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Medieval Latin
Carmina Cantabrigiensia, Medieval Latin manuscript
Alt text
Spoken in Numerous small states
Region Most of western Europe
Language extinction replaced by Renaissance Latin
Language family Indo-European
Writing system Latin alphabet
Spoken and written lingua franca
Official status
Official language in Most states
Regulated by None
Language codes
ISO 639-1 la
ISO 639-2 lat
ISO 639-3 lat
Europe, 1000 AD

Medieval Latin was the form of Latin used in the Middle Ages, primarily as a medium of scholarly exchange and as the liturgical language of the medieval Roman Catholic Church, but also as a language of science, literature, law, and administration. Despite the clerical origin of many of its authors, Medieval Latin should not be confused with Ecclesiastical Latin. There is no real consensus on the exact boundary where Late Latin ends and Medieval Latin begins. Some scholarly surveys begin with the rise of early Christian Latin in the middle of the 4th century, others around the year 500,[1] and still others with the replacement of written Late Latin by written Romance languages starting around the year 900 (see under Late Latin).

Contents

Influences

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Influence of Christian Latin

Medieval Latin was characterized by an enlarged vocabulary, which freely borrowed from other sources. It was heavily influenced by the language of the Vulgate, which contained many peculiarities alien to Classical Latin that were the consequence of more or less direct translation from Greek and Hebrew; these peculiarities were mirrored not only in its vocabulary, but also in its grammar and syntax. Greek provided much of the technical vocabulary of Christianity. The various Germanic languages spoken by the Germanic tribes, who invaded western Europe, were also major sources of new words. Germanic leaders became the rulers of western Europe, and words from their languages were freely imported into the vocabulary of law. Other more ordinary words were replaced by coinages from Vulgar Latin or Germanic sources because the classical words had fallen into disuse.

Latin was also spread to areas such as Ireland and Germany, where Romance languages were not spoken and which had never known Roman rule. Works written in these lands where Latin was a learned language with no relation to the local vernacular also influenced the vocabulary and syntax of medieval Latin.

Since abstract subjects like science and philosophy were communicated in Latin, the Latin vocabulary developed for them is the source of a great many technical words in modern languages. English words like abstract, subject, communicate, matter, probable and their cognates in other European languages generally have the meanings given to them in medieval Latin.

An illuminated manuscript of a Book of Hours contains prayers in medieval Latin.

Influence of Vulgar Latin

The influence of Vulgar Latin was also apparent in the syntax of some Medieval Latin writers, although Classical Latin continued to be held in high esteem and studied as models for literary compositions. The high point of development of medieval Latin as a literary language came with the Carolingian renaissance, a rebirth of learning kindled under the patronage of Charlemagne, king of the Franks. Alcuin was Charlemagne's Latin secretary and an important writer in his own right; his influence led to a rebirth of Latin literature and learning after the depressed period following the final disintegration of Roman authority in Western Europe.

Although it was simultaneously developing into the Romance languages, Latin itself remained very conservative, as it was no longer a native language and there were many ancient and medieval grammar books to give one standard form. On the other hand, strictly speaking there was no single form of "Medieval Latin". Every Latin author in the medieval period spoke Latin as a second language, to varying degrees of fluency, and syntax, grammar, and vocabulary were often influenced by an author's native language. This was especially true beginning around the 12th century, after which the language became increasingly adulterated: late-medieval Latin documents written by French speakers tend to show similarities to medieval French grammar and vocabulary; those written by Germans tend to show similarities to German, etc. For instance, rather than following the classical Latin practice of generally placing the verb at the end, medieval writers would often follow the conventions of their own native language instead. Whereas Latin had no definite or indefinite articles, medieval writers sometimes used forms of unus as an indefinite article, and forms of ille (reflecting usage in the Romance languages) or even quidam (meaning "a certain one/thing" in Classical Latin) as something like a definite article. Unlike in classical Latin, where esse ("to be") was used as the only auxiliary verb, Medieval Latin writers might use habere ("to have"), as Germanic and Romance languages do. The accusative infinitive construction in classical Latin was often ignored, in favour of introducing a subordinate clause with the word quod or quia. This is almost identical, for example, to the use of que in similar constructions in French.

