Friday, October 18, 2019

Latin Linguistics on Quora

When did Latin and Old French stop being mutually intelligible?

Hans-Georg Lundahl
none/ apprx Masters Latin & Greek, Lund University
Answered Apr 8, 2019
When Latin stopped being the written reference for the spoken language, which is before one can speak of actual Old French.

One needs a generation of speakers who had never been used to Latin in Church sounding like an oldfashioned version with many archaic words and forms of their own language, to whom Latin had all their life been a distinct language.

In the region of Tours, Latin became a distinct language between 800 and 813, due to Alcuin of York changing the pronunciation, but you cannot speak of Old French as long as those born after 813 are not the oldest generation yet, since the spoken language would still have a bit too many traces of diglossia to be properly non-Latin.

Why isn't Latin natively spoken anymore while Greek survived even though both were extremely common languages of the pivotal Roman Empire?

Answer requested
by Ellie Williams

Hans-Georg Lundahl
none/ apprx Masters Latin & Greek, Lund University
Answered Sep 28, 2019
Modern Greek is about as close or far from Classic Greek as Italian or Romanian from Latin, except for two things:

  • 1) Greek has mainly kept its spelling
  • 2) Classic Greek has for long (up to 1970) been felt as standard while modern Greek has been seen as substandard alternative forms for Classic Greek, leading to a spectrum between fullblown Classic and fairly un-Classic Dhimotiki, with a whole ranger between.

By contrast:

  • 1) Latin spelling has been reused after a while of phonetic drift for a restored Classicising pronunciation;
  • 2) Italian has become its own standard without loosing contact with Latin;
  • 3) Romanian has lately become its own standard, but only after having Bulgarian replace Latin as the standard or prestige language. While Bulgarian or Old Church Slavonic was the standard written language, Romanian could obviously not be felt as a substandard form of it, it was a substandard language.

Was the language of the city-state of Rome at the dawn of its creation Latin like their neighboring Latin tribes? Or did they have their own regional language before adopting Latin as their official one?

Hans-Georg Lundahl
none/ apprx Masters Latin & Greek, Lund University
Answered Sep 30, 2019
Latin was the language only of Lazio - about the area between Rome and Praeneste.

Other parts of Italy had other languages which have disappeared.

How different is the ancient Latin language from the modern Latin language? Can any Latin-speaking people testify if they understand Classical Latin of Cicero’s Republic, et al.?

Answer requested
by Matthew Barry

Hans-Georg Lundahl
none/ apprx Masters Latin & Greek, Lund University
Answered Oct 16, 2019
I understand Cicero when reading, I am not sure I would understand him completely if hearing him.

However, there are Latinists better than I.

I have also concentrated on Medieval Latin, so I would understand St. Thomas Aquinas much better than I would understand Cicero. Many have opposite priority.

There are two ways of pronouncing Latin still used today (the other ones were either well before Cicero or between Cicero and St. Thomas, like in the days of St. Gregory of Tours, or the one Alcuin of York replaced with “Medieval” - standard Medieval - Latin in Tours). I use the Medieval one, though I have been taught both, so I would already by pronunciation be closer to St. Thomas. There too others have the opposite priority.

I would say most Latinists with Ancient / Classical as opposed to Medieval priority, if good, would passively understand all of Cicero even orally, but actively have a syntax somewhat “tainted” by modern languages (in Medieval Latin that is not a fault).

Both of us would know words and word uses for things invented or changed since the days of Cicero. I would call a blog “bloggus” and a Classicising Latinist would probably be more likely to call it an “ephemeridium electronicum”.

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