- If the origin of most languages is Latin, what is the origin of Latin?
- Answer requested
- by Guy Frémont
- Hans-Georg Lundahl
- I speak two langs, Latin and Germanic. In a few dialects.
- Answered 51m ago
- “If the origin of most languages is Latin, what is the origin of Latin?”
If the origin of all Romance languages (and these being a majority of the Big Ten, I think? - but a clear minority of all 6000 languages!) is Latin, well, the origin of Latin as such is unknown.
It is unknown in the sense of undocumented.
600 BC you find a fibula with very archaic Latin, unless the fibula is a forgery.
“Manios med fhefhaked.”
In Classic Latin, it is Manius me fecit. Those arguing the fibula is a forgery argue on linguistic grounds, it would instead have been “Manios med fheked”. This is to Latin, what 1st C. Proto-Nordic (“ek hlewagastiz holtingaz horna tawido”) is to Medieval Old Norse. But it counts as very old Latin.
Before the “Manios med fhefhaked/fheked” type of language, which is hard to understand if you only know Classical Latin, and which is a reason why “Carmen Saliare” in Classical times was no longer understood, there is no firm documented knowledge.
In Antiquity, one thought Latin was a branch of the Aeolic dialect of Greek. Partly because of similarities (Latin is more similar on comparative items to Aeolic than to Attic, for instance), partly for expedience, so Romans would not count as Barbarians (an expedience earlier shown to Macedonian).
Last two centuries, the majority opinion has been, Latin and Greek both descend from an earlier language, spoken thousands of years before the “Manios med fhefhaked” or “Manios med fheked” type of Latin. It is called proto-Indo-European. It has been variously constructed, and has been called the “fastest changing language of the 1860’s” or “of the 1870’s”.
Schleicher’s famous fable has been given in each of them, I think. The earliest version was very close to Sanskrit. The latest version, by a Finnish University doctor, is very close to Hittite. Between them, there has been a version which owed most of itself to “what would the proto-form leading to Homeric Greek and to Lithuanian look like?” It is not yet dead.
Yet another option is, diverse branches of Indo-European were not really descended from a same language, but from their earlier forms being more distinct, and from a Sprachbund leading to emerging similarities - a phenomenon seen in the Balkan area. That is my own version.
Since then, Mycenean Greek has been found. Since it still has a Q-series of consonants, it is less far from Latin than Classic Greek is. The Classic idea is not totally to be excluded.
For my own part, I think earliest IE languages functioning as such were spoken around Aegean, across Balkan to the West and to Syrian border and Crete and Cyprus in the East, and the Sprachbund emerging between them would have been very influenced by Hittite. Sanskrit would have come from a language on Crete, if a certain French linguist is correct about Linear A, and so would Avestic Persian have. Celtic would have come by a later Sprachbund - perhaps also involving Italic (Latin with relatives) which would owe something to Hittite and very early Greek.
That Celtic started out as a Sprachbund, rather than a simple monophyletic development from PIE has been suggested by the more mainstream scholar Barry Cunliffe. As far as I know, he has not tried to apply same idea to IE language community. Trubetskoy, the founder of Balkan linguistics, has.