- Language Description
- A Comparative Latin Grammar
- Survey of Latin Phonetics (by Dmitry Pisarev)
- Italic Alphabets
- The Origin of Rome and Romans (essay)
- Indo-European Chronology (Italic & Etruscan)
Latino-Faliscan subgroup of Italic languages occupied lands on the left bank of the Tiber river in the 10th or 9th century BC. At this time Latinians did not know writing yet, and were under the influence of Etruscans. Only in the late 8th century the Greek alphabet was modified to make the Latin one, and since then the historical development of Latin began. The earliest inscription found in Latin shows the archaic stage of the language similar to Oscan and Venetic languages. At this time, when Rome was found, Latin already had its structure with all complex verb forms and noun declension.
The Classical Latin language took birth in the 6th century BC and gradually disappeared in the 4th and 5th century AD, becoming Popular Latin. In this period of time, Latin was flourishing and spreading all over Europe, was spoken in Asia and northern Africa. It assimilated other Italic languages, other Indo-European and non-Indo-European languages of Italy, France, Alps, Thracia, Illyria, many other ancient tongues. The list of languages Latin caused to disappear is very long. But it all was leaving deep traces in Latin itself. And in the new era the language of Romans began to suffer much simplification, changes and mutations, being restructured in Popular Latin. And as the Classical language remained as an official tongue of medieval Europe, Latin as a living language became extinct, used only in Pope's office in Vatican even now.
Classical Latin had a stereotype Indo-European phonetic system, with
long and short vowels, numerous diphthongs, no aspirated or sibilant consonants
and two labiovelars - qu and gu. Phonetics
is very complicated for its plenty of vowel and consonant interchanges
and mutations: assimilations, dissimilations, rotacism, syncope, metathesa,
ablauts. But in whole Latin sounds remained simple. Note that Latin in
Ancient Rome didn't have a [ts] sound, like in Graecia, and
was always pronounced as [k] before all vowels; it's a later change done
in Medieval Europe.
Latin had all eight Indo-European noun cases but they all had different ending only in singular of o-stems masculine. Five noun declensions were typical Italic (as the 5th one was added in Common Italic), adjectives had 3 declensions the same as corresponding nouns. All pronouns were also declined, some of them like adjectives. Numerals had declensions only for "1", "2", "3", "20"; also ordinal (primus), adverbial (semel) and partitive (singuli) numerals were in use. The Latin verb had three infect tenses and corresponding perfect tenses, and also subjunctive and imperative moods. Verbal substantives were of great importance: there were 3 kinds of participles, 6 infinitives, 2 supines which were really necessary in the language, the gerund and the gerundive. Two systems of verb endings were used for infect and perfect tenses. Latin verbal prefixes were quite productive, and a great plenty of modern terms of law, technology and science are just derivatives from Latin prefixed verbs (constitution < con-statuere; intervention < inter-venire; reconstruction < re-con-struere).
Latin had prepositions with ablative and accusative nouns, several postpositions were used with genitive nouns. It is very difficult to learn all Latin conjunctions for there is a great number of them really, and they all look like each other. Particles are also interesting with their archaic forms (emphatic and demonstrative particles which are lost in majority of modern Indo-European languages).
Latin used a syntax system seen even now in Romance tongues: the adjective follows its noun, sequence of tenses is widely used, etc. In fact, Latin is an excellent example of an Indo-European language in its best and most wonderful shape.