Vulgar Latin, derived from Classical Latin, was the language of the Roman middle classes of both Rome and the Roman provinces. It varied according to education, links with Rome, and the original local languages. Upon disintegration of the Roman Empire, the Roman Catholic Church became the glue that held southern and western Europe together. Still, with the recession of communication and education, regional variations in pronunciation and grammar gradually developed until, after about 600 AD, local forms of Vulgar Latin were no longer mutually intelligible and became separate Romance languages.

Written texts in Latin almost always make use of Classical Latin forms so that sources of documentation of Vulgar Latin can be found primarily in: Other than these, early texts in Romance languages, beginning in the 9th century contain evidence of earlier usage. Among the most useful texts in or containing Vulgar Latin are the Peregrinatio Etheriae ( = Pilgrimage of Etheria) , apparently written in the 4th century by an uneducated Spanish nun, and the Appendix Probi ( = Appendix of Probus), which contains a a list of correct and incorrect word forms. dating possibly from as early as the 3rd century.


The classical opposition between short and long vowels was replaced by the opposition of opened and closed vowels. The classical diphthongs almost disappeared while new diphthongs appeared from the stressed short (i.e. opened) vowels (the so called pan-Romance diphthongization). The process of palatalization brought about the existense of sounds like ts, t and d. Final consonants dropped practically everywhere.


Such radical phonetic changes led to grammar changes. The loss of the final -m and -s blurred the difference between the nominative, accusative and ablative; the genitive and dative cases were replaced by prepositional constructions with de ( = of) and a(d) ( = to). The definite article evolved from the Lat. ille ( = this) and the indefinite from the Lat. unus ( = one) The 3rd person personal pronouns, lacking in Classical Latin, were formed from demonstrative pronouns.

The verb system developed analytical features. The passive voice was constructed by the auxiliary esse ( = to be) + past passive participle. The perfect, pluperfect and perfect anterior ( = past action in the past) were formed with the auxiiliary habere ( = to have) and the past passive participle. A new future was formed with the infinitive followed by the auxiiliary habere ( = to have).

The infected verbal endings of the simple tenses were, however, preserved.


The spoken language used many slang words for the Classical Latin. For instance, the classical word caput ( = head) was replaced by testa originally meaning earthenware jar. A lot of foreign words, from the local languages, but mainly from Greek and Germanic, entered the daily speech.


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