Friday, November 2, 2007

 Spanish   French   Portuguese   Italian   Romanian 
Indo-European topics
The Romance languages (sometimes referred to as Romanic languages) are a branch of the Indo-European language family, comprising all the languages that descend from Latin, the language of the Roman Empire. They have more than 700 million native speakers worldwide, mainly in the Americas, Europe, and Africa, as well as in many smaller regions scattered through the world. All Romance languages descend from Vulgar Latin, the language of soldiers, settlers and merchants of the Empire, which was significantly different from the Classical Latin of Roman literati. Between 200 BC and AD 150, the expansion of the Empire, together with its administrative and educational policies, made Latin the dominant native language over an area spanning from the Iberian Peninsula to the Western coast of the Black Sea, and from the Maghreb to Britannia. During the Empire's decline and after its fragmentation and collapse in the 5th century, evolution of Latin within each local area accelerated; eventually the dialects diverged into myriad distinct varieties; some of which survived in modern forms. The overseas empires established by Spain, Portugal and France from the 15th century onward then spread their languages to the other continents—to such an extent that about 70% of all Romance speakers today live outside Europe.
Despite multiple influences from pre-Roman languages and from later invasions, the phonology, morphology, lexicon, and syntax of all Romance languages are predominantly evolutions of Latin. As a result, the group shares several linguistic features that set it apart from other Indo-European branches. In particular, with only one or two exceptions, Romance languages have lost the declension system of Classical Latin and, as a result, have SVO sentence structure and make extensive use of prepositions.



Main article: Vulgar Latin Vulgar Latin
The political decline of the Roman Empire in the fifth century and the large-scale migrations of the period, notably the Germanic incursions, led to a fragmentation of the Latin-speaking world into several independent states. Central Europe and the Balkans were occupied by Germanic and Slavic tribes, Huns, and Turks, isolating Romania from the rest of Latin Europe. Latin also disappeared from southern Britain, which had been for a time part of the Empire. But the Germanic tribes that had entered Italy, France, and the Iberian Peninsula eventually adopted Latin and the remnants of Roman culture, and so Latin continued to be the dominant language there.

Latent incubation
Between the 10th and 13th centuries, some local vernaculars developed a written form and began to supplant Latin in many of its roles. In some countries, such as Portugal, this transition was expedited by force of law, whereas in other countries, such as Italy, the rise of the vernacular was the result of many prominent poets and writers adopting it as their written medium.

Recognition of the vernaculars
The invention of the press apparently slowed down the evolution of Romance languages from the 16th century on, and brought instead a tendency towards greater uniformity of standard languages within political boundaries, at the expense of other Romance languages or dialects less favored politically. In France, for instance, the Francien spoken in the region of Paris gradually spread to the entire country, while the Langue d'oc and Franco-Provençal of the south lost ground.

Uniformization and standardization
The most widely spoken Romance language today is Spanish, followed by Portuguese, French, Italian and Romanian, all of which are main and official national languages in more than one country. A few other languages have official status on a regional or otherwise limited level, for instance Friulian, Sardinian and Valdôtain in Italy; Romansh in Switzerland; Galician, Occitan Aranese and Catalan in Spain (the last of which is also the only official language in the small sovereign state of Andorra). French, Italian, Portuguese, Spanish, and Romanian are also official languages of the European Union. Spanish, Portuguese, French, Italian, Romanian, and Catalan are the official languages of the Latin Union; French and Spanish are two of the six official languages of the United Nations.
Outside Europe, French, Spanish and Portuguese are spoken and enjoy official status in various countries that made up their respective colonial empires. French is an official language of Canada, Haiti, many countries in Africa, and some in the Indian and Pacific Oceans, as well as France's current overseas possession. Spanish is an official language of Mexico, much of South America, Central America and the Caribbean, and of Equatorial Guinea in Africa. Portuguese is the official language of Brazil, multiple countries in Africa and of East Timor. Although Italy also had some colonial possessions, its language did not remain official after the end of the colonial domination, resulting in Italian being spoken only as a minority or secondary language by immigrant communities in North and South America and Australia or African countries like Libya, Eritrea and Somalia. Romania did not establish a colonial empire, but the language spread outside of Europe due to emigration, notably in Western Asia; Romanian flourished in Israel, where it is spoken by some 5% of the total population as mother tongue,
The total native speakers of Romance languages is divided as follows (with their ranking within the languages of the world in brackets):
Source: MSN Encarta - Languages Spoken by More Than 10 Million People (number of Romance speakers estimated at 690 million speakers, number of Catalan language speakers estimated at 8 million)
The remaining Romance languages survive mostly as spoken languages for informal contact. National governments have historically viewed linguistic diversity as an economic, administrative or military liability, as well a potential source of separatist movements; therefore, they have generally fought to eliminate it—by extensively promoting the use of the official language, by restricting the use of the "other" languages in the media, by characterizing them as mere "dialects"—or worse.
In the late 20th and early 21st centuries, however, increased sensitivity to the rights of minorities have allowed some of these languages to recover some of their prestige and lost rights. Yet, it is unclear whether these political changes will be enough to reverse the minority languages' decline.

