Romance languages

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Romance languages
speaker approx. 700 million
ISO 639 -5


The Romance world languages: Dark shades represent official language status, lighter colors an unofficial status with wide distribution.
  • Spanish
  • Portuguese
  • French
  • Italian
  • Romanian
  • The Romance languages belong to the (modern) Italian branch of the Indo-European languages . The group of Romance languages ​​offers a special feature in that it is a language family whose common precursor language was Latin (or Vulgar Latin ), which can be proven in its history and written traditions. There are around 15 Romance languages ​​with around 700 million native speakers, 850 million including second speakers. The most widely spoken Romance languages ​​are Spanish , Portuguese , French , Italian and Romanian .

    Relationships and affinities of the Romance languages ​​( Romania ) (FP: Franco-Provençal, IR: Istror-Romanian)

    History of the linguistic classification of the Romance languages

    One of the first to classify and write about the Romance and other European languages ​​was Rodrigo Jiménez de Rada with his History of the Iberian Peninsula from 1243 De rebus Hispaniae . De Rada distinguished three major groups, which he divided into the Romance, Slavic and Germanic languages; he also mentioned other languages, such as Hungarian and Basque . In the Spanish Renaissance , Andrés de Poza (1587) wrote down the first classification of the Romance languages. It was an overview of the Romance languages, which also included Romanian and retained their meaning until the 18th century.

    The general development, which began in the 16th century, continued to advance. Joseph Justus Scaliger arranged languages ​​into a Romance, Greek, Germanic and Slavic family, Georg Stiernhielm specified and expanded this classification. Sebastian Münster recognized a relationship between Hungarian, Finnish and Sami. Claudius Salmasius showed similarities between the Greek and Latin and the Iranian and Indian languages.

    In Germany , Friedrich Christian Diez, with his "Grammar of Romance Languages" from 1836, is considered the founder of academic Romance studies. Diez wrote scientific works on Provencal literary history, such as "The Poetry of the Troubadours" (1826), "The Life and Works of the Troubadours" (1829). In his comparative grammar of the Romance languages ​​- published as a three-volume work between 1836 and 1844 - he stated that all Romance languages ​​go back to Vulgar Latin. His students in Bonn included u. a. Hugo Schuchardt , Gaston Paris and Adolf Tobler . In 1876 he was succeeded by Wendelin Foerster at the University of Bonn . In 1878 he founded the “Royal Romanesque Seminary” as the first university institute for this discipline. He, too, devoted himself to researching the languages ​​that developed from Latin.

    History of the Romance Languages

    In the dark-colored areas, a Romance language is the official language and the majority language today . Light blue: Spread of the Latin language in the Roman Empire.
    The Roman Empire at its greatest expansion (116 AD)

    In contrast to most other language groups, the original language of Romansh is well documented: It is the spoken Latin of late antiquity (folk or vulgar Latin ). Latin itself is not considered a Romance language, but is counted together with the Oscar - Umbrian language to the Italian languages , of which only Latin today still has "descendants", namely the Romance languages.

    The Romanization began as spread of the Latin language in by the Roman Empire administered territories. This spatial expansion peaked around AD 200.

    The areas in which there are only relics or indirect evidence of Latin such as place names are called Romania submersa ("submerged Romania"); Romania continua is used in connection with the part of Europe that is still Romansh- speaking today. With Romania nova ( "new Romania") that region is called, in which a Romance language only through the modern colonization has come.

    While the ancient Indo-European languages ​​that developed from the original Indo-European language, such as Sanskrit and then, to a lesser extent, Greek and Latin, were from a synthetic language structure , the development of vulgar Latin dialects and languages ​​increasingly led to an analytical language structure . This change had far-reaching consequences. While in more or less pure synthetic languages ​​the word order is free and thus ensures flexible expression, in the analytic languages ​​the relationships must be expressed through word orders. For this purpose, in the course of this turn to the analytical structure of the Romance languages , the speakers created articles before the nouns, personal pronouns before the verbs, introduced auxiliary verbs into the conjugation, replaced the case with prepositions and introduced adverbs to compare the adjectives and much more.

    Morphologically , the Romance verbs have retained the use of word forms in many respects, but also show a tendency towards analytical formations in many places. In the morphology of nouns, however, the development was different, there was a far-reaching loss of the case - a development that can already be traced in Vulgar Latin, where Latin case endings were regularly replaced by prepositions.

