Why and How did Latin Die?

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Why and How did Latin Die?

Postby CALDVS on Mon Sep 19, 2005 4:33 pm

Salvete Omnes!

Why & How did Latin die?
Wasnt it the Language of all of Rome at one time,was it not?And it was the official language of the Catholic Church for hundreds of yrs.It just doesnt make since that it fell out of use..
Unless all that I know about it is wrong and it was never popular any way,and only popular within the Heiarchy of Rome and by the clergy,and the common people of Rome and Italia spoke other languages and dialects,in the same way that French was the language of Royalty at one time in Britian but the common people spoke English.
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Postby Cleopatra Aelia on Mon Sep 19, 2005 8:13 pm

Salve Calde,

I'm not an expert in this matter so I can only assume. But I think Latin developed and ended in the Romanic languages such as Italian, French and Spanish and even Raetoromanic which is spoken by a minority in Switzerland and derived from a vulgar form of Latin. The clergy stuck to Latin but even that Latin of the clergy in the Medieval times differed a bit from the classical Latin of Cicero.

It's the same with all languages, I think there would be no chance that I could understand a Germanic because their language must be very different from our modern German. The same with the Old Norse and the modern Icelandic (which actually is very close to the Old Norse) and then Danish, Swedish and Norwegian.

It wasn't only French which the European Royals spoke, Latin and Ancient Greek were also taught and if I remember it correctly it was Queen Elizabeth I who still could correspond fluently in Latin - and I guess other people of that time were able to do so as well. It was a sign of good education.
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Postby CALDVS on Mon Sep 19, 2005 8:36 pm

Cleopatra Aelia wrote:Salve Calde,

I'm not an expert in this matter so I can only assume. But I think Latin developed and ended in the Romanic languages such as Italian, French and Spanish and even Raetoromanic which is spoken by a minority in Switzerland and derived from a vulgar form of Latin. The clergy stuck to Latin but even that Latin of the clergy in the Medieval times differed a bit from the classical Latin of Cicero.

It's the same with all languages, I think there would be no chance that I could understand a Germanic because their language must be very different from our modern German. The same with the Old Norse and the modern Icelandic (which actually is very close to the Old Norse) and then Danish, Swedish and Norwegian.

It wasn't only French which the European Royals spoke, Latin and Ancient Greek were also taught and if I remember it correctly it was Queen Elizabeth I who still could correspond fluently in Latin - and I guess other people of that time were able to do so as well. It was a sign of good education.


Salve Aelia!
True,I was aware that Italian,French,Spanish etc,devoloped from Latin,but if Latin was spoken by the general public as a whole,then to me that would imply that either the Latin Language itself devoloped into Italian etc and therefore Italian the oldest out of those would be the direct descendent of Latin or that the common people actually already spoke the dialects(the ones that became French,Italian,Spanish) that replaced true Latin...Does that make since.
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Postby Q Valerius on Tue Sep 20, 2005 4:22 am

Latin was preserved in two ways during the medieval ages - the Classics and the Church. Ecclesiastical Latin eventually prevailed and Classical Latin fell way to the vulgar tongue. But even though the church kept using a fairly identical Latin to the one they used earlier, the common speech again changed (as it always does). So Latin then became the so different that it had to be learned. And learned it was! It was still considered the tongue of the scholarly and of the Church (one Vulgate, no exceptions). After a while, people just stopped learning it, especially when France was at its height. But Latin only ceased to be preferred to be learned in the 19th and 18th centuries.
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Postby CALDVS on Tue Sep 20, 2005 5:14 pm

Salve Scerio,
I understand what you are saying ,but I still dont understand how the Language fell out of use,if it was spoken as the official Language of the Roman people as a whole,the Republic and the Empire..