Spanish 47% (5th)
Portuguese 26% (7th)
French 11% (11th)
Italian 9% (18th)
Romanian 4% (34th)
Catalan 1% (n/a)
others 2% Current status

Linguistic features
As members of the Indo-European (IE) family, Romance languages have a number of features that are shared with other members of this family, and in particular with English; but which set them apart from languages of other families, such as Arabic, Basque, Hungarian, or Georgian. These include:

Almost all their words are classified into four major classes — nouns, verbs, adjectives, and adverbs — each with a specific set of possible syntactic roles.
Nouns, adjectives, determiners and some pronouns inflect according to grammatical number and grammatical gender.
Inflection is normally marked with suffixes.
A variety of grammatical distinctions are expressed with verbs, such as:

  • Person and number;
    Tense, mood, and aspect.
    They are verb-centered; meaning that the basic clause structure consists of a verb, expressing an action involving one or more nouns — the arguments of the verb — that play specific semantic roles in the action and specific syntactic roles in the clause.
    They are fusional, nominative-accusative languages. Features inherited from Indo-European
    The Romance languages share a number of features that were inherited from Classical Latin, and collectively set them apart from most other Indo-European languages.

    They have two grammatical numbers, singular and plural (no dual).
    In most languages, personal pronouns have different forms according to their grammatical function in a sentence (a remnant of the Latin case system); there is usually a form for the subject (inherited from the Latin nominative) another for the object (from the accusative or the dative), and a third set of personal pronouns used after prepositions or in stressed positions (see Prepositional pronoun and Disjunctive pronoun, for further information). Third person pronouns often have different forms for the direct object (accusative), the indirect object (dative), and the reflexive.
    Most are null-subject languages. French is a notable exception.
    Verbs have many conjugations, including in most languages:

    • A present tense, a preterite, an imperfect, a pluperfect and a future tense in the indicative mood, for statements of fact.
      Present and preterite subjunctive tenses, for hypothetical or uncertain conditions. Several languages (for example, Italian, Portuguese and Spanish) have also imperfect and pluperfect subjunctives.
      An imperative mood, for direct commands.
      Three non-finite forms: infinitive, gerund, and past participle.
      Distinct active and passive voices, as well as an impersonal passive voice.
      The main tense and mood distinctions that were made in classical Latin are generally still present in the modern Romance languages, though many are now expressed through compound rather than simple verbs. The passive voice, which was mostly made up of simple verbs in classical Latin, was completely replaced with compound forms.
      Several tenses, especially of the indicative mood, have been preserved with little change: Features inherited from Classical Latin
      Romance languages also have a number of features that are not shared with Classical Latin. Most of these features are thought to be inherited from Vulgar Latin. Even though the Romance languages are all derived from Latin, they are arguably much closer to each other than to their common ancestor, due to a core of common developments. The main difference is the loss of the case system of Classical Latin, an essential feature which allowed great freedom of word order, and has no counterpart in any Romance language except Romanian (though even Romanian preserved only five of Latin's seven noun cases). In this regard, the distance between any modern Romance language and Latin is comparable to that between Modern English and Old English. While speakers of French, Italian or Spanish, for example, can quickly learn to see through the phonological changes reflected in spelling differences, and thus recognize many Latin words, they will often fail to understand the meaning of Latin sentences.

