Why is it difficult for most persons to read a Latin document? You may think that it is because they never studied Latin in school. The real answer is that some of the words appear unfamiliar to you. On the positive side, you probably already know enough Latin words to pick out a few of them in a document. These words are familiar because they are similar to words we have in English. You may have been frustrated in reading a document because you could not find a word in your Latin dictionary the way it is spelled in the document you have. Sometimes you have difficulty interpreting a Latin document because you do not understand its purpose and the words used to accomplish this purpose. Sometimes the handwriting in the document is hard to read or you do not recognize the abbreviated words or symbols and signs that are used to signify common words or phrases.

These difficulties can be overcome. It will require that you learn a little bit about the Latin language and discipline yourself to follow a specific process or method each time you begin to interpret a Latin document.

The dialects of modern Italian all have their roots in the spoken form of Latin (Vulgar Latin), in use throughout the Roman Empire. Vulgar Latin had, no doubt, its own local peculiarities before the fall of the Empire. The political instability that followed Roman rule kept Italy from re-uniting as a nation until the nineteenth century. This long period of fragmentation and the fact that Classical Latin was preferred as the international language of study allowed the various modes of speech to develop on their own until they could almost be called separate languages. Many dialects are, in fact, unintelligible with each other.

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