Latin Language

Latin was the native language of the Romans, who spread it petty much throughout their empire. After the collapse of Rome, the language "died." Actually, Latin didn't really die, it just turned into Italian, French, Spanish, and several other languages. Or, more accurately, it turned into dozens of local dialects, which gradually merged to form those more familiar languages. This dialect formation had been going on for centuries. Indeed, educated Romans had often bemoaned the increasinly incomprehensible versions of Latin which were developing in the provinces. The dialects evolved through the absorbtion by the local Latin speakers of words and grammar from the conquered peoples. Although the barbarians who overran the empire were mostly unable to impose their own language on the, by then, romanized locals, they did effect numerous changes in the local form of Latin. As a result, by Charlemagne 's day (c. 800), the changes had become so great that in much of Europe the common people could no longer understand sermons in Church, albeit that they were being delivered in what was once Vulgar (low class) Latin As a result, the Emperor decreed that henceforth sermons were to be in the "lingua latina rustica" (the country-people's Latin). In other words, preach to the people in the language spoken in the area. It is durng this period that the first writings genuinely identifiable as French, and later Spanish, and still later Italian are to be found. Of the Romance (literally "the Roman's") languages of Western Europe, French moved furthest from Latin, Italian the least. Indeed, it is still possible to write something in Italian which is perfectly acceptable classical Latin, as the following poem demonstrates.jjjjjjj

Te saluto, alma Dea, Dea generosa,

O gloria nostra, o veneta regin!

In procelloso turbino fuensto

Tu regnasti serea; mille membra

Intrepida prostrati in pugna acerba;

Vivo in pace per to. Regna, o beata!

Regna in prosper sorte, in pompa augusta,

in perpetua splendore, in aurea sede!

Tu serena, tu placida, tu pia,

Tu benigna, me salva, ama, conserva!

But while Latin was evolving into the Romance languages, the Church continued to use it for official purposes, as did also the law and the universities. Or at least continued to use what they fondly believed was Latin. In fact, what passed for Latin in the Church, the Law, and the university was a new form of the language, generally regarded as Medieval Latin. Chock full of germanisms and herbaisms, with many words having meanings not found in classical times, and with new grammatical forms (such as a word for the first person singular). Medieval Latin would probably have made Cicero gag had he had the misfortune to encounter it, but he was a bit of a snob anyway.