      The distinctions of vowel length present in Classical Latin were lost in most Romance languages (an exception is Friulian), and partly replaced with "qualitative" contrasts like monophthong versus diphthong (Italian, Spanish; French to a lesser extent), or with vowel height contrasts (as in Portuguese and Catalan).
      There are definite and indefinite articles, derived from Latin demonstratives and the numeral unus ("one").
      There are only two grammatical genders, masculine and feminine. The neuter gender of Latin has been lost (mostly merging with the masculine). (Exceptions: Romanian, which retains neuter gender; Spanish, which has the neuter third person pronoun ello, the neuter demonstratives eso, esto, aquello, and the neuter article lo, all used for objects or some abstract notions; and Italian, which while not keeping the neuter gender intact, has residual traces of it represented by some words that switch gender between singular and plural, such as il dito (the finger), plural le dita, inherited from Latin digitum, plural digita).
      Apart from gender and number, nouns, adjectives and determiners are not inflected. Cases have generally been lost, though a trace of them survives in the personal pronouns. An exception is Romanian, which retains a combined genitive-dative case.
      Adjectives generally follow the noun they modify.
      Many Latin combining prefixes were incorporated in the lexicon as new roots and verb stems, e.g. Italian estrarre ("to extract") from Latin ex- ("out") and trahere ("to drag").
      Many Latin constructions involving nominalized verbal forms (e.g. the use of accusative plus infinitive in indirect discourse and the use of the ablative absolute) were dropped in favor of constructions with subordinate clauses in all Romance languages except Italian (for example, Latin tempore permittente > Italian tempo permettendo; L. hoc facto > I. fatto ciò).
      The normal clause structure is SVO, rather than SOV, and is much less flexible than in Latin.
      Due to sound changes which made it homophonous with the preterite, the Latin future indicative tense was dropped, and replaced with a periphrasis of the form infinitive + present tense of habēre ("to have"). With time, this structure was reanalysed as a new future tense.
      In a similar process, an entirely new tense conditional form was created.
      While the synthetic passive voice of classical Latin was abandoned in favour of periphrastic constructions, the active voice remained in use. However, several tenses have changed meaning, especially subjunctives. For example:

      • The Latin pluperfect indicative became a conditional in Catalan and Sicilian, and an imperfect subjunctive in Spanish.
        The Latin pluperfect subjunctive developed into an imperfect subjunctive in all languages except Romansh, where it became a conditional, and Romanian, where it became a pluperfect indicative.
        The Latin preterite subjunctive, together with the future perfect indicative, became a future subjunctive in Old Spanish, Portuguese, and Galician.
        The Latin imperfect subjunctive became a personal infinitive in Portuguese and Galician.
        Many Romance languages have two copular verbs, derived from the Latin stare (mostly used for "temporary state") and esse (mostly used for "essential attributes"). However, the distinction was eventually lost in some languages, notably French, which now have only the first copula. In French, stare and esse had become ester and estre by the late Middle Ages. Due to phonological development, there were the forms êter and être, which eventually merged to être. In Italian, the two verbs share the same past participle, stato. See Romance copula, for further information. Features inherited from Vulgar Latin
        The Romance languages also share a number of features that were not the result of common inheritance, but rather of various cultural diffusion processes in the Middle Ages — such as literary diffusion, commercial and military interactions, political domination, influence of the Catholic Church, and (especially in later times) conscious attempts to "purify" the languages by reference to Classical Latin. Some of those features have in fact spread to other non-Romance (and even non-Indo-European) languages, chiefly in Europe. Here are some of these "late origin" shared features:

