History of Latin: Wikis

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One of the seven ceiling frescoes painted by Bartolomeo Altomonte in his 80th year for the library of Admont Abbey. An allegory of the Enlightenment, it shows Aurora, goddess of dawn, with the geniuses of language in her train awakening Morpheus, god of dreaming, a symbol of man. The geniuses are Grammar, Didactic, Greek, Hebrew and Latin.
Approximate distribution of languages in Iron Age Italy during the sixth century BC. Latin is confined to Latium, a small region on the coast of west central Italy, hemmed in by other Italic peoples on the east and south and the powerful Etruscan civilization on the north.

Latin is a member of the broad family of Italic languages. Its alphabet, the Latin alphabet, emerged from the Old Italic alphabets, which in turn were derived from the Greek and Phoenician scripts. Historical Latin came from the prehistoric language of the Latium region, specifically around the River Tiber, where Roman civilization first developed. How and when Latin came to be spoken by the Latins are questions that have long been debated. Various influences on Latin of Celtic dialects in northern Italy, the non-Indo-European Etruscan language in Central Italy, and the Greek of southern Italy have been detected, but when these influences entered the native Latin is not known for certain.

Surviving Latin literature consists almost entirely of Classical Latin in its broadest definition. It includes a polished and sometimes highly stylized literary language sometimes termed Golden Latin, which spans the 1st century BC and the early years of the 1st century AD. However, throughout the history of ancient Rome the spoken language differed in both grammar and vocabulary from that of literature, and is referred to as Vulgar Latin. In addition to Latin, Greek was often spoken by the well-educated elite, who studied it in school and acquired Greek tutors from among the influx of enslaved educated Greek prisoners of war. In the eastern half of the Roman Empire, which became the Byzantine Empire, the Greek Koine of Hellenism remained current and was never replaced by Latin.

Contents

Origins

The Italic languages form a centum subfamily of the Indo-European language family. They include the Romance languages (among others, French, Catalan, Italian, Spanish, Portuguese, Romanian), and a number of extinct languages.

Broadly speaking, in stressed syllables the Indo-European simple vowels — (*a), *e, *i, *o, *u; short and long — are usually retained in Latin. The schwa indogermanicum () appears in Latin as a (cf. IE *pəter > L pater). Diphthongs are also preserved in Old Latin, but in Classical Latin some tend to become monophthongs (for example oi > or oe, and ei > ē > ī).[1]

Of the original eight cases of Proto-Indo-European, Latin inherited six: nominative, vocative, accusative, genitive, dative, and ablative. The Indo-European locative survived in the declensions of some place names and a few common nouns, such as Roma "Rome" (locative Romae) and domus "home" (locative domī "at home"). Vestiges of the instrumental case may remain in adverbial forms ending in .[2]

Old Latin

The Duenos inscription, from the 6th century BC, is the second-earliest known Latin text.

Old Latin (also called Early Latin or Archaic Latin) refers to the period of Latin texts before the age of Classical Latin, extending from textual fragments that probably originated in the Roman monarchy to the written language of the late Roman republic about 75 BC. Almost all the writing of its earlier phases is inscriptional.

Some phonological characteristics of older Latin are the case endings -os and -om (later Latin -us and -um). In many locations, classical Latin turned intervocalic /s/ into /r/. This had implications for declension: early classical Latin, honos, honoris; Classical honor, honoris ("honor"). Some Old Latin texts preserve /s/ in this position, such as the Carmen Arvale's lases for lares.

Classical Latin

Julius Caesar's Commentarii de Bello Gallico is one of the most famous classical Latin texts of the Golden Age of Latin. The unvarnished, journalistic style of this upper-class general has long been taught as a model of the urbane Latin officially spoken and written in the floruit of the Roman republic.

Classical Latin (classical means "the best") is the form of the Latin language used by the ancient Romans in classical Latin literature. In the latest and narrowest philological model its use spanned the Golden Age of Latin literature – broadly the 1st century BC and the early 1st century AD – possibly extending to the Silver Age – broadly the 1st and 2nd centuries. It was a polished written literary language based on the polite spoken language of the upper classes. Classical Latin differs from Old Latin: the earliest inscriptional language and the earliest authors, such as Ennius, Plautus and others, in a number of ways; for example, the early -om and -os endings shifted into -um and -us ones, and some lexical differences also developed, such as the broadening of the meaning of words (e.g., forte meant not only "surprisingly" but also "hard").[3] In the broadest and most ancient sense, the classical period includes the authors of Early Latin, the Golden Age and the Silver Age.

