One of the tests as to whether a given Latin feature or usage was in the spoken languge is to compare its reflex in a Romance language
with the equivalent structure
in classical Latin. If it appeared in the Romance language but was not preferred in classical Latin
, then it passes the test as being vulgar Latin. For example, grammatical case
in nouns is present in classical Latin but not in the Romance languages, excluding Romanian
. One might conclude that case endings in regions other than Romania were already wholly or partly missing in the spoken language even while being insisted upon in the written. (Even in Romanian there are as many case endings
for nouns as there are for pronouns in the other languages
; cf. Romanian endings i
with the Italian pronouns gli
). Much of the vocabulary also that went into the Romance languages came from Vulgar Latin rather than classical. The following examples follow the formula, classical Latin word/vulgar Latin word/French word: ignis/focus/feu, equus/caballus/cheval, loquor/parabolare/parler, pulcher/bellus/bel (or belle).
In each case French does not use the classical Latin word. The words actually used: focus, caballus, etc., must have been in the Vulgar Latin vocabulary.
The expansion of the Roman Empire
had spread Latin throughout Europe. Vulgar Latin
began to diverge into various dialects and many of these into distinct Romance languages
by the 9th century at very latest, when the earliest known writings appeared. The languages must already have been in place. These were, for many centuries, only oral languages, Latin still being used for writing. For example, Latin was still the official language
of Portugal until 1296, when Portuguese
replaced it. Portuguese had already developed and was in use under the umbrella of the vulgar language.
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