Wednesday, 17 March 2010

Why Latin is a dead language: a practical lesson from History (Part 1 of 5)


Although hundreds of individuals teach Latin for a living, few of them spend time explaining why it became a dead language. If you read about its history, facts are presented as self-evident and no general lessons are drawn.

The official version of the story is that, when the Roman Empire was conquered in the 5th century, barbarian words polluted the purity of ancient speech. Foreign influences changed the manner of writing Latin, did away with its grammar, and distorted its pronunciation.

During the Middle Ages, clerics and lawyers tried to maintain the old language alive, overall with little success. The quality of written Latin deteriorated at the same speed as it was taught to younger generations. The spoken word, undisturbed by grammatical constraints, became approximative and vague.

By the end of the 16th century, the great language of antiquity was clinically death, although a few volumes were still written and published in Latin in the 17th century. Those relics symbolize man's reluctance to acknowledge tidal changes that disrupt established patterns of thought.

To be continued in Part 2

[Text: http://johnvespasian.blogspot.com]

[Image by nattu under Creative Commons Attribution License. See the license terms under http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/us]

Why Latin is a dead language: a practical lesson from History (Part 1 of 5)


Although hundreds of individuals teach Latin for a living, few of them spend time explaining why it became a dead language. If you read about its history, facts are presented as self-evident and no general lessons are drawn.

The official version of the story is that, when the Roman Empire was conquered in the 5th century, barbarian words polluted the purity of ancient speech. Foreign influences changed the manner of writing Latin, did away with its grammar, and distorted its pronunciation.

During the Middle Ages, clerics and lawyers tried to maintain the old language alive, overall with little success. The quality of written Latin deteriorated at the same speed as it was taught to younger generations. The spoken word, undisturbed by grammatical constraints, became approximative and vague.

By the end of the 16th century, the great language of antiquity was clinically death, although a few volumes were still written and published in Latin in the 17th century. Those relics symbolize man's reluctance to acknowledge tidal changes that disrupt established patterns of thought.

To be continued in Part 2

[Text: http://johnvespasian.blogspot.com]

[Image by nattu under Creative Commons Attribution License. See the license terms under http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/us]