Well there’s no difference, right? Wrong.
When we think of romance languages, French, Spanish, and Italian typically come to our minds. Recently, I’ve been curious as to what makes a language a romance language, so I decided to do some research into the subject. To my surprise, the romance languages were not named that because they sound attractive, but instead because of their connections to Latin.
All of the romance languages have been derived from vulgar Latin, creating many similarities between their vocabularies and grammatical structures. This makes learning multiple romance languages easier, because there are some commonalities. For example, my friend Seb who was born in Italy and had lived in Spain for two years came to the U.S. where he learned English. In high school, we were in the same French class and he picked it up so easily, which he would say was because it was similar to Italian and Spanish. For me, learning French was harder as all I had to compare it to was English, a Germanic language. On the other hand, Seb could almost always guess the meaning of words because of how closely connected the romance languages are.
Back in the days of the Roman Empire, Latin was the spoken language. The Roman word romanice refers to vernacular Latin, or the everyday spoken Latin. During medieval times, less formal writing was done in this vernacular way, familiar to the public in their everyday lives. With that said, the word romance became associated with these written stories, which were usually stories of knights and other exciting adventures. As time passed, these stories began to involve more romantic ideas, leading to our modern understanding of the word romance to be related to love. The idea of romance equivocating to stories can be traced to today, as the word roman in French means “novel” in English. For a much more historical description on the origins of romance languages, you can check out Britannica’s page here.
Yet, regardless of the connection of the word romance to romantic novels and stories, the name “romance languages” has nothing to do with attractiveness. So, what makes French, a romance language, also a romantic language?
French is often considered one of the most romantic languages. While a lot of this is based on opinion, here are some theories as to why French has become widely known to be romantic:
- The Spoken Rhythm:
The pace of the French language is why many think the language is so romantic, as it has a sort of euphonic flow, meaning it is appealing to the ear. This speed and rhythm is one reason why many people think French is pleasing to hear and attractive.
- The “City of Love”:
The stereotype of Paris in modern pop culture has led people to believe that France is a country full of lights, love, and the prettiest views. While I am not saying these things are not true, the association has led foreigners to extensively believe that France is a romantic country, and thus, that the language is romantic.
- The Pronunciation:
As for pronunciation, most of the ending consonants are not pronounced. As my mom always says it sounds like there is no separation between words. Some people believe this continuation of the words is another reason the language becomes romantic, going back to the idea of euphony.
Other cultural aspects contribute to the idea of French people as being romantics, which additionally associates the concept of romance with the language, too. Whether you agree or not, studies have shown that French language is viewed romantically, in addition to being a romance language.
What are your thoughts, is French a romance language, a romantic language, or both?
Another Source for More Information: