The end of spoken Latin
Posted: 25 October 2013 04:22 AM   [ Ignore ]
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It is my understanding (and please correct me if I am wrong) that…

Latin remained the most important written language in southern Europe well past the end of the 1st millennium AD.
By 1000 AD, languages that we can identify with Italian and Spanish were already the commonly spoken languages in the Italian and Iberian peninsulas. They were about as different from each other then as they are now.
Even by 400 AD, written Latin was quite different from the Vulgar Latin that people were actually speaking, when relaxed at home with their braces off.  But at that stage, the various regional Vulgar Latins were still basically mutually intelligible.

Is this correct? Is there good evidence or reasonable opinion about when “Latin” stopped being the real native tongue of the peoples of those regions?

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Posted: 25 October 2013 07:36 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1 ]
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It all depends on how you define “Latin,” which means that it’s essentially a meaningless question. You can have people stop speaking Latin any time you prefer as long as you define the term to match.  It’s perfectly in order to say the Italians (and other speakers of Romance languages) are still speaking Latin, they’ve just changed the name.  Modern Greek is just as different from Ancient Greek as Italian is from Latin, but we think of it as the “same” language because we use the same name.

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Posted: 25 October 2013 11:43 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 2 ]
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OP Tipping - 25 October 2013 04:22 AM

It is my understanding (and please correct me if I am wrong) that…

Latin remained the most important written language in southern Europe well past the end of the 1st millennium AD.
By 1000 AD, languages that we can identify with Italian and Spanish were already the commonly spoken languages in the Italian and Iberian peninsulas. They were about as different from each other then as they are now.
Even by 400 AD, written Latin was quite different from the Vulgar Latin that people were actually speaking, when relaxed at home with their braces off.  But at that stage, the various regional Vulgar Latins were still basically mutually intelligible.

Is this correct? Is there good evidence or reasonable opinion about when “Latin” stopped being the real native tongue of the peoples of those regions?

I think that Italian, as a distinctive language, was still at its inchoate stage in 1000 AD .

A significant change was presented in the early 1300”s when Dante Alighieri wrote his masterpiece, La Divina Commedia, in Vulgar Latin, (nonstandard) opposed to classical.  Serious scholarly works were still written in Latin well into the 18th Century and Latin remained the dominant literary language until the 16th century.

I agree with Languagehat that Italian is essentially a form of Latin, as it is the romance language that most closely resembles the original language.  Italian is certainly an offshoot of Latin but would I be correct in saying that Italian is also a dialect of Latin?

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Posted: 26 October 2013 01:13 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 3 ]
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Same deal in English. If you played a recording of someone speaking 11th century English to the average guy from my local, I doubt if he would identify it as English. So you can draw the dividing lines of when “English” turned into “English” anywhere you want, depending on how you see it.

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Posted: 26 October 2013 03:34 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 4 ]
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Italian is certainly an offshoot of Latin but would I be correct in saying that Italian is also a dialect of Latin?

Yes and no. The division of dialects into “languages” is arbitrary and usually based on social and political factors rather than linguistic ones. For example, the mutually unintelligible Mandarin and Cantonese dialects are both lumped under “Chinese,” while the largely mutually intelligible Danish and Norwegian are considered separate languages. The old saying that “a dialect is a language with an army and a navy” is quite true. (Okay, Dr. T will point out that Czech doesn’t have a navy.)

Both Italian and Latin are dialects in the same “family,” and Italian is a “daughter” of Latin. Linguistically one could say that Italian is “a dialect of Latin,” but it would really just confuse people because that’s not how we divide dialects into languages.

You get the same thing trying to figure out if Scots is a dialect of English.

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