African Romance

As North Africa was for a long time part of the Roman Empire, Latin was spoken there for many centuries. After the break-up of the Western Roman Empire, the language spoken in North Africa evolved to be a form of Vulgar Latin, just as it did elsewhere (and then evolved further, to be the language family we know as the Romance languages. Some of the developments we do know took place in African Romance:

  • dropping the distinction between long and short vowels
    • however where other Western Romance languages changed vowel qualities (e.g. short i and long ⟨e⟩ merging to /e/, or short ⟨u⟩ and long ⟨o⟩ becoming /o/), African just changed the lengths, like in Sardinian
  • confusion between ⟨b⟩ and ⟨v⟩
  • omission of word-final -m
  • retaining the hard ⟨c⟩ before ⟨e⟩ (spelling it ⟨k⟩)

Our main sources of information on this tongue? Things that people wrote about Latin as spoken there, things people wrote in Late Latin there, and loanwords in modern Tamazight and Arabic languages. As well as with Sardinian, there are some similarities to Ibero-Romance languages, like using the word rostru for face (meant “beak” in Classical Latin, and only evolved to mean “face” in Iberian and African Romance).

NativLang did a video about what little is known about African Romance.(external link)