Saturday, August 5, 2023

More on Language : Latin to Romance

No, "Language Divorce" is Not my Amateur Term for Divergent Evolution! · Proto-Languages - How Are they Reconstructed? · Sabellian and some more, but first Vulgar Latin · Indo-European and Romance are Very Different as to Diachronic Linguistics · More on Language : Latin to Romance · More on Latin to Romance and Middle English to English · More on language in general

How do we know what spoken Latin sounded like if no one ever recorded it?

Hans-Georg Lundahl
none/ apprx Masters in Latin (language) & Greek (language), Lund University
Thu 3.VIII.2023
Obviously written Latin is a recording of spoken Latin.

If we had no record of Latin and had to reconstruct it based on the Romance languages, how close would we be able to get?

Hans-Georg Lundahl
Studied Latin (language) at Lund University
Thu 3.VIII.2023
There is no doubt at all that Colloquial Latin had the six cases, which could not be reconstructed from Romance, and there is also no doubt that prior to 1st C AD colloquial Latin had the Classical Latin future, with -bo, -bis in I and II conjugations, -am, -es in III and IV conjugations + ero.

These can absolutely not be reconstructed from Romance.

Colloquial Latin, even in Classical times, eventually, but only in AD times, got a beginning of the Romance Future. When future “vocabit” and perfect “vocavit” (he will call / he called) were pronounced the same, when “vocabimus” and “vocavimus” (we will call / we called) were pronounced the same, eventually one started to use “vocare habeo” for the future.

It’s a few centuries later, in clearly post-Classical times, like before 600 AD, that non-nominative cases had been conflated with accusative, except for vocative which was conflated with nominative, even earlier. The Christian vocative “Deus” is a relict of this earlier conflation.

Why are most of the Germanic and Romance languages in Western Europe more grammatically simpler than the Greek, Slavic, Baltic, and Albanian ones in the East? Does it have something to do with the Romans, or the industrial revolution?

Hans-Georg Lundahl
amateur linguist
The Industrial Revolution is totally out of this question, since all of the languages you refer to had lost morphological (not necessarily grammatical overall) complexity well before it.

Now, let’s check the Romans a bit.

Latin had five short vowels and five long vowels, and short vowels at the end of words could be nasal. A few centuries later, while one continued to write like this (but no distinction between long and short, and ending nasal vowels spelled with vowel + m), the pronunciation changed. Nasal vowels became oral. Long and short vowels became mid long, and instead of overall ten phonemes, the vowels were reduced to basically seven phonemes. This means that the following endings came to coincide:

  • -um and -o and -u
  • -us and -os
  • -i and -e and -ae and -em (and -im)
  • -is and -es
  • -am and -a

And THIS meant that lots of nouns and ajectives suddenly had case forms coinciding galore. Declinsion changed. It was simplified, first to a two case system, then to a one case system, except for Romanian. And even in Romanian, the Genitive Dative is only different from the Nominative Accusative in nouns because they have definite forms with definite article endings that reuse pronouns.

Conjugation actually changed far less, apart from ditching the Latin passive forms, and one change involved adding more forms. When the Latin future was replaced with the Romance future, the Romance conditional was created as a by product.

Now, let’s go to Germanic. English and later Dutch underwent the simplification of declinsions. So probably did Low German, and definitely most of the Scandinavian languages (the ones in contact with Low German). Meanwhile, the Germanic languages also introduced Conditional. Please note, unlike the case in Finnish, both Romance conditional and Germanic conditional is an optional swap for past subjunctive. So, the Germanic languages were influenced by (West) Romance syntax. The ones least influenced were Icelandic / Faroese (which are outliers in relation to Low German) and High German, which was a solid and syntactically declinsion based language.

So, the answer is: a few sound changes triggered syntactic and morphological changes between Latin and Romance, and Germanic is in a Sprachbund relation with Romance and therefore took over lots of these changes, a bit less in Icelandic and German - though German certainly has a conditional, I don’t know about Icelandic.

Meanwhile, Greek, Slavic, Baltic, Albanian do not have this ditching of Declinsions. On the other hand, Modern Greek has less conjugation, and Slavic and Baltic had fewer tenses and moods than Greek and Latin even to begin with (I wouldn’t know for Albanian - we do not have any attested ancient or early medieval language definitely identified as ancestral to Albanian).