How did Latin become a dead language?

By lisamazingg, in 'General Latin Chat (English)', Dec 2, 2008.

  1. lisamazingg New Member

    How come nobody speaks it anymore? lol why's it so dead?
  2. Decimvs Aedilis

    • Aedilis
    I think that that is kind of complicated. Much like the Roman Empire, some argue that it is not in fact "dead" it just sort of changed, evolved. From what I understand, most of the Latin that we now have and read is the polished Latin that was written by noblemen. A deep understanding of day-to-day "street Latin" is not available to us. It can be speculated about, but the resources are not there to really know many things for certain.

    We have the romance languages which give clues to how common Latin was spoken and how it evolved into other languages.

    One could say that English is a dead language also, and what we speak now days is a bastardized and poor version of the older construction. Languages are so fluid and forever changing, they bend and shape. And the changes are so slight and can happen over such a long period of time that there really is no definite time when a language "dies," it just begins to be less and less like what it was thousands of years ago.
  3. Bitmap Civis Illustris

    • Civis Illustris
    Location:
    Cygnea, Gena
    We have some evidence of vulgar from comedies by Plautus and Terence; but you even happen to find slippery passages in some of Cicero's letters.

    Latin is - per definitionem - dead as it has no native speakers anymore. Different Latin dialects in different regions developed in different ways until they were not mutually intellegible anymore (which is basically what allows them to be called "different languages"). In written documents, a certain standard had always been retained and it is weird that the first real evidence we have for the fact that the Romance dialects had become languages of their own are the oaths of Strasbourg, which were as late as 842, although a certain protoromanic speech that was different from classical Latin and gave way to new languages had probably evolved centuries before that.

    I don't like citing wikipedia, but the article on vulgar Latin happens to be quite good (if you're interested in that kind of stuff): http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vulgar_Latin

    That's a claim you find rather often, even in some historical documents that date back as far as 300 years (and possibly even more). However, that's far from scientific.

    That's true, people don't wake up on New Year's Day speaking a new language all of a sudden :) Some changes come about rather strikingly and fast, though, like the Tudor vowel shift in the English language.
  4. sirczah New Member

    Saying That Latin Is A Dead Language To Me Would Be Like Referring To An Elder Relative That Passed Away, Because Latin Is Basically The Roots Of Many (If Not Most) Of Today's "More Popular" Languages.
  5. Anonymous Guest

    I once heard that Latin didn't go extinct (or 'die') but that it went through pseudoextinction and just evolved (which we can all see it evolved; I feel like Captain Obvious). But I guess the distinct Latin language just died out like other languages do. I guess an example is one of the Sami languages is considered to have become a dead language in 2003 when the last known speaker passed away in December of that year.

    There are also some that argue that Latin isn't dead since it's one of the official languages of the Vatican, but that would be ecclesiastical Latin anyway (though I'm not experienced enough to know what exactly the difference is nor have I read the Latin bible)
  6. Matthaeus Vemortuicida strenuus

    • Civis Illustris
    Location:
    Varsovia
    Nothing is truly dead which lives on in memory.
  7. Decimvs Aedilis

    • Aedilis
    But, as seen here, everything hinges on one's definition of dead.
  8. cepasaccus Civis Illustris

    • Civis Illustris
    Latin died several deaths and is still alive. The first death was two thousand years ago. Cicero and others set the reference for "good" Latin not only for us but even for the Romans. So "good" Latin stopped to evolve at this point. The Latin of the people still evolved and we have for example Italian now from this. The last big death was around 300 years ago. Before that date Latin was used for scientific work just like English is now. Then came the nationalists and we had French, German, English, Italian, ... . Maybe English shares now the fate of Latin and is frozen for eternity.

    valete
  9. Matthaeus Vemortuicida strenuus

    • Civis Illustris
    Location:
    Varsovia
    That's a very good point. Yet supposedly it is taught as a living language in two schools in Brussels. If you scroll down, you'll find out: http://avitus.alcuinus.net/schola_latina/invitatio_en.php Has anyone ever seen this? I mean, these webmasters are serious about keeping it alive. I would encourage you to become familiar with its contents.
  10. Labienus Civis Illustris

    • Civis Illustris
    I don't understand exactly what you mean here. English is still evolving and will be for the foreseeable future! Words are constantly entering the language and the grammarians are constantly at war and debating changes and innovations.

    It could well suffer the same fate at some point in the future but I can't see it in the foreseeable future...