That would be like if English in America and everywhere else that speaks it just stoped using it one day and began speaking Spanish or French.
That makes me believe that it wasnt the official Language of the people themselves,but other dialects(those that became Italian,French,Spanish and other Romance languages) and that Latin itself was just the main language of Latium including the city of Rome and was used in official documents etc..Because the way I see it is if Rome forced its langauge on the people they conquered(Including those of Italia),then it would have been taught in the schools, etc..and it would have remained the language of the common folk even after the fall of Rome..True it would have grown but it would still be Latin,just like English is still a Germanic language,but it grew from Anglo Saxon.
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It went that-a-way.

Postby Aldus Marius on Fri Sep 23, 2005 8:00 am

Salvete omnes,

> Why & How did Latin die?


[blinks hard, twice]

It did?? (But it was fine when I left the house--!)

...Na; all kidding aside, if you read much at all of my early output to this Collegium, you will find me to be one of the most dyed-in-the-wool Living Latinists you are likely to run into anywhere. Acts of extreme Latinism on my part have included teaching the Mother of Languages to my whole corner of Riverside County, California, for no better reason than because I wished someone to talk to...and almost going to jail because one former-gangbanger pupil of mine spray-painted 'SPQR' on the side of a school building and the police thought they knew just who might have put him up to it.

I've said my Latin comes and goes. It has not always been thus. Before my brain went nova a few years ago, I had serviceable Latin. I was never an expert, of course; but I shared liberally what I had, especially with college classmates and with poor and homeless kids who had never before thought of learning anything just for fun. I last visited five years ago, and most of them were still at it. Even the ones who don't speak Latin anymore have never lost their fascination with Roman history and culture. So my motto on that has been, "Latin a dead language?? --Not within a 50-foot radius of me it aint!!"

But you want to know what happened to everybody speaking Latin. Even in Riverside it is not in daily use. The reasons in Riverside are only the natural consequences of the reasons in old-Roman Europe. And the reasons within the former Empire are much as Domina Cleopatra has said: The evolution of languages, and the passage of time.

The Latin spoken even in the City of Rome had always at least two flavors: that of the educated classes, and that of the man on the street. (It is the same with any tongue; someone said, several topics down, that the most beautiful Spanish s/he'd ever heard was spoken in Mexico City, yet the only Spanish I knew from that country was that 'Tex-Mex' garbage I had to put up with in Dallas on a daily basis.) The common variety of a language is much the more flexible, and much more widespread. Whereas the hallmark of the educated form is its degree of standardization, street-language changes very rapidly indeed as it takes on slang, new words, and new meanings for old words.

Given its prevalence over a wide-enough area, a language like street-Latin will also develop local dialects. As I asked once in "Latin Tips and Tricks", how would a Hispano-Roman pronounce Latin, except with a Baetican or Tarragonan accent? These accents, and some vocabulary, are likely to reflect the cultures that already existed before Rome came; a Celtiberian learning Latin will sound different than a Dacian doing the same thing, because their native-language bases are different. So you see that even from the time Latin was introduced to an area, it was already subject to regional influences.

Now fast-forward this process about four hundred years. That 'conquered' Spanish Province is now furnishing Emperors, grammar professors and a lot of administrative and military types, who make up the bulk of the literate population. For quite a ways around the Provincial capital, Hispano-Latin is the de facto standard of educated discourse...and, at least since a native son took the throne, it may be considered fashionable in the Mother City as well. Romans of Italia hear this and are affected, whether by acceptance, adaptation or revulsion. Cultural interchange is never one-way; if the Spaniards got Romanized, the Romans must have been 'Spanished', at least a little bit.

The same sort of thing is flowing from and back to every other Province in the Empire. Adaptable Romans take a little from here, a bit from there as they see fit. Conservative ones shake their heads and wonder why everyone these days talks like a damn furriner. Some things don't change.

And then, the Fall. The Provinces get cut off from one another and the cultural (including linguistic) interchange becomes severely localised. Latin in these places is changing and adapting the way it always has...but the Spaniards don't get to talk to the Britons much anymore, and the Britons can't remember the last time there was a Dacian in town. So the evolution of each region's version of the language is now taking place in isolation. Early on, the difference between one dialect and another was about the difference between English as spoken in New England, and English as spoken in the southeastern US. Later, it became the difference between Elizabethan English and the modern variety. We can read Shakespeare, but most of us need a glossary.

