Romance Languages Branch of the Indo-European Family

http://www.nvtc.gov/lotw/months/january/RomanceBranch.html

History

Map of Roman Empire

All Romance languages are descendants of the Vulgar Latin dialects spoken by the common people in the Roman Empire, a vast territory that covered a good portion of Europe, England, Northern Africa and portions of the Middle East. After the breakup of the Roman Empire, these dialects diverged from each other and evolved into separate Romance languages around the 9th century AD.

Historically, the first split was between Sardinian and the rest. The next split was between Romanian in the east, and the others in the west. The third major split was between Italian and the Gallo-Iberian group. This latter then split into a Gallic group which became French, Occitan, and Catalan, and an Iberian group which became Spanish and Portuguese. Catalan is considered by many specialists as a transition language between the Gallic and the Iberian group, since it shares characteristics from both groups.

Status
Romance Map

The Romance variants, or dialects, form a continuum from west to east with Portuguese, French, and Romanian representing three extremes of this continuum.

The Romance-language countries have many local dialects, and it is difficult to differentiate between a 'language' and a 'dialect'. Some varieties are considered national or international languages such as French, Italian, Spanish, Portuguese, Romanian and Catalan, and some are considered regional languages such as Occitan (or Provençal), and Sardinian. Some varieties are particularly difficult to classify. For instance it is difficult to decide whether Galician is a separate language or a Spanish-influenced variety of Portuguese. The chart below lists Romance languages with official status (in green) and regional varieties (in blue) with estimated number of speakers (based on Ethnologue data).

Language

Number of speakers

Portuguese

200-210 million

Galician

4 million

Catalan

10 million

Spanish

417 million

 

 

Ladino

160,000

Friulian

600,000

Aragonese

2 million

French

128 million

Romansh

40,000

 

 

Italian

62 million

Sardinian

no estimate available

Corsican

341,000

Romanian

26 million

 

General characteristics

Medievel Scribe

The Romance languages have many common grammatical features.

  • Nouns are marked for gender (masculine and feminine) and two numbers (singular and plural).
  • Nouns are not marked for case, except for Romanian.
  • Verbs have preserved the highly developed conjugation system from Latin, being marked for person, number, tense, and mood.
  • Modifiers follow nouns.

Romance vocabularies are also similar to each other having originated in Latin roots, but differences nevertheless exist. Some of these may be traced back to the times of the Roman Empire, when provinces may have developed their own lexical preferences.

 

Here are some common expressions in several Romance languages.

1.        What kinds of similarities do you see between/among these languages?

2.        What kinds of differences do you observe between them?

 

Hello

Good-bye

Please

Thank you

Sorry

Portuguese

Portuguese Hello

adeus

por favor

obrigado, obrigada

desculpe

Catalan

hola

Catalan Goodbye

si us plau

Catalan Thank you

Catalan Sorry

Spanish

hola, buenos dias

 

por favor

gracias

pardon

French

bonjour

au revoir

French Please

merci

pardon

Italian

ciao

arrivederci

per favore

grazie

scusa

Romanian

Romanian Hello

la revedere

Romanian Please

mersi

pardon

Sardinian

bona die

adiosu

pro piaghere

grassias

Scusi

 

Level of difficulty

Romance languages are considered to be Category I languages in terms of difficulty for English speakers (24 weeks of full-time instruction to reach ILR S-3).

Question Mark

Want to learn more about the major Romance languages? Click on the name of the language for a detailed description.

