Friday, March 6, 2020

Exact Nature of Latin Language (quora)

What exactly is the Latin language?

Answer requested by
Kelly McGovern

Hans-Georg Lundahl
none/ apprx Masters Latin & Greek, Lund University
Answered Tue
Which one of them?

The Classical Latin which was a native language?

The clearly post-Classical Latin which was a diglossia?

The Alcuinian and Erasmian Latins that are classic languages?

  • 1) Classical Latin was the native language of Cicero and maybe of Caesar (unless Caesar’s native was Greek, but if so he picked up Latin quickly enough to write in it).
  • 2) The Latin of Gregory of Tours was a diglossia, it spanned five levels from pre-French or I have seeen the actual term proto-French to pure, and learned, Latin, with great porosity between the levels.
  • 3) The language of Alcuin was a foreign language that no one in his time had spoken as real native language (individual exceptions, like you can raise someone in Latin or Esperanto now), and that is what we mainly mean by a classical language. That of Erasmus was similar, except it was way more closely copied from the Classical Latin which was Cicero’s native language.

When were they spoken / written?

  • 1) From the comedies of Terence getting played in 170–160 BC to a bit after fall of Roman Emperor in AD 476;
  • 2) From a bit after the fall of the Roman Emperor to Alcuin in 476 to Alcuin arriving in Tours in 800;
  • 3) From 800 to anything ranging from Petrarch to Erasmus and then from anything ranging from Petrarch to Erasmus up to present when writing Latin, except when Alcuinian Latin is sought.

Some of these time limits are subject to diversity of timing in diverse regions of Europe.

Number 1 and 3 are clearly comprehensible, as we still are using Latin in an Alcuinian / Erasmian way, while number 2 depends on how close it comes to Classical and Alcuinian Latin. Or on how much research you do into that of authors like Gregory and Fredegar of Tours, or Jordanes.

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