Portuguese as a Romance Language

A board on the beach saying "The best place in the world" in portuguese

Portuguese is one of the Romance languages. This does not entail that it is a language of loving words but merely that it came about from Latin (the language of the Roman Empire). With around 270 million speakers, Portuguese is one of the most widely spoken standardized Romance languages in the world today. Portuguese originated from Vulgar Latin like many other Romance languages. This just means that it was the “common” speech of soldiers, farmers, settlers, and slaves of the Roman Empire.

The Term “Romance”

The term “Romance” comes from the Vulgar Latin adverb “romanice.” Romanice derived from the word “Romanicus.” An example of this word in a phrase would be the expression romanice loqui (meaning “to speak in Roman”). This is different from latine loqui (meaning “to speak in Latin”). The noun “romance”, then, originated from this adverb. At first, it applied to everything written romanice, or “in the Roman vernacular.”

The word romance is now most commonly attributed to romance novels or love affairs. Within the medieval literature of Western Europe, serious writing was usually written in Latin. Common tales that focused on love eventually came to be called “romances.”

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The Many Romance Languages

Romance languages include Italian, French, Spanish, Galician, Romanian, and Catalan. There are also languages that come from Latin, which are not as common. These include Occitan, Provençal, Friulian, Ladin and many others. In the 5th century, the decline of the Roman Empire occurred. With this large change came reforms to Vulgar Latin as well. It gradually took on a wide array of styles depending on where it was spoken. This brought about a large assortment of Romance languages. A group of barbaric tribes called The Visigoths added to the growth of Portuguese and Spanish when they invaded the Iberian Peninsula.

The Growth of Romance Languages

An Arabic ethnic group of northern Africa called the Moors invaded the south of Spain and Portugal in the 7th century. The influence the Arabic language had on Portuguese is still evident today in certain Portuguese and Spanish words. These include words like arroz (rice) and algodo (cotton). In the 5th century, Romance languages started to be popular in many different parts of the world due to the immigration efforts of Spain, Portugal, and France. Currently, two-thirds of Romance language speakers live outside of Europe. Roughly 80% of Portuguese speakers currently reside in Brazil.

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