        Most Romance languages have polite forms of address that change the person and/or number of 2nd person subjects (T-V distinction), such as the tu/vous contrast in French, the tu/Lei contrast in Italian, the tu/dumneavoastră (from dominus + vostre) in Romanian or the (or vos)/usted contrast in Spanish.
        They all have a large collection of learned Hellenisms and Latinisms, with prefixes, stems, and suffixes retained or reintroduced from Greek and Latin, and used to coin new words. Most of these are also used in English, e.g. tele-, poly-, meta-, pseudo-, dis-, ex-, post-, -scope, -logy, -tion.
        During the Renaissance, Italian, Portuguese, Spanish and a few other Romance languages developed a new, progressive aspect that did not exist in Latin. In French, progressive constructions remain very limited, the imperfect aspect generally being preferred, as in Latin.
        Many Romance languages now have a verbal construction analogous to the present perfect of English. In some, it has taken the place of the old preterite (at least in the vernacular); in others, the two coexist with somewhat different meanings. Other shared features
        In spite of their common origin, the descendants of Vulgar Latin have many differences. These occur at all levels, including the sound systems, the orthography, the nominal, verbal, and adjectival inflections, the auxiliary verbs and the semantics of verbal tenses, the function words, the rules for subordinate clauses, and, especially, in their vocabularies. While most of those differences are clearly due to independent development after the breakup of the Roman Empire (including invasions and cultural exchanges), one must also consider the influence of prior languages in territories of Latin Europe that fell under Roman rule, and possible inhomogeneities in Vulgar Latin itself.
        It is often said that French and Portuguese are the most innovative of the Romance languages, each in different ways, that Sardinian and Romanian are the most isolated and conservative variants, and that the languages of Italy other than Sardinian (including Italian) occupy a middle ground. Some even claim that Languedocian Occitan is the "most average" western Romance language. However, these evaluations are largely subjective, as they depend on how much weight one assigns to specific features. In fact all Romance languages, including Sardinian and Romanian, are all vastly different from their common ancestor.
        Romanian (together with other related minor languages, like Aromanian) in fact has a number of grammatical features which are unique within Romance, but are shared with other non-Romance languages of the Balkans, such as Albanian, Bulgarian, Greek, Serbian and Turkish. These include, for example, the structure of the vestigial case system, the placement of articles as suffixes of the nouns (cer = "sky", cerul = "the sky"), and several more. This phenomenon, called the Balkan linguistic union, may be due to contacts between those languages in post-Roman times.

        Divergent features
        The vocabularies of Romance languages have undergone considerable change since their birth, by various phonological processes that were characteristic of each language. Those changes applied more or less systematically to all words, but were often conditioned by the sound context or morphological structure.
        Some languages have lost sounds from the original Latin words. French, in particular, has dropped all final vowels, and sometimes also the preceding consonant: thus Latin lupus and luna became Italian lupo and luna but French loup [lu] and lune [lyn]. Catalan, Occitan, many Northern Italian dialects, and Romanian (Daco-Romanian) lost the final vowels in most masculine nouns and adjectives, but retained them in the feminine. Other languages, including Italian, Portuguese, Spanish, and the Southern dialects of Romanian have retained those vowels.
        Some languages have lost the final vowel -e from verbal infinitives, e.g. dīcere → Portuguese dizer ("to say"). Other common cases of final truncation are the verbal endings, e.g. Latin amāt → Italian ama ("he loves"), amābamamavo ("I loved"), amābatamava ("he loved"), amābatisamavate ("you (pl.) loved"), etc.
        Sounds have often been lost in the middle of words, too; e.g. Latin Luna → Galician and Portuguese Lua, crēdere → Spanish creer ("to believe").
        On the other hand, some languages have inserted many epenthetic vowels in certain contexts. For instance Spanish, Galician and Portuguese have generally inserted an e at the start of Latin words that began with s + consonant, such as sperōespero ("I hope"). French originally did the same, but then dropped the s: spatula → arch. espauleépaule ("shoulder"). In the case of Italian, a unique article, lo for the definite and uno for the indefinite, is used for masculine s + consonant words (sbaglio, "mistake"), as well as all masculine words beginning with z (zaino, "backpack").
        For more detailed descriptions, see the articles History of French, From Latin to Portuguese, Latin to Romanian sound changes, and Linguistic history of Spanish.

        Sound changes
        The position of the stressed syllable in a word generally varies from word to word in each Romance language, and often moves as the word is inflected. Sometimes the stress is lexically significant, e.g. Italian Papa [ˈ] ("Pope") and papà [pa.ˈpa] ("daddy"), or Spanish imperfect subjunctive cantara ("were he to sing") and future cantará ("he will sing"). However, the main function of Romance stress in appears to be a clue for speech segmentation — namely to help the listener identify the word boundaries in normal speech, where inter-word spaces are usually absent.
        In Romance languages, the stress is usually confined to one of the last three syllables of the word. That limit may be occasionally exceeded by some verbs with attached clitics, e.g. Italian mettiamocene [me.ˈtːʧ] or Metintilu in Friulian ("let's put some of it in there"), Spanish entregándomelo [en.tre.ɣ] ("delivering it to me") or Portuguese dávamo-vo-lo ['da.vɐ] ("we were giving it to you"). Originally the stress was predominantly in the penultimate syllable, but that pattern has changed considerably in some languages. In French, for instance, the loss of final vowels has left the stress almost exclusively on the last syllable.

