Salem State University




Dr. Jon Aske

Jon Aske's main page Send e-mail

Romance languages page


Basic books
Other links

Related local pages

Romance linguistics bibliography
Linguistics page
Languages of the World page

The Romance languages: Introduction

Romance, an adjective cum noun derived from the Latin adverb Romanice, "in the Roman manner", refers to those languages which are descendants from Latin, such as Italian (i.e. the many Italic dialects), French (i.e. the dialects of France), Spanish (Castilian), Catalan, Galician, and so on.

At Salem State University, three Romance languages are taught at present: Spanish, French, and Italian.

Actually, all of the Romance languages could rightly be called Latins, or Latin languages, if it weren't because the fact that there are so many of them would make it so confusing. After all, their relationship to Latin is the same as the relationship between Modern Greek and Ancient Greek, or between Modern English and Old English. In all of these cases the direct descendants are so changed from their original source that it takes a close look to recognize the relationship. That is, just like a speaker of Modern English would not be able to converse with Chaucer, so a speaker of Modern French, would not be able to converse with Julius Caesar, or even his descendants many centuries later. (This, of course, is because all languages change over time: see my languages of the world page.)

Another common misconception is to think of Romance languages in terms of the current European nation-states: France-French, Spain-Spanish, Italy-Italian. Actually, these languages are all what are called official, standard languages (rather, standard dialects), which have typically developed out of a particular local dialect. In actual fact, there is a great deal of linguistic variation in each of these countries, in terms of dialects, and even languages, despite the efforts of national governments to stamp out variation and create uniformity in the last 200-300 years.

Here are some pages and links related to the Romance languages.

Up to the top

Interesting links

Up to the top

Romance Languages Departments

Here's a few, particularly interesting Romance languages department (under construction).

Romance Studies, Cornell University

Up to the top

Basic books


French Inside Out : The World-Wide Development of the French Language in the Past, Present and the Future, by Henriette Walter, Peter Fawcett (Translator). Paperback (January 1994). Routledge; ISBN: 0415076706. (At $24.99)

The French Language Today by Adrian Battye, Marie-Anne Hintze Paperback (April 1992) Routledge; ISBN: 0415078148. (At $24.99)

"Although French is by far the most popular language studied in higher education, there are currently no up-to-date linguistic grammars in existence. French Language Today fills this gap by providing a unique, well-informed introduction to this popular language.
Adrian Battye and Marie-Anne Hintze present the many aspects of the language in a lively, accessible manner, while highlighting its complexity and multi-faceted nature. Among other things, they discuss the distribution of French in the world, the historical development of the language, and the sound systems of France. Emphasizing project work and--in line with current trends in courses--a linguistic--and language--based approach, the contents of the book arise directly out of courses taught successfully by the authors at York.
Since The French Language Today is both an introduction to the techniques of linguistics as applied to the French language and a reference work for the more advanced student, the volume will become a standard text in teaching linguistics in all institutions of higher education."

The French-Speaking World : A Practical Introduction to Sociolinguistic Issues (Routledge Language in Society) by Rodney Ball. Paperback - 176 pages (July 1997) Routledge; ISBN: 0415129877. (At $20.99)

"The French-Speaking World explores a wide range of sociolinguistic issues relating to the French language and its role in societies around the world.
Opening with a look at the diversity of the French-speaking world, Rodney Ball examines the function of French in particular countries and regions, including Switzerland, Belgium and Canada. He explores its status in relation to other languages and its role in intercommunity relations. The study continues with a focus on individual language features such as regional speech forms, the differences between written and spoken French, the "social meaning" of different styles and levels of language, and French used by immigrants. The final section is an exploration of recent developments in the French language, particularly in France itself."

French Today : Language in Its Social Context by Carol Sanders (Editor). Paperback - 323 pages (May 1993) Cambridge Univ Pr (Pap Txt); ISBN: 0521396956. (At $28.95)

"British and French linguists present a profile of the French language in its social context by examining trends throughout the French-speaking world and addressing issues regarding prescriptivism, gender and language, and regional languages and dialects."