Catalan
French
Italian

Portuguese

Romanian
Spanish

Resources

Catalan
Internet Resources in Catalan
Learning Catalan on the Internet
Catalan-English Online Dictionary
Catalan Language Resources

French
Tennessee Bob's Famous French Links
Online Resources for the Study of French

Italian
Language Links: Italian Resources
BBC Italian Resources
Houghton Mifflin Italian Language Resource Center

Portuguese
Portuguese Language Resources
Portuguese Language Resources on the Net

Romanian
Romanian Webliography

Spanish
Spanish Resources
Webspañol: Spanish Language Resources On-line
Globegate Spanish Language and Hispanic Culture Pages

<-back

 

Catalan

Catalan Map

Status
Catalan is spoken by approximately 6.5 million people in portions of Spain, France, Andorra and Italy, although the majority of Catalan speakers are in Spain. Catalan is the official language of Andorra. It is the co-official language in Catalonia, the Balearic Islands, Valencia regions of Spain, and in the Sardinian city of Alghero, in Italy. Given the non-contiguous nature of these areas, it is no wonder that Catalan has several distinct dialects.

Catalan appeared as a distinct language during the 10th and 11th centuries. During the 12th century, Catalan began to appear in written documents. After the War of the Spanish Succession (1705-1715), Philip V abolished all the government institutions then existing in Catalonia and implemented Spanish laws. Catalan suffered several periods of prohibition and repression. In the 19th century, a period of economic, cultural and national renaissance began, and Catalan was reborn as the language of literary culture. The language was standardized through the publication of spelling rules in 1913, and a grammar of Catalan in 1918.

During the first 30 years of the 20th century, Catalonia recovered a degree of political power. During the Second Republic (1931-1939), Catalan was restored to its official language status, which it had lost in the 18th century. However, the Spanish Civil War put an end to Catalan's resurgence. It was banned from public use. Following the death of Franco in 1975 and the restoration of democracy, the ban was lifted and Catalan is now used in politics, education and the media.

Barcelona Cathedral

Sound system
For a description of the sound system of Catalan click here.

Click here to listen to some common phrases in Catalan.

Grammar
For a description of Catalan grammar click here.

Writing system

Take a look at the text of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in Catalan.

1.        How many words can you recognize without using a dictionary?

2.        What strategies did you use to recognize these words?

3.        How much did your previous knowledge of Spanish and/or French help you?

Universal Declaration of Human Rights in Catalan
Universal Declaration of Human Rights in Catalan
Universal Declaration of Human Rights
Article 1
All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood.

 

Question Mark

 

<-back

Did you know that the word paella (a saffron-flavored dish made with rice, vegetables, meat, chicken, and seafood) came from Catalan?

 

 

French

France Map

French Flag

History
Like all Romance languages, French evolved from Vulgar Latin spoken by the Roman invaders. Before the Roman invasion of what is today France, the territory was inhabited by a Celtic people the Romans referred to as Gauls. However, present-day French retains very few words of Celtic origin.

From the 3rd century on, Gaul was invaded by Germanic tribes whose languages had a profound effect on the spoken Latin of the region, affecting all aspects of the language, especially the vocabulary. The early Middle Ages also saw a movement of other linguistic groups into France. During the 5th-8th centuries, Celtic speaking peoples from Britain crossed the English Channel and settled in Brittany. Their language is called Breton. It is spoken in Brittany today. In 1539 King Francis I made French the official language of administration and court proceedings in France, replacing Latin. Following a period of unification and standardization, the language spoken in the 17th-18th centuries became the basis of modern French. During the 17th-19th centuries, French was the lingua franca of the European elite. Monarchs such as Frederick II of Prussia and Catherine the Great of Russia could speak and write in French. Russian nobility used French for everyday communication.

The foundation of the Academie français in 1634 created an official body whose goal ever since has been the purification and preservation of the French language. This group of 40 members (the so-called "immortals") chosen for life still exists today and wages a war against, among other issues, franglais, i.e., against the importation of English words into French.

 

Eifel Tower

Status
French is the official language of 26 countries. Four of them are in Europe: France, Belgium, Switzerland, and Luxembourg. Two are in the Americas: Canada and Haiti. There are also two overseas departments of France: Martinique and Guadeloupe. The rest are former French colonies in Africa and in the islands in the Indian and Pacific Oceans. French is a major second language in Arabic-speaking Algeria, Tunis, and Morocco. World-wide, it is spoken in 53 countries, making it one of the most wide-spread languages of the world.