        Lexical stress

        Main articles: Romance plurals and La Spezia-Rimini Line Formation of plurals
        Vulgar Latin borrowed many words, often from Germanic languages that replaced words from Classical Latin during the Migration Period, even including common basic vocabulary. Notable examples are *blancus (white), which replaced Classical Latin albus in most major languages and dialects except for Romanian; *guerra (war), which replaced bellum; and words for the cardinal directions, where words similar to English north, south, east and west replaced the Classical Latin words borealis (or septentrionalis) (north), australis (or meridionalis) (south), occidentalis (west) and orientalis (east) everywhere (for standard usage). See History of French - The Franks.

        Borrowed words

        Some Romance languages use a version of Latin plus, others a version of magis.

        Plus-derived: Sardinian prusu, French plus /ply/, Italian più /pju/, Friulian plui,Venetina pi, Romansh. In Catalan pus /pus/ is exclusively used on negative statements in Mallorcan Catalan dialect, and "més" is the word mostly used.
        Magis-derived: Sardinian (mera), Galician and Portuguese (mais; mediaeval Galician-Portuguese had both words: mais and chus), Spanish (más), Catalan (més), Venetian (massa or masa, "too much") Occitan (mai), Romanian (mai), Italian (mai, used in constructions such as non... mai, meaning "never", or "Londra è la più grande città che io abbia mai visto" "London is the biggest city I have ever seen"). Words for "more"
        Although the Latin word for "nothing" is nihil, the common word for "nothing" became nudha in Sardinian, nada in Spanish and Portuguese, nada and ren in Galician, rien in French, res in Catalan, cosa and res in Aragonese, ren in Occitan, nimic in Romanian, and niente and nulla in Italian, gnente in Venetian, and nue and nuie in Friulian. Some argue that all three roots derive from different parts of a Latin phrase nullam rem natam ("no thing born"), an emphatic idiom for "nothing". Meanwhile, Italian and Venetian niente and gnente would seem to be more logically derived from Latin ne(c) entem ("no being").

        Words for "nothing"
        Romanian constructs the names of the numbers 11–19 by a regular pattern which could be translated as "one-over-ten", "two-over-ten", etc.. All the other Romance languages use a pattern like "one-ten", "two-ten", etc. for 11–15, and the pattern "ten-and-seven, "ten-and-eight", "ten-and-nine" for 17–19. For 16, however, they split into two groups: some use "six-ten", some use "ten-and-six":
        Classical Latin uses the "one-ten" pattern for 11–17 (ūndecim, duodecim, ..., septendecim), but then switches to "two-off-twenty" (duodēvigintī) and "one-off-twenty" (ūndēvigintī). For the sake of comparison, note that English and German use two special words derived from "one left over" and "two left over" for 11 and 12, then the pattern "three-ten", "four-ten", ..., "nine-ten" for 13–19.

        "Sixteen": Catalan and Occitan setze, French seize, Italian sedici, Venetian sédexe, Friulian sedis, Lombard sedas / sedes, Franco-Provençal sèze, Sardinian sédichi.
        "Ten and six": Portuguese dezasseis or dezesseis, Galician dezaseis, Spanish dieciséis, the Marchigiano dialect digissei.
        "Six over ten": Romanian șaisprezece (where spre derives from Latin super). The number 16
        The verbs derived from Latin habēre "to have", tenēre "to hold", and esse "to be" are used differently in the various Romance languages, to express possession, to construct perfect tenses, and to make existential statements ("there is"). If we use T for tenēre, H for habēre, and E for esse, we have the following distribution:
        For example:
        English: I have, I have done, there is
        Friulian: (jo) o ai, (jo) o ai fat, a 'nd è, al è (HHE)
        Venetian: (mi) go, (mi) go fat, ghe xe, ghi n'é (HHE)
        Lombard (Western): (mi) a gh-u, (mi) a u fai, al gh'è, a gh'è (HHE)
        Romanian: (eu) am, (eu) am făcut, este (or e) (HHE)
        Italian: (io) ho, (io) ho fatto, c'è (HHE)
        French: j'ai, j'ai fait, il y a (HHH)
        Catalan: (jo) tinc, (jo) he fet, hi ha (THH)
        Aragonese: (yo) tiengo (but (yo) he dialectally), (yo) he feito, bi ha (THH)
        Spanish: (yo) tengo, (yo) he hecho, hay (THH)
        Galician: (eu) teño, - , hai (T-H; Galician does not have a present perfect)
        Portuguese: (eu) tenho, (eu) tenho feito, in Portugal (TTH) / tem in Brazil (TTT)
        Ancient Galician-Portuguese used to employ the auxiliary H for permanent states, such as Eu hei um nome "I have a name" (i.e. for all my life), and T for non-permanent states Eu tenho um livro "I have a book" (i.e. perhaps not so tomorrow), but this construction is no longer used in modern Galician and Portuguese. Informal Brazilian Portuguese uses the T verb even in the existential sense, e.g. Tem água no copo "There is water in the glass". In most languages, the descendant of tenēre still has the sense of "to hold", as well, e.g. Italian tieni il libro, French tu tiens le livre, Catalan tens el llibre, Romanian ține cartea, Friulian Tu tu tegnis il libri "You're holding the book". In others, like Portuguese, this sense has been mostly lost, and a different verb is currently used for "to hold".

