Welcome back for another week of Things That Should Not Be. This week, we’re kicking things off with something dead (surprise!), but this time, it’s a metaphorical dead, not a six feet under dead.
Here is my question(s)
Can you tell me the rise and fall of Latin from modern tongue? Where did it start? At what point was it spoken the most? Why did it fall out of popularity and become a dead tongue?
Mike emailed me this question back on August 25th and I’m just now getting around to it. Sorry about that, but here’s your answer.
A dead or extinct language is one that no longer has any native speakers left. Now this doesn’t mean there is no one left in the world who can speak the language. It’s just that no one speaks it as their FIRST language. Generally this replacement of one tongue for another occurs through Linguicide, or the intentional replacement of one language with another. A really good example of this in modern times comes from Australia when the government was taking Aboriginal children from their parents in what has become known as the “Stolen Generation.” Although this practice was stopped in 1972, it was a clear case of human rights violations and is Australia’s greatest shame that still haunts that country to this day.
With the Stolen Generation, Australia tried to forcibly assimilate Aboriginal children into a western (white) way of living and thinking and removing them from all things Aboriginal, including their language.
Another example of linguicide is the modern American Neo-Conservative “English only” movement. Although proponents of this belief feel there is justification and reason to make the United States embrace English as their “official language,” this is still an act of linguicide.
A final example would come from the United Kingdom where Britain refuses to teach children in their native Welsh or Scottish Gaelic tongues.
Note that all these are not as bad as each other, or am I saying either of the last two examples are right or wrong; just that these are modern examples of linguicide.
For true linguistic scholars, Latin is not considered “dead” for even though it is not spoken as a first language by anyone anymore, it is still the official Language of Rome and Vatican City, and it is also the root of the “Romance Languages,” which include French, Spanish, Italian, Portuguese, Romanian, and Catalan. So calling Latin a “dead language” amongst the language scholars is controversial. Plus Latin is used extensively by the scientific community. In my opinion, it DOES count as a dead language as again, there are no people speaking Latin as their FIRST language, but hey, I guess everyone needs nothing to be anal about, right?
Sometimes dead languages can come back and reassert themselves as natively spoken languages. Two examples of this are Hebrew and surprisingly Sanskrit! Sanskrit is being used as a first language in some Indian towns, which has surprised many linguistic scholars, but this is enough to revive the ancient Sumerian tongue from the dead. Go Sumeria!
Finally, Ethnologue: Languages of the World, which is a publication put out by SIL International (Summer Institute of Linguistics) claims there are 6,192 languages currently “living” at Earth at this time. that’s pretty mind boggling when you think of it. You can check SIL out at http://www.ethnologue.com/.
So, let’s get back to Latin and it’s eventual fall from a major world language to one used by Catholics and scientists (That’s a funny combo, isn’t it?).
Latin is of course a derivative of Greece, as pretty much everything the Romans did was stolen from the Ancient Greeks in some way, shape or form. In fact Latin uses a modified form of the Greek Alphabet (which itself was influenced by the Etruscan alphabet), as does English and many other languages. FYI, about 80 percent of English words, even though English is classified as a Germanic language, have a Latin (often by way of French) origin.
Latin basically reigned as the major world language for a thousand years, starting with the rise of New Latin in 75 BCE. We also know this as “Classical Latin.” Classical Latin reigned until the 2nd Century AD, when it was replaced by Late Latin, which is also known as “Vulgar Latin.” This is where Classical Latin fades into a mere literary language, and the actual version of Latin spoken by commoners and soldiers becomes the official form of Latin. Which makes sense, as no one ever really spoke Classical Latin in the first place.
Vulgar Latin evolves in the 9th Century AD into Medieval Latin, which will then reign until the 15th Century. Medieval Latin is where Latin managed to spread its influence to the farthest it have ever been. But this is also where Latin begins its death.
During this 600 year span, Latin’s vocabulary increased greatly, adding words from the Greek language, which is where most of the Christian Allegory terms in Latin come from. However another form of language influencing Latin were the Germanic languages. As Christianity, and thus Latin, invaded Eastern Europe, the Germanic rulers who embraced Latin and Christianity would add their own touches to the dialogue. Germanic words began to replace Classical and Vulgar Latin terms as the Eastern Europe words began being used more and more.
Now the reason Latin stayed so strong for so long was also the reason it died off. Most native people did not have a written language for the one they spoke before Latin and Rome entered their world. Because humans are basically lazy and want convenience, you could learn one language that had a written form and could be spoken, or you could learn one that had no recordable form. As countries began creating and formulating written versions of their native tongue, Latin dropped off. Re-embracing one’s native language became a source of cultural pride, as well as sticking it to the Holy Roman Empire. A good example of this was in 1296, when Portugal officially replaced Latin with Portuguese as its native language. And as Latin dropped off and other languages became more prevalent, it is no wonder Latin was replaced as the “Lingua Franca” of the world. Lingua Franca is the term for the Language used by the majority of the world for matters of politics, international commerce and diplomacy. Latin was used until the 17th/18th Century when French replaced it, and the German tongue competed with French for Lingua Franca status until English replaces them both with the advent of the two World Wars in the 20th century. English still remains as the current Lingua Franca, but there’s a good chance Spanish will eventually replace it in the next Century. But that’s just my theory.