    ... or am I missing your point? :brickwall:
  11. Matthaeus Vemortuicida strenuus

    • Civis Illustris
    Location:
    Varsovia
    Well, for instance, there are many words considered 'book', or 'sophisticated' words which everyday people don't use or don't even have the slightest inkling that they exist, e.g. 'effervescence', 'vicissitude', 'ebullient,' 'undulate,' 'mansuetude,' 'lascivious,' etc...(and what's funny, all of them are Latin-derived), the list goes on and on. There is a wide gap, I think in every language, between the written artistic form and the spoken, utilitarian dialects and colloquialisms. I don't know, maybe I'm missing the point as well...

    For example, many words in Shakespeare's Middle English have become extinct now and there are many archaisms, like 'dost thou?' or 'he saith', although the traditional King James Bible keeps them alive, I guess. This is one example of the evolution of languages. And as Bitmap said, the Great Vowel Shift that occurred in the XVIth c. contributed much to the pronunciation. Who's to say English won't change in the next few decades, let alone centuries? Shakespeare himself had trouble with Chaucer's language, I think, let alone Old English, which dated even earlier!! :doh:

    I'd be thrilled to hear comments about this.
  12. Bitmap Civis Illustris

    • Civis Illustris
    Location:
    Cygnea, Gena
    I think what cepassacus means is that English being the language used for scientific discussions and about anything else in this world is at its peak at the moment and may retain its written standard/style, even though the language itself will change. So in 300 years from now, you will find people writing the same elaborate English as we do today, but speaking a completely different language in every day conversations (the King James Bible is just one example of the gap between preserving a written standard and speaking the actual language. eg no one says "thou" anymore). That's what happened with Latin at least.

    However, I don't think present day English is comparable to Latin.

    this is how Latin lives on I suppose :p A lot of European languages make up high register words from Latin.

    We may be going off topic if we discuss English here. It's pretty evident though that that language is in constant change. The differences in pronunciation between American and British English that have evolved over the last 300-400 years are just one example.
  13. Matthaeus Vemortuicida strenuus

    • Civis Illustris
    Location:
    Varsovia
    Te recte dicis, de lingua latina tantum loquamur!
  14. cepasaccus Civis Illustris

    • Civis Illustris
    That is exactly what I mean. English is now a world language and not anymore that of the British and also not that of the US people. So we will probably get not only a British English and an American English, which deviate from each other even further, but also an International English. The larger the group and the larger the distances in this group the less a language can evolve. As long as there was a centralized administration in the Roman state which controlled all provinces and there was exchange between these provinces with trade, military and so on, so long it was imporant that a Gaul could understand an African and this reduced the speed of change, even so this was not anymore Cicero's elite Latin. But once this exchange was not necessary anymore the languages of the Gauls and the Italics etc. could evolve to French and Italian.

    valete
  15. paruos Civis Illustris

    • Civis Illustris
    Location:
    Rio de Janeiro
    The matter isn't why, but *how*:

    It had many children.
    The children, accodingly to any decent myth,
    ate the parent in a banquet.

    Thus it died.

    Its vitality was divided by its children: Italia; Normandie, Provence, Catalunya, Castilla, Galicia, and Portugal; & Romania.
  16. Matthaeus Vemortuicida strenuus

    • Civis Illustris
    Location:
    Varsovia
    So that makes the children very ungrateful indeed.
  17. paruos Civis Illustris

    • Civis Illustris
    Location:
    Rio de Janeiro
    Well .. it happens a lot, in the myths :wondering:

    (But .. you see?: this is the Greek responsability on Roman culture :mrgreen: )



    ( :---) )
    :whistle:

    :boohoo:
  18. Matthaeus Vemortuicida strenuus

    • Civis Illustris
    Location:
    Varsovia
    Can you give an example?
  19. paruos Civis Illustris

    • Civis Illustris
    Location:
    Rio de Janeiro
    :hand: I'll leave it for the priests. Send for them.

    ( :mrgreen: )
  20. Matthaeus Vemortuicida strenuus

    • Civis Illustris
    Location:
    Varsovia
    Do you know any Greek myths regarding that?

Share This Page

 

Our Latin forum is a community for discussion of all topics relating to Latin language, ancient and medieval world.

Latin Boards on this Forum:

English to Latin, Latin to English translation, general Latin language, Latin grammar, Latine loquere, ancient and medieval world links.