The relationships between the neo-Latin languages

LAA   Sat Jul 15, 2006 9:17 pm GMT
Which major Romance languages (Italian, French, Portuguese, Romanian, Spanish) are closer to each other? Which are most distant to each other?

I think Romanian is closest to Italian.

I think Italian, lexically, might be closest to French, but when phonology is included along with the lexical aspect, I think Spanish is actually closer to Italian.

Is Spanish closer to Italian or Portuguese? In terms of vocabulary, I think Portuguese is the closer of the two, but again, once phonology is included also, I think Spanish ends up being closer to Italian.

What about French? Out of the MAJOR Romance languages, I think it is closest to Italian. (By Major, Catalan and Provencal, etc. are not included.)

Portuguese, I would say is lexically very similar to Spanish, yet when pronounciation is included, it sometimes almost resembles French, so that in terms of phonology, it's about halfway to my ears, between French and Spanish. Written Portuguese is incredibly similar to Spanish.

These are all my personal opinions. What do you guys think about all the relationships between the major Romance languages?
Brennus   Sat Jul 15, 2006 11:07 pm GMT
Re: "I think Romanian is closest to Italian."

This is what most of the books say and even what some Spanish speakers I've talked to about it say. Yet, when you talk to Italians you get a different story. They don't think that Romanian is much like Italian at all.

Personally, I've noticed that Romanian occasionally resembles French (especially Old French), Provençal and Catlan more than it does to Italian. It also has some "Balkanic" features that it shares with Albanian, Bulgarian and Modern Greek but none of the other Romance languages. One Romanian word t'arã (land, earth) < Latin terra, actually resembles the Friulian and Dalmatian forms (tiara) more than any other Romance language.

French and Italian both have some later Latin words in them which never found their way into Portuguese, Spanish or Romanian. For example, formaggio / fromage "cheese" from *formaticum but Portuguese, Spanish and Romanian retained the older "caseus" cf. queijo, queso, cas' (whey cheese).
Georgero   Sat Jul 15, 2006 11:59 pm GMT
Romanians use for "cheese" the word "brânză". Some say that the word is kind of an ancient one and it is presumed to be of Thraco-Illyrian origin or even Dacian. You can also find this word in Albanian, Slovakian, Polish and Serbian if I'm not mistaken. Despite of that, the word is not Slavic at all. Some others say that the word is coming from Latin "prandium - prânz - lunch". The way "brânză" and "prânz" are pronounced and written is very similar, so I guess that would bring the story closer to the truth.

Also, another interesting fact is the way Romanians say "you" when they want to be polite. They say "dumneavoastră". The word may look complicated to a non-Romanian, but it is rather simple. It comes from Latin "Domina vostra". And it can tell a lot about ancient Romanians behaviour. :))
LAA   Sun Jul 16, 2006 12:02 am GMT
Yeah Brennus, I usually respect your opinon on linguistic matters because you seem intelligent while also not arrogant as some are on this board.

Do you think, with all factors considered, that Italian is closer to French than Spanish?

And I can't decide whether Spanish is closer to Portuguese or Italian, in spoken language that is.
Brennus   Sun Jul 16, 2006 12:40 am GMT
LAA.

Thanks for your compliment. Of course, I don't expect you or anyone else on the forum to always agree with me. However once in a while, you get someone who is very passionate and hostile in their disagreement and that's not good.

On balance, I think that French is still a little closer to Spanish than it is to Italian but this view is not unanimous I have found. While most Romance linguists classify French, Catalan, Spanish and Portuguese as "Western Romance" and Italian, Sardinian and Romanian" as "Eastern Romance" there is another school of thought that divides the Romance languages into "Northern" and "Southern" instead. They place French, Provencal, Catalan, Rhaeto-Romantsch, Friulian and Romanian in the Northern branch and Portuguese, Spanish, Italian, Sardinian and Dalmatian in the Southern Branch.

Portuguese has some links to Italian, even Provençal, Sicilian and Romanian that Spanish doesn't have but overall, I think Spanish and Portuguese are closer to each other than either is to Italian.
Brennus   Sun Jul 16, 2006 12:47 am GMT
Georgero,

Hello. Romanian still uses cas' (pronounced kosh) for "whey cheese" from Latin caseus. Curiously, the word also exists in Irish and Scottish Gaelic as thier word for cheese but it is spelled cais. "brânză" (the generic word for "cheese" in Romanian) might have a Dacian origin but one Romanian linguist I read a few years back relates it to French brie (a type of cheese) and derives it from a Germanic *brindia. There are some etymologies (in any language) that we are just not sure about.
LAA   Sun Jul 16, 2006 1:20 am GMT
You say French is closer to Spanish than it is to Italian? I'm sorry but I cannot agree with you on this one.

French, in my opinion, especially when spoken, is the most alienated of all the major Romance languages. But in terms of vocabulary, I think French's nearest relative is Italian (besides Catalan and other minor Romance languages).

I don't know how French evolved to the extent it did. Maybe the Celtic influence on the accent was much stronger, than the "vowel-dominated" phonology of Mediterranean substratums like Iberian.

I wouldn't say I'm fluent in Spanish, but I can speak it at an intermediate-high level. I can understand much of written Portuguese, more so than Italian. But when spoken, I understand much more Italian than I do the former.

