to the classical infinitive; this produced Italian essere and French être through Proto-Gallo-Romance *essre and Old French estre as well as Spanish and Portuguese ser (Romanian a fi derives from fieri, which means "to become").
In Vulgar Latin a second copula developed utilizing the verb stare, which originally meant (and is cognate with) "to stand", to denote a more temporary meaning. That is, *essere signified the essence, while stare signified the state. Stare evolved to Spanish and Portuguese estar and Old French ester (both through *estare), while Italian and Romanian retained the original form.
The semantic shift that underlies this evolution is more or less as follows: A speaker of Classical Latin might have said: vir est in foro, meaning "the man is in/at the marketplace". The same sentence in Vulgar Latin could have been *(h)omo stat in foro, "the man stands in/at the marketplace", replacing the est (from esse) with stat (from stare), because "standing" was what was perceived as what the man was actually doing.
The use of stare in this case was still semantically transparent assuming that it meant "to stand", but soon the shift from esse to stare became more widespread. In the Iberian peninsula esse ended up only denoting natural qualities that would not change, while stare was applied to transient qualities and location. In Italian, stare is used mainly for location, transitory state of health (sta male 's/he is ill' but è gracile 's/he is puny') and, as in Spanish, for the eminently transient quality implied in a verb's progressive form, such as sto scrivendo to express 'I am writing'.
The historical development of the stare + gerund progressive in those Romance languages that have it seems to have been a passage from a usage such as sto pensando 'I stand/stay (here) thinking', in which the stare form carries the full semantic load of 'stand, stay' to grammaticalization of the construction as expression of progressive aspect. The process of reanalysis that took place over time bleached the semantics of stare so that when used in combination with the gerund the form became solely a grammatical marker of subject and tense (e.g. sto = subject first person singular, present; stavo = subject first person singular, past), no longer a lexical verb with the semantics of 'stand' (not unlike the auxiliary in compound tenses that once meant 'have, possess', but is now semantically empty: j'ai écrit, ho scritto, he escrito, etc.). Whereas sto scappando would once have been semantically strange at best (?'I stay escaping'), once grammaticalization was achieved, collocation with a verb of inherent mobility was no longer contradictory, and sto scappando could and did become the normal way to express 'I am escaping'. (Although it might be objected that in sentences like Spanish la catedral está en la ciudad, "the cathedral is in the city" this is also unlikely to change, but all locations are expressed through estar in Spanish, as this usage originally conveyed the sense of "the cathedral stands in the city").
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Classical Latin in most cases adopted an SOV word order in ordinary prose, however other word orders were allowed, such as in poetry, due to its inflectional nature. However, word order in the modern Romance languages generally adopted a standard SVO word order. This change may have been attributed from the Germanic peoples' in the late Imperial period, since they spoke in the SVO word order. Fragments of SOV word order still survive through object pronouns (te amo - "I love you").