        HHE: Romanian, Italian
        HHH: Occitan, French.
        THH: Spanish, Catalan, Aragonese.
        TTH: European Portuguese.
        TTT: Brazilian Portuguese. To have and to hold
        Some languages use their equivalent of "have" as an auxiliary verb to form the perfect forms (e. g. French passé composé) of all verbs; others use "be" for some verbs and "have" for others.
        In the latter, the verbs which use "be" as an auxiliary are unaccusative verbs, that is, intransitive verbs that show motion not directly initiated by the subject or changes of state, such as "fall", "come", "become". All other verbs (intransitive unergative verbs and all transitive verbs) use "have". For example, in French, J'ai vu "I have seen" vs. Je suis tombé "I am fallen" ("I have fallen"). A similar dichotomy exists in the Germanic languages, which share the same Sprachbund; German and the Scandinavian languages use "have" and "be", while modern English uses "have" only.

        "Have" only: Standard Catalan, Spanish, Romanian, Sicilian.
        "Have" and "be": Occitan, French, Italian, some dialects of Catalan (although such usage is recessing in those). To have or to be
        Some languages (e.g. Spanish, Catalan, Occitan, Portuguese and written French and Italian) make a distinction between a preterite and a present perfect tense (cf. English I did vs. I have done). Others (spoken French, Italian and Galician) contain only one tense, which renders both meanings. French, Italian, and European Spanish use the compound past for this, while Sicilian and Latin American Spanish use the simple past.

        I did or I have done

        Main article: Latin Alphabet Writing systems
        All Romance languages are written with the "core" Latin alphabet of 22 letters — A, B, C, D, E, F, G, H, I, L, M, N, O, P, Q, R, S, T, V, X, Y, Z — subsequently modified and augmented in various ways. In particular, the letters K and W are rarely used in most Romance languages — mostly for unassimilated foreign names and words, as they were in late Latin.
        While most of the 22 basic Latin letters have maintained their phonetic value, for some of them it has diverged considerably; and the new letters added since the Middle Ages have been put to different uses in different scripts. Some letters, notably H and Q, have been variously combined in digraphs or trigraphs (see below) to represent phonetic phenomena not recorded in Latin, or to get around previously established spelling conventions.
        A characteristic feature of the writing systems of almost all Romance languages is that the Latin letters C and G — which originally always represented /k/ and /g/ respectively — represent other sounds when they come before E, I, and in some cases Y and Œ. This is due to a general palatalization of /k/ and /ɡ/ before front vowels like /i/ and /e/. This is believed to have occurred in the transition from Classical to Vulgar Latin. Since the written form of all the affected words was tied to the classical language, the shift was accommodated by a change in the pronunciation rules. However, the new sounds of C and G in those contexts differ from language to language.
        The spelling rules of most Romance languages are fairly complex, and subject to considerable regional variation. To a first approximation, the phonetic representation of non-combined letters can be summarized as follows:
        C: generally [k], but "softened" before E, I, or Y in most Romance languages — to [s] in French, Portuguese, Occitan, Catalan, and American Spanish; to [θ] in Peninsular Spanish and Galician; and to [ʧ] in Italian and Romanian.
        G: generally [ɡ] or [ɣ], but "softened" before E, I, or Y in most languages — to [ʒ] in French, Portuguese, Occitan and Catalan; to [x] or [h] in Spanish (according to dialect); and to [ʤ] in Italian and Romanian.
        H: silent in most languages, but represents [h] in Romanian and Gascon Occitan. Used in various digraphs (see below).
        J: represents [ʒ] in most languages; [x] or [h] in Spanish; [j] in several of Italy's languages, though it is normally replaced with I in native Italian words.
        S: normally represents [s] (either laminal or apical) at syllable onset, but usually [z] between vowels. Intervocalic s is, however, pronounced [s] in Spanish, Romanian, Galician and several varieties of Italian. In the syllable coda, it may have special allophonic pronunciations.
        W: used only in Walloon. Represents [v] in French, with the exception of words borrowed from English.
        X: at the beginning of words, represents [ks] (in some words [ɡz]) in French, [s] or [ks] in Spanish, and [ʃ] in Portuguese, Catalan, and Galician. In intervocalic position, represents [ks] in French, Portuguese, Spanish, and Romanian; [ɡz] in Catalan, French, and Romanian; [ɡs] in Galician and Spanish; [ʃ] in Catalan, Galician and Portuguese; [z] in Venetian, French and Portuguese; or [s] in French and Portuguese. Not used in Italian (except in borrowings), where it is replaced by s.
        Y: used in French and Spanish for the vowel [i], and also as a consonant, [j] (esp. in French), [ʝ], [ʒ] or [ʤ].
        Z: [z] in most languages; either [θ] or [s] in Galician and Spanish; either [ʣ] or [ʦ] in Italian.
        Otherwise, letters that are not combined as digraphs generally have the same sounds as in the International Phonetic Alphabet (IPA), whose design was, in fact, greatly influenced by the Romance spelling systems.

