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What nationality is closest to Italian?

New DNA study confirms the modern populations of southern Italy, Sicily, Greece and Cyprus are similar!

DNA Study

A brand new DNA study found that the modern populations of southern Italy, Sicily, Greece and Cyprus have very close genetic similarities, an unsurprising fact considering that they are all descended from the Ancient Greeks.

In a study published by Biorxiv and titled: «Assessing temporal and geographic contacts across the Adriatic Sea through the analysis of genome-wide data from Southern Italy,» the researchers found that there was «a high similarity between Southern Italy and the Peloponnese.»

«In fact, our cluster analysis showed that present-day South-Eastern Peloponnesian populations have high genetic affinity with modern Apulians, Calabrians and South-Eastern Sicilians, all characterised by a cluster composition different from those displayed by other Greek groups,» the researchers reported.

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«Additionally, individuals from Western Sicily show similarities with populations inhabiting the Western part of Peloponnese.

«Although establishing the chronological context for this affinity using present-day genomes might be challenging, our results are in accordance with archaeological and historical sources that attributed the origin of Greek colonies in South-Eastern Sicily and Apulia from populations inhabiting the southern and Eastern parts of the Peloponnese.

«Uniparental Y-chromosome findings are also in agreement with these observations revealing Eastern Peloponnesian ancestries in East Sicily (34) and shared haplogroups among modern-day Greeks and populations living in Southern Italian areas colonised by Greeks such as the Salento (Apulia) and the Ionian coast of Calabria.»

Greeks settled in southern Italy and founded Magna Graecia

magna graecia magna grecia southern italy Italian surnames

Magna Graecia includes the southern part of Italy. There, the Greeks expanded and founded cities famous for their wealth and culture, such as Reggio, Naples and Syracuse, among others. The region became an important centre of Greek civilization.

One of its cities, Croton, reputed to have the finest physicians in the Greek world, was the home of the 6th-century athlete Milo, who was six times victor in wrestling at both the Olympic and Pythian games.

Magna Graecia was the seat of the Pythagorean and Eleatic systems of philosophy.

Euboeans founded the first colonies, Pithecussae and Cumae, about 750 BC, and subsequently Spartans settled at Tarentum; Achaeans at Metapontum, Sybaris, and Croton; Locrians at Locri Epizephyrii; and Chalcidians at Rhegium (Reggio di Calabria).

Greek colonists, following in the footsteps of the Bronze Age Mycenaeans, selected Magna Graecia as a suitable site for colonies due to the fertility of the land and, at the meeting point of the Greek, Etruscan, and Phoenician worlds, its advantageous geographical position for trade.

Magna Graecia

That the colonies in southern Italy became a fully integrated part of the Greek world is evidenced in the presence of votive offerings from Magna Graecia at the great religious sanctuaries of Delphi and Olympia.

Indeed, the ceasefire (ekecheiria) which was enforced during the Olympic Games was also respected in the colonies, and the list of victors at Olympia includes many a name from Magna Graecia.

However, the region was not a single harmonious entity, for just as on mainland Greece, small city-states or poleis (quite independent from their founding mother-city) both competed and cooperated with neighbouring cities to form a constantly shifting political network of rivalries and alliances.

The region was also subject to greater political instability precisely because it was at the crossroads of several civilizations, and its wealth in natural resources meant that territory was often enviously regarded, particularly by the tyrants of Sicily.

These Greek cities were also unstable internally due to their cosmopolitan mix of races — locals, colonists, mercenaries, residents from neighbouring areas etc.

Read the full research here.

Language Evolution: How One Language Became Five Languages

Wooden Blocks with the text: Latin

Latin, spoken in what is now Italy, was one of many Indo-European languages from a collective group called Italic, and is the only one to have survived. It happened that the peoples who created the Roman Empire spoke Latin. This Italic variant moved around much more than the typical language did or even does today.

This is a transcript from the video series The Story of Human Language. Watch it now, Wondrium

The Roman Empire was relatively unique in that as the Romans spread and conquered beyond their original boundaries, they imposed their language on other people—a relatively new concept at the time. An empire could prosper without subjects speaking the language. That has often been the case throughout human history. Compared to the Romans, the Persian Empire, now Iran, used to be a major geopolitical player in the world. It extended westward all the way to the shores of Greece and a considerable degree eastward of present-day Iran. If subjects were brought to Persia, then they probably learned Persian. But as far as other parts of their territories, Persian was used only for very official purposes. As rulers, the Persians accommodated the languages of their subjects.

Latin Variations Become the Romance languages


The Romans, however, were interested in spreading Roman culture and Latin. As Latin spread to various Western and Eastern European locations, it was imposed upon those who spoke other languages. Suddenly Latin was all over this vast region. This means that Latin was not only developing from point A to point B in Italy, but evolving in Gaul, Spain, other parts of Italy, and in Romania. New versions of Latin were developing in different directions across the empire.

