Latin was once spoken by half the world – the entire Roman Empire. Today, classical Latin is not spoken in any country. Does this mean that Latin disappeared along with the Roman Empire? Tim Pulju, Senior Lecturer in Linguistics and Classics at Dartmouth College in New Hampshire, proves in an interview with Live Science that Latin is still alive today.
Rome was once one of the largest empires in the world, but gradually its power over the provinces waned, and one day Rome fell. Despite this, Latin continued to be the lingua franca (the language used for communication between people whose native languages were other languages) in much of Europe hundreds of years after that. Of course, it was what is known as “vulgar Latin,” but Latin nonetheless.
The answer to the question of when the language of ancient Rome died is complex. It is impossible to determine the date when Latin ceased to exist as a spoken language. Scholars believe that this is because Latin did not die, it still exists today in assimilated form in dozens of languages around the world. And the Vatican still conducts some Masses exclusively in Latin.
“Latin has not disappeared, it is still in our speech,” says Tim Pulju. “Even after the fall of Rome, its language was spoken by people in Italy, Gaul, Spain and other countries. But like all living languages, Latin has changed over time.”
It is important to note that the changes in Latin were specific to different regions of the Roman Empire. And over time these differences grew so large that entirely new but closely related languages emerged. “They gradually developed over the centuries, so that eventually Latin evolved into many languages different from each other and also different from classical Latin,” Pulju said. “This is what we now call the languages of the Romance group – French, Italian , Portuguese, Romanian and Spanish.”