Latin is an ancient Italic language originally spoken by the Italic Latins in Ancient Rome and Latium. This language is a descendant from the ancient Proto-Indo-European language.¹ Latin is considered a dead language; however modern Romance languages are continuations of dialectal forms of the language. Many students, scholars and some members of the Christian clergy still speak Latin fluently.¹
Latin is used in the creation of new words in modern languages of many different families, including English, as well as in biological taxonomy.¹ Latin and the Romance languages are the only surviving languages of the Italic language family. Languages of the Italic branch were attested in the inscriptions of early Italy. However, these languages were assimilated to Latin during the Roman Republic.¹
Latin is an inflected language. It has three distinct genders, seven noun cases, four verb conjugations, six tenses, three moods, three persons, two aspects, two voices and two numbers.¹ There are a variety of schools of pronunciation used today. The main two divisions are the “classical” pronunciation and the “Ecclesiastical” pronunciation. Standard Latin education typically teaches the classical pronunciation first.
Latin is written in the Latin alphabet. This alphabet was derived from the Old Italic alphabet which was derived from the Greek and Phoenician alphabet. This alphabet is still used today as the script for the Romance, Celtic, Germanic, Baltic, Finnic and many Slavic languages.¹ The number of letters in the Latin alphabet has varied. When it was first derived it contained 21 letters. However, over time letters were added. Classical Latin did not contain sentence punctuation, letter case or inter-word spacing. Apices were used to distinguish length in vowels and the interpunct was used at time to separate words.¹
1. RICE. History of Latin. Retrieved May 23, 2014, from http://www.ruf.rice.edu/~kemmer/Words04/structure/latin.html