In every age from the late eighth century onwards, there were learned writers (especially within the Church) who were familiar enough with classical syntax to be aware that these forms and usages were 'wrong' and able to resist their use. Thus the Latin of a theologian like St. Thomas Aquinas or an erudite clerical historian such as William of Tyre tends to avoid most of the characteristics described above, showing its period in vocabulary and spelling alone; the features listed are much more prominent in the language of lawyers (e.g. the 11th-century English Domesday Book), physicians, technical writers and secular chroniclers. However, the last-mentioned point — the indirect-statement construction with quod — was especially pervasive and is found at all levels.

Changes in vocabulary, syntax, grammar and orthography

Orthography

The most striking differences between classical and medieval Latin are found in orthography. Some of the most frequently occurring differences are:

  • The diphthong ae is usually collapsed and simply written as e (or e caudata, ę); for example, puellae might be written puelle (or puellę). The same happens with the diphthong oe, for example in pena, Edipus, from poena, Oedipus. This feature is already found on coin-inscriptions of the fourth century (e.g. reipublice for reipublicae). Conversely an original "e" in Classical Latin was often represented by "ae" or "oe" (e.g. "aecclesia" and "coena" )
  • Because of a severe decline of the knowledge of Greek, in loanwords and foreign names from or transmitted through Greek, y and i might be used more or less interchangeably: Ysidorus, Egiptus, from Isidorus, Aegyptus. This is also found in pure Latin words: ocius ('more swiftly') appears as ocyus and silva as sylva, this last being a form which survived into the eighteenth century and so became embedded in modern botanical Latin.
  • h might be lost, so that habere becomes abere, or mihi becomes mi (the latter also occurred in Classical Latin); or, mihi may be written michi, indicating the h came to be pronounced as k, which is its pronunciation even today in Ecclesiastical Latin (this pronunciation is not found in Classical Latin).
  • The loss of h in pronunciation also led to the addition of h in writing where it did not previously belong, especially in the vicinity of r, such as chorona for corona, a tendency also sometimes seen in Classical Latin.
  • -ti- before a vowel is often written as -ci- [tsi], so that divitiae becomes diviciae (or divicie), tertius becomes tercius, vitium vicium.
  • The combination mn might have another plosive inserted, so that alumnus becomes alumpnus, somnus sompnus.
  • Single consonants were often doubled, or vice versa, so that tranquillitas becomes tranquilitas and Africa becomes Affrica.
  • vi, especially in verbs in the perfect tense, might be lost, so that novisse becomes nosse (this occurred in Classical Latin as well but was more frequent in Medieval Latin).

These orthographical differences were often due to changes in pronunciation or, as in the previous example, morphology, which authors reflected in their writing. By the 16th century, Erasmus complained that speakers from different countries were unable to understand each other's form of Latin.[2]

The gradual change of Latin did not escape the notice of contemporaries. Petrarch, writing in the 14th century, complained about this linguistic "decline", which helped fuel his general dissatisfaction with his own era.

Medieval Latin literature

The corpus of Medieval Latin literature encompasses a wide range of texts, including such diverse works as sermons, hymns, hagiographical texts, travel literature, histories, epics, and lyric poetry.

Early period

The first half of the 5th century saw the literary activities of the great Christian authors Jerome (c. 347–420) and Augustine of Hippo (354–430), whose texts had an enormous influence on theological thought of the Middle Ages, and of the latter's disciple Prosper of Aquitaine (c. 390-455). Of the later 400s and early 500s, Sidonius Apollinaris (c. 430 – after 489) and Ennodius (474–521), both from Gaul, are well-known for their poems, as is Venantius Fortunatus (c. 530–600). This was also a period of transmission: the Roman patrician Boethius (c. 480–524) translated part of Aristotle's logical corpus, thus preserving it for the Latin West, and wrote the influential literary and philosophical treatise De consolatione Philosophiae; Cassiodorus (c. 485–585) founded an important library at the monastery of Vivarium near Squillace where many texts from Antiquity were to be preserved. Isidore of Seville (c. 560-636) collected all scientifical knowledge still available in his time into what might be called the first encyclopedia, the Etymologiae.