        Letter values
        Since most Romance languages have more sounds than can be accommodated in the Roman Latin alphabet they all resort to the use of digraphs and trigraphs — combinations of two or three letters with a single sound value. The concept (but not the actual combinations) derives from Classical Latin; which used, for example, TH, PH, and CH when transliterating the Greek letters "θ", "ϕ" (later "φ"), and "χ" (These were once aspirated sounds in Greek before changing to corresponding fricatives and the <H> represented what sounded to the Romans like an /ʰ/ following /t/, /p/, and /k/ respectively. Some of the digraphs used in modern scripts are:
        CI: used in Italian and Romanian to represent /ʧ/ before A, O, or U.
        CH: used in Italian, Romanian and Sardinian to represent /k/ before E or I; /ʧ/ in Spanish and Galician; and /ʃ/ in most other languages.
        ÇH: used in Poitevin-Saintongeais for voiceless palatal fricative /ç/
        DD: used in Sicilian and Sardinian to represent the voiced retroflex plosive /ɖ/.
        DJ: used in Walloon for /ʤ/.
        GI: used in Italian and Romanian to represent /ʤ/ before A, O, or U.
        GH: used in Italian, Romanian and Sardinian to represent /ɡ/ before E or I, and in Galician for the voiceless pharyngeal fricative /ħ/ (not standard sound).
        GLI: used in Italian for /ʎ/.
        GN: used in French and Italian for /ɲ/, as in champignon or gnocchi.
        GU: used before E or I to represent /ɡ/ or /ɣ/ in all Romance languages except Italian and Romanian.
        LH: used in Portuguese and Occitan /ʎ/.
        LL: used in Spanish, Catalan, Galician, Norman and Dgèrnésiais, originally for /ʎ/ which has merged in some cases with /j/. Represents /l/ in French unless it follows I (i) when it represents /j/ (or /ʎ/ in some dialects). It's used in Occitan for a long /lː/
        ĿL: used in Catalan for a geminate consonant /lː/.
        NH: used in Portuguese and Occitan for /ɲ/, used in official Galician for /ŋ/ .
        NY: used in Catalan for /ɲ/.
        QU: represents [kw] in Italian; [k] in French and Spanish; [k] (before e or i) or [kw] (normally before a or o) in Portuguese and Catalan.
        RR: used between vowels in several languages to denote a trilled /r/ or a guttural R, instead of the flap /ɾ/.
        SC: used before E or I in Italian for /ʃ/, and in French and Spanish as as /s/ in words of certain etymology.
        SCI: used in Italian to represent /ʃ/ before A, O, or U.
        SH: used in Aranese Occitan for /ʃ/.
        SS: used in French, Portuguese, Occitan and Catalan for /s/ between vowels.
        TH: used in Jèrriais for /θ/ (as in English "thick"); used in Aranese for either /t/ or /ʧ/
        While the digraphs CH, PH, RH and TH were at one time used in many words of Greek origin, most languages have now replaced them with C/QU, F, R and T. Only French has kept these etymological spellings, which now represent /k/ or /ʃ/, /f/, /ʀ/ and /t/, respectively.

