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From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Contemporary Latin is the form of the Latin language used from the end of the 19th century down to the present. Various kinds of contemporary Latin can be distinguished, some of them survivals of the widespread presence of New Latin in previous eras. Living or Spoken Latin, being the most specific development of Latin in the contemporary context, is the primary subject of this article.

A contemporary Latin inscription at Salamanca University commemorating the visit of the then-Prince Akihito and Princess Michiko of Japan in, as the inscription states (MCMLXXXV), 1985.


Ecclesiastical Latin

The Catholic Church has continued to use Latin that keeps both the subject-matter and the pronunciation of Latin used by the Church in preceding centuries.

Scientific Latin

As a relic of the great importance of New Latin as the formerly dominant international lingua franca for the sciences down to the 19th century in fields as varied as mathematics, physics, astronomy, medicine, pharmacy, biology, zoology and veterinary medicine, today Latin is still used for the international names of animals, drugs, illnesses, anatomy and botany, where Latin nomenclature is still required.[1]

The most famous form of this is the biological system of binomial nomenclature and classification of living organisms devised by Carolus Linnæus, although the rules of the ICZN allow the construction of names which may deviate considerably from historical norms.

Another continuation is the use of Latin names for the surface features of planets and planetary satellites (planetary nomenclature), originated in the mid-17th century for selenographic toponyms.

New Latin has also contributed a vocabulary for specialized fields such as anatomy and law; some of these words have become part of the normal, non-technical vocabulary of various European languages.

Latin continues to be used to form international scientific vocabulary and classical compounds.

All of these relics, nevertheless, are mostly found in the context of other languages, and rarely in texts written fully in Latin.

Academic Latin

A fuller presence of Latin has survived in the context of classical scholarship. Some classical periodicals, like Mnemosyne, to this day accept articles in Latin for publication.[2]

Latin is used in most of the introductions to the critical editions of ancient authors in the Oxford Classical Texts series, and it is also nearly always used for the apparatus criticus of Ancient Greek and Latin texts.

The University Orator at the University of Cambridge makes a speech in Latin marking the achievements of each of the honorands at the annual Honorary Degree Congregations, as does the Public Orator at the Encaenia ceremony at the University of Oxford. These degree ceremonies as well as the formal proceedings of other degree ceremonies are conducted in Latin. Oxford, Harvard, Princeton, Brown, Sewanee and Bard College also hold a portion of their graduation ceremonies in Latin, as does the Charles University in Prague [2] and many other universities around the world.

Spoken Latin

Living or Spoken Latin, an effort to revive Latin as a spoken language and as the vehicle for new and entertaining dialogues and publications. Involvement in this Latin revival can be a mere hobby, or extend to projects for restoring its former role as an international auxiliary language.



As soon as the decline of Latin at the end of the New Latin era started to be perceived, there were attempts to counteract this process. In 1815 Miguel Olmo wrote a little booklet proposing Latin as the common language for Europe with the title Otia Villaudricensia ad octo magnos principes qui Vindobonæ anno MDCCCXV pacem orbis sanxerunt, de lingua Latina et civitate Latina fundanda liber singularis (Villaudric leisure to the eight great princes who signed world peace at Vienna in 1815, a book about the Latin language and the foundation of a Latin city).

In the late nineteenth century, Latin periodicals advocating the revived use of Latin as an international language started to appear. Between 1889 and 1895 Karl Heinrich Ulrichs published in Italy his Alaudæ[3]; this publication was followed by the Vox Urbis: de litteris et bonis artibus commentarius[4], published by the architect and engineer Aristide Leonori from 1898, twice a month, until 1913, one year before the outbreak of World War I.

The early 20th century, marked by warfare and by drastic social and technological changes, saw few advances in the use of Latin outside of academia. Following the beginnings of the re-integration of postwar Europe, however, Latin revivalism gained some strength.

One of its main promoters was the former dean of the University of Nancy (France), Prof. Jean Capelle, who in 1952 published a cornerstone article called "Latin or Babel"[5] where he proposed Latin as an international spoken language.

Capelle was called "the soul of the movement" when in 1956 the foundational first International Conference for living Latin (Congrès international pour le Latin vivant) took place in Avignon[6], marking the beginning of a new era for the active use of Latin. About 200 participants from 22 different countries took part in that conference that would be the first of at least five taking place every four or five years.[7]


The essentials of the classical pronunciation had been defined since the early 19th century (e.g. in K.L. Schneider's Elementarlehre der Lateinischen Sprache, 1819), but in many countries there was strong resistance to adopting it in instruction. In English-speaking countries, where the academic pronunciation diverged most markedly from the restored classical model, the struggle between the two pronunciations lasted for the entire 19th century. The transition between Latin pronunciations was sudden and drastic (the "new pronunciation" was adopted throughout the schools in England in 1907).[8]

Although the older pronunciation, as found in the nomenclature and terminology of various professions, continued to be used for several decades, and, in some spheres, prevails to the present day, contemporary Latin as used by the living Latin community is largely characterized by the general adoption of the classical pronunciation of Latin as restored by specialists in Latin historical phonology. [9]


Many users of contemporary Latin promote its use as a spoken language, a movement that dubs itself "Living Latin". Two main aims can be distinguished in this movement.