    This development towards the Romance languages ​​resulted in a completely different syntax . Although the verb forms are still strongly marked , i.e. the predicate retained its compact position, the syntactic relationships between the clauses were no longer expressed by the case, but by prepositions and the more rigid word order. This made the sentence order rules simpler for the speaker , because syntactically related units remain next to each other.

    Today's standard languages

    Today's standard Romance languages are:

    language Native speaker distribution
    Spanish (español, castellano) 388,000,000 Spain , Mexico , Central and South America (excluding Brazil, Guyana, Suriname, French Guiana, Belize), Equatorial Guinea , Western Sahara and parts of the United States and the Philippines .
    Portuguese (português) 216,000,000 Portugal , Brazil , Angola , Equatorial Guinea , Mozambique , East Timor , Cape Verde , Guinea-Bissau , São Tomé and Príncipe , Macau
    French (français) 110,000,000 France , Belgium ( Wallonia ), western cantons ( Romandie ) of Switzerland , Antilles , Canada (especially Québec , parts of Ontario and New Brunswick / Nouveau-Brunswick ), United States of America in the state of Louisiana , in former French and Belgian colonies in Africa (especially Ivory Coast and DR Congo )
    Italian (italiano) 065,000,000 Italy , Switzerland ( Ticino and southern Graubünden ), San Marino , Vatican City , Croatia ( Istria County ), Slovenia ( Koper , Piran , Izola )
    Romanian (română) 028,000,000 Romania , Moldova , Serbia ( Vojvodina and Timočka Krajina ) and other countries in Eastern Europe and Western Asia (including Ukraine and Israel )
    Catalan (català) 008,200,000 Catalonia including Roussillon (southern France ), Andorra , Balearic Islands , Valencia , Franja de Aragón and Sardinia in the city of L'Alguer / Alghero
    Venetian (vèneto) 005,000,000 Veneto ( Italy ), Friuli-Venezia Giulia , Trentino , Istria and in Rio Grande do Sul ( Brazil )
    Galician (galego) 003,000,000 Galicia (Spain)
    Occitan ( Occitan ) 002,800,000 southern third of France , peripheral areas of Italy ( Piedmontese Alps) and Spain ( Val d'Aran in Catalonia)
    Sardinian (sardu) 001,200,000 Sardinia ( Italy )
    Furlanic (furlan) 000350,000 Friuli ( Italy )
    Asturian (asturianu) 000100,000 Asturias (Spain)
    Bündnerromanisch (Romansh; Rumantsch / Romontsch ) 000060,000 Graubünden ( Switzerland )
    Ladin (ladin) 000040,000 Italy ( South Tyrol , Trentino , Veneto )
    Aragonese (aragonés) 000012,000 Aragon (Spain)
    status as a standard disputed

    Romance languages ​​by subgroup

    The Romance language area in Europe and its main groups

    The Romance languages ​​can be divided into several subgroups according to partly system linguistic, partly geographical criteria. In the following list of Romance languages, it should be noted that it is difficult to list many Romance idioms , as they are sometimes listed as independent languages, sometimes as dialects , depending on the source . This is due to the fact that they do not have a uniform standard language , but are mainly used alongside another standard language, especially in informal contexts ( diglossia ).

    With the exception of Sephardic and Anglo-Norman, the linguistic forms listed here are language forms that have developed directly and in unbroken temporal continuity from spoken Latin. With the exception of Romanian, they also form a spatial continuum in Europe . Due to the temporal and spatial continuity, one also speaks of the Romania continua .

    The most important distinction among the Romance languages ​​in the field of historical phonology and morphology is that between Eastern and Western Romance languages . For West Romanesque the whole are Ibero-Romance and Gallo-Roman and the northern Italian varieties and Romansh languages ( Romansh , Ladin and Friulian ) expected; for East Romance the Italian (with the exception of North Italian varieties ) and the Balkan Romance . The Sardinian is usually quite exempt from this distinction, as it can be clearly assigned to either group.