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Golden Age

The golden age of Latin literature is a period consisting roughly of the time from 75 BC to AD 14, covering the end of the Roman Republic and the reign of Augustus Caesar. In the currently used philological model this period represents the peak of Latin literature. Since the earliest post-classical times the Latin of those authors has been an ideal norm of the best Latin, which other writers should follow.

Silver Age

In reference to Roman literature, the Silver age covers the first two centuries A.D. directly after the Golden age. Literature from the Silver Age is more embellished with mannerisms.

Late Latin

Late Latin is the administrative and literary language of Late Antiquity in the late Roman empire and states that succeeded the Western Roman Empire over the same range. By its broadest definition it is dated from about 200 AD to about 900 AD when it was replaced by written Romance languages. Opinion concerning whether it should be considered classical is divided. The authors of the period looked back to a classical period they believed should be imitated and yet their styles were often classical. According to the narrowest definitions, Late Latin did not exist and the authors of the times are to be considered medieval.

Vulgar Latin

Vulgar Latin, as in this political graffiti at Pompeii, was the language of the ordinary people of the Roman Empire, distinct from the Classical Latin of literature.

Vulgar Latin (in Latin, sermo vulgaris) is a blanket term covering vernacular dialects of the Latin language spoken from earliest times in Italy until the latest dialects of the western empire, diverging still further, evolved into the early Romance languages – whose writings began to appear about the ninth century.

This spoken Latin differed from the literary language of Classical Latin in its grammar and vocabulary. It is likely to have evolved over time, with some features not appearing until the late Empire. Other features are likely to have been in place much earlier. Because there are few phonetic transcriptions of the daily speech of these Latin speakers (to match, for example, the post-classical Appendix Probi) Vulgar Latin must be studied mainly by indirect methods.

A replica of the Old Roman Cursive inspired by the Vindolanda tablets

Knowledge of Vulgar Latin comes from a variety of sources. First, the comparative method reconstructs items of the mother language from the attested Romance languages. Also, prescriptive grammar texts from the Late Latin period condemn some usages as errors, providing insight into how Latin was actually spoken. The solecisms and non-Classical usages occasionally found in late Latin texts also shed light on the spoken language. A windfall source lies in the chance finds of wax tablets such as those found at Vindolanda on Hadrian's Wall. The Roman cursive script was used on these tablets.

Romance languages

Romance languages in the world.      French      Spanish      Portuguese      Italian      Romanian

The Romance languages, a major branch of the Indo-European language family, comprise all languages that descended from Latin, the language of the Roman Empire. The Romance languages have more than 600 million native speakers worldwide, mainly in the Americas, Europe, and Africa, as well as in many smaller regions scattered through the world.

All Romance languages descend from Vulgar Latin, the language of soldiers, settlers, and slaves of the Roman Empire, which was substantially different from that of the Roman literati. Between 200 BC and AD 100, the expansion of the Empire and the administrative and educational policies of Rome made Vulgar Latin the dominant vernacular language over a wide area which stretched from the Iberian Peninsula to the west coast of the Black Sea. During the Empire's decline and after its collapse and fragmentation in the 5th century, Vulgar Latin began to evolve independently within each local area, and eventually diverged into dozens of distinct languages. The overseas empires established by Spain, Portugal and France after the 15th century then spread these languages to other continents – about two thirds of all Romance speakers are now outside Europe.

In spite of the multiple influences of pre-Roman languages and later invasions, the phonology, morphology, lexicon, and syntax of all Romance languages are predominantly derived from Vulgar Latin. As a result, the group shares a number of linguistic features that set it apart from other Indo-European branches.

Ecclesiastical Latin

Ecclesiastical Latin (sometimes called Church Latin) is a broad and analogous term referring to the Latin language as used in documents of the Roman Catholic Church, its liturgies (mainly in past times) and during some periods the preaching of its ministers. Ecclesiastical Latin is not a single style: the term merely means the language promulgated at any time by the church. In terms of stylistic periods, it belongs to Late Latin in the Late Latin period, Medieval Latin in the Medieval Period, and so on through to the present. One may say that, starting from the church's decision in the early Late Latin period to use a simple and unornamented language that would be comprehensible to ordinary Latin speakers and yet still be elegant and correct, church Latin is usually a discernible substyle within the major style of the period. Its authors in the New Latin period are typically paradigmatic of the best Latin and that is true in contemporary times. The decline in its use within the last 100 years has been a matter of regret to some, who have formed organizations inside and outside the church to support its use and to use it.