Ethnologue estimates that there are 51,000,000 first language speakers of French in France, with a French-speaking population total for all countries of 77,000,000 first language speakers and 128,000,000 including second language speakers.

French is one of Canada's two official languages, along with English. Various provisions of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms deal with the right of Canadians to access services in English and French all across Canada. By law, the federal government must operate and provide services in both English and French. Pproceedings of the Parliament of Canada must be translated into both English and French; and all Canadian products must be labelled in both English and French. French is the majority language in Quebec, and a minority language in the rest of Canada.

Click on the MLA Interactive Language Map to find out where French is spoken in the U.S.

 

Louvre

 

Dialects
Not everyone speaks the kind of French you may have learned in high school or college. There are many varieties spoken in France (e.g., in Paris, Marseille, Lyon), other European countries (Belgium, Switzerland), Asia (Cambodia, Vietnam), North Africa (Morocco, Tunis, Algeria), various countries of Africa, and in Canada. In addition, there are many French-based creoles -- one of the topics of our October 2005 Unit.

Notre Dame

 

Sound system
Distinctive French sounds are the nasal vowels and the uvular trill [r].

Click here for amore detailed description of the sound system of French.
Click here to listenClick here to listen to the pronunciation of some common phrases in French.

Paris Cafe

Grammar
Nouns
French nouns have two grammatical genders (masculine and feminine) and two numbers (singular and plural). Gender is generally not predictable from the form of a noun.

Articles
French has definite and indefinite articles, each of which is marked for gender and number.

 

Definite

Indefinite

Masculine

le

un

Feminine

la

une

Plural

les

des

The definite articles can combine with certain prepositions:

a + le = au, a + les = aux
• de + le = du, de + les = des

Adjectives
Adjectives agree with nouns in gender and number. Most adjectives follow the noun, e.g.,
un livre noir, "a black book".

Verbs
French verbs belong to one of three conjugation clases. Verbs are marked for person, number, tense, and aspect in much the same way as verbs in other Romance languages. French verbs have five simple tenses and five compound tenses. All compound tenses are formed with an auxiliary verb (either
être "to be " or avoir "to have").

Word order
Word order in French can be very confusing, due to compound verb constructions, object and adverbial pronouns, inversion, imperatives, adverbs, and negative structures.
Click here to learn more about French word order.

 

Arc Triomphe

Vocabulary
French vocabulary is mostly Latin-based. Some words display their Latin origins more readily than other related words, e.g., brother: frere ("brother", noun) , vs. fraternel ("brotherly", adjective). The latter clearly shows its Latin root frater-, "brother". French has also borrowed words from German, Arabic, English, and other languages.

Arabic
ayatollah
chiffre, “number”
girafe, “giraffe”
epinard, “spinach”
jupe, “skirt”

Germanic
franc, “frank”
ersatz, "fake"
kitsch, "vulgar, bad taste"
auberge, “inn”, from the Germanic heriberga

English
best-seller
bouledogue, “bulldog”
chips
rosbif, “roast beef”
automobile
jet

 

Mont Saint Michael

Writing
Written French uses the Roman alphabet. Three accents over vowels are employed: the acute (´ ) over e, the grave (`) over a and e, and the circumflex (ˆ) over a, e, i, o, and u. An accent may serve to indicate the pronunciation of a vowel, distinguish homonyms, or mark the elision of the letter s from a word. A cedilla placed below the letter c (ç) signals that the c is to be pronounced as [s].

French spelling, like English spelling, tends to preserve obsolete pronunciation rules. This is mainly due to significant phonetic changes that have taken place over time without a corresponding change in spelling. French spelling, which has many silent letters, is not a reliable guide to pronunciation. For example, final consonants are generally mute. An s or x added to the end of a noun to form the plural are usually not pronounced. This makes the pronunciation of singular and plural forms of many nouns indistinguishable, e.g., le chat, "the cat" and les chats "the cats" are homonyms.

Some attempts have been made to reform French spelling, but few major changes have been made over the last two centuries.

