Classified according to the historical development of stressed vowels, French would be grouped with North Italian and Dalmatian but not with Occitan, while Central Italian would be isolated.Classifications that are not based on family trees usually involve ranking languages according to degree of differentiation rather than grouping them; thus, if the Romance languages are compared with Latin, it is seen that by most measures Sardinian and Italian are least differentiated and French most (though in vocabulary Romanian has changed most).Sardinian is generally regarded as linguistically separate, its isolation from the rest of the Roman Empire by incorporation into the Vandal kingdom in the mid-5th century providing historical support for the thesis.

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On linguistic grounds Sardinian (not the language of an independent nation since the 14th century) and Occitan (the medieval Provençal) are usually regarded as languages rather than dialects.

The Rhaetian dialects of Italy (Ladin in the Dolomites and Friulian around Udine) are sometimes regarded as non-Italian, sometimes as dialects of the Italian language.

Even though territorially it has comparatively little extension, the Italian language, associated with Italy’s great cultural heritage, is still popular with students.

Though it is quite clear which languages can be classified as Romance, on the basis primarily of lexical (vocabulary) and morphological (structural) similarities, the subgrouping of the languages within the family is less straightforward.

Other “dialects” also are fighting for “language” status on the basis of their written traditions or the active promotion of their use in writing.

Judeo-Spanish, or Ladino (not to be confused with Ladin), was once regarded not as an independent language but as an archaic form of Castilian Spanish preserving many features of the 15th-century language that was current when the Jews were expelled from Spain.

Most classifications are, overtly or covertly, historico-geographic—so that Spanish and Portuguese are Ibero-Romance, French and Franco-Provençal are Gallo-Romance, and so on.

Shared features in each subgroup that are not seen in other such groups are assumed to be ultimately traceable to languages spoken before Romanization.

Of all the so-called families of languages, the Romance group is perhaps the simplest to identify and the easiest to account for historically.

Not only do Romance languages share a good proportion of basic vocabulary—still recognizably the same in spite of some phonological changes—and a number of similar grammatical forms, but they can be traced back, with but few breaks in continuity, to the language of the Roman Empire.

In the 21st century, few of the French know Franco-Provençal, though it still survives in Italy’s Valle d’Aosta region (where French, rather than Italian, remains the language of culture).