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Latin Is No Longer Commonly Spoken—Is Latin a Dead Language Today?

And why did Latin die out?

From humble origins besides the Tiber River, the Latin Language exploded onto the global scene due to the fast and rather unprecedented growth of the Roman Empire. While it quickly became the established language in both southern and western Italy, it also spread throughout Europe and Africa. In fact, during the middle ages, Latin was the most widely used language in the world. 

As a result, it is hardly surprising that Latin actually forms the basis of many modern languages, including Italian, Romanian, Spanish, Portuguese, and French. In fact, native speakers from these regions may find it easier to learn languages due to the similarities in phrasing, spelling, and pronunciation – all of which are the result of their Latin origins. However, despite the weight of its influence in modern society, very few people tend to speak Latin in the 21st century. A report from the Huffpost predicted that only 1% of the population can speak Latin. Therefore, many scholars tend to describe Latin as a dead language due to the fact you’d be hard-pressed to find someone who can hold a conversation in Latin. Despite this, the language is not so much dead as it is outmoded and unpopular – as it still exists in specific forms in our daily lives.

For example, those working within the healthcare field, such as in a medical or pharmacy setting, likely come across Latin words every single day – as many diseases or viruses have Latin names. It also features a great deal of historic literary texts, many of which are still being translated. 

However, it’s easy to question why Latin faded into obscurity when others from around that era have continued to remain part of the conversation. Latin’s slow progression towards death can be attributed to various factors:

Latin is an incredibly difficult language. Latin is an incredibly difficult language to get to grips with because it uses irregular sentence structures and spelling patterns. As a result, attempting to learn this language requires a lot of time and patience. This, coupled with the fact that it is barely spoken in modern society, discourages potential linguists from even attempting to learn Latin. 

Latin is outmoded. One of the biggest reasons why Latin is not spoken as frequently in modern-day society is due to the fact that it is rather outmoded or behind the times. For example, there is no Latin equivalent to modern words, such as TV, computer, or telephone. Life during the Roman Empire was vastly different, meaning that the lexis they used on a daily basis was vastly different from the vocabulary we would use today. 

Languages never stay the same. Languages are constantly evolving – in fact, we add new words to the English Dictionary every year. Therefore, one of the biggest reasons as to why Latin has fallen out of popularity is due to the fact that it did not keep up with these changes. Instead, it melted into different languages and forms of speaking.