Take a look at the text of Article 1 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

1.        How many words can you read without using a dictionary?

2.        What strategies did you use to recognize these words?

3.        What is the French word for "brotherhood"? What is the origin of this word?

Universal Declaration of Human Rights
Universal Declaration of Human Rights
Universal Declaration of Human Rights
Article 1
All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood.

 

Question Mark

Scores of everyday English words came from French. Here are a few examples.

à la carte
à la mode
après-ski
attaché
avant-garde
bon appétit
c'est la vie
chic
cuisine
déjà vu
du jour
encore
en route
haute couture
matinée
née
par excellence
protégé
vis-à-vis

Ballet terms
barre (bar)
pas de deux (two step)
pirouette (turn)
plie (bend)

Cooking terms
blanch (from blanchir, to bleach)
saute (fried over high heat)
fondue (melted)
puree (crushed)
flambee (burned)

 

 

 

<-back

Click here for some fun with French.

 

Italian

Italy Map

Italian Flag

 

Status
Italian, like the other Romance languages, is a descendant of Vulgar Latin spoken by the Romans and imposed by them on the peoples under their rule.

Today, it is spoken by an estimated 62 million speakers in Italy and 29 other countries (Ethnologue). Italian is the official language of Italy, San Marino, and Vatican City. It is one of the official languages of Switzerland.

Click on the MLA Interactive Language Map to find out where Italian is spoken in the U.S.

Dante

Dialects
Italian has many regional dialects that coexist with the standard language. Some dialects are mutually unintelligible, for instance, Neapolitan is reported to be unintelligible to speakers of standard Italian. Northern Italian dialects are closer to French than to southern dialects. Most Italians use varieties along a continuum from standard to regional to local according to what is appropriate. It is estimated that close to half of Italians are not native speakers of standard Italian.

During the 14th century, the Tuscan dialect began to predominate because of the central position of Tuscany in Italy, and because of the economic power of its most important city, Florence. It was not until the 19th century, however, that the language spoken by educated Tuscans spread to become the standard language of a newly unified Italy.

Tuscans are proud to point out that Florence produced the three literary artists who best represented Italian thought of the late Middle Ages and early Renaissance.

  • Dante Alighieri (1265-1321) wrote the Divine Comedy, one of the great works of world literature, in vulgar (i.e., spoken) rather than in the classical language.
  • Petrarch (1304-74), a philosopher and poet, who wrote his verses in the vulgar tongue.
  • Boccaccio (1313-75) who wrote the Decameron, a collection of of one hundred stories told by characters who are also part of a story, much like The Arabian Nights.

Tower of Pisa

Sound system
Italian has 7 vowels and 21 consonants. A distinguishing feature of most Italian consonants is gemination, or length. Here are a few examples examples:

agio—ease, aggio—premium
casa—house, cassa—crate, box
eco—echo, ecco—here
nono—ninth, nonno—grandfather
sete—thirst, sette—seven
pala—shovel, palla—ball
sera—evening, serra—greenhouse

Click here to listen to the pronunciation of some common phrases in Italian.

 

Gondola

Grammar
Italian grammar is Latin-based. It shares most basic features with other Romance languages, such as French, Spanish, and Portuguese.

  • Italian nouns and adjectives are marked for gender (feminine and masculine), and number (singular and plural). There are no cases. There is a definite and an indefinite articles.

il ragazzo—the boy

i ragazzi—the boys

la ragazza—the girl

le ragazze—the girls

  • Pronouns have retained some of the Latin cases (nominative, accusative, dative, and prepositional).
  • Verbs are marked for person, tense, aspect and mood.

 

Coliseum

 

Vocabulary
Italian vocabulary is mainly derived from Latin with numerous borrowings from Greek, French, German and English.

 

Vatican

Writing system
Italian is written using the Latin alphabet. The letters
j, k, w, x and y are not part of the standard Italian alphabet, they are used only in borrowings such as taxi.

Italian uses the acute accent over the letter é, and a grave accent over any vowel to indicate an unusual stress pattern, e.g., dignità, "dignity". Stress typically falls on the penultimate syllable.