A few hundred years after that, you've got regional 'Latins' that are no longer fully mutually comprehensible. Oh, the roots are the same, and you can pick out a word here and there, enough to give you the sense of what's being said; but the dialects are well on their way to becoming full-blown languages.

There was no point at which everybody in the Empire just quit speaking Latin. If you asked a Spaniard in AD 800 what language he used, he'd have insisted it was Latin...with Celtiberian, Phoenician, Greek, Visigothic, Moorish, and soon to be Arab influences. In Italia it would've been Ostrogoths, Vandals, and Franks tacking their 'spin' on Latin onto the pre-existing Italic, Celtic and Greek mix. Change the names of the newcomers and you could tell this story about every single Province. Nobody's Latin was any more pure, any more "Roman", any more faithful to the Heritage than anyone else's.

It is the fragmentation of the Empire that enabled the influence of invading peoples on what were already some fairly distinct regional dialects of Latin. And it is that influence which propelled each of these dialects into becoming a separate language, a language of the Romance family.

In short (I should be banned from using that word, huh?): Latin never died. It evolved into something(s) else.

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Re: It went that-a-way.

Postby Aulus Dionysius Mencius on Fri Sep 23, 2005 8:24 am

Marius Peregrine wrote:

...and almost going to jail because one former-gangbanger pupil of mine spray-painted 'SPQR' on the side of a school building and the police thought they knew just who might have put him up to it.



LMAO at that one, mi Mari. :shock: :lol:

Even if it wasn't funny at the time, which I am sure, it makes a good story about the reception of romanitas in today's world, nonne...

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Re: It went that-a-way.

Postby CALDVS on Fri Sep 23, 2005 9:22 pm

Marius Peregrine wrote:In short (I should be banned from using that word, huh?): Latin never died. It evolved into something(s) else.


Salve Peregine!
Okay thats what I was thinking it was, just wasnt sure...

Even though that was what I was thinking I didnt not know every little detail that you gave,so Thank you very much for your input....
Last edited by CALDVS on Tue Oct 04, 2005 4:54 pm, edited 2 times in total.
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Postby Gnaeus Dionysius Draco on Sat Oct 01, 2005 12:13 pm

I didn't read Marius's long post (sorry), so he may have said it already, but another fact to consider is the cultural fragmentation of the late Empire and the distances. Generations of people may have lived in, say, Hispania without ever being exposed to the upper class Latin. So, why would they accomodate to a language standard they don't know? Also, while Latin had some form of standard in writing (though this was not ruled by any convention), there was no standard Latin language. These three factors, I think, contributed a lot to the fragmentation of Latin into the Romance languages.

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Death of Latin - Birth of Linguistics?

Postby Valerius Claudius Iohanes on Wed Mar 08, 2006 9:40 pm

Salve omnes -

Warning - this is very tangential and, I suppose, obvious...

But it occurs to me the fact that Latin "died", that it evolved into various forms, and yet was also maintained in the Church (and in schools), forced the inheritors of Rome's legacy to learn Latin as a second language - along with Greek, and later Hebrew. This must have been good preparation for the Jesuits and others who, in the heyday of exploration, had to learn the vernaculars of all those nations where European sailing technology was taking them. These missionaries lived doing on-the-job comparative linguistics, I should think. So - and in contrast to the I-don't-care-a-fig-about-the-natives attitude that Romans and their successors may have evinced - Latin was a handy tool for European colonization, and for the advances in Linquistics that followed.
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Eh...?

Postby Aldus Marius on Wed Mar 08, 2006 10:14 pm

Said this descendant of Spaniards and Andean Indians:

...And the European colonists *did* care a fig?


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Postby Iacobulus on Thu Mar 09, 2006 1:10 am

Everyone has made good points as to how Latin ceased to be spoken as a common language, but let us not forget that Latin became the language of scholars beginning in the Medieval era, particularly with the rise of the university and burgeoning Humanism. Pietrus Abelardus corresponded with Heloisa entirely in Latin in the 13th century, as did Erasmus and Thomas Moore in the 15th century, in fact neither Thomas Moore nor Erasmus spoke each other's native tongue, that is English and Dutch; they communicated exclusively in Latin, be in epistles or in person.

