Latin/Italian: How similar are they?

Discussion in 'Lingua Latina (Latin)' started by Alwaysconfused, Oct 10, 2006.

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  1. Alwaysconfused Junior Member

    NJ
    English, US.
    I keep hearing that these two languages are very similar...
    -but just how similar are they really?

    :)
    -G.
     
  2. MidlandsMezzo New Member

    English (UK) United Kingdom
    Hi

    Not so similar that modern Italians would find ancient Latin easy to understand. I have some knowledge of both languages as I studied Latin to final school exam level and have a working knowledge of colloquial Italian.

    The similarity is mostly in the roots of words - if you know the Latin word it sometimes makes it possible to have a good guess at what the modern Italian word means.

    One of the peculiarities of Latin is that there are no words equivalent to a or the and that the verb often comes at the end of a sentence. The words are also inflected, which means that the nominative, dative, accusative and genitive cases have special word endings which indicate the meaning. In effect, this means that fewer words are required in Latin to express what would make for a longer sentence in Italian or English. In modern Italian words are inflected to show singular and plural and genders.

    English has many words with roots from Latin and also from Germanic languages and Norman French.

    Hope this is of some help to you.

    Regards

    MidlandsMezzo
     
  3. Etcetera

    Etcetera Senior Member

    St Petersburg, Russia
    Russian, Russia (St Petersburg)
    I used to study Latin in my first year at the University, and I am studying Italian currently, though very slowly. :) And to me the languages seem to be pretty similar: very often I can guess the meaning of a word just because it looks like a similar Latin word. But the grammar structures of the languages differes a lot.
     
  4. Alwaysconfused Junior Member

    NJ
    English, US.
    Ah, okay.
    That's pretty sweet! Thanks to both!
    -G
     
  5. MidlandsMezzo New Member

    English (UK) United Kingdom
    You're very welcome!

    Regards

    MidlandsMezzo
     
  6. Riccardino Junior Member

    Philadelphia
    USA - English
    I studied Latin for two years, and am in my second year of Italian. I've never confused the two, mostly because of varying endings.

    The only thing from Latin that has seemed to help a lot is the 3rd principal part of a Latin verb tends to correspond well with its form in the Italian passato remoto.
     
  7. Claire Steiner

    Claire Steiner New Member

    English, United States
    In addition to the differences mentioned above, Italian has an extra tense, the Past Anterior, that does not appear in Latin. Italian also has a comapative degree above superlative, which is very difficult to translate into English.
     
  8. modus.irrealis Senior Member

    Toronto
    English, Canada
    I don't know if this means anything, but in books about the Romance languages in general, I've often come across the opinion that the Romance languages are all closer to each other than any is to Latin. And personally, knowing a little Latin and a little French, when I've looked at Italian I've thought more in terms of "hey, it's French with different words" than "hey, it's Latin with different words."

    I would say that the cases are what give Latin the most different feel for me, since for me it makes Latin have a different kind of grammar than Italian does. Also the reconstructed pronunciation for Latin gives it a different sound than Italian too, in my opinion of course.
     
  9. Alwaysconfused Junior Member

    NJ
    English, US.
    okay, so...
    What about the lay out of the two?
    Same/Different order...?
     
  10. claudine2006

    claudine2006 Senior Member

    Andalucía Spain
    Italy Italian
    I'm Italian and I've studied Latin at school for six years. Latin is not easy at all, even if you are Italian. It's useful because it helps you to understand the etymology of a lot of Italian words, but its grammar is quite difficult. For example, Latin has got cases (Nominative, Genitive, Dative, Accusative, Vocative, Ablative) that have disapperead in modern Italian.
     
  11. duckie

    duckie Senior Member

    Copenhagen
    Denmark
    If Latin is Italian with cases it's like taking all the hard parts of Italian grammar and adding all the hard parts of German grammar and then declaring that no pronounciation exist! People's ideas of fun differs ;)
     
  12. MidlandsMezzo New Member

    English (UK) United Kingdom
    Hi

    Another complication ... I am a trained classical singer. When we sing Mozart (eg masses or requiem) there is always a debate as to whether to use German/Austrian Latin pronunciation, Italian (as in the Vatican/Roman Church) pronunciation or if, as I do, one lives in an English-speaking country, English Grammar school pronunciation (there is a pronunciation system which we had to use when reading/speaking Latin in class).

