|Latin inscription in the Colosseum|
|Spoken in||Roman Republic, Roman Empire, Medieval and Early modern Europe, Armenian Kingdom of Cilicia (as lingua franca), Vatican City|
|Official language in||Holy See|
|Regulated by||Anciently, Roman schools of grammar and rhetoric. In contemporary time, Opus Fundatum Latinitas.|
|Note: This page may contain IPA phonetic symbols in Unicode.|
Latin (lingua latīna, ) is an Italic language originally spoken in Latium and Ancient Rome. Although often considered a dead language, a small number of scholars and members of the Christian clergy can speak it fluently, and it continues to be taught in schools and universities. Latin has been, and currently is, used in the process of new word production in modern languages from many different families, including English. Latin and its daughter Romance languages are the only surviving branch of the Italic language family. Other branches, known as Italic languages, are attested in documents surviving from early Italy, but were assimilated during the Roman Republic. The one possible exception is Venetic, the language of the people who settled Venetia, who in Roman times spoke their language in parallel with Latin.
The extensive use of elements from vernacular speech by the earliest authors and inscriptions of the Roman Republic make it clear that the original, unwritten language of the Roman Monarchy was a colloquial form only partly reconstructable called Vulgar Latin. By the late Roman Republic literate persons mainly at Rome had created a standard form from the spoken language of the educated and empowered now called Classical Latin, then called simply Latin or Latinity. The term Vulgar Latin came to mean the various dialects of the citizenry. With the Roman conquest, Latin spread to countries around the Mediterranean, and the vernacular dialects spoken in these areas developed into the Romance languages, including Aragonese, Catalan, Corsican, French, Italian, Portuguese, Romanian, Sardinian, and Spanish. Classical Latin, however, continued to develop after the fall of the Roman Empire and through the Middle Ages, and was used as the language of international communication, scholarship and science until the 18th century, when it was supplanted by vernacular languages.
Latin is a highly inflected language, with three distinct genders, seven noun cases, four verb conjugations, six tenses, six persons, three moods, two voices, two aspects and two numbers. A dual number is rare and archaic. One of the seven cases is the locative case, generally only used with place nouns. The vocative is nearly identical to the nominative. There are only five fully productive cases; accordingly, different authors list five, six or seven as the number of cases. Adjectives and adverbs are compared, and adjectives are inflected for case, gender, and number. Although Latin has demonstrative pronouns indicating varying degree of closeness, it lacks articles. Later Romance language articles developed from the demonstrative pronouns; e.g., le and la from ille and illa. Romance languages were created by simplification of this inflectional complexity in various ways; e.g., uninflected Italian oggi ("today") from the Latin ablative case, hoc die.
The Latin heritage has been delivered in these broad genres:
Most inscriptions have been published in an internationally agreed-upon, monumental, multi-volume series termed the Corpus Inscriptionum Latinarum (CIL). Authors and publishers vary but the format is approximately the same: volumes detailing inscriptions with a critical apparatus stating the provenance and relevant information. The reading and interpretation of these inscriptions is the subject matter of the field of epigraphy. There are approximately 180,000 known inscriptions.
The works of several hundred ancient authors who wrote in Latin have survived in whole or in part, in substantial works or in fragments to be analyzed in philology. They are in part the subject matter of the field of classics. Their works were published in manuscript form before the invention of printing and now exist in carefully annotated printed editions, such as the Loeb Classical Library by Harvard University Press.