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Despite dialectal variation, which is found in any widespread language, the languages of Spain, France, Portugal, and Italy retained a remarkable unity in phonological forms and developments, bolstered by the stabilising influence of their common Christian (Roman Catholic) culture.
In addition to the historical phases, Ecclesiastical Latin refers to the styles used by the writers of the Roman Catholic Church as well as by Protestant scholars from Late Antiquity onward.The Latin alphabet is derived from the Etruscan and Greek alphabets, and ultimately from the Phoenician alphabet.Latin was originally spoken in Latium, in the Italian Peninsula.Latin is taught in primary, secondary and postsecondary educational institutions around the world.Latin is a highly inflected language, with three distinct genders, seven noun cases, four verb conjugations, four verb principal parts, six tenses, three persons, three moods, two voices, two aspects and two numbers.Vulgar Latin began to diverge into distinct languages by the 9th century at the latest, when the earliest extant Romance writings begin to appear.
They were, throughout the period, confined to everyday speech, as Medieval Latin was used for writing.Philological analysis of Archaic Latin works, such as those of Plautus, which contain snippets of everyday speech, indicates that a spoken language, Vulgar Latin (termed sermo vulgi, "the speech of the masses", by Cicero), existed concurrently with literate Classical Latin.The informal language was rarely written, so philologists have been left with only individual words and phrases cited by classical authors and those found as graffiti.A number of historical phases of the language have been recognised, each distinguished by subtle differences in vocabulary, usage, spelling, morphology, and syntax.There are no hard and fast rules of classification; different scholars emphasise different features.As it was free to develop on its own, there is no reason to suppose that the speech was uniform either diachronically or geographically.