Take a look at Article 1 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in Italian.

1.        How many words can you recognize in the text without using a dictionary?

2.        What helped you recognize these words?

3.        What does the word fratellanza mean?

DICHIARAZIONE UNIVERSALE DEI DIRITTI UMANI
Universal Declaration of Human Rights in Italian
Universal Declaration of Human Rights
Article 1
All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood.

 

 

Question Mark

 

 

 

 

 

 

<-back

Did you know that these popular English words came from Italian?

musical terms

foods

miscellaneous

adagio
alto
bravo
contralto
duo
opera
solo
soprano
tempo
viola

broccoli
graffiti
lasagne
linguini
macaroni
pasta
pizza
rigatoni
spaghetti

al fresco
bimbo
extravaganza
fiasco
ghetto
mafia
stucco
studio
umbrella

 

 

 

Portuguese

Portuguese Europe Map
Portuguese America Map
Portuguese Africa Map

 

Status
Portuguese is a Romance language spoken in Portugal, Brazil, and Portuguese colonial and formerly colonial territories (Angola, Mozambique, Cape Verde, Sao Tome, Goa, Macau, East Timor). Galician, spoken in northwestern Spain, is often considered a dialect of Portuguese. Portuguese is the national language of Portugal (10 million), Brazil (158 million), Angola (58,000), Cape Verde Islands, Guinea-Bissau, and Mozambique (no census data available). It is spoken as a first language in different parts of the world by an estimated total of 176 million native speakers and close to 200 million native and second-language speakers. (Ethnologue).

Portuguese spread worldwide in the 15th and 16th centuries as Portugal created a far-reaching colonial and commercial empire, spanning from Brazil in the Americas to Macau in China. As a result, Portuguese is now the official language of several independent countries and is widely spoken as a second language in many others.

In 1986, Portuguese became an official language of the European Union (EU). In 1996, the Community of Portuguese-speaking Countries (CPLP in Portuguese) was created to promote cooperation and cultural exchanges among the member countries and to create a Portuguese standard.

Click on the MLA Interactive Language Map to find out where Portuguese is spoken in the U.S.

 

History
After the Roman conquest of the Iberian peninsula, Vulgar Latin replaced the local languages. In areas along the Atlantic coast it gradually evolved in what is known as Galician-Portuguese. After the incorporation of Galicia into Spain and the independent development of Portugal, this language split into Galician and Portuguese.

Written materials in Portuguese date back to the late 12th century. Literary works appeared in the 13th and 14th centuries.

Between the 14th and the 16th centuries, Portuguese spread to many regions of Asia, Africa and America. By the 16th century it had become a lingua franca in Asia and Africa, used not only for colonial administration and trade but also for communication between local officials and Europeans of all nationalities. Some Portuguese-speaking communities in India, Sri Lanka, Malaysia and Indonesia preserved the language even after they were isolated from Portugal. These languages eventually evolved into Portuguese-based creoles. At the same time, Portuguese words entered the vocabulary of widely spread languages, for instance, pan 'bread' (from Portuguese Portuguese Bread) in Japanese, sepatu 'shoe' in Indonesian (from Portuguese sapato), and meza 'table' in Swahili (from Portuguese mesa).

Standard Portuguese is based on the dialect of Lisbon, the capital of Portugal. Dialectal variation within the country is not great, but there are differences between Brazilian and Iberian Portuguese involving pronunciation and grammar, as well as vocabulary.

 

Portuguese Monastery

 

Sound system
Portuguese phonology is interesting because of the large number of vowel phonemes in the language. The language has 9 vowels, 5 nasal vowels and 25 consonant phonemes. [n] and [l] can be palatalized. Click here to learn more about the sound system of Portuguese.

Click here to listen to the pronunciation of some common phrases in Portuguese.

 

Grammar
The noun phrase
Portuguese nouns are marked for gender (masculine and femine) and number (singular and plural). Adjectives and pronouns agree with nouns in gender and number. Reflexive pronouns are similar to Spanish in complexity.

