Monday, I came back from an enormously enjoyable visit several days long to the city of Venice. I saw plenty of history walking alongside the canals ad down narrow alleyways in this city, and imagined plenty of alternate-historical trajectories, too. One perhaps less obvious one was in the language spoken around me. I'm reasonably fluent in French as a second language; for me, listening to the conversations of others, the language floated just outside the sphere of my comprehension, sometimes drifting inside with single words like miele, perfeito, dolorosa. It's something that I had noticed, or at least thought I had noticed, in the Portuguese I have heard spoken in my west-end neighbourhood. The Romance languages share a common heritage. This made me think about the interestingly comparable situation of varieties of Chinese. Different Chinese languages have evolved from ancient Chinese, over very roughly the same sort of time scale as the Romance languages' development from Latin, but unlike the situation of the Romance languages the Chinese languages have remained strongly bound together by a shared linguistic identity. Common explanations for this that I've heard trace this to the continued political unity of China, unlike the sustained fragmentation of Romance-speaking Europe. This made me wonder: What would be the latest point in time at which Romance-speaking Europe might plausibly have come to see its regional languages as dialects of a single neo-Latin language? I can imagine a Napoleonic conquest of Romance-speaking Europe, for instance, but by that time all the major Romance languages and many of the smaller ones had already emerged as linguistically distinctive. There would have been no possibility, for instance, of Castilians and Tuscans coming to see their languages as variants on French. Was this sort of linguistic unity of Romance-speaking Europe ever possible in the modern era, or would you need something like (for instance) an early reunification of post-Roman Europe for this to occur? Thoughts?