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The Italic subfamily is a member of the Indo-European language family. It includes the Romance languages derived from Latin (Italian, Spanish, Portuguese, French, Romanian, etc.), and a number of extinct languages of the Italian Peninsula, including Umbrian, Oscan, Faliscan, and Latin itself.

In the past various definitions of "Italic" have prevailed. This article uses the classification presented by the Linguist List: Italic includes the Latin subgroup (Latin and the Romance languages) as well as the ancient Italic languages (Faliscan, Osco-Umbrian and two unclassified Italic languages, Aequian and Vestinian). Venetic (the language of ancient Venicemarker), however, is regarded as unclassified Indo-European, despite its influence on the modern Italian of the region.

In the extreme view, Italic did not exist, but the different groups descended directly from Indo-European and converged because of geographic contiguity. This view stems in part from the difficulty in identifying a common Italic homeland in

In the intermediate view, the Italic languages are one of the ten or eleven major subgroups of the Indo-European language family and might therefore have had an ancestor, common Italic or proto-Italic, from which its daughter languages descend. Moreover, there are similarities between major groups, although how these similarities are to be interpreted is one of the major debatable issues in the historical linguistics of Indo-European. The linguist, Calvert Watkins, went so far as to suggest, among ten major groups, a four-way division of East, West, North and South Indo-European. These he considered "dialectical divisions within Proto-Indo-European which go back to a period long before the speakers arrived in their historical areas of attestation." This is not to be considered a nodular grouping; in other words, there was not necessarily any common west Indo-European serving as a node from which the subgroups branched. The West Indo-European dialects are Celtic, Italic and Tocharian. By the time of any written language, Tocharian was geographically remote from the other two.

Proto-Italic

In the comparative method of historical linguistics language families descended from proto-languages.

Phonetics

A partial list of regular phonetic changes from Proto-Indo-European to Proto-Italic:
  • Palatovelars merged with plain velars
  • Voiced labiovelars unround or lenite
    • → or
  • Voiced aspirate become first unvoiced, then fricativize
    • → → →
    • → →
    • → →
  • → before ; unchanged elsewhere
  • → before in following syllable (e.g. Latin quinque 'five' from PIE *penkʷe); unchanged elsewhere
  • Resonant and remaining stop ( ) unchanged


Further changes occurred during the evolution of the individual Italic languages, in Latin for example → between vowels and → at the beginning of a word.

Branches

The Italic family has two known branches and two unclassified languages:

The ancient Venetic language, as revealed by its inscriptions (including complete sentences), was also closely related to the Italic languages and is sometimes even classified as Italic. However, since it also shares similarities with other Western Indo-European branches (particularly Germanic), some linguists prefer to consider it an independent Indo-European language.

The Italic languages are first attested in writing from Umbrian and Faliscan inscriptions dating to the 7th century BC. The alphabets used are based on the Old Italic alphabet, which is itself based on the Greek alphabet. The Italic languages themselves show minor influence from the Etruscan and somewhat more from the Ancient Greek languages.

As Rome extended its political dominion over the whole of the Italian Peninsula, Latin became dominant over the other Italic languages, which ceased to be spoken perhaps sometime in the 1st century AD. From Vulgar Latin the Romance languages emerged.

References

Bibliography

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See also



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