I wonder why English, Italian, German, Spanish, French and Latin share common alphabet and other words.

Also what is the relation among them.

  • 5
    Because history.
    – curiousdannii
    Commented Sep 3, 2015 at 12:58
  • 2
    Sorry to see that this was down voted so I've upvoted it to compensate. This may seem a really basic question to those of us who have studied linguistics and/or languages but I'm sure there are many who know nothing of those fields and so would also wonder about this. I think it's good to see such basic (even if perhaps naive-seeming) questions on SE. Commented Sep 4, 2015 at 2:29

3 Answers 3


It's history.

The western European languages share the Latin alphabet (with minor deviations) because of the cultural dominance of the Roman empire and later the Catholic Church.

Shared words (that a layman recognises as the same) are typically rather recent coinings, often borrowed from the culturally prestigious languages Latin and Classical Greek. Those shared words are found in the domains of science and technology as well as in religion or politics.

The common Indo-European ancestry is blurred by sound shifts and semantical shifts and expert knowledge is needed to discover it. To a layman, the words "tooth" (Englisch) "Zahn" (German) and "dens" (Latin) do not look shared anymore.

  • On the other hand you do have words that are suspiously similar e.g. ego, no/nej/non/ne, star/aster/hasta, deus/zeus/tios/siu at least in certain groups of IE. It is not rare to hear people of different backgrounds saying "Hey, we call that almost the same in language X".
    – Midas
    Commented Sep 3, 2015 at 10:54
  • In short: the people who taught the English, Italian, German, Spanish and French to read and write used one language for written communication amongst themselves. That language was Latin. Commented Sep 19, 2015 at 20:40
  • 1
    Probably we should mention the concept sprachbund here. And there are many words borrowed from Germanic into vulgar Latin languages and from them into Germanic. Commented Oct 12, 2015 at 5:21

When it comes to words, they belong to the same language family called Indo-European (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Indo-European_languages). That means that they had a hypothetical common ancestor thousands of years before called Proto-Indo-European. Spanish and French are in turn Romance languages, which means that Latin is basically their ancestor. English has borrowed a great amount of Latin words (Greek too), but not all words resembling Latin are necessarily Latin, as they might be inherited from Proto-Indo-European. Those aforementioned languages, share also common roots with languages from Eastern and northern Europe, although in some cases you need to have a trained eye to see it. Armenian, Persian and Sanskrit are also Indo-European languages that are/were spoken outside the European continent.

When it comes to the alphabet, Latin derived from Greek that was a phonetic alphabet containing both vowels and consonants. Latin and Greek together spread in all Europe or influenced the creation of other alphabets such as Runic and Cyrillic. Educated Europeans had to know how to read Latin and Greek, hence European grammarians used Latin to write down their own tongue.

  • 1
    "English has inheritet a great amount of Latin words (Greek too)". "Inherited" might not be the best choice of words here, since it gives the impression that English descends from Latin and/or Greek, which is not the case. "Borrowed" seems like a better choice.
    – dainichi
    Commented Sep 3, 2015 at 7:39
  • @dainichi : You are right, thank you! "Inherited" from Proto-Indo-European follows, so I probably mixed it up because of that.
    – Midas
    Commented Sep 3, 2015 at 8:45

Because nations and national languages grew out of a standardization/demarcation of regional spoken dialects which did not have closed borders, and were alike to neighbors (a communication media). Mercantile and military traffic, large migrations, conquerors, the churches all had their influence.

And out of such an amalgam a national language is standardized by institutions (initially literary), and by shaving speech and grammatical constructs to the same style.

Going back still further, humanity took its origin in Africa and then split up. So even American Indian languages may contain a couple of recognizable words.

However development may drift apart, as migration under duress of small groups, that may loose common language.

(In understandable language.)

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