    To add to our fun, one of my classmates was a German whose knowledge of Latin was superlative but whose English vocabulary was in a developmental stage as he had only moved to Ireland a few months prior to joining our school, so we had such gems as "And Kaiser (Caesar) crossed the Donau (Danube)".

    Yep, I agree that Latin seems to have the most difficult elements of Italian and German blended together. It is no accident that when I studied German in Grammar school that those of us who had studied Latin prior to taking up German did not find it as difficult as those who had no knowledge of Latin.

    What fun we had!:)

    Regards

    MidlandsMezzo
     
  13. BlueWolf

    BlueWolf Senior Member

    Italy
    Italian
    Little analysis about similarities and differences:

    WORDS
    The similarity between the words is very high, even if some words change meaning in time (for example, a tipical word, fortuna, that in Italian means "luck" and in Latin "fate"). Other very common words changed too (for example puer/ragazzo (boy)), but they still share the biggest part of the vocabolary.

    GRAMMATIC
    Nouns
    One of the biggest difference is of course the cases of the nouns. Let's see only one example of this in the two languages:

    Latin Italian English
    Lupus - Il lupo - The wolf (subject)
    Lupi - Del lupo - Of the wolf
    Lupo - Al lupo - To the wolf
    Lupum - Il lupo - The wolf (object)
    Lupe - Lupo - Wolf (vocative)
    Lupo - Con il lupo - With the wolf
    --------------------------------------------------------------------
    Lupi - I lupi - The wolves (subject)
    Luporum - Dei lupi - Of the wolves
    Lupibus - Ai lupi - To the wolves
    Lupos - I lupi - The wolves (object)
    Lupi - Lupi - Wolves (vocative)
    Lupus - Il lupi - The wolves
    Lupibus - Con i lupi - With the wolves

    As you see, Italian has only singular and plural, while Latin has six cases for both them. Moreover, Latin didn't have the articles (definitive or indefinitive), while Italian does.
    Latin nouns have three genders, while Italian ones have two. Since usually neuter nouns became masculine in Italian, they cause confusion especially for the plural, that it's similar to a feminine singular (ending with -a). However Italian still has some few "neuter" nouns.

    Verbs
    Some tenses are similar to the Italian ones, other aren't. Present and imperfect are very similar for example, while future simple is completely different, since Italian created it from infinitive + present of the verb avere.

    Endings of present
    1st singular: Latin (-o, -io), Italian (-o)
    2nd singular: Latin (-as, -es, -is), Italian (-i)
    3rd singular: Latin (-at, -et, -it), Italian (-a, -e)
    1st plural: Latin (-amus, -emus, -imus), Italian (-iamo)
    2nd plural: Latin (-atis, -etis, -itis), Italian (-ate, -ete, -ite)
    3rd plural: Latin (-ant, -ent, -unt), Italiano (-ano, -ono)

    Word order
    The deeper difference.
    The elements of the word in Latin are placed completely different than in Italian. This plus the cases makes a Latin sentence incomprehensible for Italians, even if we understand the single words.
     
  14. claudine2006

    claudine2006 Senior Member

    Andalucía Spain
    Italy Italian
    Right, in Italy we use the pronunciation of the Middle Age, in other countries (Spain, for example) they use the pronunciation of the roman empire age.
     
  15. MidlandsMezzo New Member

    English (UK) United Kingdom
    Hi all

    Very interesting to read the more recent posts - I never knew that the Italian Latin pronunciation was of the Middle Ages and that of other countries owed more to Roman (classical) Latin.

    Thanks to you all.

    Regards

    MidlandsMezzo
     
  16. duckie

    duckie Senior Member

    Copenhagen
    Denmark
    How do they know that?
     