Medieval Latin

Page with medieval Latin text from the Carmina Cantabrigiensia (Cambridge University Library, Gg. 5. 35), 11. cent.

Medieval Latin refers to the literary and administrative Latin used in the Middle Ages. It exhibits much variation between individual authors, mainly due to poor communications in those times between different regions. The individuality is characterised by a different range of solecisms and by the borrowing of different words from Vulgar Latin or from the local vernacular. Some styles show features intermediate between Latin and Romance languages; others are closer to classical Latin. The stylistic variations came to an end with the rise of nations and new empires in the Renaissance period, and the authority of the first universities imposing a new style, Renaissance Latin.

Renaissance Latin

Renaissance Latin is a name given to the Latin written during the European Renaissance in the 14th-16th centuries, particularly distinguished by the distinctive Latin style developed by the humanist movement.

Ad fontes was the general cry of the humanists, and as such their Latin style sought to purge Latin of the medieval Latin vocabulary and stylistic accretions that it had acquired in the centuries after the fall of the Roman Empire. They looked to Golden Age Latin literature, and especially to Cicero in prose and Virgil in poetry, as the arbiters of Latin style. They abandoned the use of the sequence and other accentual forms of metre, and sought instead to revive the Greek formats that were used in Latin poetry during the Roman period. The humanists condemned the large body of medieval Latin literature as "gothic" – for them, a term of abuse – and believed instead that only ancient Latin from the Roman period was "real Latin".

The humanists also sought to purge written Latin of medieval developments in its orthography. They insisted, for example, that ae be written out in full wherever it occurred in classical Latin; medieval scribes often wrote e instead of ae. They were much more zealous than medieval Latin writers in distinguishing t from c: because the effects of palatalization made them homophones, medieval scribes often wrote, for example, eciam for etiam. Their reforms even affected handwriting: humanists usually wrote Latin in a script derived from Carolingian minuscule, the ultimate ancestor of most contemporary lower-case typefaces, avoiding the black-letter scripts used in the Middle Ages. Erasmus even proposed that the then-traditional pronunciations of Latin be abolished in favour of his reconstructed version of classical Latin pronunciation.

The humanist plan to remake Latin was largely successful, at least in education. Schools now taught the humanistic spellings, and encouraged the study of the texts selected by the humanists, largely to the exclusion of later Latin literature. On the other hand, while humanist Latin was an elegant literary language, it became much harder to write books about law, medicine, science or contemporary politics in Latin while observing all of the humanists' norms of vocabulary purging and classical usage. Because humanist Latin lacked precise vocabulary to deal with modern issues, their reforms accelerated the transformation of Latin from a working language to an object of antiquarian study. Their attempts at literary work, especially poetry, often have a strong element of pastiche. Their efforts turned Latin from a classical, but still useful language into an extinct language. Latin vocabulary continued to be used by the creators of New Latin, but extensive discourses on contemporary subjects gradually ceased to be written in Latin during this period.

New Latin

A Recent Latin inscription at Salamanca University commemorating the visit of the then-Prince "Akihitus" and Princess "Michika" of Japan on 28 February 1985

New Latin (or Neo-Latin) is a post-medieval version of Latin, now used primarily in international scientific vocabulary cladistics and systematics. The term came into widespread use towards the end of the 1890s among linguists and scientists.

Classicists use the term "Neo-Latin" to describe the use of the Latin language for any purpose, scientific or literary, after the Renaissance (for which purpose they often use the date 1500), although, for example, the editors of the I Tatti Renaissance Library call their Renaissance Latin language texts Neo-Latin as well. Such Contemporary Latin includes ecclesiastical use, as well as translations from modern languages into Latin and the occasional poetry. Under the name "Living Latin", some have advocated reviving the language as a means of spoken communication.

Notes

  1. ^ Ramat, Anna G.; Paolo Ramat (1998). The Indo-European Languages. Routledge. pp. 272–75. ISBN 0–415–06449–X.  
  2. ^ Ibid., p. 313
  3. ^ Allen, W. Sidney (1989). Vox Latina. Cambridge University Press. pp. 83–84. ISBN 0–521–22049–1.  

See also

External links

References

Allen, J. H.; James B. Greenough (1931). New Latin Grammar. Boston: Ginn and Company. ISBN 1585100277.  


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