If an ancient Roman woke up today

By JaimeB, in 'General Latin Chat (English)', Jun 4, 2010.


Language easiest for a Roman to learn?

French 1 vote(s) 4.2%
Italian 15 vote(s) 62.5%
Portuguese 0 vote(s) 0.0%
Romanian 2 vote(s) 8.3%
Spanish 5 vote(s) 20.8%
Other (specify) 1 vote(s) 4.2%
  1. JaimeB Civis Illustris

    • Civis Illustris
    San Francisco, CA
    If an ancient Roman woke up today, which of the Romance languages would he find the easiest to understand and/or learn?

    Your options include, but are not limited to:


    Oh, and maybe you could say why you chose the one you did.
    Akela likes this.
  2. Iohannes Aurum Technicus Auxiliarius

    • Technicus Auxiliarius
    It depends on where the ancient Roman would awaken.
  3. JaimeB Civis Illustris

    • Civis Illustris
    San Francisco, CA
    OK. Let's say we awoke him on purpose, just to find out the answer to this question; and further, say that we exposed him to these five and any others you might chose (Catalan, Sardinian, etc.).

    Answers, please! And don't try to weasel out of it this time...
  4. Decimvs Aedilis

    • Aedilis
    They would not have long to learn, they would likely die from a disease for which they have inadequate cellular defenses.


    Probably Italian though.
  5. Nikolaos schmikolaos

    • Censor
    If they are capable of reanimating and reconstructing their own scattered remains after being dead for two-thousand years, I think that they can handle our diseases.

    I agree with Italian - it looks like Latin with articles.
  6. Akela dat affluenter

    • Princeps Senatus
    This is an awesome thread!

    I know that my Latin teacher was able to follow a Spanish lesson without any actual knowledge of Spanish.

    Either Spanish or Italian, would have to be my guess. I never actually studied Italian, so this is just an assumption. I voted for Spanish :)


    Jaime, I added a poll. I hope it is OK.
  7. Gregorius Civis Illustris

    • Civis Illustris
    Definitely not French. French phonology is bizarre compared to the others, which remain relatively conservative (Portuguese being somewhat of an exception). Plus, French has alot of phonetically ambiguous verb forms, so much so that the subject pronouns that are optional in every other Romance tongue (that I know, anyway) are required in French.

    Might some comparative sampling help?

    LAT: Lingua latina est mortua solum si permittimus ut moriatur.
    SP: La lengua latina está muerta sólo si permitimos que muera.
    FR: La langue latine est morte seulement si nous permettons qu'elle meure.
    IT: La lingua latina è morta solo se permettiamo che muoia.

    It's times like this, I wish I knew Portuguese, too. But from what little experience I have with it, I feel safe in saying it would be closest to the Spanish. With a BA in Spanish, I can easily understand most Portuguese texts. I know even less Romanian, but from what I've seen of it, the Slavic influence comes on strong, so I think we can safely rule it out as well.
  8. JaimeB Civis Illustris

    • Civis Illustris
    San Francisco, CA
    @ Akela: Thanks for adding the poll. It will come as no surprise that I voted for Spanish as well. I think it preserves a lot of Latin vocabulary in fairly recognizable shape, and in spite of quit a bit of borrowing from Arabic. Loss of initial "f" is a bit confusing, but by and large, it sounds and looks a lot like Latin did in many situations. When I was a kid, at school, I was amazed at how much Latin vocabulary I could easily recognize from my knowledge of Spanish. Later, I would see that the same could not be said of French and Portuguese, or even in many cases, of Italian. Even so, Italian would be a close second to Spanish for resemblance to Latin. E quanto l'italiano e come lo spagnolo! A volte anche più che portoghese. (As vezes até mais do português!)
  9. Akela dat affluenter

    • Princeps Senatus
    It is a tie between Italian and Spanish right now :)

    So Spanish has borrowed many words from Arabic? I would never have thought.

    Well, I guess, mine is a similar reaction to the one I get when telling people that Russian has borrowed a lot from French.
  10. Imber Ranae Ranunculus Iracundus

    • Civis Illustris
    Spanish for the same reasons others said.
  11. Imber Ranae Ranunculus Iracundus

    • Civis Illustris
    Take a look at the medieval history of the Iberian peninsula and the copiousness of Arabic borrowings into Spanish should no longer seem so mysterious. Reconquista anyone?
  12. Gregorius Civis Illustris

    • Civis Illustris
    Yep. The Moorish occupation of Iberia left an indelible mark on Spain and its language. The word "ojalá" (roughly "if only" or "I sincerely hope that"), for example, comes from a Moorish phrase meaning "if God wills it." It's not hard to hear the veiled "Allah" in there.
  13. Akela dat affluenter

    • Princeps Senatus
    That's right, how could I forget of inshallah.

