Romance languages


   A Romance language is any of several languages that developed from Latin. The Romance tongues include French, Italian, Spanish, Catalan, Portuguese, and Romanian. Other Romance, or Romanic, languages are Sardinian and Rhaeto-Romance (the general name for a group of languages, including Romansh, spoken in certain parts of Switzerland, the Tyrol, and Friuli).
   The Romance group also includes Provençal, the language spoken in southern France. Provençal was the language of the troubadours, who were the poets of the 1100's. The lyrics of more than 400 Provençal poets have come down to us. Most of their poems were love lyrics, but some had moral, religious, or political themes written to popular melodies. The use of Provençal as a literary medium began to decline soon after A. D. 1200.
Romance languages grew up because Rome sent colonists to settle the countries it had conquered. The soldiers, tradesmen, and farmers who colonized these conquered countries took their language with them, but it was not the Latin of the classics studied in school today. It was popular, or vulgar, Latin, the everyday speech of ordinary people. This popular Latin often adopted words or features of pronunciation from the language of the conquered country. For example, the Latin word for hundred, centum, became cent in French, ciento in Spanish, and cento in Italian. The varieties of popular Latin formed in this way eventually developed into separate languages.