Latin (lingua latīna, IPA: [ˈlɪŋɡʷa laˈtiːna]) is an ancient language of the Italic family, originally spoken by the Latins in Latium. The Latin language followed the rise and expansion of the Latin state Rome across the Italian peninsula and eventually the Mediterranean world, becoming geographically widespread. Along with most European languages, it is a descendant of the ancient Proto-Indo-European language. Influenced by the Etruscan language and using the Greek Alphabet as a basis, it took form as what is recognizable as Latin in the Italian peninsula. Modern Romance languages are continuations of dialectal forms (vulgar Latin) of the language.
Latin is a highly inflected language, with five cases and declensions for nouns, three genders, and four conjugation groups of verbs. Unique grammatical features include a somewhat variable word order and a noun case, called the ablative, that is rare in other Indo-European languages.
There are several forms of the Latin language, including Old Latin, Classical Latin, Vulgar Latin, and Medieval Latin. Old Latin was the earliest form, spoken until perhaps the latter half of the Republican period. Classical Latin was the highly esteemed form of the language taught in Rome and associated with the literate, educated classes. The vast majority of works in Latin are written in this form of the language. Vulgar Latin was the informal, rarely written vernacular form of the language that common people spoke, probably with its own regional dialects. Medieval Latin was the version of the language spoken, taught, and written in universities and monasteries during the Medieval era.
Latin is technically a dead language, as the last native speakers of proper Latin died in the early Middle Ages, around the time that the language began to turn into its descendant languages. However this hasn't eliminated the language's appeal or usefulness, nor has has it prevented people from studying Latin. Many students, scholars, and some members of the Christian clergy speak it fluently, and it is still taught in some primary, secondary and post-secondary educational institutions around the world.
Latin nouns inflect, or take different endings based on three different factors: gender, number, and case. Which endings a noun takes in each gender, number, and case depends on its declension or category. Five such declensions exist.
The first declension has nouns that end in -a when they're singular and in the nominative case. Most of the nouns in this category are feminine in gender. The second declension has nouns that end in -us or -um when singular and nominative. Most nouns ending in -us are masculine, and most ending in -um are neuter. The third declension contains nouns with fairly irregular endings in the nominative and singular. Some of these nouns are masculine, others feminine, and others neuter. It's a diverse group. The fourth declension contains masculine and feminine nouns that end in -us when nominative and singular, and neuter nouns that end in -u when nominative and singular. The fifth declension consists mostly of feminine nouns that end in -es when singular and nominative.
All Latin nouns belong to one of three genders: masculine, feminine, or neuter. The gender of a noun often has nothing to do with its actual meaning. For example, vir (man) is predictably masculine, but liber (book) is also masculine.
Latin noun endings change based on the number, just like nouns in most languages. There are only two indications of number for Latin nouns: that of the singular and that of the plural.
Latin nouns have five cases: the nominative (used for subjects), the genitive (used for describing possession), the dative (used for indirect objects), the accusative (used for direct objects), and the ablative (used for prepositional phrases and many other purposes). Only the first four survive in modern Indo-European languages.
Latin verbs are highly inflected (or conjugated) according to their tense (past, present, or future), sometimes aspect (perfect or imperfect), mood (indicative, subjunctive/conjunctive, and imperative), voice (active or passive), person (first, second, or third), and number (singular or plural). Latin verbs also have an infinitive form, past and future participles (these inflect for gender too), verbal nouns called supines and gerunds, and verbal adjectives called gerundives.
- Classical Latin: An Introductory Course - PDF
- Ecce Romani (series of three books)
- Wheelock's Latin (One of the most renowned books for learning Latin since the 1950s)
- Kostas Katsouranis - Series of Latin lessons
- Commentarii de Bello Gallico (58-49 B.C.) - Gaius Iulius Caesar
- Aeneis (29-19 B.C.) - Publius Vergilius Maro
- Metamorphoseon libri (8 A.D.) - Publius Ovidius Naso
- Germania (98 A.D.) - Publius Cornelius Tacitus
- Saturae (early 2nd century A.D.) - Decimus Iunius Iuvenalis
- Forum Romanum - Latin texts, translations, articles and other resources
- The Latin Library - List of texts divided by author
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