    Now this I did not know about. An alternative to "inshallah" is an abbreviation for its Latin translation?
  14. Imber Ranae Ranunculus Iracundus

    • Civis Illustris
    That part of the article is written poorly, so I don't know exactly what it means, but it can't be talking about actual Arabic usage. I think it means in English DV can be used as an abbreviation for "god willing", though I've never seen it.

    On a related note, Deo Volente was apparently the unofficial motto of the First Crusade.
  15. Cinefactus Censor

    • Censor
    litore aureo
    Wasn't it reported as, "Deus Vult"? Although I presume it would have been in Norman French...
  16. Imber Ranae Ranunculus Iracundus

    • Civis Illustris
    You're quite correct. I misremembered.

    I don't think they would have spoken Norman French at the Council of Clermont, though. The phrase "Deus vult" appears in Robert the Monk's account of the Council proceedings in Gesta Dei per Francos as the cry of the (presumably learned) audience in response to Pope Urban II's speech, which was almost certainly in Latin. Whether anyone at the Council actually said it we can probably never know, since Robert the Monk wasn't there either. It's possible the phrase originated in the provincial French dialect as "Diex el volt" and was only later translated into Latin when its origin was attributed to the Pope's audience by legend.
  17. Imprecator Civis Illustris

    • Civis Illustris
    I'm surprised at the number of people voting for Spanish; it has been estimated to be approximately twice as divergent from Latin than Italian is, at least in terms of phonetics and everyday terminology.

    Latin -> Italian -> Spanish

    Da mihi illos solidos, comparabo ova -> dammi i soldi, mi comprero delle uova -> dame el dinero, voy a comprar los huevos
    Carrum in Gallia facta -> carro in Gallia fatta -> vagón hizo en la Galia
    Ego do anulum matrimonii -> io do un anello de matrimonio -> doy un anillo de bodas
    Rex nudus saltat per totam civitatem -> il re è nudo saltare per tutta la città -> el rey desnudo está rebotando por toda la ciudad
    Noli me occidere, habeo quinque filios! -> non mi uccidere, ho cinque figli! -> no me mates, tengo cinco hijos!
    Tabernarius inflammat granario meo -> Il tavernaro infiamma il granario mio -> el barman se está quemando mi granero

    I'm amazed Italian isn't winning by a landslide.
  18. crystalled Member

    In this example Spanish looks like the winner...
  19. Imprecator Civis Illustris

    • Civis Illustris
    It can also be rendered thus
    It: La lingua Latina è morto solo se noi egli permettiamo di morire.
    & Sp: La lengua latina esta solo muerta si permitimos que se muera.
    Vulgar Latin for comparison: Illa lingua Latina est mortua solum si nos illam permittamus ut moriri.

    The only Spanish words which seem closer to Latin are esta and permitimos. Esta, unlike Italian è, is derived from sto, stare (not sum, esse); its resemblance to est is thus coincidental and entirely superficial (which can be confirmed by declining both). As for the latter, compare their infinitive forms: Italian permettire and Spanish permitir- both are of two letters' difference. The present tense ending in Spanish just happens to more closely resemble Latin -mus. In any case, Italian lingua, morto. and morire are all clearly closer to their Latin counterparts than lengua, muerta, and muera.
  20. EX CALCEO New Member

    I hate to be the one that brings this up, but what about dialects? Different areas speak and at times write things very differently from what is supposed to be their official language. For instance Calabria in southern Italy has a heavy Greek influence. Or at least it did, where I live there is a vineyard owned by a married couple from Calabria. They said the way they were raised to speak is very different from the way young people speak today. I also understand that French has had an influence in that region and also Spanish. For instance I know an Italian family with the last name Frontera. Which is a Spanish word and Frontiera is Italian, or at least northern Italian. I'm told that there are many Fronteras in southern Italy. How do we know if that word was imported or home grown, at least in the south. My point is how can you really answer this question?

    But I vote Italian anyway, Propter ex calceo sum. :p

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