By unlibrobrujo, in 'Latin Culture', Nov 13, 2015.
Italian is indeed the de facto language of daily communication in the Vatican, but the definitive version of many types of official documents is still a Latin text. The nonsense of the current situation is that the vast majority of these texts is worked out in a modern vernacular (usually Italian, occasionally French, Polish if you have a Polish Pope, or German if you have a German one) and finally translated into Latin.
I hope at least that the translator is basically competent. You never know these days...
Even more so since I imagine that sort of translation requires (far) more than a basic competence...
Theses translations are done by the Dept. of Latin Letters. They are the elite corps of Vatican Latinists. A 'definitive version' is more than just an excellent translation, it is the gold standard against which any subsequent translations and any future disputes or questions must be measured. Last I heard, Mgr. Gallagher was finishing his doctorate in some aspect of Thomistic philosophy. In addition to being top notch Latinists and translators they must be competent philosophers and theologians too. Plus, anything they write will be checked by many pairs of eyes in the competent dicasteries and Pontifical Universities.
This article seems to back up the idea that Italian is really the main language of the Vatican, with only around 100 people speaking Latin fluently. It also mentions how the Latin version is the standard version for history, as Terry mentioned.
It also starts out with the great scoop on Pope Benedict's resignation an Italian journalist got because she spoke Latin. Other articles even mentioned how she had an argument with her editor because no other wire service was reporting the news (they were waiting for the translations).
Talk about adding insult to injury...
Good article. Thanks for posting the link.
No one knows better than Reggie the state of play for Latin in the Vatican. It's not just that since Latin in the Mass was basically dropped (contra legem!), Latinity among the clergy has declined. The reality is that it was already declining and being sustained "artificially" by the requirement for the celebration of various liturgies vid. Veterum Sapientia. Once Latin for liturgy had gone, the bottom fell out of the thing almost overnight.
As for Italian, I recently heard that a newly appointed bishop in England was doing very well learning Italian for the sake of all the Roman jobs that had been dumped on him. No mention whatsoever of Latin.
All this reminds me of a drawn-out story/joke I heard many years ago. I'll try to shorten it.
During the Second Vatican Council (1962 - 65) all proceedings were supposed to be conducted in Latin, and while John XXIII breathed that was indeed the case. On the accession of Pope Paul VI in 1963 that discipline began to break down a bit but bishops felt the need to justify their departure from the norm to get away with using a vernacular. A French bishop declared before the council fathers that the matters he was about to raise concerned many issues of modern philosophy, which had been mainly worked out through the medium of French, and in order to preserve the subtlety and nuances of what he wanted to say, he would speak in French. A German bishop shortly afterward explained that his contribution would be made from the angle of twentieth century theology, most of which had a German language origin and therefore, he thought it would be better if he spoke in German. Cardinal Gordon Gray of Edinburgh was keen to get in on the act but hitherto hadn't dared to open his mouth. He arose and declared that he would speak in English because his Latin wasn't good enough. He was hailed for being the only honest man in the basilica!
Ok... so Latin is technically dead, but because people are still speaking it, it's technically alive?
So.... it's basically a zombie language? both dead and alive? huh....
I don't think I saw that article when it was posted before -- very interesting.
This seems a rather odd criticism to make, or at least oddly phrased. It's certainly possible to have a preference for a particular word order for a given Latin sentence, even criticize someone's choice as being confusing or less than artful. But can one really, technically, mess up Latin word order? I mean, look what the poets did with it.
You can mess it up, yes, though clearly not in the same sense as you can mess up English word order.
I've had a look through some of the tweets. All I will say is that there does seem to be a great deal of hyperbaton, and not always for any obvious reason; for instance in this tweet of 7th June 2013:
"Absumendi res nos consuetudo profundere adsuefecit illas. Attamen qui abicitur victus velut egentibus ipsis abripitur atque esurientibus."
Maybe there is a reason for the extreme separation of illas from res, but I can't see one at the moment.
ETA: Looking at it again, I think res and illas must refer to different things, but my point about the use of hyperbaton in general still stands.
There is some guy translating them into Latin if I remember correctly. Was it the same profile Pope Francis now uses?
Btw in the article it says pipatum, but shouldn't it be pipatus?
I confirm. You can mess up Latin word order in that some word orders in some situations look so un-Latin or unfit for the context that it hurts. You can even seriously mess up, because not everything is permitted, even in theory (e.g. you can't put non after the word it refers to; it has to come before). And I've seen students make really, really weird word-order mistakes; for example, I've seen one, when they had a sentence with two parts linked by et, stick the verbs of both parts together at the end of the whole thing (something of this kind; though, not remembering the sentence, I'm inventing one: "The father is ill and the mother cares for him" ---> pater aeger et mater eum est curat) — because, I guess, they were interpreting the "verb-at-the-end" thing in an extreme (and illogical) way, lol. Now, ok, the latter sort of error is probably not that common, but well. As for what poets did, it starts looking sort of ridiculous when one uses poetic word order in prose. Or that's my feeling at least. But whatever the case, Roman prose authors didn't do it, except for the occasional effect — but you'll hardly ever find something like (for example) in nova fert animus mutatas dicere formas
corpora (Ovid) in classical prose.
It's a Frankenstein language, as Aurifex once said.
LOL, it would never in a thousand years have occurred to me to do that.
To me neither... I'm regularly surprised by what weird ideas people can have, lol (though I suppose I myself can have weird ideas in my way).
I'm pretty sure all of us here regularly have some pretty weird ideas, though not that sort of weird, generally.
Imagine just a second, if it were really like that — that the verbs of all the clauses in a sentence, until there were a period, should all go at end — what would happen with a long Ciceronian (or Apuleian) sentence, whith lots of relative, subordinate, and conjoined clauses. Lol. It's silly but just funny to imagine.
The thing that isn't true that most people believe about German is that the verb comes at the end, as it's only there in subordinate clauses. But that can cause some doozies. A sentence that is pretty straightforward in English – she should have let him go swimming – becomes the impressive sie hätte ihn schwimmen gehen lassen sollen. Although, of course, those are strictly speaking infinitives, to anticipate probably most of you.
I could see it maybe working (in some hypothetical language, not necessarily Latin) if there was some very definite (and audible) marker of recursion; so that the verb of each gets "reserved" until the next level down is complete, so that all the verbs wind up stacked at the end. E.g.
Normal sentence: "I recognized the sword that the gladiator had picked up in order to fight the lion that was charging at him after it had been released into the arena."
I the sword, that the gladiator, in order to the lion, that at him, after it into the arena had been released, was charging, fight, had picked up, recognized.
It would take a very different set of thought processes to deal with such sentences, but perhaps it's not impossible, particularly in an inflected language which would allow one to keep track of e.g. subjects and objects at each level.
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