Click here
to read more about Portuguese pronouns.

The verb phrase
Portuguese verbs are similar to verbs in other Romance languages. There are three conjugations that can be identified by the infinitive ending, e.g.,
cantar, "to sing", comer, "to eat", rir, "to laugh". There are irregular verbs such as compor, "to compose". There are three tenses (present, past, future), and two aspects (imperfective, and perfective), and four moods (indicative, imperative, infinitive, and subjunctive).

Click here
to learn more about the Portuguese verbal system.

Lisbon American Embassy

Vocabulary
Portuguese vocabulary is for the most part derived from Latin with some borrowings from German, Arabic, as well as from Asian, Amerindian, and African languages. Here are the sources of borrowing for some Portuguese words.

Germanic

Arabic

Asian languages

African

Amerindian

Roubar, "to rob"
from Germanic
raubon

Xerife, "sheriff"
from
sharif

Manga, "mango"
from Malay
mangga

Banana
from Wolof
banana

Ananas, "pineapple"
from Tupi-Guarani
nana

Saga
from Gothic
saega

Alcova, "alcove"
from
alkubba

cha, "tea"
from Chinese
cha

Chimpanze
from a Bantu language of Angola
kivili-chimpenze

Tucano, "toucan"
from Guarani
tucan

Today, English is the major source of borrowings, primarily in the area of science and technology.

 

Portugal Vista

Writing system
Portuguese is written in the Latin alphabet consisting of 26 letters. Three of them (k, w and y) are only used for writing borrowed words, e.g., Darwin. It uses Ccedilla, e.g., Portuguese Direction, "direction", and acute, circumflex and tilde accents over vowels, e.g., Portuguese Vowels"million". The letter h after consonants indicates palatalization, e.g., ninho [ninyo], "child". Brazilian Portuguese uses an umlaut (diaeresis) over the letter ü to indicate that it is pronounced as a full vowel.

At the moment, Portuguese has two orthographic standards: one for Portugal, and one for Brazil. The most notable difference between the two orthographies is that in Brazil the first "c" in "cc", "cç" or "ct"; and the first "p" in "pc", "pç" or "pt" were eliminated since they are not pronounced. Here are some examples:

Two Orthographies

Take a look at Article 1 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

1.        How many words can you recognize in the text without using a dictionary?

2.        What strategies did you rely on to recognize these words?

3.        What is the Portuguese word for "brotherhood"?

4.         

Universal Declaration of Human Rights
Universal Declaration of Human Rights
Universal Declaration of Human Rights
Article 1
All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood.

 

 

Question mark

 

 

<-back

Did you know that these English words came from Portuguese?

cobra, a poisonous hooded snake, via Portuguese colonies in India
dodo, fool, an insult to the awkward bird by Portuguese sailors
emu, large flightless bird, probably from Poruguese ema "crane, ostrich,"
fetish, charm
marmalade, preserves made from citrus fruit, from Portuguese marmelada "quince jelly"

 

Romanian

Romanian Map

Romanian Flag

History
Romanian is thought to have developed from Vulgar Latin during the 5th and 6th centuries when the territory which is now Romania was part of the Roman Empire . During the 7th and 8th centuries, Romanians came into contact with their Slavic-speaking neighbors who exerted a great deal of influence on the language, religion, and culture of Romania. Other influences included Hungarian, Turkish, and Modern Greek. The earliest written texts in Romanian date from the 16th century.

Modern standard Romanian developed in the late 18th and early 19th centuries as a result of a movement to purge Romanian of Slavic words and replace them with Latin ones. During this period, the first Romanian grammars were written, and the Romanian alphabet became standardized.

 

Nadya Comaneci

Status
Present-day Romanian is spoken by an estimated 26 million people in Romania, Moldova, Ukraine, Hungary, Serbia and Montenegro, Bulgaria, Macedonia and Greece. In addition, there are Romanian speakers in Canada, the United States, Germany, Israel, Australia and New Zealand, mainly due to post-World War II emigration (Ethnologue). Romanian is the official language of Romania and Moldova where it is called Moldovan for political reasons.

 

Romanian Castle

Sound system
Romanian has seven vowels and three diphthongs. Consonant clusters can occur at the beginning of syllables, which is unusual for a Romance language. Stress can occur on any syllable. Varying the position of stress can change the meaning of words.

Click here to listen to some common phrases in Romanian.
Click here to listen to some common phrases in Moldovan.

 

Romanian Church

Grammar
Romanian is an inflected language similar to other Romance languages. However, unlike other Romance languages, Romanian has retained some of the case system of Latin. Romanian nouns have two cases: the nominative/accusative and genitive/dative. A third case, the vocative, a result of Slavic influence, is rapidly disappearing. Nouns have three grammatical genders: (masculine, feminine, and irregular (masculine in the singular and feminine in the plural). Word order is typically Subject-Verb-Object, although variations are possible.

An interesting feature of Romanian is the definite article that is attached to the end of nouns, e.g., carte 'book', cartea 'the book'.

 

Vocabulary
About 70% of Romanian vocabulary is of Latin origin. Romanian also has many borrowings from neighboring Slavic languages (most notably in the sphere of religion), from Hungarian, Greek, Turkish, French, and most recently from English.

 

Romanian Cathedral

Writing system
Since 1859, Romanian has been written in the Roman alphabet. Prior to that it was written in the Cyrillic alphabet introduced through religious texts.

The Romanian alphabet uses diacritics over certain vowels. In addition, a cedilla is used under the letters
s to represent the sound [sh] and under the letter c to represent the sound [ts].

Moldovan uses the Cyrillic alphabet because of its continued close affiliation with Russia.

Take a look at Article 1 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in Romanian.

1.        Find all the words you can recognize without looking them up in the dictionary?

2.        What helped you recognize these words?

Universal Declaration of Human Rights in Romanian
Universal Declaration of Human Rights in Romanian
Universal Declaration of Human Rights
Article 1
All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood.

 

Vlad the Impaler

 

 

 

<-back

You should know at least one Romanian word. After all, the name Dracula comes from Romanian.

Bram Stoker loosely based his Dracula on the Romanian ruler Vlad III, also known as "Vlad the Impaler" who in his six-year reign (1436-1442) is estimated to have killed 100,000 people, mainly by impaling them on sharp poles.

The name "Dracula" comes from a secret fraternal order of knights called the Order of the Dragon, Vlad III's father was admitted to the Order around 1431. The word for "dragon" in Romanian is
drac and ul is the masculine form of the definite article. Vlad III's father was known as Vlad Dracul, or "Vlad the dragon." The suffix ulea means "the son of". Vlad III thus became Vlad Dracula, or "the son of the dragon." (Wikipedia).

 

Spanish

Map of Spain

 

Status
Spanish is an Iberian Romance language spoken as a first language by about 352 million people, or by 417 million including non-native speakers (according to 1999 estimates). The majority of Spanish speakers live in Latin America and Spain (Ethnologue). With close to 100 million first-language speakers, Mexico boasts the largest population of Spanish-speakers in the world. The four next largest populations reside in Colombia (44 million), Spain (c. 41 million), Argentina (39 million) and the United States of America (about 28 million).

Spaniards call their language español when contrasting it with other national languages. They refer to it as castellano (Castilian) when contrasting it with other regional languages of Spain, e.g., Galician, Catalan, or Basque. Other Spanish-speaking countries tend to favor one or the other of the two terms.

Latin America Map

Spanish is the official language of 20 countries, most of them in Latin America. It is also one of the official languages of the United Nations, the European Union and the African Union.

Spanish was brought to the Americas, the Philippines and parts of Oceania by the Spanish colonization in the 16th century. Today, in the United States, Spanish is spoken as a first language by an estimated 28 million speakers. It is by far the most studied foreign language in U.S. schools and universities. In the Philippines, however, Spanish experienced a decline and ceased to be the country's official language in 1973. Today, it is spoken by less than 1% of the population of the Philippines.