A History of French Through Texts by Wendy Ayres-Bennett. Paperback (December 1995) Routledge; ISBN: 0415100003. (At $25.99)

"This history of the French language allows the readers to see how the language has evolved, combining texts and extracts with a readable and detailed commentary that allows the language to be viewed both synchronically and diachronically. Core texts range from the ninth century to the present day highlight central features of the language. The inclusion of non-literary as well as literary texts serves to illustrate some of the many varieties of French in legal, scientific, epistolatory, administrative or liturgical and more popular domains, including attempts to represent spoken usage. This is essential reading for the undergraduate student of French."

A History of the French Language by Peter Rickard. Paperback 2nd edition (March 1989) Unwin Hyman; ISBN: 041510887X. (At $19.99)

"This well-established and popular book provides students with all the linguistic background they need for studying any period of French literature. For the second edition the text has been revised and updated throughout, and the two final chapters on contemporary French, and its position as a world language, have been completely rewritten. Starting with a brief description of the Vulgar Latin spoken in Gaul, and the earliest recorded forms of French, Professor Rickard traces the development of the language through the later Middle Ages and Renaissance to show how it became standardized in a near modern form in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries."


The Spanish-Speaking World : A Practical Introduction to Sociolinguistic Issues (Routledge Language in Society) by Clare Mar-Molinero. Paperback - 166 pages (July 1997) Routledge; ISBN: 0415129834. (At $19.99)

"The Spanish Speaking World explores a wide range of sociolinguistic issues relating to the Spanish language and its role in societies around the world.
Clare Mar-Molinero begins with a discussion of the position of Spanish as a world language, giving an historical account of its development and dominance. She continues with an examination of social and regional variation in Spanish, and investigates dialects, language attitudes, and style and register, particularly in the media. She also questions the relationship between gender and language. The book ends with a focus on current issues, particularly those arising from language policies and legislation, especially in the education system. Written for readers with a practical knowledge of Spanish, the book is informative and practical, encouraging readers to think for themselves."
Bookcover The Spanish Language Today Miranda Stewart. Format: Hardcover. ISBN: 0415142598. Publisher: Routledge. Pub. Date: July 1999. (At Barnes&Noble: $18.19; At $25.99.)
"...a lively and valuable addition to the bookshelf of students and teachers in Spanish studies. It is quite unprecedented in the topics it covers and in the authenticity of the materials on which it draws. This book is highly accessible and useful. " Ralph Penny, University of London
"The Spanish Language Today describes the varied and changing Spanish language at the end of the twentieth century. As conflicting forces work towards the unification and fragmentation of both Peninsular and Latin American Spanish, this book examines where Spanish is spoken on a global scale as well as the status of Spanish within the realms of politics, education and media, with particular reference to the English-only movement in the US. The book also examines the standardization of Spanish and the specific areas of linguistic variation and change, including the effects of language contact on Spanish which is spoken widely in contexts of bi- and multilingualism. Supported throughout by extracts from contemporary press and literary sources, The Spanish Language Today provides a comprehensive overview of the varieties of the Spanish language today and is essential for students of the modern Spanish language."

Up to the top


Bookcover French inside out: The World-Wide Development of the French Language in the past, Present and the Future Henriette Walter; Peter Fawcett (Translator) Format: Paperback, 384pp. ISBN: 0415076706. Publisher: Routledge. (At Barnes&Noble: $16.79; At $.)

Excellent book.



Romance languages

Linguistic change

Written language, Evolution of writing systems, etc.

Indoeuropean languages in Europe (map)


languages, classification of

Vulgar Latin

Up to the top

Other links

Dialects of Italy
"Many different dialects were spoken in Italy a few hundred years ago. Some survive and are still spoken today. In fact, the "dialect" of Tuscany is now the national language of Italy." Links to interesting sites.

Orbis Latinus
"Orbis Latinus provides comprehensive information on the old Latin language and the Neo-Latin or Romance languages"

La pàgina de Recursos lingüístics en català

Organització pel Multilingüisme

Conceyu Xoven
"páxina oficial Web de Conceyu Xoven, organización xuvenil nacionaliega lleonesa"

Crica de Cultura Aragonesa

A Mesa pola Normalización Lingüística

Xunta Pola Defensa De La Llingua Asturiana

Up to the top

Up to the top

Salem State University | Department of World Languages and Cultures

Page URL:
Last updated: February 1, 2000