Latin persisted as a scholarly language until it was usurped by French beginning in the 18th century, at which point French became the new scholarly language.

Also, Latin was a spoken language in the Byzantine Roman empire, although Greek was spoken even more, right up until Constantinople fell in 1453.
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Re: Eh...?

Postby Valerius Claudius Iohanes on Thu Mar 09, 2006 2:58 am

Aldus Marius wrote:Said this descendant of Spaniards and Andean Indians:

...And the European colonists *did* care a fig?

In fide,

Respondit Valerius Iohannensis:

No - not much of a fig at all! I guess I wasn't clear -

When I mentioned "their (Rome's) successors", I meant that this is what Spain, France, England, etc., as state powers WERE. By extension, so were the conquistadors they sent out. Conquerors tend to be fig-deficient, it seems.
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Yes! Why lose Latin?

Postby Valerius Claudius Iohanes on Thu Mar 09, 2006 3:15 am

Salve Iacobule - Yes, thank you, Latin has never died out, it's simply died away. On one hand, it's been removed, made specialistic and scarce. It's present in English and other tongues, especially in higher register borrowings and in scientific name-coining, it's still part of the Church (to a large degree), in frozen legal terms, and for the general populace it still exerts a magic influence when it's heard (as does the idea of Rome). So it stays around, and not in a simply ghosty way, either.

And spoken Latin, as Marius said, survived, dispersed and evolved, and does quite well in Italy, France, Spain, Portugal, Romania, Brazil, Mexico, Columbia, etc.

Iacobulus wrote:Everyone has made good points as to how Latin ceased to be spoken as a common language, but let us not forget that Latin became the language of scholars beginning in the Medieval era, particularly with the rise of the university and burgeoning Humanism. Pietrus Abelardus corresponded with Heloisa entirely in Latin in the 13th century, as did Erasmus and Thomas Moore in the 15th century, in fact neither Thomas Moore nor Erasmus spoke each other's native tongue, that is English and Dutch; they communicated exclusively in Latin, be in epistles or in person.

Latin persisted as a scholarly language until it was usurped by French beginning in the 18th century, at which point French became the new scholarly language.

Also, Latin was a spoken language in the Byzantine Roman empire, although Greek was spoken even more, right up until Constantinople fell in 1453.
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Postby Marcus Pomponius Lupus on Sun Mar 26, 2006 3:09 pm

Salvete,

I haven't read all previous answers, so if I sound a bit redundant, bear with me.

I believe the reason that Latin died was that it ceased to evolve. Bear in mind that there weren't real "grammary books" in even Cicero's time. Latin was taught by reading famous works of literature. For example in the first century AD the "canon" consisted of Cicero and Sallustius (prose) and Vergilius and Terentius (poetry).

Authors like Lucanus, Statius and Italicus had examples of what was considered "good Latin", but they could still do some things different without people telling them "hey, the grammar in this sentence is all wrong".

For example, there was a time when forms einding in -erint were considered to be "better sounding" than forms ending in -erunt, and we can then see authors using those forms in places where Ennius would have used the form in -erunt. If enough people do this, you have a language that's evolving.

It follows then, that Latin "died", when it ceased to evolve, when there was no longer a descriptive grammar of Latin, but a normative grammar. That's how we treat Latin today, if I would use a form ending in -erint because I like how it sounds, everyone would tell me that I'm wrong, that it is "incorrect Latin" and that my sentence should have the form in -erunt.

Latin can no longer evolve and so it's no longer a living language. Today it's an obvious situation, we can try all we want, we're not going to be able to make it alive again, because the codified version of Latin has spread all over the world. It would take an impossible effort to mobilize everyone and "agree" to make it alive again and the result would probably be that we would no longer be able to understand each other's Latin.