Gregory of Tours (c. 538–594) wrote a lengthy history of the Frankish kings. Gregory came from a Gallo-Roman aristocratic family, and his Latin, which shows many aberrations from the classical forms, testifies to the declining significance of classical education in Gaul. At the same time, good knowledge of Latin and even of Greek was being preserved in monastic culture in Ireland and was brought to England and the European mainland by missionaries in the course of the 6th and 7th centuries, such as Columbanus (543–615), who founded the monastery of Bobbio in Northern Italy. Ireland was also the birthplace of a strange poetic style known as Hisperic Latin. Other important Insular authors include the historian Gildas (c. 500–570) and the poet Aldhelm (c. 640–709). Benedict Biscop (c. 628–690) founded the monastery of Wearmouth-Jarrow and furnished it with books which he had taken home from a journey to Rome and which were later used by Bede (c. 672–735) to write his Ecclesiastical History of the English People.

Many medieval Latin works have been published in the series Patrologia Latina, Corpus Scriptorum Ecclesiasticorum Latinorum and Corpus Christianorum.

Important medieval Latin authors

4th–5th centuries

6th–8th centuries

9th century

10th century

11th century

12th century

13th century

14th century

For 14th century authors that are no longer medieval in outlook (practically all of them Italian) see Renaissance Latin

Medieval Latin literary movements

Important medieval Latin works

Notes

  1. ^ Ziolkowski, Jan M. (1996), "Towards a History of Medieval Latin Literature", in Mantello, F. A. C.; Rigg, A. G., Medieval Latin: An Introduction and Bibliographical Guide, pp. 505-536 (pp. 510-511)  
  2. ^ See Desiderius Erasmus, De recta Latini Graecique sermonis pronunciatione dialogus, Basel (Frobenius), 1528.

References

  • K. P. Harrington, J. Pucci, and A. G. Elliott, Medieval Latin (2nd ed.), (Univ. Chicago Pres, 1997) ISBN 0-226-31712-9

External links


Wiktionary

Up to date as of January 15, 2010

Definition from Wiktionary, a free dictionary

Contents

English

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Wikipedia

Proper noun

Singular
Medieval Latin

Plural
-

Medieval Latin

  1. The Latin language as spoken and written during the Middle Ages.

Translations

See also


Ages of Latin
—75 BC    75 BC – 200    200 – 900    900 – 1300    1300 – 1600    1600 – 1900   1900 – present
Old Latin    Classical Latin    Late Latin    Medieval Latin    Renaissance Latin   New Latin    Recent Latin
See also: Vulgar Latin, Ecclesiastical Latin, Low Latin, Romance languages

External links


Simple English

Medieval Latin
Spoken in most of western Christian Europe (as lingua franca)
Language extinction gradually replaced by Renaissance Latin from the 14th century onwards
Language family Indo-European
  • Italic
    • Latino-Faliscan
      • Medieval Latin
Language codes
ISO 639-1 la
ISO 639-2 lat
ISO 639-3 lat

Medieval Latin was the form of Latin used in the Middle Ages. It was mostly used by scholars and as the liturgical language of the medieval Roman Catholic Church, but also as a language of science, literature, and administration.

Despite the clerical origin of many of its authors, Medieval Latin should not be confused with Ecclesiastical Latin. There is no real consensus on the exact boundary where Late Latin ends and Medieval Latin begins. Some scholars have their surveys of it begin with the rise of early Christian Latin in the middle of the 4th century, others around the year 500.[1]

(Cambridge University Library, Gg. 5. 35), 11. cent.]]

Contents

Important medieval Latin authors

4th-5th centuries

  • Aetheria (fl. 385)
  • St Jerome (c. 347-420)

6th-8th centuries

  • Gildas (d. c. 570)
  • Venantius Fortunatus (c. 530-c. 600)
  • Gregory of Tours (c. 538-594)
  • Isidore of Seville (c. 560-636)
  • Bede (c. 672-735)

9th-10th centuries

  • Ratherius (890-974)
  • Thietmar of Merseburg (975-1018)

Notes

  1. Jan M.Ziolkowsky, "Towards a History of Medieval Latin Literature", in: F. A. C. Mantello and A. G. Rigg (eds.), Medieval Latin: An Introduction and Bibliographical Guide (Washington, D.C., 1996), pp. 505-536 (pp. 510-511)

Reference

  • K. P. Harrington, J. Pucci, and A. G. Elliott, Medieval Latin (2nd ed.), (Univ. Chicago Pres, 1997) ISBN 0-226-31712-9

Other websites


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