Overview of the Latin Language
Latin (lingua latina) was the language of ancient Rome. It was the ancestor of the modern Romance languages (Portuguese, French, Italian, Spanish, Romanian, Catalan, etc.). In addition, Latin is the language of the Roman Catholic Church. While the liturgical use of Latin in Catholicism may be declining, an increasing number of students are learning Latin in schools in the United States. The Latin language may never again achieve its former status as the lingua franca of the Western world, but Latin continues to live in our midst.
The Latin language belongs to the Italic group of the Indo-European family of languages. Roman soldiers spread Latin from the Tiber River throughout an Empire that spread from Mesopotamia to Spain. In later times, Catholic missionaries helped carry Latin to farther reaches of the world.
The long history of the Latin language can be divided into periods:
- Early Latin, from the founding of Rome in 753 B.C. until 81 B.C.;
- Classical Latin, from 81 B.C., when Caesar and Cicero were writing, until 14 A.D., when Augustus died;
- Silver Latin (a brilliant literary period), until 130 A.D.;
- Late Latin (also called Vulgar Latin);
- Medieval Latin (also called Christian Latin);
- Renaissance Latin (also called Erasmian Latin); and
- Modern Latin (also called Neo-Latin).
Latin Vocabulary and Grammar
English speakers cannot avoid learning Latin vocabulary, even if they opt out of a Latin language course in school. Much of English vocabulary comes from ancient Rome, and our everyday communications are peppered with Latin phrases like et cetera and per capita. However, because the Latin language is inflected, with words changing form to express grammatical meaning, learning Latin grammar can be more of a challenge. Nonetheless, the rewards are more than equal to the effort required: Understanding the conjugation of Latin verbs and the declension of Latin nouns can lead to deeper understanding not only of the ancient language itself but also of the similar rules that have been preserved in many other Romance languages.
Regular practice is necessary to learn to speak Latin well. That's why good Latin software programs and other language products can be so useful. It's easier than ever to learn Latin with the resources and software that Transparent Language provides. Best wishes as you learn Latin!