What is the present day linguistic situation in Italy, and how did it originate? During the Middle Ages the written language was Latin; it was a literary language which could of course also be 'spoken', in the Liturgy, in the Universities, on many formal occasions, and would be employed in ordinary conversation by people whose native tongues were different, but who were familiar with Latin and could use it as an auxiliary language. This possibility would only have been open to a tiny minority; most people were illiterate, and hence, by definition one might say, did not know Latin. The majority would use their own native tongue, the vernacular, that is, one of the Italian dialects. These dialects derive from Latin; they are spoken Latin as it evolved naturally, unaffected by schooling and formal education, or, to be more precise, largely unaffected, as some learned influences are in fact found in the development from Latin to Romance.