Click on the MLA Interactive Language Map to find out where Spanish is spoken in the U.S.

 

LaPinta

Dialects
There are many dialectal differences among the various regions of Spain and Latin America in pronunciation, grammar, and vocabulary. Below are just three examples from a multitude of other differences.

Pronunciation
Latin American dialects generally lack the sound [th] which is so prominent in Iberian Spanish. Speakers of Iberian Spanish pronounce words such as
ciudad "city" as [thiudad], whereas speakers of Latin American Spanish generally pronounce it as [siudad].

Grammar
Vos (you, singular, formal) is used as the primary form of the second-person singular in several Latin American countries, e.g., Argentina. Latin American Spanish has only one form of the second person plural -- ustedes -- which is used for both informal and formal address. In contrast, Iberian Spanish has two forms: ustedes (formal) and vosotros (informal).

Vocabulary
Anybody who has studied Spanish knows how frustrating it can be to discover that a word in a Spanish textbook may not be used in some Spanish-speaking countries at all, or have a different meaning. For instance, the word for "computer" is ordenadora in Spain, but computadora in Latin America. The word for "bus" is guagua in Puerto Rico but in Chile it means "baby".

Fiesta

Spanish phonology
Spanish is a syllable-timed language. In a syllable-timed language, every syllable takes up roughly the same amount of time. This is in contrast to English which is stress-timed. In a stress-timed language, stressed syllables take up more time than unstressed ones. Click here for a detailed description of the Spanish sound system.

Click here to listen to the pronunciation of some common phrases in Spanish.

Flamenco


Spanish grammar
The noun phrase
Spanish nouns are marked for gender (masculine or feminine) and number (singular or plural). Articles and adjectives agree with nouns. Adjectives follow nouns, e.g.,
el hombre simpatico "the nice man", la mujer simpatica "the nice woman", los hombres simpaticos "the nice men", las mujeres simpaticas "the nice women". Spanish nouns don't have cases unlike ancestral Latin.

Click here
for a detailed description of Spanish nouns.

The verb phrase
Spanish verbs are considerably more complex than Spanish nouns. They are marked for person (first, second, third), number (singular, plural), tense (present, past, future), aspect (continuous, perfective), and mood (indicative, subjunctive, conditional, imperative). There are two conjugation types.

Click here
for a detailed description of Spanish verbs.

 

Bull Fight

Spanish vocabulary
Spanish vocabulary is Latin-based with a large number of borrowings from Arabic, and more recently from English. Spain's Arabic connection goes back a long way. The Latin dialect that eventually became Spanish was highly influenced by the invasion of the Arabic-speaking Moors in 711 AD. For many the local Spanish dialect and Arabic existed side by side, and even today many Spanish place names retain Arabic roots. The Moors were expelled in the 15th century. By then thousands of Arabic words had become part of Spanish. You will recognize some of them as very similar to English words (also of Arabic origin). Below are a few examples of such words:

Arabic Words

 

Don Quijote

Spanish writing system
Spanish is written using the Latin alphabet, with a few special letters:

  • the vowels can be marked with an acute accentSpanish Acute Vowels to mark stress when it doesn't follow the normal pattern or to differentiate words that are spelled the same way (homographs)
  • n with a tilde N Tildeto indicate palatalization (as in English canyon).
  • Spanish precedes exclamatory and interrogative clauses with inverted question and exclamation marks, for example, Que Pasa(What's going on?) No me digas(Don't tell me!).

Take a look at Article 1 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in Spanish.

1.        How many words can you recognize without using a dictionary?

2.        What kind of strategies did you use to recognize these words?

3.        What is the spanish word for "beings"? Can you identify its root?

Universal Declaration of Human Rights in Spanish
Universal Declaration of Human Rights in Spanish

Universal Declaration of Human Rights
Article 1
All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood.

Question Mark

 

 

 

 

 

 

<-back

Did you know that these English words came from Spanish?

Spanish Loan Words