In education

Among the proponents of spoken Latin, some promote the active use of the language to make learning Latin both more enjoyable and more efficient, in this respect drawing upon the methodologies of instructors of modern languages.

In Great Britain, the Classical Association encourages this approach, and Latin language books describing the adventures of a mouse called Minimus have been published.

One of the most accomplished handbooks using the direct method for Latin is the well known Lingua Latina per se illustrata by the Dane Hans Henning Ørberg published first in 1955 and improved in 1990.

In 1966 Clément Desessard published a method with tapes to learn contemporary Latin according to the living method of the French company Assimil, who have more recently published another one more focused on the classical idiom only.

For contemporary communication

Others support the revival of Latin as a language of international communication, in the academic, perhaps even scientific and diplomatic, spheres (as it was in Europe and European colonies through Middle Ages until the mid-18th century), or as an international auxiliary language. However, as a language native to no people, this movement has not received support from any government, national or supranational.

Supporting institutions and publications

A substantial group of institutions (particularly in Europe, but also in North and South America) has emerged to support the use of Latin as a spoken language. The main one is the Academia Latinitati Fovendae [3], which was created in Rome (Italy) and gathers together well known classicists from all over the world, like Prof. Michael von Albrecht or Kurt Smolak. The ALF held its first international conference in Rome in 1966 bringing together about 500 participants. From then on conferences have taken place every four or five years, in Bucarest (Rumania), Malta, Dakar (Senegal), Erfurt and Berlin (Germany), Madrid (Spain) and many other places. The official language of the ALF is Latin and all acts and proceedings take place in Latin.

At the present time, several periodicals and social networking web sites are published in Latin. In France, immediately after the conference at Avignon, the publisher Théodore Aubanel launched the magazine Vita Latina [4] which still exists, associated to the CERCAM (Centre d’Étude et de Recherche sur les Civilisations Antiques de la Méditerranée) of the University Paul Valéry of Montpellier. Until very recently, it was published in Latin in its entirety. In Germany, the magazine Vox-Latina [5] was founded in 1956 by Caelestis Eichenseer (1924-2008) at the University of Saarbrücken and is to this day published wholly in Latin four times a year. In Belgium, the magazine Melissa [6] created in 1984 by the doctor Guy Licoppe is still published six times a year completely in Latin.

An on-line newspaper Ephemeris founded in Warsaw (Poland) is published wholly in Latin about current affairs.

There is a Finnish radio station (YLE Radio 1) [7] and a German one (Radio Bremen) [8] that have regular broadcasts in Latin.

The goverment of Finland, during its presidencies of the European Union, issued official newsletters in Latin on top of the official languages of the Union.[10]

Every summer Latin is used as a spoken language in numerous conferences throughout Europe, and more recently in America.

Notable proponents of spoken Latin today include A. Gratius Avitus, Hans Henning Ørberg, Gaius Licoppe, Luigi Miraglia, and Terentius Tunberg.

Other instances

The Wallsend Metro station of the Tyne and Wear Metro has signs in Latin.

In the Vatican there is an ATM (bank machine) with instructions in Latin: image.

Google search engine has Latin as a language option.

Original production


  • 1924. Carminum libri quattuor by Tomás Viñas.[11]
  • 1946. Carmina Latina by A. Pinto de Carvalho.[12]
  • 1954. Vox Humana by Johannes Alexander Gaertner.[13]
  • 1962. Pegasus Tolutarius by Henry C. Snurr aka C. Arrius Nurus.
  • 1966. Suaviloquia by Jan Novák.
  • 1966. Cantus Firmus by Johannes Alexander Gaertner.[14]
  • 1972. Carmina by Traian Lăzărescu.[15]
  • 1991. Periegesis Amatoria by Geneviève Immè.
  • 1992. Harmonica vitrea by Anna Elissa Radke.


  • 1952. Latinarum Litterarum Historia by Antonio d'Elia.[16]
  • 1961. De sacerdotibus sacerdotiisque Alexandri Magni et Lagidarum eponymis by Jozef IJsewijn.[17]
  • 1965. Sententiæ by Alain van Dievoet.
  • 1966. Mystagogus Lycius, sive de historia linguaque Lyciorum by Wolfgang Jenniges.[18]


  • 1994. Ista?!?! by Latin hiphop band Ista.



Various texts—usually children's books—have been translated into Latin since 1900 for various purposes, including use as a teaching tool or simply to demonstrate the author's command of Latin in a popular context.

