Latin to Romance... when?

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Latin to Romance... when?

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Jan 8, 2013, 12:20 pm

A simple, dumb, but important Q. from a Christianity discussion(1):

What is a good approximate date for regular, illiterate people in different parts of the Latin-Romance world having real difficulties understanding Jerome's Latin, read aloud?

Obviously I know this is a hard question, as comprehension is always partial. Even today, Spanish and Italian are to some degree mutually intelligible—more in one direction than the other, I gather—and so forth. But ballpark it for me, will ya?


Jan 8, 2013, 1:00 pm

I seem to recall the Charlemagne insisted that sermons be held in the language of the people. In part of his realm that would have been Germanic dialects, but in others, romance dialects. That would be 8th century. The Wikipedia article on Old French indicates that we have documents from the 9th century in Old French, but that the date was earlier there than in Italy.

Jan 8, 2013, 3:41 pm

Any relevant sources in our collection are, as usual, unlocatable, but Mrs Bookworm points out that, given the sound changes already apparent in texts such as the Pompeii graffiti, there is no guarantee that even regular illiterate people of Jerome's own period would have readily understood his high-class literary Latin, read aloud.

Jan 8, 2013, 3:49 pm

No, I don't buy that. His Latin isn't high class.

Jan 8, 2013, 3:53 pm

OK: I'm prepared to accept that. Illiterate Cockneys can more or less make out the King James Version.

Jan 8, 2013, 4:02 pm

Judging from a perusal of Philippe Wolff's Western Languages AD 100-1500 (1971), a date of around 800 may not be unreasonable.

"In about 300, and still in about 500, the language that was spoken everywhere deserves a unique name, it was still Latin (even if some linguists prefer to call it proto-Roman); in about 800, in northern France (and later on elsewhere) the opposition between Latin and the spoken language was recognised even by contemporaries." (Wolff (1971), ch. iii, pp. 85-6)

Jan 9, 2013, 3:48 am

Maybe this deserves a thread of its own, but when did silent reading become common?

Jan 9, 2013, 3:52 am

These things are always a continuum. Take English:
Fiction from the middle of the Twentieth Century I can read easily. Nonfiction tends to be harder, because I keep getting held up by the non-inclusive language.

16th-17th (Shakespeare, etc.) I can read, but there is a lot of room for misunderstandings and I love the annotated texts my kids used in school.

14th Well, I keep Chaucer with the regular fiction (annotated text), but The Green Knight is with the medieval German stuff.

In German, 1500 is considered the cut off point for FNHD - Early modern German. 16th century things are quite difficult to read. Luther's bible was part of a movement to a standard German, and by the middle of the 17th century most things are recognizably German, With fonts giving at least as much trouble as the text.

Without a major invasion, that indicates that 500-600 years is a limit even with considerable literacy and printing. Without that, and with invaders messing up the language, you would expect the time to be shorter.

However, the upper classes were taught proper Latin, and probably the bulk of the population spoke a 'strong dialect' long before 800. I have trouble understanding a lot of what is said in Northern England if people aren't trying to speak standard English. The same goes for most areas of Germany, although I do better with most Austrian dialects. The kids I help with in school often have to have 'German' words explained to them.

It sounds like in France this became a problem for the upper classes about 800. They were balancing Frankish (Germanic) and Latin and the local dialects (Romance). Or it was only then that the upper classes started to care whether the lower classes understood the 'standard'.

Jan 13, 2013, 11:54 am

I found the quote:

At a Provincial synod in Tours in 813 the bishops decided that ...

easdem omelias {sc. Homilias} quisque aperte transferre studeat in rusticam romanam linguam aut thiotiscam, qui facilius cunti possint intellegere quae dicuntur.

Editado: Jan 13, 2013, 12:53 pm

>9 MarthaJeanne:
I get the gist, but my schoolboy Latin is a bit rusty rather than rustic. Possible is it that this one might translate?

Editado: Jan 13, 2013, 2:35 pm

"Let each take care to openly translate these same homilies into the rustic Roman or German language, so that everybody might be able to understand what's spoken." (Thiotiscam was a real head-scratcher, but that's it. It's apparently related to what Italians still say, tedesco.)

Jan 13, 2013, 3:16 pm

Proto-Germanic thioda - people. Cf. Old English þēod. As in Svíþjóð, Icelandic for Sweden, the people of the Svíar. The -ísc ending is interesting. The German language is still called tyska in Swedish, the same word as thiodisc.

Jan 13, 2013, 3:23 pm

Exactly: not a headscratcher to a true Tolkien fan; it's obviously "Theodish", the language of the Theod (people). It's still called that by the people who speak the eastern variety (Deutsch), though in English it is used as the name of the western variety (Dutch).

Editado: Jan 13, 2013, 3:33 pm

Ha. Fair enough. As far as I'm concerned, however, these are northern barbarians rubbing butter in their hair.

Jan 13, 2013, 4:40 pm

Is this not related to Irish Tuatha 'people, tribe' and the Gaulish tribal god Teutates (as in "By Toutatis!")?
Perhaps in contradistinction to all those outsider names like Welsh, Walloon, Wallachian?

Jan 13, 2013, 4:44 pm

According to Wikipedia, the presumed reconstructed PIE word is *tewtéh₂. So, yes.

Tim, what's wrong with butter in your hair? Latin snob!

Jan 13, 2013, 4:53 pm

We all know the right way to do it is… olive oil!

Jan 14, 2013, 3:49 am

>12 anglemark:
Actually, "Sweden" is derived from "Sweotheod". English and their pronunciation.

Editado: Jan 14, 2013, 3:58 am

18 > The Online Etymological Dictionary disagrees, deriving it from a Middle Dutch form of the ethnonym. (Cf. Du Zweden, Ge. Schweden)

Editado: Jan 14, 2013, 6:44 am

Elof Hellquist seems to suggest that we're both somewhat right: he does say that the English form is borrowed (from German or Dutch), but that "-de" ending is likely from "þjóð". But it's certainly not the English who has been the worst corrupters here.

ETA: Further, "Swéoðéode" can be found in Beowulf. One can actually also find "Swíoríce", which is the earliest attestation of what would become the (non-icelandic) Nordic name of Sweden.

Jan 14, 2013, 7:01 am

20 > The Online Etymological Dictionary agrees that the ethnonym in turn is derived from something like akin to Svíþjóð, Sweotheod etc

(Incidentally I think it's wrong to cite Sviar as an Old Swedish form. IIUC, the i-vocalism is West Scandinavian, while the East Scandinavian form would have been svear like in Modern Swedish.)

Jan 14, 2013, 8:38 am

Incidentally I think it's wrong to cite Sviar as an Old Swedish form.

I agree. Neither andejons nor I did.

Jan 14, 2013, 9:32 am

22 > I didn't mean to imply you did. The "it" there refers to the Online Etymological Dictionary page I liked to.

Jan 14, 2013, 9:40 am

Ah. Right.