|Originally Latium in Italy, then throughout the Roman Empire, especially in the western regions.|
|Proto-language||Proto-Latino-Faliscan (Praeneste fibula)|
Latino-Faliscan languages and dialects in different shades of blue.
As the power of Ancient Rome grew, Latin absorbed elements of the other languages and replaced Faliscan. The other variants went extinct as Latin became dominant. Latin in turn developed via Vulgar Latin into the Romance languages, now spoken by more than 800 million people. This was largely a result of the influence of the French, Spanish and Portuguese Empires.
Latin and Faliscan have several features in common with Italic:
Latin and Faliscan also have characteristics not shared by Italic. They retain the Indo-European labiovelars /*k?, *g?/ as qu-, gu- (later becoming velar and semivocal), whereas in Osco-Umbrian they become labial p, b. Latin and Faliscan use the accusative suffix -d, seen in med ("me", accusative), which is absent in Osco-Umbrian. In addition, Latin displays evolution of ou into ? (Latin l?na < Proto-Italic *louksn? < PIE *lówksneh? "moon").
It is likely that the consonant inventory of Proto-Latino-Faliscan was basically identical to that of archaic Latin. Consonants not found in the Praeneste fibula are marked with an asterisk.
The /k?/ sound still existed in archaic Latin when the Latin alphabet was developed, since it gives rise to the minimum pair: qu? /k/ ("who", nominative) > cu? /ku.?/ ("to whom", dative). Note that in other positions there is no distinction between diphthongs and hiatuses: for example, persu?dere ("to persuade") is a diphthong but sua ("his"/"her") is a hiatus. For reasons of symmetry, it is quite possible that many sequences of gu in archaic Latin in fact represent a voiced labiovelar /g?/.
Indo-Europeanists initially assumed that the various Indo-European languages of ancient Italy belonged to one unitary family, like the Celtic or Germanic languages. This view probably originated with Antoine Meillet (1866-1936).
This unitary model, however, has been strongly criticised, first by Alois Walde (1869-1924). Decisive counter-arguments were given by Vittore Pisani (1899-1990) and Giacomo Devoto (1897-1974). Both proposed that the Italic languages could be grouped into two distinct branches of Indo-European. This view, though reformulated in the years following the Second World War, has become dominant. Nonetheless, how exactly the languages are to be grouped, how they entered Italy, and how they became distinct, are open questions in historical linguistics.
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