  17. jazyk Senior Member

    Brno, Česká republika
    Brazílie, portugalština
    Although Italian seems to be the closest to Latin, it has undergone some considerable assimilations that have rendered graphic similarities to Latin less obvious. One example that comes to mind: Latin admittere, Portuguese/Spanish admitir, Italian ammettere.
     
  18. robbie_SWE

    robbie_SWE Senior Member

    Sweden
    Trilingual: Swedish, Romanian & English
    I believe that Italian is the closest language to Latin vocabulary than any other, but in all other aspects Italian may be the farthest from original Latin (or Vulgar Latin) than any other Romance language. In the sense of phonology the Sardinian language is the language that is closest to Latin phonology and grammatically Romanian is closest to Latin. Everything is relative!

    :) robbie
     
  19. robbie_SWE

    robbie_SWE Senior Member

    Sweden
    Trilingual: Swedish, Romanian & English
    ...or Romanian admite (which seems to have the closest word to the Latin admittere than any other:D :p ).

    robbie
     
  20. Outsider Senior Member

    Portuguese (Portugal)
    I don't know, in French it's admettre.
     
  21. robbie_SWE

    robbie_SWE Senior Member

    Sweden
    Trilingual: Swedish, Romanian & English
    Touché Outsider! ;)
     
  22. Outsider Senior Member

    Portuguese (Portugal)
    Although, of course, French spelling can be misleading, and pronunciation is what should matter here...
     
  23. DDT

    DDT Senior Member

    Paris, France
    Italy - Italian
    Like duckie I am doubtful about that since the correct prononciation is the core of a neverending discussion among classicists...as far as I know there is no clear evidence of the way Latin was pronounced 2000 years ago

    DDT
     
  24. modus.irrealis Senior Member

    Toronto
    English, Canada
    I don't know, but it seems to me that there is a general consensus about the main aspects of Classical Latin pronunciation. Maybe there's questions about how early some of the changes in pronunciation occured, so it's tough to say how Augustine spoke, but we know Cicero pronounced the C's in his names as K's.

    Scholars have all sorts of data they use, from descriptions by Latin speakers themselves, to the way Latin wrote words they borrowed from other langues and how other languages wrote words they borrowed from Latin, to working backwards from the pronunciation of the modern Romance languages.
     
  25. Cnaeius

    Cnaeius Senior Member

    Verona
    Italian, Italy
    A quite famous and important study of Mario Pei on tonic vowels in words (so referring to phonologic aspects of the language) demonstrated that the closest language to latin, regarding the aspect of tonic vowels, is sardinian, the second italian (so it is not the farthest), in the middle the others, the farthest is French.
    Grammatically speaking declensions in latin are only a part of its grammar. Italian, as the other romance languages, has not declensions, but grammatically and most of all syntactically speaking, has a lot of similarities with Latin and fossiles. Romanian, for what i know, has a lot of slavic influence, although it retains a part of latin declensions, but the rest of grammar can be quite far from latin with respect to other romance languages.
    In any case i perfectly agree that romance languages can be more similar each other, than they are to latin
    Ciao
     
  26. robbie_SWE

    robbie_SWE Senior Member

    Sweden
    Trilingual: Swedish, Romanian & English
    You have some interesting points Cnaeius. I posted that post before actually studying the subject more closely, now I have and I can say that some things that I stated weren't all that correct. From an analysis of the Latin languages and the similarity to Latin (or more precisely Vulgar Latin) by Mario Pei (as you mentioned), the list look like this:

    Sardinian 8%
    Italian 12%
    Spanish 20%
    Romanian 23,5%
    Occitan 25%
    Portuguese 31%
    French 44%

    The numbers represent how much the languages have evolved/changed from the original Vulgar Latin. Apparently Sardinian is the most conservative overall, followed by Italian. But when it comes to grammar Romanian is said to be the most conservative, since the language was isolated from the rest of the Romance world for a long period of time. Sardinian maintained Latin phonology due to its isolation. Only the lexical differences in Romanian differentiates it from Latin, not so much the grammar (except putting an ending to its nouns, mind you Latin had no articles and some other features).