For example, scholars in the United States might start to use forms in -erint instead of -erunt, those in Europe might stick with -erunt, those in Asia might opt for forms in -erant and so on.

When Latin became codified, is a matter of personal taste, I guess. You could go with 476 AD, a lot of people had trouble writing Latin at that time, you could go with the Carolingian Renaissance, when Alcuinus of York wrote down a grammar, which became the basis of an entire administration, ...

Another way of telling that Latin is a "dead language" is by looking at its rules for pronounciation and spelling. They are now fixed and nothing will change the way we write "Arma virumque cano, Troiae qui primus ab oris".

Latin has evolved but then it also became another language, for example:

laudare becomes lodare in Italian
aurum becomes oro in Italian
causa becomes cosa in Italian

I think a language can only really "die" when all of its speakers are suddenly gone. Latin didn't die, it evolved, it became what we now call "French", and "Italian", and "Spanish", ... but when you want to read something that was written 2000 years ago, you need a grammar and a lexicon to understand what it says.

If you create one, then you have the grammar of a language that has no chance of evolving, because it has already ceased to be a language that is spoken.

Basically, that is what Latin is today: an instrument to read ancient texts and even though we can write new texts in Latin today, we cannot make it alive again, we cannot make it evolve again.

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Postby Primus Aurelius Timavus on Thu Mar 30, 2006 7:43 pm

Lupe,

I am intrigued by your argument, but not sure that I'm convinced by it.

If a language dies once it is codified, English, French, and every other world language is dead. Clearly, codification is not a barrier to evolution. Languages can evolve through the introduction of new words and slang, grammatical constructions (e.g. "...so then he goes, 'What the hell?'" in American English), pronouciations, etc. None of these is impeded by what the standard or code says is normative. And over time some innovations become incorporated in the standard.

The difference with Latin is that no one is speaking it in their daily life. That is why it is not evolving, not because there are rules. There are no speakers to ignore the rules.

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Postby Victoria Aurelia Ovensa on Thu Aug 31, 2006 11:08 pm

What about Interlingua (the artificially-created "modern Latin" language)? It is largely based on Latin but vastly simplified, i.e. no changing endings or gender forms etc. Very easy to learn for a speaker of any Romance language or heavily Romance-influenced language such as English. Scandinavian children taught Interlingua for a year could read newspaper articles in Italian, Spanish and Portuguese with good comprehension without the aid of a dictionary. In other words, if the Romance languages are the modern descendents of Latin, then Interlingua reunifies them into a hybrid that demonstrates what an unfragmented modern Latin would be like, had it evolved differently (and with some slight Germanic input from the bastard child of Latin and German, English)... or, not "died out", as it were.
Does anyone here have knowledge or experience of Interlingua, or better, of both Latin and Interlingua? I am just a beginner, and it would be interesting to hear a comparison or evaluation from one more advanced than I.
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Postby cepasaccus on Sat Oct 06, 2007 1:33 am

“Verweile doch, du bist so schön, bleib stehn!, schöner kannst du nicht mehr werden” ("Please stay, you are so beautiful, stand still! lovelier you can get anymore")

Prof. Stroh is of the opinion, that because of its beauty Latin started to die in the reign of Augustus. Cicero's and other's Latin continued to be used by the elite mob without modification while the people deviated from this norm up to Spanish etc.. And because of its beauty it isn't dead yet.

If you understand German you can read more at http://www.klassphil.uni-muenchen.de/%7 ... zauber.htm (linked from http://www.klassphil.uni-muenchen.de/%7 ... litas.html).

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Postby Primus Aurelius Timavus on Mon Oct 08, 2007 12:57 am

Ok, I can recognize that as Goethe, Faust even, but who is speaking and to whom?
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Postby Gaius Iulius Tabernarius on Thu Mar 27, 2008 9:19 pm

I wonder how different is Italian and Latin compared to old and new English?

I remember from reading Shakespeare's Julius Caesar that the original old English was almost reminiscent of using my mediocre knowledge of Italian to communicate with my Hispanic friends. Not as bad but still challenging.
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