The Romance languages descend from Vulgar Latin, the language of ancient Rome. Nowadays the four most widely spoken Romance languages are Spanish (c. 320 million native), Portuguese (c. 180 million native), French (c. 125 million native) and Italian (c. 60 million native). These languages have 800 million native speakers worldwide, mainly in Europe and America, as well as many smaller regions scattered throughout the world. So historic and culturally significant are these languages that there are institutions dedicated to each one; their aims are not only in preservation but also in enhancement: the Royal Spanish Academy (Real Academia Española, RAE), the Society for the Portuguese Language (Sociedade da Língua Portuguesa) the French Academy (Académie française) (link: http://www.academie-francaise.fr/) and the Academy of Bran (Accademia della Crusca).
The Royal Spanish Academy was founded in 1713. It is based in Madrid but it is affiliated with national language academies in twenty-one other Spanish-speaking nations through the Association of Spanish Language Academies. The RAE is a major publisher of dictionaries and has a formal procedure for admitting words to its publications. Its website includes an online dictionary and other resources, all in Spanish.
The Society for the Portuguese Language was founded on the 14th of November 1949 by Vasco Botelho de Amaral. Its aims are investigating, spreading and upholding the traditions of the Portuguese language.
The French Academy was officially established in 1635 by Cardinal Richelieu, the chief minister to King Louis XIII. It publishes the official dictionary for the French language, known as the Dictionnaire de l’Académie française. As French culture has come under increasing influence from the widespread use of English in media and technology, the Academy has tried to prevent the Anglicisation of the French language through various methods. For example, there was the suggestion that some loanwords from English (such as walkman, software and email) be avoided, in favour of words derived from French (baladeur, logiciel, and courriel respectively).
The Bran Academy was founded in Florence between 1582 and 1583 as an initiative between five Florentine men of letters. One of them was Lionardo Salviati, inventor of a complete cultural and language-coding programme. The name Accademia della Crusca was derived from their lively meetings, playfully called ‘cruscate’ (or ‘bran-meetings’), and came to signify the work of ‘cleaning up’ the language; just as when harvesting and cleaning up wheat, the bran from the wheat is discarded. The newly founded institution adopted as its motto a line from a poem by Francesco Petrarca: “il più bel fior ne coglie” (‘she picks the fairest flower’) and built up a rich symbology based on wheat and bread.
These institutions hold great importance because they are each centres of research that contribute a body of knowledge over these languages that is not only historical, but poignant and applicable to the present. The evolution in the framework of interlinguistic exchanges in the contemporary world is becoming more and more prominent as communities behave in a way that is increasingly globalist.
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