Now back to the history of Latin.
In the 15th Century, Latin again evolved, this time into what scholars call “Humanist Latin.” Humanist Latin came about due to the advent of what we call the Renaissance Period. Basically the Humanists of this time period attempt to purge Latin of the Vulgar and Medieval stylistic accretions that it had picked up since the “Glory Days” of the Roman Empire. During this time period the Latin of Virgil and other classical writers was considered pure and perfect, and the Humanists tried to convert the speaking and writing styles of Latin to that of long ago. In other words, it was snobby elitism with people being embarrassed by the “guttural” forms created and used by the Germanic people and the Dark Age influence.
If you’re wondering, the Humanists were successful in their propagations of transforming Latin. Schools began to teach the Humanist dialects and spellings, texts were edited to include the new forms, and it became the elegant language to write in.
HOWEVER, there was a snag. In purging all the new vocabulary added into the Latin vocabulary over the past millennium and a half, people began to discover Latin lacked precise words and phrasing for terms and thoughts they had in their own native language. It became nearly impossible to write political, philosophical, economical, or medical texts in Latin as they had bee able to before the Humanist movement took over. In essence, The Humanist movements attempt to restore Latin to Lingua Franca status and the words of the elite, are actually what made the language extinct. Humanist took a language still useable in everyday life and that was still a “Classical” language into one that could no longer be used by Modern Man, especially with the dozens of other writeable languages that had a large vocabulary for expressing thoughts and intricate details that needs to be fleshed out in both speech and on the written page.
It is here when Latin officially died and became a language of religion only.
However, there is an epilogue to the story as in the 17th Century, “New Latin” emerged. This is the form of Latin used today for the International Scientific Vocabulary and for systematic classification of species.
New Latin or “Neo-Latin” began its’ rise to scientific prominence when Carolus Linnaeus devised his binomial nomenclature, which is the classification system for all living things scientists still use to this day. An example is Homo Sapiens. Yes, that was Carolus Linnaeus who devised all of that. But as this is folklore and history, you’ll have to wait for someone at Inside Pulse to write a Biology column to learn more about binomial nomenclature. or you could, you know, go to a library and get a book.
After Linnaeus, Issac Newton and Gottfried Leibniz were just two more scholars who began to use Neo-Latin for scientific analysis and classification. It was, and still is, Neo-Latin that is used by the scientific community as a way of crossing international and linguistic borders. it is also the Latin we know do day and see used in schools, research papers, and other texts.
And this is where Latin is today. It’s essentially a dead language save for hardcore Catholics or those in the Clergy, and used by scientists for classification purposes. Like I said, to me, this means it is dead as no one speaks Latin first and any other language second. But I’m not a linguistics scholar, so I’ll not argue or add to the nerdy controversy,
And that’s basically a nice little primer to the rise and fall of Latin for you all. Hopefully that answered your question Mike, and was as interesting for all of you as it was for me to write this. it’s been a while since I used any Latin, so this was a nice refresher for me.
So let’s end this part of the column with EGO sum solus scriptor in is site ut vere utriusque scribo quicumque rudimentum facio vos minor bardus quam vos iam es.
Well as so much of this column was based of Latin, we should probably do something cheesy like discuss some Italian dish, eh?
This week I’ve chosen a popular dish served at Italian weddings. It’s called Zuppa Con Polpettine, or to be less fancy…Meatball Soup. This soup is very heart, and with some bread and a salad, makes a wonderful healthy meal. Plus with Winter coming, it’s very soothing.
1 egg, beaten
1/2 cup soft bread crumbs
3 tablespoons freshly grated Romano cheese
1 tablespoon finely chopped onion
1/2 pound lean ground beef
2 (14.5 ounce) cans beef broth
1 cup water
1 tablespoon dried Italian seasoning
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1/4 cup anelli pasta (the little ring shaped pasta/noodles), uncooked
2 cups fresh spinach, shredded
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. In a medium bowl, stir together egg, bread crumbs, cheese and onion. Add ground beef and mix well. Shape meat mixture into 32 balls. Arrange meatballs in a 15×10 inch baking pan. Bake for 15 minutes until no pink remains in center of meatballs.
2. In a large pot, combine broth, water, Italian seasoning and pepper. Bring to a boil. Stir in anelli. Reduce heat. Cover. Simmer for 18 minutes or until anelli is tender. Stir in meatballs. Heat thoroughly.
3. Add spinach and cook for 1 to 2 minutes more, until spinach has just wilted.
4. Serve in bowls. Makes 8-10 servings.
You should read the following
Rebecca’s Go Nihon!
Fred’s Under the Tarboush
ML Kennedy’s Add Homonym Attacks!
Sara’s Robert’s Rules
Gordi’s The Art of Wrestling
Liquidcross’ The Angry Gamer
McCullar’s review of Flightplan
If you’ve missed my video game reviews, this week I’ll be doing Pump It Up: Exceed, Pokemon XD, Capcom Classic Collection, and RPG Maker 3. So get ready for a LOT of gaming from your Sub-Cultural icon. Until next week gang!