Type of Latin

Magica Somnia

New Member
Hi, I would like to know which kind of Latin is the most used. Is it the classical one? Or the medieval one? Please enlighten me.
 

Matthaeus

Vemortuicida strenuus
What do you mean by most used? Classical Latin of the ancient times is by far the standard for all later Latin.
 

Nikolaos

schmikolaos
Staff member
Matthaeus dixit:
What do you mean by most used? Classical Latin of the ancient times is by far the standard for all later Latin.
Indeed. That isn't to say, though, that Classical works outnumber medieval works, but rather that medieval writers in general try to imitate the ancients as much as possible, even though they may make mistakes or use unfamiliar grammar influenced by their own dialect or language.
 

Magica Somnia

New Member
Well, I meant to say the most common. For instance, the one that is taught in universities. I'm not a professional, sorry if I can't be clearer.
 

Nikolaos

schmikolaos
Staff member
Ah. In Catholic schools you might find Ecclesiastical Latin. Anywhere else, the starting point and golden standard is universally Classical. Latinists will generally (I assume) move to Medieval and Ecclesiastical Latin on their own.
 

Bestiola

Speculatrix
Staff member
Here (southern Europe) the classical pronunciation is preferred, even though we have to know the medieval one as well. However there is a distinction - all literature written before the death of Boetius (524 AD) is read in the classical pronunciation, but everything written after his death is read in traditional (medieval) versification because his death marked the end of the Antique world. (I'm talking about the way it is done in our Universities.)
 

Quasus

Civis Illustris
Or else suppose I have a Latin text. How can I tell if it’s ‘Ecclesiastical’ or not?
 

Matthaeus

Vemortuicida strenuus
Well, I guess the main difference between that type and the official, classical one is the pronunciation. Would you agree?
 

Quasus

Civis Illustris
Matthaeus dixit:
Well, I guess the main difference between that type and the official, classical one is the pronunciation. Would you agree?
Probably I wouldn’t.

Suppose I read an ‘Ecclesiastic’ text with the restored pronunciation. Is there no way to determine that it’s Ecclesiastic?

Conversely, if I read Caesar with some ‘Ecclesiastic’ (Italian, I guess) pronunciation, does Caesar become ‘Ecclesiastic’? I guess not.

Or perhaps we can’t choose pronunciation arbitrarily? For example, Brunhilda suggested a rule of thumb above judging from the time whet the text was written. But if I have a text (and most of what we have are texts) and I don’t know its author or I don’t know when he lived, there is no chance to read it aloud at all?

We need more valid criteria. 8)
 

Quasus

Civis Illustris
Nikolaos dixit:
Vocabulary, definitions and ideas differ.
Ideas are not a part of a language.

I guess religious works contain specific terms and specific meanings no matter in which language they are written. Similarly, mathematical works contain mathematical phraseology. Yet there is no separate ‘mathematical language’ different from national languages.

To sum up, I interprete your phrase ‘in Catholic schools you might find Ecclesiastical Latin’ as follows: ‘in Catholic schools they teach the very same (Classical) Latin as anywhere, but pay special attention to peculiarities of theologic texts.’ Is this right?
 

Nikolaos

schmikolaos
Staff member
No, that's not what I'm saying. Ecclesiastical Latin uses words, meanings, and grammar that were not used by educated speakers in the Classical era, which makes them and the dialect containing them unclassical. Jerome says angelus, Cicero said nuntius. And, if ever he did say ἄγγελος, he was speaking Greek, and meant "messenger", not "angel".

To put it simply, if Cicero or Caesar would not understand any part of some work without having words or phrases explained to them, it is unclassical.

Many things common in Ecclesiastical Latin are either uncommon or outright incorrect in Classical Latin. Studying Ecclesiastical Latin might prepare you to read Caesar (Cicero is debatable), but it won't prepare you to write in his idiom.
 

Matthaeus

Vemortuicida strenuus
We could also add that medieval syntax is much more simplified than the Classical type. There were also many neologisms, but anyway, most of them have Greek? or other roots, like baptisma for one, or evangelia, which are straight out of Greek.
 

Quasus

Civis Illustris
Nikolaos dixit:
No, that's not what I'm saying. Ecclesiastical Latin uses words, meanings, and grammar that were not used by educated speakers in the Classical era, which makes them and the dialect containing them unclassical. Jerome says angelus, Cicero said nuntius. And, if ever he did say ἄγγελος, he was speaking Greek, and meant "messenger", not "angel".
Still I don’t understand. Neologisms and theological terms do not produce a new language.