    Ciao

    :) robbie
     
  27. Cnaeius

    Cnaeius Senior Member

    Verona
    Italian, Italy
    I would say, to be more precise, that Romanian is the most conservative in retaining the declensions. But for the rest of the grammar it can be a very different matter, I do not know if there are numbers as the ones of Mario Pei. I don't think so. There are only considerations (the mine included), some correct, some wrong. And indeed it is a very difficult matter.
    As example Latin has no article but romances have. Included romanian, but in romanian the article is put at the end of the word (lupul). And this feature is not latin. Moreover verbs in romanian are more distant from latin than in the other romance languages.
    ciao
     
  28. Outsider Senior Member

    Portuguese (Portugal)
    Why make a comparison based on stressed vowels? What's so important about them?

    P.S. I really should look into it before commenting any further, but I'm feeling a little skeptical about Mario Pei's numbers, if they'e based on stressed vowels. He claims that Spanish -- which turned several Latin stressed vowels into diphthongs -- has a 20% distance from Vulgar Latin, while Portuguese -- which usually kept the stressed vowels of Vulgar Latin unaltered -- has a 30% distance from it! :confused:
     
  29. robbie_SWE

    robbie_SWE Senior Member

    Sweden
    Trilingual: Swedish, Romanian & English
    What do you mean?? That they are derived from other languages or that they have different tenses?! I can say now that Romanian has the same tenses as the other Romance Languages. The derivation is also mainly from Latin. If you want to compare please check this.

    It's my list of the most common verbs in different languages, including most Romance languages. If you have any questions just let me know!

    robbie
     
  30. Cnaeius

    Cnaeius Senior Member

    Verona
    Italian, Italy

    Certainly they are derived from Latin, but in Romanian the divergence from Latin is higher in the verb conjugations (verbal modes, verbal tenses)! Just have a look to a complete table of conjugations of romanian and compare it to Latin and italian (for example). In any case, i do not know any number of comparison here, only common sense can help
    Ciao
     
  31. jazyk Senior Member

    Brno, Česká republika
    Brazílie, portugalština
    No way, José! Romanian doesn't have a future subjunctive (found in Portuguese and Spanish, but not found in Latin, Italian or French) and an imperfective subjunctive (French doesn't like its imperfective subjunctive very much, hélas). Besides, the Romanian subjunctive is identical to the indicative (Slavic influence?) except for the entire conjugation of the verb a fi (to be) and the third person, singular and plural, of all verbs.

    I think this is crap.
     
  32. Outsider Senior Member

    Portuguese (Portugal)
    I would not count the future subjunctive in such comparisons, as it did not exist in classical Latin.
     
  33. jazyk Senior Member

    Brno, Česká republika
    Brazílie, portugalština
     
  34. Outsider Senior Member

    Portuguese (Portugal)
    Fair enough, Jazyk, but the context of the thread was how similar Italian (and other Romance languages, by extension) are to Latin.
     
  35. jester.

    jester. Senior Member

    Aachen, Germany
    Germany -> German
    I agree, although I wouldn't have put it that drastically :D

    I doubt that such a list can work because there are just too many factors in languages: vocabulary, grammar, morphology, pronunciation, etc.

    They can't all be compared in one simple list of percentages. That would, however, in my opinion, be possible if only one element of the language, e.g. vocabulary, is compared.
     
  36. jazyk Senior Member

    Brno, Česká republika
    Brazílie, portugalština
    I wasn't responding to the context of the thread. I responded to Robbie's assertion, which I quoted.
     
  37. robbie_SWE

    robbie_SWE Senior Member

    Sweden
    Trilingual: Swedish, Romanian & English
    I agree with you guys on that! I thought the list was bad too, but it is the only list going around. Regarding my comment about the tenses: that came out wrong. I meant to say that Romanian has a lot in common with the other languages apparently not everything, but much. Where it differs, it has to do with something else. I doubt by the way that the subjunctive being identical to the indicative in Romanian is due to Slavic influence.