    The current spread of Romance languages ​​in Europe
    Romance languages ​​and their dialects in 19th century Europe

    Ibero-Romance languages

    For Ibero Romanesque include the Spanish , the Portuguese and the Galician Language (the latter are sometimes a slide system together). The position of Catalan spoken in the north-east of the Iberian Peninsula (including Valencian ) is controversial; it occupies a transition position between Ibero-Roman and Gallo-Roman. The Ibero-Romance languages ​​also include:

    Gallo-Roman languages

    The standard French language is used today in almost all of the Gallo-Roman languages . According to system linguistic criteria, the Gallo-Roman languages ​​can be divided into three groups:

    The distinction between Gallo-Romanic and Iberor-Romanic and Italian-Romanic within the Romance dialect continuum is not clear. The Catalan occupies a transitional position between Gallo-Roman and Iberoromanisch that Gallo Italian varieties are purely systemlinguistisch considered more in common than with the rest of Italo Romanesque to which they are usually counted for geographical and cultural and historical reasons, the Gallo-Roman. The close connection with the Romansh of today's France becomes clear, for example, in the Gallic / Celtic relic words of Gallo-Italian , most of which can also be found in the Celtic relic vocabulary of the Transalpina.

    Romansh languages

    The term Alpine or Rhaeto-Romanic languages is often used to summarize Furlanic , Graubünden Romance and Ladin . They were, as it were, isolated from the Gallo-Italian idioms when their speakers increasingly orientated themselves towards the Central Italian dialects.

    Italo-Romance languages

    The only standard Italian-Romance language is Italian . With the exception of Corsican and Monegasque, the remaining Italian-Romanic languages all belong to the scope of the standard Italian language and are therefore often classified as "Italian dialects". They can be divided into three subgroups, between which there are major differences:

    such as:
    • Central Italian varieties ( dialetti centrali ) are spoken in the regions of Tuscany and Umbria and for the most part in Lazio and Marche . The border to the northern Italian varieties roughly follows the line La Spezia - Rimini , the border to the southern Italian varieties of the line Rome - Ancona . They form the basis of the standard Italian language . The Corsican in Corsica , which has acquired there in addition to the French and to a limited extent official recognition belongs systemlinguistisch also considered the central Italian varieties, however, for geographical and cultural and historical reasons a special status.


    The Sardinian in Sardinia cannot be assigned to any of the subgroups. It does not currently have a uniform standard language, but due to its system difference to the other Romance languages ​​it must be classified as an independent language in any case. Due to the cultural and linguistic Italianization of the Sardinians since the late 18th century, the language is nevertheless very endangered.

    Balkan Romance languages

    Romanian is the only standard language belonging to the Balkan-Romance language group (the dialects covered by the Romanian written language are also summarized as Dacorumanian ). In the Republic of Moldova , too , following a constitutional amendment, the official language is again Romanian instead of Moldovan .

    The group of Balkan Romance also includes several small languages ​​spoken in Southeast Europe:

    Extinct Romance languages

    Romance languages ​​that are now extinct ( Romania submersa , submerged Romania) are:

    Creole languages ​​based on Romansh

    Some linguists also count the Romance-based pidgins and Creole languages as Romance languages. These "neo-Romanic languages" (Romania nova) can be divided into:

    • Lingua franca (pidgin)
    • french-based creole languages
    • Spanish-Portuguese-based creole languages

    Language comparison

    The following example sentences show grammatical and word similarities within the Romance languages ​​or between them and Latin:

    Classical Latin (Ea) semper antequam cenat fenestram claudit.
    Classical Latin claudit semper fenestram antequam cenat.
    Vulgar Latin (Illa) semper fenestram claudit ante quam cenet.
    Latin in "Romanic sentence structure" (Illa) claudit semper fenestram ante quam cenet (or: ante cenam = before the meal).
    Andalusian (Eya) ziempre zierra la bentana antê de zenâh.
    Aragonese (Ella) zarra siempre a finestra antes de cenar.
    Aromatic (Ea / Nâsa) încljidi / nkidi totna firida ninti di tsinâ.
    Asturian (Ella) pieslla siempres la ventana enantes de cenar.
    Ayisyen Li toujou ap fèmen nan dat fennèt la devan manje.
    Bergamasco (Eastern Lombard ) (Lé) la sèra sèmper sö la finèstra prima de senà.
    Bolognese (dialect of Emilian ) (Lî) la sèra sänper la fnèstra prémma ed dsnèr.
    Bourbonnais (dialect) All the farm terjou la croisée devant de souper.
    Bourgogne - Morvandiaux All farms tôjor lai fenétre aivan de dîgnai.
    Emilian (Lē) la sèra sèmpar sù la fnèstra prima ad snàr.
    Extremadurian (Ella) afecha siempri la ventana antis de cenal.
    Frainc-Comtou Lèe çhioûe toûedge lai f'nétre d'vaïnt loù dénaie.
    Franco-Provencal (Le) sarre tojors la fenètra devant de goutar / dinar / sopar.
    Valais Franco-Provencal (Ye) hlou totin a fenetre deant que de cena.
    French Elle ferme toujours la fenêtre avant de dîner / souper.
    Furlanic (Jê) e siere simpri il barcon prin di cenâ.
    Galician (Ela) pecha / fecha semper a fiestra / xanela antes de cear.
    Gallo Ol barre terjou la couésée avant qhe de hamer.
    Idiom neutral Ila semper klos fenestr ante ke ila dine.
    Italian (Ella / Lei) chiude semper la finestra prima di cenare.
    Interlingua Illa claude semper le fenestra ante (de) soupar.
    Jews Spanish Eya serra syempre la ventana antes de senar.
    Catalan (Ella) semper tanca la finestra abans de sopar.
    Corsican (Ella / Edda) chjode semper u purtellu nanzu di cenà.
    Ladin (Ëra) stlüj dagnora la finestra impröma de cenè. (badiot) (Ëila) stluj for l viere dan maië da cëina (gherdëina)
    Latino sine flexione Illa claude semper fenestra antequam illa cena.
    Leonese (Eilla) pecha siempre la ventana primeiru de cenare.
    Ligurian (Le) a saera semper u barcun primma de cenà.
    Lingua Franca Nova El semper clui la fenetra ante cuando el come.
    Lombard (West) (Lee) la sara sù semper la finestra primma de disnà / scenà.
    Magoua dialect ( Quebec ) (Elle) à fàrm toujour là fnèt àvan k'à manj.
    Milanese dialect (dialect of Lombard ) (Le) la sara semper sü la finestra prima de disnà.
    Morisyen Li touzur pou ferm lafnet avan (li) manze.
    Mirandesian (Eilha) cerra siempre la bentana / jinela atrás de jantar.
    Mozarabic Ella cloudet semper la fainestra abante da cenare. (reconstructed)
    Neapolitan Essa nzerra sempe 'a fenesta primma' e magnà.
    Norman Ol barre tréjous la crouésie devaunt de daîner.
    Occidental Ella semper clude li fenestre ante supar.
    Occitan (Ela) barra semper / totjorn la fenèstra abans de sopar.
    Picard language Ale frunme tojours l 'creusèe édvint éd souper.
    Piedmontese Chila a sara sèmper la fnestra dnans ëd fé sin-a / dnans ëd siné.
    Portuguese Ela fecha semper a janela antes de jantar / cear.
    Roman (city dialect of Rome ) (Quella) chiude semper 'a finestra prima de magnà.
    Romanian (Ea) închide întotdeauna fereastra înainte de a lua cina.
    Romansh Ella clauda / serra adina la fanestra avant ch'ella tschainia.
    Sardinian Issa sèrrat sémper / sémpri sa bentàna innantis de chenàre / cenài.
    Sassarean Edda sarra sempri lu balchoni primma di zinà.
    Sicilian Idda chiui sempri la finestra prima di pistiari / manciari.
    Spanish (Ella) siempre cierra la ventana antes de cenar.
    Umbrian Essa chjude semper la finestra prima de cena '.
    Venetian Eła ła sara / sera semper ła fenestra vanti de xenàr / disnar.
    Walloon Ele sere todi li finiesse divant di soper.
    translation She always closes the window before she has dinner.
    Translation with changed syntax
    (wrong in German)
    Always before she has dinner, she closes the window.

    The following overview also shows similarities, but also differences in vocabulary, using a few sample words.

    Latin (noun in nominative and accusative) French Italian Spanish Occitan Catalan Portuguese Romanian Sardinian Corsican Franco-Provencal Galician Romansh Ladin Furlanic German translation
    clavis / clavem clé , more rarely: clef chiave llave clau clau chave cheie crae chjave / chjavi clâ clave clever key
    nox / noctem nuit notte noche nuèch (nuèit) nit noite noapte notte notte / notti nuet noite not night
    cantare chanter cantare cantar cantar (chantar) cantar cantar cânta (re) cantare cantà chantar cantar chanter to sing
    capra / capram chèvre capra cabra cabra (chabra, craba) cabra cabra capră cabra capra cabra / chiévra cabra chevra cioura goat
    lingua / linguam langue lingua lengua lenga llengua língua limbă limba lingua lenga lingua lingua language
    platea / plateam place piazza plaza plaça plaça praça piață pratza , pratha piazza place place plazza space
    pons / pontem pont ponte puente pont (pònt) pont ponte punte (only wooden bridge) ponte ponte / ponti pont ponte punt punt bridge
    ecclesia / ecclesiam église chiesa iglesia glèisa (glèia) església igreja biserică (Latin basilica) creia , cresia ghjesgia églésé igrexa baselgia church
    hospitale / hospitalis hôpital ospedals hospital espital (espitau) hospital hospital hospital ispidale spedale / uspidali hèpetâl hospital ospidel hospital
    caseus / caseum
    Vulgar Latin formaticum
    fromage formaggio (rarely cacio ) queso formatge (hormatge) formatge queijo caș (cheese) / brânză (salty cheese) casu casgiu tôma / fromâjo queixo hash oil cheese

    Planned languages ​​partly based on Romansh

    Most of the planned languages are a reformed Romance language or a synthesis of several Romance languages. The so-called naturalistic direction is just such planned languages. The best-known and most important example is the Latino sine flexione from 1903 or the later Interlingua from 1951. But the so-called autonomous Esperanto also has its vocabulary for more than three quarters from the Latin and Romance languages, especially French.

    See also


    Comprehensive scientific works

    Short introductions

    • Alwin Kuhn: The Romance Philology, Vol. 1: The Romance Languages. Francke, Bern 1951.
    • Petrea Lindenbauer, Michael Metzeltin , Margit Thir: The Romance languages. An introductory overview. Egert, Wilhelmsfeld 1995, ISBN 3-926972-47-5 .
    • Michael Metzeltin: Las lenguas románicas estándar. Historia de su formación y de su uso. Academia de la Llingua Asturiana, Uviéu 2004, ISBN 84-8168-356-6 ( Google books ).
    • Michael Metzeltin: Explanatory grammar of the Romance languages, sentence construction and sentence interpretation (Praesens study books ; Vol. 17). Praesens, Vienna 2010, ISBN 978-3-7069-0548-0 .
    • Rainer Schlösser: The Romance Languages (Beck'sche series; Vol. 2167). Beck, Munich 2005, ISBN 3-406-44767-8 (EA Munich 2001).
    • Carl Vossen: Mother Latin and her daughters. Europe's language and its future . Stern-Verlag, Düsseldorf 1999, ISBN 3-87784-036-1 (EA Frankfurt / M. 1968).

    Web links

    Individual evidence

    1. Reinhard Kiesler: Introduction to the problem of vulgar Latin. Volume 48 of Romanistic workbooks, Max Niemeyer, Tübingen 2006, ISBN 3-484-54048-6 , p. 2.
    2. ^ Saint Ignatius High School, Cleveland, USA ( Memento of September 27, 2011 in the Internet Archive ): comparative compilation of various sources on the spread of world languages ​​(English) .
    3. Harald Haarmann : World history of languages. From the early days of man to the present. CH Beck, Munich 2010, ISBN 978-3-406-69461-5 , pp. 134-135.
    4. ^ Andrés de Poza: De la antigua lengua, poblaciones, y comarcas de las Españas. 1587.
    5. Gerhard Jäger : How bioinformatics helps to reconstruct the history of language. In: Alfred Nordheim , Klaus Antoni (Ed.): Crossing the Genz. Man in the field of tension between biology, culture and technology. transcript, Bielefeld 2013, ISBN 978-3-8376-2260-7 , p. 140
    6. Wolfgang Dahmen: The Romance Languages ​​in Europe. In: Uwe Hinrichs (Hrsg.): Handbuch der Eurolinguistik (= Slavic study books vol. 20). Otto Harrassowitz, Wiesbaden 2010, ISBN 3-447-05928-1 , p. 209 f.
    7. Martin Haase: The Spanish from a typological and historical-comparative point of view. Bamberg, pp. 1-16 .
    8. Ethnologue Information on the Romanian language.
    9. See Joachim Grzega : Romania Gallica Cisalpina: Etymological-geolinguistic studies on the Northern Italian-Rhaeto-Romanic Celticisms . (= Supplements to the journal for Romance philology. 311). Niemeyer, Tübingen 2001.
    10. ^ Glottolog 3.2 - Dalmatian Romance. Accessed July 8, 2018 .
    11. See Amos Cardia: S'italianu in Sardìnnia candu, cumenti e poita d'ant impostu: 1720–1848. Poderi e lìngua in Sardìnnia in edadi Spanniola. Iskra, Ghilarza 2006, ISBN 88-901367-5-8 .