As for neologisms, we use quite a lot of words that wouldn’t be understood fifty years ago. Yet the language is the same.

Nikolaos dixit:
To put it simply, if Cicero or Caesar would not understand any part of some work without having words or phrases explained to them, it is unclassical.
Because they would not understand the subject. They knew not of Christianity. Yet it’s not a good reason to regard ‘Ecclesiastical Latin’ as a kind of separate language.

Nikolaos dixit:
Many things common in Ecclesiastical Latin are either uncommon or outright incorrect in Classical Latin.
Can you bring any examples? I’m most interested in how numerous such things are.

Studying Ecclesiastical Latin might prepare you to read Caesar (Cicero is debatable), but it won't prepare you to write in his idiom.
What’s then? Even if I read tons of Latin Discussion, this may prapare me to read Maugham, but it won’t prepare me to write like he. Yet we are communicating in English, don’t we?

Ecclesiastical Latin uses… grammar that were not used by educated speakers in the Classical era
This is a valid point, the only one I agree with. We discussed the use of quod-clauses instead of a.c.i. elsewhere. However, I attribute that to the ignorance of the authors who could not learn Latin properly in their Dark Ages.

Matthaeus dixit:
We could also add that medieval syntax is much more simplified than the Classical type.
What do you mean by simplified syntax? Perhaps a question of style?
 

Manus Correctrix

QVAE CORRIGIT
It’s just a set of deviations from a standard.

To me, it’s a bit like that mystifying claim some sites make to be in ‘English (US)’ in some drop-down list. I look and don’t see any dialectalisms, so I don’t see how it is what it claims. It’s just in standard English until such time as someone writes some charming American phrase such as ‘I could care less’.

It reminds me of the other day, when I was interpreting in court. The learned magistrate, who fancied himself quite the linguist, felt he could tell me that I was using ‘Spanish Spanish’ whereas I should have been using ‘Latin American Spanish’. There are no such two languages. The witness and I were both speaking quite standard Spanish, except that the witness -- being uneducated -- was unable to refrain from using the occasional dialectal term (e.g. corvo for machete, pisar for realizar el coito), some of which would not understood even in neighbouring countries.
 

Nikolaos

schmikolaos
Staff member
Quasus dixit:
Still I don’t understand. Neologisms and theological terms do not produce a new language.

As for neologisms, we use quite a lot of words that wouldn’t be understood fifty years ago. Yet the language is the same.
Quasus dixit:
Because they would not understand the subject. They knew not of Christianity. Yet it’s not a good reason to regard ‘Ecclesiastical Latin’ as a kind of separate language.
You're trying to make me defend claims that I never made. Unless my fingers slipped, you will see that I have referred to Ecclesiastical Latin as being a different idiom, dialect, or unclassical, but never a different language. "No one on the corner have swagger like us" is undeniably English, but I would immediately discredit anyone who calls it Standard English. I would also venture to wager that someone who speaks like that on a regular basis would probably have a difficult time speaking or writing in the standard dialect. I know plenty of people who never say "were" (instead using "was" exclusively), use "ideal" for "idea" and have no word to replace the former. This is English, but not Standard English. It has a slightly different set of rules, even though they largely coincide with the standard dialect.

Quasus dixit:
Can you bring any examples? I’m most interested in how numerous such things are.
You mentioned the quod-clause example. Add to this using quia (and, I think, ut) in the same sense (which, unless I am horribly mistaken, is not attested even in Cicero's letters), the superfluous use of prepositions (in aliquem credere is poetic in the Golden Age, but standard in Ecclesiastical), or sometimes the lack thereof (omni autem petenti te), valet for potest (nec valet quisquam dicere), the use of the present subjunctive in a negated imperative (which was either heavily avoided or never used in Classical Latin, as is seen in Bitmap's discussions with Cinefactus), periphrastic tenses with the present participle and sum, eram, ero, &c., to name a few.

Quasus dixit:
This is a valid point, the only one I agree with. We discussed the use of quod-clauses instead of a.c.i. elsewhere. However, I attribute that to the ignorance of the authors who could not learn Latin properly in their Dark Ages.
Jerome, I read, was quite knowledgeable concerning Classical prose. That aside, how does their ignorance change anything?

Quasus dixit:
What do you mean by simplified syntax? Perhaps a question of style?
And intelligibility, I'd say.
 

Matthaeus

Vemortuicida strenuus
Well medieval syntax is not always so complex as cicero's for example.
 
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