The big five Romance languages are French, Spanish, Italian, Portuguese, and Romanian.

Once that process was started, the Latin varieties evolved so differently from each other they became new languages. That’s how the languages we know as the Romance languages came to exist. The big five, as they are known, are French, Spanish, Italian, Portuguese, and Romanian. Great evidence reveals their relation; if you learn one, learning one of the others is fairly easy.

The Fragile H

To understand how Latin transitioned to today’s Romance languages, let’s look at the evolution of one word. The word for grass in Latin was herba. It’s our English word for herb with an a at the end. That same word exists in French, Spanish, Italian, Portuguese, and Romanian, but over the centuries a sound change has created a different rendition of the word in each language. As a result, we have a variety of forms. In French it’s herbe, in Spanish it’s hierba, in Italian it’s erba, in Portuguese it’s erva, and in Romanian it’s iarbã.

All of these words, even when you just hear them, are clearly related, but they’re different. For example, Latin had herba, which began with an h—but in all five of these languages the h is gone. French and Spanish kept it in the spelling; the French spell the word h-e-r-b-e, but the h hasn’t been pronounced for a long time. Spanish has the word hierba; the h sound is long gone.

H is fragile and has a way of disappearing in languages. In Pygmalion (My Fair Lady), poor Eliza Doolittle drop her h’s and says ’orse instead of horse. She’s typical in this worldwide. If you see h’s at the beginnings of words, chances are the h is fragile and in some closely related language, those h’s aren’t going to be there. Or, if you often deal with speakers of the language, you find they often drop the h’s.

The same thing happened to our word. There’s no h in any of the variations. We’re left with erba. Italian, of the five Romance languages, is closest to Latin. Italian is what’s called a conservative language; it hasn’t gone as far in its changes as some of the others, such as French and Romanian.

Aside from dropping the h, the Latin herba became the Italian erba.

Other languages, though, have gone a little further. In French, it’s herbe. Not only is the h dropped in pronunciation, but the letter a is dropped at the end. It’s spelled with an e at the end that is not pronounced, like the silent e at the end of words in English.

Then, you have in Portuguese erva. The b changed to a v.

In Portuguese you have erva. The b transformed to a v. In the Latin alphabet, b is near the beginning, and v is down at the end. If you think about it, b and v are related in terms of how they are pronounced in the mouth. Just as a t will often become a d, you can feel a d as a version of t in pronunciation, just with a little bit more belly in it. A b is often going to become a v; there’s a relationship in how the sounds are created.

For those who know Spanish, think about the pronunciation of b as v in many Spanish dialects. That’s not an accident. The Spanish hierba in Portuguese is erva. Spanish and Romanian use unusual manipulations with the vowels. In Spanish the “her-” has become a “hier-” with a silent h, so you have “hierba” instead of the “erba” of Italian.

Romanian has gone even further with iarbã, the word for grass. Instead of “her-” to “hier-,” it’s “her-” to “iar-.” Talk about the great vowel shift where the vowels just lurch and change. Instead of an –a at the end (herb-a/erb-a), it’s made into an indistinct kind of sound. What is that? Is it an a, e, i, o, or u in terms of how it’s said?

All of this goes back to herba. To review, we have erba, herbe, erva, hierba, and iarbã all from the original herba. This type of lingual shift happens to every word in the language. Very few words in any of these languages trace back to Latin in anything like an unbroken form.

A Latin speaker who listened to any of them would be baffled. If they could get any of it, they would think that something had gone terribly wrong.

As a result you have what’s obviously a new language. None of the people who speak these five languages could make their way in Latin. They’d have to learn it in school. A Latin speaker who listened to any of them would be baffled. If they could get any of it, they would think that something had gone terribly wrong. There couldn’t be a conversation.

These are brand-new languages. That’s how one word became five—from Latin to the Romance languages.

Common Questions About the Evolution of Latin

Q: How did Latin become a dead language?

Latin did not die but evolved into the five Romance languages: French, Spanish, Italian, Portuguese, and Romanian.

Q: What did Latin evolve from?

Latin evolved from the Etruscan, Greek, and Phoenician alphabets. It was widely spoken throughout the Roman Empire.

Q: How did Latin evolve into Italian?

Italy became a unified nation in 1861, but only a small portion of the population spoke Italian. Citizens mostly spoke local dialects. World War I and II helped to unify Italians and, by extension, the Italian language.

Q: Why should I learn Latin?

Latin is a valuable language to learn because many widely spoken languages including English, Italian, and Spanish, contain Latin words and root words. Therefore, Latin can enable you to learn a new language or expand your vocabulary.

This article was updated on August 26, 2019

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Italian’s similarities to Latin


Italian's similarities to Latin

Latin may be an old language but it influences many modern languages. According to many sources, Italian is the closest language to Latin in terms of vocabulary. According to the Ethnologue, Lexical similarity is 89% with French, 87% with Catalan, 85% with Sardinian, 82% with Spanish, 80% with Portuguese, 78% with Ladin, 77% with Romanian.