    Saluti!

    :) robbie

    PS: if there's interest, please read this. View attachment VERB CONJUGATION.xls
     
  38. jazyk Senior Member

    Brno, Česká republika
    Brazílie, portugalština
    What's it due to then? And what do you have against the Slavs?
     
  39. robbie_SWE

    robbie_SWE Senior Member

    Sweden
    Trilingual: Swedish, Romanian & English
    I have nothing against Slavs! This is off-topic by the way! Read about the Balkan Sprachbund first. It's geographical and the Greek language has it too.
     
  40. Cnaeius

    Cnaeius Senior Member

    Verona
    Italian, Italy
    Interesting the two xls, but pay attention to italian conjugation of facere because there are some errors. Look at www.verbix.com in order to find the correct (more or less) voices and other one. I would correct it but I've not enough time.

    About the so called "crap" on Mario Pei numbers: they are crap if referred to what they are not referred, and on this I agree. But if we take them in the meaning in which they were published by Mario Pei study (phonological aspect of the language)....saying they are crap is not very serious I'm sorry...It is quite simple looking who was Mario Pei.
    Ciao
     
  41. robbie_SWE

    robbie_SWE Senior Member

    Sweden
    Trilingual: Swedish, Romanian & English
    :D :D C'è molto comico che fai riferimento al verbix! It's exactly from that website I took the Italian part!!!

    Ciao!

    robbie
     
  42. jester.

    jester. Senior Member

    Aachen, Germany
    Germany -> German
    You got the wrong conjugation becaused you looked for the wrong verb (facere - which, by the way, doesn't even exist :D). The right one is "fare".

    Ciao :)
     
  43. robbie_SWE

    robbie_SWE Senior Member

    Sweden
    Trilingual: Swedish, Romanian & English
    OOHHHHHH MY GOD!!! :eek:

    How can I do such a mistake??!! I've must have lost my marbles! I apologise to all!

    robbie
     
  44. jazyk Senior Member

    Brno, Česká republika
    Brazílie, portugalština
    I have, and I speak the languages. :)
     
  45. duckie

    duckie Senior Member

    Copenhagen
    Denmark
    Could someone explain to me what indicates that Sardinian is pronounced the closest to Latin? In other words, what is the pronounciation comparison based on, exactly?
     
  46. Outsider Senior Member

    Portuguese (Portugal)
    I suppose that when people say that they are referring to the following characteristics of Sardinian:

     
  47. winklepicker

    winklepicker Senior Member

    Kent
    English (UK)
    Revived as a result of thread on status:

    Quite. Tape-recordings of native Latin speakers are a rarity. :D Compare English today with English spoken in Shakespeare's time: many people find the old version hard to understand. Go back to Chaucer (died 1400) and 99% of English natives have to have it translated into modern English.

    So we have no idea how Latin was spoken not just 600 years ago - but 1600. Let alone going right back to 753 BC - 2,760 years ago.

    And there can be no answer that holds true from 753 BC to 410 AD, and obtained universally from Hadrian's Wall to the Caspian Sea, and from Mauritania to the Red Sea. Nor one that applies equally to the Latin spoken by the emperor and by the slave who carried out his pisspot.

    There never was and never could be ONE pronunciation of Latin - it has to have varied from place to place and from social class to social class. Any answer can only be speculation.

    That won't stop the professors from discussing it though. :D
     
  48. Outsider Senior Member

    Portuguese (Portugal)
    You don't need tape recorders to have an idea of how people pronounced Latin.

    Now you contradict yourself. If it is true that we simply don't know how Latin was pronounced, as you claim, on what basis do you state that there were regional and social variations in its pronunciations?
     
  49. duckie

    duckie Senior Member

    Copenhagen
    Denmark
    I never really did understand the claims made on that wikipedia page on Sardinian earlier, with statements such as 'Latin short vowels /i/ and /u/ conserve their original sound' - how is it know what their original sound was in Latin?
     
  50. Outsider Senior Member

    Portuguese (Portugal)
    From their spelling.
     
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