        Digraphs and trigraphs
        For most languages in this family, consonant length is no longer phonemically distinctive or present. The double consonants in French spelling are due to etymology. However, Italian, Sardinian and Sicilian do have long consonants like BB, CC, DD, etc., where the doubling indicates a short hold before the consonant is released, which often has lexical value: e.g. note /ˈnɔ.te/ ("notes") vs. notte /ˈnɔt.te/ ("night"). They may even occur at the beginning of words in Romanesco, Neapolitan and Sicilian, and are occasionally written, e.g. Sicilian cchiù (more), and ccà (here). In general, the letters B, R and Z are long at the start of a word. In Jèrriais, long consonants are marked with an apostrophe: S'S is a long /z/, SS'S is a long /s/, and T'T is a long /t/. In Catalan and Occitan exists a geminate /lː/ sound written ŀl (Catalan) or ll (Occitan), but it is usually pronounced as a simple sound in colloquial (and even some formal) speech in both languages.

        Diacritics common across Romance languages are the acute accent (á), the grave accent (à), the circumflex accent (â), the diaeresis mark (ü), and the tilde (ã). French spelling includes the etymological ligatures œ and (more rarely) æ. Romanian has a few diacritics of its own.
        An accent mark placed over a vowel generally denotes stress, height, or both. In Spanish, only stress is indicated, with an acute accent. Romanian â/î and ă are central vowels; stress is not marked in this language. Catalan and Occitan regularly mark stress with an acute accent on high vowels, and with a grave accent on low vowels in a similar but not identical way. Similarly, French é is a high-mid vowel and French è is a low-mid vowel, although in French stress is not indicated with diacritics. Italian marks stress with the grave accent, except on high e and o, which are sometimes marked with an acute accent. Galician marks both stress and height with an acute accent, due to the fact that only stressed vowels can be pronounced low. Portuguese marks stress with the acute accent, except for high a, e, o, which take a circumflex accent.
        The cedilla (ç), and the diacritical comma (ș and ț, in Romanian) are used to mark sound changes due to historical palatalizations.
        Homophones may be differentiated by a grave accent in Italian and French, by an acute accent in Spanish.

        Diacritics and special characters
        Most languages are written with a mixture of two distinct but phonetically identical variants or "cases" of the alphabet: majuscule ("uppercase" or "capital letters"), derived from Roman stone-carved letter shapes, and minuscule ("lowercase"), derived from Carolingian writing and Medieval quill pen handwriting which were later adapted by printers in the 15th and 16th centuries.
        In particular, all Romance languages presently capitalize (use uppercase for the first letter of) the following words: the first word of each complete sentence, most words in names of people, places, and organizations, and most words in titles of books. The Romance languages do not follow the German practice of capitalizing all nouns including common ones. Unlike English, the names of months (except in European Portuguese), days of the weeks, and derivatives of proper nouns are usually not capitalized: thus, in Italian one capitalizes Francia ("France") and Francesco ("Francis"), but not francese ("French") or francescano ("Franciscan"). However, each language has some exceptions to this general rule.

        Upper and lower case
        The table below provides a vocabulary comparison that illustrates a number of examples of sound shifts that have occurred between Latin and the main Romance languages, along with a selection of minority languages.

        Vocabulary comparison

        Main articles: Classification of Romance languages and List of Romance languages Classification and related languages
        Here are the main subfamiles that have been proposed within the various classification schemes for Romance languages:

        Italo-Western, the largest group;
        Eastern Romance, which includes the languages of Eastern Europe, such as Romanian;
        Southern Romance, which includes a few languages of southern Italy, such as Sardinian. Proposed subfamilies
        There are some languages that developed from a mixture of two established Romance languages. It is not always clear whether they should be classified as pidgins, creole languages, or mixed languages. See the main article, for full lists.

        Romance languages Auxiliary and constructed languages

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