Latin to Italian

The evolution of Latin into Italian Language is one reason for this. While the Roman Empire brought (and imposed) Latin onto many far-flung areas, once the empire began to contract and fail, Latin became corrupted by regional dialects, and so languages such as French or Spanish began to form as individual sets. Since Italy was the center of Roman civilisation, Italian was the least corrupted descendent. Of course, if you pick up a book on Latin you may not immediately see how close Italian is to that language. In ancient Rome there were two forms of Latin – the spoken, known as Vulgar Latin, and the written, known as Literary Latin (or, often, simply Latin). The spoken version is what eventually evolved into Italian, and so reviewing written texts is often misleading when considering language evolution.

Similar but Not the Same

Of course, it’s misleading to think that Italian is very similar to Latin – if an Italian time-travelled back to the year 1, they would not be able to communicate beyond perhaps a word or two. Italian has changed a great deal over the course of fifteen or sixteen centuries since it began to emerge as a distinct language. But it does share a great deal of vocabulary, still in recognisable form to any Latin speaker. It also shares some technical translation points that other Romance languages have lost – Italian speakers still make a distinction between “short” and “long” consonants, a factor that most other Romance languages have done away with. Italian also has far fewer word borrowings from Germanic languages; the barbarian tribes the Roman Empire pushed up against on its frontiers had a tremendous impact on language development once the Roman armies were removed. For Italian, Latin remains its most distinct alma mater, or “dear mother.” If you truly wish to understand the living language of Italian, you must first spend some time with a dead language.

language spoken | western romance languages | latin word | italian retains latin

Is Italian similar to Latin?

Italian is very similar to Latin in terms of vocabulary. Standard Italian arose from Tuscany, evolving directly from Vulgar Latin, and it has evolved little in the last 1000 years. … Italian is seen to be one of the closest Romance Languages to Vulgar Latin and resembles it closely in syntax compared to Classical Latin words.

Is Latin closer to Italian or Spanish? — Italian is the closest national language to Latin, followed by Spanish, Romanian, Portuguese, and the most divergent being French.

What is the difference between Latin and Italian? — Latin didn’t have articles while Italian does. Latin had three genders (masculine, feminine, neuter), while Italian has only masc. and fem. Latin only had one tense to express perfective past actions, so Latin dixi ‘I said’ corresponds to both Italian dissi and ho detto.

Is Italian just modern Latin? — Italian is basically Modern Latin. It is impossible to say when Italians ceased to speak Latin and began to speak Italian – in a sense they never did. All Romance languages have evolved from Vulgar Latin – that is; Latin spoken by the common people.

How much Italian is Latin?

According to many sources, Italian is the closest language to Latin in terms of vocabulary. According to the Ethnologue, Lexical similarity is 89% with French, 87% with Catalan, 85% with Sardinian, 82% with Spanish, 80% with Portuguese, 78% with Ladin, 77% with Romanian.

Can Italians understand Latin? — No, it is very hard for native Italians speakers to understand a Latin text if they haven’t study the language. They may be familiar with some Latin proverbs, but not the language. The reason is that: modern languages (Italian, Spanish, French, Romanian, etc.)

Which Italian dialect is closest to Latin? — There is a language in Italy which is considered to be the closest to Latin phonologically and that is Logudorese Sardinian, spoken on the island of Sardinia. IS THE CLOSEST TO LATIN .

What is the most romantic language? — French is often considered to be the most romantic language in the world. It is another Romance language that originated from Latin. French is a very musical language, and its pronunciation contributes to its melody.

Can Italians understand Spanish?

Do Italians understand Spanish? Surprisingly, yes! It is entirely possible for an Italian speaker to understand Spanish, but each person needs to adapt, speak slowly, and sometimes change their vocabulary. Spanish and Italian are two languages that are very close in terms of vocabulary and grammar.

Why Latin is no longer spoken? — So exactly why did the language die out? When the Catholic Church gained influence in ancient Rome, Latin became the official language of the sprawling Roman Empire. … Latin is now considered a dead language, meaning it’s still used in specific contexts, but does not have any native speakers.

When did Italy stop speaking Latin? — The early 16th century saw the dialect used by Dante in his work replace Latin as the language of culture. We can thus say that modern Italian descends from 14th-century literary Florentine.

Is Greek and Italian similar?

Greek and Italian, although both belonging to the Indo-European language family, are very different. Italian is a Romance language whereas Greek is Hellenic, meaning that they’re only very distantly related. Greek grammar is completely different from Italian, and it uses another alphabet altogether.

When did Latin die out? — To oversimplify the matter, Latin began to die out in the 6th century shortly after the fall of Rome in 476 A.D. The fall of Rome precipitated the fragmentation of the empire, which allowed distinct local Latin dialects to develop, dialects which eventually transformed into the modern Romance languages.

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