Approximate distribution of languages in Iron Age Italy during the sixth century BC. (Note: most of these are not Italic languages.)
extinct: Anatolian · Paleo-Balkan (Dacian,
Phrygian, Thracian) · Tocharian
Asia: Anatolians (Hittites, Luwians) · Armenians · Indo-Iranians (Iranians · Indo-Aryans) · Tocharians
The Italic subfamily is a member of the Indo-European language family. It includes the Romance languages derived from Latin (Italian, Spanish, Catalan, Portuguese, French, Romanian, etc.), and a number of extinct languages of the Italian Peninsula, including Umbrian, Oscan, Faliscan, and Latin itself.
In the past various definitions of "Italic" have prevailed. This article uses the classification presented by the Linguist List: Italic includes the Latin subgroup (Latin and the Romance languages) as well as the ancient Italic languages (Faliscan, Osco-Umbrian and two unclassified Italic languages, Aequian and Vestinian). Venetic (the language of the ancient Veneti), as revealed by its inscriptions, was also closely related to the Italic languages and is sometimes classified as Italic. However, since it also shares similarities with other Western Indo-European branches (particularly Germanic), some linguists prefer to consider it an independent Indo-European language, despite its influence on the modern Italian of the region.
In the extreme view, Italic did not exist, but the different groups descended directly from Indo-European and converged because of geographic contiguity. This view stems in part from the difficulty in identifying a common Italic homeland in prehistory.
In the intermediate view, the Italic languages are one of the ten or eleven major subgroups of the Indo-European language family and might therefore have had an ancestor, common Italic or proto-Italic, from which its daughter languages descend. Moreover, there are similarities between major groups, although how these similarities are to be interpreted is one of the major debatable issues in the historical linguistics of Indo-European. The linguist Calvert Watkins went so far as to suggest, among ten major groups, a four-way division of East, West, North and South Indo-European. These he considered "dialectical divisions within Proto-Indo-European which go back to a period long before the speakers arrived in their historical areas of attestation." This is not to be considered a nodular grouping; in other words, there was not necessarily any common west Indo-European serving as a node from which the subgroups branched. The West Indo-European dialects are Celtic, Italic and Tocharian. By the time of any written language, Tocharian was geographically remote from the other two.
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