Your guide to: Indo-European Language Family – Romance Languages

There is a common misunderstanding regarding romance languages. Most English speakers think the name refers to something regarding love but it actually goes back to the older, truer definition of romantic, which is “anything having to do with the Romans”. So the romancs languages are so named because of their strong connections to Latin, which is why the romantic cultures of France, Spain, Italy and Portugal are referred to as Latin. While there are many romance languages that are basically on life support, there are 7 that are still spoken by at least several million people. Here they are, in order of usage . . .

Spoken by about 400 million people as a native language and perhaps another 100 million as a secondary language, primarily in Spain and throughout the Americas. There are many, many different dialects and accents throughout these regions. It originated in Spain but, interestingly, only about 75% of Spain’s population speaks Spanish as its first language.

The total number of French speakers is actually about the same as Spanish but “only” 160 million speak it as a first language. A very impressive 340 million speak it as a secondary language, meaning it’s definitely a practical language for world travelling, as it’s very widespread, even if not highly condensed in many regions. About 72 million of the native speakers live in France, Belgium, Switzerland and Canada. Most of the remaining live in Africa.

Portuguese has approximately 210 million native speakers, significantly more than French, but very few secondary speakers, around 20 million. Most Portuguese-speakers live in Brazil, Portugal and Angola. There are extreme variations in regional dialectics.

A pretty famous language considering only about 63 million people speak it, primarily in Italy and Switzerland. Considering that Latin was born in the region that we now know as Italy, it makes sense that the Italian vocabulary is closest to Latin out of the 4 big romance languages.

Romanian is unique among the Romance languages in that it contains many Slavic influences, particularly in pronunciation and vocabulary. In spite of that, it is the modern romance language that is structurally MOST similar to Latin. Spoken by about 28 million people, mostly in Romania and Moldova.

The youngest language on the list, it descended from French but has a unique vocabulary and spelling system. There are around 11 million native speakers, mostly in Haiti.

Don’t be sad if you’ve never heard of the rest of the languages on this list. Catalan is spoken by 9 million people in the Spanish autonomous region of Catalunya, plus surrounding areas. This region is home to the city of Barcelona.

As the name indicates, Galician contains many Gaelic elements but closely resembles Portuguese. There is debate as to whether it’s truly an independent language or a dialect of Portuguese. It’s spoken by about 4 million people in Northern Spain (but can be understood to a high degree by residents of Northern Portugal).

Spoken by about 3 million people in Sardinia (Italy) and surrounding areas. Its primary distinction is that it is closer to Latin phonetically than the other modern Romance languages.


2 responses to “Your guide to: Indo-European Language Family – Romance Languages

  1. miloprometheus

    This was interesting….are you planning a Germanic entry?

  2. Yes, and Slavic.

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