The Latin Language – Dead but Still Alive

Oct 17, 2022 | Articles, Philosophy

Even though no one speaks Latin as their first language any more, many people study it in school. At the turn of the 20th century, more than 50% of all US public high school students took Latin as their foreign language.
Often described as a dead language, but that is a misnomer. Here is a fun fact for you: more than 60% of all English words and 90% of all vocabulary in technology and science are rooted in Latin or Greek language.
Studying Latin roots can help you decode English and math, which is another language that relies heavily on logic and orderly thinking.

Latin language requires students to break down grammatical structures and parts of speech, preparing them for tackling other languages. Once a student is familiar with concepts like grammatical gender, conjugated verbs, inflected nouns, and more, they can move onto the same concepts in other languages.
Think about this, more than 80% of the words in romance languages, which is Italian, French, Spanish, Romanian, and Portuguese, have their lexicon, structure, and grammar rooted in Latin.

History of the Latin Language

As one of the oldest languages in the world, Latin has a rich history. First scriptures written in the Latin language can be traced back to 75 BC. It originated and got its name from the region of Latium in the old Roman Empire.

In the old days, Latin was the language of scholars and educated people. Here is something you need to know, old Latin was different from the modern version of Latin. Same as the old English is different than the English we speak and use today.
The alphabets of old Latin were derived from Etruscan alphabets and written from right to left. But over time, writing has changed from left to right script.

Basic Structure and Grammar of Latin language

Did you know that Latin was originally written on wax plates? There were only a few occasions when it was written on parchments of papyrus.
These wax plates had little space to fit on many words. So, writers refrained from putting a space between the words in most cases. And over time, this practice turned into a tradition.
Use of punctuation came much later in Latin language. So did the inclusion of lowercase letters. As we said before, old Latin was developed from the language of the Etruscans, a contemporary culture of Rome.
Speaking of structure and grammar, the language nowadays is written using the Roman alphabet and with only 23 letters. There are no letters like J, U, and W, in the Latin language.

Word formation is quite similar to the ancient Greek language. Nouns are divided into seven cases, which are nominative, vocative, accusative, genitive, dative, ablative, and locative.
One of the most important characteristics of the Latin noun is that it is changed or declined according to how it is used in a sentence. There are five distinct manners how the noun can be changed. These are known as declensions.
Speaking of Latin verbs, they have a lot of complexities and are not easy to understand. Here is how. When a single Latin verb is conjugated, another six new forms take shape. A total of five elements influence the characteristics of a Latin verb. Those are number, person, tense, voice, and mood.
So because of this feature, every single verb in the Latin language can have up to 120 forms.

Influence on modern languages

We said before there are many languages that have used Latin as their origin. Those are Italian, Spanish, French, Portuguese, and English. They are all part-Latin languages and contain many Latin words.
If you want to be more technically, these languages are connected to the Latin language that was spoken by commoners in the ancient Roman world.

While Latin is described as dead language because there are no native speakers, its presence can be strongly felt in our day-to-day affairs.
Medicine, technology, law, these are all fields where Latin is quite important. Here is a fun fact. When someone asks us the time, we answer using either am or pm after the number. These abbreviations are actually short forms of ante meridiem and post meridiem. That means before midday and after midday in Latin. See?
Also, species of animals and plants in biology are written in Latin. Here is an example. The Latin name for polar bear is “Ursus maritimus”, which means “sea bear”.
Here is another fun fact. The Pope of the Catholic Church has the habit of sending out messages to his followers in Laitn on social media platforms.

Types of Latin Languages

We said before that the modern Latin has changed a lot from the old Latin language. In the old days, Latin was actually divided into two types.
They were Classical Latin and Vulgar Latin. Classical Latin was the language scholars and educated people used. Vulgar Latin was spoken by the normal public.

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Thomas B.