The same goes for French and Italian. When written, the two languages look very similar in vocabulary, although the spelling of French words are rather distant. When spoken however, French seems very distant from Italian, because of the extreme differences in pronounciation.

For these reasons, I can't come to a decision. In terms of vocabulary, I think Portuguese and Spanish, which both share an influential Arabic element, seem to be the closest to each other. Yet, when spoken, Spanish sounds a great deal more like Italian. I can pick up on so much Italian on movies, that it amazes me. I can understand the gist of Andrea Bochelli songs, like Con te Partiro, but I can't understand about 80% of Ipa Nema (if that's how you spell it).

In lexical terms only, with phonology aside, I would say that French and Spanish are at a tie with regard to closeness to Italian. But when the pronounciation is included, Spanish is definitely closer to Italian.

And Romanian, when spoken, sounds strikingly similar to Italian to me.

With written Portuguese, it is clearly Spanish's twin sister. When spoken, it sounds like a Franco-Spanish hybrid.
Georgero   Sun Jul 16, 2006 1:35 am GMT
Portuguese, especially Brasilian Portuguese sounds like Romanian spoken by Moldovans.
LAA   Sun Jul 16, 2006 1:41 am GMT
Portuguese seem able to understand basic level Spanish when I encounter them, while some Italians do not.

The other day, I asked a group of Brazilians where they were from.

"De donde es usted? Es usted de Espana?"

"No."

"Donde?"

"Brasil."

I don't think Italians would understand this sentence, because it is rather different than the Italian equivalent.

This is, I'm sure an isolated case, but even so....
Gringo   Sun Jul 16, 2006 2:07 am GMT
««I think Portuguese and Spanish, which both share an influential Arabic element, seem to be the closest to each other.»»

They are the closest ones but it is not because of the Arabic element although they share many Arab words.

Portuguese has about 1000 Arab words, the same as English.

Spanish has about 5000 Arab words (remember, Boabdil surrended only in 1492).

French has about 500 Arab words (more?).


««With written Portuguese, it is clearly Spanish's twin sister. When spoken, it sounds like a Franco-Spanish hybrid. »»


Quite an exageration. Portuguese sounds like.... Portuguese. And it is not Spanish "twin sister" all Latin Iberian languages are sisters but none are twins, that would be saying they are the same language.

No matter how much people try to say Portuguese sound like another known language we end up with people saying Portuguese sounds like Russian, French, German, Spanish, Polish.... or a mixture of any of these.

Portuguese sounds like languages of Slavic, Germanic and Latin branches?

Portugues sounds like Portuguese; French sounds like French; Spanish sounds like Spanish.
LAA   Sun Jul 16, 2006 3:50 am GMT
We're discussing the relationships between the various major Romance languages, so yes, we are drawing comparisions and contrasts.
Tiffany   Sun Jul 16, 2006 4:49 am GMT
Brennus said:

<<This is what most of the books say and even what some Spanish speakers I've talked to about it say. Yet, when you talk to Italians you get a different story. They don't think that Romanian is much like Italian at all.>>

Actually, you've got this wrong. Most Italians I know think Romanian is very close, the caveat being if they have heard it. My husband certainly thinks it's very close, closer than Spanish in many more instances.
LAA   Sun Jul 16, 2006 5:44 am GMT
Yes, Tiffany, if you don't mind me asking, is your husband from Italy?

It's just my opinion, but spoken Romanian sounds very similar to Italian. Maybe not in terms of vocabulary, but in phonology, Romanian is much closer to Italian than French, and rivals Spanish for the closest position to Italian in terms of phonology.

But I don't know much about Romanian other than what I've studied, and the few times I've heard it.

Take an example. I don't know if you've ever seen it, but there is a movie called "My Giant", which features a Romanian man as one of the main characters. When I first turned on the TV, I thought he was speaking Italian. Only later did I find out he was speaking Romanian. At first glance, or in this case, upon first hearing it, Romanian sounded incredibly close to Italian, and many words were exactly the same. It took me about 2-3 minutes to realize that he was not speaking Italian.
Marius   Sun Jul 16, 2006 5:45 am GMT
>Actually, you've got this wrong. Most Italians I know think Romanian is very close, the caveat being if they have heard it. My husband certainly thinks it's very close, closer than Spanish in many more instances.<

There is a general rule here: in some instances Italian is not similar with Spanish at all but is very similar with Romanian. Italian acts as a buffer between Spanish and Romanian.

Normally judging after their family group, Italian should be closer to Romanian than Spanish, as Italian, Sardinian and Romanian belong to the Eastern Romance group, the oldest Romance languages. On the other hand, the factor that separates Romanian from Italian is the geographical isolation of Romanian during 1700 years of non-Latin influences.

Overall, Romanian sounds like a flat Italian with a lower key musicality, faster rhythm, archaic Latin words and endings in U (like Sicilian) and some sporadic Dacian and Slavic words that confuse other Romance speakers. Romanians can understand easily Italian, while Italians can understand Romanian but not that easily because of the faster rhythm and lower key musicality of Romanian.
LAA   Sun Jul 16, 2006 5:48 am GMT
So Marius, you think Romanian and Spanish are equally close to Italian, only at different ends of the spectrum?