Contemporary Latin texts include:

Dictionaries, glossaries and phrase books for contemporary Latin

  • 1990. Latin for All Occasions, a book by Henry Beard, attempts to find Latin equivalents for contemporary catchphrases.
  • 1992-1997. Neues Latein Lexicon / Lexicon recentis Latinitatis by Karl Egger, containing more than 15,000 words for contemporary everyday life.
  • 1998. Imaginum vocabularium Latinum by Sigrid Albert.

Contemporary Latin bibliography

In English:

  • W.H.S.Jones, M.A. Via Nova or The Application of the Direct Method to Latin and Greek, Cambridge University Press 1915.
  • Jozef Ijzewijn, A companion to neo-latin studies, 1977.

In Spanish:

  • José Juan del Col, ¿Latín hoy?, published by the Instituto Superior Juan XXII, Bahía Blanca, Argentina, 1998. Downloadable PDF version: ¿Latín hoy?.

In French:

  • Guy Licoppe, Pourquoi le latin aujourd'hui ? : (Cur adhuc discenda sit lingua Latina), s.l., 1989
  • Guy Licoppe, Le latin et le politique : les avatars du latin à travers les âges, Bruxelles, 2003.
  • Françoise Waquet, Le latin ou l'empire d'un signe, XVIe-XXe siècle, Paris, Albin Michel, 1998.

In German:

  • Wilfried Stroh, Latein ist tot, es lebe Latein!: Kleine Geschichte einer großen Sprache (ISBN-13: 9783471788295 & ISBN-10: 3471788298)

See also


  1. ^ "International Code of Botanical Nomenclature (Saint Louis Code), Electronic Version". Retrieved 2008-08-05.  
  2. ^ Cf. Konrad M. Kokoszkiewicz, "A. Gellius, Noctes Atticæ, 16.2.6: tamquam si te dicas adulterum negent", Mnemosyne 58 (2005) 132-135.
  3. ^ Cf. Wielfried Stroh (ed.), Alaudæ. Eine lateinische Zeitschrift 1889-1895 herausgegeben von Karl Heinrich Ulrichs. Nachdruck mit einer Einleitung von Wielfried Stroh, Hamburg, MännerschwarmSkript Verlag, 2004.
  4. ^ Cf. Volfgangus Jenniges, "Vox Urbis (1898-1913) quid sibi proposuerit", Melissa, 139 (2007) 8-11.
  5. ^ Published on the 23rd of October 1952 in the French Bulletin de l'Éducation Nationale, an English version of the same was published in The Classical Journal and signed by himself and Thomas H. Quigley (The Classical Journal, Vol. 49, No. 1, October 1953, pp. 37-40)
  6. ^ Cf. Goodwin B. Beach, "The Congress for Living Latin: Another View", The Classical Journal, Vol. 53, No. 3, December 1957, pp. 119-122:
  7. ^ The fifth conference took place in Pau, France, from the 1st to the 5th of April 1975.
  8. ^ The School world, Macmillan & Co., 1907
  9. ^ E.g. Prof. Edgar H. Sturtevant (The Pronunciation of Greek and Latin, Chicago Ares Publishers Inc. 1940) and Prof. W. Sidney Allen (Vox Latina, A Guide to the Pronunciation of Classical Latin, Cambridge University Press 1965), who followed in the tradition of previous pronunciation reformers; cf. Erasmus's De recta Latini Græcique sermonis pronuntiatione dialogus and even Alcuin's De orthographia.
  10. ^ Cf. [1]
  11. ^ IJsewijn, Jozef, Companion to Neo-Latin Studies. Part I. History and Diffusion of Neo-Latin Literature, Leuven University Press, 1990, p. 113.
  12. ^ IJsewijn, Jozef, Companion to Neo-Latin Studies. Part I. History and Diffusion of Neo-Latin Literature, Leuven University Press, 1990, p. 123.
  13. ^ IJsewijn, Jozef, Companion to Neo-Latin Studies. Part I. History and Diffusion of Neo-Latin Literature, Leuven University Press, 1990, p. 293.
  14. ^ IJsewijn, Jozef, Companion to Neo-Latin Studies. Part I. History and Diffusion of Neo-Latin Literature, Leuven University Press, 1990, p. 293.
  15. ^ IJsewijn, Jozef, Companion to Neo-Latin Studies. Part I. History and Diffusion of Neo-Latin Literature, Leuven University Press, 1990, p. 226.
  16. ^ Cf.
  17. ^ IJsewijn, Jozef, Companion to Neo-Latin Studies. Part I. History and Diffusion of Neo-Latin Literature, Leuven University Press, 1990, p. 156.
  18. ^ Cf.
  19. ^ Asterix in Latin.

External links

Dictionaries and glossaries






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