Latin (Latin: lingua latīna, IPA: [ˈliŋɡwa laˈtiːna]) is a classical language belonging to the Italic branch of the Indo-European languages. The Latin alphabet is derived from the Etruscan and Greek alphabets and ultimately from the Phoenician alphabet. Latin was originally spoken in the area around Rome, known as Latium. Through the power of the Roman Republic, it became the dominant language, initially in Italy and subsequently throughout the western Roman Empire.
By the late Roman Republic (75 BC), Old Latin had been standardised into Classical Latin. Vulgar Latin was the colloquial form spoken during the same time and attested in inscriptions and the works of comic playwrights like Plautus and Terence.
Later, Early Modern Latin and New Latin evolved. Latin was used as the language of international communication, scholarship and science until well into the 18th century, when it began to be supplanted by vernaculars.
Ecclesiastical Latin remains the official language of the Holy See and the Roman Rite of the Catholic Church. Latin is taught in primary, secondary and postsecondary educational institutions around the world. Latin is a highly inflected language, with three distinct genders, up to seven noun cases, five declensions, four verb conjugations, three tenses, three persons, three moods, two voices, two or three aspects and two numbers.
The following is a conventional chronology for the language and literature:
- Archaic through Early Republican Period (down to ca. 80 BC)
- Late Republican and Augustan period (the "Golden Age") (80 BC - 14 AD)
- Post-Augustan Period (the "Silver Age") (14 - 138 AD)
- Patristic Period (late 2nd-5th centuries)
- Medieval Period (6th-14th centuries)
- Renaissance (15th century)
The Golden Age can be divided into:
- Ciceronian Period (80 - 43 BC)
- Augustan Period (43 BC - 14 AD)
Influence on Other Languages
Vulgar Latin developed into the Romance languages, such as Italian, French, Portuguese, Romanian, and Spanish. The English language has also derived many words from Latin. In particular, Latin (and Ancient Greek) roots are used in English descriptions of theology, biology, science, medicine and law.